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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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Tribe Scribes


JENISON, MI-- Bri Bonzelaar is a proud new member of the Black Bear Clan.

To demonstrate her clan pride, the Rosewood Elementary School fourth-grader wrapped strands of blue and yellow yarn around a plastic ring with painstaking care. Later, she would attach the ring and a tiny drawing of a black bear along with feathers and beads to a wooden cross to create a clan stick similar to the ones made years ago by the Ojibawa Indians.

Bri, 9, and her classmates recently culminated a nine-week study of American Indian culture with a day of story-telling and activities that ended with a wild-game feast including bear, elk and venison dishes.

"If kids just read about things in textbooks, they aren't going to remember them," fourth-grade teacher Nancy Page said, adding that hands-on activities make the lessons more meaningful. "They won't forget the clan sticks or the foods they're going to eat."

In addition to making clan sticks, the 84 students in the school's three fourth-grade classes wrote stories using hieroglyphic symbols and listened to American Indian folk tales as they sat around a log fire with red and yellow tissue paper "flames."

"It's a fun way to celebrate our knowledge," fourth-grade teacher Missy Stephens as she supervised students making clan sticks.

She said the activities also helped students expand their vocabularies and gave them a greater appreciation of the American Indian culture.

Students said they enjoyed the break from their regular schoolwork and the opportunity to learn more about American Indian life.

"I thought the clan-stick making was fun," said Jake Timmer, 10. "It was cool learning how the Indians used signs to write, and we learned some of the signs. I just thought everything was fun."

Austyn Zimmer, 10, liked the wild-game feast.

"We got to see what kinds of food the Native Americans eat," he said. "We got to try bear and elk and venison and wild rice."

Fourth-grade teacher Bill Flikkema said many of the students had never tasted bear or venison meat.

"It gives the kids a nice appreciation of the different aspects of the Native American lifestyle and also some of the rituals and customs," he said, adding that he was amazed at how well the students took to writing stories using symbols instead of words.

"We're learning, but we're having fun," he said. "It's a lot of hands-on things, and it shows them school can be fun and learning can be fun."

Kevin Warners, 9, said the day was just awesome.

"We got food -- which is the best part -- and we made clan sticks, which was kind of challenging," he said. "We got to write stories like they did with symbols. I liked everything."

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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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