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Youths learn about Native Americans
Brandon Burrows looked down the shaft of an arrow at a wild boar.
But the 10-year-old wasn't after live prey.
Instead, he and dozens of other kids at Elk Creek Elementary School on Wednesday took aim at targets that resembled the animals indigenous to the western foothills of Colusa and Glenn counties.
"I just pulled back hard and the arrow flew really fast," said Burrows, excited to have hit a target more than 30 feet away.
The archery lesson might have been just like one given to another Native American youth 500 years ago, the kids said.
And the inspiriting sound of chants and the steady thud of wooden clappers could have been from any day in the life of their Wintun-Wailaki or Maidu ancestors, who once thrived on the area's aboriginal lands.
The activities Wednesday were all part of the Native American Summer Program, which began on June 25.
The program allowed youth to engage in Native American cultural activities while keeping up with academic subjects like mathematics and language arts.
"Mostly, we have fun," said Hunter Kirk, 10, of Elk Creek. "I liked making and throwing a spear."
Most of the participants were Grindstone residents, and attend school at Indian Valley Middle School in Stonyford and Elk Creek Elementary.
Burrows is a sixth grader at Willows Intermediate School.
Some of the participates attend Four Winds Charter School in Butte County.
It was the first year Anna Pacheco, of Chico, a sixth grader at Four Winds, attended the program in Elk Creek.
Like most of the participants, she enjoyed the archery and games.
Her favorite was the game with clapper sticks, which was once a form of gambling, but is played mostly for as a social activity.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "We even have tournaments."
The Native American program was provided by the Four Winds Indian Education and partners, including Northern Valley Indian Health, Glenn County Office of Education and Stony Creek Joint Unified School District.
In addition to combating summer learning loss by engaging in educational activity, the program is designed to enhance the future of Native American students by helping them look at the past, said Rachel McBride, the non-profit's executive director.
"The program combines cultural activities with academics," she said.
American Indian Education Centers in California, authorized by California education code, help with professional development, counseling, tutorial services and parent education, in addition to providing supplemental and extended day instructional programs to meet the needs of American Indian students, McBride said.
The Four Winds program primarily serves Glenn and Butte County Youth.
Several of the kids spent weeks making spears for fishing, near authentic to those made by their ancestors, replacing only the animal bone with modern steel.
The spears were made from young saplings, mostly cedar and fir.
"The hardest part is shaving off the skin," said Lewis Padilla, 12. "After that, it goes pretty fast. You just have to make it smooth."
Spearfisherman and program instructor Asa Mattice, of the Mountain Maidu in Genese Valley, said his young participants were eager to learn about a vital hunting skill native to the tribes that lived along the rivers and streams where salmon was plentiful.
"I think the kids really enjoyed it," he said. "It's way better than playing video games and watching TV."
About six of the youth will have the opportunity to try their hand at salmon fishing at the annual Salmon Festival in September.
Mattice said the kids chosen will be selected based on age, level of responsibility and their behavior during the summer program.
This was the fifth year for the Native American summer program, and the third held in Elk Creek.
Grindstone resident Julie Fred has four children who took part in the program.
"It really is a wonderful program," she said. "My kids always enjoy it."
Four Winds also provided a credit recovery program for several high school students, McBride said.
The program's last day at Elk Creek was Wednesday, which was celebrated with a barbecue and was attended by parents.
On Thursday, the youth traveled to the water park in Redding.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.