Youth and Education News
October 29, 2003 Issue 121 Volume 3
"The American Indian has
only one country to defend, and when you're picked on, the American Indian never
turns his back."
Ernest Childers Muscogee (Creek), Congressional Medal of Honor
Experts speak out to save Midwestern tribal tongues
More than 30 Native American languages in the Midwest are threatened with extinction during the next 20 to 30 years. For many tribes, only a handful of elderly members are still fluent in the native tongue fluently. When they die, the traditional language dies with them. For Helen Roy and many Native American language teachers, the prospect of "losing our language" is a potential tragedy. "I'm teaching a language, but I'm also teaching a way of life," said Roy, a language professor at Michigan State University. "If we lose the [Ojibwe] language, the danger is that we'll also lose the culture to which it belongs. I don't think anyone one wants that to happen, and that's why we work so hard in class every day." But teachers such as Roy face an uphill battle, said Wayne State University linguistics expert Anthony Aristar. Aristar is directing efforts to build a nationwide, $2,000,000 database aimed to preserving dying languages. Aristar and other researchers say that at least half of America's 200 remaining native languages will vanish within the next century. "Losing a language is a major setback for everyone, because along with the language, you will also lose all of the poems, the stories, the songs," Aristar said. "And those things are of immense importance to all of us as human beings.
Squamish Nation puts together CD-ROM to teach its language
In the early 19th century, 16,000 First Nations people lived in the Squamish Valley. They had a deep respect and understanding of the land and spirits around them. Through tradition and celebration, the natives forged a strong bond between each other and developed a rich language called Skomish Snachem, a language that, today, is nearly extinct. However, a group of Squamish First Nations people are working on a learning tool to prevent this tragedy from happening. Spearheaded by Shirley Lewis, a unique Squamish Nation Education CD-ROM has been produced to teach the Skomish Snachem language to anyone willing to learn. The CD-ROM features strong visuals and an easy-to-follow layout. By clicking the mouse on an English word, an image appears with the voice of a Squamish Nation elder who provides the translated word in the ancestral language. The CD-ROM teaches aspects of human relations, Indian implements, nature’s environment, nature’s elements, body parts, emotions, dwelling, clothing, domestic animals, wild animals, sea animals, reptiles, insects, birds, numbers and colours.
Winnebago tribe mourns loss of elder who helped to preserve its language
The Winnebago Tribe is mourning the death of Stanford Whitewater, a tribal elder who died at the age of 90. Whitewater dedicated his later years to teaching the Ho-Chunk language and promoting the legacy of the tribe. Whitewater taught Ho-Chunk at Little Priest Tribal College until his health failed. In the last few years, he held classes in his home with students gathered at the kitchen table. "He had one student who came back to learn the language," said daughter Gloria Sheridan. "In four years, he turned her into a fluent speaker. He's gone now, but she's going to carry it on." That student was Elaine Rice. Like Whitewater, Rice became a Ho-Chunk instructor at the tribal college and now is an instructor in a new language and culture program, the Winnebago Renaissance Project. The project is building on the 2,700 audio tapes of Ho-Chunk words and lessons recorded by Whitewater while teaching at Little Priest.
Yup'ik elder Paul John publishes his 'Stories for Future Generations'
Born in 1928 near the village of Chefornak, Paul John is among the few remaining Yup'ik men who spent their boyhoods in the qasgiq, the men's communal house. In the qasgiq, young men were schooled in traditional skills and the making of tools. They also learned life lessons through stories of ancient legends and real-life experiences told by men with firsthand knowledge. As an adult, John carried on his culture by preserving and advancing Yup'ik language and traditions. In 2002 he received the Governor's Award as Distinguished Humanities Educator. Now John has published a book, "Qulirat Qanemcit-llu Kinguvarcimalriit: Stories for Future Generations." Subtitled "The Oratory of Yup'ik Eskimo Elder Paul John," stories are arranged by subjects like history, shamans or parents and children, and each presented in Yup'ik with English translations.
