By Christa Romano
“One day, I just woke up and realized that I had accomplished one of my dreams. I really did do exactly what I’d always wanted to do.” Andrea Lanzone dreamed of being an “Indians’ Picker.” In his terms a person who drives across America and “picks up” American Indians in need of help.
After spending his childhood living in Rome, Lanzone decided to follow his dreams and at the age of 23 he moved to America, bought a 1977 Trans-Am and spent the next two years visiting many Indian reservations and growing culturally and professionally.
Lanzone, 41, is the assistant dean and a professor at John Cabot University in his home city. The combination of his past experience and passion for his work make him an important resource for the JCU community. He is considered a go-to person.
“He is a bridge between the academic affairs and the student affairs here,” said Pilar Murgia Imana, coordinator of Student Services at JCU. “Because he is also a teacher he is able to read between the lines of the university, internally and externally. He sees how this school functions from within the boundaries of the classroom and from within the administrative system.”
His first stop in America was in Arizona with the Navajo, the largest American Indian nation, which Lanzone described as a “beautiful people with a very strong cultural identity.” Lanzone loved the South West so much that he decided to stay in the Navajo Nation for a while. Then he moved to South Dakota the land of the Lakota Sioux. But he soon discovered that on the Great Plains, reservation life could be very hard.
“The conditions were horrible there. So many are unemployed or homeless, even today housing is a big problem. There are youth gangs, there is very poor healthcare and the alcoholism rate is tremendously high,” Lanzone said. “It is a third world and nobody knows it. These people have been left alone.”
When asked why he decided to dedicate many years of his life to American Indian tribes, Lanzone said he has always been interested in the human condition in relation to oppressed and underprivileged people. “The American Indians are a minority and have been denied their rights. I wanted to know who is responsible and how I can help,” he said.
Lanzone believes that only a true American Indian has the right to teach their history and so he tries to teach only what he is absolutely sure about the way that he believes American Indians would like to represent themselves. “In my Native American history class I don’t teach the white man’s history,” he said.
Lanzone dedicated his double thesis and PhD to American Indians and is currently working on publishing two novels about his experiences in America. From his involvement in the field of human rights, Lanzone has always been interested in learning about minorities, refugees and other people forced to become invisible to the general public eye.
Lanzone has also done extensive charity work and has helped raise funds with Trans-Am 77, a R&R band that mostly covers musicians such as the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater and Bob Dylan – his favorite. He is one of the guitar players and has been called “the soul of the music life at JCU” by other faculty members.
One day he will move out with his family to his country house in Umbria where he produces olive oil. But before doing that, he would like to take a pan-continental road trip with his son from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most point of South America. Reflecting on his past experiences, Professor Lanzone leans back and smiles as he say, “But this time, my son Tommy and I, will have a shining, brand new Ford Mustang!”