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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 17, 2001 - Issue 49


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Laguna Kids Prepare Teddy Bears for N.Y. Children


 by Polly Summar Journal Staff Writer


LAGUNA PUEBLO — When fourth-grader Candice Kasero heard the news of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she immediately thought of the kids her own age who would be suffering.

"The kids of all those firefighters are going home with no parents," she remembers thinking. "We should give them teddy bears."

The idea clicked with people in Laguna Pueblo — located just an hour west of Albuquerque but a world away from New York City.

And it snowballed. Why not dress the teddy bears in traditional pueblo clothes, someone suggested. There could be shawls, woven belts, dresses and aprons for the she-bears, and ribbon shirts, belts and pants for the he-bears. And each bear could carry a personal letter from a Laguna student.

The project grew to include first-graders and middle schoolers, along with parents and grandparents. "It really drew the community together," said Lin Demers, the first-grade teacher, explaining that, on two afternoons, sewing machines were set up in her classroom for parents and grandparents to use.

Melody Koyona, 10, worked with her grandmother, Ruth Koyona, on her bear. "She bought the bear for me," said Melody, "and I helped her measure the dress and she made it."

On a recent day at Laguna Elementary, Melody was also wearing traditional clothes her grandmother had made. The class was visiting the pueblo governor's office that day to present a quilt during Random Act of Kindness Week.

Corrina Chavez, 6, also dressed her bear in traditional clothing that matched her own in style.

"My mom made the pin she's wearing," said Chavez, pointing to a beaded circular pin.

It was Demers' idea to dress the bears in traditional clothing. And fourth-grade teacher Michael Gavlak admitted that he was skeptical at first. "I thought, 'A lot of bears. A lot of clothing,' '' he said. "But that's what really got the community involved."

Gavlak said the project started with word of mouth, as the students told their parents. "Then, each day," Gavlak said, "the kids would go around the various classes and collect money for the fabric."

When the elementary students went to the middle school one day to be honored by the Laguna Village mayordomos for their community service, Mike Chambers, director of special projects for the middle school, suggested that the school contribute 25 bears and that its Home Living class make the clothing.

The middle schoolers can write letters, if they choose, or the younger students will write letters for them. "The kids really made it a point to include something in Keres, the language of Laguna Pueblo, in their letters," said Demers.

And last week, Demers spent an evening trying to locate the right people in New York City to send the bears to. "I finally connected with the Firefighters Union of the Uniformed Firefighters Association," she said. She plans to start mailing the first boxes of bears on Friday via United Parcel Service. There will be some 85 bears in all.

Each bear will be individually wrapped with a letter inside.

The letter from 9-year-old Alex Paisano explains that her clan is Winter and Little Lizard and reads, in part: "Gunwaatzi ('hello') friend. We are sorry to hear about what happened to your family. This bear can be a friend, to comfort you and love you."

Learn More About the Kids at Laguna

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


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