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Canku Ota
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

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January 2021 - Volume 19 Number 1
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"Yá'át'ééh Bina"
The Navajo Greeting
"Good Morning!"

A covey of Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) on Irish Farmland

Frozen Ground
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"We must keep these waters for wild rice, these trees for maple syrup, our lakes for fish, and our land and aquifers for all of our relatives - whether they have fins, roots, wings, or paws. "
~ Winona LaDuke~
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We Salute
The First Indigenous Caldecott Medal Winner

A Tlingit illustrator is the winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in children's literature

The American Library Association announced winners of the nation's outstanding children's books this week. At the top of the list is "We Are Water Protectors," a picture book created by two Indigenous women.

It was illustrated by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade and written by Carole Lindstrom, Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe.

The selection is history-making, marking the first time an Indigenous person has ever won the Caldecott Medal.

The medal is the award for the most distinguished American children's picture book.
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Our Featured Artist: Honoring Students

17 Beautiful Indigenous Comic Books And Video Games For Kids

If you know where to look, there has been a noticeable reclamation for Indigenous storytellers. Notably, it's visible through technology and modern forms of online gaming, comic books, animation and transmedia. And while content for “mature audiences” is definitely on the rise, I was still able to find plenty of action for kids! These Indigenous and FNMI (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) creators hail from across Turtle Island, and are aiming to eliminate negative stereotypes of Indigenous peoples as seen throughout pop culture.

As Kickapoo comic book illustrator Arigon Starr said in an interview with VICE, “We were either shamans, mystic boogeyman, or pocahotties.” But new generations of kids won’t grow up with these visions if collections like Starr's Super Indian Comics and my selections below are shown to children from all cultural backgrounds.

American Indian College Fund Receives $600,000 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grant

The American Indian College Fund received a two-year, $600,000 grant from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to help tribal college communities strengthen and expand the pipeline for Native teachers through its Indigenous Early Childhood Education Systemic Engagement and ECE Learning in Native American Communities program.

Early childhood education can help close the college education attainment gap among American Indians and Alaska Natives—which is currently less than half of other groups at 14.8 percent—by improving students' academic achievement, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

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Our Featured Story: A Tribal History:

Tribal Elders Are Dying From The Pandemic, Causing A Cultural Crisis For American Indians

The virus took Grandma Delores first, silencing an 86-year-old voice that rang with Lakota songs and stories. Then it came for Uncle Ralph, a stoic Vietnam veteran. And just after Christmas, two more elders of the Taken Alive family were buried on the frozen North Dakota prairie: Jesse and Cheryl, husband and wife, who died a month apart.

“It takes your breath away,” said Ira Taken Alive, the couple’s oldest son. “The amount of knowledge they held, and connection to our past.”

One by one, those connections are being severed as the coronavirus tears through ranks of Native American elders, inflicting an incalculable toll on bonds of language and tradition that flow from older generations to the young.

A New Chahta Homeland: A History By The Decade

Over the next year and a half, Iti Fabvssa will be running a new series on Choctaw history that will cover each decade from 1830-2000. Since the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, many Choctaws have lived in what is now known as Oklahoma, the overlapping homelands of Caddo and other Indigenous nations.
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Education News Education News

MacKenzie Scott Donates To Three Tribal Colleges In Montana

Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated to three tribal colleges in Montana.

Scott, who previously donated $20 million to the American Indian Graduate Center and $5 million to the Institute of American Indian Arts, announced in December that she had donated $4.2 billion over four months to 384 organizations across the country.

NAJA, New York University Announce Full-Tuition Journalism Scholarship

The New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute is offering a new full-tuition scholarship to a Native American Journalism Association (NAJA) member admitted to one of the ten NYU journalism graduate programs in fall 2021.

The scholarship is worth more than $70,000.