Civil Rights Commission Discusses Indian Health Care
Tribal leaders and health care advocates recently shared their insights for health care improvement with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. According to the commission, the average U.S. health expenditure for each American will be $5,775 this year. But for the Indian Health Service, only $1,600 per person is spent. On some reservations, the funding is far less. "I think that this is the first time probably in a long time that they've looked at Indian health, or Indian issues, as civil rights violations,'' said Kay Culbertson, a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux tribe. "I think they're going to have to look at it as 'This is a potential liability for the United States. We haven't met the needs of Indian people across the country, therefore maybe we need to seriously start looking at what we can do for them.'" The daylong hearing in New Mexico addressed poverty, inadequate education, cultural and language barriers and geographic distances.
Associated Press State & Local Wire
HHS Awards $156.5 Million to Address Substance Abuse for Those With HIV
The U. S. Health and Human Services Department will grant 115 awards for drug prevention and treatment services targeting people with or at risk of HIV. The awards, totaling $156, 500,000, will be granted to racial and ethnic minority communities which are highly affected by substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. Among those receiving the awards is the Urban Indian Health Board in Oakland, CA. They will receive almost $500,000 each year for five years to provide substance abuse, mental health, medical and HIV/AIDS services for Native American women and their children.
Reasons for state's teen suicide rate are complex, expert says
Montana's teens have abnormally high suicide rates but there's no easy explanation for the troubled behavior. "We're in the infancy of studying suicide, and it's extraordinarily complex," said Lanny Berman of Washington, D.C. "It's not a single viral agent, nor is it a single gene." In Montana, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, surpassed only by accidental injuries. Joe Pablo, counselor for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, said most of Montana's problems are worse on the reservations.
"We have a high potential for suicide," Pablo said. He said his tribe once controlled an area from Canada south to Three Forks and from Idaho to the Sun River. "We lost a lot," he said. "Now we have depression, alcoholism and cocaine addiction."
Leading reasons for suicide:
Depression: 73% of high-risk youths described their first decade of life as lonely, compared with only 17% of a "normal" control group.
Alcohol and drug dependence: Heavy substance users are 400% more likely to commit suicide. 70% of teen suicides are frequent drug users. 50% have alcohol in their systems at the time of death.
Abnormally high access to firearms: Nationally, about 57% of teen suicides are with guns. In Montana, it's 75%. "A firearm is a particularly lethal method," Berman explained. "If you point it toward a vulnerable part of your body, you stand a 90%chance of dying."
Californian Receives Reward for Helping Track Down Sea Otter Killer
Defenders of Wildlife has awarded $2,500 to David Lewis for providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of John Aaron Bishop. Lewis was leading a boy scout troop on an outing when he saw Bishop shooting a southern sea otter at Montana de Oro State Park, CA. "We applaud the quick and thoughtful actions of Mr. Lewis," said Jim Curland of Defenders of Wildlife. "His actions remind us all that there are members of the public willing to step forward to help preserve endangered species in this state."
Defenders of Wildlife
Six Wolves Found Dead in New Mexico and Arizona
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the death of six Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona. It is presumed that all six of the endangered wolves were illegally killed, possibly by the same individual. Through its Imperiled Predator Fund, Defenders of Wildlife is offering $10,000 of the total $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest of those responsible for the wolves' deaths.
Physics Plucks Secret of Peacock Feather Colors
Chinese scientists have uncovered the exact mechanisms peacocks use to produce the shiny green, blue, yellow, and brown tiny feather tips on the bird's elaborate ornament. They've learned the feathers' bright colors are produced by microscopic, detailed two-dimension structures. Slight changes in these crystal-like structures cause light to be filtered and reflected. This creates the feathers' many different iridescent hues. Discovering these photonic crystals may help scientists adapt the structures for human use, said Andrew Parker, a coloration expert at Oxford in England. These crystals could be used to channel light in telecommunications equipment, or to create new tiny computer chips. We can take advantage of "millions of years of evolutionary trial and error," for new technologies, he said.
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