Native Village Youth and Education News
September 1, 2008 Issue 189 Volume 2

Fall Camp by Urshel Taylor, Ute/Pima

"If you do not stand with what is right, you become a collaborator in acts of injustice. We need the moral courage to stand and be counted. It is about the power of one. And when the power of one meets other powers of one, there is a collective voice."
Tome Roubideaux, Lakota


Weighing the candidates' Native education platforms
Washington D,C.: Senators John McCain and Barack Obama say they care a lot about education. But how do they address issues that affect Native students? The National Indian Education Association  asked campaign advisors about their Native-focused education policies. Among the comments:

John McCain
 According to advisors Lisa Graham Keegan and Hessy Fernandez:

As Arizona's Senator, John McCain has a long  history with Native groups
McCain is committed to partner with tribes to meet the needs of Native students. This includes support for culture and language.
McCain has pushed for reforms to BIA schools and more resources for tribal education programs.
McCain believes providing educational opportunities to Native children is critical to prepare them for a productive lives and to preserve their languages and cultural identity.
McCain will continue the BIA construction initiative for new reservation schools and renovations for others.
McCain's wants to create immediate ways for schools to make necessary changes in much quicker ways.
McCain doesn't support a one-size-fits-all education policy approach.

Barack Obama
According to advisor Jon Schnur:

Obama is committed to developing, retaining and rewarding a high-quality teachers that serve on Indian reservations.
Obama wants to  focus on accountability, maintaining gains, and accelerating the quality of teaching and leadership.
Obama proposes to properly fund the No Child Left Behind Law.
Obama wants to support early learning programs and increase support for early education.
Obama wants to focus on college teacher education programs in schools of education.
Obama plans to listen carefully to everyone, examine the data, and look at what's working.

Lillian Sparks, NIEA director, is pleased that both candidates are open to promoting language and culturally based education. This is among the NIEA's top legislative goals. ''I think they both have policies in place to do positive education outreach to the Indian population. We're very encouraged that both campaigns are paying attention to Native students.''  NIEA will release a transition paper focused on Native education and priorities for the next administration

First Native American in space inspires Neah Bay students
Makah Reservation, Washington:  John Herrington,was a member of the Endeavour Space Shuttle team that spent two weeks at the
International Space Station in 2002.  Now the former astronaut is honoring his Chickasaw heritage by bicycling across the nation. His goal is to encourage students to study science, math, engineering and technology.  "You don't have to be number one to be an astronaut, but you do have to be dedicated, work hard and work well with others," Herrington said. "I was rarely No. 1 in anything, but along the way, I had mentors who guided my talents and told me I could do things I didn't think I could. " Harrington, 49, began his bicycle trip in Neah Bay. He plans to bike 4,000  miles to Cape Canaveral, FL, in a journey expected to take three months. His trip includes stops on many reservations:

Yakima tribe in Toppenish;
Nez Perce tribe in Lewiston, ID.;
Flathead tribe in Missoula, Mont.;
Crow tribe in Lodge Grass, Mont.;
Wind River reservation near Arapahoe, Wy.;
Chickasaw in Ada, Okla.;
Mississippi band of Choctaws in Choctaw, Miss.

Herrington also has a website for students to track his progress, solve science problems, view updated trip videos and photos, read his blog and post comments:

Info on Miami Nation available for schools

Indiana: Indiana's Miami Nation of Indians and the Community Foundation of Wabash County are providing educational materials for grades 3-6. The Miami materials help students understand Indiana's American Indian cultures and are tied to the state's academic standards in social studies, history, reading, and writing.  The material is available in two trunks which include cultural objects and resources for hands-on use by students.