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Who We Are Education News

Five Native Films You Should Be Streaming In 2021

A month before COVID ran rampant in the United States, fans of Native film had reason to celebrate. What now seems like years ago, Maori filmmaker Taika Waitiki took the stage on February 9th, 2020, at the Academy Awards ceremony to accept the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Set in Nazi Germany in the waning days of WWII, the winning film, Jojo Rabbit, was justly lauded for conveying a cathartic message of hope and humor during a time of unspeakable horror. Yet it’s the message Waitiki spoke from that elite podium that resonates loudest. The first Indigenous person to be nominated and to win the award, Waitiki stated before an international audience of television viewers, “I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids that live in the world who want to dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well.” Native filmmakers are telling stories that run the gamut of emotions, employing both new technology and ancient wisdom to create cinema that reflects their people’s experiences. I’m once again honored to be an advocate for the powerful Native films you should be streaming in 2021.

New Cartoon Wolf Joe Puts Emphasis On Anishinaabe Culture, Teachings

A new animated series that is focused on a First Nations boy and Anishinaabe teachings is giving young Indigenous viewers a chance to see their communities reflected on television.

Brett Huson, who is Gitxsan from Gitxsan territory in British Columbia, is the voice actor for Chief Madwe on Wolf Joe, airing on TVOKids and Radio Canada.

After watching the first handful of episodes online this weekend, Huson said his children, ages seven and 10, "are happy to see people that look like themselves."

"I sat down with my kids and watched," he said.

"They heard my voice and they saw my character. It was quite amazing to see my daughter's eyes; it was heartwarming to see."

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Covid-19 Covid-19

Northern Cheyenne Pen Pal Program Keeps Elders Connected During Pandemic Lockdown

When Activities Coordinator Silver Little Eagle, 23, first put a call out on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe's Elderly Program Facebook page for pen pal participants, she didn't know what to expect. Then letters started pouring in.

"When they first got their letters they were kind of surprised that they got that much attention," said Little Eagle. "They were thinking they were about to get a few letters or so. But each person got around 40 letters in the first batch of mail."

At First Wary Of Vaccine, Cherokee Speaker Says It Safeguards Language, Culture

The Cherokee Nation is using its first doses of coronavirus vaccine to preserve culture in addition to saving lives.

Cherokees, based in eastern Oklahoma, have directed some of their early doses of vaccine to frontline medical workers and the elderly — and have reserved some doses for Cherokee language speakers. The Cherokee Nation has had more than 11,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths, including at least 20 Cherokee speakers.
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Living Traditions Living Traditions

The Memory Code: How Oral Cultures Memorise So Much Information

Ancient Celtic bards were famous for the sheer quantity of information they could memorise. This included thousands of songs, stories, chants and poems that could take hours to recite in full.

Today we are pretty spoiled. Practically the whole of human knowledge is conveniently available at our fingertips. Why worry about memorising something when we can simply Google it?

The answer seems pretty evident when we go into a panic after losing our smartphones!

Long before the ancient Celts, Aboriginal Australians were recording vast scores of knowledge to memory and passing it to successive generations.

Chunkey: A Game Of Stones

The ancient game of chunkey has been revived in Cherokee communities in recent years as a means to show another aspect of tribal culture that is not well known.

It was played as far back as 600 CE and was thought to have started in the Cahokia region. Southeastern tribes played chunkey for gambling. Those who played risked their livelihoods and sometimes their lives, said Cole Hogner, Cherokee Nation Native Games chunkey coordinator.

"Traditionally, it was taken very serious," he said. "People would bet their house and everything they own on that game. From what I've read, they said losers were known to have committed suicide. After losing, I mean you lose everything. They didn't really have anything to live for because afterward it was very shameful to lose in that game."
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Living Traditions Living Traditions

Deb Haaland Wore Ribbon Skirt Made By This Choctaw Teen To Inauguration

When 19-year-old Bella Aiukli Cornell (Choctaw Nation) began sewing about four years ago, she couldn't have anticipated that one of her traditional ribbon skirts would be broadcast on televisions across the world from the Presidential Inauguration.

Cornell, who introduced herself over the phone in her tribe's Choctaw language, gifted a handmade ribbon skirt to New Mexican Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) back in 2019 during the congresswoman's visit to Cornell's hometown in Oklahoma City.

Haaland was selected by President Joe Biden to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Once confirmed by the Senate, she'll be the first Native American to serve in a cabinet position in the history of the United States.

Last week, Cornell saw the congresswoman wearing that same skirt on national television. Haaland wore the garb, along with traditional moccasins, to usher in the new president.


