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Deaf Native Americans. Organizational Structure. Information has been divided into three Native American affiliations: The Intertribal Deaf Council, The Circle of Unity , and “In Their Own Words ” Several individuals are involved in more than one affiliation:

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Deaf native americans l.jpg

Deaf Native Americans

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Organizational Structure

Information has been divided into three Native American affiliations:

  • The Intertribal Deaf Council,

  • The Circle of Unity, and

  • “In Their Own Words”

    Several individuals are involved in more than one affiliation:

  • They will be listed under their primary affiliations

  • Their other affiliations will be listed

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Intertribal Deaf Council

Originating in Oklahoma City in 1994, the Intertribal Deaf Council was formed to serve the needs of deaf, blind-deaf, hard of hearing, and late-deafened Native Americans.

IDC provides information about their heritage, traditions, and cultural issues as well as serving as a support group and advocate for Deaf Native American rights. Many of these deaf individuals experience poor services and frequent isolation in the work force. There has been growing recognition of the lack of pride felt by young Native Americans.

IDC warmly welcomes members who are non-deaf and non-Native American that share the organization’s vision to attend meetings and assist the organization in their accomplishing their goals.

IDC’s Homepage

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Jerry Hassell, co-founder of IDC

-Born in Oklahoma City, Jerry attended the Oklahoma and Texas schools for the Deaf graduating from Texas in 1946, and from Gallaudet University in 1951 with his BA in education. He received his MA from the University of Texas in 1959.

-Mentored by, and with the help of Walter Kelley and Tony McGregor, Jerry was encouraged to start a national organization dealing with Native American affairs. Together in 1993 they began their mission and the National Association of the Native American Deaf in Oklahoma City was founded in 1994. This was later renamed the Intertribal Deaf Council.

-Jerry was not always proud of his heritage and fell into the stereotypical image of Native Americans in the 1930’s. Upon meeting his relatives Jerry was intrigued by his ancestry and became deeply involved in Native American issues and an advocate their rights.

-Throughout his 30 years of teaching at the Texas School for the Deaf he has received 27 awards for his contribution to services provided to deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

For more information on Jerry Hassell and his accomplishments see:

Making a Difference, Birth of the IDC, and Bio of Jerry Hassell

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Elder Walter P. Kelley, Ph.D, co-founder of IDC

Dr. Walter Paul Kelly, co-founder of IDC, is highly regarded as an expert on Deaf Native Americans, their culture and language. He is himself Pamunkey/Chickahominy.

Dr. Kelly is known for his presence at various nationwide conferences and conventions, and his presentations on a variety of Deaf Native Americans culture and issues. Not only is he a well-known presenter but a well-known author of children’s books.

After waiting five years for his first book Victory Week, a child friendly version of “Deaf President Now”, Dr. Kelley and Tony McGregor decided to found a publishing company of their own: BuTo Publishers. Dr. Kelley’s second book (illustrated by Tony), Deaf Culture A to Z is the publisher.

BuTo focuses on publishing children’s picture books but plans to expand their scope to include books about people with hearing loss and disabilities.

  • For more information on Dr. Kelly see:

  • BuTo and Biography of Walter Kelly

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Elder (IDC) Onalee Cooper

Elder Onalee Cooper was born to Tuscarora Chief Clinton Rickard and raised on the Tuscarora Reservation. As a deaf child she attended the Rochester School for the Deaf. Onalee has spent her life preserving the traditions of the Tuscarora history and traditions and enjoys giving workshops and presentations on her tribe in New York.

For more information see:

Onalee Cooper

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Elder LeRoy EagleBear

LeRoy EagleBear was personally affected by the IDC before joining. LeRoy struggled with his identity growing up as a deaf child on and off the reservation. While at the residential school, he appreciated the education he was receiving and yet yearned for the celebrations and rituals he was only able to partake in while on breaks, a common problem for deaf Native American children.