 Indigenous People’s Education: Mindanao, the Philippines
Philippines: Until recently, the Bukid’non Pulangiyen tribal community in Malaybalay City had no access to primary education. The nearest school was seven kilometres away at the bottom of the mountain, and students had a two-hour walk to reach it.  Recently, the Apu Pulamguwan Cultural Education Center was created  in Bendum.  APC is a community school with a culture-based curriculum for primary education.   150 indigenous children attend the school.  With support from Oxfam, APC offers daycare classes, a complete elementary course and  supports young adults through high school, college and vocational-technical courses.  Its culture-based curriculum for daycare and primary education  is taught using Binukid, the native language,  This enables students to develop life skills rooted in both mainstream and their own indigenous culture and way of life.

 Suresh, Age 12, Fights Intolerance in Nepal

GREAT DIVIDE: A 600-metre-long wall separates Dalits from caste Hindus at Uthapuram village in Madurai district.
Nepal: 12-year-old Suresh is a member of Nepal's "untouchable" Dalit caste group in Kanchanpur district. He remembers when, as a young boy, villagers would not allow him to use the public water tap. "That was the first time I realized I was being treated differently because of my caste," he says. "That incident left a wound in my heart.  It will only heal after I am able to prove myself to society. For that, I must work hard."  As a Dalit, Suresh faces constant humiliation and a future restricted to the most menial and unpleasant jobs.  However, with help from Save the Children, Suresh has an opportunity to break through cultural barriers. The 7th grader is chairman of Save the Children's School Health and Nutrition program in Nepal. He also belongs to STC's school children's club where youth from all castes gather for socializing and community. There, he's treated as just another kid.  "Save the Children has helped me realize we are all equal and that discrimination is the result of ignorance," he says, "but [kids'] parents who are uneducated still hesitate to let me enter their house. This is because they lack awareness."  Suresh is determined to change that: "I will do all I can to end discrimination in society."

Tribe hosts educational leadership symposium

Choctaw Indian Reservation, Mississippi: Seven Mississippi colleges and universities joined in an educational leadership symposium for Choctaw students in grades 9-12.   Sponsored by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the event was organized by Tribal Education Services Officer Dalton Henry and Natasha Phillips.  Phillips says the program is part of the solution  to increase Choctaw students' school attendance rates and expose them to  the opportunities of higher education.   More than 500 students attended the symposium.
"We want to teach these kids what it takes to be successful and make it in life," Henry said. "It is a process. In order to be at a certain level four years from now, you have to start somewhere. By exposing the students to speakers and exhibitors, we can get there. You need a map and a good plan." Dalton said that the MBCI plans to hold the event next year as well.

Indian language textbook becomes part of state's education mission
New Mexico: A Navajo textbook co-authored by Evangeline Parsons Yazzie from  Northern Arizona University, will soon be available to all school districts in the state. Yazzie's book, ''Dine' Bizaad Binahoo'ahh,'' or ''Rediscovering the Navajo Language,'' is filled with cultural and language lesson plans suitable for students of all ages.  State officials believe that New Mexico is the first state to adopt a Navajo textbook for use in the American public education system.  BIA schools will also review the text and decide whether to use it next year.

Officials: Tribal schools struggling with gas prices, maintenance costs

South Dakota: Federal funds for the state's tribal schools' bus and facility costs are not keeping up with actual costs.  "The challenges, like the cost of gas to run buses, has only hurt our schools," said Janice Richards of the Little Wound School Board.  Little Wound runs 13 bus routes of 1,575 miles per day. For 2007-08, the school budgeted $642,600, but the expense was $813,001.15.  The U.S. government works through the Bureau of Indian Education to fund 174 schools in 23 states that serve about 48,000 students. Richards spoke at the the National Indian Education Association where several other problem issues were also discussed. Among the comments: .
"Everyone is pointing their finger at somebody else.  Everyone knows the BIE schools have tremendous needs, but no one has stepped up to the plate."  Association Lobbyist, Debbie Ho
"They give us less money to operate on than we need. " Deb Bordeaux, principal at Loneman School on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Services for education should be at the local level." Deb Bordeaux who says the BIE must give more local control for the schools.
"If we don't get something turned around here, it's going to be a disaster."  Paul Ironcloud of Porcupine Day School.
"We're not all the same.  We're individual nations with unique identities, and we should be able to show that." Deb Bordeaux about funds for teaching Lakota language and culture.
"The BIA can't tell tribal schools what to do, but under NCLB, that's what they're trying to do. " Chris Bordeaux
Rapid City Journal

