June 1, 2011

Cherokee Nation Students Chosen for Honor Band

Filed under: Education,News Alerts — Tags: , — ICTMN Staff @ 6:00 pm

Fourteen members of the Sequoyah Schools band tried out for the Eastern District Band Director’s Association of Oklahoma Honor Band—three were selected.

“I am very proud of our students for even trying out, but especially proud of the three that made the band,” said Sam Morris, who teaches band at Sequoyah Schools, in a press release.

Zane Kee, a 16-year-old from Stillwell, plays the tuba, keyboard and guitar. He is Cherokee and Navajo, a sophomore and the son of Michelle and Norman Kee.

Trevor Livingston, a 13-year-old in the eighth grade, is from Tahlequah and plays the baritone. He is a Cherokee Nation citizen and the son of Gerald Jr. and Kim Livingston. Livingston is also a student council representative.

Dalton Moore, a 14-year-old from Cookson, plays the trumpet. He is also Cherokee and in the eighth grade. He is the son of Dawn and Ron Summerlin and Jim Moore.

“More than 15 schools were represented by the students that were trying out,” Morris said. “I am so proud of these boys.” The date of the Eastern District Band Director’s Association’s Honor Band Concert hasn’t been announced.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

June 5, 2011

Red Lake Man Gets GED at 70

Filed under: Education,News Alerts — Tags: , — ICTMN Staff @ 6:00 pm

One 70-year-old says it’s never too late—he recently got his GED, and his accomplishment could inspire others to do the same.

James King Sr. quit school when he was 16 to start working, and his son did the same.

“My son quit school when he was 16 too. We were living in Minneapolis at that time. He asked me back then if he could quit, and I said okay but you’re going to have to go to work. You could still get away with that back then, not so today,” King said. “Today kids need an education, it’s not like when I was young, now you need an education to get any kind of a decent job.”

The elder King is now following in his son’s footsteps, the younger King got his GED just a few months ahead of his father.

“At first I wasn’t going to do it. Why would a guy my age do this?” King asked himself before joining the Red Lake New Beginnings Program.

“He showed up, displaying extra effort as he worked on getting his GED,” Marv Hanson, the program’s executive director, said of King, “and he did very, very, well. We’re very proud of him. Thank you Jim, you are truly an inspiration for our GED program and Red Lake Nation.”

“I’m not sure why I decided to do it, maybe a bunch of things. Maybe it’s my nature, maybe it was my son recently graduating, or maybe it was my granddaughter going after her GED,” King said.

He, along with 82 others—including his granddaughter Bambi King—received their GED certificates May 20 during a formal cap and gown ceremony. King was also presented with a Pendleton blanket during the ceremony.

“I would have graduated in 1958. When I started doing the GED thing, I told them I wanted to take the test they would have given me back in ‘58.  I figured that would be easier, but they didn’t buy it,” King said.

He has been an inspiration not only to the younger generations he recently graduated with, but also to his own.

“Guys I went to school with are talking now about getting their GED, which is kind of neat,” he said.

He may be retired now, but he’s still active on the Red Lake Fisheries Board, the Tribal Enrollment Committee and he sits in on tribal council meetings, “just to be nosy,” he said.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

June 12, 2011

Arizona State University Grad Brings Understanding of Navajo Culture

Filed under: Education,Navajo Nation,News Alerts — Tags: , — ICTMN Staff @ 11:00 am

Tiffiney Yazzie grew up in northern Arizona immersed in traditional Navajo ways, and she has brought that culture to Arizona State University (ASU) through her photography, especially with her exhibition Diné Bikéyah: Familiar Views, Foreign Eyes.

Tiffiney Yazzie, Untitled, 2010, Archival Inkjet Print, 13”x 19”

The exhibit features moments captured when Yazzie and fellow photography majors spent a week with her grandparents in Chinle, Arizona without running water, electricity or indoor plumbing.

“Tiffiney has combined her love of photography with her respect and dedication to her cultural background as a Native American of the Navajo tribe,” wrote Adriene Jenik, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Art director.

The exhibit was shown in the Herberger Institute’s Step Gallery in September 2010, as well as other ASU locations and the Olney Gallery in Phoenix.

Yazzie graduated in May and her final project showcased her mother, Rosita Yazzie.

