skies were gray but the spirits were bright of the estimated 500
Topeka-area third-graders who gathered Friday morning for the 17th
annual Native American Education Day, part of the Shawnee County
Allied Tribes Inc. Pow Wow at Lake Shawnee.
chairperson Bobbie Anderson said the yearly education day gives
the students the chance to learn more about Native American traditions
and heritage, particularly through the use of storytelling.
traditions are important to hand down and important for the younger
generation," she said. "It also shows that Native Americans
are here and part of the community."
get the morning's activities and the powwow started, the students
and teachers stood in a circle in the field east of Reynolds Lodge
for the traditional opening of the drum and blessing of the grounds.
Ballard, a member of the Cherokee tribe, walked around the circle
with burning sage, cedar and sweetgrass, which created smoke that
the adults in the crowd welcomed by waving the smoke toward them,
as if washing themselves in it.
he walked, Ballard repeated phrases to the children like: "You're
going to have a good day at school and good dreams tonight. Bad
dreams and bad spirits are chased away."
the blessing of the grounds, the students participated in several
culture sessions, where they heard stories, historical facts and
learned more about the symbolic meanings behind some Native American
traditions, such as the crafting of instruments and regalia with
of the sessions included learning more about why the drum is central
to Native American culture.
drum represents everything living," Jesse Eteeyan, 17, a member
of the Prairie Band Potawatomi, told the children. "Everything
you see around the drum is sacred. The drum represents everything."
Lunkins, a Highland Park Central third-grader, said learning about
the drum was the favorite part of her morning.
play it loud," she said. "And I like how they sing."
explained why many tribal songs don't have distinct words but rather
"audibles." He said when members of different tribes would
come together many years ago, they spoke different languages so
they created sounds that they could all understand in song.
Reed, another Highland Park Central student, asked questions of
nearly all the presenters during the culture sessions. He said he
wants to learn more about how things are made and what they are
made out of in nature. But just like his classmate, Makayla, the
drum was his favorite.
sounds like buffalo stomping across the ground," he said. "It
reminds me of nature."
boarding the buses to go back to school, the students and their
teachers walked in a circle for the friendship dance, a tradition
that symbolizes the unity of all Native American tribes.
Deines is a freelance writer in Topeka. She can be reached at email@example.com.