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NMSU Tribal Extension director's drum making workshop good analogy for life

SHIPROCK - Clifford Jack sees an analogy between life and drum making.



Paul Gutierrez, NMSU's vice provost for outreach services and associate dean and associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, second from right, and Sam Suina, director of NMSU's Tribal Extension, right, present a Native American drum made by Shiprock youth to, from left, Kayla Tom, Valeria Betonie, Jeremiah Jim, Clifford Jack and Natissa Johnson, director of the Home for Women and Children's youth program, during a Tribal Extension Task Force meeting in Shiprock. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

While participating in a traditional drum making project taught by New Mexico State University's Tribal Extension director Sam Suina, Jack and a group of 20 participants learned that hard work with hand tools can turn a rough tree log into a beautiful musical instrument.

"I saw an analogy about life," said Jack, a community educator with the Shiprock Home for Women and Children, where he works with a domestic violence court-ordered men's group and the Advocacy for Harmony program. "I see my work with the men's group as helping them smooth out the roughness of their lives into a better existence."

During a recent Tribal Extension Task Force meeting in Shiprock, Jack and several of the youth who participated in the week-long workshop shared their reactions during the presentation of the finished drum to youth and Home for Women and Children staff by Suina and Paul Gutierrez, NMSU's vice provost for outreach services and associate dean and associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service.

Natissa Johnson, director of the Home for Women and Children's youth program, likes to have traditional cultural activities for the youth program. "I encourage them to know their culture and to respect other people's culture," Johnson said. "This was a great opportunity for them to learn the significance of the drum and each step of making one."

Kayla Tom, a teen who participated in the class, said "it was exciting to see and do the process rather than reading about it in a book."

Jeremiah Jim added that working with the tools was hard on his hands and arms, but it was a nice experience. "When we started I thought the process would take longer."

Suina has used drum making with other Native American youth programs to give them an opportunity to experience an art that is dying in many communities. He envisions other Native American traditions being taught through Cooperative Extension Service programs at the Northern Navajo Extension office in Shiprock and the Eastern Navajo Extension office in Crownpoint.

Leaders from NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, the Navajo Nation's Division of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Dine College and Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint are working together to expand agriculture, nutritional education and youth programs in the northeastern portion of the Navajo Nation. Funding from the New Mexico State Legislature and in-kind donations by the various agencies involved with the project is being used to create the two new Extension Centers.

"This is the type of program I'd like to see the Tribal Extension provide for our youth," said Arvin Trujillo, executive director of the Navajo Nation's Division of Natural Resources. "Having this type of program for youth is important. I hope the Tribal Extension can provide activities for our youth, especially for those not interested in athletics. A kid may not have athletic abilities but they have other skills. I want to get those kids involved in programs."