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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 22, 2003 - Issue 81


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Lakol Wounspe Stresses Culture, Values


by Heidi Bell Gease Rapid City Journal


GrasshopperOnly during the Lakota Nation Invitational tournament would the answer to a Knowledge Bowl question be, "What is peji hop-hop?"

In case you're not fluent in Lakota, peji hop-hop is a contemporary word for "grasshopper." Students and adults alike will probably remember that from the Lakol Wounspe competition, held Thursday in conjunction with the girls LNI tournament here.

Like a regular Knowledge Bowl, Lakol Wounspe pitted teams of students against each other. Questions were read, and the first team to ring a buzzer got first shot at answering the question. If they answered correctly, they scored. If not, the other team had a chance to answer.

But unlike regular Knowledge Bowl, this event was set up "Jeopardy" style, in which the question is a statement and the answer comes in the form of a question. Also, the questions focused on Lakota culture, history, religion, music, dance, food, geography, government, language and people.

Reva High Horse, who teaches Lakota language at Crazy Horse School, developed the game as a teaching tool, with help from Rich Hen. Students at Crazy Horse use it to learn Lakota words. "Anything that will help them learn, I love it," she said.

Knowledge is key in this game, but so is speed — just the right speed. Some questions were thrown out, or teams disqualified from answering, because students were too quick, hitting the buzzer before the question had been read.

Collette Roberts of St. Thomas More High School said she was relying on teammates Deidre Brandenburger, Tonya Beck and Meredith Keith for help answering questions.

"I'm just here for the experience and for buzzing as fast as possible," she said. "You can each contribute something. You each have your strong points."

Most teams answered the questions correctly, given the chance. They knew that Lakota belief considers the owl a sign of danger, that the Cavalry killed Big Foot at Wounded Knee when he was sick with pneumonia and that the smell of burned sweet grass is believed to be pleasing to the spirits. They knew about the Fort Laramie treaties, the Wagon Box Fight and the fact that the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a seat belt ordinance in 1998.

Even some Indian humor was thrown in. One question stated, "A Sicangu with one short leg is called this."

The answer? "What is ‘not even'?"

That drew a laugh from everyone. In fact, students and advisers joshed and joked with one another, even during rounds that were close.

At one point, Red Cloud students applauded when the Todd County team correctly answered a question with the answer, "Who is Red Cloud?"

Eventually, the championship came down to the all-girl team from St. Thomas More facing an all-boy team from Crazy Horse School.

Joe Fisherman frequently answered for his team, always correctly, and seemingly without effort. "It's a lot of stuff I just kind of know," he said later.

Deidre Brandenburger was just as quick to respond for St. Thomas More. She studied Lakota language growing up in Eagle Butte, which helped her with some questions.

In the end, St. Thomas More won. But the event was about more than correct answers. Students got to see and make friends. They were respectful of one another, shaking hands before and after each round. They had fun.

In fact, High Horse speculated that having her boys pitted against a team of girls might have helped do them in. "Usually, the boys are aggressive, but I think being Lakota boys, they were showing respect," she said. "I have gentlemen."

Clark Coberly, assistant middle school principal at St. Thomas More, filled in Thursday for the regular Knowledge Bowl adviser, Stefani Braun, who was on jury duty. "I learned so much," he said later. "The neat thing too was the sportsmanship and the camaraderie."

Coberly hopes his students will pass on what they learned to their friends. "The more you get to know about another culture, the better off you're going to be, I think," he said.

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