Educators look to boost minority graduation
Utah: American Indian students often drop out of school because they don't feel connected to their cultures. In a survey by the National Indian Education Study, only 29% of American Indian and Alaska Native students said they knew "a lot" about their tribe or group. 19% said they knew "nothing or not much."  'If you don't have a strong cultural identity, it becomes very hard to assimilate yourself into today's educational system,' said Steven Trubow.  "If I live in a native culture and go to school eight hours a day, 180 days a year and there's never a mention of my culture, of my lifestyle, then it's going to kind of send a message to me that my culture isn't important." Last school year,  7,716 American Indian students were enrolled in Utah's public schools.  Only 75% of the seniors graduated, compared with 88% of students statewide.  Trubow said schools can help minority students by embracing their cultures in the classrooms. Otherwise, these students may lose interest and struggle academically. Trubow calls it the "cycle of disengagement."

Out of tragedy, success
Kansas: During May's graduation at Haskell Indian Nations University, Willow Jack Abrahamson was the first student to cross the stage and receive her bachelor’s degree. That honor was bestowed upon her by the cheering crowd of students, teachers and family who call her a leader and  inspiration. Three years ago, Willow lost her husband and 4-year-old daughter in a car accident. Willow and her 6-year old son, Nakeezaka, survived, but Willow suffered head, spine, and pelvic injuries.  Doctors told the award-winning jingle dancer that she would need a wheelchair or walker. “I was feeling like the whole world was caving in. It was like I was living a real-life nightmare, something I would never want to see anybody go through,” Willow said.  What kept her going was a visit by the Dalai Lama, who heard her story and wanted to meet her. His Holiness reminded Willow that she still had a son and happiness to share. “I decided I can’t be sitting there acting like a crybaby," Willow remembers. " I am the mother and the father now. I have a child to raise. I’ve got to quit this road of self pity.”  In  2006, Willow returned to Haskell.  But tragedy struck again in 2007 when she and Nakeezaka were in another rollover accident.  Nakeezaka broke his arm and femur. Willow shattered her pelvic area. Again, doctors told said she'd need a wheelchair or walker. Willow said she often thought of the passage: “This too shall pass.”  Once again, Willow overcame these challenges, then went on to finish college by graduating magna cum laude. She dedicated her graduation to her daughter and son. Willow was also honored as the head lady dancer at Haskell' powwow -- a high honor.

Engineering students partner with Red Cliff Indian Reservation to improve community infrastructure

Red Cliff Reservation, Wisconsin: Engineers Without Borders is an organization that designs sustainable projects for communities. While EWB usually works overseas, this year the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter sent four students to work for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  The students will spend 5 years working on three projects related to flooding and storm water. One task for UW-Madison EWB is to find a practical way to prevent flooding in a community cemetery downhill from a wetland. "Working closely with a Wisconsin community is as important as working in an exotic foreign location," says graduate student, Alison Sanders.  "We're also getting a valuable experience in learning federal engineering design codes as well as learning the reservation's own laws."   Red Cliff is not the only tribal community that will benefit from EWB efforts . EWB chapters at UW-Platteville and Indiana University-Purdue University will work with Lac Vieux Desert.  Michigan Technological Institute will pick up projects with Keweenaw Bay.

