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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Linking Families, Language and Heritage


by Shannon Darling Visalia Times Delta


credits: Steve R. Fujimoto/Times-Delta

Children at playSeventy-year-old Marie Wilcox has a simple dream, a dream in which she hears the language spoken by her Wukchummi grandparents once again.

The language is dying.

"It is something I feel in my heart, I want to hear again," Wilcox said.

The dream came one step closer to becoming a reality Tuesday when the Owens Valley Career Development Center held its grand opening.

'The center's mission is to provide Native American Indians with cultural education, programs and opportunities.

Finding just the right book,Wilcox will teach families that go to the center the Wukchummi her grandparents taught her.

"[Learning the language] will help bring families together," Wilcox said. "And they will be proud of their heritage."

Wilcox, a resident of Woodlake, said it is a welcome sight to see a center for Native Americans open in Visalia.

The center will provide services for Native American families. Those services include Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, vocational education and family literacy.

The nonprofit, federally funded center says it hopes to use welfare reform money not only to help families in need, but also to empower Native Americans with culture.

"We will provide families an opportunity to strive for economic self-sufficiency," Esther Stauffer, family literacy coordinator, said. "It will also help them identify who they are and where they came from."

Coloring is fun!Stauffer, a native Alaskan, said it is important for Native Americans to know their language and history.

Tracy Andrew of Visalia is half Cherokee Indian. She said the center is a great place for her children.

"They make moccasins and take classes on Indian heritage," Andrew said.

Her children also participate in basketball, boxing, basketmaking and photography classes.

The center will also have math, reading and writing tutoring, parenting classes and vocational classes, which will vary.

Stauffer said the center currently serves about 65 Native American families, and that is before its official opening.

Tulare Valley Career Development Center logoThere are other Owens Valley Centers in Tulare County also in Porterville and on the Tule Indian Reservation.

Owens Valley Centers are also in Inyo, Mono, Kern, Kings and Fresno counties.

Families gathered at the opening of the center, and Wilcox gave a blessing in her native language before they ate dinner.

"Help us learn our Indian language," she said. "Help me bring my language back to me."

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