Letter from SACC President:
SACCFest Boise was held in the capital city of Idaho April 5-8, 2017. I am proud to report that we had impressive registration numbers with approximately 50 registrants. The College of Western Idaho (CWI) was very generous in funding 18 student registrations which obviously helped our bottom line but also succeeded in providing an atmosphere in which students, in this case, CWI Anthropology majors, were able to not only attend a professional conference but also participate with faculty in meaningful ways and present their own research.
The theme of SACCFest Boise was, Student Engagement Equals Student Success: Strategies for Teaching Anthropology. As a SACCer since 2012, I recall attending SACCFest San Diego andthinking, these are ‘my people’, they have their priorities exactly where I do – with our students. I knew when Ann Bragdon approached me in Burlington in 2014 to be President, that SACCFest Boise would need to reflect a focus on both the pedagogy of Anthropology as well as provide a space for our majors to speak out about what is impactful to them in our discipline which is why Evin Rodkey and I incorporated a round table discussion on the matter. I also knew that not a single registrant (beyond my students) had been to Idaho before (at least more than a drive through on I-84, Mel!) so I wanted to showcase the diversity and richness of the many subcultures that thrive in southwest Idaho such as the Basque community, the Mexican community, the Paiute community, and our refugee community.
We were blessed by the weather gods after Boise’s worst winter in 36 years to have our SACCFest Welcome Dinner outside on the Basque Block in gorgeous sunshine and that beautiful ‘golden hour’ light that the high desert is so renowned for. I remember Diane Levine asking me a couple days later, “so what was your back up plan if the weather had been bad?” I replied, “there was no back up plan, so I’m really glad it all worked out!” Having the wonderful paella from the Basque Market and the Oinkari Basque Dancers perform along with master accordionist Dan Ansotegui was a fantastic start to the conference. Plus seeing my Chair Justin Vance and his lovely wife Kim skipping along with the dancers was priceless.
The next two days faculty and students alike enjoyed a well-rounded series of papers, including a tasty and soulful Middle Eastern buffet lunch on The Owyhee rooftop terrace by Iraqi refugee and chef Salam Bunyan. We had two student award winners; Kelsey Wilber from College of Western Idaho won the Student Award for Academic Excellence and presented on Student Engagement Through Rock Art Recordation which highlighted the CWI Anthropology Club’s Petroglyph Recording Project via a GIS StoryMap Kelsey created. Karina Parker from San Diego Miramar College won the Student Award for Creativity, Leadership, and Community Service and presented on Home Truths: An Undergraduate’s Ethnographic Study of College Student Homelessness which featured her fieldwork that raised awareness for the marginalized existence so many community college students experience. This was followed by a fantastic key note presentation on Incorporating “Human Behavioral Ecology” into Introductory Anthropology Classes by Dr. Kristin Snopkowski, where faculty were given resources and activities related to HBE at the 100 level. The Basque Market provided a beautiful, mouth-watering spread of pintxoak, bite-size artistic morsels which disappeared as SACCers were regaled by my friend, colleague, and standup comedian in another life, Dr. John Ysursa on an introductory lesson to Basque history and culture. After touring the Basque Museum, SACCFest participants were treated to a lesson in pala (racquetball) and pilota (handball) by longtime Basque athlete Jerry Aldape. After several squirrely balls ricocheting directly towards us by enthusiastic SACCers, it was time to call it a day!
The field trip on Saturday started out at the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area’s Dedication Point overlook where we viewed the aftermath of the Bonneville Flood 15,000 years ago from the dramatic canyon rim. After dropping down into the canyon floor at Celebration Park’s Crossroads Transportation Museum we had the opportunity to enjoy a hearty welcome to the sacred wintering grounds of the Northern Paiute and Shoshone peoples by a riveting musical experience by revered Paiute Elder Mr. Ron Sam who drummed and sang for us while his nephew Daultin Pendleton performed the timeless Grass Dance. This was followed by a lively performance by Monique Michel-Duarte and her Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo dance troupe who represented the vibrant Mexican American culture highlighting folk dances from Veracruz state. While there were petroglyphs to observe, atlatls to throw, and exhibits to enjoy, the undisputed favorite event was the boat ride up the Snake River canyon by Dave Loper. Weirong Cai could not have had bigger eyes and a wider smile when I asked her how she liked that boat ride! After boarding the coach we took the scenic route into the Wine Region of the Sunny Slope along Chicken Dinner Road (yes, it’s a real road and Laura González has the picture to prove it) where we were deposited at the gorgeous Koenig Winery. While SACCers enjoyed their box lunches from The Orchard House, a plethora of Idaho wines were tasted culminating in a surprise (to me anyway!) wine raffle sponsored by my dad Gary Gorrell. Six bottles went to lucky SACCers whose names were pulled out of his hat – a very nice contribution.
SACCFest Boise 2017 ended that evening with a lovely top-notch dinner at the best restaurant in town, Chandler’s. It was a pleasure to see everyone enjoying themselves and certainly a relief for me to see this year-long planning odyssey come to a satisfactory end. Ann Kaupp pointed out how many SACC Presidents were in attendance and confirmed they all understood exactly what I was feeling –exhausted relief! Ultimately SACCFest’s greatest strength is that Anthropology faculty (and hopefully, increasingly, students!) are able to come together and be inspired by each other’s research and recommendations, all while provoking intellectual and pedagogical discussions that enrich our effectiveness in the classroom!