Native Village 

Youth and Education News

December 8, 2004,  Issue 143  Volume 4

"This Earth is in trouble. ... That's why I'm a firm believer in teaching the children. You never know who you are going to touch, that one person who may grow up to be the president or secretary of state, and who cares about the environment."   Cryinghawk Tarbox, Passamaquoddy/ Micmac

 Prairie Dogs Have Own Language, Researcher Claims
New Mexico: Prairie dogs are talking up a storm, and professor Con Slobodchikoff says he's recorded at least 20 of their words. They even create new words for things they've never seen before, independently coming up with the same calls or words. "They have different 'words' for tall human in yellow shirt, short human in green shirt, coyote, deer, red-tailed hawk and many other creatures," said the Northern Arizona University researcher.  "So far, I think we are showing the most sophisticated communication system that anyone has shown in animals." Linguists have set five criteria for languages: It must contain words with abstract meanings; possess syntax in which the order of words is part of their meaning; have the ability to coin new words; be composed of smaller elements; and use words separated in space and time from what they represent.  "We're chipping away with this at the idea that animals don't have language," Slobodchikoff said. " Among the prairie dogs' vocabulary:
 Prairie dogs have calls for various predators but also for elk, deer, antelope and cows;
Prairie dogs independently came up with the same new calls when they see something for the first time;
The prairie dogs have the same escape response for a recorded prairie dog alarm as if a predator was really there;
 They all had the same word for black oval when randomly shown a black oval silhouette.
prairie dog icons:

Native seeds hold clues
Native Seeds/ SEARCH works to preserve varieties of plants that have grown in Native communities for centuries.  These ancient crops may hold the key to desert agriculture -- many can resist heat, lack of water, alkaline soil and certain diseases that developed over hundreds of years.  "It's a palette of genetic information that could be used to breed new types of plants for modern agriculture," said Kevin Dahl from Native Seeds/ SEARCH. The seed bank includes more than 2,000 varieties of plants across 99 species. Each variety of plant is preserved in Native Seeds' seed bank for 10 years, then are planted so new seeds can be collected. Last year, Native Seeds/SEARCH gave more than 5,000 seed packets to Native farmers and Native farming projects for free. They also sold 30,000 seed packets at $2.50 a packet to places as far as Norway and South Africa.

From the Buffalo Field Campaign
Montana: The Department of Livestock DOL has continually harassed the same 15 buffalo who leave Yellowstone Park to find good grass to eat.   Furthermore, they have killed two bulls under the guise of protecting livestock from contracting brucellosis; however, bulls pose zero threat.  Concerns about so-called threats to private property  are also unwarranted, as folks who live in buffalo country know that one of the only times buffalo "destroy" property is when they are being chased by the DOL.
Learn more about the Buffalo Field Campaigns efforts to save the few remaining buffalo in Yellowstone Park:
Buffalo Field Campaign

As Ice Thaws, Arctic Peoples at Loss for Words
Iceland: What are the words used by indigenous peoples in the Arctic for "hornet," "robin," "elk," "barn owl" or "salmon?"  If you don't know, you're not alone.  Many indigenous languages have no words for legions of new animals, insects and plants advancing north as global warming thaws the polar ice and lets forests creep over tundra. "We can't even describe what we're seeing," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which represents 155,000 people in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia.  The recent report by 250 scientist and funded by eight countries says the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. They also warn that the North Pole could be ice-free in by 2100, wiping out creatures like polar bears. Scientists puts most of the blame on a build-up of heat-trapping gases from human use of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The U.S. is the only country among the eight countries to reject the 127-nation Kyoto protocol meant to cap emissions of greenhouse gases. President Bush says the U.N. pact would cost too much and unfairly excludes developing states.

