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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Looking out, looking in: Potomac students hear Native lessons of respect for others, individuality
by JOE NICKELL of the Missoulian
credits: photo by LINDA THOMPSON - The Missoulin

POTOMAC - Students at Potomac School were handed three arrows on Friday afternoon, and asked to use them with care. These weren't arrows with tips, feathers or shafts - but they could be just as sharp and hurtful, warned Robert TallTree.

“These arrows of power can make the world a better place, or they can hurt people,” said TallTree, a speaker and musician who came to the school with his wife, Terri Lynn, to present their program, “Walking in Wisdom.”

“The thoughts that you think are the first arrow,” explained TallTree. “Second is the words that you speak. We all know how that one works because we know how it feels when someone uses that arrow against us. Third is the actions that you take. With those three arrows you can change the world where every human being matters.”

Robert and Terri Lynn TallTree, co-authors of the children's book “The Legend of Spinoza,” have traveled the world with their program, which blends Native American spirituality and cultural lessons with a message of celebrating individuality. Their presentation in Potomac was organized as a step toward the school's compliance with the state-mandated Indian Education for All program, which requires that schools integrate Native American history and culture into their curricula by 2010.

“Having the TallTrees come and teach about their beliefs and culture is a great way to segue in that direction and begin to get our curriculum in line with the state's expectations,” said Kim Kingston, principal of Potomac School. “I had heard such great things about the TallTrees, and the presentation was just awe-inspiring.”

The TallTrees played traditional Native American flutes and drums for the assembly of students, and spoke to them about the importance of respect for others and following your own dreams.

“You believe in yourself long enough and strong enough and don't let anyone take you off your own path, and you can be what you want to be,” said Robert TallTree, a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Mount Pleasant, Mich. “If you want a better world, be a better person.”

Terri Lynn, wearing a deerskin dress adorned with colorful beads, explained that the couple came to Potomac with the blessing of their tribal elders, to spread a message of self-confidence and goodness.

“There are no two people exactly the same in this whole wide world,” she said. “You are an original, and an original is always more valuable than a copy, because it's irreplaceable.”

In closing, the TallTrees encouraged the teachers and parents in attendance to purchase their products, which included soaps, books and CDs, and then asked the students to leave the assembly in silence.

Afterward, eighth-grader Anica Preston said she enjoyed the program's message.

“It's a good message, especially for little kids who aren't tainted by current events,” she said.

Melody McDaniel, another eighth-grader, added that the mood of the presentation was the most striking part.

“The whole thing was very peaceful and serene,” she said. “That was really neat and different.”

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