A School Newspaper Links Sioux Indian Teens to Their Community
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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the American state of South Dakota is home to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It's also where Nicky Oulette is in her first year as the journalism teacher at Little Wound High School.
NICKY OULETTE: "What else would make this a newsworthy story?"
STUDENT: "Human interest?"
NICKY OULETTE: "Totally human interest ... "
Ms. Oulette teaches the twelve students on the school newspaper, the Mustang News.
NICKY OULETTE: "They pick the articles that we write. Sometimes, if we're getting stuck, I'll kind of guide them along. Say, like, here's a couple of things that happened last week, here's who we can talk to. But, especially lately, they've been the one picking the articles. One girl wanted to write her own column, comparing the weather to different parts of her own life. One girl wanted to start writing some song reviews. So now, every two weeks, she'll pick out a couple of songs and write a review about them."
The reporters also cover news like a recent flood at the school caused by a broken water pipe. Yet the real story here is that Nicky Oulette is the school's first journalism teacher in years. The Mustang News had stopped publishing. But now, not only is it back, copies are included every other week in the Lakota Country Times, a local newspaper. This way, school news reaches parents and other people in the community.
NICKY OULETTE: "I know a lot of schools have their own newspaper or newsletter, but don’t know of many who have a newspaper for the school that's part of a reservation-wide or huge area-wide publications."
Other student newspapers have been incorporated into Native American papers, but not many. The publisher of the Lakota Country Times, Connie Smith, says the public has welcomed the idea.
CONNIE SMITH: "Everywhere I go, people are talking to me about how proud they are. The kids do the news. They do the interviews. They take the pictures. Sometimes a teacher may have something that goes in, but mostly it's the students. So I think the quality is as good as some of the stories I get from community members, because we get stories and photos from community members that come in. So I’ve been really pleased."
The idea inspired two other schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation to publish their own papers. They take turns being included in the Lakota Country Times.
Brooke Chase Alone works on the Mustang News at Little Wound High School. She says her favorite story so far has been covering the history of the annual Big Foot Ride. This is a two-week trail ride from the Standing Rock Reservation to Wounded Knee.
Wounded Knee was where government soldiers killed more than two hundred Sioux in eighteen ninety. The Army called it a battle; Indians called it a massacre.
Brooke has a personal connection to the story.
BROOKE CHASE ALONE: "My grandpa, Percy White Plume, he was one of the original riders. He helped start it the first year it got started. And I just went to his house and interviewed him about it. And it's, like, really interesting because you learn a lot of things about him that you can't get from other people, because it's like a point of view, like, from their perspective."
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. We welcome your comments at voaspecialenglish.com and on the VOA Learning English page on Facebook. I'm Christopher Cruise.
Contributing: Jim Kent