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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 3, 2003 - Issue 86


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Teaching Tool Explores Indian Tribes in State

by Brandy McDonnell The Oklahoman

Caddo ShelterNot all American Indian tribes in Oklahoma lived in tepees and served buffalo as a main course.

Historically, the Caddos built log houses, and the Wichitas made thatch homes, while the Cheyenne raised tepees. The Plains Indians of the past hunted buffalo and antelope, while the Eastern Woodlands tribes brought their knowledge of bean, corn and squash cultivation with them to Oklahoma.

"It's a much richer and more diverse culture than most people realize," said Lynne Hardin, interim executive director of Red Earth Inc. "It's such a deep, rich history to the state of Oklahoma. This is our history as Oklahomans."

The nonprofit group is striving to provide educators with a new tool to teach about Oklahoma's varied American Indian heritage. Red Earth has worked with several organizations for more than a year to develop "Indian Tribes of Oklahoma: An Interactive Journey," a CD-ROM designed for the state's fourth- through ninth-graders.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is offering an online preview of the CD- ROM to educators, librarians and the public at 1:20 p.m. Tuesday on One Net, the central telecommunications network for public schools and state agencies. The Webcast will take place at The link will not be operational until the day of the Webcast, said Dolores Mize, associate vice chancellor for the State Regents for Higher Education.

The Webcast will include a demonstration of the CD-ROM and presentations from experts on American Indian culture and history, said Lou Kerr, chairman of Red Earth's development committee. Among the experts scheduled to participate are Howard Meredith, professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma; Mary Ellen Meredith, interim director of the Cherokee Heritage Center; and Mary Jo Watson and Rufus Fears, educators at the University of Oklahoma.

"Educators and students alike will find this interactive journey a project that will enhance their learning," said Kerr, a member of the project committee that worked on the CD-ROM and president of the Kerr Foundation. "The primary objective of this project was to help students better understand the complexities of the American Indian culture in a unique and different format."

The concept of an educational CD-ROM has been considered at Red Earth for a few years, Hardin said. The organization's mission is to promote and preserve the American Indian history and cultures, and the tool is part of the group's educational outreach efforts.

Work began on the project early last year with the receipt of a $15,000 grant from National Geographic, she said. The project also received a $50,000 grant from the Sarkeys Foundation and about $50,000 in funding and in-kind services, including staffing, furniture, equipment and office space, from the Kerr Foundation.

The Oklahoma Historical Society provided information and photographs for the CD. Howard and Mary Ellen Meredith did much of the research and wrote much of the text, and Howard Meredith served as the narrator. Red Earth multimedia and graphics designer Nikolay Tchaouchev designed and created the CD-ROM, developing and modifying several drafts.

"We're all very pleased and proud of what's been accomplished, and it's taken a lot of people being very supportive to make it happen," said Hardin, who coordinated the project.

While the Five Civilized Tribes are the most well-known, Oklahoma has more than 35 federally recognized American Indian tribes. The CD-ROM includes information on 38.

The interactive tool includes American Indian music, text, narration, photos and video clips. It has seven learning areas, including dwellings, clothing, food, artisans and communication. The geography section includes maps showing where the various tribes came from and where they settled in Oklahoma. The tribes section has informational paragraphs, Internet keywords and mailing addresses for each of the 38 nations.

"You could do a full class or full semester just on geography ... just under that one segment," Hardin said. "I've learned more just going through this CD than I ever have about the native culture."

Cindy Brown, senior coordinator for student preparation at the State Regents office, said staff members in her department are developing lesson plans to give teachers ideas on how to incorporate the new tool. A former fourth-grade and middle-school teacher, she said the CD-ROM is a much-needed resource because it assembles so much basic information about the state's many American Indian tribes in one tool.

The CD-ROM has the flexibility and depth that make it useful for fourth- through ninth- graders, she said. The basic information on clothing, food and dwellings will be interesting to younger students and provide possible opportunities for hands- on projects. The tool, with its search and contact information, can serve as a research springboard for ninth-graders and even high school and college students.

Lela Sullivan, former teacher and chairman of the Red Earth board of directors, said she thinks the interactive tool will spark students' interest and prompt them to go out and learn more on their own.

Red Earth plans to make the CD-ROM the first in a series about American Indian culture, Hardin said.

Educators who have been asked to preview the tool have given favorable feedback, she said. Brown, who sent out letters about the Webcast to educators and librarians across the state, said she has received several inquiries about the CD-ROM.

Red Earth is in the process of creating the final version of the CD-ROM, and it hasn't been mass-produced, Hardin said. It should be available for sale on the Red Earth Web site at by September. It will be available to the public for $50 and to fourth- through ninth-grade teachers for a discounted price.

Educators will be able to download the contents from One Net for $10. All fees go to cover the cost for Red Earth to create the product, Mize said.

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