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Fort Hall students first in Idaho to go to national debate tournament from an all-indigenous school

(left to right) Luzahan Matsaw, Aiyana Eschief and Seth Stacey stand next to their debate coach, Abbey Vaughn, and a poster wishing them luck at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. | Logan Ramsey,
FORT HALL — Three local indigenous students are the first from an all-indigenous school in Idaho to go to speech and debate nationals.
The students, from Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. High School, are Luzahan Matsaw, Aiyana Eschief and Seth Stacey. They will be competing in the informative speaking category at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. The tournament will be held in Des Moine, Iowa, from June 16 to 21.
“This is a big thing for us because we’re making history for our people, and they’re proud of us. So I’m proud that I helped with the history,” Stacey said.
Matsaw, Eschief, both 16-year old sophomores and Stacey, a 14-year old eighth grader, are competing in speech and debate for their first year.
The students all began participating in debate when Abbey Vaughn was hired as an English teacher and started the school’s first speech and debate team. She partnered with Jett Smith, the coach of the Highland High School debate team, so that they could travel together, forming a co-debate team.
Through their first year competing, the students have learned how to have more confidence in themselves and their voices.
Stacey said competing has allowed him to improve his stutter and become more outgoing.
“I’m proud of that,” Stacey said. “I know how to speak better. I still stutter, but it helped me keep my balance when speaking.”
Matsaw said learning enough about different subjects so that he could debate both sides has given him more confidence in his knowledge.
“Whether you’re on the negative or positive, you’re learning that confidence,” Matsaw said. “You get to a point where you can see through what (your opponent) is saying. Like, that point’s kind of weak, we should focus on it.”
For Eschief, competing in speech and debate has given her the confidence to speak out. She had no interest in this before, but now she wants to run for a position on the Fort Hall Business Council.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it until speech and debate because (I became) really confident in myself because of the way that I was speaking,” Eschief said.
Informative speaking is a category where the students choose a subject and give an informational speech about it, focusing on not just their delivery of the speech, but the content of it as well.
Matsaw is going to be giving an informative speech on one of his personal interests, horror games. He’s interested in the entire genre of horror, but has more recently become interested in games specifically.
“I’m hoping that I can do something like that,” Matsaw said. “Go to school for it and make stuff like that.”
Eschief will be giving an informative speech on an issue that hits close to home for her — residential schools. In her speech, she will detail how the schools were made to destroy the cultures of indigenous people under the guise of making them better people.
“Kids had to go to these residential schools because white settlers thought that they were not close to God (or) hygienic. They just thought they were uncultured,” Eschief explained.
Eschief said people will often discount history, but she believes that it’s important to learn, because much of it, “is meant to be in the past.”
“It’s a part of my culture, so I want to express it more and show more about it,” Eschief said.
Stacey will give his speech on the pressing issue of missing and murdered indigenous people. This is an issue that affects mostly indigenous women and girls, but all indigenous people are at increased risk of being found murdered or going missing.
“It’s scary for the new generation that’s coming up because if you look around, it’s starting to get more dangerous for us,” Stacey said. “I don’t want to end up another missing or murdered indigenous person.”
“It’s important to let people know that we’re still here. We are proud to be indigenous and we’re trying to live our lives happily,” Stacey said.
Vaughn said she was proud to watch her students improve over their first year of debate and, “voice what they want to do, what they want to say and be more vocal about what they want. It’s pretty amazing to me, being able to help them make history.”
Being the first students in Idaho from an all-indigenous school to go to nationals has caused Matsaw to reflect on how far he’s come as a debater.
“In the beginning, I barely knew anything about speech and debate. We were fumbling a lot but I think now we’ve learned so much about how to speak, what things to do and (how to prepare),” Matsaw said.
Eschief feels like she’s gained new opportunities in life from everything she’s learned in debate.
Stacey said that other students at their school from previous years would have utilized debate if it had been available to them.
“(People who had graduated) came to talk to me about it and they said they wish that they had more opportunities like this,” Stacey said.
The post Fort Hall students first in Idaho to go to national debate tournament from an all-indigenous school appeared first on East Idaho News.

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