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AIS invites students to take a ‘Braided Journey’

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AIS invites students to take a ‘Braided Journey’

Angie Harper, an American Indians Studies teacher and Jack Auginash, a cultural specialist.

Angie Harper, an American Indians Studies teacher and Jack Auginash, a cultural specialist.

Tony Vue

Angie Harper, an American Indians Studies teacher and Jack Auginash, a cultural specialist.

Tony Vue

Tony Vue

Angie Harper, an American Indians Studies teacher and Jack Auginash, a cultural specialist.

Jacqueline Martinez, Reporter

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Braided Journeys an American Indian Education program that was started at Harding this year, received a Folk Art Grant from the Minnesota Arts Council. This will allow 25 students to create their own regalia to learn/practice traditional American Indian dance. They were one of 8 programs that got it.

Braided Journeys is a program for incoming 9th grade American Indian students going to Harding. “We started planning it last November,” said Jack Auginash, one of Harding’s cultural specialists. “It took 6-7 months into planning phases to lead up to kicking off in August of last year.”

Mr. Auginash said that they did a student retreat with participants, where they showed them what to expect in high school and went on field trips like going canoeing with the new superintendent and sage-picking. “[Students] didn’t need to [go to the student retreat], but they came to school for a week before Harding was even open and they were here doing stuff… and getting to know each other,” said Ms. Harper, an American Indian Studies teacher who was awarded the Minnesota Indian Education Association award for most outstanding American Indian K-12 teacher of 2017.

Braided Journeys helps students adjust to the high school setting, and one night a week they do cultural activities after school. The most recent of activities was making regalia for powwow events, “Before that, we made ribbon shirts and ribbon skirts for the kids,” Mr. Auginash said.

The program is only for American Indians. Mr. Auginash added, explaining that the goal for students in this program is to become better students. “The ultimate goal is to raise our graduation rate and make them—help them— and, if not graduate from here, from somewhere,” he said, “[American Indians] have one of the highest dropout rates.”

Usually, the program varies in how many students come to participate. “We have about 40-50 Native students overall at Harding,” said Ms. Harper, “so 10 doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.”

Harding does provide options for non-Indian students as well. “Let’s say someone wants to learn about American Indian authors; they can take Ms. Harper’s American Indian Lit class, and it’s a super awesome class,” said Barry Frantum, another one of Harding’s American Indian Studies teachers. He said these classes “[expose] us to other groups, the bigger communities [in Harding]” that have “done a good job at dispelling stereotypes, myths, [and] cross-cultural communications.”

Harding has had American Indian Studies for at least 20 years now and is one of the only schools with American Indian Studies in the district, according to Ms. Harper.

Mr. Frantum believes that these classes are some of the best ways to introduce American Indian topics and problems to people at Harding and further beyond. “[American Indians are] an invisible part of society, unless people are going to talk about casinos or pipelines,” he said, “[but] we’re here, we’re still in our native homeland, we’re still present. I think the more people know that we’re here, the more we can express who [we are]… It’s only going to make things better for the future.”

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AIS invites students to take a ‘Braided Journey’