Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Dora Reed Crew

We stopped by on our way out of town on Friday to say goodbye to our friends at Dora Reed, especially the kitchen crew with whom we work closest. The many, many kindnesses these folks show us each year are never forgotten.

Indian Country

A map of the United States labeled in the Cherokee language:

On Sacred Ground

In addition to our work at Head Start and the Kituwah Academy, we try to make sure to see as much of the beautiful cultural sites in and around the Qualla Boundary that we can. This picture is of our visit to the Kituwah Mound, one of the most sacred places for the Cherokee nation.

Kelly the Cake Artist

On our second day on the Boundary there was a function at the Dora Reed Center for parents and local health professionals. We were asked to put icing on a cake for the luncheon and to write a greeting on the cake. Only ASU senior Kelly Roth was brave enough to do the writing, and I think she is still mad at me for joking that she had misspelled the word "health." Turns out some jokes can cause minor panic attacks.

Tsalagi (Cherokee) Teaching Materials

One of the great things to see at the Kituwah Academy and the new campus of Cherokee Central Schools is the number of teaching materials being produced in the Cherokee language. The photo below is of a text on the solar system written for students at the immersion school.

Sarah and Kids

ASU senior elementary education major Sarah Hayes with her students at New Kituwah:

Teaching at New Kituwah

One of the highlights of this year's Cherokee Spring Break has to be our work with the New Kituwah Academy. The teachers and administrators there were so incredibly welcoming to us all. Even with the language barrier, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work in the classrooms there. In the photo below, Sarah is shown teaching a math lesson. She did an incredible job--so much so that the folks there have told us that App State students will always be welcomed among their students.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Obama report in Cherokee

A neat piece of student work from the Kituwah Academy. 

Visiting the New Kituwah Academy

On Tuesday we were given a tour of The New Kituwah Academy--the language immersion school here on the Boundary. This is truly one of the most inspiring places in Cherokee because of the remarkable work being done here to save the language. When here I always think of a line from a Robbie Robertson song speaking of holding on to heritage: "they don't preserve the old ways, they live it." That is certainly true at this place, where children from birth to fourth grade are immersed in the Cherokee language and tremendous teachers work with them and guide them.

A recent study showed less than 200 fluent Cherokee speakers remained, and that the overwhelming majority of these were over the age of fifty. That helps illustrate how important the work done in this school really is.

Our Arrival

Part of the tradition of the Cherokee Spring Break is to stop just before we arrive on the Qualla Boundary for a photo at the "most photographed view in the Smokies." On Sunday we kept that tradition alive and stopped for this great shot!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Almost There!

We are less than two weeks away from heading out for our sixth annual Cherokee Spring Break! This year we will again be working at the Dora Reed Head Start center, and we will also get to work for the first time at the Kituwah Academy--a Cherokee language immersion school. I am very excited about the group I have going with me this year: Appalachian State seniors Kelly Roth, Sarah Hayes, Kimmon Miller, Kelsey Byrd, Katie Mosse and Lauren Wawrzyniak. It's going to be a great week!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big Cove Buddies

Abby and Sumer with Big Cove Head Start team leader Katie.

Friends and Colleagues

Left to Right: Sumer, T.J., Sandy, Leanne, Kaitlyn, Leanne, Brittany, Cody, Britney, Abby, Nellie, Forrest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts from Brittany and Cody

Today we visited Cherokee Central School, along with volunteering at the Dora Reed Center. As always, we had a wonderful day in the kitchen. The staff is beyond gracious, as are all of the people we've met during the trip so far. We had the privilege of having fry bread made for us by Nellie, Leann, and Sandy. It was AMAZING! This meal was all the more special because the staff prepared it especially for us. After serving both breakfast and lunch to everyone at the center, these ladies went the extra mile to fix us this treat. All week long the staff of the kitchen has expressed their gratitude for our help, but we are definitely the ones who feel thankful as they have let us into their world for a few days. We have learned so much about the culture just by being around those wonderful women. While we were eating, Nellie mentioned how she used to be fluent in the Cherokee language before she started school, and now she only remembers a little. This made huge connections to what Dr. Bryant has taught us in class. The students that we teach need to be proud of where they came from. If we do not teach about our culture, it can be lost. If we do not teach about the Cherokee culture, it can be lost. It is important to teach the things that could slip through the cracks and be forgotten. We have been inspired to this by Nellie, and our visits to the Kituwah Academy and the Cherokee Central School. It is our job to keep history alive, even if it isn't the most famous event in our past.
The Cherokee Central School is a Pre-K - 12 school where they teach the state curriculum, but are fortunate enough to have Cherokee immersion classes as well as basket weaving and other cultural classes. It was fascinating to see their newer school with such an emphasis on arts education. The school was decorated with students' artwork, and you could tell how proud they are to be Cherokee. This school is not going to let students forget their culture, they embrace it. It was a breath of fresh air to be in a school that has such a sense of community, culture, and arts. We also noticed quite a few Western grads go there, and we're definitely thinking that the elementary side could use a couple of App State grads to throw in the mix. It was a great tour, and we are very grateful we had the opportunity to see this school.
Brittany W. and Cody

Tsalagi Pride

Great sign seen hanging in a hallway in the Cherokee
Elementary School

Cherokee "I Am" Poems

A couple of beautiful and deeply moving examples of "I Am" poetry on display in the Cherokee Central Schools middle school. I took these pictures today during our tour of the CCS campus.

