Edmonds School District seeks Tulalip input on new Native curriculum

Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership. Photo/Kalvin Valdillez
Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership.
Photo/Kalvin Valdillez


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“He took my sacred place and ripped it in half! I knew it was going to happen, but it still made me sad,” stated a third grade student from Edmonds School District (ESD). The student was referring to an assignment from her teacher where she had to create a ‘Sacred Place’ with all of her favorite things, and with all her favorite people. The student drew her sacred place, which included a rare one-of-a-kind tree that grew sideways at a secluded campsite with her family and friends. As she passionately explained her assignment, it was obvious to see she was extremely excited and attached to her sacred place.

Once the student was finished with her assignment her teacher looked at her drawing, admired it and then tore it in half. “It just made me really sad and a little mad because it was mine.” This emotional scene was a video clip from a presentation to the Tulalip Board of Directors (BOD) on May 18, 2016, one of many exercises that were shown in the presentation provided by the ESD. After the video clip finished, a look around the boardroom showed how emotional the video made everybody feel, the little girl was visibly distraught. Which is when the room was informed that the teacher taped up the drawing for the student.

“That is exactly like where we are now, as sovereign nations, we are trying to tape back together our sacred place,” stated board member Bonnie Juneau. The purpose of the assignment was to show young students how it felt to have their sacred place taken from them and destroyed. With Governor Jay Inslee recently signing Senate Bill 5433 into law, making it mandatory for Washington State Schools to teach the history and governance of the 29 federally recognized tribes of Washington State, ESD is taking a step forward by implementing a curriculum that covers elementary through high school students.

Other clips showed students talking about The Boldt Decision, colonization, and religion. “The book I read stated that the Natives were converted to Christianity,” said a Fifth Grade student, “but then I read that the Natives were forced into Christianity. The first one sounds like they had a choice, the second one sounds like they didn’t have a choice at all.”

Prior to Senate Bill 5433, House Bill 1495 only encouraged schools to teach of the indigenous nations in Washington. Tulalip’s John McCoy, who wrote both Bill 5433 and HB 1495, believes Senate Bill 5433 will be a relationship-builder between different cultures, and will provide a more engaging approach to students who will potentially become our future leaders.

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State, or STI for short, is the curriculum created by The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). STI was pilot tested for the past five years, in fourteen different Washington State schools. Now, it is being implemented by Edmonds Office of Native Education, headed by Program Supervisor Michael Vendiola. Michael explained that STI is a free online curriculum and available to all school districts.

“I think this is great. Growing up I remember checking all of my history text books for Tulalip Tribes, and I never once found anything about our people in those books,” said Chairman Mel Sheldon.  “All of it was Plains Indians, and even then, it wasn’t much. It’s heartbreaking that our youth can’t identify themselves in our schools.”

It is no secret that Indigenous Peoples are misrepresented in U.S. History and the media. On a national level, Coastal Native Americans specifically are nearly non-existent in the history courses being taught in schools. The Chairman continued, “I remember being asked, and I am sure everyone in this room at some point has been asked, if I lived in a Tee-Pee when I told somebody I was a Native American.”

Vendiola pointed out that change won’t happen overnight. “This is like our  ‘Zero Year’ where we are still seeing what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve the curriculum.” One of the ways ESD looks to improve STI is to provide the history of the nearest federally recognized tribe. This is a huge change.

“Partnering with The Tulalip Tribes allows us to involve the community in [the] culture close to home. This is our opportunity to change the future.”

The presentation not only showed how concerned and shocked students were, but also showed that most students reacted positively to learning the history and culture of Native People. One mother was astounded by her son’s enthusiasm, stating that he has never talked about what was going on in school, but could not hold in his excitement when learning about the culture. The mother, who at the time was finishing law school at Gonzaga University, continued stating that she was able to have a full discussion with her fifth-gradestudent about fishing rights.

An ESD instructor gave a teacher’s perspective on STI. “I think at first teachers were hesitant to teach this subject because of how harsh the reality is, and also because we didn’t know where to begin. With STI, I believe teachers are discovering how fun and easy this can be.”

He then stated that his students were disappointed when the lesson was over and were not excited to move on to the usually popular Medieval Times lesson.

Although STI does mainly focus on the history of both local and national tribes, it also touches on where the tribes are today as far as culture and self-governance.Tulalip Board member Marie Zackuse spoke about changing the perception of tribes in today’s world, and why it is important to update what’s being taught about tribal communities in a contemporary point of view.

Marie stated, “Racism is still very alive and well in communities that are nearby reservations. Most of the history taught about our people is in a pre-1900 context.” She believes that the racism stems from the misunderstanding of our treaty rights. For example, many non-native citizens believe Native Americans receive privileges not granted to others, rather than seeing Treaty Rights as the rights that a tribe negotiated to keep while giving up other rights.


