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

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April 2021 - Volume 19 Number 4
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Kumeyaay Indian Language

Eastern American Toad
Anaxyrus americanus americanus (formerly Bufo americanus)

Sticky Ground; Wheat Sowing Time

Acoma/Laguna Pueblo
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"A Warrior is challenged to assume responsibility, practice humility, and display the power of giving, and then center his or her life around a core of spirituality. I challenge today's youth to live like a warrior."
~Billy Mills~
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We Salute
Isabella Cornell Makes History Twice With Her Designs

Most people do not get to see themselves make history in their own lifetime, especially not twice and by the age of 22, but that is exactly what Isabella Aiukli Cornell has done, all in the name of advocating for Indigenous women. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, this proud Choctaw woman has seen her specially designed prom dress become a permanent display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and a ribbon skirt she designed and made was worn to the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
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Our Featured Artist: Honoring Students

This Groundbreaking New Museum Holds The Largest Collection Of Inuit Art

There's one piece you can't help but notice in Canada's new Qaumajuq (KOW-ma-yourk) museum, which opened as an extension of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) last week. It's a glistening space suit sewn from spotted sealskin; futuristic helmet on top, traditional hunting gear below. It is spectacular, even in pictures, created by Iqaluit artist Jesse Tungilik as a childhood throwback to the hunting clothes his mom made from caribou hide. The bulky ensemble, worn in the hostile environs of northern Canadian, made Tungilik feel like an astronaut on unfamiliar planets. It's a longing he later translated to the piece, Tungilik told the CBC, hoping to convey to Inuit people that they were not limited in their life choices; they could, as it were, reach for the stars.

The College Student Who Decoded The Data Hidden In Inca Knots

THERE ARE MANY WAYS A college student might spend spring break. Making an archaeological breakthrough is not usually one of them. In his first year at Harvard, Manny Medrano did just that.

"There's something in me, I can't explain where it came from, but I love the idea of digging around and trying to find secrets hidden from the past," Medrano says.

With the help of his professor, Gary Urton, a scholar of Pre-Columbian studies, Medrano interpreted a set of six khipus, knotted cords used for record keeping in the Inca Empire. By matching the khipus to a colonial-era Spanish census document, Medrano and Urton uncovered the meaning of the cords in greater detail than ever before. Their findings could contribute to a better understanding of daily life in the Andean civilization.
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Our Featured Story: First Person History:

PBS KIDS' "Molly of Denali" Improves Kids' Ability To Deal With Real World

PBS KIDS' Molly of Denali, the first U.S. nationally distributed children's series with an Alaska Native lead, continues its groundbreaking work in childhood development with the release of the first-ever study that connects children's understanding of informational text to digital media.

Informational text, or text meant to inform, can be challenging for young readers to understand as they are more familiar with narrative stories. However, when digital media is intentionally designed to have characters solve real-world problems using informational text, early learners' engagement and comprehension skills are more likely to increase.

A New Chahta Homeland:
A History by the Decade, 1850-1860

Over the next year and a half, Iti Fabvssa is running a series that covers Oklahoma Choctaw history. By examining each decade since the Choctaw government arrived in our new homelands, and using Choctaw-created documents, we will get a better understanding of Choctaw ancestors’ experiences and how they made decisions that have led us into the present. This month, we will be covering 1850-1860, a decade of dealing with the central issues for the Treaty of 1855, its fallout and the lead up to the U.S. Civil War.
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Education News Education News

Cherokee Nation Gives Record $6.3M To Public Schools

After a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic and Oklahoma schools struggling to provide for students because of it, the Cherokee Nation on April 7 provided a record $6.3 million to 107 school districts during a virtual Public School Appreciation Day event.

The tribe has provided such funds annually since 2002 via revenue from motor vehicle tag sales, allocating 38% to education This year funds equated to $217.09 per student for nearly 30,000 students who are CN citizens, though funding helps all students.

Pathway To Law Initiative Offers 'Auntie' Mentorship To Native Kids

Katie Rosier (Comanche Tribe), executive director of the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, is on a mission to create a pathway for Native kids across the country to practice law.

"We basically act like aunties and uncles, helping people figure out what they need, and what they want from a law school," she told Native News Online.

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Education News Education News

NASA Taps Cherokee Nation To Create Curriculum

In collaboration with Oklahoma State University, the Cherokee Nation is one of three Oklahoma tribes chosen by NASA to create a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum that includes Native American culture.

