2016 Dreamstarter Blaze Burrows, Round Valley Indian Tribes, Covelo, California

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Blaze, a 16-year-old sophomore in his Native American studies program, came to the mind of his Native American Studies program teacher in 2015 as the ideal Dreamstarter candidate with an already-impressive resume: President of the Round Valley High School Native American Club; a community Wailaki (a nearly-lost Native American language) language teacher; and a Bear Dance drummer.

In addition, Blaze was enjoying learning how to play his traditional stick game Kyin-naal-del’, and teaching the game to his peers was his dream.

“Kyin-naal-del’ is a traditional Wailaki stick game played by males,” Blaze explained in his Dreamstarter application. “My idea is to teach other young Native boys to play this traditional game by starting a Kyin-naal-del’ training program. We will train a group of local high school Native boys and interested community males to be trainers. Participants will learn the cultural rules governing Kyin-naal-del’ and learn to carve the sticks needed for the game.”

Blaze not only realized his dream during his 2016 grant year, but for the past two years has continued to receive support through Running Strong’s “Keep the Dream Alive” program which has provided him grants of $5,000 each year to do just that.

Cheryl Tuttle, Native American Studies Director at Round Valley High School, reported this month that in doing so, dozens of young boys have learned to play the game of their ancestors, and in many cases changing their lives.

Among them is Hawk, a 7th-grader who Cheryl describes as being “naturally good at the stick game,” and noting that he doesn’t play any other sports.

“By providing the stick game that he excels in, it gives him more confidence and self-esteem among his peers. Hawk also excels at the Wailaki language,” she added. “By including his Native culture in school, it has encouraged him and helped him want to belong to his peer and school community, therefore his participation in activities as has increased.”

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