“I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” 

– Fourth-grade student from Edmonds


The curriculum itself is extensive, incorporating information of the history, governance and culture of federally recognized tribes in elementary, middle, and high school lesson plans. What an elementary school student can expect to take away from STI is a basic understanding of tribal sovereignty, the history of tribal sovereignty, as well as the ability to identify the names and locations of the tribes in their area. A middle school student will comprehend that tribal sovereignty has cultural, political, and economic basis. And a high school student will be able to explain the governmental structure of at least one tribe in their community.

The Tulalip Board briefly explained to ESD that Tulalip is proactive about teaching Tulalip’s culture, history and language in The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, and Heritage High School. However, the Board also expressed that high school students who choose to go to different high schools in the Tulalip/Marysville area are not exposed to the culture, history and language. This is why both Senate Bill 5433 and STI are vital in today’s society, so both tribal and non-tribal students have a better understanding of Native America.

ESD is looking to Tulalip for consultation to ensure that Tulalip’s perspective is represented appropriately. “Every tribe is different. Look at how different we are compared to tribes on the other side of the mountains,” stated Bonnie Juneau.  “We have so much history and we want to share our story.”

The tribe and ESD are looking to meet once a month to continue to build upon the STI model. Chairman Sheldon closed by stating, “We raise our hands to you. This is something we feel is needed, and it’s great to see your school district implementing this curriculum. It’s a long awaited step in the right direction and it’s very healing to see.”

The impact of just the pilot curriculum is beautiful and promising, as evidenced by the reaction of one fourth-grade student from Edmonds, “I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” she exclaimed.


Contact Kalvin Valdillen, kvaldillen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

New Law Allows Native American Culture Teachers

Governor Brown signs bill to allow credentials for Native American culture teachers

Source: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash IndiansSANTA YNEZ, CA – July 15, 2015 – Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that extends the successfully implemented separate teaching credential for Native American languages passed in 2008 to include Native American culture.

The bill, AB 163, which was introduced by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) and supported by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, was signed into law on Monday. Under the Native American language-culture credential created by this bill, applicants can be authorized to teach courses in Native American language, Native American culture or both in California public schools.

“Our tribe is all too aware of the importance of not only preserving our language, but our culture as well,” said Vincent Armenta, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “The passage of this bill will allow educators throughout California to become credentialed in Native American culture and share our traditions with children who have never been exposed to Native American life.”

In 2008, AB 544 established a separate teaching credential for the teaching of Native American languages in California schools. Federally recognized California tribes administered a test of their Native American language(s) to the teacher applicant, and those who succeeded received tribal sponsorship for a separate teaching credential from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing after passing necessary background and other checks. To date, 28 teachers have received such Native American language teaching credential statewide.

The Native American culture credential would be administered exactly the same as the Native American language credential by federally recognized California tribes and the state commission.

“This bill is a reminder of California’s incredible diversity, and the Commission is excited to help safeguard our state’s Native American heritage for future generations by placing qualified teachers of tribal culture in California’s classrooms,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, Ed.D., Executive Director of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The signing of AB 163 comes on the heels of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ recent success of its own education programs. The preservation of its language, “Samala,” has become a model for successfully reinvigorating tribal languages and culture through dedicated programs.

The tribe released “The Samala-English Dictionary: A Guide to the Samala Language of the Ineseño Chumash People” in 2008. The 600- plus-page comprehensive dictionary was the result of a multi-year project and collaboration with Dr. Richard Applegate, a linguist who had studied the tribe’s language more than four decades ago when he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley.

In 2013, the Santa Ynez Chumash began offering a Samala language program at its Education Center, one of 27 state-funded American Indian Education Centers in California. Students are now taught Samala words, sentence structure and pronunciation through the learning center’s after-school language program and tutoring.

Last year, the tribe partnered with The Family School, a preschool/K-5 school in Los Olivos, California to bring Samala into the classrooms. Samala teachers have their own classroom where they teach Samala language classes twice a week. The language classes go beyond just teaching Samala, they also offer students a chance to immerse themselves in the language and Chumash culture.

[View the full legislation here.]

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is located in Santa Barbara County. The tribe owns and operates the popular Chumash Casino Resort on its reservation and also owns two hotels and a restaurant in the nearby town of Solvang – Hotel Corque, Hadsten House and Root 246 – as well as two gas stations in Santa Ynez.

Canoe trip celebrates Native Americans

canoe journey

By Katelyn Doggett, The Northern Light

An opportunity to witness traditional Native American culture will occur this summer during a two-day event on Friday and Saturday, July 24–25.

The G’ana’k’w Canoe Family, the Lummi Nation and the Semiahmoo Nation, paddling three handmade canoes, will arrive at Telescope Beach at Marine Park on Friday, July 24 during their annual multi-nation canoe journey. Other tribe members wearing traditional regalia will welcome them to the land with singing, drumming and a traditional canoe arrival ceremony.

