Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
September 23, 2000 - Issue 19

New Native School Opens with Emphasis on Art and Culture
by Robert DesJarlait reprinted with permission from The Circle
In September, the Native Arts School will open its doors to its first class of students. The school is an outgrowth of Ogitchidag Gikinooamaagad, a summer program for youth which is now in its sixth year. Ogitchidag Gikinooamaagad, meaning Warrior Teachers, represents the philosophical concept that empowers the program. Both teachers and students learn the strength of cultural teachings and carry those teachings into their personal and social world. The school is slated to be housed in a building at Fort Snelling, but until renovation is complete, will be temporarily located at Migizi Communications in Minneapolis. Sharon Day, the school’s executive director, expects a roster of 100 students. “We want to teach them in a way that teaches art and culture,” Day says.

A year ago, Day applied for a charter for the Native Arts School from the state of Minnesota through the sponsorship of Augsburg College. The curriculum will meet the 10 academic requirements of the state, yet the focus will be on art. “We’ve always felt the need for a school that would strongly incorporate culture and art,” Day says. “For the past year, we’ve been working hard on curriculum that will meet the state standards and also emphasize art. In our experiences with Ogitchidag Gikinooamaagad, we know that art opens the students up.”

Ogitchidag Gikinooamaagad’s approach to art is not limited to a specific category of art – for example, painting. Rather, art involves a holistic approach that incorporates several levels of learning. As an example, Day says: “Our kids went to the Two Rivers Gallery to look at an exhibit on the buffalo. When they returned, we had them write their thoughts and feelings on buffalo in their journals. We had them write for 15 minutes. They all wrote about the subject differently. One wrote about what it was like to be one of the buffalo hunters who slaughtered the buffalo. Another wrote about hunting a buffalo, as an Indian, for the first time. Another wrote through the eyes of a buffalo -– how it felt to be a part of a proud nation that was hunted down and slaughtered”.

“After they finished the writing, they each had to read their work. Observe, write, listen. All those elements were incorporated into the lesson. This is one of the basic concepts that we teach.” The school will be divided into two daily sections. Morning classes will focus on academic subjects and afternoon classes on art. Art will be related to chosen themes and art mediums will vary between drawing, acting, and visual arts. Students will work in clusters and teachers in teams. The Native Arts School seeks to establish confidence and integrity in its students. Its mission is to expand the horizon of its students to include higher levels of education. Day says, “I want the children to go to any college or university. The role of the Native Arts School is to give them the tools they need to accomplish that.”



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