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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 14, 2003 - Issue 89


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Noli Indian School graduates 19 seniors
The ceremony included Bird Singers and a 12-minute hoop dance.

by Diane A. Rhodes, Special to the Press-Enterprise

Bird Singers at the Makli Museum SOBOBA RESERVATION - In a solemn ceremony celebrating their cultural heritage, 19 Noli Indian School seniors graduated Monday night at the Soboba Sports Complex.

Cultural teacher Kim Marcus and other Cahuilla Bird Singers sang an honor song and champion hoop dancer Terry Goedel entertained the crowd of about 200 well-wishers.

The end of Goedel's 12-minute hoop dance signified an eagle soaring. His message to graduates was: "I hope you find what it takes to soar high."

Goedel, a Yakama/Tulalip Indian, said he learned the traditional hoop dance while at Brigham Young University earning his bachelor's degree. He has been perfecting and performing it for about 30 years.

The first member of the class of 2003 to take the stage to be recognized and presented with a diploma was Wilny Bitsui. Wilny exercised his option of wearing traditional clothing instead of a cap and gown.

Salutatorian Mark Morris said, that although this is not the first graduating class of Noli Indian School and it won't be the last, it is the best.

Senior valedictorian Chris Yearyean started his speech with a greeting in his native Choctaw language. Chris said he was drawn to the school because of his desire to learn more about his culture. He thanked his teachers and coaches for the positive effect they've had on his life.

"I found a home here at Noli," Chris said.

Noli is a LuiseÄno Indian word for "envision," which is fitting because the school was a one-room schoolhouse about 10 years ago and now boasts a student body of about 170.

Nine reservations, from San Diego to Palm Springs and San Bernardino, are represented on campus

"We have students who travel one and a half hours to be here each day," Principal Sandy Dixon said.

Graduates are: Wilny Bitsui, Navajo; Nolan Briones, Morongo Serrano; John Cassell, Los Coyotes Cahuilla Capeno; Autumn Cervantes, Soboba Luiseno; Brianna Duran, Agua Caliente; Nichole Elliott, Santa Rosa Mountain Cahuilla; Joanna Gomez, Soboba Luiseno; Christina Lopez, Santa Rosa Mountain Cahuilla; Krystle Merino, Maidu; Mark Morris, Chippewa; Issac Ramos, Santa Rosa Mountain Cahuilla; Patrick Resvaloso, Soboba Luiseno; Lisa Marie Twist, Cocopah; Melissa Salgado, Morongo Serrano; Edward Soza Jr., Morongo Serrano; Travis Swan, Hopi; Annalisa Tucker, Gila River; Dominique Vasquez, Morongo Serrano and Chris Yearyean, Choctaw.

Reach Diane A. Rhodes at

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