Condensed by Native Village
Oregon: Konaway Nika Tillicum is a summer college
prep camp for American Indian middle - and high school
students. This year's week long classes in drama,
speech, art, and other subjects were held at Southern
Oregon University. It helps prepare students for the
teacher James Florendo told students to forget about
prejudice and poverty and drop the
"I can't" habit. Instead, he told them
open their thinking to creativity that will enrich their
people and help them succeed.
keep hearing 'I can't draw,' but it's not about skill,"
said Florendo. "It's a way of life. It's your own
creativity, merged with your native culture — and art is
the one course in college where you're allowed to do
whatever you want, with an open mind, thinking new
"I'm a better artist than I thought
-- and his (Florendo's)
words are very strong; a big inspiration." said Tashina
George of the Warm Springs Reservation after she painted
a vivid still life of flowers.
"It meant a lot to me, his talk. It's true,"
student Vincent Lowell.
James's brother, Brent Florendo, is co-director of Konaway Nika Tillicum.
He taught students the art of
acting by exploring the motivations and personalities of
self and in the actors around them. He says these skills
help them express themselves in public, do teamwork and
"Native American students are at the bottom of the
statistics for success in all categories," he said. "Konaway is about working
from the inside out, finding an identity that's balanced
and wholesome, not from the stereotype of what happened
to us in history. It makes them feel good about
Konaway, which means "all my relations" in Chinook
trade jargon, started 15 years ago at SOU. The
program has helped raised high school student's
grade-point averages. Through the years, many Konaway
students have graduated from college, including two from
Brent says Konoway has gone from a
regional event to a "prestige academy" that
creates "family." Many students stay in touch and encourage each other on Facebook
came with a friend who said it was a great experience,"
says Amanda Squiemrhen-Yazze of Warm Springs. "We learn
the traditional ways and become used to being at a