Brittany's Cherokee Experience

On our first day at Dora Reed Head Start I could tell just how grateful they were to have us there to help. The center is under a lot of pressure right now because they are on probation, so we were not able to help in the classrooms. There are plenty of other things for us to do though. Amanda Beasley, the director, explained that they are redoing lots of things, ordering new furniture, and doing their best to improve. They are doing so many things at once that they are barely able to keep up. So, we have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work in the kitchen and their Literacy Center. On the first day I helped stock the freezer and do inventory, something they would not have been able to get done without us. So far I have had a great time, and you can tell how much they genuinely appreciate our help.

We have also toured the immersion school, Kituwah Immersion Language Academy. At this school they speak only Cherokee. It was amazing to see all the children doing normal lessons (with a smartboard) speaking in a completely different language. They meet all of the expected standards, and preserve their cultures language. We toured the Cherokee Central School. It included pre-K to twelfth grade. It was built with tribal money, and they have almost every resource you could think of. It was a beautiful school, full of the latest technology, and there was a large emphasis on art and culture. The school is also a green school. There are monitors that check each classrooms oxegyn levels, and if they sense stagnant air fresh air is brought tin from outside. Another thing that I found mind-blowing was that they collect rainwater and use it to flush the toilets in the building.

There are many other wonderful things that Dr. Bryant has shown us on the reservation, including the grave stones of his great-grandparents. But my favorite cultural experience has been the cooks at Dora Reed making us fresh Cherokee food. They made us fry bread and chili, just for us.

--Brittany George

Day 3 in Cherokee

Today was a wonderful day. The Dora Reed center is a great place for us to volunteer. For most of the week I have been helping in the kitchen to prepare and serve breakfast and lunch. Today, instead of helping in the kitchen I was lucky enough to help in the library. It was a nice change of pace, and I got to see a different aspect of the school. It is great being able to give back to this community in any way possible. I got to make some lesson plans for the librarian which was great practice for when I have a class of my own. Then we headed to the co-op where I got to see all the wonderful hand made crafts that the Cherokee have made to sell. Some of the basket weaving that has been done is breath taking! I ended up getting some earrings, and a dream catcher from the co-op to help support the Cherokee people

After the co-op we were taken on a tour of Cherokee central schools. The students at this school are so lucky for what the tribe has provided for them. This school is remarkable in the amount of resources available for the students, as well as how much effort this school puts into to help the students succeed. I am amazed by the school the students have been provided. This trip has turned out to be so fulfilling, just by being able to give back to the community.

Little Bit of Heaven

Since Grandma's closed down, there hasn't been anywhere on the Boundary to get a really good piece of frybread. With that in mind, today Nellie, Leanne and Sandy were kind enough to make some chili and frybread for those of us working at Dora Reed. They made us Indian tacos after making breakfast and dinner for 240 children and the center's faculty. That's just one small example of the kind if kindnesses that seem to get showered on us whenever we visit this place. Thanks, folks, for a tongue-slapping good meal!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Official 2012 Photo!!

The official 2012 Cherokee Spring Break photo!

Morning in Cherokee

This beautiful image greeted us this morning when we arrived at the Kituwah Academy.

Arizona Swayney Blankenship

This afternoon after we left our work at the Head Start centers, I had the honor of taking my students into the Big Cove community to visit a very special place on the Boundary. Off of Soggy Hill Road, deep into the woods, is a small and unmarked family cemetery. We placed flowers at the gravesides of my great-great-great Grandmother and Grandfather, James and Laura Swayney, and then we placed flowers at the grave of their daughter Arizona Swayney Blankenship.

Arizona and her brother, Lorenzo Dow Swayney (my great-great Grandfather) were taken from the Boundary to be "educated" at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia--a boarding school for American Indians and African Americans. Arizona returned to Qualla Boundary and, with some assistance from Lorenzo, founded a school in Big Cove--one of the first Indian controlled and operated schools in the United States. She added basket weaving to the curriculum and thereby helped to preserve ancient basket weaving techniques that were slowly dying out among her people. As a teacher she inspired Cherokee to embrace education and to seek to find a balance between that education and their culture, heritage and traditions. I hope she can serve as an inspiration for 21st century teachers, too. I was so proud to be able to take my students to this sacred ground and tell them her story.

Kituwah Academy

The students and I got to tour the Kituwah Academy this morning and it was amazing! The school is infant-2nd grade and is an all-Cherokee language immersion school. Mr. Gill Jackson took us around and allowed us to visit and 2nd grade class and a kindergarten class. Listening to those beautiful Cherokee children speak the language was thrilling, and watching the absolute joy in Mr. Jackson's face as he talked with them was inspiring. Mr. Jackson is from the Snowbird Cherokee community and did not speak English until he was 7 years old. He was a gracious and terrific host. Thanks to him and all the staff and faculty for making time for us. (And a special hello to my buddy Denise from the Dora Reed Center who now works at Kituwah--it was great to see you!)