Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


pictograph divider


Program Motivates Indian Students to Pursue Success

by Steve Kuchera Duluth News Tribune
credits: art by Leland Bell
art by Leland BellValerie Tanner has seen Indian students give up on education. Of her 80-some high school classmates, only two went to college.

She was one of them.

"My father told me 'You get an education and work for your people,' '' said Tanner, 36, an enrolled member of the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa.

That's what Tanner was doing Thursday, addressing American Indian high school students at a steps-to-success program at the Fond du Lac Reservation's Brookston Center.

The program was held by the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe's Educational Talent Search with the reservation's support. About 100 students from about 10 school districts visited with representatives from colleges, universities, agencies and businesses.

"I believe the only way out (of oppression and poverty) for our people is education,'' said Tom Andrus, outreach coordinator for the St. Cloud State University American Indian Center, who went to college at 42 after years of battling the bottle.

"We've been down so long that $8- and $10-an-hour jobs at the casino seem like gold,'' he said.

Talent Search is an effort to encourage qualified students in 36 targeted school districts to complete high school and pursue a post-secondary education. It also encourages people who have dropped out of school to return.

"We're trying to do whatever we can do to help the students succeed in school and then go on to some sort of postsecondary education,'' said Sue Connor, the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe career development specialist who organized Thursday's event.

Connor works with people of all ages interested in continuing or resuming their educations. There's a need for supporting and encouraging Indian students, she said.

"I see a lot of kids falling through the cracks,'' she said.

According to a study by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families & Learning's Office of Indian Education, Minnesota high schools without a postsecondary prep program only graduated 43 percent of their Indian students in recent years. And only 30 percent of those who did graduate went on to further education.

However, where there are postsecondary prep programs, 83 percent of Indian students graduated. And 61 percent of those went on to further education.

During her keynote speech, Tanner challenged the students not to give into stereotypes or to use their "Indianness'' as an excuse to fail in school.

"One of the issues that plagues our community is that education is seen as not important -- that it's a white thing,'' Tanner said.

But that's not true, said Tanner, who was a teacher for 10 years before joining the Office of Indian Education. Learning has always been important in Indian culture, but the history of boarding schools and biases soured many on education.

Thursday's event was more than a traditional job fair. It began with a pipe ceremony and drum song. The students gathered in circles to meet one another and to learn their interests. At one point the participants joined in a friendship dance.

"I'm trying to have it interactive for the students to keep them interested and motivated,'' Conner said.

"I think it's pretty cool,'' Fond du Lac 10th-grader Mike Aubin said. "You can find out what colleges you can attend.''

He's considering Augsburg.

"I know I'll go to college,'' he said. "I would like to go for computer technology.''

Cherry senior Paula Zozgornik also plans on college.

"I've gathered a lot of information,'' she said, shortly after talking to a representative from Bemidji State University. "I hope to become an elementary teacher -- preferably a kindergarten teacher.''

Zozgornik said seeing all the students interested in continuing their education made her proud to have Indian blood.

"That's what makes me want to be a teacher -- that excitement to learn,'' she said.

Leech Lake,MN Map

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  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, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


Canku Ota Logo


Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Thank You