Hickory – Dr. Kathryn Pewenofkit Briner, Lenoir-Rhyne University’s third Lineberger Visiting Multi-Cultural Studies Scholar in Residence, will perform selected Comanche Hymns and share Comanche family stories on Friday, December 2 from 10 to 10:50 a.m. in Belk Centrum.
Dr. Briner received a Doctorate of Musical Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a scholar and artist committed to Native language and cultural revitalization, and to increasing community visibility of Native Americans and other minorities in all areas of life. Dr. Briner is of Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache descent, and is determined to effect positive social, economic, and cultural change through her performance of Comanche music, educational programs and events, as well as thoughtful inquiry and intercultural interactions.
“My great-grandmother and grandmother were my inspiration for studying Comanche language and cultural revitalization,” she said. “I spent a lot of my childhood with them and they taught me what little they knew in our Comanche language. It has taken my family four generations to fully speak our language again after my great-great-grandmother, Mattie Pewenofkit, was forced to attend residential school. Language affects how you see the world and we have a fundamental human right to our specific worldviews.”
While fulfilling her role as the Lineberger Visiting Multi-Cultural Studies Scholar in Residence at LRU, Dr. Briner is spending the fall 2016 semester on campus, transcribing a collection of 116 extant Comanche Hymns, and teaching interdisciplinary courses about Indigenous rhetoric.
“The Scholar in Residence position is intended to provide the candidate with a one-semester opportunity to cultivate a significant research project as well as develop their teaching portfolio,” said Dr. Rand Brandes, Martin Luther Stevens Professor of English and Director of the Lineberger Center. “The idea is to give our students an opportunity to have academic conversations about multiculturalism and to work with someone who has an expertise that we don’t have on our campus.”
The 116 Comanche Hymns still in existence were written in the reservation and post-allotment eras. These hymns are still used in churches and homes today by Comanche people. The collection includes traditional Protestant hymns set in the Comanche language as well as original hymns composed by members of various mission churches in southwestern Oklahoma.
The Comanche are a Native American nation from the Great Plains whose historic territory consisted of present day eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. The Comanche people are federally recognized as the Comanche Nation, headquartered in Lawton, Oklahoma. Following disastrous residential, school, reservation, and land allotment policies of the federal government, the Comanche hymns became something more than just tuneful worship. The hymns allowed people to share their memories, advise younger generations, express joy and hope, deal with grief and loss of culture, and transmit the traditions and language of the community. When dealing with current issues of language revitalization and identity reclamation, the hymns provide a useful resource given the lack of people who speak the Comanche language fluently. Resources in language instruction, and the high number of Comanche people who no longer live in close proximity to southwest Oklahoma, contribute to the lack of fluent speakers.
The Scholar in Residence position at LRU is sponsored by the Lineberger Center for Cultural and Educational Renewal and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Candidates are chosen through an application process, and are provided compensation and benefits toward spending a semester on campus. During this time, they must fulfill specific teaching duties and contribute to the intellectual life on campus and in the surrounding community. As part of the University’s ongoing mission to embody diversity in its various communities, international candidates and candidates from traditionally under-represented groups (e.g. women, African American, Asian and Asian America, Native America, and Latino/a, etc.) are especially encouraged to apply. For more information contact Dr. Brandes at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit lr.edu.
PHOTO: Dr. Briner performing Comanche Hymns at the labyrinth dedication on the campus of LRU earlier this month.