Native Village 

Youth and Education News

January 7, 2004, 2003 Issue 125, Volume 2

"What you learn, take it with you and share it with others." Tony Incashola, Flathead

Saving dying dialects
The Siceca Learning Center is a Dakota language immersion program housed at Sisseton Wahpeton College. "The immersion program grew out of the desire of the Dakota people to do something to preserve the Dakota language, " said Bill Lonefight, president of the college.  At Siceca,  Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate elders  help students and caregivers correctly say the words. They also help translate books and songs into Dakota. "Dakota language is so deep it comes from the heart," said elder Orsen Bernard. "Whatever I say in Dakota, it has a deeper meaning because that's the way the Dakota language is." Lonefight said another reason Sisseton-Wahpeton is getting involved is that research proves bilingual children use more areas of their brains "They do better in school. They have increased higher order of thinking skills. They are able to make connections," Lonefight said.  "It's a little odd that at the same time schools were pressing children to learn Spanish, French, Japanese and Russian they were pressing the other way to extinguish the Dakota, the Cherokee, the Muskogee and Lakota (languages)."  Less than 10% of tribal population speaks Dakota; most are over age 60.  
American News Writer 

Tuba City District adopts Hopi Lavayi Project 
For the first time, the Hopi Tribe have partnered with a school board outside the  reservation to bring the Hopi language into school curriculum. A student petition, signed by Natives and non-natives, supports the Hopi Lavayi Project. It states that Tuba City's Navajo and Hopi high school students recognize the importance of the tribal languages and culture. Students also wish to support the interaction of natives and non-natives who live and work alongside each other in the School District.  “Although we recognize that the Hopi language should be taught in the home and in the village, we also recognize that this is not a real or practical approach,” Chairman Taylor said. “It is through our language, and our culture that we learn about our values, our heritage and our responsibilities in this world. Students are a large part of this world responsibility and they will need to be able to speak Hopi to understand and carry out those obligations.”
84% of students surveyed saw a need for a Hopi language class at the TC High School level; 
79% believes reading and writing Hopi is important;
Students becoming proficient in the Hopi and English languages;
 Improving and enhancing academic performance;
Increased community and parental involvement; 
Meeting State foreign language requirements; 
Reversing the trend in language loss.
Continue and resuming “Kyaptsi” (respect), “Nami’nangwa” (communal spirit), “Sumi’nangwa” (togetherness) and “Hita’nangwa” (unselfishness, generosity and cooperation). 

      Tribal schools busing students to see frontier film  
Only 300 people are still fluent in the Chiricahua language.  So, when their Apache dialect was spoken in tthe film "The Missing" , those on the Mescalaro reservation flocked to movie theaters. Most adult Apaches in the audiences said they understood every  word of the Chiricahua dialect -- and the children suddenly wished they could, too. That's what Mescalero councilman Berle Kanseah and Chiricahua linguist Elbys Hugar intended. Both were technical advisers for the film, a tale of 19th century frontier life starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. Television and popular culture are killing minority cultures, starting with language, Kanseah said.  "There's a generation gap that's growing," he said. "We need to enforce the home and not lose our way of life, which is our language." It was the first film that any of them could remember in which Apache was spoken well enough to be understood.

Reading signs: Breaking the Maya code Part One
Martha Macri is the founder of the Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project (MHDP), based at the University of California, Davis. MHDP's goal is to make available a comprehensive database of Mayan glyphs (signs) to scholars and serious students. With each entry labeled in numeric code, English, and Maya, it is the only current Maya database to use visual images. "Native people in the Americas really did have written history from an early time,"  she said.  For years, Maya glyphs were an elegant puzzle. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Yuri Knorosov unlocked the phonetic code which is based on syllables, not an alphabet.  It took a couple decades more for his theory to be accepted.  Macri"s project is meant to help decipher the nuances within the language itself.  So far, MHDP has amassed over 40,000 glyph "blocks," distinct images found in ancient stone carvings. About 8,000 images from codex (books) are in a smaller database.

Student's soccer play taking her to college 
Seventeen year old Whitney Wofford began playing soccer when she was 4 years old. For the last four years she has started for the Claremore High School Zebras, OK, received best offensive and defensive player honors, and was named to the All-District team.  Whitney was also chosen to play on Oklahoma's  Olympic Development Team which brings together the most talented female soccer players in the state. Whitney also excels in school, maintaining a 3.85 grade point average. She is vice-president of the CHS Native American Club, a member of Students Against Drunk Driving, the National Honor Society and Who's Who Among America's High School Students. "I have learned to maintain my time and do what's important first. I try to keep a balance," she said.  Whitney's soccer play and good grades have caught the attention of numerous NCAA Division I colleges. She favors the University of Arkansas because it is "close to home and has good medical training facilities." She also wants a location close to her family and tribe. 

MSU student called to active duty 
Scott Zander, a Gros Ventre Indian studying health and human development at Montana State University, was honored by friends and faculty before leavingt for active duty in the National Guard. The traditional send-off included Native American prayers and songs. "I guess I'm not too happy about being called up, but if you join you have certain responsibilities. I'm not the only one who is going," Zander said. He said his family is disappointed because they want him to stay in school, "but they understood this was a possibility, so they're supportive."  Zander is one of three MSU Native American students honored for their research by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Zander's research looked at factors that contribute to alcohol use and abuse among Native American women of childbearing age.

