Native American Heritage Shines through Valley Students

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Both athletes, Elliott plays basketball and volleyball while White runs cross-country and track. Elliott plays ‘rezball,’ which is a highly popular basketball program among reservations.

Isabella Medina, Advertising Manager

Native American Heritage Month is here, and senior Koby White and sophomore Taela Elliott show their pride in their Native American heritage, sharing their culture with others.

Both White and Elliott, who are cousins, perform traditional healing dances; White is a grass dancer, and Elliott is a jingle dancer. Both Elliott and White have traditional Native American regalia that, as Elliott explains, “can be passed down to us, made by our families, or bought from other Natives.” They perform to shed light on their culture while also participating in their traditional ceremonies.

“Native Americans have often been invisible to our society,” White said. “We are often viewed only in a historical context. I am proud to bring awareness to Native American issues and to show people that we are strong and resilient people and that we are still here.”

White is Western Shoshone, Taos Pueblo, and African American. He uses social media to spread awareness to Natives with his content on the platform of Tik Tok. He provides content about Native Americans and their culture while also performing traditional dances, sometimes with his twin brother.

Koby White and Taela Elliott pose outside the school in their Native American regalia as they teach about Native American History Month. Both grew up practicing the traditions of their heritage. (Kelly Pedrick)

“I think that Koby is doing a great thing by bringing attention to not only Natives as a whole but also to the things that we face today as Indigenous people,” Elliott said. “It’s hard to put yourself out there, especially when there are people that don’t even know Natives still exist today, and he has done a good job at showing that we still exist, educating people about us.”

Elliott, who is Western Shoshone, explains that she was born into the traditions and history, which, she says, “are a daily part of our lives and we learn from our elders and families.” She takes part in powwows, rezball (highly competitive basketball games played around all reservations), and the Nevada Native Caucus Youth Council. There are also traditional activities still practiced today.

“Examples of these,” Elliott said, “would be smudging, harvesting pine nuts, hunting, using plants for medicine, sweat lodges, dancing, and drum circles.”

Bringing awareness to the Native American culture is important in a time where people are examining other cultures and fighting for their own rights. Assistant Principal Thomas Smith helped to feature these two students on Valley’s campus on November 12.

“I’m so excited to have both [White and Elliott] at Valley in their Traditional Indigenous Regalia honoring Native American History Month,” Smith said. “As we strive to make Valley a better place and the World a better place, [White and Elliott] doing this today will serve as steps toward bringing awareness and honoring not only Indigenous Americans but ALL People of Color.”