Years after graduating LeRoy began attending IDC meetings, where he readily took advantage of the opportunity to understand and embrace his heritage that he missed while being away at the residential school. LeRoy became a member by accepting the invitation to join the Board of IDC for two years and has worked closely with them ever since, currently working as a chairperson.

For more information about LeRoy EagleBear see:

Reclaiming My True Heritage

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Tina Terrance, IDC Treasurer

Born in 1960, Tina has lived on the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation in Malone, New York all her life.

Growing up in New York, Tina took advantage of the opportunity to be an active member in the deaf community which lead to her current position as President of the Northern New York Association of the Deaf.

Other activities that are of interest to her and hence actively involved in are sewing, bowling, and of course, her family. She has been married for 25 years and in 2005 Tina was blessed to become a grandmother.

Tina has been someone who is proud of her heritage. She has been a role model to her children and now, her grandchild.

She takes pride in her eleven years of service to the IDC, and three years serving as treasurer.

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Circle of Unity

The Circle of Unity is a publication designed to improve rehabilitation services to American Indians and Alaskan Natives who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing.

Six expert volunteers from the fields of counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and cultural awareness used their expertise and experience to discuss various social expectations Deaf Native Americans face on a daily basis.

Their commitment and desire motivated them to contribute to this project in order to improve rehabilitation services offered to American Indians and Alaskan Natives by educating rehabilitation counselors about their culture.

The following individuals are part of the Circle of Unity writing team; some are also involved in the IDC.

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Damara Goff Paris, President of IDC

Damara Paris is of Cherokee/ Blackfoot decent.

She is not only a part of the writing team for

Circle of Unity, but also participated as co-editor

on Step Into the Circle.

She has published six books since 1997 and owns her own publishing company, AGO Publications.

Paris received her MA in Rehabilitation Counseling and graduated in 1994 from Western Oregon University.

She then managed a community based rehabilitation center for the Deaf in Salem, Oregon.

Currently, Paris also is President of the IDC.

For more information see:

IDC and Circle of Unity

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Judy C. Stout, VP of IDC

Judy Stout is a Native American of the Lumbee tribe.

She is deeply involved in politics which she believes is essential in achieving greater opportunities and recognition for the deaf and hard of hearing. Consequently she has participated in a variety of campaigns including the Kerry/Edwards campaign serving as National co-chair for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Steering committee.

She is also the current president and founder of the Maryland Deaf and Hard of Hearing Democratic Club. Judy invests a major part of her time in the deaf community working as a full time family educator for the Laurent Clerc Center, and part-time at Gallaudet teaching political leadership. She also offers political leadership training in the community.

As Vice-President of the IDC, Judy is knowledgeable of the Native Americans culture, heritage, and traditions and uses her knowledge to educate those around her.

For more information on Judy Stout see:

Native American History Month, Circle of Unity, and IDC

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Dr. Howard Busby, Ph.D

Dr. Howard Busby (Mississippi Choctaw/Eastern Cherokee) has participated in a variety events and activities for Deaf Native Americans. Not only was he on the writing team for Circle of Unity but he is also a board member of IDC. Through IDC he served as a media evaluator for the Captioned Media Program (CMP) screening and evaluating commercially produced video tapes involving Native Americans.

Dr. Busby has worked with residential schools for the deaf across the country providing academic and vocational education to deaf students.

Currently, Dr. Busby is researching educational experiences of Native Americans at Gallaudet University as a professor in the Counseling Department.

For more information on Dr. Howard Busby see:

Captioning and Circle of Unity

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Alan Cartwright

Alan Cartwright currently serves as the director for The Arc of Anchorage Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center. DHHC provides a variety of rehabilitation services focused on assisting Alaskans who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in becoming more independent.

Mr. Cartwright previously served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, working with deaf people in Nepal (1987-1989), Singapore (1990), and Ecuador (1991-1993).

His experiences led him to become the cofounder and director of the Global Deaf Connection. Developed in 1998, GCD’s vision is to support Deaf people around the world in using their native sign, especially for teaching deaf children. This will allow the children to achieve success in academics, employment, and to make contributions to their deaf community.

