Youth and Education News
December 8, 2004, Issue 143 Volume 2
"This Earth is in trouble. ... That's why I'm a firm believer in teaching the children. You never know who you are going to touch, that one person who may grow up to be the president or secretary of state, and who cares about the environment." Cryinghawk Tarbox, Passamaquoddy/ Micmac
Tribal educator helps pass along lifetime lessons
Washington: Environmental educator Kaia Smith was hired by the Swinomish Tribal Council to bring environmental teachings to youth. Her position was created to influence young tribal members to maintain fishing habitats -- and fishing jobs -- for generations to come. Each week Smith addresses children at the tribe's Community Day Care about the perils of polluting the water. She uses a model program: "Tox in a Box." TIAB is a program designed at the University of Washington to visually show students how pollution makes its way into Washington waters. Hands-on activities teach children the effects of cars, animal waste, pollution, and other factors which affect the waters whose salmon used to sustain the tribe. Today, however, the number of wild salmon that complete their life cycle has fallen by 75% in the last 20 years. "Our culture revolves around the environment," said State Indian Education Director Denny Hurtado. "A lot of our people still depend on the environment, whether it's animals or shellfish or berries. If we don't protect it, we will get sick."
Lenape descendant talks about stereotypes many have about American Indians
Pennsylvania: During an educational program for elementary students, Carla Messinger, a Lenape descendant, shared contributions that Pennsylvania's American Indians have made to modern life.
"Native Americans are alive today," she said. "They live and dress like anyone else."
Children are raised in part by their grandparents, and older children help younger siblings. "Everyone had a job to do, no matter what your age," she said. "If you’re old enough to toddle, you can gather sticks."
Each village was independent with no centralized government. American Indians had to rely on everyone’s contributions to make life run smoothly
"People today don’t realize how much they waste. The Lenape people used everything they could. They tried not to waste. They thought everything had spirit ... and had to be treated respectfully to keep life in balance."
"Most people think Native Americans are all one group." She said people need to learn about the differences among American Indian cultures so they can start to better understand them.
"Forty-five percent of the medicines you take are native plant extracts."
The tradition of hanging three ears of corn outside in the fall was a way American Indians invited others to their homes for dinner.
Project focuses on Lakota values
South Dakota: Teachers in the Bennett County School District will soon use American Indian legends and stories to introduce character lessons in their classrooms. "Having stories students are familiar with will make the lessons more relevant," said elementary principal Belinda Ready. Bennett County is among several South Dakota schools implementing a new Character Counts program called "We Are All Relatives." Cecelia Fire Thunder, president-elect of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, welcomed the new Character Counts project. "We live side-by-side in Bennett County, and yet we hardly know each other," Fire Thunder said. She urged teachers to "walk what you talk" when teaching their students. "Walk it and practice it everyday of your life," she said. "It has to come from the heart." The new lessons were developed over two years after teachers and elders from reservation schools asked for material relating to American Indian culture and traditions. The results are lessons for different ages which include classroom activities and are tied to state education standards
School teaches Native American culture
Oregon: In September, a new charter school opened on the Umitilla Indian Reservation. The first of its kind on the Reservation teachings reach beyond math, English and science. Students learn how to speak and write the languages of the Walla Walla, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes, how to collect and care for traditional foods, and the songs and stories of their people. Already some have participated in sweat baths and lessons on how to properly fillet a salmon. And come spring they will learn how to go root digging. "It's really a privilege and an honor to be here, " said. 16-year-old Clinton Case.
Crow Creek's Crisis
South Dakota: Students on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation in South Dakota are attending schools which state fire marshals label as a threat to life. Engineers agree, and have told the administration that. But on federal reservation land, the only opinions that count are the ones from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, "...and right now they're saying our buildings are solid enough to stand," Superintendent Scott Raue says. The high school on the reservation is considered one of the worst. The gym has been condemned, the walls are crumbling and main building is held up by a brace. Even the BIA says the gym is unsafe. "The schools by all standards shouldn't be standing today. They should be demolished," said tribal chairman Duane Big Eagle. Crow Creek officials have tried eight times since January to negotiate emergency funding...and each time they've come back empty. Crow Creek school is in the top ten on a government list of reservation schools to be replaced. But money will be slow in coming. By 2007, they hope to receive funding. The earliest construction could start is 2008.
More than 7,000 students in South Dakota attend reservation schools, and the numbers are growing. Sooner or later, those kids grow up. They'll need jobs, either on the reservation or off. But a new report card from the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools is raising strong concerns.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act:
Of the 21 BIA-funded schools in South Dakota, only four made adequate progress;
Nationally, only 45 of 117 BIA schools made adequate progress;
Two of the South Dakota Schools - Wounded Knee and Porcupine Day School - are among 16 in the nation that have failed so consistently they face restructuring;
Students in South Dakota schools are scoring far below state standards.
What is causing the problems:
Attendance is low;
Poverty is rampant;
Decades of cultural backlash from "white" education hs affected attitudes;
Reservation students schools are less prepared for education as children off the reservation;
There often is a lack of a support system at home.
The silver lining of all this is that finally, there's serious attention being paid to Native American schools. Among the current efforts:
Tribes and state education officials are truly working together;
States and tribes recognize that many students bounce back and forth among tribal, BIA, and public schools;
Some BIA schools are determined to raise standards, a difficult but worthwhile task.
