Youth and Education News
March 23, 2005 Issue 149 Volume 2
"We are INDIGENOUS to this land. We didn't come from China, Mongolia, Ireland or Greece. We traveled around yes, and met other cultures and peoples, but get this: we are indigenous "native to these lands." Although it's hard for Eurocentric Americans or Europeans to accept this, our cultures and languages are home grown. The Catholic missionaries and [those] who came over from Spain to steal and plunder couldn't--and--wouldn't believe that indigenous peoples could create a "civilization " more advanced that that in Europe at the time, so they began the process of looking to Europe for the source of inspiration for Indigenous culture here on Turtle Island." Tom Dostou, Makwa, Midewin Society
Indian Education Under the Microscope
Over the past months, hundreds of American Indian students have taken the annual 90-minute National Assessment of Educational Progress test. This year, Indian students are being deliberately over-sampled. This will allow researchers to better analyze Native youths' performances as a group. The action is part of a National Indian Education Study being carried out by the National Center for Education Statistics. The study analyzes the progress of Indian students in thousands of schools throughout the nation. There are more than 250,000 Indian students, ages 5 -18, enrolled in public, private, federal and BIA schools in the U.S.
Culture in the classroom
Oregon: The Native Montessori School in Portland draws Native American children into a preschool program that celebrates their heritage while preparing them for school. The 23 schoolchildren, ages 3-6, are learning through the Montessori educational approach that teaches children in their natural stages of development and through what interests them most. Traditionally, Native American families have reared their young children at home and shied away from preschool programs. At the Montessori School, children are exposed to traditional dances, beading, weaving, storytelling and learning phrases in tribal languages. They also study Native American clothing, celebrations and locations of tribes. "We are trying to increase the number of native students in preschool programs in the district and increase their academic readiness for first grade," said Norrine Smokey-Smith, Indian education project coordinator. "We are also trying to instill pride in native cultures. Native children get very little of that in mainstream education." Parents are also involved, and must take a Native American parenting class. They are encouraged to participate in monthly parent nights when the staff, students and parents eat together. The Portland school is one of only a few Native American Montessori preschools. The other in the Northwest is for Aleut children in the Pribiloff Islands of Alaska.
School Immerses Mohawk Children In Traditional Language
New York: For the 64 students at the Akwesasne Freedom School, English is a foreign language. The tongue taught here is Mohawk. "My grandmothers and aunts got spanked if they talked Mohawk at school. That's how we lost our language," said a 12-year-old Tehrenhniserakhas (De Lon Ni Zeh Lakas), which means "He Puts Two Days into One." "Now we have a better sense of our language than probably any other kids." As many as 50 language immersion schools are available nationwide. These schools, most of which are privately or tribally funded, are considered by many experts the surest way to stem the onslaught of cultural illiteracy. The schools also lure parents back to the classroom to reclaim their complex native tongue. "Out of everything I learned at Cornell, nothing compares to this, maybe neurology," said Iotenerahtatenion, (Yo De Neh La Da Den Yo) an environmental researcher and veterinarian.
Third-Grader Commutes to School by Mule
North Dakota: Most mornings, third-grader Sage Beard makes the half-hour trek to Manning School on Ruth, the mule. Sage, 9, has been riding mules since she was in first grade. "I feel more safe with her riding a mule than having her ride in a car or on a bus," said her father, Marty Beard. Sage's commute is the envy of her four classmates at the one-room schoolhouse. "It's cool," said Lucas Irving, 10. Sage gets up at sunup to prepare for school. She brushes Ruth and feeds her grain, hoists an old saddle over Ruth's back, then stuffs the saddlebags with corn and sweet peas for Ruth's lunch and treats during recesses. Sage and Ruth follow a gravel road during the two-mile trip. Ruth is fitted with special carbide-studded shoes to make the already sure-footed animal even more so. The trip home always is a little faster: Ruth knows she'll have some grain waiting, so she picks up the pace without prodding, Sage said.
Dine and Dash Eatery
Washington: At Chief Leschi School, students hone their cooking skills at the school's Dine and Dash Eatery. Guests are greeted and shown to their seats as they arrive. Tables are decorated with black and white linens, royal blue tablecloths, a single rosebud in a delicate vase, and student designed menus. Aromas filling the air. During one day, the student-prepared menu included waldorf salad, chicken parmigiana, speciality soups, choolate mousse, and other food items created, tested, prepared, then priced by studentrs. Teacher Will Fry's order included steak, vegetable soup and dessert. ''The chocolate mousse torte was so well decorated that it looked like a work of art,'' said Fry, who grew up in the food service industry. ''I know how hard it is to do what those kids did and I really applaud their efforts. If you know how to do a job in the food service business, you will always have a job. Restaurants always need help." Through a partnership with Bates technical college, Chief Leschi culinary arts students can earn high school as well as college credits. They get a head start on a culinary arts degree and often get jobs above entry level
Planning in place to secure money to keep Si Tanka open
South Dakota: Si Tanka officials are working on a proposal to keep the Huron campus open through the regularly scheduled school year. Si Tanka President Francine Hall and other school administrators have been meeting with BIA officials in Washington, D.C., on getting about $850,000 in money known as 471 funds. Higher education institutions receive a $4,390 per student if 50%-100% of its students are American Indian. But Si Tanka University fell below that standard when it acquired Huron University in 2001. The school was notified in August that it would no longer receive the money. But the school's Board of Regents, the chairman of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and other officials hope to come up with enough money so the university can operate until its regular closing date in May. Otherwise, the school is scheduled to close April 1.
