Native Village 

Youth and Education News

January 12,  2005, 2004,  Issue 144 Volume 1

''Whatever the future holds, do not forget who you are. Teach your children, teach your children's children, and then teach their children also. Teach them the pride of a great people ... A time will come again when they will celebrate together with joy. When that happens my spirit will be there with you."
Chief Leschi, Nisqually

May Choate Woodruff of Gans has seen 103 new years.
Oklahoma: 103-year-old May Choate Woodruff traces her family  to the 1700s where an Indian baby girl was found by a Cherokee hunting party.  "The hunting party found the baby underneath a holly bush and adopted her into the tribe and named her Oolotsa," Woodruff said. Later,  May's great-grandmother, Mary Jane Riley,  moved to Oklahoma with her husband before the Trail of Tears.  When Woodruff was three years old her dad, James Choate, enrolled her in the Dawes Commission rolls because of the land it would provide. May received 80 acres of rich Arkansas River bottomland where she has lived for the last 100 years. Today, one of Woodruff hobbies is hand-piecing quilts. In the last seven years she has pieced about 30 quilts. Woodruff said she loves sharing this gift of sewing with family members and gives many of her quilts away to friends.

Chief Leschi's name restored
Washington: After two trials filled with dubious testimony, withholding evidence, and ignoring the law, Nisqually Chief Leschi was hanged for the murder of militiaman A.B. Moses on Feb. 19, 1858, in Steilacoom, Wash. Over time, the Nisqually people's attempts to clear Leschi's name failed. Then, in 2001, the last living male descendant of Leschi, 69-year-old Sherman Leschi, met his relative Cynthia Iyall.  ''Sherman and I were sitting quietly in his living room..." said Iyall.  "We'd been discussing Leschi's history and the wrongfulness of it all. He turned to me and he said simply, 'I have a project for you. It should have been done a long time ago.' He was talking about exonerating Leschi. People talked about pardoning Leschi but he felt a pardon suggested Leschi was guilty and he wanted none of that.'' In 2004. a new court convened with Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Gerry Alexander presiding. There were nine witnesses for the defense and one hostile witness for the prosecution. The judges unanimously voted to clear the name of Chief Leschi and offered apologies to him, his family, his tribe and their children, other tribal peoples, and to the state of Washington. Now the healing has begun. "Stories have been passed from generation to generation of Leschi's bravery and leadership. The truth as presented today will finally clear the record and allow our leader and his people to rest,'' said Nisqually tribal Chairman Dorian Sanchez.
 Speech Radio News--Chief Leschi Exonerated!:

Vine Deloria, Jr., American Indian Visionary 2005   
Arizona:  Vine Deloria, Jr., will receive the second annual American Indian Visionary Award in March during a celebration at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The award, presented by Indian Country Today, honors leaders who display ''the highest qualities and attributes of leadership in defending the foundations of American Indian freedom.''  Deloria, who is Yankton Sioux, has spent his life as an activist, scholar, teacher, writer, religious philosopher and organizational leader. He has written a dozen books and countless essays and articles, given hundreds of lectures, inspired new organizations and led existing ones, and never sacrificed his own authentic voice or his commitment to a communal truth. Time Magazine named Mr. Deloria as one of the 10 greatest minds of the 20th century.
Among Deloria's principal books:
'Custer Died for Your Sins (1969)
We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf (1970)
God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (1973)
Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties: An Indian Declaration of Independence (1974)
''Indians of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coming of the White Man to the Present Day (1977)
American Indians, American Justice'' (1983), co-written by Clifford Lytle
The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty (1984), co-written by Clifford Lytle
Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (1995)
''Evolution, Creationism and Other Modern Myths (2002).

