Youth and Education News
December 10, 2003 Issue 124, Volume 2
“There are lots of people who are poor and forgotten. We need to remember the elders and what they’ve done for us. We want them to know that we appreciate them.” Thomas Mentzer, Hopi High teacher.
Indigenous Languages Dying
The Indigenous Language Institute of Santa Fe, N.M. has found 175 active Native American languages in the United States. Within a few years, however, 155 of those languages may die. After much research, ILI is compiling a handbook of effective programs used in Native communities to save their languages. They are also asking local tribal members to conduct language surveys in their communities. "A language survey gets the community aware about their language and involved in the language effort," said researcher Sheilah Nicholas, Hopi. "It serves as an invitation to the community to become part of the effort. They get to express their points of views about the language, what they feel about it." So far, IlI research shows:
t Many tribal communities want their languages taught in the homes by elders who speak the languages;
t The next best place for tribal language instruction is in the schools;
t Language surveys can help in identifying who is a potential teacher and who can be trained;
t Language surveys also help in identifying potential obstacles in a teaching program;
Finished surveys can help in getting financial assistance for teaching a language program, she explained. "Funding shouldn't be the only reason why you should start the program, but it is important. There are people who are committed to it and should be compensated."
Learn more about the Indigenous Language Institute: www.indigenous-language.org
Indian Country Today
American Indian children speak ancestral tongue at this school
Students at Nizipuhwahsin (Real Speak School) on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana spend all day speaking their ancestral tongue. From kindergarten through eighth grade, they study math, reading, history and other subjects in Blackfoot. "Some people think our language is dead, but it's not," said student Jesse DesRosier. "We still have our language and we're bringing it back." What's at stake is more than words. Filled with nuance and references to Blackfeet history and traditions, the language embodies a culture. "The language allows kids to unravel the mysteries of their heritage," says Darrell Kipp, a founder and the current school director. Nizipuhwahsin opened in 1987; today, demand for the few school openings--where tuition is $100 a month--has parents signing up their toddlers. Supporters say the impact runs deep. "This is a way to heal the identity of confusion that so many of our students go through," says Joyce Silverthorn, a tribal educator and member of the Montana Board of Public Education.
New Curriculum Incorporates Native Culture
Robert Beaudin and Bonnie Depencier have developed 64 educational units for use in Ontario schools. Their project, Shki Mawteh Taw-Win Enmook (Path to New Beginnings), integrates native culture into the entire curriculum while eliminating native studies as a program. Leaders hope many Native bands and schools will choose to participate in the project which will be released in January. "The more we have the opportunity to pilot the study, the more opportunity we have to further the project," Beaudin said.
A Child's First P.C. Thanksgiving
Skokie, IL, 1st graders learned about cultural sensitivity when their principal wouldn't let them dress as American Indians for their Thanksgiving celebration. After a parent complained the costumes were offensive. Principal Pete Davis told the kids to leave their construction-paper headdresses on the classroom shelves. The school then invited Leonard Malatare of the American Indian Center to tell the children about his culture. Malatare taught the pupils a few words in the Oglala Lakota language and led them in a traditional blessing. "At this age level, you let them dress up in feathers and do the little Indian thing, they'll grow up with that image in their head," Malatare said. "I've had people come up and ask me if I was born in a teepee. We need to start getting away from these stereotypes." Those who had opted to be pilgrims fared no better. Their paper black hats and bonnets also were banned. American Indian groups in Chicago applauded Davis's decision.
Documentary on Mindanao Tribal Schools Wins UNICEF Prize
School of the Highlands, a video documentary, was awarded the UNICEF Prize at the 30th Japan Prize International Educational Program Contest. The winning Filipino program presents indigenous peoples' unique perspectives on education. Five case studies share how Mindanao tribal communities and elders preserve their vanishing traditions through culturally responsive schools. "Our cultural survival rests on our own schools that nurture our cultures and traditions," declared Datu Mandimati Conrado Binayao, Bukidnon tribal elder and one of the founders of the indigenous schools.
Goal of College is More Aboriginal Teachers
It's been almost 40 years since Lillian Youngchief dropped out of Blue Quills Residential School after junior high. She says she spent more school time kneeling in prayer than learning the alphabet. Now, at age 54, Youngchief is one of 17 students completing her education degree at Blue Quills First Nations College -- the same brick building as the old church-run residential school. Reclaimed by Native people through a program with the University of Alberta, Blue Quills is specially tailored to help aboriginals become teachers. There is a dire need for more aboriginal teachers in Alberta.
Legislators told of the plight of Indians in Utah
Utah lawmakers recently met with tribal representatives who offered them a tour of the state's tribal lands. "Hang out and see the 'rez,' see what we have to go through," said Steven Cesspooch, Goshute, talking about unemployment and other problems. Most of the conversation focused on educating Native youth. "Our students are smart and they're creative," said Robert DePoe. "But they're not in a supportive culture... When they turn 16, they drop out because they don't know what else to do." Maxine Natchees added that books and educational material do not include the importance of American Indian culture. "The public schools are failing our students," she said. "As tribes, we put our hopes and dreams in our young people."
