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July 30, 2008
By Guia Del Prado
The Global Kids Cultural Summer Camp, hosted by the University's Northern Nevada International Center, gives children in first through eighth grade the opportunity to explore the Great Basin’s Native American Tribes. The camp runs from Monday, July 28 through Friday, August 1.
The children in this week-long camp meet at the Billinghurst Middle School from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to learn about the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone tribes. The children in the camp are experiencing Native American cultures through interactive presentations, activities, field trips, arts and crafts, and cooking.
The 30 students in the camp have the opportunity to dance with the Eagle Wings Pageant Dancers from the Reno-Sparks Colony, learn about medicinal plants, and practice archery. The participants are also taking field trips to Pyramid Lake and Meeks Bay to meet with the Paiute Tribe and members of the Washoe Tribe.
Among those presenting and hosting activities with the young students are prominent figures in the local Native American Community such as Sherry Rupert, executive director of the State of Nevada Indian Commission, artist Tia Flores, and Arlan Melendez, chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
Lois Kane, coordinator of the Eagle Wings dance group and language/culture coordinator at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, says she jumped at the opportunity to share traditions and customs with the students to challenge their preconceived image of Native Americans.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to educate non-Indians about who we are, as native people of the Great Basin, and share our languages and cultural ways,” Kane says. “I want the kids to learn to recognize the similarities of our Native American Tribes and not lump them all together.”
Natasha Majewski, educational outreach coordinator at the NNIC and organizer for the camp, hopes to introduce diversity into the children’s world with the camp.
“It’s important especially for children, to open their minds at an early age to learn about things that they might not necessarily come into contact with, to form a forum for exchange,” Majewski says. “Our goal is to break down stereotypes while at the same time teaching about the native cultures we have around here.”
Both Majewski and Kane said they realize that while Native Americans are living nearby, Native American cultures and tribes are so unique that attending a powwow or visiting a reservation would be very much like traveling to a different country.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to learn about right here in our own country,” Kane says. “There’s a lot in Nevada to explore.”
Lupita Aguirre enrolled her children Rafael, 9, and Pablo “Sonic” Schultz-Aguirre, 7, in the camp last year so they could learn more about their Hispanic heritage, as the focus on the past year’s camp was on Latin America. This year, Aguirre hopes that Rafael and Pablo expand their knowledge about the history of their home and to learn about tolerance about other cultures.
“As part of our new home, I wanted for them to learn and be proud of the Native Americans,” Aguirre says. “That opens a different window on how to see the world. The more cultures you know, the more open you are to respecting other points of view.”
Aguirre also recognizes the bond she develops with her children as a volunteer at the summer camp and as a parent learning alongside her children.
“If I can be involved, too, that’s awesome,” Aguirre says. “As a parent, you can also learn with them at the same time and you have more topics to talk about at home.”
Rafael and Pablo, students at Pleasant Valley Elementary school, are also excited to learn about a different culture as well as participating in the different activities.
“Archery!” yelled Rafael and Pablo when asked which activity was their most anticipated.
Sending a student to the camp costs $180 with a 10 percent discount for each additional child from the same family. Since the costs are sometimes too steep for some interested families, NNIC offers two scholarships: one for Native American students and another need-based scholarship.
The funds for the full-ride Native American Scholarship were provided by Indian Education. Students are required to be registered with the Washoe County School District as Native American or Alaskan. The need-based scholarships are partial or full-ride and require families to send in a letter describing their financial situation.
“For me, the scholarships were excellent because my income is not regular,” Aguirre says. “It’s a way for parents if they have many kids and have a low income. It’s a good program.”
The Global Kids Camp started three years ago with discovering Latin American cultures and this year has traveled north. Majewski hopes that the camp will eventually explore the different cultures and heritages on all the continents.
“We started with south America and central America now we’re coming up to North America,” Majewski says. “We’re slowly traveling the globe.”