I had the opportunity to attend a youth summer camp that the company I work for (http://www.uaii.org) holds every year in Big Pine, CA. The camp is for American Indian children (ages 5 to 17 years) residing in the Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Fresno areas and it is a week long. This is the second time I’ve attended, as I did attend last year’s camp as well, and just like last year I was so inspired about the overall
experience and specifically a couple different things.
First of all, I was amazed at how you (or at least I) feel so very rejuvenated and inspired after spending that much time with our youth. By “our youth” I mean American Indian youth (I am also American Indian, a member of the Chukchansi tribe of Coarsegold, CA). I’ve heard various people claim that American Indian culture is being lost and will eventually cease to exist because of assimilation, however, after having this camp experience and seeing the efforts made in my local American Indian community…. I’m not so sure I believe that.
The camp is great fun for the youth. Around 70 youth attended the first camp, and the second camp is going on as I write this and has about the same amount of youth. They participate in so many activities: horseback riding, archery, pow wow dancing, drumming, pinewood derby, and theater to name a few. Some elders of the Paiute tribe also came to sing some songs for the youth. But I believe another highlight for me was the farewell ceremony. A ceremony was held where adult staff and volunteers did a blessing, prayer, and sang a traveling song. The real highlight was two youth (around 8 year old male and female) sang a song in their own tribal language. These are youth that have been raised in the city, many experiencing difficult life situation… but it spoke volumes to me the pride and courage they showed singing in front of the crowd and the extent to which they knew a great deal about their tribal cultures. In addition to that, every person in the crowd shook hands with every other person at camp during the ceremony, and as I was shaking their hands I was amazed at how many young ones were able to tell me farwell in their tribal languages. It makes me sad to think American Indian tribal traditions are being forgotten over the years, but this inspired me to think otherwise. It confirmed what I’ve been taught in school….cultures change. But in this case it may be changing but traditional practices are not totally being lost.
I was also amazed at how well the youth listened. They were so well behaved for the most part and I believe that is because their interest was consistently captured on positive activities.
I love how the young ones are sometimes so funny (in a good way) in what they say, and they don’t even realize.
I’m doing a video documenting the experience so I’ll have to see if I can post it up here.