July 28, 2017
Great People Doing Great Things: Tribe Focuses on Education
The Santa Rosa County Creek Indian Tribe Inc. teaches the community about Native Americans’ culture via educational programs, traditional events and a Native American Cultural Center, according to Vice Chief Dan Helms.
The organization was founded in 1990 by descendants of Creeks who live in the area. The tribe currently has more than 1,300 members and donates thousands of hours a year teaching and making presentations in the community.
“Our tribe is sought out by schools, cultural festivals, historical organizations, military installations, history fairs, county fairs and city events,” Helms said. “Community organizations such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, Kiwanis Club and the Lions Club request us for speaking engagements.”
“The goal of the Native American Cultural Center is to increase awareness of the culture of Native Americans and particularly the Creek people,” Helms said. “The public, especially the children, will have a greater appreciation and understanding of the Creek people and their connection with the natural world. They will experience new knowledge through immersion and hands-on demonstrations not available anywhere else in our area."
Training Native Youth to Help Each Other in Crisis
Last month, the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced a $4.25 million initiative to tackle youth suicide in Alaska Native communities, with a focus on resilience and solutions.
But one program in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District has focused on this type of community-based prevention since its start in 2008, and it now has been showing results.
Promoting peer-to-peer mentoring, the school district's Youth Leaders Program engages students and their communities, challenging them to come up with solutions to bullying, isolation and suicidal tendencies.
Jones, who ran the Youth Leaders Program from 2015 to this year, was careful in a phone interview to not attribute all the success to the initiative. Suicide is a notoriously tricky thing to study and is usually a culmination of many social and personal factors, Jones said.
The premise of the Youth Leaders Program is simple: tap a number of student leaders in each school and give them the training to help their peers during times of distress.
Students also nominate two of their peers who they think are approachable if students have an issue at school or home. These students are offered positions as captains, who help teach Youth Leaders at their schools. Both captains and Youth Leaders are trained in the TALK suicide prevention program — short for "Tell Somebody," "Ask," "Listen and Reflect" and "Keep Them Safe."
Three Generations of Inuit Women Tell Their Story
A grandmother, a mother and a daughter, all took up pen and ink to tell their stories
Andrea R. Hanley had long been an admirer of Annie Pootoogook’s pen and colored pencil drawings of contemporary Inuit home life. She was also aware of Pootoogook's impressive forebears—three generations of artists, influencing and impacting one another and their community and the art world in the process.
"Akunnittinni: A Kinngait Family Portrait," a new exhibition on view at Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian at the Heye Center in New York City, traces the art and influences of an Inuk grandmother Pitseolak Ashoona (1904–1983), a mother Napachie Pootoogook (1938–2002) and a daughter Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016).
Each artist commands an impressive career and is “a master in her own right,” according to Hanley, and could have anchored her own solo exhibition. But for this show, the curators sought to tell a more nuanced story about tradition, legacy and family bonds, and how these shift over time—a word in the show’s title, akunnittinni, translates to “between us.”
“The grandmother painted more romanticized versions of the story she heard—of how the culture used to be,” says Patsy Phillips, director of IAIA. “The mother drew more of the darker side of the stories she heard [while] the daughter’s were much more current.”
Teaching Native History with One Simple Activity
The exercise begins with simple materials - just blankets and a script - but it can end with powerful takeaways, and even tears.
As the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education continues in Toronto this week, educator Sara Anderson is hoping to demonstrate how the so-called blanket exercise can make Indigenous history come to life for participants.
In the exercise, blankets are laid out on the floor and participants are invited to step onto them as Indigenous peoples.
The blankets, explained Anderson on Metro Morning, represent the land.
"There's usually a lot of emotion. Usually at every blanket exercise there's a few tears," said Anderson.
"For non-Indigenous people, there's often a lot of anger or guilt that they didn't know this or that their ancestors may have taken part in this."
Anderson always ends the exercise with a talking circle to debrief on what happened.