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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 8, 2003 - Issue 82


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Wanted: More Native American Students

by Angela D. Forest, The Herald-Sun
credits: photo collage courtesy of NC School of Science and Mathematics

NCSSM collageDURHAM -- Her back erect and head held high, Samantha Locklear will pay homage to her ancestors Saturday when she dances in her high school gymnasium, moving slowly and steadily to the beat of a drum.

Wearing flowing animal-skin clothing and wrapped in a long, fringed shawl with a feather in her hair, Locklear will be transformed from a chatty, energetic teenager into the reserved head female dancer for the 12th annual Native American powwow at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

A Science and Math junior who is half Lumbee and half Tuscarora, Locklear became an active powwow dancer only a few years ago. Just as she had to learn the movements passed down by tribes for generations, Locklear also has had to master living in an environment very different from her home in Robeson County.

Before she came to the residential high school in Durham, she spent her first two years at South Robeson High School, which is half Native American and half black.

"There were very few Mexicans and very few white people," Locklear said. "It is still kind of a shock to be the minority, but I'm making it."

And she's not complaining. Locklear said she fell in love with Science and Math after a visit her freshman year. This weekend, in addition to dancing, she'll also guide 20 Native American students in grades 7-9 around campus as part of the school's Dreammaker Program.

Locklear is the first Native American student to attend Science and Math via the program, created three years ago to increase the number of American Indian students at the school. Science and Math enrolls academically advanced juniors and seniors from nearly every county in the state.

"It is an effort to get young Native Americans ... to visit our school and become familiar with our program so when they reach application age in their 10th-grade year they will seriously consider coming to our school," said Joe Liles, an art instructor who helped establish the program. "It makes our campus a culturally richer place."

From today through Sunday, the visitors will attend science, math and art classes, participate in social activities on campus, listen to Native American speakers and, of course, dance in the powwow. The youths will stay overnight in the residence halls, hosted by current students, some of whom are Native American.

The school currently has five Native American students enrolled, three juniors and two seniors, Liles said.

Nina Martinez, a junior from Cary, said by talking to other Native American students, she learned that her family tree has roots in the Haliwa-Saponi tribe.

"It was enlightening for me, because I was learning about other tribes, other people and learning more about myself in the process," said Martinez, who is a mixture of several Native American tribes, along with being Latino and black.

Both students spend time hanging out with their Indian peers in a campus group called Akwe:kon, a Mohican word that means, "All of us brought together." They also live in the same residence hall.

In coming to Science and Math, Locklear said she's enjoying opportunities that aren't available in Robeson County, where schools aren't as academically rigorous and unemployment is high.

"I've got to get out of Robeson County if I want to do anything with my life," said Locklear about coming to Science and Math.

Now she feels she's on the right path to eventually study American Indian law and biomedical engineering in college. Her friend Martinez is set on becoming a forensic anthropologist.

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