As part of a $3.3 million program called Native Earth|Native Sky, the program will “build culturally-relevant earth-sky STEM programming" to help increase students' understanding and interest in STEM, according to


'Required': North Dakota Passes Native Education Bill

A North Dakota bill requiring curriculum to be taught on Native American history for K-12 students passed in the State house on Tuesday.

The bill passed on a 72-21 vote.

North Dakota State House Rep. Ruth Buffalo of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation said that prior to this bill's passing, the state law and century code left it to individual school districts discretion on whether or not to teach Native American history.

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Preserving Language Preserving Language

Learning Our Languages

March has been an intensive Osage language learning time for me, close to immersive. It's been productive and synergistic. I was able to take Osage Chelsea Hicks' month-long class Learning Our Languages: Support for Indigenous Language Beginners through the Continuing Education Department at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Tuition was $14, and we met twice a week. One of the requirements is that students take a language course. An Osage language series that the Nation's Language Department is offering through Northern California Osage was slated to begin in early March. Being focused on Osage in the particular ways that Chelsea's class required has made Wah Zha Zhe ie part of my days.

Southern Utes, Fort Lewis College Will Offer Ute Language Classes

In an effort to spread Ute language fluency to younger generations, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Fort Lewis College are working on a program to certify more instructors who can teach the Ute language both on the reservation and in K-12 schools.

The 10-course certification will be held over three years with the first four courses offered from June 1 to July 20 at Ignacio High School. Classes are also expected to be available online.
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Preserving Language Education News

Cherokee Translator Sixkiller Lives Her Language

A fluent Cherokee speaker and longtime translator, Anna Sixkiller has become a caretaker for the language she holds dear.

"That is my language. It's my first language," said Sixkiller, a Cherokee National Treasure since 1991. "It's what I work with every day. I really think about a lot of things when I translate something – who's going to be looking at it and how they're going to look at it, how they're going to feel, what they're going to say. I want to put the right words in there so they can understand."

For more than two decades, Sixkiller, 75, of Kansas, Oklahoma, has helped translate the language for the Cherokee Nation and its immersion school, museums, universities, libraries, hospitals, the Cherokee Phoenix and even large tech empires such as Microsoft.

First Lady Jill Lady Biden Spent Her Last Day Of Her Visit To The Navajo Nation Among School Children And Frontline Health Care Workers

First Lady Jill Biden on Friday spent her last day of a two-day visit to the Navajo Nation visiting with students, educators, parents and frontline health care workers.

On Friday morning, Biden joined Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and First Lady Phefelia Nez for a visit to Hunters Point Boarding School where they met with Navajo students, parents, and educators to discuss their personal challenges and success stories during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Living Traditions Living Traditions

Slavin Descendant Continues Family Traditions

Crafting one-of-a-kind, thoughtful pieces of regalia provides Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Lakota Pochedley encouragement and motivation. Although the Slavin descendant maintains a busy schedule as the tribal historic preservation officer for Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe), she finds creating, especially for loved ones, offers a sense of balance.

"There's nothing like it — when you see the whole puzzle come together because it took so much time, and so much of what I create is just for that one person. It's truly amazing," Pochedley said.

Sugarbush Brings Healing, Sweet Maple Syrup

Sugarbush time begins in the fleeting moments when winter first signals its departure, making way for spring. When the daytime temperatures rise above 40 degrees, usually about mid-March, the maple sap begins to flow.

Although one can continue to gather sap after trees begin to bud, the syrup is bitter. Sugarbush is a short, delicious season of intense work signaling that the first fruits of the earth are emerging. Fresh maple sap is highly perishable and must be cooked into syrup or sugar soon after gathering. Sugarbush time usually lasts about 3 weeks.

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Living Traditions Living Traditions

How To Make A 5,000-Year-Old Energy Bar

"IN SECRETS OF POLAR TRAVEL", explorer Robert Peary spends several pages waxing poetic about the merits of a ration he brought on his expeditions to the Arctic between 1886 and 1909. In addition to ranking it “first in importance” among his supplies, he genuinely enjoyed the food, writing that it was the only meal “a man can eat twice a day for three hundred and sixty-five days in a year and have the last mouthful taste as good as the first.”

Peary was talking about pemmican, a blend of rendered fat and powdered, dried meat that fueled exploration and expansion long before his attempts to reach the North Pole. Archaeological evidence suggests that as early as 2800 BC humans hunted the bison that roamed North America’s Great Plains and blended their meat, fat, and marrow into energy-dense patties with a serious shelf-life. A single pound of pemmican lasted for years and might’ve packed as many as 3,500 calories.


