TUBA CITY, Ariz. - It all started when Kamehameha High School
Girls Cross Country Head Coach Joel Truesdell watched a 2002 movie
by independent film-maker C.P. Goheen called "Lady Warriors" about
the Tuba City High Girls Cross Country team who won four consecutive
Arizona State Championship cross country titles.
Truesdell watched the documentary at two Hawaiian island high
schools, Oahu and Hilo, and though he said that both high school
audiences were deeply moved, even to tears in some cases, that it
was really the Lady Warriors of Kamehameha High whom the film deeply
"That film just showed our Hawaiian girls cross country team
that they could truly have one foot in the western world and one
foot in their cultural world and be a total super success. Our cross
country team was so deeply inspired by the Lady Warriors of Tuba
City High," Truesdell said.
Truesdell, and his wife Elisabeth, came to the mainland in 2009
and 2010 to visit some of the colleges in the Southwest that might
be appropriate for their Hawaiian students to attend. They drove
to Sedona to stay over night. On a whim they decided to try to connect
with the cross country coaches in Tuba City.
So after they visited Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff,
they made a call to Tuba City High and talked to the athletic director
and the cross country coaches who invited them to come up to Tuba
City for a visit.
The Truesdells were shown around Tuba City High School, the
townships of both Upper and Lower Moencopi Hopi Villages and the
western agency portion of the town of Tuba. They were shown the
arduous cross country sandy training hills called "TC Hill" and
the Moencopi "Sand Hill."
"We don't have anything like these two steep, sandy, rocky hills
for our cross country team to train on in Hawaii," Truesdell said.
"Now, I do have them run through what is called "Volcano" Hawaii,
which is literally a live and dead volcano bedded area which is
really near our high school in Hilo. I also have them run several
big hills and on beach sand in Hilo to train."
Truesdell also explained that Kamehameha High incorporates what
Tuba City Unified School District is also practicing within all
their schools - putting tribal language and culture first in all
of their daily curriculum programs.
"Tribal education and tribal language and culture have shown
enormous success in all the Hawaiian schools that incorporate these
skills in their everyday education programs," he said. "We have
seen the rise in test scores and student achievement, self-esteem
by having their Hawaiian culture play an everyday part of their
academic pursuits. I am certain this is the case with Tuba City
schools since they also put their tribal languages of Hopi and Navajo
and their culture at the forefront of their studies."
The Lady Warriors of Kamehameha High School visited Tuba City
High School Oct. 13.
One of the most unique parts of the visit from the Lady Warriors
was a chant and dance presentation for the entire high school and
traditional Hawaiian gift exchange to district administrators.
Kamehameha Principal Veincent said he and his fellow visitors
were deeply honored to be in Tuba City.
"We won't say goodbye today because we fully expect for you
to visit us in our homeland of Hawaii and we certainly will come
back to visit you," Veincent said.
"Our students, Principal Veincent and myself were very impressed
with Superintendent Dr. Begay, his quiet command of his own Navajo
language and ease with his Navajo protocol were so dignified and
showed much leadership," Truesdell said. "I feel a deep connection
to your district and your students, staff, especially when we were
able to talk and discuss plans for a better tribal future."
Truesdell said his high school is only allowed to take trips
to the mainland every two years, so he is hoping that they will
be able to make a more extended visit to both Hopi and Navajo country
in 2016. He said that one of the best highlights of their visit
two years ago was when his cross country team had a Hopi taco making
evening at Upper Moencopi village where they made their own frybread.
"In Hawaiian culture, food preparation and eating together is
so important and that food exchange to eat and share with others
is really, really important, so just that one particular evening,
for our Hawaiian kids to share a homemade meal with their Hopi and
Navajo new relatives was something they talked about for months
after we went home," Truesdell said. "I am looking forward to our