Na Kama Kai- InterTribal Youth California-Hawaii
"Native Like Water" Youth Exchange
"I feel like I'm starting a new life. Looking back I've definitely made a journey much deeper than just physical. My mind is clear, my spirit feels free and I'm physically tired but I cannot wait to go back and start school again. Life is definitely going to be different when I get home. -Tuff Turner (age 16), 2015 CA-HI Exchange Youth Leader; Luiseno Indian of the Rincon Reservation, San Diego California
California InterTribal Youth has a mutual invitation with relatives of the Hawaiian Kingdom and Na Kama Kai's Alaka’i Mentor-ship Program.
Part 1: California Youth to Hawaii completed in February 2015
Part 2: Hawaiian Youth to California Programs June/July 2015-18
A peer-chosen group of youth gain a stronger commitment to conservation and stewardship of the ocean. Concepts of mālama ‘āina and mālama kai (stewardship of the land and sea) are taught and practiced. This program is tailored to help meet the needs and interests of the youth, community leadership, and the California- Hawaii relation to environmental sciences and indigenous maritime history.
Mentors and Elders carefully guide our youth to develop self-respect and self-reliance necessary to accomplish long-term goals. Ocean history, navigational and boating skills were acquired through a partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Na Kama Kai Clinics also introduced youth to ocean related career opportunities through interaction with professionals working in the marine environment.
Youth exchange with indigenous scientists, cultural experts, indigenous charter schools, native organic foods and an exchange of ancestral and modern song.
Part 2 happened during the 2015, 2016 Summer, Na Kama Kai Hawaiian Youth visited ITY during the residential programs in San Diego and Northern California. They join inter-tribal youth from various nations of California and beyond.
This page is a glimpse of lessons shared during the Southern California Youth visit to Hawaii, hosted by Na Kama Kai.
Years ago, Indigenous people in Southern California were removed from their coastal homes and way of life. Loss of habitat, for any species, is the largest cause for extinction. ITY Program Director Marc Chavez strongly believes a re-introduction to ocean recreation, earth sciences, indigenous science, biology, and cultural research benefits all native youth and contributes, intellectually, to the university’s context on diversity.
ITY’s long-standing relationships with UCSD, SDSU, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium will be useful in this. Partnerships like this inspire youth to join-in on science; provide a culturally balanced curriculum, and direct youth along the path to college.
"I know I only got to spend a week with these amazing people but in that week I really have a new perspective on life. Every single person I met was so kind hearted and automatically made me feel like I was family. This trip and the amazing people really inspire me to learn more about my culture and my connection with water because of how compassionate they were about their culture." Cheyenne Bactad (age 16), Viejas Reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation
"For many of us who are from reservations in San Diego we weren't taught the value of the ocean. But seeing the Hawaiians and how connected they are to the ocean makes me sad knowing we once had a strong connection with the ocean as well. Although the known connections with the oceans is little to none, I want to learn all I can about my culture tied to the ocean. Having a program like Na Kama Kai would be great in San Diego, it would encourage young Native Americans to step out of their comfort zone and get in the ocean and learn all their is to know about it. We would create new friendships and strengthen existing ones." -Silent Rain (age 14), Viejas Reservation of the Kumeyaay Nation
"We went to METC school where they taught their students how to refurbish boats. This made me think of how I'm going to Evergreen State College for Marine biology. After I graduate and i would absolutely adore to come back to Oahu to spend a few years and make my own boat to do my studies on that." -Erin La Chappa (age 17), Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation
"While the girls, uncle Larry and uncle Marc weeded the ground around the Kahlo, the men, with the help of uncle Dean and uncle Brandon cleared out the brush and organic mater in order to plant new crop. This was probably my favorite day of the trip so far. I think it was great because I got nice and dirty and just totally did something I would never do home." -Tuff Turner (age 16), Rincon-Luiseno Reservation, San Diego California
