Youth and Education News
July 1, 2006 Issue 169 Volume 2
"The Canada-U.S. border is not the creation of the First Peoples of this land. Historically, our people moved freely throughout our territory and across what is now the border. We recognize that border security is a key concern for all North Americans, and [we must] address those concerns while ensuring that the rights of First Nations on both sides of the border are respected and protected." Phil Fontaine, Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Twisting Yarn tells Native American heart-warming tale
England: Children at Bramhope Primary School recently watched the Twisting Yarn Theatre Company give a performance entitled "The Trail of Tears." The new play looks at the heart-warming and unusual relationship between the Irish and the Choctaw Indians during the time of the Irish Potato Famine. The true story of unselfish generosity explores how the Choctaw Indians were forcibly removed from their Mississippi homelands to Oklahoma where they lived in poverty. In 1847, during the Irish potato famine, the Choctaws collected what little they had ($710, the equivalent of $100,000 today) and sent it to the Irish, a people who they would normally consider their oppressors. In recent years, Mary Robinson, the Irish president, visited the Choctaws to say thank you.
Photo: Famine Memorial, Dublin
New canoe brings community together for sacred ceremony
Washington: Students from Wa He Lut Indian School recently joined community members to bless a new canoe. "Every time a new canoe is built, the canoe is blessed in a ceremony," said language teacher Misty Kalamad. "We taught them the canoe blessing and the teachings of the cedar tree." Wa He Lut serves about 100 Kindergarten-8th grade American Indian students. The school focuses on teaching American Indian culture, and the curriculum includes customs and languages. "If the students get a sense of who they are, they can mix in the world," said assistant principal Brenda Lovin. "Students who live in the urban areas, away from reservations, don't always get that sense of who they are." The canoe will be used as part of Tribal Journeys, an intertribal tour of the Pacific coast and Puget Sound waters scheduled for July.
Oglala youth's science project takes top honors in New Mexico
Montana: Kyla Two Bulls is an 8th grader at St. Labre Indian School on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Recently, Kyla won national recognition with her first place award in the 2006 National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair. Her project was titled "Blood Sugar Chemistry: Determining the enzyme conversion rate of complex carbohydrates into blood sugar for a comprehensive understanding of the effect of food and exercise on the blood sugar levels of horses.'' Horses, like humans, acquire type 2 diabetes from lack of exercise and improper diet, she wrote. She posed the question of what factors affected starch digestion, then set down the hypothesis and laid out in detail the procedure for determining her theories. Kyla learned about horses from her stepfather, Philip Whiteman Jr., who is a horse trainer. Kyla has ridden a lot and uses Whiteman's ''Medicine Wheel Theory" as a method of training her horses every day. ' ''Cheyenne believe that horses are a mirror of their owner..." Kyla said. "The horses show me how to deal with myself. It's like having a mirror. If you are calm or mad the horse will react the same way you do. That taught me to check my emotions. It taught me responsibility.''
Looking Forward, Looking Back
Arizona: Tohono O'odham high school students on the San Xavier Indian Reservation recently created stories through the "Looking Forward, Looking Back" project. The idea was for students to look at their community and their connection to their heritage. "They showed a lot of commitment to the program," said Ronald Felix from the San Xavier Education Department. Students told short stories about their families and culture, both on and off the reservation. Through writing and illustrating a script, youth found ways to describe how they maintain ties to centuries-old cultural traditions in modern times. Some examples:
David Johnson, 15, focused on traditional foods. When he was younger, his grandmother's cooking sparked his interest in such foods as tepary beans and cactus fruits. Now Davied wants to be a chef. "Someday I'm going to make these foods for my restaurant so everybody can taste the glories of O'odham food," he narrates.
Ashley Escalante, 14, probed the O'odham language and discovered that many youths do not speak it. "I'm going against the current by trying to make our language stronger," she narrates. "If we lose our language, we stop being who we are."
Stephanie Danforth's story tells of her early childhood on the Tohono O'odham reservation. "There are no lights to mess up the sky's beauty," Danforth, 15, recalls. "I could hear the swaying of the trees in the night, but during the day I could smell the food cooking, like chili, beans and Indian tacos."
The students' work is now showcased on the Bridges to Understanding Web site, which connects the world's indigenous youth through digital storytelling.
To read to these and other stories by indigenous youth: http://www.bridgesweb.org/NewFiles/commSX.html
Choctaw teen pens "one of the craziest books of all time"
Oklahoma: High school student Stephen Moffitt wrote a collection of stories called "Uncle Steve's Redneck Anthology Volume 1." But the Choctaw high school student never expected his book to be published. Touted by advertising blurbs as "possibly one of the craziest books of all time," his book examines rural folk living in small town America. "I've been featured on CBS 12 news in Sherman, Texas, two front page news articles for different papers, a radio interview and another coming up," Stephen said. "A great honor I have is that the Oklahoma State Department of Education has expressed interest in having me at a conference later this year to possibly speak and also a book club choosing my book as their February read." Moffitt credits his high school English teacher for inspiring him to write his masterpiece. A follow-up book is now in the works.
From Rain City to rainforest
Washington: After graduating from Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, Hugo Lucitante, 19, will return to his village in the Ecuadorian rainforest. It's a village so isolated that even with a motorized canoe, it's still an eight-hour river trip from the nearest town. Only 1,000 members of the his Cofan tribe have survived European invasion. Lucitante's parents and other remaining members hope Hugo will become a tribal leader. "People back home want me to do the best," Hugo said. "They need someone who can lead them." Hugo has been in the United States since 4th grade and is acclimated to the Western lifestyle. But he has no problems about returning home. "Life [in the U.S.] is way too fast," he said. "Everybody seems to be frustrated. Back home, everybody knows each other, it's more relaxing. People enjoy life." At his Ecuadorian home:
The family home is built on stilts because of river flooding;
His bedroom is simple -- some shelving, a bed, a mosquito net;
At village gatherings, Lucitante wears a traditional midthigh-length robe, a bandana and a necklace made of wild boar or jaguar teeth, and he paints his face red with the seed of a native plant;
He walks barefoot, but wear rubber boots to protect his feet from snakes when hunting;
The family dinner might be a wild pig shot in the jungle; breakfast might be boiled bananas mashed into juice.
