Native Village 

Youth and Education News

September 1, 2006 Issue 171  Volume 2

"Popular culture seems to represent Native Americans as these mythical beings of the past, and the Heritage month activities are trying to break down those stereotypes. People should know that we aren't a monolithic group of people. We are comedians, authors, singers, and our cultures are very much alive today." Nickole Fox

New page turns for Alutiiq language
Alaska: A new book, “Kodiak Alutiiq Language Conversational Phrasebook,”  is helping preserve the Native language of Kodiak. Written as part of a masters thesis by April Laktonen Counceller, KALCP was edited by University of Alaska/Fairbanks linguist Jeff Leer. Six Alutiiq Elders: Nick Alokli, Mary Haakanson, Dennis Knagin, Florence Pestrikoff, Phyllis Peterson and Sophie Katelnikoff Shepher, also contributed their time and knowledge to the project. Only 35 fluent speakers of the Kodiak language remain alive, and the new book is only part of the process to save the language. The Alutiiq Museum, where Laktonen-Counceller works, has created an Alutiiq language daycare/early language program and provides children’s books to local preschools and primary grades. “It’s sad to be the last speaker of your language;  please, turn back to your own and learn your language so you won’t be alone like me," said Mary Smith, the last remaining speaker of Eyak, her own tribal language. “Go to the young people.  Let go of the hate in your hearts.  Love and respect yourselves first.  Elders, please give them courage and they will never be alone. Help our people to understand their identity."  The public can contribute to the preservation effort by joining the Alutiiq Language Club.

Comparison of some common Yup’ik, Alutiiq, and Aleut words:

English Yup’ik Alutiiq   Aleut
food neqa  neqa inux
house nenglu  engluq  ulax
ocean  imaq imaq alagux
person yuuk suk angagisinax
summer  kiik  kiak  saaqudax

Preschool for American Indians to open
Washington: This November, the Ferndale School District will open a new preschool for American Indian students. Funded by a $955,000 federal grant, the school will help close the achievement gaps for Native students. "Some students enter kindergarten with gaps in language and vocabulary that are so big that they never catch up," said Principal John Fairbairn. A typical 3-year-old knows about 15,000 words, he said. "A student that hasn't been enriched, as far as vocabulary goes, can have as few as 3,000 words."  The preschool will serve children ages 3 and 4, and preference will be given to American Indian children in the Eagleridge Elementary area. The curriculum focuses on language, literacy skills and a cultural components with ties to the Lummi Nation community. "Early childhood education is a very powerful preventive way to deal with future learning issues," said Michael Berres, Ferndale's director of special services. Preference will be given.
Bird graphic  © Kitty Roach

At 94, American Indian storyteller tells her last tale to children
New Mexico: Esther Martinez was born the year the Titanic sank and New Mexico became a state.  Known as P'oe Tsawa, or Blue Water, Martinez, 94, is a renowned storyteller and Tewa language consultant. She also wrote the Tewa dictionary, still in use in Tewa speaking pueblos.  Recently, Ester made her last public appearance as a storyteller and told the story of Coyote and the Rabbit -- a story full of mischief by the rabbit toward the poor coyote.  Blue Water's daughter helped with the storytelling. She said her mother heard the stories while growing up and wanted to make save the stories for the future.  Blue Water, who is from the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, is also the author of a book titled, "My Life in San Juan Pueblo," a collection of personal and cultural stories.  Her book offers a glimpse of oral traditions passed from grandfather to granddaughter.  It also includes a compact disc of Martinez telling the stories herself.

Among Blue Water's many recognitions:
A Living Treasure Award from the state of New Mexico;
The Indian Educational Award for Teacher of the Year from the National Council of American Indians;
An honorary Bachelor of Arts in early education by Northern Community College in Espanola;
Blue Water will be honored with the National Heritage Fellowship Award in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12 for her work in preserving the Tewa language.

Arapaho elders learn to teach
Wyoming:  Seventeen Northern Arapaho elders have received teaching certificates during an eight-week course at Wind RiverTribal College. The elders, all fluent in the Arapaho language, are eager to teach their language to youth. "We need this language in our ceremonies," said Eugene Ridgely Jr.  "We've had elders say without this language we don't have a culture - we'll just be like everybody else, but just with different-colored skin.  In a sense, you lose your identity."  The WRTC classes focused on instruction skills the elders need to help elementary and high schools students learn how to speak and read the Arapaho language. Ridgely, who is the bilingual education director for WRTC, says bringing the language into the schools is not nearly enough. He also envisions  a "Master Apprentice Program" in which nearly all Arapaho children would get one-on-one instruction with a tribal elder for several hours a week.  The college is currently working on the program.