  Hawaiian Bird Likely Goes Extinct
 A native Hawaiian bird died in captivity on November 28 , signaling the extinction of the species. Saving the Po'ouli, a small honeycreeper found only on the island of Maui, had been the mission of a few dedicated biologists at the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. Sadly, their efforts failed.  Now, due to lack of funding and commitment from the federal and state governments, most other surviving native land birds are heading towards extinction. As with the Po’ouli, a combination of introduced predators, disease, and habitat clearance have caused their declines. At the same time that these species are slipping away, seemingly unnoticed, well-funded programs to protect the Bald Eagle, California Condor, and Whooping Crane - species that faced a similar, if not greater barrage of threats - are succeeding, showing that species conservation programs can and do work if properly resourced.

Science counts species on brink  
The latest Red List from the World Conservation Union says 15,589 species are now known to be in a perilous position.
Facing extinction:
7,266 animals
8,323 plants and lichens
25% of all mammals
33% of amphibians
5o% of turtles and tortoises
844 extinctions recorded by science since AD 1500
At least 129 recorded bird extinctions since 1800
Threatened animal species up from 5,205 to 7,266 since 1996
Current extinction rate may be 100-1,000 times natural rate

Salmon Actions Indicate Shift
Oregon: The Bush administration has proposed a steep reduction in the miles of rivers and streams set aside for Pacific salmon. Bush also flatly rejected the possibility of demolishing Snake River hydropower dams to help restore salmon runs. Together, the actions warn of far-reaching changes in federal enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.  Conservation and fishing groups, including Native American tribes with treaty rights to salmon, are extremely concerned. "The tribes made treaties 150 years ago to carry on a way of life that depends on salmon," said Olney Patt Jr. of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.  "Now we see the federal government is turning its back on that obligation."
H-Amindian Listserv

Study May Fuel Warming Lawsuits
A study of the 2003 European heat wave which killed 20,000 people may provide new ammunition for legal cases blaming the United States for global warming.  The study, published in "Nature," says human activity, especially emissions from fossil fuels, have at least doubled the risks of heat waves.  "This is the kind of evidence that will help those seeking compensation," Peter Roderick, director of the Climate Justice Program. Low-lying Pacific Island states including Tuvalu, at risk of disappearing if sea levels rise, are considering suing the United States, which is the world's top source of greenhouse gases. Eight U.S. states and New York City filed suit against five U.S. power companies in July, accusing them of stoking climate change. Inuit hunters plan to petition the Organization of American States to brand climate change a human rights abuse by the United States.  Washington has taken the brunt of legal actions since President Bush pulled out of the U.N.'s 128-nation Kyoto protocol in 2001, saying its goals for cutting emissions would be too costly and wrongly excluded poor nations.

Cochiti Kids' Opera Gets 'Colores!' Spotlight
Arizona: A group of Cochiti Pueblo children produced and performed their own opera which recently aired on KNME-TV.  The 50 elementary school children were participants in the Santa Fe Opera's Pueblo Opera Program which introduces young people to the art of opera by having them create one. The documentary, "River Where We Dream," shares its title with an opera that the Cochiti children conceived after they took a field trip on a windy day to Tent Rocks National Monument. Once there, their concerns about a lack of water inspired a mystical storyline: The wind takes away the river, and the children "go in search of getting their river back, and they do," opera spokesperson Joyce Idema said. "It has a happy ending."  With help, the children  built their own sets, sewed their own costumes, and created the music through which they tell their story.
2004 Albuquerque Journal

Indian woman from Maine a 'Survivor' on TV show
Julie Berry, 23, is a contestant on the popular CBS television show "Survivor." Berry, who is Maliseet, was born in Maine and adopted at age 4. She has one biological sister with whom she recently reunited, and one adoptive brother. On the show, Berry is a member of the female Yasur Tribe who has survived 12 episodes. She is one of five final contestants whose fates will be revealed in the season finale on December 12. Julie could win a $1,000,000 prize.
Portland Press Herald

Prized Native American paintings sold off at auction

"buffalosback fat" by George catlin

Illinois: Chicago's Field Museum has sold a collection of 19th century Western art for $17,400,000. Included in the sale were 31 paintings of American Indians and bison by artist and adventurer George Catlin.  The decision to auction the Catlins generated controversy within the museum, but museum officials say the sale will enable the museum to focus its holdings on scientific materials and to expand its collections. "Our museum is over 100 years old, and our collection is over 100 years old," said Jonathan Haas from the Field Museum.  "We currently have no acquisition budget. This gives us an acquisition budget."  The sale went to an anonymous bidder, which makes it impossible to know the fate of the collection. The paintings could go to a private collector, be sold off individually or end up back in a museum. The museum is keeping four Catlin paintings, including a portrait of the Sauk and Fox Chief Black Hawk, who led an Indian rebellion in Illinois in 1832.