Arizona Declares State Holiday To Honor Navajo Code Talkers

Arizona has adopted a new state holiday to honor Navajo Nation members who used their language to pass on coded messages during World War II.

Driving the news: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on Monday that designates Aug. 14 "Navajo Code Talkers Day."

  • If Aug. 14 doesn't fall on a Sunday, the day will be observed the following Sunday.
  • Proponents have been urging the state to adopt a holiday since President Ronald Reagan declared Navajo Code Talkers Day by presidential proclamation on Aug. 14, 1982.
What they're saying: “The Navajo Code Talkers are American heroes. They assisted on every major operation involving the U.S. Marines in the Pacific theatre, using their native language to come up with an unbreakable code," Ducey said in a statement.
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Education News   Education News

Stilwell Grad On Path To Becoming Doctor

A Cherokee Nation citizen whose passion is to ensure Native American communities have access to medicine is embarking on a chapter of his life toward that goal.

"I would love to ultimately return home to work in Cherokee Nation hospitals to provide aid to my people, but I also recognize that there may be other Native American populations that are suffering worse than our own," said medical student Dakota St. Pierre. "I would love to graduate medical school and residency and begin working with Indian Health Services to provide aid to communities that would benefit from it the most."


California Bill Advances To Protect Native Students' Rights To Wear Cultural Items

California State Assembly's Education Committee earlier this month unanimously approved a bill that will protect Native American students' rights to wear cultural items at graduation.

The bill, proposed by Assemblymember James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe) in February, will establish a 10-person task force of tribal representatives from across the state to develop best practices for protecting students' rights to wear traditional tribal regalia to school graduation ceremonies. The task force will submit a report on implementing the law to the Legislature by spring 2023, the bill reads.
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Traditions   Remembering Heritage

Quill Art Develops Patience, Cultural Connection For Artists

Porcupine quills have inspired recent research into improving the design of hypodermic needles and surgical staples, but Nishnabé people have used them for practical and artistic purposes for hundreds of years.

Quill art uses the structure of the mammal's primary defense mechanism to create sturdy and beautiful hand-made applique quill boxes, headdresses, jewelry and much more. While some traditional items serve utilitarian functions, the vast majority of the objects made in the last 150 years remain purely artistic.


Mississippi Returns Hundreds of Native Americans' Remains to Chickasaw Nation

Between 750 and 1,800 years ago, hundreds of Native Americans in what is now the northern Mississippi Delta region were buried alongside their kin and pet dogs in graves decorated with wolf teeth, beads, vases and turtle shells.

Instead of remaining in the ground as their loved ones had intended, the deceased were eventually unearthed by archaeologists and placed in state storage, as Brian Broom reports for the Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Their remains sat on shelves in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) for decades.
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Traditions   Honoring Heroes

Disproportionate Representation Of Native Americans In Foster Care Across United States

Native Americans are up to four times more likely to have their children taken and placed into foster care than their non-Native counterparts. Oklahoma Department of Human Services reported in 2020 that Native children represented more than 35 percent of those in foster care, yet Native Americans make up only around 9 percent of Oklahoma’s population.

“That is the definition of racial disproportionality,” said Citizen Potawatomi Nation FireLodge Children & Family Services Foster Care/Adoption Manager Kendra Lowden.

Sunken Ship Commanded By Cherokee Found In Pacific

MUSKOGEE – On April 1, the U.S. Navy, working with the company Caladan Oceanic, located the wreck of the USS Johnston in 21,000 feet of water off the Philippine island of Samar.

The ship was lost during the Battle of Samar and was commanded by Cherokee Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Earnest Edwin Evans. As commander of the USS Johnston, his aggressive nature and bravery helped win the battle against the Japanese navy in October 1944.

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About This Issue's Greeting - "HOWKA!"
The Kumeyaay, once referred to as Diegueno by the Spanish, were the original native inhabitants of San Diego County. The Kumeyaay, Yuman-speaking people of Hokan stock, have lived in this region for more than 10,000 years. Historically, the Kumeyaay were horticulturists and hunters and gatherers. They were the only Yuman group in the area, and were the people who greeted the Spanish when they first sailed into San Diego harbor with the Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo expedition of 1542.
Nature's Beauty:
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A Story To Share:
Big Turtle
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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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