Youth helps dispel "Indian Myth" in Denmark
from an article in Oklahoma Indian Times
|When Lee Nells traveled to Denmark this past summer
he expected to dispel some myths about Native Americans but didn't expect to find that he was the myth.
the very young school children of his "exchange mom" had little knowledge of Native Americans, aside
from a few stories they had heard, and the movies. They touched him when he came to class, to see if he was real
and not just a story they had heard.
It was all
part of the cultural exchange program called "Faces of America," promoting awareness through exchange
students who travel across the world. Judy Gamble, family consumer science teacher at Sequoyah High School, said
the process is a long paper trail that weeds out all but the most hardy.
must be diligent," said Gamble. "It takes a lot of time and most students don't have the discipline to
come through. Lee spent hours and hours on the paperwork."
At 16, Lee,
who is Cheyenne/Arapaho/Navajo, found himself representing Native Americans in Denmark for six weeks, after the
paperwork, interviews and orientation was finished.
town Lee visited, located about an hour from the Russian border, was quiet and cool, quite different from the Oklahoma
summer he was used to. People, he said, are very environmentally conscious, recycling everything and preferring
bicycles and roller blades to cars.
family, which included parents, Trice and Bent, and 16-year-old Jonas, spoke very good English, Lee said, so he
had to stay away from slang. They treated him to museums and other historic sites the area had to offer. Lee didn't
miss much television, as there were few Denmark stations.
are American," Lee said, of television. "They love American movies."
Bent to work, where he teaches computer technology at a vo-tech center. Students, Lee said, can learn a trade there
and either seek more education or move right into the work force. Many, he said, opt for the job, as Jonas had.
with computers and knows every 'in and out' of them," said Lee. "He's been working with them since he
was about 6 years old."
a month with the family before heading for a nearby boarding school where he entered classes of his choice. There
were opportunities to experience kayaking and candy-making, but being an award-winning artist already, Lee spent
most of his time in art class.
With the American
in mind, Denmark malls, clothing and music prevent a head-on clash with culture shock. Food, however, was not as
flavorful as Lee would have liked.
he said. "I missed spicy food."
seemed a lot like home, especially the bigger cities.
me understand other people," Lee said. "We aren't the only ones who need help. There were also a lot
of homeless there, walking the streets."
Lee fit into
the exchange family's activities since he travels with his American family and dance group "Little Thunder,"
dancing and singing traditional Native American songs. Lee's parents are James and Elana Nelis of Moodys. His exchange
family, he said, spent many evenings singing together.
has some traveling to do, since he was recently chosen to go to Washington, D.C. in October to review his Denmark
trip with other students and people with the exchange program.
help him later in life," said Gamble. "It taught him tolerance, how to learn to accept their practices.
And he learned from them. They want him to spread the word on what the Danish are like."
the only thing they know (about Native Americans)," she told Lee. "What you showed them is what they
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