Make sure to read part one of Brooks' story before continuing with Part 2!
One of my favorite research experiences for our NHD project this year was visiting the Nation to Nation exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. It took us several days to fully comb through this exhibition because of all the wonderful artifacts, documentaries, and text. This exhibition helped to answer some of the questions we had begun to encounter while in South Dakota.
Our Junior Group Performance, From Sea to Shining Sea: The Conflict of the Fort Laramie Treaties that Compromised American Values, reflected our attempt to give voice to the American Indians’ struggle to maintain their identity in the past, present and into the future, as had been promised to them through the yet unfulfilled Fort Laramie treaties.
When we won the Native American History Award we were honored but felt it was wrong to accept money because of the American Indians’ shocking living conditions. We decided we would donate the money we received back into the American Indian community. Through our research with the Lakota we found that the Red Cloud Indian School on Pine Ridge reservation was one of the best schools for the Lakota children. Originally started by Chief Red Cloud in conjunction with the Jesuits, its mission is to teach both the Lakota culture and the white culture. We also learned that the teaching of the Lakota language has been an important element in bringing pride and self-respect back into the community. This is very important, particularly among the youth, as the Lakota have the highest teen suicide rate in the country. For these reasons, we felt it was important to use our Award to promote the Lakota language program at the Red Cloud Indian school.
I returned to Pine Ridge this summer, again with several thousand books, but this time I met with Tamatane l’atala, head of Lakota language and I was ecstatic to be able to tell him that our NHD team would be able to support his efforts. Tamatane is now teaching us Lakota through his web-based program and our NHD team has been invited to Pine Ridge during summer 2019 to see the results of our gift, to learn more Lakota, speak with the children and play soccer with them at summer camp!
He said, “It is truly humbling to have young people want to help with the language revitalization efforts. I look forward to hosting you all next summer and sharing our language with you and also showing you the finished products from your donation.” If we had not done so much research for this NHD project we would never have realized the implications that the past has had upon the present, nor which actions we can take today to improve the future for today’s Lakota children.
One of my highlights of my experience with the Wonderland BookSavers, and this NHD project in particular, is seeing the look on the children’s faces when they receive our books. Overall, NHD this year has been a truly wonderful experience because we got to learn so much about the American Indians and in the end we will get to contribute to them as well, and I speak for my team when I say that we are very honored to have received the Native American History Award.
Brooks Barry is a student at Pequot Homeschool. During the 2018 National History Day Contest, Brooks and his team won the Native American History Award for their group performance: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Conflict of the Fort Laramie Treaties that Compromised American Values.