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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 26, 2003 - Issue 92


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Fort Mojave Teen Project Takes on a New Approach to Basketball

by Jena Scheuneman Needles Desert Star

Natalie DiazInstead of teaching youth to play basketball in the Arizona sun, Natalie Diaz will be taking some area teens to Hawaii to shoot hoops this summer.

Diaz, a River Valley High School graduate who has played on professional women's basketball teams, has begun a Fort Mojave Teen Project on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. Her goal is to help the youth learn to respect and be proud of themselves and their bodies through a variety of physical, cultural and intellectual activities.

"I'm trying to keep them busy and expose them to some things they might want to dedicate themselves to in the future,"Diaz said.

About 100 teens are involved in one activity or another in the program. The program includes such activities as weight training, art lessons, computer training, a creative writing seminar and lots of basketball.

Field trips are not ordinary. Participants have been on a trip to the Tolerance Museum in Los Angeles and to the "And 1 Mix Tape Tour"(basketball tournament) in Phoenix. They will go to the Grand Canyon State Games — an Olympic style athletic competition — July 18 and 19, in Tuba City. Those games will be dedicated to Lori Piestewa, the American Indian soldier and prisoner of war who was killed in Iraq.

And finally, July 26 to August 1, the most dedicated of the high school boys will participate in the World Youth Basketball Tournament in Maui, Hawaii. The tribe's bird dancers and singers will also perform during the game's opening ceremony.

When they are not touring, the high school students participate in daily activities they work out and lift weights at a local gym and meet with a nutritionist. One day a week they go to the Fort Mojave Child Care Center to read to preschool children. There are also beading classes at the tribe’s Cultural Center and art lessons from artist in residence Paul Jackson. A published poet, Tim Seibels, who is also a professor in the master of fine arts program at Old Dominion University, gave a creative writing workshop at the Aha Macav High School to sixteen of the teens.

Three of the teens recently participated in a week-long website training program in Parker. Students were taught how to build an Internet website and at the end of the seminar, were presented with their laptop computer and website building software. The three students, Raymond Rodriguez, Crystal Bedell and Regina Hills will be working on building a web site for the teen program.

A midnight basketball party kept teens at the Tribal Gym until about 2 a.m. Saturday, June 28. Besides basketball, Diaz arranged for door prizes, a barbecue and a disc jockey to play music.

"This gives the kids an option in the evenings, rather than getting into trouble,"Diaz said.

Youth from the Fort Mojave project will also host a three-on-three basketball tournament with teens from the Chemehuevi tribe and will teach a basketball workshop for teens in the Hualapai tribe.

Fort Mojave Teen Project is sponsored and funded by the tribal council. Some activities are done in conjunction with the Fort Mojave Recreation Center and with a teen job program called One-Stop.

"They like it,"Diaz said. "I think they like to commit and to take responsibility, which will be very good for them."

Fort Mohave Indian Reservation Map

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