Blaine residents Ron Snyder and Cathy Taggett, who own Circle of Trees Studio and Homestead and are members of the G’ana’k’w Canoe Family, are helping coordinate the arrival ceremony and a potlatch, which will be held on Saturday, July 25.

This will be the first time in more than 100 years that native canoes have made Blaine their destination and not just a short stop on a journey to another location. The multi-family canoe journeys began in the Northwest in 1986 and have occurred annually since 1993, Snyder said.

The G’ana’k’w Canoe Family’s goal has been to involve more tribal communities in the Northwest in showing pride in their heritage and preserving their customs, Snyder said. The annual canoe journeys provide the opportunity to teach culture to their youth as well as community members, he said.

“Every year there has been a hosted gathering but it has become too expensive,” Snyder said. “We want to keep these traditions alive for our youth, so we are doing shorter journeys.”

Blaine was chosen as the destination this year because of its proximity to where most the families are located and because Snyder and Taggett are locals.

Community members are welcome to witness the ceremony, which will start when the canoes arrive around 1 p.m. on Friday in order to take advantage of the high tide. The arrival is the culmination of a 60-mile, four-day journey from Cama Beach on Camano Island starting on July 21. Other stops along the way include the Swinomish Nation near La Conner, the Lummi Nation and Sucia Marine State Park.

The ceremony will be very traditional, Snyder said. Tribe members will arrive singing songs in their native languages and continue to follow traditional protocol.

“Traditions were rediscovered when the canoe journeys started up,” Taggett said. “We looked at how things used to be done in order to teach the youth and to teach each other.”

As the canoes arrive, a speaker in each canoe will ask permission from the elders of the tribes to come on land. Once granted permission and thanking the Blaine community for welcoming them, the members will turn the canoes around and arrive backwards. Arriving backwards is a safety tactic started long ago since it is easier to paddle forward than backwards, Snyder said. The canoes will then be lifted onto the land because it is considered disrespectful to drag them, he said.

A potlatch will be held at around 6 p.m. on Saturday. Members of the public are welcome to attend. The potlatch will have speakers, singing, dancing and gift giving. Many community members will receive a gift, since a potlatch is traditionally an event where wealth is given away and shared in order to build a stronger community.

“I think the public will find it interesting to find out about another culture and way of life and become aware that there were native people here,” Taggett said. “It’s a big part of the history of the area.”

The journey is supported by grants and volunteer work from community members and businesses. To prepare, the members have been practicing paddling and maneuvering the canoes and everyone involved has received cold water capsize training.

Snyder and Taggett have been giving presentations about the canoe journey at libraries, schools and city meetings, and many members have been busy making gifts, food to freeze and traditional regalia and preparing songs and stories for the potlatch, Snyder said.

To volunteer, contribute or ask questions contact Ron Snyder or Cathy Taggett by phone at 360/305-8231 or 360/332-8082 and by email at circleoftrees@wildblue.net.

Montana governor signs bills to preserve Indian languages

By Lisa Baumann, The Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s governor signed bills Wednesday aimed at encouraging schools to develop American Indian language immersion programs and preserving Indian languages.

Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bills at the Capitol, after a tribal prayer and song and after bill sponsors Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, and Rep. George Kipp, D-Heart Butte, presented Bullock with an eagle feather and braided sweetgrass in appreciation.

“Montana is leading the nation in the promotion and preservation of tribal languages,” Bullock said. “Tribal languages are more than just a collection of words and phrases tied together. They represent the culture and history of not only Native Americans in our state, but in fact, they represent the culture and history of our entire state.”

Windy Boy said what makes new laws unique is that the Legislature saw the importance and took action.

“They voted and passed this law, based on its own merits and that it is the right thing to do, not forced to do so by any court order,” he said referring to the Indian Education For All Act passed during the 1999 session after a court ruling.

The language immersion law sponsored by Windy Boy will provide $45,000 in the next two years for the creation of programs in schools with Indian student enrollment of at least 10 percent.

It’s enough money to allow roughly five school districts to be compensated for immersion programs with a certified specialist teaching 17 students in an Indian language for half the day, according to state legislative analyst Pad McCracken.

Currently no public schools offer Indian language immersion programs, but three private K-12 Native language immersion schools exist in the state. Office of Public Instruction Deputy Superintendent Dennis Parman said Wednesday that teachers holding the license needed to teach Indian language immersion classes already work in some of the 88 public schools that would be eligible for the programs.

“We’ve visited with some schools over the years that have had interest in starting some of these programs,” he said. “They just haven’t gone there. This provides the incentive to do it.”

Parman added the amount of money might not sound like much, but the programs would build on existing classrooms with a teacher and materials, which are already funded, and add immersion to it.

