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StoryCorps in Oklahoma: Native Educator's "Time When One Comes Home" (ENCORE) (Nov 11, 2011)

This week's StoryCorps In Oklahoma continues our Native American Heritage Month focus with the story of nationally recognized educator, Dr. Henrietta Mann, interviewed for StoryCorps, late last year by her friend Gina Timberman.

Dr. Henrietta Mann: “I am from a small town…population 700 in Western Oklahoma called Hammon Oklahoma. It has a very high percentage of Cheyenne and I grew up in a very tight knit, three generation Cheyenne home. Hammon, Oklahoma was quite the place. Maybe not so much the town, but the Indian camp where Cheyenne people still lived in box tents with dirt floors and got their water from a little spring. It was a joyful time.”

Gina Timberman: “It means so much that you’ve come back to Oklahoma because of that connectedness. How does it feel coming back after being in Montana and to be back working with the Cheyenne Arapaho tribe?”

“I believe that we as American Indians have this cyclical view of life and there’s was a time when one comes home. I left Oklahoma in 1970 to go to teach at the University of California and Berkley and from there went on to the University of Montana; went across the country to teach at Harvard. Came back and taught at Haskell Indian Nations University. I believe I must have sent the message that I was available to assist the tribes in their educational endeavors, and I was appointed to the education authority which has become the board of regents for the Cheyenne/Arapaho Tribal College. I helped to develop the infrastructure for that for that new tribal college. Before I knew it I was to assume the Presidency of the tribal college and I came back to Oklahoma. It was good to come back.”

GT: “One thing I’d like to ask you is, Rolling Stone Magazine named you in 1991 one of the 10 leading professors in the Nation. What was that like?”

HM: “Oh my gosh, it was my proudest hour! I didn’t know that I had even been nominated. I was actually nominated by my students. And, it was then when I learned that my students called me “Dragon Lady”. I was mortified because I had really always wanted my students to like and to see me as just another human being. When I ask questions about “Why did they nominate me?” They said, "It’s because you always held them to high expectations... That they would just shudder about getting their research papers back because you always marked them up. But the thing about it is that you expected them to do the best in your courses. You taught them to think critically and analytically and to take a shift in perspective.” But, that was my proudest hour. I think my grandfather and my father would have enjoyed that… had they been around to truly understand the import of such an honor coming to a little Cheyenne girl from Hammon, Oklahoma.”

Produced for KGOU by Jim Johnson, with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording and collecting stories of everyday people. The Senior Producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

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