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Learning about native heritage
American Indian Education Program active in Marysville
Feather River Academy senior Cherokee Phillips can bust a move at most pow-wows, thanks to a dancing program provided by the American Indian Education Program in Marysville.
Phillips, 19, was accepted into the program in 2006 because of his Cherokee, Choctaw and Apache blood.
"It's a fun and creative place for children," he said.
The American Indian Education Program, started in 1974, supports hundreds of Yuba-Sutter youths. It teaches them about Native American culture and the importance of their heritage. It also offers tutoring to students in need.
Director Patricia Bennett said the program has three core functions: academic assistance, classroom presentations and community presentations. But archery classes, pow-wows, field trips and art activities are held weekly also.
Just as important in the program, however, is being able to recognize Native American culture, Bennett said.
"It's about making our people feel better in the community and having a higher self-esteem," she said.
More than 1,650 students are currently involved in the program, Bennett said, most of whom come from the Marysville Joint Unified School District.
The organization itself is a part of the Marysville district and is funded through a federal grant, which sends money based on the number of Native American members. This school year, it received $320,000.
Recently, Bennett said the organization has gone through changes because of retirements. James Graham left after holding the position of director for 20 years, and Bernice Stark retired after running the classroom presentations since the program's inception.
The American Indian-focused program is the only one of its kind in the bi-county area, Linda resident Cynthia Ketchum said.
"It's really the only program that Native Americans can come to learn about Native Americans," she said.
Ketchum has a daughter, Elizabeth, who went through the program in the early '90s, and has two grandchildren, students at Sutter Union High School, who are involved with the organization as well.
"It makes a difference," she said.