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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 1, 2001 - Issue 50


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Native-American Culture Highlighted at Library's Holiday Event


Oakland, CA - To commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the main branch of the Oakland Public Library hosted an afternoon filled with storytelling, poetry, music and games on Saturday.

Those attending came from a variety of cultural backgrounds and ages. Several parents brought infants, toddlers and school-age children from throughout Oakland.

Loren Nakai of the Dine-Navajo Nation shared a prayer to ancestors past and present. The prayer ceremony involved a drum song and the lighting of sage. The smoke was fanned in four directions in reverence to tribal ancestors.

Throughout the ceremony, Nakai explained the significance of the materials used in the instruments that he played, such as the eagle feather and wood for the drum. He also told a story about the concept of Thanksgiving, in relationship to the natives present when the first settlers came to the U.S. from England -- but it was not the same story we normally read in school history books.

"The first Thanksgiving", Nakai explained, "was to celebrate the massacre of the native Americans, who were either shot or burnt by the settlers. Indians were treated like animals, with no respect."

Nakai also explained the roles stories and ceremonies hold in American Indian culture. Stories allow the listener to "grieve, empathize and give balance, and ceremonies tell people who we are."

The audience was also treated to several songs sung by Nakai and his wife Anno, from the Saami Nation.

The next storyteller, Corrina Gould of the Ohlone, a nation that was in existence in California before the Europeans arrived, told several creation myths. In each myth, an animal was personified with talents, and a moral of sorts was conveyed. For example, the audience was told that the reason birds look at shells is because "raven was promised a star by the creator".

Later in the afternoon, the audience was invited to dance in a circle around the drummers, who performed five songs. Tom LaBlanc of the Lakota tribe read several poems to the audience, including one about "surplus Indians" that embraced different multi-ethnic Native-American people.

To finish off the afternoon, Walter Ogi Johnson of the Potawatomi Nation and Jane de Cuir of the Cherokee Nation performed music using various native American instruments, such as the flute, drums, bells and wooden instruments filled with sand and pebbles, which simulated the sound of rain. Afterwards, several children from the audience performed along with the duo.

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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, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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