“Certainly the pictures are full of love and warmth, but in Tiffiney’s images the toughness and determination to live the traditional way emerge as part of her mother’s extraordinary beauty,” said Bill Jenkins, ASU photography associate professor.

Her mother encouraged her to take college-level classes in high school.

“My mom pushed me in high school, but I’m glad she did because it really does help,” Yazzie said.

Before discovering her passion for art history and photography, Yazzie’s dream was to become a doctor.

“I love the idea of capturing an image and expressing myself through it,” she said.

After graduation Yazzie returned to the reservation where she is spending time with family and working on finishing photo projects.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

June 19, 2011

Blackfeet Browning Student is Strengthened and Transformed by the Journey for Her Degree

Filed under: Education,Native Education,News Alerts — Tags: , , — Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service @ 11:00 am

Wasewi Shawl was a champion runner, so she knows that races are won by putting one foot in front of the other.

But when the Browning, Montana native started college, she had no idea that the race for her degree would become a marathon rather than the sprint she once envisioned.

“I think if the me who started here saw the me of today, she’d be surprised,” said Shawl, who received a bachelor’s degree in community health from Montana State University on Saturday, May 7, almost seven years after she began. “I have had some hard times here, but they helped make me who I am. And I like who I am, so I’m glad for them.”

If those thoughts sound mature for a 25-year-old, it is because Shawl, who is slight and soft-spoken, has stood tall against disappointments that might have broken someone else, and she has found redemption on the other side.

Shawl is the current Miss Blackfeet, representing her tribe in pow wows and Native American gatherings across the West. She recently became one of few women selected twice as the ceremonial Head Woman Dancer for the MSU Indian Club Pow Wow. She is mulling over where she will pursue a master’s degree next year, with eventual plans to helping counsel Native athletes as well as someone who will improve health in Indian communities.

Her life is full, yet it is very different from the life she envisioned for herself when she first came to MSU on a running scholarship. And, it could have been easy for her to stop mid-stride.

“I dreamed of one day running in the Olympics,” said Shawl, who was also an excellent high school basketball player.  She had won state in the 1,600 meter as both a sophomore and a junior and track was her passion. Her second passion was becoming a nutritionist, a major offered at MSU and a prime reason for her coming to Bozeman.

When she came to MSU she thought she was in good shape. She had overcome an injury that cost her senior high school season and was happy to make the MSU track team by finishing in an initial qualifying race. However, a clerical mistake involving her transcript and the NCAA meant that she had to sit out her first season. Then, she was plagued with a string of injuries. Soon, she was faced with her kryptonite—chemistry, which was necessary to her major.

“I wanted to do well in school and I wanted to do well at the college level in track,” she recalled. “I felt like I was falling short in everything.”

After a disastrous first two years, Shawl came back for her third year at MSU ready to try out for the team again and was academically ineligible. Shawl recalls that she was heartbroken.

“I felt so defeated—that the rug had been ripped from under my feet,” she said. “I felt like I had failed again.”  She started classes, but after two weeks knew that she didn’t have the heart to continue. It was hard, she said, because she was stubborn, but also because as an athlete, she was trained not to stop in the middle of her race.

“I needed to stop and collect myself,” she said.  She initially thought she’d take off a semester, but that turned into a year. She went to live with family and was able to reconnect and build stronger relationships with them. She also became an evangelical Christian.

“I realized then that I am more than my situation,” she said. “I realized it was time for me to have a new dream.”

After the year off, she loaded all of her clothes on the bus and returned to Bozeman, not even knowing where she would live.

“But I knew then, that everything was going to work out,” she said. “I knew God would see me through.”

She moved into the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship house. She said the move was great not only because it is located across the street from campus, “but it is refreshing to be in that environment. It has helped me grow as a Christian and as a person.” Her faith, she said, has taught her to be wiser.

She thought about trying to run again when she returned, but decided to concentrate on her studies. And, she had done enough research in her year off to realize that she could still effectively serve Native communities with a degree in community health. She said she wouldn’t call herself a great student, although her grades improved when she came back to MSU the second time.

“I had to teach myself that it’s only taking it day by day that you get where you want to go,” Shawl said.

Shawl plans to begin graduate school at either MSU or the University of Montana in the fall and will eventually return to Browning after receiving the practical experience that will help her community. She also would like to start an organization of Native Americans who could counsel Indian athletes.

Shawl has also been serving her community this year as Miss Blackfeet.