FDLTCC gets $1.9 million federal grant 
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has been awarded a $1,975,000 grant from the United States Department of Education. The grant will help the college develop educational opportunities and a 4-year degree program in Sustainable Development.  “This grant will greatly benefit the development of our new degree program,” said Sr. Therese Gutting, vice president of academic affairs. “It gives us the opportunity to create and implement the best possible courses, degree program, and learning resources for students. There are very few colleges and universities across the country offering a program similar to this, so this puts us on a leading edge of education again. We want our program to be the best." 

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have awarded Sonoma State University with a $1,500,000 grant to establish an endowed chair of Native American Studies. An endowed chair is a faculty position that is funded in perpetuity from the earnings of the gift. "The gift demonstrates the tribe's commitment to serve the needs of the American Indian community and the entire student body at our campus.  During these harsh economic times, this gift will provide us with critically needed funds that will significantly course offerings for our students.," said Edward Castillo, coordinator of the Native American Studies program. 

Landmark book preserves Dena'ina culture 
"Shem Pete's Alaska" is a treasure trove of information about all things Dena'ina. Shem Pete, whose family included the last official chiefs of his clan, was born in the late 1890s. During his long life he traveled on traditional hunting, fishing and trading routes and lived in several areas of Alaska. Shem became famous as a storyteller and tradition bearer before his death in 1989. "I don't want this story to die," he said, speaking about the book. "That's why I am telling this story. If I die, who is going to tell this story? Nobody. You people are going to hear it. My name is Shem Pete. That's enough." The book resulted from decades of work by many people. It's an example of how Native elders and non-Native scholars can work together to rescue indigenous knowledge from the brink of oblivion 

Campus Follies Include 'Gender Blind Dorm' and Anti-War Professors 
A conservative college group, Young America's Foundation,  has unveiled its list of top ten campus follies for 2003: 

          Wesleyan University in Connecticut which offers a "Gender Blind" dormitory floor for incoming students who aren't sure about their sex; 
     Prof. Nicholas De Genova of Columbia University, when teaching about the war in Iraq, said he would like to see "a million Mogadishus" - referring to 18 American soldiers ambushed and killed in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993; 

Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., where a professor forced Speech 106 students  to write anti-war letters to President Bush;
The Roger Williams University administration which froze funding and criticized a campus group for advocating diversity in The Hawk's Right Eye publication; 

     In New Jersey, a 14-year-old student was suspended for five days for drawing a stick figure of a U.S. Marine shooting a Taliban fighter;
     A group of parents and teachers at Jefferson Elementary School in Berkeley, Calif., who want to rename the school because former President Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder;

     The president of the University of Arizona who stopped the tradition of throwing tortillas at  commencement. He considered it disrespectful to many of the school's Hispanic and Native American community members;
     Smith College students where the all-female student body voted to remove all feminine pronouns from the school's constitution and replace them with gender-neutral ones;

     School officials at Park Ridge Elementary School in Nampa, Idaho, who forbade an 11-year-old from wearing a patriotic T-shirt to school because it violated its policy on clothing depicting guns or gangs;
          Gonzaga University officials, who censored a flyer advertising a Young America's Foundation  lecture because the word 'hate' was used on the flyer.

American Maya Goes to Guatemalan Congress 
December's peaceful elections have given Guatemalans  a new president unassociated with the country's recent and bloody past. It also includes a ranking Maya Indian congressman -- a powerful symbol in a land where the native population has been repressed for hundreds of years. Victor Montejo, a Jacalteco Maya born into a rural peasant family, has spent most of his adult life in the United States. For the last eight years he has chaired the Native American Studies Department at the University of California, Davis. Now Montejo has given up a Fulbright grant to run for the Guatemalan Congress.  "We have to emerge from this chaos in Guatemala," he said. Ordinary Maya Indians are typically rural farmers who rank at the bottom of health, education and infant mortality. Their immediate needs are economic development, community projects, roads, and education, which to many means a free school breakfast system.  But Montejo also wants to remember and respond to Guatemala's recent past.  Some 200,000 died in the violence, mostly unarmed Maya Indians killed by government forces who suspected them of supporting leftist insurgents. "Young people don't remember, and those who suffered don't want to remember -- it is still dangerous to talk about," says Montejo.  "I lived it."  Montejo's best-known book, "Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village," is an eyewitness account of the soldiers' brutality, his own imminent execution, and his escape. Montejo supports revising K-12 and university texts to include accounts of the violence. He also wants officers and former chiefs of state to stand trial for war crimes.

Int'l students fight 'fee for spy' plan
Students and their allies are denouncing the University of Massachusetts-Amherst  plans to impose a new fee for international graduate students in the spring semester. The $65-per-semester fee is only for international students. Monies will fund a new program called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS. SEVIS is a database that links colleges and universities to the Department of Homeland Security. It monitors the activities of all international students, including home location, classes taken, hours worked, status of bills, and any other information the department deems necessary. The university updates the database in real time.  If international students don't comply  with updating information, or if they fall out of good standing with the university, the State Department can consider them felons and arrest and deport them.  "Not only are international students, of which I am one, being forced to pay for their own surveillance, but they are being discriminated against in the campus community," said Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki, a doctoral student from Jordan.  There are approximately 6,000 graduate students attending UMass-Amherst. 50%are international students.  
A petition to "Repeal the UMass Surveillance Fee" can be signed at: For more information, visit

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