Reading emphasis keys gains in Lame Deer

Montana: Lame Deer Elementary School has implemented an aggressive reading program that requires instruction or practice for at least 90 minutes a day. Children who need extra help receive an additional 30-45 minutes of one-on-one reading instruction daily.   The program, funded through a Reading-First grant,  is now in its second year. It targets students in the primary grades. According to reading specialist Gwen Poole, not a single child entered kindergarten with the skills needed to learn to read. The kids didn't know the alphabet or the sounds each letter makes. Most couldn't count, and many were speech-delayed. Poole guesses that they aren't usually read to at home or exposed to structured learning. She said most of the youngsters are already 2½ years behind academically when they start kindergarten.  By the end of last school year, almost half of the kindergarten students caught up to grade level and mastered the skills necessary to learn to read in the first grade. With help from the Reading-First program, the staff's goal is for all students to read at or above grade level by fourth grade.

Grant For Native American Students Is Renewed
New Mexico:  The U.S.  Department of Education renewed a 5-year grant of $380,364 per year to the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute.  SIPI is a National Indian Community College and Land Grant Institution for American Indian and Alaskan Native students.  Its college prep programs works with AI/AN students in grades 6-12 and encourages them to pursue a college education.   Students participating in SIPI's programs come from Navajo Pine High School, Gallup High School, Gallup Junior High, John F.  Kennedy Middle School, Wingate High School, Thoreau High School, Crownpoint High School, Laguna Acoma High School, Bernalillo High School and Jemez Valley High School.
Albuquerque Journal

 Car show to support tribal teen program  
South Carolina: -- A car show was held on the Catawba reservation to support the Catawba YouthNet Summer Enrichment Program. The theme was "Old School and New School" cars, trucks, and motorcycles. "This is important because traditional funding is getting harder to get for the summer and after-school programs," said counselor J.R. Rice before the event. "This will help with what we do on a day-to-day basis." The Catawba summer program and its after-school project offers homework assistance for K-12 students.  The youth also participate in cultural activities such as drumming, bead work and pottery, and learning the Catawba language.

OSU faculty member receives White House honor
Oklahoma: Dr. Jim Smay, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Oklahoma State University, was recently honored by President Bush at the White House. Smay was among 20 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the government's highest award for America's most promising young scientists and engineers. The PECASE award came after Smay received a five-year, $400,000 NSF-CAREER grant in 2005.  He is using those funds to develop an innovative technology and outreach program for Native American high school students in Tahlequah.   "There are a lot of impediments in minority communities to higher education, much less going to college to become an engineer or scientist, but the Cherokee Nation must move toward high technology," Smay said.  "I try to interact with the students by telling them, 'look, I'm a member of the tribe, too.  I grew up over here in eastern Oklahoma, 30 miles from the seat of the Cherokee Nation.'"  Smay earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at OSU and hopes other Cherokee students follow in his footsteps. " I'm not sure people in the Cherokee Nation are necessarily aware of how good this university's record is in producing Native Americans graduates.  I tell them, 'not only can you make it, but OSU is a great place to do it.'"

Akaka announces $1,784,150 in federal funds to go toward Native Hawaiian education programs
Hawaii: The U.S.  Department of Education has awarded funds for three Hawaiian educational programs:
Waianae District Comprehensive Health and Hospital Board: $569,660 for the development and expansion of its non-traditional educational programs at the Waianae Health Academy;
Pacific American Foundation: $496,443 for its Native Hawaiian at-risk youth and leadership program, and $520,504 for Malama Kaho`olawe, a Native Hawaiian Culture-and Place-Based Curriculum Addressing Math and Science project;
College Connections: $197,543 for its Native Hawaiian Scholars Program,  a statewide project that prepares Hawaiian teens for high school and college success by combining academic support with cultural enrichment.
“I applaud the Department of Education for recognizing the importance of Native Hawaiian programs that provide the necessary incentive and support to develop initiatives that use language and culture as learning tools, ”said U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, Hawaii.  Akaka is a constant advocate of incorporating cultural values in education.
For more information, visit

H-Amindian Listserve

Haskell University welcomes freshmen, parents
Kansas:  Students from more than 130 tribes attend Haskell University. Recently, over 100 freshmen and transfer students experienced orientations and their first days on campus.   With them came the largest group of parents the university has ever seen, said Haskell President Karen Swisher, who equated the close family contact with students' success.  Housing Director Jim Tucker said orientation is equally important for parents and students. Sure, the students are nervous, tentative even, but many parents are suddenly facing life without a child for the first time. “A lot of times, the parents are already missing their kids before they drop them off,” Tucker said.  More than 800 students live on the HU campus every year.

