The Oneida Indian Nation’s Summer Jam program wrapped up another year on August 17 with a trip to Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua. In a year packed with cultural activities, games and trips, the Nation’s youth programs coordinator, Donna Howe, said daily attendance was the highest it’s ever been.

The planned activities had youth practicing the Oneida language, visiting historic sites in the area, developing golf and archery skills, learning personal safety tips from Nation police officers and how to boost self-esteem from the Nation Health Services’ behavioral health department.

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Each Wednesday, Oneida language instructors Chelsea Jocko (Wolf Clan) and Clairese Patterson (Wolf Clan) held classes with the group and were impressed with how quickly the kids picked up new words and phrases. They focused on colors and clothing during one mid-summer class using fun games, like seat switch, where Chelsea would say a color in Oneida and the kids wearing that color would have to switch seats.

The kids split into two groups for language activities to maintain smaller class sizes. So while half were practicing the language, the other half went to Warrior Archery at Oneida Heritage. The two group sessions swapped in the afternoon.

Archery gets kids active and introduces them to a traditional American Indian skill taught by Oneida Heritage manager, Ron Patterson (Wolf Clan), and Alex Dickerman (Turtle Clan). Over the six weeks, the kids’ bow skills and technique improved greatly.

Summer Jam participant, Jadalyn George, said it was fun every week. “I liked it a lot,” she said. “We’ve been here 4 weeks and I’m getting better.”

On Wednesday afternoons before the language/archery sessions, all “Summer Jammers” packed the Rec Center for an activity with Jill Gustin from the Health Services’ behavioral health department. The kids worked on self-affirmation shields during one afternoon session. Everyone wrote down a positive quality about themselves, something they are good at, and something somebody else said they liked about them to reinforce all of their positive traits and boost self-esteem. Jill said she wants the kids to remember all of their positive qualities for the times they need to cope with feeling sad or upset.

Every week was bookended with hikes or field trips to local parks and attractions. Over the course of the summer on Monday afternoons, the group visited Mount Hope Reservoir, Oxbow Park, Green Lakes State Park, Delta Lake and Chittenango Falls.

The kids also had several fun field trips at the end of the week that included Paper Mill Island in Baldwinsville to see the Corning Museum of GlassBarge trekking the Erie Canal, the Wild Animal Park in Chittenango, the Great Swamp Conservancy in Canastota, Big Don’s Outdoor Fun Center in Cicero, the Ledge indoor rock climbing center in Liverpool, and finally, Roseland Waterpark to close out the summer.

The Ledge was popular with all of the kids, even those a little cautious of heights. The staff at the Ledge gave the kids a quick crash course, going over all the proper safety instructions and procedures, and then everyone was free to try their hand at climbing walls that ranged in all levels of difficulty. After an hour or so of climbing, Donna brought the crew over to Onondaga Lake Park for lunch near the water.

Ron Patterson also brought the kids to a few historic cultural areas every Thursday afternoon to teach them more about their ancestral roots. One week, the group visited Fort Stanwix in Rome to walk around the grounds and experience the museum at the Marinus Willett Center. Ron spoke of how Oneidas, soldiers, and others in the region lived during the late 1700s. The fort was a Continental Army post that guarded many of the waterways of trade at the time.

When Summer Jam 2018 entered its final week in mid-August, parents were able to join their kids for Family Day at the Rec Center. Nation police officers cooked burgers and hot dogs on the grill for lunch, and all participants were awarded special certificates that highlighted their own unique contributions to the summer program.