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April 14, 2005

Away from the cultural norms of Abilene Christian University and submerged into a unique lifestyle, ACU students have the opportunity to experience an often-overlooked part of American culture – that of the Crow Indians in Crow Agency, Mont.

The Department of Sociology and Social work sponsors the "ACU on the Reservation" summer internship program to expose students of all majors to a unique culture and heritage. As many as eight students may participate each year, and applications are now being accepted for this summer's program.

Interns live with Crow families during the three-month internship, which begins last week of May. The students work under the supervision of ACU alumnus Lorrine Burke-White, on-site coordinator of the program, and Frenchy Dillon, a faculty member at Little Big Horn College on the reservation.

"Students need to learn that there are other cultures and other kinds of people," said Dr. David Gotcher, liaison for the Crow internship program and associate professor of sociology. "They need to view them not as better or worse, just different."

One of the main objectives of the interns is to mentor, tutor and develop relationships with Crow youth. They are encouraged to spend time with several children and teenagers to get to know them well. Interns also help organize group activities, such as canoeing and camping.

The students will take a course in Crow culture at Little Big Horn College to learn about different aspects of the tribe's culture and history, and they have the option of taking up to nine credit hours during the summer at Little Big Horn College.

Living with the Crow challenges interns to become accustomed to a different way of living.

"Three months living with a family whose culture is totally foreign to what we know is not easy," said Brandon Johnson, senior biblical text major from Granbury, who participated in the program last summer. "But anything in life that is easy usually is not worth your time, so you have to just keep an open mind and roll with it."

In addition to spending time with the youth and learning about the culture, interns also help their host families with everyday tasks at home and on the reservation. Instead of living three months as visitors on the reservation, the interns assimilate themselves into the culture and become members of the community.

For these interns, "every day is an adventure," said David Young, senior vocal music education major from Austin, who spent last summer as an intern on the reservation. "It's a new opportunity to live a simple life and learn more about a culture that America has almost forgotten."

For more information or to complete an application, contact the Department of Sociology and Social Work at (325) 674-2306 or visit the program's Web site.

See related ACU Today story.

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