For more information on Alan Cartwright see:

GDC, DHHC, and Circle of Unity

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Linda Carroll, Deaf Interpreter

Linda Carroll (Eastern Band Cherokee-Wolf Clan)served on the Circle of Unity writing teams and maintains an interest in improving the quality of interpreting services for the Deaf, Dead-Blind, and Hard of Hearing.

Being Deaf herself, Linda has acquired her Interpreting Certificate from RID as a Deaf Interpreter.

She was also the first woman to be president of IDC serving from 1998-2001.

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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In Their Own Words: Researching Stories About the Lives of Deaf People of Color

Authored by Glenn Anderson and Katrina Miller, “In Their Own Words” focuses on the lives and experiences of individuals who identify themselves as deaf people of color, including professional interpreters. Information for this book was taken from biographies found in various resources published in the United States in 1988 or after. The publication is centered around four themes:

- overcoming educational obstacles,

- stories about personal role models that influenced their

lives,

- family experiences, and

- experiences relating to cultural conflicts including prejudice

and discrimination.

The following stories are summaries of people featured in “In Their Own Words”

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Karen Billie Johnson

Karen Johnson began her life as a Dine’ Navajo deaf infant but experienced a variety of cultural conflicts between the Deaf Culture and Native American culture.

  • She first experienced cultural differences when she was sent to the New Mexico School for the Deaf at age 6:

    • She experienced running water and electricity for the first time.

  • She began learning ASL and found out how important pointing was to set up objects or people in conversation.

    • However, when she returned home she quickly discovered that “pointing” was considered to be an insult in the Navajo culture.

  • Johnson was forced to learn how to adjust her behaviors when at home and at school.

  • As an adult, her passion is to work as a teacher’s aid with American Indians who are deaf in the Navajo nation. From her experiences Johnson sees the need for schools and communities to work together in order “to understand what makes a culture and how to appreciate its values.”

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Jonathan Hopkins: one of the three Native American interpreters in the country.

- At age 12, Jonathan Hopkins met a young deaf girl while at a summer camp who taught him fingerspelling and introduced him to other deaf campers; he has been fluent ever since.

- Hopkins is a Tlingit Indian raised by white parents in Maine, making him very comfortable with ethnic cultures. As a result he primarily interprets for deaf students who are ethnic minorities at Rochester Institute of Technology, and is usually their first choice when choosing interpreters.

- Off campus Hopkins also interprets for sports games, Native American events, on stage at Eastman Theatre, as well as other music venues.

- Hopkins has also organized a committee to help draw more Native Americans to RIT and founded in Intertribal Deaf Association.

For more information see:

RIT and Fluent Fingers

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Resources

  • http://www.deaflinx.com/dna.html

  • Intertribal Deaf Council

    http://www.deafnative.com/

  • Circle of Unityhttp://www.uark.edu/depts/rehabres/AmIndian/AImain.htm

    Glenn B. Anderson, Katrina R. Miller. “In Their Own Words: Researching Stories About the Lives of Deaf People of Color.” Multicultural Perspectives, 2004, Vol. 6, No. 2, Pages 28-33

  • Rochester Institute of technology http://www.democratandchronicle.com/homes/community/rit/stories16.shtml

  • Hassell, Jerry. “Birth of the Intertribal Deaf Council.” http://www.drf.org/hearing_health/Archive/2004/fall04_birthofintertribal_ex.htm

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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Additional Deaf Native American websites:

  • For Deaf Native American Children

    http://storystones.com/

  • Deaf Native American Reading List

    http://www.uark.edu/depts/rehabres/mcnai.html

  • Native American Sign Language

    http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/native/sign/

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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A special thanks to:

  • Damara Paris, President of the Intertribal Deaf Council and Judy Stout, Vice President: for supporting this project and for sharing your passions for Deaf Native Americans.

Transition Services Preparation & Training


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