Native Voices Traveling Exhibition at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania

LORETTO, PA – The Native Voices traveling exhibition stopped in April at Saint Francis University, one of America’s oldest Catholic universities.

“[The exhibition] is an opportunity to look at culture and how it affects health decisions,” said Janie Rager, associate dean of St. Francis University’s Library, which hosted the exhibition.

Brother Zatsick stands next to one of the exhibition's informative panels

Brother Martin Zatsick, TOR, a Franciscan and director of the Dorothy Day Outreach Center at St. Francis University, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Native Voices traveling exhibition.

Brother Martin Zatsick, TOR, a Franciscan and director of the Dorothy Day Outreach Center at St. Francis, was the keynote speaker at the exhibition’s opening ceremony. Brother Zatsick spoke of his work at the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota for 16 years, where he oversaw a parish, served as chaplain at a county jail, and counseled at a drug and alcohol center.

Brother Zatsick noted the combined faiths of some South Dakota Native Americans, who practice Catholicism (or other religions) along with Native cultural beliefs. Brother Zatsick explained there are some similarities in practices, and he saluted a commitment to religion and Native traditions.

The exhibition received local media coverage, and Dean Rager estimated more than 100 persons visited the exhibition during its stay at the Library. One visitor commented, “I really liked the personal aspect to the exhibit; often Natives are viewed as a collective group rather than individuals.” A second added, “There is so much content there, I just didn’t have enough time.”

Rager said several St. Francis instructors planned to incorporate the Native Voices exhibition into their coursework, and she added the 168 year-old university offers diverse health science programs and degrees.

The Library additionally invited several Native Hawaiian students, some of whom play football for the university, to discuss Native Hawaiian culture as well as their academic and personal adjustments to life as undergraduates. St. Francis University is located near Altoona, in the Laurel Highlands of south-central Pennsylvania, more than 4,720 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii’s largest city.

St. Francis University is one of the initial stops of the Native Voices traveling exhibition under the sponsorship of the American Library Association (ALA). Under that sponsorship, the Native Voices traveling exhibition will be hosted at 104 libraries selected via ALA’s competitive process earlier this year. Each library will host the Native Voices exhibition for six weeks, with the ALA-sponsored journey running through June 2020.

The National Library of Medicine often works with ALA to extend the reach of NLM’s exhibitions to diverse libraries and exhibition centers across North America.

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