“(Friends) told me that what I had experienced in my life would make me a good representative,” she said. “They said I am a woman who could wear the crown in a good way.”

Jim Burns, MSU Native American student adviser, concurs that Shawl is a great example to fellow Native American students because of her persistence and courage as well as her ability to gracefully represent her heritage in doing so.

“Wasewi is an amazing young lady who has been able to achieve her goals, in spite of so many trials and obstacles,” Burns said. “I believe Wasewi is representative of so many students who face adversity, such as academic and personal struggles, but never give up and persevere.”

Shawl said if she were to offer advice to other students who are struggling, it would be to see the challenges as learning opportunities.

“Sometimes, you have to go through hard times and make mistakes to learn from them,” she said. “It’s a matter of being able to understand what those mistakes have taught you.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

June 26, 2011

Montana State University Graduate Makes Science Lessons Culturally Relevant

Filed under: Education,News Alerts — Tags: , — Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service @ 11:00 am

After Dora Hugs enrolled in a Montana State University program designed to strengthen science education for Native American students, the science teacher at St. Charles Mission School in Pryor, Montana, and member of the Crow tribe decided to invite Crow elders into her classroom.

“One elder related a story about how our ancestors knew about the stars,” she said. “Another elder showed how she was taught to tell the longest day of the year and the shortest day of the year.”

Hugs said her MSU classes emphasized the importance of making science lessons culturally relevant. The approach was successful, she added, because “the students saw that (science) wasn’t just the teacher’s point of view.”

For these and other efforts, Hugs, 60, was recently named Outstanding Non-traditional Student in the Western United States. She is the first student ever nominated by MSU for the outstanding non-traditional student award.

“Dora Hugs’ commitment to her community, students and culture is evident in all that she has accomplished,” said Kim Obbink, director of MSU’s Extended University and one of several administrators who nominated Hugs for the award. “She has sought to further her own education with a goal to bring knowledge and resources to her students and community.”

The award has made Hugs feel like her efforts have been worthwhile.

“I’m really proud of it,” she said. “It tells me that working hard pays off. I feel really good about it, like I’ve done something valuable.”

Hugs has a wealth of experience in the classroom. She began working as a teacher’s aide in Pryor about 35 years ago. Several years later, and in addition to raising a family, she began taking college courses. She received a degree in elementary education from MSU-Billings in 1993 while continuing to work as a substitute teacher. In 2007, Hugs enrolled in the Big Sky Science Partnership at MSU, which strengthens science instruction in Native American communities in Montana by helping teachers in these communities gain more expertise with science. Hugs later completed the Master of Science in Science Education Program at MSU while continuing to work as a full-time teacher. She graduated from MSU with a master’s last August and is now the Crow language and science teacher at St. Charles Mission School.

Hugs’ motivation for enrolling in the Big Sky Science Partnership was a desire to help her students.

“I was looking for a way to better teach my children—my students—and the program really helped me do that,” she said. “I was able to help my students feel like science is part of their lives, even outside of class. That was the biggest thing I realized.”

Approaching science lessons from her own cultural perspective also gives Hugs more confidence when teaching science.

“That really helped me because before I felt like science wasn’t part of my culture.”

Most importantly, her students have responded well to the new approach, Hugs said.

“It makes them more engaged,” she said. “It makes the lessons theirs. They now know, ‘Our ancestors knew these same things.’ They have ownership of it.”

This story originally appeared in the spring 2011 issue of the MSU Collegian.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comNew Website for Aboriginal Women's Reproductive Health - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

July 8, 2011

Oneida-Iroquois RIT Graduate Has Many Talents

She’s an artist, a singer and a songwriter. Her work is currently on exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, New York, and she recently gifted her Native Haute Hood (shown in picture) to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

She is Leah Shenandoah, the daughter of Grammy Award-winner Joanne Shenandoah, and recent graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Leah learned jewelry making from her grandmother Maisie Shenandoah, an Oneida Nation Wolf Clan Mother, and was performing and recording when she was 5 years old. After graduating cum laude from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in textiles she continued her education at RIT, graduating in May with a Master of Fine Arts degree in metal smithing and jewelry design.

“I thrive when creating from divine inspiration, combining a Native American aesthetic with contemporary design. My passion is intense for making art rooted in my aboriginal heritage, as an Oneida Iroquois Wolf Clan member,” reads her website. “I consider and incorporate the healing properties of color, materials and intent when creating. Color is something I have been passionate about my whole life and comes naturally to me.”

