Published On: Thu, Jan 26th, 2017

President Obama writes to New Kituwah students

SPECIAL MAIL: Students in a first grade class at New Kituwah pose with photos, a letter, and other information they received recently from President Obama. Shown (left-right) standing – Teacher Rainy Brake, Kiara Sneed (Oganasdi), Eden Littlejohn (Tsegisini), Jayla Pheasant (Wadulisi), Raul Hernandez (Waya); bottom row – Bailey Crowe (Agaliha), Maddie Dozier (Dakasi), Morgan Hernandez (Tsula), and Phoenix Martin (Tiyohali). (Photo courtesy of New Kituwah Academy)





Earlier this month, students in a first grade class at New Kituwah Academy received a letter from a very special person.  President Barack Obama, then still in office, answered letters they sent him several months ago regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

“Our environment and wildlife are among our most precious treasures, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with me,” President Obama’s letter reads.  “I am committed to keeping our country’s air, water, and land clean and safe.  My administration is working hard to reduce harmful pollutants, and we are taking on tough environmental challenges, including climate change.  We are also proud to have protected more than 265 million acres of land and water.”

The letter continued, “By working together, we can leave our planet even better than we found it.  You can join in by recycling and reusing paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum, and you can save energy by turning off lights and unplugging appliances you are not using.  Small steps like these can make a big difference.”

Shown is a letter sent to the students from President Obama.

Rainy Brake, New Kituwah Academy first grade teacher, related, “Whenever there are current events that involve science, the kids will watch some news clips, and when the DAPL protests started against the Dakota Access Pipeline, we saw some protests that involved children a little bit older than them and we talked about the implications of the pipeline.  We talked about the implications to them, as Native Americans.”

She said the kids discussed ways to get involved and the idea of writing to President Obama was proposed.  “They thought this was the best way they had of getting some action.”

Brake continued, “After we watched the news clips, we did some experiments on water quality, and we talked about what it would look like if there was oil in the water.  We talked about what would happen if the water was polluted and how it would affect us and how it would affect everybody.”

Following their research and experiments, the students wrote letters to President Obama in the Cherokee language, and they drew photos of the pipeline as well as the Missouri River and how it would look in the future.  A cover letter, written in English, was attached so that the intent of the children’s letters could be understood and all of the letters and photos were mailed in November 2016.

FAMILY: President Obama included an autographed family photo with the packet sent to the New Kituwah students.

The White House receives around 10,000 letters per day and staff selects around 10 to respond to.  “Apparently, someone somewhere saw the kid’s thoughts and thought it was important for the President to see,” related Brake.  “He wrote them a letter back thanking them for their activism, and that’s what we’re trying to teach them is that activism gets results.”

She said this experience has also helped in their social studies curriculum.  “We’re not so concerned with politics as we are citizenship, and our job is to teach them to be good citizens of the Tribe and good citizens of the country…we want them to be good Cherokee citizens, and one way that can be accomplished is to see that the language can be used to cause change.”

As part of their citizenship study, the students watched the inauguration of President Donald Trump, and they wrote letters to him detailing what they hope the world will look like in 10 years.

“So, hopefully, we’ll get something back from Donald Trump as well,” Brake commented.