Successfully Navigating the T.R.A.I.L.

The On the T.R.A.I.L. to Diabetes Prevention program is well on its way in its fifth year of implementation in Native Boys & Girls Clubs across the county and everyone is eager to start off this grant year off on the right foot! Infusing culture and traditional lifestyles has been a top priority for Clubs implementing T.R.A.I.L., especially when it comes to physical activity portions of the program’s curriculum. At the Boys & Girls Club of Darlington in El Reno, Oklahoma, traditional Native dancers volunteered to teach youth several dances in conjunction with their physical activity requirements. Once participants learned each dance, the Club hosted a Pow-Wow and invited staff from their local public schools to enjoy the performances! Woodland Boys & Girls Club in Neopit, Wisconsin, has also found harmony in combining physical activity and local culture. Traditional Menominee games such as lacrosse and Snow Snake (a traditional winter team sport that involves throwing carved poles, or “snakes,” through snow troughs as far as possible to win points) are being incorporated into the curriculum. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley in Mesa, Arizona will also be teaching and hosting traditional Native games as part of their T.R.A.I.L. program. Examples will include toka, a traditional women’s game that is similar to hockey, and a male equivalent called songivu'l, which more closely resembles soccer. Healthy food choices have also been a focal point for the Clubs.


Engaging Culture and Community: Club Spotlights throughout 2016

If you are a veteran, you know that we like to share the successes of programs, staff members, and Club kids from Boys & Girls Clubs in Native Lands. If you are new, you will quickly find that recognizing and celebrating successes of Clubs is very important to us. This year has seen a wide array of triumphs from Native Boys & Girls Clubs from coast to coast in a multitude of areas. Community and culture has coincidentally been a common theme across the Spotlights shared.

Cultivating culture for future generations has been on the forefront for many Clubs and Chief Executive Officers. Physical activity and culture has been one way Clubs have been able to actively engage youth in connecting with their culture. Hoop dancing, for example, was an exciting way that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale incorporated culture into programming. Hoop dance is one form of visual storytelling that can be done recreationally and even competitively. It has been an outlet for 20 youth from the Lehi Branch to connect with their family and culture. Are you interested in learning more about hoop dancing? Check out how the Woodland Boys & Girls Club has integrated traditional dancing and singing to connect to culture. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Rosebud also found ways to connect their youth with their Lakota culture by getting Club kids outside and moving. In Mission, SD, eight Club kids from the Club’s Hiking Club were invited to hike in the Welcome Back the Thunders ceremony which takes place in the sacred Black Hills. Elders, community members, and Club kids alike participated in the hike and sat down for a meal together to complete the ceremony.


The Show Must Go On: Little Earth Extension Produces Puppet Show

This holiday season, ten youth at the Little Earth Extension of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota had an exciting chance to work with Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre (HOBT) to host and perform their third puppet show. HOBT is a local non-profit that works with community organizations that serve youth, and they have been in partnership with Little Earth for a number of years. Youth were able to pick the story, music, and even create their own puppets for the performance. HOBT picked the theme, which for this year centered on staff members who work at their local community centers, including Little Earth. Youth created shadow puppets of Program Director Ashlee Jallen herself, as well as the Director of the Youth Development Center. Puppets at HOBT are typically made of paper-mache, and are accessorized with paint, clothing, and/or other decorations to produce a finished character. According to Jallen, youth who participated were incredibly excited to get up on stage and perform with their creations even though normally, they are a shy bunch. At the end of the show, they all got to have a dance party with their puppets, jamming along to popular songs.

Not only has HOBT been creating original productions and performing for various communities since its founding in 1973, but they have also been the producers of the annual Mayday Parade & Festival in the East Phillips community of Minneapolis. Every spring on the first Sunday of May, youth at the Little Earth Extension get to participate in the community-wide event, inviting friends and family to watch. According to HOBT, the parade has been setting the example for art as community building for 43 years. On average, more than 50,000 spectators and participants come to celebrate at the festival. Since it occurs each spring, youth at Little Earth will prepare for it during the fall and winter months after their puppet performances. Often times though, it is stilt-making and learning how to walk on them that brings in the most participation! Ms. Jallen states, “Heart of the Beast is a great community partner to have! They always bring great ideas to the table and a new energy to our organization. I’m glad we are located so close to the theater and the opportunity to participate in such awesome events.” Come springtime, youth at Little Earth will be ready to go for the parade that will be held in May 2017!


“Culture as Prevention”: The Woodland Dance Troupe

At the Woodland Boys & Girls Club in Neopit, Wisconsin, cultural programming is the glue that holds Club and community members together. From traditional prayers at meal time to a newly formed dance troupe, the Club is committed to preserving Menominee culture and tradition. The dance troupe formed shortly after the Club’s grand opening in May 2015, when traditional singer and elder Myron Pyawasit brought up the idea to the Club’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ron Corn. They believed bringing together adults and youth with previous dance experience would be a great way to not only bring Menominee culture to the Club, but also to get cultural programming off to a successful start. After weeks of planning and receiving financial support from the Wisconsin Art Board Woodland Indian Art Initiative, Pyawasit, along with Dewey Thunder (Club Youth Development Specialist) and Corn began leading a group of about 20 dancers and four singers on a weekly basis, teaching them songs and dances that have been passed down for hundreds of years. Eventually, when the troupe’s practice and performance routines become more established, they will have the capacity to teach in greater numbers to anyone who is interested.


Teen Led Group from Missouri River Area Marches against Meth Use

During the month of September, the Boys & Girls Club of the Missouri River Area in Wagner, South Dakota hosted March Against Meth, an event orchestrated by the Club’s teen-led group known as Native American Youth Standing Strong (NAYSS). The marches held in Marty, Lake Andes, and Wagner for three consecutive weeks were attended by local and tribal law enforcement, tribal, and community leaders such as Tribal Chairman Robert Line Hawk, and the Lake Andes mayor. Additionally, NAYSS members, Boys & Girls Club kids, and local community members were attendance for each march. Many youth and their families came together holding signs with statements such as, “Stop Mething Around,” and “Do the Whip and Nae Nae, Not Meth!”

The significance of this event cannot be underestimated. The use of methamphetamines, commonly referred to as “meth,” has become an epidemic throughout many Native communities in South Dakota. Director of the Ihanktonwan Unit, Jodi Zephier, would often hear stories from Club youth about loved ones battling addiction. It became so frequent that Zephier and her staff knew something needed to be done to address it. This acknowledgement eventually led to the creation of NAYSS, with teen Club members leading the movement. At each of their weekly meetings, the group will brainstorm ideas for community awareness and set goals for achievement. One goal NAYSS envisioned was the March Against Meth for their local area. With such a successful turnout, there is no doubt there will be many more events to come thanks to this dedicated group.

For more information about this event and affects of meth on communities, please visit: The Ihanktonwan Times

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