Kipp’s bill will extend the Montana Indian Language Preservation program, which was started in the 2013 legislative session after Windy Boy sponsored that bill. Under the measure, $1.5 million will go to support the efforts of Montana tribes to preserve Indian languages in the form of spoken, written word or sign language over the next two years. Some of the money will also assist in the preservation and curricular goals of Montana’s Indian Education for All Program.

“The Montana Indian Language Preservation Program has helped tribes pursue innovative approaches to ensuring these languages are passed on to future generations,” Kipp said of his measure. “Today’s signing will ensure that good work continues, and we are able build on the foundational efforts that are taking place across Montana.”

Native Actors Walk off Set of Adam Sandler Movie After Insults to Women, Elders

By Vincent Schilling, IndianCountyTodayMediaNetwork.com

Approximately a dozen Native actors and actresses, as well as the Native cultural advisor, left the set of Adam Sandler’s newest film production, The Ridiculous Six, on Wednesday. The actors, who were primarily from the Navajo nation, left the set after the satirical western’s script repeatedly insulted native women and elders and grossly misrepresented Apache culture.

The examples of disrespect included Native women’s names such as Beaver’s Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee.

The film, which is said to be a spoof of The Magnificent Seven and was written by Adam Sandler and his frequent collaborator Tim Herlihy, is currently under production by Happy Madison Productions for a Netflix-only release.  The movie will star Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Lovitz and Vanilla Ice.

Among the actors who walked off the set were Navajo Nation tribal members Loren Anthony, who is also the lead singer of the metal band Bloodline, and film student Allison Young. Anthony says that though he understands the movie is a comedy, the portrayal of the Apache was severely negligent and the insults to women were more than enough reason to walk off the set.

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” said Anthony, who told ICTMN he had initially refused to do the movie. He then agreed to take the job when producers informed him they had hired a cultural consultant and efforts would be made for tasteful representation of Natives.

“I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set,” he said.

 Actor Loren Anthony stands next to a seated Adam Sandler on the set of 'Ridiculous Six.' Photo source: instagram.com/lorenanthony
Actor Loren Anthony stands next to a seated Adam Sandler on the set of ‘Ridiculous Six.’ Photo source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

Anthony says he was first insulted that the movie costumes that were supposed to portray Apache were significantly incorrect and that the jokes seemed to get progressively worse.

“We were supposed to be Apache, but it was really stereotypical and we did not look Apache at all. We looked more like Comanche,” he said. “One thing that really offended a lot of people was that there was a female character called Beaver’s breath. One character says ‘Hey, Beaver’s Breath.’ And the Native woman says, ‘How did you know my name?'”

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side. When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy.”

“The producers just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.'” —Alison Young

Allison Young, Navajo, a former film student from Dartmouth, was also offended by the stereotypes portrayed and the outright disrespect paid to her and others by the director and producers.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted,” she said. “I talked to a former instructor at Dartmouth and he told me to take this as finally experiencing stereotyping first hand. We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’ I was just standing there and got emotional and teary-eyed. I didn’t want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way.”

 Actor Loren Anthony gears up for a fight scene with Nick Nolte, who is visible over his shoulder, on the set of 'Ridiculous Six.' Photo source: Image source: instagram.com/lorenanthony
Actor Loren Anthony gears up for a fight scene with Nick Nolte, who is visible over his shoulder, on the set of ‘Ridiculous Six.’ Photo source: Image source: instagram.com/lorenanthony

“Nothing has changed,” said Young. “We are still just Hollywood Indians.”

Goldie Tom also shared her frustrations with ICTMN. “I felt this was all really disrespectful,” she said. “Our costumes did not portray Apache people. The consultant, Bruce spoke to the crew and told them we should not have braids and chokers and he was very disappointed. He asked to speak with Adam Sandler. We talked to the producers about other things in the script and they said ‘It’s in the script and we are not going to change it.’ Overall, we were just treated disrespectfully, the spoke down to us and treated everyone with strong tones.”

74-year old David Hill, Choctaw, a member of the American Indian Movement, also left the set. “They were being disrespectful,” he said. “They were bringing up those same old arguments that Dan Snyder uses in defending the Redskins. But let me tell you, our dignity is not for sale. It is a real shame because a lot of people probably stay because they need a job.”

Hill also mentioned that the producers called back the consultant as well as other native actors to their departure from the set on Wednesday.

“I hope they will listen to us,” Hill said. “We understand this is a comedy, we understand this is humor, but we won’t tolerate disrespect. I told the director if he had talked to a native woman the way they were talked to in this movie—I said I would knock his ass out.”

“This isn’t my first rodeo, if someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”

Neither Adam Sandler nor anyone for Happy Madison Productions responded to our attempts in reaching out to them for comment.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/23/native-actors-walk-set-adam-sandler-movie-after-insults-women-elders-160110#.VTk4J4KJdZA.twitter

America Is Trying to Fix a Mental Health Crisis That It Created

Lawmakers and advocates are trying to help Native American youths, who are dying in record numbers.