Sights set on the gold
Washington: Misha Yellowman Averill is a 13 year old Navajo skater expected to win a place on the U.S. Junior World Team in May 2005. She hopes to compete in inline speed skating at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China (efforts are under way to make inline speed skating an Olympic sport). ''She is just so fast,'' said her coach, Dennis King. ''She has the ability to focus and execute on a high plane."  Misha is devoted to her Navajo heritage and dances Jingle Dress and Fancy Shawl at pow wows. ''It's kind of hard to be a normal kid. I try to have another life,'' she said. But she's also an overachiever, a straight-A student, band member,  cross-country runner, and member of the Kalles Junior High School Senate. Misha plans to attend college to become a civil engineer, like her father, Richard. But first, skating. She attended a track clinic in September at the Olympic Training Center and will compete in races through fall.  She is raising money to visit France in March to watch the U.S. World Team compete. Coach King, who is a former chairman of the National Speed Coaches Association,  has coached four skaters to world gold. He said Yellowman Averill has what it takes to be his fifth.
Follow Yellowman Averill's career:

At This Olympics, They Throw Spears And Blow Darts
Brazil:  About 1,000 athletes from more than 40 Brazilian tribes recently competed in the Indigenous Peoples' Games VII. The Super Bowl-like tournament is billed as the world's largest sporting events for Indian tribes. Among the sports: archery, dart-blowing, spear-throwing, canoe-rowing and footraces in which the runners carry 200-pound tree trunks on their shoulders. For many of the athletes, taking first place isn't the point of the games. "We are not strong sportsmen, but we participate as a celebration of being alive," says Celso Suruí. For some native athletes, the facilities are the most exotic part of the game. Some swimmers have never been in a man-made pool before.  Reginaldo Bakairi, chief of the Bakairi tribe, recalls, "We were strong when we won the tug of war on land, but in the pool we seemed weak because we could not swim fast without a current propelling us."  During the Indigenous People's games, the crowds can be rowdy. At the third Indian Olympics, some women from the Xikrin tribe threw sand in the faces of their braves after they lost a tug of war to a rival tribe. That's the same treatment that Xikrin hunters get when they fail to kill anything for dinner.
Among the games
Xikunahity: In this game of "head soccer," touching the ball with feet or hands is prohibited. The Indians say the game was shown to them long ago by a mystic from the heavens;
Tihimore: Contestants bowl, using ears of corn as pins and a quince as the ball;
Apanare: Bowmen loft arrows into the sky and braves try to snatch them before they hit the ground;
Ronkra: A kind of field hockey, players use a heavy wooden stick, without the curved tip, to swat a puck carved out of a coconut;


Volume 3 

 Native Village Home Page

Native Village is published with the generous help and support of friends, listserves, and online publications.
Without you, Native Village would not exist.  Megwich to you all.

To join our mailing list and receive news update reminders, send email address to:
To contact Native Village staff, email:

Native Village Linking Policy
Our research, study and resource collections cover a lot of Internet territory! We do our best to screen all links and select only those we designate "kidsafe" and appropriate. However, Native Village does not control the content found on third-party sites, so we are not always aware when content changes. If you discover a link that contains inappropriate information, please contact us immediately.  In addition, please be aware that each linked site maintains its own independent data collection, policies and procedures. If you visit a Web site linked to from Native Village, you should consult that site's privacy policy before providing it with any of your personal information.
For more information about keeping kids safe online, please read about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Native Village © Gina Boltz

All rights reserved