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SFPS program instills Native American heritage

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Dustin Martin, Diné, center, plays games with Elizabeth Dasheno, 11, Santa Clara, and other Native American students at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center on Wednesday. Martin works with Wings of America and helps promote running among Native youth. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Capital High School sophomore Angelina Trevizo says she learns teamwork, makes friends and learns about her own Native heritage through Santa Fe Public School’s Native American Student Services programs.

Not much is taught in the classrom about Native American history and culture. “But in this program they teach about who we really are,” she said during the annual NASS Harvest Feast held Wednesday at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

The event is one of the ways the school district fosters a sense of community among its more than 400 Native students. Angelina says she’s made a lot of friends through the program, partly because no matter what pueblo or tribe they come from, they all have something in common.

“We might not all be from the same culture, but we all have the same vibe,” said Angelina, who is one-half Cochiti.

Sequoia Begay, a freshman at Santa Fe High, says she enjoys the NASS summer program, during which Native students work on projects, take field trips and “learn about being Native.”

“We don’t have subjects that teach us about Native things in school,” said Sequoia, who is among the more than 100 Navajo students in SFPS schools.

For Wednesday’s posole potluck, she was seated at a table with her mother, Joyce Begay, and grandmother, Darlene Deale.

“She’s never been on the reservation,” said Deale of her granddaughter. “She doesn’t know about Native life – just what she’s learned from me and her mother.”

Deal herself was taken off the reservation and transplanted in Chicago as part of the BIA’s effort to assimilate Native students some 60 years ago.

“I didn’t have this kind of program when I was growing up,” Sequoia’s mother said. “They show kids that there’s still this Native culture. We’re still here.”

The Harvest Feast was co-sponsored by Wings of America, a youth development program for Native kids with a focus on running.

“We try to capitalize on our cultural heritage to teach kids to take care of themselves, and the connections we have to the environment and landscape,” said Dustin Martin, executive director of Wings of America, which has worked with students in the Santa Fe schools for seven years.

Martin said running is a big part of Native American heritage.

“The act of running was almost an act of survival and resilience,” he said.

Famously, runners were sent out to spread the word about the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Centuries later, Louis Tewanima (Hopi) and Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota) won medals for the United States at the Olympic Games, and many other Native Americans have excelled at endurance running.

Martin led students attending Wednesday’s event on a pre-feast run/walk and through a series of games in one of the GCCC gyms.

Nolan Hill no longer attends Santa Fe Public Schools, having transferred to Santa Fe Indian School after the seventh grade. Now a freshman, he still stays involved with NASS as a teaching assistant during the three-week summer program.

Hill, who is part Navajo and part Cherokee, works mostly with young students, helping them with their English and math skills. They also go on field trips to museums and pueblos, where they learn from elders and storytellers.

“You don’t learn much about indigenous people in the public schools,” he said, adding that Popay, leader of the Pueblo Revolt, is about the only name that comes up. “What NASS tries to do is help with that teaching so students have more of the indigenous perspective.”