(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
(Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

By Jamilah King, Takepart.com

Julian Juan was only 13 when he noticed the scars. A high school freshman on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation, about an hour and a half southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Juan had a tight-knit group of seemingly gregarious friends. But even in southern Arizona’s desert heat, some of those friends wore long-sleeved shirts. Once, a friend’s sleeve rode up high enough to reveal scarred flesh.

“When I asked about it, they would say, ‘Oh, I cut myself doing yard work,’ or ‘I got caught in a fence,’ ” Juan remembered. He persistently pushed them for the truth. “They would say they were having these thoughts and would never fully explain,” he said. He could tell the people closest to him were suffering. And he wanted to do something about it.

Today, Juan is a 23-year-old junior at the University of New Mexico who serves as a youth cabinet member in the National Congress of American Indians, the largest advocacy organization for Native Americans in the country, where he’s worked with a broad coalition of young people to put mental health among tribal elders’ top concerns.

“This issue is really taboo for people in my community,” he said. “They don’t like to talk about it, and it does hurt to talk about, but it’s not going away.”

There’s a growing mental health crisis among Native American youths, and it’s being driven by poverty, violence, and lack of resources. It’s difficult to definitively assess how pervasive the problem is, partly because cultural stigma about mental illness makes it difficult for experts to access many Native American communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Native Americans between the ages of 15 and 34—a  rate that’s two and a half times higher than the national average for that age group. The crisis appears to be afflicting Native American communities across the country.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were reported between 2004 and 2013. In roughly the same period, the local hospital has apparently treated more than 240 people under age 19 who planned or tried to commit suicide.

The crisis is getting national attention. Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama touted the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge, a White House–backed initiative with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The initiative has the lofty goal  of “removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed.”

The first lady outlined a “long history of systemic discrimination and abuse,” ranging from 19th-century laws that forcibly removed Native Americans from their land to the early-20th-century boarding schools that meticulously extinguished many tribes’ language and culture. Those injustices set the tone for the dire situation in many of today’s tribal communities. Here are the statistics, according to the American Psychiatric Association: Native Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than the rest of the U.S. population. They’re also nearly twice as likely as to suffer psychological distress, usually in the form of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Given this history, we shouldn’t be surprised at the challenges that kids in Indian Country are facing today,” the first lady said. “And we should never forget that we played a role in this. Make no mistake about it—we own this.”

In November 2014, a U.S. Justice Department task force, led by retired Democratic U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, submitted a report to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining several actions that could help address the trauma experienced by Native American children. The task force recommended that a Native American Affairs Office be fully staffed within the White House Domestic Policy Council and more federal money be spent on funding tribal criminal and civil prosecutions.

People working in tribal communities are searching for answers. Sheri Lesansee is program manager of New Mexico’s Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse. She says that understanding the diversity of 22 tribal communities is key to accessing their needs. “The outreach and technical assistance really does have to be tailored to meet the needs of that community,” Lesansee told TakePart, pointing to therapists who are well versed in the concepts of generational trauma and familiar with tribal family dynamics. At the same time, Lesanee said it’s important to focus on the tools tribal communities already possess, such as endurance. “We believe—as Native people—we are strong and resilient, and we emphasize that in prevention efforts,” she said.

Jennifer Nanez, a senior program therapist at the University of New Mexico’s Native American Behavioral Health Program, said overt racism continues to play an important role in kids’ lives. “A lot of times the mainstream perspective is that Natives can’t seem to get out of this rut—and that it’s just a characteristic of an American Indian when it’s not,” Nanez said, before echoing the first lady’s sentiments. “[This] is the result of hundreds of years of oppression, and our kids are dealing with it.”

As proof, Nanez pointed to an instance from January when a group of Native American children attending a minor-league hockey game in South Dakota were accosted by a group of white men in a skybox above their seats. The men allegedly dumped beer and yelled racial slurs at the kids, and the story eventually made headlines. “They were getting drunk, and around the third quarter they were talking crap to our kids and throwing beer down on some of them, including our staff and students…telling our students to go back to the rez,” one chaperone wrote on Facebook.

New Mexico is one of a handful of states that have tried to address the problem through legislation. In 2011, the state legislature passed a bill that, in part, created the Native American Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse, which does outreach and consultation for various tribal communities.

Even Native Americans who don’t live in tribal communities feel the impact of the problem. Christian Redbird, 22, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has struggled with mental illness while attending community college. Members of her family suffered from undiagnosed mental illness. No one in her family had ever gone to therapy, and instead self-medicated with alcohol, she said. Redbird, the first person in her family to go to college, realized she didn’t have the familial and social networks to help her thrive.