Native Role Model
South Dakota: Doris Giago, an Oglala Lakota tribal member, is one of the country's few Native American journalism professors. She teaches newswriting and advanced reporting at South Dakota State University with a style that goes way beyond teaching. "To many of the students, she's like having a second mom," said David Pego, a Knight Foundation visiting journalist and member of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. "She's not only an excellent journalist but is one of the most connected people I've ever seen in Indian Country.” Her students have high praise for her. "She's like our mom and stuff,” says journalism student Marie High Bear, Cheyenne River Lakota. “She checks on our grades, and if they're not good enough, she gives us advice with tutoring ... She's a big role model on campus to me." Besides her teaching duties, Giago is director of the South Dakota High School Press Association. She also edits the Observer, an SDSU publication that includes special reports on Indian issues by her advanced reporting students. “The reason we do this is to teach all students to do a better job covering American Indians and to develop sources on the reservations,” Giago said. Giago says a new day is coming for Native journalism, and her goal is to increase the number of American Indians journalists. To break down racial barriers, the tribal voice must be heard so more people will know about and accept Indian people.
The Sallie Mae Fund Helps Launch Tribal Leaders' Institute
The Sallie Mae Fund is funding the development of a tribal leaders' institute offered through The University of Montana. The Fund's grant will support the development a program to foster leadership skills among Native American tribal leaders from the Northern Rockies and High Plains regions. Local tribal leaders will help develop the program's curriculum to ensure their goals are met. The academic offerings will also be coordinated with tribally controlled community colleges and the University's School of Native American Studies.
Good News from the IRS
IRS has good news for taxpayers this tax season. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are education credits you can subtract in full from your federal income tax, not just your taxable income. The Hope Credit applies only for the first two years of post-secondary education and can be worth up to $1,500 per eligible student, per year. The Lifetime Learning Credit applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, including job skills instruction. If you qualify, your credit equals 20% of the first $10,000 of post-secondary tuition and fees you pay during the year.
Northern Cheyenne Tribe sues Indian school, seeks accounting
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe is suing the Roman Catholic Church and the St. Labre Indian School Educational Association. The suit claims that while only a small percentage of students at St. Labre Mission are Northern Cheyenne, the school continues raising money by marketing the tribe's poverty. Northern Cheyenne President Eugene Little Coyote and the tribal council claim the school "reaped enormous financial revenue and benefit" during the past 50 years. "It is not known to the Northern Cheyenne where these tens -- probably hundreds -- of millions of dollars have gone," the lawsuit said. St. Labre Indian School was established in 1884 to educate and help the Northern Cheyenne. The school has grown into a modern campus serving primarily the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Indian Tribes.
Serving soup beats sunbathing for some students
Pennsylvania: Many varieties of humanitarian programs are run through a division of Student Volunteer Outreach at the University of Pittsburgh. Through a program called Alternative Break, students spend school breaks helping others. Among those served by these volunteers:
Helping fix low-income homes in Kentucky;
Rebuilding old trails in Gila National Forest of New Mexico;
Distributing hot meals to the needy in Illinois;
Working with and encouraging abused and neglected Native American orphans in Arizona;
Construction to and helping maintain old buildings on an Arizona reservation;
Building houses for low income families in Hawaii.
"The program is focused on learning about people, learning about their problems. It is about experiencing it, rather than reading about it," said Terrence Milani, who runs the Alternative Break program. The Alternative Break program promotes and encourages community service projects for all students. While the students are on the trips, and even after they arrive home, they are encouraged to keep detailed journals about their interactions and feelings.
IAIA Has Hopes For Center
New Mexico: After introducing Achein, a multidisciplinary center, the Institute of American Indian Arts wants to expand its work in education. Achein, a center for lifelong education, research and cultural exchange, will offer programs in the arts including humanities; education and youth development; culture, language and land; and family community and world development. The IAIA hopes to create even more programs and outlets to encourage success in Indian Country.
Exhibit shares testimonies in fight for civil rights
The Voices of Civil Rights Project shares more than 4,000 oral histories collected during a 70-day bus trip across the United States last summer. The collection, which deals mainly with the civil rights of blacks, also touches on other minorities, including Hispanics, American Indians and Japanese Americans. A selection has gone into a public exhibition through March 26 at the Library of Congress. It includes oral histories and photos from the tour.
Navajo poet is also a comic book enthusiast
Navajo poet and literature professor Hershman John writes poetry with Navajo themes and symbols. One poem was published in Food Poems, an anthology, alongside heavyweights like Allen Ginsberg, Robert Frost, and Rita Do. But at age 31, Hershman still enjoys comic books and teaches comic book writing at Phoenix College. Comic books and poetry may seem an unusual mix, but not to John, who spends $300 to $400 a month on comic books. "I just wanted to do something for comic books," he said. "[Writing comic books] is not the same as poetry because a writer and an artist have to collaborate in developing a comic book. The dialogue is very important. Who knows? Maybe I'll write the next X-Man."
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