With a Native American population of only 6,000, the Boston area can be an isolating place for kids of Native American heritage.
But each summer, the Native American Youth Enrichment Program (NAYEP), a summer camp of Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), helps Native youth connect with each other – and to their culture.
From sage ceremonies to swimming trips, NAYEP infuses classic summer fun with cultural pride.
“It’s hard when you’re one of hundreds in a school or one of thousands in a city,” said this year’s camp co-director, Sophia Taula ’04, herself of Nez Perce and Umatilla heritage. “That’s something that most of the parents really love about the program, that their children can go and learn about their culture, learn about their ancestors, and develop a sense of pride and love for where they come from.”
After collecting the 33 campers from their neighborhoods in Boston, Quincy, Revere, and Watertown, NAYEP met each day at the North American Indian Center of Boston in Jamaica Plain. Mornings were devoted to curriculum, some of which explored Native American themes. Campers read Native American myths, for instance, then wrote their own. Older kids discussed the challenges of being Native in an urban environment.
After lunch, campers took field trips to go swimming, visit museums, and explore Boston. Two overnight camping trips were highlights for kids and counselors alike.
“I personally don’t enjoy camping that much, but doing it with the kids was a whole new experience,” said Taula. “You just enjoy things so much more when you do them with the kids.”