Whitman mentors to visit Nixyaawii community

Hanna Ory

The American Indian Association is recruiting Whitman mentors to join in a cultural initiative project at the Nixyaawii Community High School in Pendleton, Ore. With 56 students currently enrolled, it is the first school to be opened on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Students and mentors involved in the program will focus on oral tradition and an interview project surrounding the elders of their community.

While the school provides both language and cultural classes, the mentors will assist high school students with a hands-on learning project in their community. The project will encourage Nixyaawii students to meet with elders from their community once a week to share stories and learn about their lives. The students will then select an artistic medium of their choice to portray these stories. There will also be a written portion of the program. The culmination of the project will be in December, when students will present their project to the entire Nixyaawii community.

The Whitman mentors will serve as guides for the students by helping them formulate ideas and prepare their presentations.

“It’s an important opportunity to get to know another culture. Whitman students have an opportunity to be a part of a very important cultural movement,” said sophomore Chelsea Marks, a second-year veteran of the program.

“The project is, for me, a statement of the tribes’ ability to self-represent their culture and traditions as well as engaging their youth with the elders. It is the passing of knowledge through stories and teaching the students their tribal history as it should be taught: by word of mouth, not in a text book,” Marks said.

The American Indian Association hopes to preserve Native American cultural traditions and stories through this initiative.

“Oral traditions have within them valuable information, such as history, culture, traditions and the language. For me, stories told by my grandparents resonate with me and guide me toward the path I need to be on,” Marks said.

The project also aims to bridge the widening gap between the elders and youth of the community.

“The elders know how things once were, before assimilation, before reservations, before boarding schools. To give the gift of knowledge to the youth is important for the well-being of the tribe, because one can’t quite know where they’re going until they have know where they have been,” Marks said.

It is undetermined what day of the week the Whitman mentors will visit the Nixyaawii community,
but mentors should expect to spend approximately two hours per week at the school with transportation provided. If you are interested in being a part of this project, please contact Chelsea Marks at [email protected]