Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aloha and Mahalo!

Aloha! Last week I had the honor of attending the World Indigenous People's Conference on Education (WIPCE) in Honolulu on the island of O'ahu. I took my family for a surprise trip, but the purpose was to exchange ideas and learn more about indigenous cultures in other parts of the world.

The opening ceremonies lasted several hours on the first day at the Waikiki Shell, a large amphitheater. This picture shows one of the welcoming ceremonies of Polynesia.

After this, we had the opportunity to see the Hula Pahu. According to the WIPCE program, "the Hula Pahu is regarded as our most elevated dance genre and is performed today to esteem each of you as dignitaries, educators, participants, and attendees at this prestigious indigenous-focused conference.

"In keeping with the conference theme, the story of the high chief La'amaikahiki is recounted and transformed from narrative into dance. For Hawaiians, hula has become an important change agent for the perpetuation of our arts, our stories, our histories, and our heritage."

Here is a video of one minute of that dance.

During the workshops, I learned about a program of the Cherokee Nation Foundation which aims to prepare young Cherokee students for college success, starting early with Junior Achievement which teaches financial literacy. Moving into high school the Cherokee Scholars program encompasses academic challenge, mentoring, language, Cherokee history, and ACT prep work. It culminates in scholarship money to institutions of higher education. During the summer the Cherokee College Prep Institute is a five-day college readiness program that teaches 100 students personal finance, interview skills, essay-writing, and time management and also includes meeting with college recruiters. This Institute partners with 16 colleges and involves mentoring by college admissions personnel. The program also supports Native males in postsecondary institutions through various offices and organizations.

This made me think about Arlee's organizations; the summer institute sounds a lot like the college program I run, but I get just 5-8 students per year in that program. How can I boost enrollment - if only to 15 or 20? The college recruiters might be one answer. The ACT prep is also important, but we had that opportunity this year and no teachers wanted to teach the course. It sounds like the Cherokee Nation Foundation has a strong K-20 program and I think our community could learn from it.

In another workshop, I learned about a work of Hawaiian literature called La'ieikawai and the website this preservice teacher has created to help teachers integrate this traditional tale into a Common Core-based classroom. It was fascinating to hear about Hawaiian ideas such as kaona, the "hidden in the open" meaning feature of Hawaiian literature. Also the aloha 'aina, or love for the land, is something we certainly have in our local literatures.

Another workshop was about the Jay Treaty. There were many First Nations people from Canada at this conference, and it was a presentation about the implications of the treaty for both Canadians and Americans. The first activity was a discussion with our neighbors about what a treaty is, and what treaties mean. This, as some of you know, is one of my favorite topics! However, I found myself in a group of people with much more direct experience and so I got to learn from them.

My presentation with Hal Schmid of Kamehameha Schools was fabulous! We had about 50 people, mostly educators, in the tiny room to hear about multicultural approaches to teaching literature. I was able to show part of the Inside Anna's Classroom video and talk about working with students using manipulatives, discussion, and primary sources. The presenters all received a lei of kukui nuts.

Every person we encountered began with "aloha" and thanked us with "mahalo." I got a tiny glimpse in Hawaii of a vibrant, welcoming culture revitalizing their language and living their beliefs.

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