When Sunni Gullett walked into the Summer Enrichment Camp, she thought she knew everything there was to know about being a Wha-Zah-Zhi girl.
She insisted her mother made her go, but didn’t realize there was still a lot more to learn.
“It’s about our heritage and our culture,” Gullett said. “I learned more when I came here, I learned that my great-grandpa was the first drumkeeper in Pawhuska ever, I didn’t know that.”
The 12-year-old, three-time camp goer was one of about 50 Summer Enrichment Camp youths to participate in the 5-year-old program held by the Osage Nation Education Department.
The camp is for Osage youth and children that teaches them the Osage language, history, culture and various operations in the Osage Nation. The camp is split into two weeks. The youth camp was held first from July 12-July 14 for youth ages 11-15 years old. The children’s camp was held from July 26-28 for children ages 5-10, at the Osage Nation Language Department.
The campers spent three days filled with crafts, listening in on presentations and playing Osage games.
Cherise Lookout, outreach coordinator for the ON Education Department, has directed the camp for four out of its five years in existence. She said planning and running the camp is a tough one-person job but she enjoys doing it.
“I like to try to make it different every year. My focus is all on Osage students, Osage kids, Osage concerned,” she said. “For me it’s stressful but they love it, I think they’re just used to seeing me running here and there. For the most part I love seeing the kids.”
This year, the youth group listened in on a presentation by Osage Minerals Councilman Myron Red Eagle and finished the week up with a day at the Helmzar Challenge Course.
Lookout said she tries to make a bigger effort to collaborate with programs in the Nation.
“It gives them (campers) a whole new world into those types of things, what makes up their tribe,” Lookout said. “I wish there were more collaboration with other departments, I have my ones that may participate every year, across the board more involved, I feel like each avenue of Osage government is important.”
The past four years the camp has grown in a number of ways. New relationships have been made and new teaching concepts have been explored.
Lookout said the camp has grown in many ways, but can only grow so far as funding plays a big role in how the camp operates.
She said requests have been made to expand the camp, but funding is limited.
Lookout said that luckily she was able to work out a plan with the summer youth employment program to where they could help her with the camp.
This year, the camp had about a dozen workers and even they gain from the camp.
“I tell the workers, ‘you are their Michael Jordan’,” Lookout said. “They’re there to promote mentorship and leadership.”
Lookout said the summer workers learned a lot of the skills with the campers. She also said the workers realize how immature they were when learning about the culture.
“They have a better appreciation for the things that they’ve seen or not seen, they say I wish I had this camp when I was younger,” she said. “When Uncle Myron came in some of them said ‘I would have paid more attention when I was younger’.”
Nick Rumsey, 22, an incoming senior at Oklahoma State University who is studying accounting, said he always appreciated programs like the summer camp.
“When I was a little kid it was kind of cool having older people come and talk to you about school,” he said. “I think it’s great, every kid should know that there is a lot of other Osage kids out there, it’s great education for these kids.”
Lookout said the program has proven to be successful on just about all levels. She said to her, knowing that the kids learned at least one thing, makes her feel good about the camp as a whole.
“My success is based on the year after,” she said. “If half of them walk away with knowledge of something they didn’t know walking into my doors that’s enough for me.”
With campers like Sunni Gullett still learning from the camp after three years, it’s hard no to see how successful the camp is.
Gullett said she thinks other Osage youth should take part in the program because they’ll always find something new to learn.
“They can learn more, because there’s a lot of Osage Indians that don’t really know much about our culture and stuff, “ she said. “I had fun, I’m ready to come back for next year already.”
Original Publish Date: 2011-08-24 00:00:00