Oregon tribes, university partner to mentor prospective Native teachers
Oregon: The University of Oregon and the state's nine federally recognized tribes have partnered to create a masters degree program in education.  Tribal students and those descended from an enrolled grandparent, are eligible to apply.  Programs of study range from elementary to high school levels.  Those students accepted in the Sapsik'wala Program (Sapsik'wala means ''teacher'' in the Sahaptian language of the Umatilla Tribe) have their tuition paid,  receive $1,775 a month for living expenses, a book allowance of $250 per term, and $1,500 for a laptop. After graduating, Sapkik'wala students are required  to teach at a tribal or Title VII-funded school.
Student Taralee Suppah, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, now feels ready to teach. ''I feel like I am prepared and have been given a great opportunity,'' she said.  ''I feel like a teacher.'' Suppah, 23, will return to Warm Springs  to teach 5th grade.
Tyla LaGoy, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, will be teaching at a Title VII school in Eugene.  She credits Sapkik'wala with providing connections to the teaching world.  ''Sapsik'wala provides mentorship for when we leave the program,'' she said.
Stephany ''Running Hawk'' Johnson, Oglala Lakota,  said her favorite aspect of the program ''is just being in the classroom.  I would definitely encourage anyone to do this. This is a great program, and we really need more Native teachers.''

The application deadline for the Sapsik'wala project is
Feb. 15. 
Sapkik'wala Program:

Universities launch effort to debunk Native stereotypes
Alaska:  Many students and professors at the University of Alaska/Anchorage are woefully misinformed about Alaska’s indigenous people. The situation makes many Native students uncomfortable. It may also be a factor in the group's high dropout rates. “I think there’s a perception that Alaska Natives are white people under different skin,” said John Dede, assistant to the vice provost.  “And they are not. They come from different cultures with a different world view, and understanding that will be a realization for a lot of people.” To overcome the problem, a 100-page handbook debunking Native myths is being published. UAA and neighboring Alaska Pacific University will give free copies to 600 professors and provide 900 free copies for students.  Students will also receive free copies of "Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being” by Yup’ik author, Harold Napoleon. The book describes how European diseases devastated tribes between the 18th-20th centuries. Students will also receive  “Growing up Native in Alaska,” by  A.J. McClanahan, which features interviews with  Alaska Natives about their search for self-identity.
  Native American Mascot Power Point Presentation

Project pushes education by degree
Montana: Iris Pretty Paint spent 10 years researching why people don't give up when faced with challenges.  Pretty Paint now uses her knowledge with members of the Blackfoot Project, a program that helps fellow tribal members earn their doctoral degrees.  “I always remind them: 'Don't get sidetracked,'" said Pretty Paint, a sociologist. "The bottom line is you want a degree. That's it. If you allow things along the way to stop you, you just don't have the luxury of letting that happen. If we let the system stop us, they've won. And we've worked too hard in our lives to get to the point where we're at.' ”  The Blackfoot Project is the only known project of its type in the country. It seeks to build a foundation for success through shared tradition. Most of the group's two dozen members are women bound by the same language and place.  “Most of our ceremonies from way back, I don't know how far back, were given to our women,” said Narcisse Blood, a Blackfoot Project advisor. “Over the years, especially the last 200 years when we faced some real challenges, whether it's starvation or the killing off of the buffalo -- and especially today -- it's our Blackfeet women who step up and rise to the occasion of doing what needs to be done."   Blackfoot Project members work together to help the Blackfoot Nation unite traditional knowledge with Western science.   Four core issues guide their research projects: rediscovering Blackfoot values; the role of stress; language, and the limitations of political systems. The project's name is Ihto'tsii Kipaitapiiwahsinnoon, which in the Blackfoot language means “Coming from Within.” The University of Montana and Research Opportunities in Science for Native Americans are also involved.
  Research shows it's difficult for people of
all races to earn an advanced degree:
 50% of people who start a program actually finish it. The challenge is greater for Native people whose philosophy may differ from mainstream society's higher education values;
2003, only 193 Native people earned doctorate degrees and 2,841 Natives earned master's degrees;
 Most Native people need an advanced degree to join university and tribal college faculties where they can help their community or be role model-teachers.
30% of tribal college faculty members are Native. These numbers are even lower for science instructors -- only 15% have master's degrees and 23% doctorate degrees.
Watch a video report on the Blackfoot Project:


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