Tlingit Artist Designs New Google Doodle Featuring Alaska Native Civil Rights Leader Elizabeth Peratrovich

Alaskans may recognize a familiar face on Google's homepage Wednesday: civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich.

The illustration was created by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade of Sitka, who says Google reached out in August to see if she was interested in collaborating on a Peratrovich design. Peratrovich was an instrumental player in passing the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 — the first law of its kind to be passed by a U.S. state or territory in the 20th century.

"It's been really heartwarming, so much local support and excitement in our smaller Southeast Alaska community where her name is a household name," Goade said. "We don't always get a lot of attention in the bigger, national way, so I think having that representation — geographic wise — and Indigenous representation is really powerful for lots of people."
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Covid-19 Sovereignty

Yurok Tribe Environmental Program Will Operate Regenerative Farm

“The COVID-19 crisis illuminated a very real potential for food shortages in our rural region. We purchased this property to make the Tribe more self-sufficient during times of emergency and when things get back to normal. This property presents an ideal location to cultivate a tremendous amount of healthy, organic produce for our people,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Establishing this environmentally sustainable food security farm will also strengthen our sovereignty.”

“This year, we have taken significant steps toward radically increasing the availability of healthy foods on the reservation. With this acquisition and the purchase of the old Weitchpec nursery, we have secured more than 65 acres of land for food production, which will complement our efforts to restore our natural food resources. For many years to come, these projects will improve the physical and mental health of our youth, families and elders,” added Ryan Ray, the Yurok Tribal Council’s Requa District Representative.

Shinnecock Nation Asserts Sovereignty At Sunrise Highway Encampment

For 26 days, Shinnecock residents camped out along the Sunrise Highway — the only road in and out of the Hamptons.

“We've had snow, we've had rain, we've had sleet, we've been under tornado watch,” said Tela Troge. She’s a member of Warriors of the Sunrise, the group of Shinnecock women who organized the occupation. Troge said that this “Sovereignty Camp” was spurred by a recent dispute with state and local government over a 61-foot tall electronic billboard. The Shinnecock Nation built this monument along the highway to generate advertising revenue. Troge, who’s a lawyer, spent years on the legal research to prove that it was on Shinnecock land.

“Ever since the monument sign went up, New York state has fought tooth and nail against it, along with the town of Southampton,” she said.

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Living Legends   Education News

Navajo Woman Chosen To Head US Indian Energy

A Diné woman who knows what it's like to live without electricity and has fought for solar energy for her people has been selected to head the U.S. Office of Indian Energy Programs and Policy. She'll be taking over a program that the Trump administration nearly brought to its knees by cutting its budget by two-thirds.

Wahleah Johns is co-founder and director of Native Renewables, a company that brings solar energies to Native American homes and trains Navajo solar installers. She's also been a community organizer and advocate for water protection, and economic and environmental justice. She's chairwoman of the Navajo Green Economy Commission.


Cleaning First Mesa

First Mesa Annual Clean-up has been selected as a member of Youth Outside's Liberated Paths inaugural grantee cohort.

The grant making program prioritizes the leadership of communities of color involving some of the most pressing environmental issues and, as a grantee, First Mesa Annual Clean-up will be able to expand its programming to increase opportunities available to the community in First Mesa, Arizona.

"Cultural relevancy is a central underpinning of Youth Outside's grantmaking and strategic programs. Youth Outside defines cultural relevancy as the ability to effectively reach and engage communities and their youth in a manner consistent with the cultural context and values of that community, while effectively addressing disparities of equity and inclusion within an organization's entire structure," its website states.
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In Every Issue Banner
About This Issue's Greeting - "Yá'át'ééh Bina"

Navajo is an American Indian language spoken by between one hundred twenty and one hundred forty thousand people in the Southwestern United States.

Navajo is a member of the Athabaskan family of the Na-Dené group of languages. It is considered to be closely related to Apache
Nature's Beauty:
Gray Partridge
This Issue's
Favorite Web sites
A Story To Share:
Partridge The canoe builder
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Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000 - 2021 of Vicki Williams Barry and Paul Barry.

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