Leah is also featured on a recently released album by Jonathan Elias called Prayer Cycle: Path to Zero, with other artists including Jim Morrison, Robert Downey Jr., Sinead O’Connor, Sting, Bono and her mother.

To view her work visit Leahshenandoah.com.

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July 14, 2011

Cherokee Nation Graduate Student Reviving the Cherokee Language

Filed under: Education,Language Preservation,News Alerts — Tags: , — ICTMN Staff @ 6:12 pm

Cherokee Nation member Julie Reed, a fifth-year history doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) and a current Sequoyah fellow, is learning the Cherokee language and syllabary developed by the fellowship’s namesake.

She and Trey Adcock, a third-year doctoral student in the Education School’s Culture, Curriculum and Change program, took a Cherokee language course three summers ago and are now helping to teach undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 10-day immersion class teaches conversational Cherokee. “It combines physical actions with the language itself, so that your body is actually associating language with the movement,” Reed said in the Spring 2011 issue of The Fountain, an annual publication by the Graduate School of the University of Chapel Hill.

The language class has affected her dissertation on social services in the Cherokee Nation positively. “It forced me to ask different kinds of questions in my research. I write about the Cherokee Nation’s development of social services, specifically an orphanage, a prison and a mental health institution,” Reed said in The Fountain. “Cherokee speakers may not conceptualize ideas the same way that English speakers do, which signals that there could be something radically different about how these institutions may be adopted, accepted or used in the community.”

And the Sequoyah Fellowship, part of the Royster Society of Fellows in the Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill, has enabled Reed to devote herself fully to her dissertation by providing a stipend, tuition and fees, health insurance and travel funding.

Her work has garnered a career opportunity months before completing her degree. She will teach Native American history at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville next fall.

But her heart lies with her Cherokee roots. “I would love to be in an area close to a Cherokee community and be able to work with Cherokee students,” she said in The Fountain.

Read the full story and see more pictures in The Fountain.

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August 7, 2011

The Native Astronomer

Although the job of the astronomer is a lot less lonely than it used to be—they spend far fewer long nights looking into telescopes in remote observatories and far more days in laboratories and research centers crunching numbers, analyzing data and collaborating with other astronomers—Dennis Lamenti (Navajo/Zuni) has had to deal with a different kind of loneliness: being one among too few Native American astronomers. In fact, as far as he knows, he is the only one in the contiguous United States with or working toward a Ph.D. in astronomy.

Lamenti, who grew up near Tuba City, Arizona on the Navajo Nation Reservation, did not go to college immediately after high school. He passed his 20s and 30s in the corporate world and looking for meaning in his life, which he found in the 1990s when he started participating in Navajo ceremonies. He decided he wanted to better know his Creator. “And the way to do that for me was to learn more about the creation,” he said.

The physics and mathematics model appealed to Lamenti, so, in 2002, at almost 45 years old, he enrolled at San Francisco State University (SFSU) to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physics. He gravitated toward astronomy in his sophomore year when he was accepted into an internship program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and placed into its astrophysics division. Now 53, Lamenti is enrolled at Indiana University-Bloomington (IU), where he has completed his master’s and has about two years to go on his Ph.D. in astronomy.

His educational path has not been easy. Lamenti has been far from home and the Navajo ways for almost a decade. He has been in colleges with hardly any Indian students. While enrolled at SFSU, he said he wanted to talk to other Native American students who were in physics, to work out their struggles, like cultural differences, spiritual conflicts and crossed value boundaries, but could find none.

“There was a certain type of loneliness, but it was also coupled with my own bias of being an older person. Most of my colleagues are half my age. I tended to isolate myself,” he said.

Lamenti overcame those challenges by being willing to change. He said he had to pray and connect with people, whether it was with other Indians or just other people around him. One way he connected with other Indians was by helping to create IU’s First Nations Educational and Cultural Center in 2007, a place that IU’s Native American student population—then numbering 324, but down to 277 last fall—can go for support and information.

