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

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February 2021 - Volume 19 Number 2
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"Hello! "

Prairie Rose (Rosa arkansana)

Kohmagi mashath
The Gray Month
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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
Mary Golda Ross: The First Native American Aerospace Engineer And Space Race "Pioneer

When Mary Golda Ross, the first Native American aerospace engineer, began her career at the aerospace company Lockheed during World War II, women engineers were rare and most companies expected them to leave after the war was over to make room for returning men. Ross was such a phenomenal talent, however, that she not only stayed at Lockheed for over 30 years years, she became an integral member of the top-secret Skunk Works program involved in cutting edge research during the early years of the space race. As one of 40 engineers in Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects division, Ross was the only female engineer on the team and the only Native American. Her research was so secret that, even in 1994, she had to be coy with an interviewer about her work: "I was the pencil pusher, doing a lot of research," she said. "My state of the art tools were a slide rule and a Friden computer.

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Our Featured Artist: Honoring Students

St. Paul Artist Marlena Myles Celebrates Her Native Heritage And Shares Little-known History In First Solo Exhibit

It's not unusual for St. Paul-based artist Marlena Myles' work to be shown in museums. Her digital art, built on her Native heritage, has been exhibited at Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Minnesota Museum of American Art and the Red Cloud Heritage Center in Pine Ridge, S.D.

The Twin Cities saw her animated piece "Innerworld Prism" in a big way recently — projected on Highlight Tower in Northeast Minneapolis as part of the Great Northern Festival.

What might seem unusual is the location of Myles' first solo exhibit: The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.


How The Navajo Nation Is Transforming Math Education

From intricate numerical systems to astronomical observatories, from suspension bridges to geometrical ornaments and board games, Native American civilizations have been innovators in the fields of mathematics and engineering.

While European invasion dealt considerable destruction and persecution to Native American cultures, members of Indigenous groups have demonstrated unwavering interest and talent when it comes to mathematics. During World War II, for example, Navajo Code Talkers were revered for their bravery as well as their cryptography skills. “Mathematics is in our blood,” says Henry Fowler of Navajo Bitter-water and Zuni Edgewater clans, who is an associate professor of mathematics at Navajo Technical University. “Our Navajo women are the knowledge keepers, and they instill the love for mathematics into children at an early age.”
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Our Featured Story: First Person History:

10 Things Native Americans Wish Everyone Else Knew

Native Americans occupied much of the land in North America long before the United States of America ever raised its flag and claimed that land as its own. Yet, on the whole, Native communities are largely misunderstood by many Americans.

That's why it's important to make an effort to learn about other cultures of the people, like Native Americans, who inhabit the same land. Increasing awareness of other cultures increases respect, cooperation, communication and decreases stereotypes as well as ethnic and racial division.

With that in mind, here are 10 things Native Americans wish everyone knew.

A New Chahta Homeland: A History By The Decade, 1830-1840

Over the next year and a half, Iti Fabvssa is running a new series that covers Oklahoma Choctaw history. By examining each decade since Choctaw arrival in our new homelands 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 1830-1840, a period when Choctaws responded to removal and established themselves in the new homeland.
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Education News Education News

Student Creates Video Game To Teach, Preserve Ojibwe Traditions

Growing Up Ojibwe: The Game, in which players can both engage with and learn about Ojibwe practices and tradition, is now available to download on Android devices, and is also playable on any web browser.

Players can choose to play as either Tommy or Annie Sky, two Ojibwe youth, as they embark on a journey through northern Wisconsin to learn about their heritage. The game is based on a children's book series of the same name.

Eleanore Falck is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and the artist, programmer, and developer of Growing Up Ojibwe: The Game. She designed the game during a summer internship with the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC). The organization also published the book series.


'Basketball Or Nothing' Wins Sports Documentary Of The Year

The 11th Annual Realscreen Awards ceremony was held virtually this year as the organization recognized documentaries and works of non-fiction. This year there were four nominees for best sports documentary.

In the running were "The Last Dance," featuring NBA legend Michael Jordan, "LANCE," about Lance Armstrong and "D. Wade: Life Unexpected," about basketball's Duane Wade.

But the winner for best sports documentary was none other than "Basketball or Nothing," featuring high school athletes from Chinle.

"Basketball or Nothing" is a series that follows the Wildcat team and the journey to the state championships. In addition to basketball, the documentary also reveals the hardship of the people, the struggles kids on the reservation had to face and how despite those struggles they emerged victorious.
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Education News Preserving Language

First Look: Nickelodeon Unveils Lakota Character On "The Casagrandes"

Meet Charles Little Bull: He's a role-model grad student in his twenties who wears his long hair in two braids. And today, when Nickelodeon unveils his character on "The Casagrandes," he'll become one of the first Lakota figures to appear in a major American animated-TV production.