“I work as a server in a restaurant and make more money than anyone in my family does,” she said. “It’s hard for me to know what steps to take when I don’t know what they are.”

Native American Mascot Issue Stirs Strong Debate In West Hartford

By Suzanna Carlson, The Hartford Courant

hartfordWEST HARTFORD — The high schools’ Warrior and Chieftain mascots were described alternately as proud and respectful or racist and offensive by speakers at a community forum on Thursday night.

About 300 people attended the board of education forum, and about 50 spoke. No decision was made.

Dozens of students from Conard High School wore shirts emblazoned with “Save the Chieftain,” but students, teachers and parents from both Conard and Hall high schools expressed widely opposing views.

Those who support the mascots described them as symbols of pride and said they honored Native American culture. Many of the speakers pointed to the fact that leaders of the local Mohegan tribe, in consultation with students, have said they support the mascots’ use. Some cited a recent poll at Conard showing that 80 percent of students and 60 percent of teachers want to keep the symbol.

But others argued that the mascots are antiquated, racist caricatures that should be eliminated. Several said they have consulted with other Native American groups across the country who vehemently oppose the use of Native American imagery as sports mascots.

Quyen Truong said she attended Conard about 10 years ago and was asked to create the Conard Chieftain logo of a native man in a headdress.

“I genuinely thought at that time that I was honoring the Chieftains,” Truong said.

In college, Truong said, she met Native Americans for the first time and learned how historically marginalized cultures are denigrated by such imagery. She said she realized her work was “deeply offensive” to “a whole group of people that I didn’t really know and understand, and I became very conflicted about what I had done in high school. … My perspective has shifted and I really want to strongly advocate to retire the chieftain.”

Many of those opposed referred to decisions by groups such as the American Psychological Association, the National Education Association and the National Congress of American Indians to reject the use of Native American mascots and imagery, and urged the board of education to end up on “the right side of history.”

Arguing to keep the mascots, Tom Midney said the names are “meant to bestow pride, honor, and respect. … Don’t disrespect that tradition over such folly. That would be truly offensive.”

Parent Ted Mancini said he’s “sick and tired of listening” to what he described as a “PC witch hunt,” and said the majority’s opinion should dictate that the mascots remain intact.

The issue is not only the mascots, but the schools’ cheering sections, The Reservation and The Tribe, as well as the name of the Conard newspaper, “The Powwow.”

School Superintendent Tom Moore said the cost to change the schools’ logos would be around $50,000, and could total $100,000 if the logos and names were all changed.

“This has been both a challenging and invigorating process,” board of education Chairman Mark Overmyer-Velazquez said. “It’s not always been an easy one, it’s not always been entirely graceful … but it’s been a profound example of the democratic process that we have here and our students have learned a lot from it.”

The board of education is expected to meet soon to discuss the issue and decide whether the mascots should be changed.

Kelso’s successful Indian Education programs mix classroom, culture

By Lauren Kronebusch, The Daily News

Kelso’s Indian Education Program shares the qualities of Hermia, a pint-sized but spirited character featured in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The core of the program is a small classroom on the first level of Wallace Elementary School. It protects a wealth of history. A glass display case full of traditional Native American objects greets visitors at the front entrance. Several bookshelves laden with children’s and educational books about Native American culture sit against a wall adorned with dream catchers. In the back of the classroom a map of the United States is stabbed with push pins locating which tribes students in the program have roots.

Shelley Hamrick, the program’s coordinator since 1997, sees the classroom as the source of the program’s strength and uniqueness. When the district formed its diversity committee around 1995, it had a broad mission that the room came to physically exemplify.

“(The district wanted) to make kids feel connected and included,” she said. “And then they saw everything that we have.”

Hamrick smiles as she sweeps her hand through the air to point to dozens of artifacts in the room, donated over time by community families. The district decided to give the program its permanent home at Wallace in 1997, when it moved from a portable classroom to a room inside the school.

Native American cultural education is having a big year in Kelso and the state. Kelso’s annual Pow Wow will celebrate its 30th anniversary in May. In March, Washington’s House of Representatives formalized the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.

Kelso created its program in the 1970s in response to the federal Indian Education Act, adopted in 1972 to restore and preserve cultural traditions weakened when many Native American children were sent to boarding schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“It was kind of like (the government, schools and tribes) wanted to bring that (knowledge) back to the people,” Hamrick said of Kelso’s participation in the Indian Education Act.

Few other districts in their area have built up their Indian Education programs as thoroughly as has Kelso. When Hamrick began as a tutor in 1989, the program had about 240 students. The program has 400 students this year. Hamrick said the district now includes students with ancestral links to 63 tribes. The program’s success, Hamrick said, has been a result of a close working relationship between her and district administrators that Hamrick said fosters a sense of inclusion for the district’s Native students.

