IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

                            Archery Makes Its Way Back to IAIA


On a crisp Friday morning just after the first frost this semester, IAIA students slowly file on the field next to the Hogan. Thirteen students are taking archery, a class that’s being offered for the first time on the new IAIA campus.

Julia Edmonds (Kiowa/Caddo) shoots with a partner during class.

Alumna Joanne Morales decided to offer archery after interest grew when other students saw her practicing with a bow and arrow on campus as she prepared for the talent portion when she ran for Ms. Indian World contest last spring. IAIA’s Health and Wellness Center also was able to purchase equipment this year after receiving a grant from the Ottens Family Foundation, which provides funding to promote Native American health in the Four Corners area.

Promoting safety first, students learn about stance, different shooting positions, different bows and arrows. They even shoot with their eyes closed with a partner to find balance. Cultural aspects are also included. Students say a prayer before every class.

“It makes the students feel proud to talk about this and how it relates to their culture,” Morales said. “For myself and the students, archery is very sacred.”

The sport has also become a way for students to put aside their frustrations. Although the class is offered only one day a week, students can go to the field and practice a few times a week.

“I really like it. It’s a new thing for me,” said Julia Edmonds (Kiowa/Caddo), a junior studio arts major from California. “It really helps me focus more. After I practice, it like gets all the frustrations I have with school. And I feel better about myself, too.”

The 1969 Drumbeats student newspaper shows archery and riflery being offered at IAIA. Click photo for larger view.

There are no records of when archery was last taught at IAIA but it has been part of the recreational curriculum. A photo in a student newspaper, the Drumbeats, from 1969 shows a student with a bow and arrow. The same newspaper shows that a riflery club was also organized the same year.

Archery is also offered at other tribal colleges, with Diné College in Tsaile, Ariz., making up the only community college team to compete against NCAA Division I universities. Diné also offers full and partial archery scholarships to Navajo students. The sport is also part of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)’s student competitions. Navajo Technical College took first place this year. Fort Berthold, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa, Oglala Lakota and Sinte Gleska colleges and universities and are also competitors.

Morales said she would like to put a team together for next year’s AIHEC competition, and perhaps in the future archery could be organized as a competitive team sport. But for now, Morales would like archery to be part of students’ heritage and background.

“Anyone can hit a target,” she said. “What more important is our roots and culture. We need to honor that.”