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Prior Lake, MN - Because the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is committed to helping Indian youth have a bright future, the SMSC has made their third installment of a grant totaling $500,000 over three fiscal years for youth education. The SMSC recently donated $166,700 to Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, to fund native language preservation activities. The funds will be used for a Native Quiz Bowl Competition to promote the development of school district indigenous language-based competitions and for the Minnesota Language Bowl Central. Itasca Community College staff and students have been actively involved in language-based quiz-bowl competition since 1992. Research shows that the program improves attendance, academic grades, and self-esteem among native youth in high school. This donation is the final installment of the three-year grant.
"The key to preserving and revitalizing Minnesota's indigenous languages lies in keeping the interest of young people," said Harold Annette, Multicultural Student Affairs director at ICC. "We know that language-based competitions serve as an excellent incentive to learn the language." Minnesota high school language-based quiz bowls use computer-scored, timed response devices to challenge student district teams on indigenous language acquisition and interpretation skills. Competitions are held throughout the school year with different districts sponsoring their own meets. In one year more than 19 districts and 200 students participated in the state championship.
"We do not ask native students to become fluent speakers or traditional Indians. In our teaching, we have maintained a sense of enjoyment that is non-confrontational, challenging academically, yet not insurmountable. We continually engage students in understanding where the Indian history and philosophy has taken us. They can choose to study in-depth or arrive at their own understanding and become satisfied with who they are as Native American people," said ICC Instructor Larry Aitkin. "This is the uniqueness of our college: be encouraged, be engaged, become respectful of our native studies, and enjoy yourself. No one pushes you to be anyone but who you want to be."
"During my terms in office with the Leech Lake Tribal Council, I always advocated that a Native American Knowledge Bowl should be implemented. This dream is now a reality. In numerous conversations with Mr. Aitken and Mr. Annette, a grant was finalized and submitted to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Thank you, Mr. Stanley Crooks, Chairman, and our Tribal Council. The language shall not die," said Leech Lake Tribal Elder Myron Ellis who is a special consultant to the ICC American Indian Studies program and who worked closely with the project. "My dream has finally been answered."