The 34th annual California Conference on Indian Education held in Los Angeles, California was conducted March 24th through March 26th, 2011. This year’s theme was “Indian Education: Strengthening Our Future by Coming Together.” Members from CIEA’s executive board were among others conducting and operating over forty workshops, focused on scholarly and traditional teaching and learning, and informational booths from a variety of organizations committed to Indian Education and the overall betterment of Native Americans.
Many of the workshops included traditional studies such as basket weaving, clapper stick making, necklace making, and Native Geosciences learned through story-telling, language, ceremonies, etc. Many of these workshops showed how many traditional practices could be implemented in modern day research and curriculum studies.
Workshops that brought Natives and Non-Natives together such as Hoopa’s Clean Energy Training Program and the Pathway Program were shared at the conference. The workshop explained how these programs are able to bring Native collaborators together with Non-Native entities such as government agencies, businesses, and colleges.
Workshops continually emphasized the importance of Elder and youth interaction and various methods our Elders could connect and mentor our youth and help them to maintain cultural awareness. Or making “Old Ways New Again” by reviewing Indian parent and child positive relationships and seeing how they have enhanced families and communities. I was able to experience the importance of such a program personally by having the privilege of traveling with Honored Elder Ruby Vargas. Every moment I spent with her I was able to learn something: the history of our Indigenous people, scared ceremonies, protocol, respect, honor to ourselves and others, traditional language, Native family and communities, the importance of Education, how to balance living in two worlds (Native and Non-Native), being proud of our heritage and our people, and the Four Season’s of our Journey on Mother Earth, just to name a few. Honored Elder Ruby Vargas is a wealth of knowledge and an excellent example of how invaluable and immensely important our Elders are to every Native Community, and just how effective these workshops were at explaining the ability to utilize our Elders to educate and guide our youth.
There were many more workshops whose key focus was to help our Native youth excel in Education and in turn life. Some workshops analyzed how racial harassment, past traumas, teen pregnancy and violence affect or youth and how to prevent and/or overcome these varying circumstances were discussed and how they could be applied to ensure the success of our children.
Honored Elder Ruby Vargas, CIEA Treasurer Linda Billey-Sevedge, her granddaughter Bonita, and myself were all able to attend Rock n’ Roll trivia offered as one of the activities over the weekend. Joyous laughter continuously filled the room and echoed down the halls of the hotel, as everyone made jokes and sang the songs that were piping in from the stereo and socialized. Prizes were handed out to the winning teams for every round, and our team proudly modeled our mini tiaras, and laughed some more.
There was a coming together of people. Elders, parents, children, educators and those from various organizations and agencies were teaching and learning from others with the same enthusiasm. Several keynote speakers gave speeches and presentations. Others performed and learned how to create to crafts or sing and dance. As Indian people we need to come together, it is what propels us forward. It is in coming together we are able to share our knowledge, support one another, and in turn strengthen ourselves, each other and our futures.