"When we arrived in Oahu, Hawaii for the "Native Like Water" trip, we were greeted by the Hawaiian youth group with a traditional welcoming song. [Which happened with each new group we visited] We learned that before they enter an important place or the ocean they sing a "permission song" and only enter after. I am a member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from Palm Springs, CA and I shared a song named "Powaaenya". This is one song about our migration from our ancestral lands and back home. I learned this song from my dad, Tim, who sings with my Uncle Joseph Saubel. My uncle is the lead singer for the Hot Water Birdsingers. Out of respect for their elders they refer to each as aunty or uncle. We were taught about their royal hierarchy and many other cultural traditions kept alive, like their language and dance." Timothy Siva (age 14), Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
"Seeing the school [Hawaiian charter school] today I've realized how I wanted to make a school like that on our rez. Seeing how engaged and hands on they are really inspired me to learn as much as I can about my culture. We are the future generation and how are we supposed to teach it to the next to come. If I could take back anything from my rez it would be to have the respect and the bonds like they do. I've learned to look at the positives in each situation. Going back to the creation story of the Kumeyaay people I believe the way to get connected with your ancestors is to get in the ocean and respect it. This experience has taught me a lot and I am very thankful and blessed to be sharing it with the ones I love, some being family, others new family. " -Jenna Donayre (age 14), Barona Reservation, Kumeyaay Band of Mission Indians
"We need to continue to make these connections and encourage our youth so they can continue to thrive in an ever-changing world while staying connected to their culture and traditions. They [youth] are truly native like water...they're able to adapt in any situation while staying connected to their culture. I'm extremely proud of every single one of them. Seeing their growth and seeing them step out of their shells to try new things inspires me to do the same. What an amazing journey we all took together. I'm very grateful to you Marc for connecting us with our relatives in Hawai'i." Wopila, Gina Tiger :) ITY Youth Mentor, Lakota-Sioux
"Youth became ambassadors or their cultures via impromptu cultural sharing. Youth relied on their own knowledge of dances and shared the significance of the moves. The students became the teachers. Aboard the Hawaii Loa Traditional Voyage Vessel (part of the Hokule'a family of canoes), you could feel the presence of positive energy which has carried crews safety through the ocean without modern technology. The vessel is testament to the genius indigenous cultures carry." Manny Lieras, ITY Mentor, Dine/Comanche
"I realize how important our traditional knowledge is to our youth as well as the importance of continuing to practice our culture on a daily basis. From a Southern California native perspective, I was impressed with the talent and enthusiasm that the selected youth have for preserving their culture. I think it is very important to continue these types of cultural exchange programs in order to carry on for future generations. It was an honor and privilege to participate as an "Honored Elder" in the Winter 2015 Native Like Water program. As a result of participating in the Native Like Water program, we are planning family gatherings to continue the sharing of our culture and traditions. Aahan, Larry "Moto" Banegas, Barona
Visiting Na Kama Kai has enforced our concept of initiating a renew-ed "Native Like Water" Indigenous Coastal Culture Science Education Program. This will also combat health disparities for local and non-local youth ITY hosts. One of our lessons is that coastal food is medicine and that each of us has the power to rewrite our genetic history and combat the diseases of our recent fore fathers. We have the power to heal and sustain health, provided we have access to correct information, recreational opportunities, and are able to see the connection to all living things - to water -to the aina (land)- and to organic native foods as medicine." Marc Chavez, InterTribal Youth Director/Founder
Thank you to the great
List of Ohana (people of the same root)
for making the Exchange Possible:
Na Kama Kai & their Ohana of Supporters,
InterTribal Youth & The BRIDGE 501c3
Barona Band of Kumeyaay Indians
Sycuan Institute for Tribal Gaming (SITG) at San Diego State U.
Matson Inc. Shipping
Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
SCTCA and Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Down to Earth Food Store Organic and Natural
Green Rows Farms