School Is Haven When Children Have No Home
With unemployment and housing costs pushing more families into homelessness, school systems are educating more children living in shelters, cars or motels. Some states report a nearly 50% increase in homeless students since 2002. "Schools are often the only safe haven these students have when home life disintegrates," said Sue Steele, coordinator of the Wichita Public Schools' homeless student program. The McKinney-Vento law, reinforced in Congress in 2002, requires the country's 15,000 school districts to designate a "liaison for homeless children and youth." The liaison's duties include locating homeless youth, helping them enroll in school, and ensuring they get medical and dental care. It also requires districts to provide transportation so homeless children can attend the same school, even if their parents move about seeking shelter or jobs. Federal grants help states comply with these mandates, but the $50,000 in yearly grant monies is far less that districts need:
*In 2000, experts estimated there were 930,000 homeless youths. Only 621,000 were enrolled in public schools;
*In October 2002, Colorado officials counted 4,103 homeless students enrolled in state public schools. By May, the number had risen to 5,963;
*In 2001 Maryland counted 5,605 school-age homeless children. Last year the number grew to 7,322;
*In 2001, Oregon officials estimated 21,000 homeless school-age youths. This year, the number is 28,600;
*This year, Amarillo, Tex. enrolled 1,200 homeless students,
Hopi High School seeks food for elders
The annual Hopi High School National Honor Society Food Drive for the elderly is underway. “Were off to our best start ever," said Thomas Mentzer, NHS sponsor. He emphasized how much this means to the school and community. “It’s so tangible. It’s not the teachers telling the students what to do, but their idea of taking on something for somebody else. The elders get tears in their eyes. It means so much to the elders to see the kids from the high school caring for the elders.” The Hopi High NHS is accepting canned and boxed food until Dec. 17. Last year Hopi High NHS delivered a record 195 food boxes to Hopi elders.
For more information, telephone 928-738-5111.
NAJA announces diversity program
Indians are the most underrepresented minorities in newsrooms. In South Dakota, the Native American Journalists Association is starting a program for high school students in an effort to diversify reporting. This year, hopes are to work with 3-10 high schools by teaching journalism classes. Next year, hopes are that many more schools will be interested in participating.
High school without seniors?
Colorado is exploring the possibility of eliminating 12th grade and establishing a year of preschool instead. They said it might help students better-prepare for college by giving them an early start and possibly save money. Hoang Nguyen, a 17-year-old senior, does not want to eliminate 12th grade. He said colleges might hold it against students who fail to complete a traditional high school curriculum. ''The senior year is the next step to going to college. It's a year when you find out who you are,'' he said. Florida has adopted a plan to let seniors skip their senior year by graduating with 18 credit hours instead of 24.
Competition for Native American students stiffens
Northern Arizona University is the educational leader in serving Native American communities. In 2001, NAU awarded 272 degrees to Native American students. Of those, 187 were bachelor's degrees, 84 were master's degrees, and one was a doctoral degree. That makes NAU the America's fourth-leading institution in undergraduate degrees for Native Americans. NAU is number one in graduate degrees. The university president, John Haeger, has appointed a Native American commission to figure out what the university is doing right and what it must do to recruit more Native students.
Creighton University, Indian studies enrollment up
Nebraska's Creighton University says enrollment has increased in its Native American Studies major, the only such major offered in Nebraska or any Jesuit university. "The Native American Studies Program is based in anthropology," said Rev. Ray Bucko, interim director. "We don't teach anyone to be Indian. We teach what it means to be a Native American." Since 1997, Creighton has also hosted a Native American Retreat. The retreat brings Indian students in grades 9 12 to campus to learn about preparing for college and what college life is like. Creighton has also announced that an anonymous donor has provided money to establish a scholarship fund for graduates of Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D. The first scholarship will be awarded in the spring. Red Cloud Indian School educates about 600 K-12 Lakota Sioux students each year. This year, 11 of Red Cloud's former students are enrolled at Creighton.
PSU Center for Native Americans a Landmark
Portland State University has the largest Native American student population in Oregon. Yet, when Yakama Francene Ambrose arrived on campus three years ago, she didn't see anyone who looked like her. Now PSU has opened a Native American Student and Community Center for Ambrose and other Native Americans who need a gathering place. Ambrose, a 24-year-old PSU graduate student, hopes the center will foster intertribal connections among students and all generations of Native Americans in Portland. "Now we have a permanent place to get together," she said. The $4,500,000 center is both a student services building and a community center on a transit line. PSU President Daniel Bernstine hopes that combining the center with a new Native American studies minor will open doors to the community and keep students on the path to graduation. "This will be an opportunity to bring Native American culture and tradition to the university," Bernstine said, "and an opportunity for those of us who aren't Native American to learn."
Tribes Consider Virtual College
Oregon tribes may soon create a virtual college that combines resources at reservations around the state. The proposal, the nation's first, would allow those on the reservation access to college courses at other schools. Some courses may be created to meet reservation needs, including courses on natural resources or casino management. Hopes are the courses would train and educate residents for reservation industries.
The Associated Press State & Local Wire
U of I grant will pay for tribal database
The University of Idaho has received a $411,446 grant to create an electronic database of legal information for Indian tribes throughout the nation. The Internet-accessible electronic database will include information on Indian tribal court cases, constitutions and codes.
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