Hamrick said the program’s educational and cultural missions reinforce each other.

“Many students who were really, really struggling in school, they’d get some extra help in school, and they’d start valuing their culture, because they (didn’t) have that connection to the reservation anymore or maybe they didn’t at all,” she said.

Wallace Elementary students beat on a rawhide drum with LaMere. Photo/ Roger Werth / The Daily News
Wallace Elementary students beat on a rawhide drum with LaMere. Photo/ Roger Werth / The Daily News

Lory Evans brings her two grandchildren to Tuesday’s culture class. She said it has helped her and her children feel more connected to their Native American heritage.

“I thought they should have some of the culture,” Evans said. “I never got any (cultural education) when I grew up so I wanted them to have some.”

Her granddaughter Kaydince Evans talked excitedly of the free “Ratatouille” cooking book she got from the program. Her grandson Quincy Evans picked “Buffalo Before Breakfast,” a Magic Tree House series novel. He said it only took him a few days to read. Both books come from First Book Grants, which donated more than 2,200 books in the last five years.

Marie Dancing Star LaMere, a Native drummer, singer, dancer and educator, teaches the program’s culture class.

She said she thinks Native Americans learn differently. Like herself, she said her students are more oral learners. LaMere said that’s why she tries to teach her culture class through demonstration and activity.

“I think that’s our culture,” she said. “Just like our stories — they’re passed down from generation to generation (through speech).”

Program tutor and parent Elizabeth Jones said the culture class has helped keep her and her children connected to her tribe, the Lummi of western Washington.

“It’s so hands-on, they don’t even realize they’re (learning),” Jones said. “They don’t understand that while they’re having fun, they’re getting the education part of it, too.”

LaMere said her culture class is most effective for a simple reason: it’s fun.

“Kids love movement,” she said.

LaMere’s class involves plenty of it. The room boomed Tuesday night with the guttural voice of a raw hide drum, beaten as LaMere sang a coastal Native American song to the class. Students circled the display case, rowing along to her song with drum sticks.

LaMere said the program reaches students at a level beyond the cultural and educational.

“I think it touches on a spiritual level as well,” she said.

Respect for ‘people, homelands, culture’ motivates Native American troops

Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)
Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, second from left, poses with other members of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-female color guard that support Native female veterans. (Photo courtesy Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer)

By Mallory Black , Medill News Service

Even with a family military background dating back to World War I, Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer never considered while growing up that serving in the military might be the right choice for her, too.

But that changed in her sophomore year in college after she was placed on academic probation at the University of Minnesota — what she now says was a much-needed wakeup call to spur her to seek more purpose and direction.

Still unclear, though, was exactly what purpose she should pursue and what direction she should take.

Then she recalled overhearing two classmates in the National Guard talk about the opportunities that had opened up to them after enlisting.

And for Ellis-Ulmer, there was that purpose and direction.

Nearly 20 years later, Air Force Master Sgt. Shenandoah Ellis-Ulmer, now 40, is an intelligence analyst at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.

She’s also a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, the first woman in her family to serve in the military and just one of thousands of Native Americans who are serving or have served their country in uniform.

Ellis-Ulmer, who has served in South Korea and the Middle East in addition to her various stateside assignments, said serving in the Air Force “has given my children, my husband and myself a different outlook on the world.”

“I want to give my children a different perspective on life because life is not what the reservation is,” she said. “Life is what you make of it.”

A tradition of service

Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)
Army Lt. Col Tracey Clyde, a Navajo from Shiprock, New Mexico, during a deployment to Joint Base Balad in Iraq. (Photo courtesy Tracey Clyde)

The Defense Department reports a total of 27,186 American Indian and Alaska Native active-duty officers and reserves, and the Veterans Affairs Department reports more than 156,000 Native American veterans. They have served in every war in American history, and 25 have have received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

At least 70 Native American and Alaska Natives have died during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 513 others were wounded in those combat zones.

Native Americans traditionally have had a strong military presence because they have a strong sense of patriotism, said Clara Platte, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington office.

“There’s a deep tie to the land and our people and our culture, and being able to serve in the military is a way to honor that heritage,” Platte said.

But that doesn’t mean the cultural transition from “Indian Country” to military base is always easy.

Army Lt. Col. Tracey Clyde, 47, a member of the Navajo tribe, spent most of his childhood with his grandparents herding sheep near the Sweetwater Chapter on the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico.

In high school, Clyde decided to set his sights on attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

But once there, he soon realized that adapting to the social norms might be a challenge — even in simple things like the slang cadets might use to greet each other.

“One of the things that I had to keep from getting mad at was when they talk to each other and sometimes say, ‘Hey chief,’ ” Clyde said. “That’s one thing I got mad at my roommate for, but then I noticed other cadets my age were saying the same thing to each other.”

