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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


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Healing Teachings From a Tepee


 by Peter Johnson Great Falls Tribune-September 21, 2001

Great Falls, MT - Indian Education Coordinator Billie Maddox's teachings for a tepee erected at Sacajawea Elementary spoke of respect for people of different cultures.

Maddox and Sacajawea Principal Susan Ballantyne later said they were good lessons for children and adults in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 suicide bombings that threatened to turn Americans of different cultural and religious backgrounds against each other.

"That terrorism was tragic, but it's sad to see animosity between Americans," Maddox said.

Ballantyne said some students are still anxious and have trouble sleeping after the traumatic national events, so the school is trying to emphasize the positive, by raising money for relief efforts.

Teresa Sprague's 17 first-grade students were whispering eagerly as they got ready to enter the large tepee Maddox had set up in their schoolyard, part of a two-week Indian Education stress districtwide.

Maddox was making a smudge by burning sharp smelling sweetgrass and rubbing ashes on her skin. A Blackfeet Indian, she said she does so every morning and prays for the Creator to protect children and make them strong.

Next she distributed baggies with a leather cord and four beads of different colors.

As she helped the children string bracelets, Maddox explained the significance of the colors.

The red bead represents Native people and the traits of trust and spirituality, she said.

The yellow bead signifies Asian people, kindness and emotional strength.

Black beads stand for black people as well as respect and physical strength, she said.

And the white bead represents white people, wisdom and mental strength.

"All of those colors are very sacred," she said. "Even though people come in different colors, we are all the Creator's children and we are brothers and sisters."

Maddox also told a Native American legend about when the Creator met with animals to get advice about where to keep their special spirit.

The eagle suggested soaring to the moon to store it, the buffalo suggested burying it in the ground and the dolphin suggested diving deep into the sea. Those were good places, the Creator said, but man might eventually reach and disturb them.

Then wise and crippled old Grandmother Mole suggested each animal keep the true spirit in its heart, where no one could take it.

"The Creator has given each of us our lives and spirit as a gift," Maddox said. "All he is asking us is to do the very best we can, to be kind and helpful and to respect each other."

Maddox asked the students to ask their grandparents what things were like when they were growing up without televisions, stereos and video games.

"They were never bored, and almost had too much to do because they used their imagination and enjoyed the outdoors," she said.

First-grader Loren Heavyrunner said he enjoyed having other students learn about his culture.

"I'm Blackfeet," he said proudly.

  Maps by Travel

Teaching Diversity: A Place to Begin
We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel loved and included and never to experience the pain of rejection or exclusion. But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth.

Excercise for Teaching Diversity
We often think that teaching our children about diversity is a long and difficult task. However as the following exercise shows, it can be as simple as peeling a lemon:

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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