The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle,
Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.
Calletano “Tano” Fillspipe-Rodriguez, 10, is the first Oglala Lakota to be selected for a spot at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.
PHOTO COURTESY/ELLEN FILLSPIPE
Red Cloud student reaches for the stars, makes history
Youth first Oglala Lakota to attend Space Camp
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer
OGLALA, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Native Americans in the space and robotics field are rare.
A young Native being selected to join the prestigious field is even more rare. However, an Oglala Lakota youth is making his presence known among his people with just such an accomplishment.
Calletano “Tano” Fillspipe-Rodriguez, 10, a soon-to-be fifth-grader at Red Cloud Middle School on the Pine Ridge Reservation, was recently awarded a Spencer Proffer Scholarship to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., this summer.
The Spencer Proffer Scholarship is a full scholarship for tuition and room and board offered to Native American students only. This was a highly competitive selection, with only 12 students being selected.
In order to be considered for one of these 12 slots, Fillspipe-Rodriguez had to submit a 30-second video introducing himself and explaining why he deserved this opportunity.
“My big sister Gabby and my brother Bishop, also students at Red Cloud, used to go to NASA camps at our old school. Even though I was only (in) kindergarten, I really wanted to go. But their teachers said I had to wait till I was (in) fifth grade,” Fillspipe-Rodriguez explains. “I always liked space and the stars and wanted to learn more about them. I always looked for space camps. The scholarship link said ‘Space Camp,’ but when I got accepted they gave me a chance to choose between space camp, space and robotics, or space and aviation. I picked space and robotics because I love robots and want to learn more about them and how to program them.”
The camp accepts only 25 students, with 12 going to Aboriginal Canadian and/or Native American students between the ages of 9-11 who have a passion for space, exploring, learning and leadership. This year, seven students are from the United States and five are from Canada.
Fillspipe-Rodriguez will be attending the camp from July 22-27.
“I will get the chance to (simulate) rescue astronauts from the International Space Station; will work to design and program the ultimate robot; do simulations and space missions; do some robotics, designing and engineering; work on teamwork; take part in the Legos robotics competition and do some astronaut simulations,” he said.
When speaking about what he will find most exciting about his adventure, Fillspipe-Rodriguez replied, “I’ve never been on a plane before. I’m looking forward to working on the robots and doing the Lego competition. And we get the chance to be an extra in a major box office movie about Space Camp. My brother said, ‘First, Space Camp? So now he’s going to be a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a movie star?’”
“I hope next year more Red Cloud kids could go. I think it would’ve been fun to take someone from my school with me,” he said.
Fillspipe-Rodriguez explains his plans for his future, saying, “When I grow up, I want to go into engineering and work in aeronautics. I saw a picture of a Lakota man that works there now. I want to be the next Oglala Lakota to work for NASA.”
He decided to make sure people would remember him, so he submitted his video in Lakota, with subtitles so non-speakers could understand what he was saying.
The youth had the help of his mother, Ellen Fillspipe, and Matt Rama, Red Cloud High School’s then-multimedia teacher.
Translated to English, he said in his video: “Good day. I am Red Buffalo Cap. My English name is Calletano Cruz Rodriguez. I am 10 years old, and I am an Oglala Lakota. I am of the Two Bulls family. I go to Red Cloud School. In my culture, we show respect to our family and our people by telling others who we are and where we come from. I am a fourth-grader from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Since I was little, I have loved the stars and wanted to work amongst them. I have waited for a chance like this my whole life. I want to be the one of the few Oglala Lakotas to work for NASA and maybe share my culture’s beliefs of the stars and why the stars and space are so important and fascinating for me and the Native people. Thank you for offering chances like this. Pilamiya ye, mitakuye oyasin (Thank you, my relatives).”
On June 2, Fillspipe-Rodriguez received confirmation via email that he was a recipient of a full scholarship for Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, to be used in the months of June, July or August.
As far as the staff of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center are aware, he is the only Oglala Lakota to ever be selected to attend Space Camp.
“I want to show the people and the other kids at the Space & Rocket Center how important the stars are to the Lakota and share some of our culture’s stories with them,” said Fillspipe-Rodriguez. “I can’t wait to go. I’m really excited.”
“I want to say thank you to my mom for finding this and helping me translate and to my Uncle Matt Rama for helping me with the subtitles. Our council lady, Valerie Janis, and the (Oglala Sioux Tribe) Finance Committee helped with some of my lab fees and some spending money. But Mason Big Crow, he’s our treasurer for the tribe, he got my plane ticket. I’m so grateful to him, especially.”
“There’s just my mom and us four kids. My sister Gabby, 16, went to study at Georgetown University at their Summer Biomedical Science Institute for a month. My other sister, Bella, 12, always goes to the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in the summers to study engineering and computers. And my brother Braedon lives basketball and helps our grandpa, Wilmer Mesteth, with the Sun Dance in the summers and helps our grandma and babysits.”
Fillspipe-Rodriguez is the youngest of four children and comes from the Lakeside Community in Oglala. His grandparents are Joan Two Bulls-Decker and the late Edwin Fills the Pipe. His great-grandmothers are Rebecca Jumping Eagle and the late Eleanor Broken Nose-Slow Bear. He comes from the Two Bulls-Broken Nose-Looks Twice-Jumping Eagle tiyospayes.
(Contact Karin Eagle at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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