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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 15, 2003 - Issue 100


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Kids TV Show Puts Focus on American Indian Kids


Whether climbing rocks in Monument Valley, grass dancing at Crow Agency or playing a pickup game of basketball in the land of Chief Joseph, to thousands of American Indian children, the reservation is home.

Journalist Linda Ellerbee traveled to three Indian reservations this summer to interview dozens of kids, ages 11 to 15, for a 30-minute news program for the cable network Nickelodeon.

"They have a great sense of humor based, I think, on a recognition of the absurdities of the world," Ellerbee said in a Monday phone interview from her office in New York City.

Those conversations are funneled into the Nick News Special Edition, "This Land Was My Land: Kids on Reservations." The show aired at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9, on Nickelodeon.

What Ellerbee found in the wide-open spaces of Western tribal reserves were youths like kids everywhere. Grounded in their culture, they listened to music, rode bicycles, watched TV and clicked online to their favorite Web pages.

"As usual, we talked to more kids than are in the program," Ellerbee said.

Several youths from Crow Agency, Mont., are featured in the program. They talk with honesty about the beauty of their reservation, the poverty they face and how the non-Indian culture perceives them.

Other portions of the show feature kids from the Navajo Reservation in Utah and the Nez Perce in Idaho. The Navajo is the largest of the three reservations, and the Nez Perce reservation looks like a checkerboard of white and Indian neighborhoods and communities. The Crow Agency has maintained a fluency in its traditional language better than the other reservations, according to Ellerbee.

"Many more (youths) were fluent on the Crow Reservation than the other two," she said.

Ellerbee doesn't sugarcoat the program for its youthful audience, revealing that eight out of 10 people at Crow Agency are unemployed. She also says that the Crow, Navajo and Nez Perce reservations have some of the poorest communities in the United States. Some Navajo children go to work at a young age to help their families. Others talk about the subtleties of discrimination.

As a young girl from Crow Agency, Mont., said, "It's like America, but smaller."

Ellerbee set about reporting the stories because they comprise one of the many threads that make up the fabric of American history as well as who we are.

"What happens to kids on reservations is our story," Ellerbee said.

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