Why it matters: His debut reflects Native American advocates' heightened campaigning to champion more positive, high-profile representation in media and news coverage.

  • That's happening as they also push for sports teams to drop offensive mascots with stereotypical images of Indigenous people
  • Consulting producer Lalo Alcaraz, who also worked on the Disney film "Coco," has been an outspoken advocate for getting more Native Americans in film and television.

Cultural Preservation Receives Prestigious Language Grant

The Cultural Preservation Department is excited to announce that the Tribe was awarded the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) Preservation and Maintenance grant, written with the assistance of the Southern Ute Education Department. The grant was awarded to the Tribe for a three-year period and includes three proposed plans to help get our language preserved and in the homes of our people.

"ANA believes language revitalization and continuation are two of the first steps taken in preserving and strengthening a community's culture," according to their website. "Use of native language builds identity and encourages communities to move toward social unity and self-sufficiency."

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Education Preserving Language

A Navajo Engineer Talks About Life At NASA, And The Rover Set To Land On Mars

A NASA rover launched from Earth six months ago to collect rock core samples on Mars will make landing on a dry lakebed on the red planet this afternoon. The Perseverance Rover — the fifth robot NASA has launched since 1997 as part of a larger mission to understand whether life exists on Mars — has a name that holds significance for both the pandemic launch, and also for team members like Aaron Yazzie (Diné), one of just a handful of Native Americans working on the project.

The car-size Perseverance Rover will extract rock samples from Jezero Crater over the next two years. Yazzie, a mechanical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Native News Online that when a meteorite hit the planet 3.5 billion years ago, there was a lake in the crater, meaning that core rock samples are likely to hold ancient rock information.

Four Things That Happen When a Language Dies

This World Mother Language Day, read about why many say we should be fighting to preserve linguistic diversity

Languages around the world are dying, and dying fast. Today is International Mother Language Day, started by UNESCO to promote the world's linguistic diversity.

The grimmest predictions have 90 percent of the world's languages dying out by the end of this century. Although this might not seem important in the day-to-day life of an English speaker with no personal ties to the culture in which they're spoken, language loss matters. Here's what we all lose:

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Honoring Students The Arts

7-Year-Old Teaches Mi'kmaw Quillwork, A Skill She Learned From Her Mom

Head bent toward her work, Carolyn Simon uses tweezers to carefully pull a porcupine quill through a tiny hole in a piece of birch bark.

She folds the quill with her fingers and then guides it through another hole, cutting the pointy end so it's flush with the bark.

It's a technique she's seen her mom do hundreds of times, and while she's only seven years old, she's close to mastering it herself.

"It's really cool how you can use porcupine quills from the actual animal and put them into a bark piece like this, and make like one of these designs," she said, holding up a Christmas tree ornament she's making.

How Native Artisans in Alaska Bring Innovation and Humor to Their Craft

Among the indigenous nations of Southeast Alaska, there is a concept known in Haida as Íitl’ Kuníisii—a timeless call to live in a way that not only honors one’s ancestors but takes care to be responsible to future generations.

The traditional arts of the Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian people are integral to that bond, honoring families, clans, and animal and supernatural beings, and telling oral histories through totem poles, ceremonial clothing and blankets, hand-carved household items and other objects. In recent decades, native artisans have revived practices that stretch back thousands of years, part of a larger movement to counter threats to their cultural sovereignty and resist estrangement from their heritage.

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The Arts Getting Back

Six Indigenous Artists Awarded $50,000 Fellowships

The United States Artists (USA) fellowship announced winners last week, which included six Indigenous artists from across the country.

Sixty artists across ten creative disciplines and 22 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, were each awarded a $50,000 fellowship.

Artists were awarded fellowships in the following disciplines: Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing.

Four of the Indigenous artists were featured in the Traditional Arts section, and one each was awarded in the Craft and Dance sections, respectively.

Lower Sioux Indian Community To Get Ancestral Land Back From Minnesota, MN Historical Society

Lower Sioux Indian Community tribal leaders say that land with historical significance will be returned to the Community from the State of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society.

According to Community Council President Robert Larsen, plans are being finalized for the land acquisition, with the closing date of the transfer expected on Feb. 12. The land includes MHS parcels at the site where the U.S. Dakota War of 1862 started, which eventually led to the the “largest single day, mass execution in U.S. History.”
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Caring and Giving Back Living Traditions

These Men Ran And Biked Across The Country For Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women

Lenice Blackbird, a 25-year-old member of the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska, left her home in late June to isolate after being diagnosed with COVID-19 — and she never returned. Her body was found a few days later in the woods near a cabin in Macy, Nebraska, according to reports in the Siouxland News.

