Speakers Teresa Norris, a Ojibwa from Delaware, and Mark Azure, a Chippewa-Cree/Dakotah & Tsimphian from South Dakota, explained Native culture and how it compares and contrasts with deaf culture.
Teresa Norris explained the Intertribal Deaf Council (IDC) and how it helps deaf Native Americans get in touch with their culture and traditions.
The IDC was established in 1994 and organizes annual gatherings for Native Americans, Native Alaskans and First Nation tribes of Canada.
These gatherings are conducted in a way that allow the hearing impaired to participate in and connect with their culture.
Mark Azure discussed the parallels of institutionalized deaf schools and the federally run Indian Schools.
Azure, who attended a deaf school in the 1970's, told the audience about having his hands slapped whenever he signed and how he was taught to look people in the eyes (instead of at their mouths) when speaking with them, despite the fact that eye contact is a sign of disrespect in most Native cultures.
Azure also related a funny story about his first hearing aid, "a monstrous squawk box" strapped to his chest that was "like wearing a bra!"
He noted that while things were pretty tough for them at the school, they found ways to make life interesting, like teaching the wrong signs to their hearing, non-signing teachers.
He went on to talk about the dos and don'ts of attending powwows and other ceremonial gatherings.
Participants attending the first night included interpreters, students of sign language and those curious about Native life.
Malina Lindell, an interpreter and teacher of the deaf at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, attended because of her schools proximity to the Umatilla Indian reservation.
"I wanted to get this information to help them understand the worlds they are functioning in; the deaf world, the Native American world and the hearing world, so that they can be more a rounded person and more connected to their heritage when they're done with school," said Lindell.
Patrick Galasso of Salem was impressed that COCC had "opened its doors to the Native Deaf Workshop because it shows sensitivity to cultural minority groups."
Other sponsors of the workshop include the Diversity Group, Student Life group and student government.
Julie Simon coordinated the event but was not in attendance.
For more information about deaf Native Americans and the IDC log onto www.deafnative.com