Lucitante is taking home a laptop computer which he can power up with a diesel generator. He wants to use the laptop to write down the stories of the tribe's remaining elders. He will also use it for research to help his tribe, which is battling Chevron for environmental damage. Lucitante also hopes to go to college in Ecuador or perhaps the United States. He knows that knowledge is power. "Now I have experienced the Western culture and the culture back home. I don't think I'll be intimidated," he said.
Program Offers Construction Industry Training
Alaska: At the Alaska Works Partnership construction academy, 19- 23-year-old Alaska Natives are learning a trade. The Kenai Peninsula academy teaches carpentry skills, using hand and power tools, safety issues, and how to read building plans. "Before this, I couldn't do fractions, I couldn't read a tape measure," said William Davis III, 21, who helped build a log cabin at the Ninilchik Tribal Council youth camp. Randy Alvarez, a journeyman carpenter, said that contractors "would love to hire local kids, but they don't have the training. This program put some of their own people to work in the villages," he said.
Tribal colleges filling growing need
Oklahoma: Tribal colleges -- schools owned and run by Indian tribes -- are growing. Usually located on reservations, more tribal colleges are being created as more American Indians seek higher education. There were no tribal colleges in the U.S. before 1968; today there are more than three dozen and one in Canada. "It's been a slow process, but we are happy to be where we are," said Gerald Gipp of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. "We're going through a real learning process of operating our schools and reversing decades of neglect." American Indian enrollment in universities has more than doubled in the past 25 years. This includes a 62% increase in enrollment at tribal colleges where course offerings reflect tribal goals, including reviving tribal languages. Tribal colleges may be the last chance to save some native languages, said Quinton Roman Nose. "This is a really complicated area to try and preserve and teach a language," Roman Nose said. "There's a great need."
American Indian Higher Education Consortium: http://www.aihec.org
Cheyenne-Arapaho Latest to Open Tribal College
Oklahoma: The Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes hopes to operate a tribal college on the campus of Southwestern Oklahoma State University. "This will be a service to the Cheyenne-Arapaho and American Indian community cultures in general," said Radwan Al-Jarrah, a dean at SOSU. "It will help revive culture, language and history." Tribal Colleges educate people about tribal history, heritage, language, accomplishments, and other topics. If approved, this will be the fourth tribal college in the state.
The Associated Press
New Agreement Brings Nursing Studies to Reserve
Saskatchewan: This fall, 18 students on the Kawacatoose First Nation will begin a practical nursing training program on the reserve. The reserve has a nursing shortage, and tribal members wanted a nursing program close to home. They approached SIAST to form a partnership of traveling professors and participating hospitals for training. Previously, the band offered an on-reserve four-year education program with the University of Regina. Nineteen students graduated.
Kawacatoose First Nation: http://cap.ic.gc.ca/sk/kawacatoose/
She and Her Graduation Robe Had to Come a Long Way
New York: Sarah L. Smith, 32, recently graduated from Hunter College. When the Maori student from New Zealand attended graduation ceremonies, it was her cloak which meant the most to her. "You have to show you are a worthy recipient," she said. The handmade cloak of feathers and shells, made by more than 50 member of her Ngati Kuri tribe, had been carried 8,000 miles by her parents in time for graduation. The tribe first had to receive permission to use the feathers from three species to tell the cloak's story:
Feathers from the kiwi symbolize stability -- their feet are planted firmly on the ground because they do not fly;
Feathers came from the kuaka. a migratory bird that goes from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern, as Sarah has already done;
Feathers came from the native New Zealand pigeon, indigenous to her homelands, as she is.
The cloak was then blessed before it left New Zealand, but that did not ward off what Ms. Smith called "the complication with customs." Ms. Smith had contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service who assured her that the cloak could be brought into the country. However, when her parents arrived at Kennedy airport, the inspectors refused to release it. (The kiwi is an endangered species and the kuaka is covered by an international treaty) Finally, Senator Charles E. Schumer called the airport and the cloak was released. When Sarah finally donned the cloak for graduation ceremonies, her assigned seat was on the main stage. The president of Hunter College, Jennifer J. Raab, asked Sarah to stand up, turn around, and let the crowd see it.
Sarah's photo copyright New York Times
NASA woos young American Indians
NASA and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium offer a new program for American Indian students. Named "Vision for Space Exploration" the program is for college students seeking careers in science and engineering. "We welcome tribal college and university student and faculty teams to join NASA scientists and engineers in conducting hands on research at our centers as we implement the Vision for Space Exploration," said Angela Phillips Diaz from NASA. "We look upon this summer as the beginning of a long-standing partnership with the tribal colleges to inspire the next generation of innovators and explorers in science and engineering career fields."
New Course Will Help Teachers Relate to American Indian Students
Nebraska: A new course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will help teachers better understand their American Indian students and cultures. Led by Professor Al Arth, the four week summer course will feature tribal elders, religious leaders and speakers from the Omaha Nation reservation in Macy. "In some ways, the Native American student is simply different," Arth said. "When we fail with a student, we have to ask ourselves, 'How did the school and the community miss talking to each other?'" The university also plans to adapt the curriculum for students from the Santee Sioux and Winnebago tribes.
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