In September, her mother, Donna Blackbird, stood with friends and family on the Omaha Reservation, holding a poster decorated with Lenice's face and a red handprint—widely used to symbolize Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW)—and told her family's story to Duane Garvais Lawrence and his Facebook Live audience.

Lawrence added Lenice's name in red ink to the back of the RV he'd parked nearby, and the next day, he ran and biked in her honor. The 54-year-old resident of Toledo, Washington—who is a descendent of the Colville and Assiniboine tribes—was running and riding across the United States to raise funds and awareness for women like Lenice who had been killed.

Cherokee Nation To Jeep: Stop Using The Tribe's Name

After more than 45 years — and just ahead of a new release — the Cherokee Nation is asking Jeep to rename its top-selling Cherokee and Grand Cherokee vehicles.

The request comes as the corporate and sports worlds have had to reexamine their use of racial images and stereotypes amid a larger societal reckoning on race and equality following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in May. Last year, Washington's National Football League team retired a nickname long regarded as a racial slur, while Cleveland's professional baseball team announced it would drop "Indians" from its name. Land O'Lakes quietly removed the Indigenous woman from its packaging, and this month Quaker Oats' Aunt Jemima line became Pearl Milling Company.

"I think we're in a day and age in this country where it's time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement to Car and Driver and later shared with The Washington Post.

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Living Traditions   Getting Back

Putting Indigenous Place-Names And Languages Back On Maps

How many Indigenous Nations and communities can you name? Who are the Indigenous Peoples original to the land you now reside and work on?

I have always been surprised by how few nonindigenous peoples are able to answer these questions. With thousands of Indigenous Nations existing throughout Turtle Island (North America)—and more around the globe—how is it possible that most settlers cannot name more than a handful of Indigenous sovereigns?

In 2014, while serving as a tribal coleader for the former Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body of the United States' National Ocean Council, I was confronted, again, with this phenomenon of Indigenous invisibility while reviewing our Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal. In examining this digital mapping interface—which federal and state agencies, fishery management councils, and broader stakeholders throughout the United States regularly use—I noticed that Tribal Nations were absent from the map

'Piecing Together A Broken Heart': Native Americans Rebuild Territories They Lost

More than six decades after a 1,705-acre patchwork of meadows, wetlands and timberland in southern Oregon was taken from the Klamath Tribes, the Native American community has found its way back to the territory – by way of the real estate market.

Over the summer, the tribes discovered the land was up for sale, so as part of their large-scale effort to reacquire territory that was historically theirs, they prepared an offer. Although another buyer nearly swooped in, the tribes' purchase more than doubles their current holdings, and extends their territory to the base of Yamsay Mountain, an important site for prayer and spiritual journeys for the community.

Willa Powless, Klamath Tribes' council member at large, said it was major step toward piecing together a "broken heart".
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Getting Back   Getting Back

Oak Flat testimony: 'You Cannot Mitigate Our Religion'

Leaders in the fight to save a sacred Arizona site from mining share emotional remarks

The leader of the fight to save Oak Flat shared emotional testimony Wednesday, along with his granddaughter, on the sacred land's religious importance and why it should be saved.

Their remarks before a federal judge were the latest step in a yearslong fight to stop a proposed copper mine in eastern Arizona.

Apache Stronghold recently sued the U.S. Forest Service for turning over Oak Flat to Resolution Copper, a joint venture of global mining companies Rio Tinto and BHP.

The group is seeking an injunction until a judge ultimately can determine who has rights to that land, and whether mining would infringe on Apaches' religious practices. The Forest Service says it's doing what Congress mandated.

Indigenous Symbols Rise As Colonial Monuments Fall in New Mexico

SINCE 1868, A 20-foot-tall obelisk commemorating Civil War Union soldiers has stood at the center of Santa Fe Plaza. The words etched in marble at the memorial's base originally read: "To the heroes who have fallen in various battles with savage Indians in the Territory of New Mexico"—but the word "savage" had been scratched off in years past. Now, the monument itself no longer stands.

Memorials and monuments to New Mexico's Spanish and American colonial past—depicting conquerors and missionaries cast in bronze or carved in stone—can be found throughout the state. But, just as Confederate monuments were felled last summer by Black Lives Matter activists, dozens of statues memorializing anti-Indigenous genocidal conquest have also been toppled—from Portland to Chicago to Richmond.

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Living Traditions   The Arts

Archaeologists Identify Famed Fort Where Indigenous Tlingits Fought Russian Forces

For thousands of years, the Tlingit people made their home in the islands of Southeast Alaska among other indigenous peoples, including the Haida, but at the turn of the 19th century, they came into contact with a group that would threaten their relationship with the land: Russian traders seeking to establish a footprint on the North American continent.

