West Springfield High School Newspaper

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The more you know… about Stephanie Van

Stephanie Van posing for her school picture at her old high school, Turtle Mountain Community High School.

Stephanie Van

Stephanie Van posing for her school picture at her old high school, Turtle Mountain Community High School.

Mia Oppler, Sports Editor

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WS teachers come from many different backgrounds and freshmen English teacher, Stephanie Van, has quite the unique one. Her roots are tied to Native American heritage.

Despite Van’s rare childhood experiences, many of her students are not aware of where their teacher comes from.

“She seems very reserved and holds back from going deep into her early life,” said freshman Joe Burke.

Growing up on an Indian reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota has contributed to Van’s development as a person.

“[Van] was able to experience the Native American cultures first hand. She grew up in a society [in which] she was able to experience all different classes, such as rich, middle and lower class.” said her father Lancelot Azure.

Van grew up on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, one of five in Belcourt associated with the band of Chippewa Indians. Consisting of two stoplights, the small reservation allowed Van to grow up with extended family and friends within a five acre range. Due to its small size, the people on the reservation were a tight knit community.

“We had no street signs or house numbers. The only way I could get to a friend was to know the directions from memory,” said Van.

Although the reservation has a limited population, Turtle Mountain Community High School

is a mixture of people from the reservation and those from the surrounding rural lands, as it was the only high school in the area. Van was involved with sports, especially basketball. She was even able to represent her state through her involvement with the Indigenous Games.

“They are set up like the Olympics but only for Native Americans from different states and we got to travel to Quebec, Canada.” said Van.

Culture was one thing Van’s childhood did not lack, such as attending powwows and experiencing Native American traditions on hand, day to day.

Van’s background has allowed her to be tied to current events such as the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. Van’s father took the lead in participating in protests in DC with some of her own friends from the reservation. Van’s schedule did not allow her to partake in the protests. Natives Americans prefer the term ‘protectors’ rather than protestors as they are simply protecting natural resources.

“When I was at the protest camp, there was such a peaceful feeling because there were people from all over the world coming together,” said Azure.

Van’s Native American father and Polish mother brought her up to embrace both cultures. Van’s own three children will have a similar childhood as they will be raised learning about two cultures of their own, Native American and Cambodian from their father.

“Her children have a lot of cultures to learn about, but I know [Van] makes sure they also get to learn about her Native culture and they love to come and visit and experience everything that our culture and reservation can offer,” said Azure.

 

 

 

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The more you know… about Stephanie Van