Focusing on Earth, Not Drugs

May 26, 2008

Author: Greg Peterson

Source: Indian Country

Menominee Tribal School fifth-grader La-Rie Corn is already well-versed in the dangers of drug gangs, protecting the environment and learning her tribe's heritage, including keeping alive its Native language.

The affable 11-year-old has proposed an Earth Club that's being formed at the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin in Keshena.

Students defied gangs in April by whitewashing graffiti at a popular skateboard park near the tribal school and replacing negative symbols with traditional American Indian art. Students dipped their hands in paint to make beautiful wall designs.

"We went down to the community park and painted over the graffiti and we put up Native American applique designs,'' said Corn, profoundly aware of the message sent by the simple act of removing the gang symbols. ''It was important because instead of showing the gang graffiti the kids could get to know and see the pictures of their culture."

"We picked up trash during gym class because it was Earth Week," she said. "We got lots of bags full. We acted like the trash was sturgeon food."

Teacher Beth Waukechon said the tribal school teaches students about the "disconnection that occurs between humans and Mother Earth."

"The children have exposure to current environmental issues and solutions. Eventually, these practices will be a part of who the child is and not something separate from themselves."