TOWN Every week in the outskirts of Old Town, where the Kumeyaay
Indians were colonized by the Spaniards more than 200 years ago, scores
of urban Indians meet to dance, eat and keep their heritage alive.
and their families perform traditional grass dances while others
beat on drums and sing native songs.
meetings at the Ballard Parent Center are part of the San Diego
Unified School Districts federally funded American Indian
Education Program. In addition to the music and dance offerings,
the program also helps the districts Indian students with
tutoring, counseling, career guidance and other services.
is designed to support American Indian children who do not have
the benefit or network of services offered to those living on a
reservation, said Director Vicki Gambala, who oversees the program
and its annual $80,000 budget. Of the districts 130,000 students,
680 are listed as American Indian. A little more than 400 participate
in the federal program.
urban Indians. Unlike reservation Indians, we dont have big,
extended families here, Gambala said. The biggest challenge
for our children is self-esteem. Our children feel different. How
many Indians attend a school? Usually one.
a senior at High Tech High, remembers being a student at Hearst
Elementary School in Del Cerro and being asked if he lived in a
embarrassing, but also discouraging, said Hood, who hopes
to attend Harvard or Stanford next year. Its nice to
have a place where I can come back to and practice my grass dancing
and where I can get support.
picked up where the history books left off, usually right around
the fourth-grade lessons about California missions.
San Diego Unifieds
American Indian students make up a fraction of the districts
population. The demographic is so small that it rarely if
ever surfaces in discussions about test scores, dropout rates
Indians score among the lowest of any other ethnic group.
what we can to help our students, Gambala said. Sometimes
we feel like the forgotten group.
Alfred / Union-Tribune
Cambridge, 5, of Point Loma danced during the weekly American
Indian Education Program gathering at the Ballard Parent Center
in Old Town.
Alfred / Union-Tribune
Hood, who is part of the Navajo tribe, said he remembers being
asked when he attended Hearst Elementary School if he lived
in a teepee.