He does not know where he will end up once his Ph.D. is done. He enjoys the research, and has done plenty of it. He has worked at the Nearby Supernova Factory assisting in the development of an algorithm for sky transparency at the observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. He also spent two summers at Fermilab in Illinois creating a portal for observers to examine nightly observations of supernovae candidates for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II, the second phase of an international, multi-institutional, three-phase effort to create a map of the universe, and at IU, he has studied the spectrum of giant stars in globular clusters. He is currently examining radial velocities of stars in the Beehive, an open star cluster in the Milky Way galaxy some 600 light years from Earth.

But Lamenti also likes the idea of teaching, particularly going back home to educate Navajos on the wonders of the final frontier and perhaps inspire some to pursue careers in astronomy. He believes indigenous thought is needed for a holistic approach to science and understanding the universe.

Lamenti is not alone with his desire to see more Native American astronomers. There are a couple of programs out there created to attract more into the field. One is the Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach Program at Lowell Observatory in northern Arizona. The program, started about 15 years ago, pairs astronomers with elementary and secondary school teachers at tribal schools. The astronomers go to the schools several times during the year to discuss astronomy topics and engage the students with hands-on activities. Five schools participated in the program last year, and three are on board this year.

Lowell Observatory Star Party 270x202 The Native Astronomer

Lowell Observatory tries to make astronomy fun with star parties, when the astronomers setup telescopes on school property at night to give students and their families a chance to explore the skies with their own eyes.

The Lowell Observatory team tries to make the program culturally relevant. Deidre Hunter, co-founder, administrator and astronomer partner of Lowell’s program, said it collaborates with a Navajo tribal educator who shares traditional star stories with the students. Lowell was also collaborating with a Hopi educator, but he no longer participates. He did, however, develop lessons for the program that incorporate Hopi words for cosmic terms, like muuyaw for moon, soohu for star and soongwuga for Milky Way. Lowell also tries to make it fun, such as with star parties, when the astronomers setup telescopes on school property at night to give students and their families a chance to explore the skies with their own eyes, and overnight fieldtrips to the observatory.

The Lowell program was modeled after Project ASTRO, a national program launched by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in 1994 that today boasts more than 500 teacher-astronomer partnerships. A Project ASTRO at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, works with Indian Oasis, a K-8 school on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, which is home to Kitt Peak National Observatory.

It is difficult to gauge how effective these programs are in encouraging Native Americans to opt for the astronomy profession. Chuck Wendt, who manages Lowell’s outreach and fundraising departments, said, “Ideally, you want to get kids interested in astronomy in college. That is a really good goal. Hopefully, that happens. Even if it that does not happen, it opens a lot of eyes for kids who would normally not be exposed to that kind of thing.”

Lamenti would like to make himself available to any Native American students interested in astronomy or Native students who would like to discuss their challenges, need advice getting into graduate school, or just staying in school. He can be contacted through Indiana University’s webpage.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comBeing Frank: Pollution Denies Our Treaty Rights - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

August 30, 2011

Crow Student Puts Education Dreams First

Little Big Horn College (LBHC) student Heather Amyotte is juggling family, school and extra-curricular activities, but focusing on her education is what’s most important to her right now.

“I’ve always had other dreams that I still believe can come true, but I’m focusing on my education right now so I can provide for my family,” she told LBHC.

She is majoring in pre-med and chose a tribal college “because I have a lot more support here with my studies.”

She says balancing her schoolwork and extracurricular activities is “exhausting, but somehow I make it work. No matter what my son comes first,” she told LBHC.

Her extracurricular activities include the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), Indian Club, Leadership Seminar and community service.

She has a leader’s attitude when it comes to classes too. She says she sits in the front row “because I want to get the most out of my education, and no leader sits in the back.”

Her future education plans include attending the University of Montana so she can graduate from pharmacy school and return to the reservation to help her community.

She advises other Native American students to “know your culture and language. It’s who you are.”

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September 6, 2011

Native American Student at Ilisagvik Focuses on Carpentry

Filed under: Education — Tags: , , — ICTMN Staff @ 8:39 pm

Lloyd Bodfish, a student at Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska was recently chosen to be featured in the school’s student spotlight.

Bodfish is from Atqasuk, a city in the North Slope Burrough, and is a member of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Construction Holding Company class. His favorite part of the class is when he’s participating in hands-on carpentry.

“Lloyd hopes the skills he learns in this class will help him in his career. Lloyd is a big fan of the class, and thinks that it ‘is really interesting and you learn a lot,’” says the Ilisagvik College website.

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