USD to honor Native American student graduates on May 7

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota will honor graduating Native American students at the second annual Native Student Graduate Honoring Ceremony on Friday, May 7, at 6 p.m. in the Freedom Forum Conference Room , which is located at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the USD campus.

Sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Native Student Services, Department of American Indian Studies and the School of Health Sciences, the event provides an opportunity for Native American students, their families and supporters to express their cultural heritage through indigenous themed song, regalia and honoring practices.  All graduating Native students will receive a distinctive stole in recognition of their achievement.  Each stole was specifically prepared using satin and incorporating all of the six sacred colors of red, black, white, yellow, green and blue. Following cultural protocol, the men’s stoles include an appliquéd emblem of an eagle feather while the women’s stoles feature an emblem of a plume.

The keynote speaker for the 2010 ceremony is Leroy (JR) LaPlante, Jr., who received his juris doctor degree from USD in 2009.  As a law student, LaPlante served as president of the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), co-wrote the Indian Law Clinical Pilot Project Manual, co-wrote the winning brief at the 2009 National NALSA Moot Court Competition, coordinated the Indian Estate Planning pro bono project, and served internships at Dakota Plains Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. He is currently serving as an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at Access to Justice, Inc., and in February 2010, he was selected to the first cohort of Native Nation Rebuilders with the Bush Foundation’s Native Nation Rebuilder’s Program. In addition to LaPlante’s keynote address and the stole ceremony, the Native Student Graduate Honoring includes a recognition ceremony to honor student leadership on campus.

For more information about this event, please contact Erin Thin Elk, assistant diversity officer, Office of Institutional Diversity, (605) 677-5308 or e-mail Erin.ThinElk@usd.edu.