By Jodi Rave
First, a review of a recent trip that prompted my decision to leave the newspaper business, which has provided me with inspiration, arguably more than 1,000 stories and columns, and a steady paycheck for the last 13 years.
Last week, I visited three South Dakota reservations--Lower Brule, Cheyenne River and Crow Creek--to talk with youths about the power of our voices, a power we enhance through reading and writing skills. The speaking-writing invitation came from the Changing Winds Advocacy Center, a nonprofit Native civil rights and education agency based in Fairfield, Conn.
Youths are some of the most inspiring people I've ever met. This includes 9-year-old Venetia St. Cloud, a member of the Lower Brule Boys and Girls Club. She wanted to take me up on my challenge: Write a story using as many Lakota words as possible.
Changing Winds has provided some organizations in South Dakota with Lakota language tapes and books by and about Lakota people and culture. Additionally, the organization has invited “Native role models to give children an idea of the ways they can work within their culture with a strong vision for the future,” said Rose.
I support Rose's Changing Winds Literacy Project, a program she launched to get kids to write about what's on their mind. I agreed to go to South Dakota and collect some of the students' drawings, short stories and poems. Rose plans to publish their work in a newspaper called Hocik?la!, which translates into Lakota as “small voices.”
The paper will be distributed in South Dakota. “We have funding in place to carry this project for six months, and we are going ahead on faith because we believe this is an important project for the kids,” said Rose. “If the project is good, we believe the money will come to keep it going.”
I know Rave only from a brief meeting and a few e-mails, but I'm a decent friend of Rose's. She's a non-Native like me who's become passionate about Native issues in the last decade or so. But she's much more of an activist than I am: visiting South Dakota frequently, getting involved in legal cases and clothing drives there, and now starting a nonprofit dedicated to education.
I did supply some materials for the Bittersweet Winds exhibit she helped organize. You can read about that in "I Was a Teenage Mascot" and Traveling Exhibit Features Stereotypes. Not many people have collected as many stereotypical images as I have.
Here's a previous posting from Rose so you can see where she's coming from. It's a good bet that she'll accomplish what she's set out to do.
Of course, she needs to think about having the kids create comic books in their Native languages. That should be the next project after the newspaper. <g>