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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 8, 2003 - Issue 82


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Little Feather, Laughing Bear

by Janine Marnien, News-Press
Photos courtesy of Rey and Kiyomi. Visit them at

Native American history, culture get the attention of students during an assembly at Mountain Avenue Elementary.

LA CRESCENTA -- Little Feather is an inspiration to Mountain Avenue Elementary School fourth-grader Ashley Brines. Ashley heard the story of Little Feather at an assembly Wednesday that taught students about Native American history and culture. Presenter Kiyomi Ortega, who uses the name Running Deer in performances, told the story of the 10-year-old boy who brought prosperity back to his famine-torn people, against many odds.

"I'm 9, so it was kind of like I could do that too," Ashley said.

Aside from the story of Little Feather, students learned how Native Americans passed on their history through stories, and that much respect is given to elders and nature. They also saw a Native American Hoop Dance and listened to traditional flute music.

Rey Ortega, who uses the name Windspirit when performing, joined wife Kiyomi Ortega onstage. Both are of Native American descent. She is Blackfeet and Japanese, and he is Apache and Mexican. Rey Ortega also used a dummy, Willie Laughing Bear, and a ventriloquist act to teach students about Native American food. The students learned common foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and corn originated from Native American tribes.

The husband-and-wife team hope students learn all people are connected, and gain an appreciation of the Native American spirit, Rey Ortega said.

"When kids think of spirit, they think of people cheering at a football game or something," he said. "But spirit is quiet. It's an inner strength."

The Ortegas' message was not lost on sixth-grader Arteen Pirverdian.

"I learned how you should always be kind to others, and share what you have with others," he said.

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