The colonists had been expanding into Alaska for decades, first exploiting Aleut peoples as they chased access to sea otters and fur seals that would turn profits in the lucrative fur trade. The Russian American Company, a trading monopoly granted a charter by Russian tsar Paul I just as British monarchs had done on the continent's east coast in the 17th century, arrived in Tlingit territory around Sitka in 1799. On the eastern edge of the Bay of Alaska, the settlement was at an ideal location for the company to advance its interests into the continent. Stopping them, however, was resistance from a Tlingit community uninterested in becoming colonial subjects. In an attempt to oust the colonizers, the Kiks.ádi clan launched an attack on a Russian outpost near Sitka called Redoubt Saint Michael in 1802, killing nearly all of the Russians and Aleuts there.


Steeped in Memory: Amelia Joe-Chandler’s Hogan Teapot At NMAI

Nestled in an archival box in the storage vaults of the National Museum of the American Indian, I encountered a small, copper sculpture that points to an entirely different sense of place. Hogan Teapot (2013) by Diné (Navajo) artist Amelia Joe-Chandler is a living homage to the idea of home—particularly her family’s home in Dinétah, the ancestral homelands of the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest. The brilliancy of the copper recalls the traditional form of the hogan, a dome-shaped structure with a log or stone framework that is traditionally covered with mud that hardens like rock. With a door outlined in silver on the side, the lid handle as a stove pipe, and a cast tree and two small sheep as the handle, Joe-Chandler’s sculpture changes the ubiquitous form of the teapot into a site of personal encounter through these allusions to her family’s home.

Of the todich’iinnii (Bitterwater) clan born for the hast lish nii (Mud) clan, Joe-Chandler was introduced to a range of art forms during her childhood. She learned the art of sandpainting and silversmithing from both of her parents, who produced works for local trading posts. At the age of nine, she wove a small rug over a summer. Around the age of twelve, Joe-Chandler started to work alongside her father, aiding in his jewelry production. In the 1980s, she attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where she pursued a degree in arts education with a focus on metalsmithing.
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Living Traditions   Living Traditions

Before Plymouth Colony And The Pilgrims, There Was Patuxet

MORE THAN 400 YEARS AGO, the coastal community of Patuxet was one of dozens belonging to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, spread across much of what's now New England.

The Wampanoag called the region home for more than 12,000 years, but most history books have reduced them to a footnote. Today, schoolchildren typically learn only that the tribe helped the Pilgrims survive their first year at Plymouth, established where Patuxet once stood. To show their gratitude, the European arrivals invited the Native Americans to a meal, with Patuxet-born Wampanoag Tisquantum (Squanto), who happened to speak English, serving as translator. Missing entirely from the familiar history, however, are critical details, such as how Tisquantum learned English, and why Patuxet was abandoned before the Pilgrims arrived.

Steven Peters, a Mashpee Wampanoag, has developed content about his ancestors' story for exhibits and cultural programs, most recently Plymouth 400, a multinational collaboration examining the Pilgrims' landing in 1620. Atlas Obscura spoke with Peters about the place his ancestors called home, and how he is helping to bring its story to a wider audience.

Venetian Glass Beads May Be Oldest European Artifacts Found In North America

More than five centuries ago, a handful of blueberry-sized blue beads made an astonishing journey.

Crafted by glassmakers in Venice, the small spheres were carried east along Silk Road trade networks before being ferried north, into the hinterlands of Eurasia and across the Bering Strait, where they were deposited in the icy ground of northern Alaska.

Archaeologists dug the beads up in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Now, a new study published in the journal American Antiquity asserts that the glass objects are among the oldest European-made items ever discovered in North America.

Per the paper, Michael Kunz of the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Robin Mills of the Bureau of Land Management studied ten glass beads found at three sites along Alaska’s Brooks Range. The researchers used mass spectrometry carbon-dating to analyze trace amounts of twine discovered alongside three of the beads and date the artifacts’ creation to between roughly 1397 and 1488.

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About This Issue's Greeting - "Posoh"
In most respects Menominee is a typical Algonquian language. Menominee has six vowels rather than the usual four, and has complex rules governing vowel length, but otherwise the sound system is similar to Ojibwa, Mesquakie (Fox) and Shawnee. The vocabulary is also similar to the neighboring languages; especially, most Menominee words will have an exact equivalent in Potawatomi and Ojibwa. The noun inflections are similar to other Algonquian languages, but Menominee has a number of verb inflections not found in the other languages, and consequently some sentences are put together in a different way than in Ojibwa or Mequakie.
Nature's Beauty:
Prairie Rose
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A Story To Share:
The Origin Of The Prairie Rose
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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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