Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
December 25, 1999
Taking Pride in Heritage
adapted by Garnet1654 from an article by Scott Sexton-Kalamazoo Gazette
||By taking her teen-aged sons to a school-sponsored
Indian education program, Geri Meyle hopes to help them take pride in their Native American ancestry instead of
was so ashamed of her heritage, she wouldn't even tell my dad," said Meyle, fingering the bracelet and ring
she inherited from her Cherokee grandmother. "She was taught to be a white person. If I hadn't pressured her,
I wouldn't have heard about half of who I am."
So when she
learned about the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency's weekly classes in the Indian Education Program,
Meyle, who also had a Lakota grandfather, figured she could give it a try. Between what she learned from her grandmother
and what she picked up on her own, Meyle figured she still could do more to help her sons know their ancestry.
like for (sons Spencer and Mitch) to learn something about their culture before its all gone," Meyle said.
She and her
boys showed up at the KRESA office recently to take part in an Ojibway language class and hear a lecture on sweat
lodges by Lakota Lee Black Bear.
|They settled in front row seats and sounded out the
words for different animals, welcome (binndagen) and points on the compass.
all know the casino in Sault Ste. Marie, Kewadin?" asked Ojibway instructor Teresa Magnuson. "It means
Indian Education program has been around for more than 20 years, it only recently was opened up to students throughout
the county's nine school systems when it was transferred to KRESA from the Kalamazoo Public Schools, said program
director Val Kettlehut.
to the weekly culture classes, students of Native American ancestry are eligible for tutoring assistance and help
in KRESA's computer labs.
some Native American programs in other areas, the school-sponsored Indian Education effort does not require a child
to be from a specific tribe or have a certain percentage of Indian ancestry. Students from kindergarten through
12th grade can take part.
identified 267 students in Kalamazoo County so far who can participate," said Kettlehut. "There is no
minimum blood quotient or requirement, either. Nobody has to prove anything to participate."
can be descended from any tribe in any part of the country, most of the instruction centers on the Three Fires
Tribes of Michigan - the Potawatomi, the Odawa (historically known as Ottawa) and the Ojibway (Chippewa).
focus on Native Americans indigenous to Michigan drew Michigan State University student Angie Shinos to attend
a recent culture class.
who grew up on a reservation near Traverse City, Shinos said she's pleased to see children taking pride in their
heritage rather than shunning it - something that still goes on today.
I went to school there were still kids who would tease you about (being Native American)," Shinos said. "As
far as I know, this is the only off-reservation program like it around."
a sense of pride and belonging is part of the reason Black Bear drove to Kalamazoo from his Ann Arbor home to speak
to the 50 or so people about the sweat lodge and his experience growing up on a South Dakota reservation.
being Lakota and I wished I was a white guy," said Black Bear. "Now I enjoy knowing that I have had 1,000-year-old
knowledge passed on to me. Through my own ignorance, I negated a lot of what was taught to me."
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