Little Wound School newspaper branches out
Dakota Digest - 02/09/2011
By Jim Kent
Reading a newspaper that's published by Native Americans isn't unusual. But reading a newspaper that's created by Native American high school students and included as part of a Native American newspaper is pretty unique. Today we visit with students at the Little Wound School's journalism class to get the scoop on what's news on the rez.
The village of Kyle is located near the center of the Pine Ridge Reservation. It's where the Little Wound Mustangs have been fighting for a winning basketball season - and making progress in that battle. But basketball isn't the only group activity that's been rebounding at the Little Wound school.
Speaking over the sounds of the classroom's heater, Nicky Oulette gives her 12 students some pointers on what makes a story news worthy. Oulette is the first journalism teacher Little Wound has had in years. Her arrival last Fall helped spark the resurgence of a school activity that's also been absent for some time: the school's newspaper.
"They pick the articles that we write," Oulette explains. "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."
Sounds like the kind of stuff high school students would be interested in. But the Mustang News staff doesn't just write about weather and the latest music. They also cover hard news - like the recent flood that resulted from a broken water pipe. And there's a catch. The paper isn't just circulated in the school. It's also read across the reservation - and the region - every two weeks as part of the Lakota Country Times.
"I don't know about many high schools that have this type of setup," says 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 publication."
"Historically, we've had a Mustang News," recalls Linda Hunter. "And years ago...in the '70s, I taught English and I was part of the journalism staff."
Little Wound superintendent Linda Hunter explains that a newspaper has always been a part of the school, but fell by the wayside when journalism was no longer a subject. Now that Nicky Oulette is at the helm, Hunter says the paper is not only back - but joining the school with the community it serves.
"I know that one of our goals is to establish communication with the community and with our parents," says Hunter. "And this is a perfect way of doing it because students write the stories, they take the pictures. And, so, then it's a good way of showcasing what's going on in the school."
Back in the classroom, the students' views on being a journalist are varied.
"I actually really like it," says Brooke Chase Alone. "It's really fun sometimes. I mean, sometimes you get stuck with articles you don't really want to write about, but most of the time they're really fun and interesting."
Chase Alone says her favorite story, so far, was covering the history of the annual Big Foot Ride - from the Standing Rock Reservation to Wounded Knee.
I ask Brooke how she obtained the information for the story.
"My grandpa, Percy White Plume," says Chase Alone. "He was one of the original riders. He helped start it when...the first year it got started. So, I just went to his house and interviewed him about it. And it's...like, really interesting because you learn a lot about him that you can't get from other people because it's like a point of view from their perspective. So, it's really...it's really fun and interesting."
Madeline Buckman covered the hard news story about the recent school flood when a water pipe broke. She says it was pretty weird the way several people were trying to answer her questions at the same time.
I ask Madeline what she likes about journalism.
"Mostly the, like, editorial part where you can write your own opinion pieces about things," she explains. "I really don't like going on both sides of stories. It's kind of not my thing, so..."
So, Madeline will be starting her own column about the weather, as her teacher mentioned earlier. But no matter what a journalist writes, one of the payoffs is actually seeing your story in print.
Lakota Country Times publisher Connie Smith brings the Mustang News to Little Wound every 2 weeks so the students can see their paper as a part of the larger publication. She says the public reaction has been overwhelming.
The Mustang News has already inspired Porcupine and American Horse Schools to publish their own papers, which take turns being circulated in the Lakota Country Times.
Connie Smith's goal is to have a newspaper in every reservation school because, in her mind, a community paper is school news.
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