Mohegan matriarch dies
Connecticut: Ruth Etta Tantaquidgeon, one of the two matriarchs of the Mohegan tribe, has died at the age of 95. Tantaquidgeon, along with her sister Gladys, was a 10th generation descendant of Uncas, the Mohegan sachem, or chief, who settled at Fort Shantok. Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who is 105, is now the last surviving full-blooded Mohegan. Ruth and Gladys are credited with helping the Mohegan Tribe gain federal recognition.,0,793564.story?coll=ny-region-apconnecticut

Cherokee woman slain in Iraq named Oklahoman of the Year
Oklahoma: Fern Holland, a member of the Cherokee Nation, has been named Oklahoman of the Year for 2004 by Oklahoma Today magazine. Holland, 33, was killed in a roadside ambush March 9 near Hillah, Iraq, where she worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority as a women's rights expert. Holland had also served in the Peace Corps in Namibia and helped establish legal aid clinics for abused women in refugee camps in Guinea in West Africa. "Fern Leona Holland understood that she was at great risk because of her work, but expressed to her family that she loved the work she was doing and that many Iraqi women were depending upon her," said Cherokee chief Chad Smith.  "[She] was assassinated in Iraq because of her work and she died as a warrior fighting for her beliefs and seeking to improve the lives of others."

A Rain Forest Debate: Could It Have Been Home To Complex Societies?
South America: Most archeologists have viewed the Amazon rain forest as an inhospitable environment where early complex societies could not live.  But new research suggests that prehistoric people thrived in large numbers by overcoming the jungle's natural limitations.  The secret, say the theory's supporters, is in the ground beneath their feet.  The highly fertile soil called terra preta do indio, [Portuguese for Indian black earth], was either intentionally created by pre-Columbian people or is the byproduct of their presence. If today's scientists can discover how the Amerindians transformed the soil, today's farmers could use that technology to improve land productivity instead of cutting down larger swaths of jungle.  The benefits of terra preta is already known to farmers who plant their crops wherever they find it.  "It's made by pre-Columbian Indians and it's still fertile,’" said Bruno Glaser, a soil chemist from Germany. "If we knew how to do this, it would be a model for agriculture in the whole region." This specially modified soil is scattered across millions of acres in the Amazon rain forest. In some places, it makes up 10% of the ground area.
H-Amindian Listserv

Saving The Ancient Paths Of The Guarani Indians
South America: In 1524 Spanish conquistador Alejo Garcia walked the trails of Tape Aviro, a web of pathways woven by the Guarani people's search for the "Land Without Evil."  Today this ancient network of trails in southern Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia is being rescued by scientists and officials hoping to protect the indigenous Guarani culture.  A semi-nomadic people, the Guarani's migrations searched for rich lands for farming, a mythical place where people live in eternal joy, and gold.  "It was not to accumulate the metals as riches,’" said one historian from the National University of Asuncion, "but because for them, the shining brilliance of gold ‘was the symbol of something holy.'" The Tape Aviro will be made into an adventure for tourists and revitalize the story of the Land Without Evil.
IPS-Inter Press Service

Little is left of Queen's Fort in Exeter--including the sign
Rhode Island: Today's visitors to Queen's Fort will see little more than a pile of boulders.  But during the 1600s, the boulders were a manmade defense protecting the dwelling place of Quaiapen, also known as Wawaloam, the great Narragansett Indian leader. "She was a very powerful individual and an exceptional leader of that particular family," said John Brown, Narragansett Indian tribal preservation officer.  He added that gender didn't determine leadership privileges.  "In our history and our culture there were no dividing lines between gender in any position within the tribe. That's the way for us. It always was and always has been."  Quaiapen's reign was quite expansive, stretching through the middle of Massachusetts and into southern Vermont.  Located at a distance from the main Narragansett village, Queen's Fort was a safe hiding place for women, children and old people while the warriors were at battle.  In 1676, Quaiapen and some of her people were attacked and massacred by forces under Connecticut's Major John Talcott. Today, the 56 acre site is on the National Register of Historic Places." We honor the memory of our people," Brown added. "To do less is to treat them less and we cannot do that."

Mankiller, Cherokee revisit Colonial Williamsburg  

Virginia:  After 227 years, a Cherokee Nation delegation returned to Williamsburg to commemorate historic meetings centuries ago when the Cherokee visited the Virginia Governor's Council to discuss trade, peace and associations. The events, held Dec. 4 - 5, 2004, included a special visit by Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller outlined many stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Indian governments, including treaties with Indian nations. "Some people today in the 21st century think treaties are no longer valid because of their age,'' Mankiller said. But she added if that were true, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights wouldn't be valid either.

