Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 30, 2000 - Issue 26


Young Stars

Red Mesa High studentsí talent earns trip to Vienna, Austria

by Nathan J. Tohtsoni, Navajo Times Reporter

RED MESA, Ariz. - Seventeen-year-old Charlene Saunders of Sweet Water, Ariz., found a book entitled "European History" in the hallway of Red Mesa High School Tuesday (Dec. 5). She joked she was going to read it.

Whether she does read it, one thing is certain: She'll be in Vienna, Austria in May practicing the few words in German she knows on a continent she knows little about. Six Red Mesa students will attend the EuroKids Camp where they will be the first North or South Americans ever invited.

To make the trip, the students have been working feverishly sponsoring everything from a turkey shoot to jack pot roping to basketball tournaments.

Which Way To Austria? - Red Mesa (Ariz.) High School students Sherwin Clah, Winterdawn Warren, Gabriel Yazzie, Tishena Tsosie, Terry Warren, and Charlene Saunders point "Navajo style" to where they think Vienna, Austria is located. (Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

"A lot of pressure will be put on us because no one else has been there," said Terry Warren, 17, of Red Mesa, Utah. "We get to make a good impression - the first impression. It's more of a learning trip like how other teenagers around the world think. Like what they think of us besides John Wayne movies."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Gabriel Yazzie, 18, of Sweet Water said.

Saunders, Warren, Yazzie and Sherwin Clah, 19, of Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., Tishena Tsosie, 17, of Dennehotso, Ariz., and Winterdawn Warren, 16, of Red Mesa, Utah, were invited to the camp based on talent they demonstrated during the Dine Native American Drama and Fine Arts Festival held at the school in April.

David Shortey, festival sponsor, said what made the students' performance even more special was that professional Native American film stars served as judges. The festival attracted more than 150 participants from 13 schools around the reservation.

Although there were students from other schools, the best actor and actress, best supporting actor and actress, best costume, best contemporary and traditional dance and best original screenplay categories were won by the talented six Red Mesa students.

An Austrian director was filming a 58-minute documentary on the Red Mesa area when he noticed the talents of the students and invited them to the EuroKids Camp May 23-June 3, 2001.

The short film, "Native Now," is currently being shown in Europe. In fact, several hours later the students would chat live via the Internet with Europeans who had just viewed the film.

"People watching the film want to know if (the students) really exist; see if they're actually students," Shortey said. "They'll have to realize that most of the students over there have never seen a Native American."

Terry Warren said that once he got to meet the professional actors when they came to the school for the festival, he could see them as friends and not just as characters on the screen.

"They're probably going to talk to us like we did with those other people," he said. "I bet you that's what they're going to do; see if we really are that person. It's going to be an experience but everything we do is new. I look forward to each day."

What Saunders was looking forward to with the Internet interview was to address some concerns that were misrepresented in the film.

"It made me look like I wasn't into my culture," she said. "When we go we'll be representing the United States, the Navajo Nation, Native Americans and our school. We're discussing taking our traditional clothes to give them something exciting to see - and show our pride."

Saunders met some Germans from Red Wing College in Winona, Minn., over the summer when they came to the school. She picked up some German and learned that restrooms are not as common in Austria as they are in this country. However, to her relief, it has been relayed that extra bathrooms and showers have been installed where they will be staying.

The students and two sponsors will spend two weeks in Vienna where their food and lodging are paid. They are finding that fund-raising efforts toward the $2,000 per person for airline tickets takes a lot of hard work.

"Our food and shelter is paid for when we get there," Warren said, "but we need to get there. I wish people could hear our small voices out here and give us some help. We really want to go so we're all putting in over 100 percent. We just hope everybody's proud of us."

Red Mesa School District



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