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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Students draw on history of American Indians
by John Weiss - Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

ELBA -- For his winter count picture, Nickolas Jonsgaard drew a teepee, fire, horse and sun, indicating what he learned from Leonard Wabasha about American Indians.

He said he found out "about the stuff they made like coats and pictures out of fur," he said. Most of what he knew before was from western movies he watched with his father. He was surprised at how well Indians could live without metals and machines of today.

For her picture, Crystal Edmunds drew a butterfly, a tree and other things she saw when walking around Whitewater State Park. She learned Indians used all parts of an animal they killed.

That's what Wabasha wanted them to do -- have students record in pictures something about their day at the park and to learn about his heritage. His ancestors would record on bison hides pictures telling what happened to them in the past year. That was called the winter count.

Wabasha, from Prior Lake, and his cultural resources director with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, spoke at the park Friday. He is the seventh in a line of hereditary chiefs, all named Wabasha, named for the chief who gave the name to the town of Wabasha.

Wabasha said he intentionally showed students from the Bluffview Learning Community in Winona how his ancestors had things, much like the people of today.

Sinews, used to strengthen wood bows, is much like today's fiberglass, he said. Passing buckskin over smoke from burning green wood made it breathable and waterproof, like today's Gore-Tex, he said.

"We are the same," he said. "If they look into their history, they would find that somewhere in their lineage, they were like this."

Europeans thought Indians were technologically backward because they didn't have wheels, he said. But their entire life was based on the circle of life, he said. "They lived in harmony with nature," he said. "It was a way of life."

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