Clyde quickly figured out the greeting wasn’t meant to be derogatory and found his footing as an Army officer. Then while he was stationed in Seoul, South Korea, his Native American culture found him again.

A fellow officer who was also Navajo told him that her baby had just laughed for the first time. Navajos traditionally celebrate a baby’s first laugh, so Clyde and other Native Americans on their base held a ceremony, asking for the baby to be blessed by generosity and kindness.

“All Native Americans — whether they were Navajo or not — met in her apartment and we had our ‘first laugh’ party,” said Clyde, now assigned to the Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. “Even though we were far away from our homelands, we still took the opportunity to continue our culture regardless of where we were stationed.”

Throughout his 25 years in uniform, Clyde has taken every opportunity to help other Native Americans adjust to life in the military, so “they’re not so culturally shocked with all the stuff they’re thrown into.”

An honorable life

Ellis-Ulmer, who has deployed 15 times to the Middle East, said that for her, and for most Native Americans, serving in the military is considered an honorable life.

A survivor of childhood sex abuse and domestic violence as an adult, Ellis-Ulmer does her part to help other Native American women who have lived that life.

As a member of the Native American Women Warriors, an all-women color guard that supports Native American female veterans dealing with homelessness, sexual assault trauma and the transition back to civilian life, Ellis-Ulmer regularly speaks at powwows and community events to raise awareness of veteran issues.

“I don’t think I’ve come across one Native woman who has said that they were not abused, whether it was by their husbands, their partners or their family members,” Ellis-Ulmer said. “Dealing with all these violent acts against Native women is my motivation because I don’t want this mentality of abuse to perpetuate.”

As a way to show her appreciation for what the Air Force has done for her, Ellis-Ulmer speaks about military life as part of the We Are All Recruiters program, which allows active-duty members to recruit for the Air Force in their own communities.

Recently the Santee Sioux tribe honored her for her military service with a golden eagle tail feather.

“They told me to wear it turned down,” she explained, “Because now I’m a warrior to them.”

Yocha Dehe Tribe to Air TV Ad Against R-dskins Name in Seven Major Markets During NBA Championship Game


Source: Oneida Nation Homelands (NY) (PRWEB) June 10, 2014

During halftime of tonight’s NBA Championship game, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is airing a segment from the powerful TV ad called “Proud to Be,” which was produced by the National Congress of American Indians. The ad celebrates Native American culture and underscores their opposition to the use of the dictionary-defined R-word slur.

At halftime of tonight’s Game 3 of the NBA Championship, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation will air in seven major T.V. markets a 60-second version of the National Congress of American Indians’ Proud To Be ad, which celebrates Native American culture and opposes the racist name of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team. This is the first time the ad has aired on television, and it is being run in order to educate the general public about Native American opposition to the R-word. The ad is airing in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. after airing in Miami during halftime of Game 2 on Sunday night.*

The advertisement highlights the defining and distinguished characteristics, names and legacies of many Native American tribes throughout the United States. But as the video clearly states, there is one denigrating term which Native peoples never use to describe themselves: R*dskin.

As Chairman Marshall McKay of Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation underscored in a message posted to YouTube: “The R-word is as derogatory a slur as the N-word. When this name first came to be, it was a vehicle for people to bring the victims of violence into an office so they could collect a bounty. I think the Change the Mascot campaign will shed some well-deserved light on the trauma and the disadvantaged people on reservations and throughout the country that are Native American that really haven’t had this opportunity to talk about the pain and the anguish that this kind of racism puts us through.”

James Kinter, Tribal Secretary of Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation also stated in the video: “The Change the Mascot movement is larger than Yocha Dehe or any one tribe. It’s about all tribal people and non-tribal people raising their voices in protest.”

In a joint statement, NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata and Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said: “We applaud the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for having the vision and commitment to ensure that the American public receives the message loud and clear that Native Americans strongly oppose the use of this disparaging slur. Contrary to the team’s absurd claims, this dictionary-defined racial epithet does not honor our heritage. The Change the Mascot campaign continues to gather strength every time that people are educated about the origin of the R-word and its damaging impact on Native peoples. By airing this ad during the NBA Championships, the message will be brought into the living rooms of millions of American all across the country.”

The moral and civil rights issue of the team’s unapologetic use of a dictionary-defined slur has come to the forefront of American consciousness more than ever in recent weeks. Half of the U.S. Senate recently signed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging a change for the D.C. team’s mascot. Shortly thereafter, 77 leading Native American, civil rights and religious organizations representing millions of Americans wrote to every player in the league asking them to stand up against the team’s use of a racial epithet as a mascot.

*Anti-Redskins ad to air during NBA Finals, 6.10.14, washingtonpost.com/local/anti-redskins-ad-to-air-during-nba-finals/2014/06/10/9808a964-f058-11e3-bf76-447a5df6411f_story.html.