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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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 Students Celebrate Heritage


 by Susan Olp of the Billings Gazette Staff-September 29, 2001


photo by James Woodcock-Gazette Staff

Girls in elk-tooth dresses and boys in full headdress perched on cars and trucks during a parade in Pryor on Friday to celebrate Native American Week.

The parade capped the week designated by the Montana Legislature as a time to appreciate the state’s Native American culture. Students from St. Charles Mission School, Pryor Elementary and Plenty Coups High School took part in the parade, along with the Native American clubs from Skyview High and Central High in Billings.

Joliet High’s band rode on a float and performed songs along the route. Joliet sixth-graders came to watch the parade and tour the museum at Chief Plenty Coups State Park, where the morning parade originated.

The parade slowly made its way through the nearby town before returning to the park. The students waved to bystanders who watched from their vehicles or from lawn chairs.

Visitors and parade participants then gathered at the state park. As clusters of students and adults looked on, the parade royalty was introduced, dances were performed and then everyone munched on traditional Native American fare.

Horseback riders, some in traditional dress, headed up the parade. The lead rider carried an American flag.

Most of the cars and trucks were draped with colorful blankets of bright blues and greens, oranges, reds and yellows. The floats represented students in the various grades at the three schools.

Flag posters also decorated some of the vehicles, as well as signs announcing that grade’s chief and princess.

Lou Merchant, co-chairwoman of the parade with Thelma Goes Ahead, said the parade has grown each year.

"It's gotten bigger every year because each class has its own float, and we have more schools taking part," Merchant said.

Merchant, a teacher’s aide at St. Charles, said St. Charles and Plenty Coups High take turns organizing the parade. This year was St. Charles’ turn. Planning for the parade started in late August, she said.

Merchant, who is a member of the Crow Tribe, said she sees great value in the parade and the day’s festivities.

"It's to show these kids they should be proud of their heritage," Merchant said. "Our culture is something we don’t want to lose."

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