About 60 Native students participated in the first ever Native American Cultural Summer Camp sponsored by the Nevada Indian Education program held last month in Lake Tahoe. On the first day, the youth and adult participants, gathered on the lake shore to pray and ask the lake, known by the Washoe tribe as Da.aw, for blessings and for permission to gather nearby for a few days. The youth were instructed to touch the water and bless their bodies with the water.
The youth, between the 7th and 12th grades, came from various tribal communities in the state of Nevada. The four day camp featured tribal leaders, tribal elders, and representatives from the Washoe Cultural Resource Advisory Council, and the Washoe Culture and Language Department. Also making appearances were UNITY trainers and motivational speakers Marcus Guinn, Osage/Potawatomie/Delaware/Puerto Rican, and Chance Rush, Hidatsa, and UNITY’s Executive Director Mary Kim Titla, San Carlos Apache.
Campers stayed at the 4-H camp site in scenic Stateline, Nevada. Camp presentations focused on the camp theme “Embracing our Past, Present and Future.” Students agreed to put away their cell phones for the duration of the camp while engaging with elders and cultural teachers. Activities included a sunrise ceremony, traditional games, craft making, storytelling, a scavenger hunt, and even a session about personal budgeting and finance. The UNITY training involved the formation of clans and a workshop about Action Planning.
“Everyone was so attentive and respectful. During the action planning workshop, each group came up with four priorities they wanted to address in their communities. I heard everything from keeping their reservation beautiful, to substance abuse prevention, to tackling domestic violence and addressing water issues. I was blessed to hear youth perspectives on how they wish to address these issues. They all care very much about what is happening in their homes, neighborhoods, and on their land,” said Titla.