Tribal college a stepping stone to 4-year schools for Indian students
Montana: When Mandy Plainfeather graduated from high school, she enrolled at the University of Montana, 400 miles from her home on the Crow Indian Reservation.  But she soon left UM, partly because she wasn't prepared academically, but mostly because she missed the culture. "You get thrown into the ocean, in deep water, and you're trying to swim," she said of her experience at UM.  "The support structure wasn't there for me.  That homesickness was really hard.  I think I cried for about a month."  Many American Indian students face similar situations--nearly 80% of them drop out of four-year nontribal colleges.  Now many are enrolling at tribal colleges before a four-year program. Tribal-college enrollment has increased 62% in the past decade. "They come here and love it," said Little Big Horn College President, David Yarlott, Jr.  A tribal college focuses on the students, said Allyson Kelley who works at LBHC. "...people teaching at tribal colleges are servants to the community."  Little Big Horn College is a public, two-year institution serving residents of the Crow Reservation and surrounding areas. LBHC offers 8 associates of arts and 2 associates of science degrees.  90% of the student body is Crow.   Tuition at Little Bighorn is $1,200 a semester for students taking 12 to 18 credits. Tribal colleges are funded by the Department of the Interior and rely on federal money to operate.
Among the comments:
"You always want your kids to be better than what you are, to better themselves. With him closer to home, we're more able to assist him, give him direction."  Parents of student Kevin Yazzee
"My students say [about life on a reservation], 'It might not look like much to you, but it's all we have,'  How do you take an individual and make them leave all that?" Allyson Kelley
"The bottom line is that tribal colleges serve as a foundation ...  for students to strive towards being successful." Allyson Kelley
"We don't want to compromise our academics, but culture is important. Here, they are comfortable being who they are.  They don't have to adjust to mainstream college.  Everyone is like you. It makes them feel important to be Native, to be Crow."  David Yarlott Jr.
Little Big Horn College:

University, tribe celebrate thirty years together
Ohio:  For over 30 years, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has enjoyed a “thriving and mutually enriching relationship” with Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Miami U. is named after the tribe and is located on Miami homelands.  In 1972,  Miami chief Forest Olds visited the school’s campus to meet with MU president Phillip R. Shriver. Both men enjoyed their meeting so immensely that they found ways to grow together in the following years.  Today that relationship has evolved into scholarships for tribal members, student visits to tribal headquarters in Miami, OK, and a memorandum of understanding between the school and tribe. Current projects include the "Myaamia Project for Language Revitalization."  Other tribes are joining the effort and becoming involved. In the past,  Delaware and Shawnee leaders shared a joint presentation at MU with the Miamis on tribal histories and traditions.

In 1973, Miami University commissioned John A. Ruthven, internationally acclaimed wildlife artist, to create a portrait of a Miami Indian.
The Myaamia Project:

Professional Development Programs in Seven States Awarded $3,793,537 to Improve Education for Indian Students
Education programs in seven states will receive $3,793,537 to provide training programs to recruit and graduate new American Indian teachers and school administrators.The funding is part of an effort under No Child Left Behind to ensure a quality education for all students.  "These professional development grants will help us find, train and retain the very best teachers and administrators within American Indian communities," said U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.  "Reaching our goal under No Child Left Behind of every child reading and doing math at grade level by 2014 depends on the dedicated efforts of our teachers.  We will continue to make sure teachers have the support and tools they need to best serve their students."
Indian Education Professional Development Fiscal Year 2006 Grant Awards:
Sells Tohono O'odham Community College $935,092
Tuba City Tuba City Unified School District
Lewiston Lewis-Clark State College
Duluth College of St.  Scholastica $324,520
Mahnomen White Earth Tribal and Community College
Billings Montana State Univ.-Billings $293,290
Bozeman Montana State Univ.-Bozeman
North Carolina
Pembroke Univ.  of North Carolina-Pembroke $299,399
Eugene Univ.  of Oregon $324,847
Milwaukee Univ.  of Wisconsin-Milwaukee $324,524


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