June 22, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, JUNE 21, 2012 — Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO), in continued partnership with Albuquerque's Native American Community Academy (NACA), organized an international cultural exchange to Aotearoa (New Zealand), May 28 – June 9, 2012, for students in the school's first graduating class.
AIO and its sister organization, the Advancement of Maori Opportunity (AMO) introduced NACA to two schools in Aotearoa: Nga Taitaia Wharekura, a Maori language immersion school, and Tai Wananga, an urban Maori school. AIO and AMO worked with the three schools to create meaningful, educational cross-cultural exchanges between the Native American and Maori students. Each school created a two-semester curriculum that provided students, teachers and administrators with a more global perspective on issues and challenges that face Indigenous peoples around the world.
“It's the foundation to allow our students to become global citizens," Toby Westrupp, principal of Tai Wananga, told the Hamilton, NZ-based Waikato Times.
AIO’s Director of Indigenous Leadership Initiatives, Ron Martinez Looking Elk (Isleta/Taos Pueblos) traveled to New Zealand with 17 NACA students from the 2012 graduating class, and five NACA staff members, including principal Kara Bobroff (Diné). Through a series of interactive dialogue of values, ideas and philosophies, the students broadened their knowledge, worldview, and perception of other Indigenous people and reinforced their own cultural identity.
"The students talked about the strong aspects of culture and customs and how that impacted them personally and what they want to take back to their own families and communities," Bobroff told Waikato Times.
NACA will continue to strengthen its ground-breaking relationship with the Maori schools, with plans to foster an ongoing effort to define Indigenous education, develop Indigenous curriculum and maintain virtual cultural exchange with Nga Taitaia Wharekura and Tai Wananga students.
The NACA senior trip to New Zealand is modeled after the international gathering in AIO’s Ambassadors Program. AIO has partnered with NACA since the school was founded in 2006, and has helped school administrators and teachers build Indigenous values-based leadership development into the curriculum, including an eighth grade Washington, DC experience, also based on the Ambassadors Program gathering to the nation’s capital.