This week, for the seventh summer in a row, a lively group of teens from the Coeur d’Alene reservation came to WSU Pullman to learn about themselves and think about their futures.  The following article, “Young tribal members find a sense of self at weeklong workshop,” is reprinted with permission from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

By Christina Lords, staff writer
June 10, 2011

Joy. Laughter. Happiness.

Leadership campers Kianna Peone and Tillie Torpey
Campers Kianna Peone, left, and Tillie Torpey. Photo by Geoff Crimmins

These are Kaila Wakan’s self described gifts – gifts she’s learned she can share with family members, classmates, her community and beyond.

Wakan is one of about 50 participants in the seventh annual Coeur d’Alene Tribe Leadership Development Camp, taking place this week at the Washington State University Pullman campus.

This is her fifth year at the workshop.

“This helps me be a better role model for my younger brothers and sisters,” she said. “Some of the kids at my school do drugs and things like that … some of them are my friends. I care for them. I want to help them. This helps me do that.”

The workshop has a different theme each year to build upon the last, said camp organizer Paula Groves Price, an associate professor in the College of Education. Any students ages 13-17 who live on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation can participate.

About 50 students take part each year.

The workshops employ a more holistic approach to educating children patterned in part after elements in the Native American medicine wheel, focusing on physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health, Price said.

“Our aim is to really help students think about who they are, to think about their identities on multiple levels,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand a positive sense of self.”

Students sometimes feel an internal conflict about identifying who they are because of cultures past and present, Price said. Some identify themselves by their traditional, historical culture and some identify more generationally in a modern sense, Price said.

“They’re developing mentally, trying to figure who they are now and who they are going to become,” Price said. “We’re just trying to help them through that process.”

The workshops aim to help the students find a balance between the two, she said.

The camp utilizes different learning methods or abstract activities to get the students to start to analyze issues on a broader scale, such as their age, gender and identity. Those activities also lead students to start thinking about their purpose or future, and those strengths can then be applied to a specific field of study, going to college and eventually earning a degree, Price said.

Place-based education gets the students to think about they spaces they occupy and how they interact with others and their surrounding environment, she said.

This year’s theater workshops encourage students to physically act out ideas and themes while using the entire body because that kind of learning typically helps the students remember more from the lessons, Price said.

Developing all senses – not just those usually related to academics – helps students make a more meaningful connection with the material, she said.

Sports and other games are used as team building exercises throughout the week, and students are encouraged to write, draw or create other art to detail what they’ve learned at the workshops in a personalized journal.