Tribe awarded grant to keep language alive
Alaska: The late Peter Kalifornsky, a Native elder who made significant contributions to keeping the Dena'ina language alive, once wrote a story called "Education."  In that story he said education was "To prepare school students for the reality of today's world. To relearn. To tell about what remains of the past. That it is their country from the ancient past and that they are Dena'ina."  The Kenaitze Indian Tribe recently received a three-year, $584,000 Administration for Native Americans grant that will allow them to do just that — to "educate" using a variety of projects all designed to revitalize the Dena'ina language. "Our goal is to have a tribe of lifelong learners and teachers of Dena'ina culture and language," said Sasha Lindgren, language program director. ""We want to reconnect with our tribal youth, and language is our strongest tool for that."

Indian tribe works to bring back a lost language
California: When Jose Guzman died in 1934, the ancient Bay Area language called Chochenyo died with him. Or so it was thought. But the language can be heard again thanks to John Peabody Harrington, field linguist for the Smithsonian, who recorded Guzman's voice on a wax cylinder. Guzman sang stories passed down through generations, recited verb tenses, used specific vocabulary such as words for "rabbit skin" or "sweetheart," and described everyday customs that offer insights into the culture, such as stirring acorn mush. Today those wax recordings have been transferred to tapes and CDs. With the help of university linguists, Guzman's descendants are working to recreate Chochenyo and teach it to their children. "It hasn't been spoken in 75 years," said Michele Sanchez, a member of the tribe's language committee. "Our goal is to learn it again." Through songs, flash cards, puzzles and bingo games, a committee of the tribe's elder women lead lessons for about two dozen kids, ages 4 to 16. They meet for pizza parties and birthdays and recently sang their first-ever translation of holiday songs. "If we learn the language, it will bring us closer to our culture," said 16-year-old Alison Symonds, a member of the Ohlone-Muwekma tribe. "We once had a big culture."

Tribal-language teacher is spreading the word
Arizona: Danny Lopez, 68, worries about dying. Not because he's ill, but because he's afraid of taking too much of the Tohono O'odham history and language with him.  "Everything that I know I want to leave for my people," Lopez said. "It belongs to them.  When an elder is gone, what he knows, the songs, the history, whatever he didn't set down, that knowledge is buried underneath the ground."  Lopez was recently chosen for the first Spirit of the Heard award. The award, given by the Heard Museum, is to honor a living member of a  Southwest tribe who has demonstrated personal excellence or community leadership. A storyteller, singer and cultural expert, Lopez has taught key aspects of the O'odham Himdag -- the Desert People's Lifeways -- to hundreds of Tohono O'odham youths, adults and elders over the past 30 years.  He also has taught the language to paramedics so they can speak to Tohono O'odham elders when responding to calls.

  Preserving a language, safeguarding a culture
Mexico: An Oaxacan woman, Emiliana Cruz, has completed a Ph.D. on her indigenous language. She hopes her knowledge will help improve conditions for her community. "The primary force that motivates me in striving to keep the Chatino language alive is that the language is not just a verbal form of communication," she says, "but rather it is intimately connected with the cultural reality of the Chatino people and their complex history, dynamic cultural development, and diversity with all its own richness." Although some experts believe 50-60 languages exist in Mexico, Enrique Fernando Nava, from the National Institute of Indigenous Languages, believes up to 150 different languages are spoken nationwide. "Zapoteco, for example, is not really one language but rather a family of languages," he explains, referring to the largest linguistic group in Oaxaca. "The same is true of Mixteco and Chinanteco and many others."  The number of people speaking indigenous languages is in rapid decline. According to Emiliana, it's because the dominant mestizo (mixed-race) culture devalues indigenous language and culture. "In Mexico, indigenous languages are not considered valid for education and for written communication because they are thought of as incomplete and are looked upon as simply dialects or sub-languages," she says.

Williamsburg photo: Copyright © Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 2005

Rock art: Photo by JQ Jacobs


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