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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 14, 2001 - Issue 40


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Meeting of Minds in S.D.


 by Jennifer Weil New York Daily News-July 8, 2001

Animated Basketball GoalCesar Pozo tucked a basketball under his arm when he took off for South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation last week with 18 other city teenagers.

The teen basketball players many who have never been out of the city or on an airplane all have visions of what awaits them.

"I think they live in grassy fields and little houses with not much around," said Pozo, 15, a sophomore at the High School for Health Professions & Human Services in Grammercy Park. "They probably think we dress differently and have a lot of money, but that's not true."

Pozo is part of a unique summer sports and education program, known as the Travelling All-Stars.

"It's a way of getting inner-city kids out of the city and exposing them to different areas of the country and the world," said Jai Nanda, founder and executive director of the Urban Dove, the nonprofit group that runs the new program.

Earlier this year, Nanda, a former teacher, spread word to high school basketball coaches across the city about the all-expense-paid trip to South Dakota.

All the 14- and 15-year-olds needed were skills on the court and a desire to relate to other cultures.

Mirror of the Inner City
Nanda, 31, said he selected the Indian reservation because kids there face similar issues.

"In a lot of ways the reservation mirrors conditions in inner cities in terms of some of the obstacles kids have growing up such as low-income families, federal housing and gang violence," Nanda said.

There was also the universal love for basketball.

"Basketball is huge on the reservation," he added. "They absolutely love it, so that would be a nice common ground to get kids to work together."

In preparation for the trip, the players met twice a week beginning in April, practicing basketball and learning about the history and culture of American Indians.

"We want the kids to really learn something about culture, something about staying in another person's community and appreciating it and not asking where the McDonald's is everyday," said Savitha Viswanathan, the trip program director.

While in South Dakota, the city players will team up with American Indians of similar ages from the Oyate Teca Project, a community center in the town of Kyle.

The eight girls and 11 boys will scrimmage with the center's kids and play two local high schools. They also will go hiking in the Badlands, see Mount Rushmore, sit by campfires and watch a buffalo roundup.

At night, they will bunk down on the floor of the Little Wound School gymnasium.

Saying Goodbye
Before going to the airport, the All-Stars gathered at the Grand Hyatt hotel on E. 42nd St. to say goodbye to their parents. Their bags included gifts for their hosts, such as a Knicks flag and a Liberty towel.

"She's excited," said a teary Haifa Bautista, whose 15-year-old daughter Nayla is participating in the program. "It's a big adventure going from New York to South Dakota. She loves basketball, and she's very interested in Native American culture."

Nayla, who will be a junior next year at Hunter College High School on the upper East Side, said, "I'm looking forward to meeting new people and playing basketball with people I don't see every day."

Waiting for the airport van, Pozo and his friends talked about a video that the Native American children had made.

"They didn't look like they could play basketball," Pozo said.

"I thought they were going to be taller, but they're not," said Charles Lewis, 15, of the Bronx.

Nanda hopes the players will not only come back full of new experiences, but with a new outlook on life.

"We all have stereotypes," Nanda said. "But if you can break those at an early age and encourage kids to think about these things now ... you hopefully start to develop a mind that will never jump to conclusions."

Maps by Travel


Youth EnterNet of American
YEA strives to empower and enrich youth programs by creating unique fundraising and awareness opportunities, mobilizing support from all sectors and building a network of youth non-profit organizations.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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