Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
July 1, 2000 - Issue 13

Native Youngsters Share Experiences
Miami Herald: Native youngsters share experiences

A group of Native American teens walked from their Nova Southeastern University dormitory to a Dairy Queen in Davie this week. They saw an owl perched on a fence, and it sparked conversation about the variety of beliefs among the tribes they represented.

"We believe that all owls are a death omen,'' said Alex Sagataw, 17, of the Potawatomi tribe.

For others, the owl was just an owl. "It's just a bird,'' said Louis Montclair, 17, of the Sioux tribe. "Now, if it was a white owl, it would mean death.''

The conversation was a telling display of the students' experience. Ten of the teens, representing tribes from the Seminole of South Florida to the Yaqui of Arizona, came together in Fort Lauderdale to write Rising Voices, a newspaper by and for native youth.

It was all part of Project Phoenix, a weeklong journalism workshop for Native American teens sponsored by the Native American Journalists Association.

Named in honor of The Cherokee Phoenix, the nation's first documented native newspaper, the annual project brought the teens together to learn about writing, photography and themselves.

Their project culminated Thursday with the start of the NAJA convention in Fort Lauderdale. "This is more than just about journalism. It's about native youth connecting with other native youth,'' said Mark Anthony Rolo, education director for NAJA and a member of the Midwestern Ojibwe tribe. "There's a big cultural component to it and that's the way we intended it to be.''

Louis Montclair, from the Fort Peck reservation in northeastern Montana, appreciated the differences in the owl conversation at Dairy Queen.

"I didn't know that there were so many different beliefs in different tribes,'' he said.

For 15-year-old Sela Flores of Arizona's Yaqui tribe, the workshop was a chance to meet and connect with people who understand her. Flores, who is half white and half Yaqui, moved from Arizona to Vermont, where she sometimes regrets that she's the only Native American in her school.

"There are little things that are so different between the cultures,'' Sela said. ``I can't always talk to my friends about stuff like that.''

As half-Yaqui, Sela didn't know how well she would be accepted by the full-blooded youth in the workshop. But she found a comfortable place as a reporter for Rising Voices. ``It's easier to talk to other natives about these things,'' she said.

Students from the Navajo, Cherokee and Chippewa tribes also attended the workshop.

Rising Voices is being printed by The Herald and will be available at the NAJA convention and online in two weeks at


Copyright 1999 the Miami Herald.
Republished here with the permission of the Miami Herald. No further republication or redistribution is permitted without the written approval of The Miami Herald.



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