Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 16, 2000 - Issue 25


American Indians Get a High-tech Link to Heritage

by Michelle Melendez Star-Telegram Staff Writer


FORT WORTH -- A program dedicated to preserving American Indian culture received a new tool Saturday -- a computer lab with Internet access to research tribal history, languages and other issues, as well as tutor students and train adults.

"We're taking the best of what the dominant culture has to offer, as Sitting Bull told us, and yet preserve our culture," said Keith Overstreet, a director of the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas, which has offices in Dallas and Fort Worth.

The Fort Worth school district's American Indian Education Program got six IBM computers through a grant from the United Way of Metropolitan Tarrant County. They were installed at the district's Horizons Learning Center, an alternative school at 4713 E. Lancaster Ave., where they will be available to Horizons students during the school day and to Indians on Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.

Soon after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, students were playing educational games and using the computers to create art.

Jamie Boggs, who attends Riverside Applied Learning Center, said she needs the lab for schoolwork because she doesn't have a computer at home.

"I have to do research for a report on my tribe," said Boggs, 11, a member of the Choctaw tribe.

Hellena Herridge, a Lakota woman who volunteers to tutor students in the program, said the computers have programs that will provide strong instruction in all subjects, including reading, math and writing. The computers also came with word processing, accounting and other types of software.

Diana Woodward, director of the American Indian Education Program in Fort Worth, said she hopes that adults will also use the computers, to research their heritage and to acquire new job skills.

She is a member of the Yuchi and Caddo tribes but knew very little about Indian culture as a child. She became director in 1999 in part to learn more about Indian cultures. Now, she is learning the Yuchi language, which she used to open the ceremony Saturday.

"It was the only language my grandmother spoke. I'm doing my part to save our language and honor my great-grandmother," Woodward said.

Woodward thanked the United Way for the grant, which was given after the United Way asked minority communities in the spring what needs had not been met.

"Very rarely does a large organization realize it missed the boat on a large issue -- in this case serving the minority community -- and correct it," Woodward said. "Instead of guessing what we needed, you held a meeting and asked us."

Viney Chandler, local United Way president, said she was happy to help.

"We did miss the boat in many ways. You have helped us reconnect with the community," she said.

The grant is part of United Way's national Teaming for Technology Mission, which aims to give computer access to minorities. This year, it granted computer labs to the Near Northside Partners Council, which primarily serves Hispanics; the Near Southeast Community Development Corporation, which primarily serves African Americans; the Texas Refugee and Immigrant Women's Association; and United Way -- Northeast.

Michelle Melendez, (817) 390-7541

Urban Inter-tribal Center of Texas



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