To ensure success for all students, the education system will study successful schools and attack the problems that cause failure:
End chronic funding problems and find ways to hire and keep good teachers;
Design new curriculum that reflects Native American culture;
Deal with poverty and other social problems;
Address the cultural disregard for "white" public education;
Push for more early childhood classes;
Raise classroom attendance rates.
First Nations Mired By Big Gap In Education
Saskatchewan: Despite spending $1,100,000,000 a year for elementary and secondary education, Canada's auditor says educational opportunities for First Nations communities has only slightly improved. Sheila Fraser said if current trends continue, aboriginal high school students would need 28 years to match the graduation rates of non- aboriginals. "I am concerned by the limited progress in closing the education gap between people living on reserves and other Canadians," she said. "Despite a commitment made in 2000, [Indian Affairs] has still not clarified its role and responsibilities in improving the educational achievements of First Nations." Fraser noted that the department has undertaken many initiatives, but despite some exceptions, they have had limited impact on the education received by First Nations children. She also blasted the department for failing to properly track $273,000,000 spent on post-secondary education funding.
Indian Law offered at Michigan University
Michigan State University's College of Law is launching the first American Indian Law Program in the Midwest. MSU's program will allow students to develop a special expertise in indigenous law, practice and policy through Indigenous Law Clinics and several elective courses. Law students will also work with tribal governments on everything from developing tax codes to zoning regulations. 12 federally recognized tribes are in Michigan, and more are petitioning for recognition.
Reservation school looks to reap the wind
South Dakota: Oglala Lakota College has collected its first month's worth of data in its year-long wind-energy study on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. According to instructor Jim Taulman, the college is using a $10,000 anemometer tower to measure wind. speed and direction. The information will help school officials evaluate the potential of generating its own electricity with a wind turbine at the Piya Wiconi center. "We'll get a good idea of what the potential is for wind energy," Taulman said. He said an average home uses 30 kilowatt-hours in a day or 1,000 kilowatt-hours each month. Depending upon the wind, a moderate turbine would generate about 200 to 300 kilowatts an hour - ample energy to power the campus, he said.
Ft. Lewis Roiled By Article Called Demeaning To Indian Students
Colorado: Fort Lewis College instructor Andrew Gulliford has infuriated many students and faculty with a recent article about what it's like to teach American Indians. Published in American Studies International, the article describes the rewards, difficulties and complications teaching his American Indian students. He described them as "polite and well-groomed" and "quiet, almost to a fault, slow to speak up, reticent to challenge professors.'" Students are calling the remarks paternalistic and racist. 'It's not even romanticism,' said 28-year-old student Bill Mendoza, an Oglala Sicangu. "It's almost dehumanizing." Gulliford also used real first names in some stories about healing rituals and sacred site, and he also used excerpts from students' works without asking permission or informing students their names and information would be published. Gulliford admitted he made serious mistakes and asked forgiveness from the students he named.
The Denver Post.
Neb. college program for Navajo students to end
Nebraska: Funding problems could mean this will be the last year Doane College offers its Master of Education program to Navajo students in Red Mesa, Ariz. Since it began nine years ago, the program has awarded 103 master's degrees, mostly to teachers from the Navajo Nation. "I am sorry to see it going away," said Lyn Forester, chair of the Doane education department. "We are proud of the program." Funding has not been found for next year's students and without scholarships, students likely won't be able to pay for the program. The program's last 20 students will graduate in July 2005.
the talking leaves
The first bilingual newspaper in the Western Hemisphere was launched by the General Council of the Cherokee Nation on Feb. 28, 1828, in New Echota, Ga. Having dealt with the United States, they were familiar with the power of "talking leaves," as they called printed or written pages. Using the 86-character syllabary invented by the Cherokee visionary Sequoyah, the weekly Phoenix was published in English and Tsalagi, the Cherokee language. The Phoenix provided a voice and unity for all Cherokees, including those who had already left their ancestral homelands in the Southeast for lands in Arkansas, Texas, Mexico and elsewhere. The Cherokees had a relatively free press until the Phoenix folded on May 31, 1834, after the federal government stopped paying to use Cherokee land, violating an 1804 treaty. After the Trail of Tears forced the Cherokee to move to Oklahoma, like the mythological phoenix and the Cherokees' gift for surviving, the Cherokee Advocate arose in 1844 as the first Native American newspaper in Indian Territory. These days, the monthly Cherokee Phoenix thrives in Tahlequah, Okla., as the prosperous Cherokee Nation's tribal newspaper.
The Cherokee Phoenix www.cherokee.org.
No APIAs Are Among the Key American Innovators
There are no Asian/Pacific Islander Americans among the 64 key American innovators in the book, "They Made America," the basis of the PBS documentary of the same name. 92% of the individuals featured in the book and documentary are white Americans. "They Made America" does not acknowledge the important contributions and perspectives of Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native Americans, and instead provides a Euro-centric presentation of American history.
The demographics by ethnicity of the 64 innovators profiled in the book and website are:
* 59 White
* 3 Black
* 2 Middle Eastern
* 0 South Asian
* 0 East Asian/Pacific Islander
* 0 Native American
The book also contains an appendix of 101 other innovators "who also made a difference." None of the people on this list are identifiable by name as being of Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, or Native American descent.
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