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Canku Ota
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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Head Start Powwow Brings Families And Community Together To The Beat Of The Drum
by Alyssa Kelly - Char-Koosta News
credits: all photos by Alyssa Kelly - Char-Koosta News
Tiny Tot chicken dancer Micalee Gardipe, age 2, showcases the outfit his mother made him. Gardipe attends Head Start's Growing Words Immersion school.

RONAN, MT— Little moccasins stomped to the beat of the drum during the 41st annual Head Start Powwow. Families were treated to music, dancing, and an Indian taco feed at the Ronan Event Center. "Our goal is to celebrate the children," said Early Childhood Services' Cultural Coordinator Myrna Dumontier. "It's their powwow."

"We Are Grateful" was the theme of this year's powwow. "We are grateful for the healing that comes in being unified, striving for health and wellness," Dumontier said. "Our families growing stronger and our elders being honored and respected."

Each year, the Head Start Powwow honors local tribal elders. Geri Owen and Karen "Kapi" Coffey were selected for their years of constructing hundreds of pairs of moccasins for Head Start students. "These women have been so dedicated in their contributions over the years," Dumontier said. "They believed in children and wanted to provide for them by their endless sewing of traditional clothing. These are used in the classroom as kids learn cultural life ways."

The powwow is an extension of Early Childhood Services' (ECS) concentrated efforts to bring tribal culture into the classroom. Aside from hiring tribal language instructors, Dumontier said the program invites powwow dancers, singers and crafters to guest teach cultural activities.

Two years ago, ECS began hosting weekly cultural circles for each community on the Flathead Reservation, where families could learn to sew and craft regalia. Dumontier said the results of the cultural circles were on display at the powwow. "What made this year unique was seeing that more families got involved in creating regalia for themselves," she said. "There were more families dancing together."

Dumontier said she hopes those who attended the annual Head Start Powwow were left with a deeper understanding of its meaning. "The powwow allows us to celebrate our beautiful land, culture and values," she said. "The drum brings us to one heartbeat. Just like a mother holding her baby and their hearts unify. We hope our celebration exemplifies that."

Head Start language teacher Mali Matt (right) is joined by her partner Joe Santos (left) in teaching a student (center) to dance.
Longtime language and culture instructor Eva Boyd enjoys the powwow with Head Start Cultural Coordinator Myrna Dumontier.
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