November 20, 2010

Elementary students join "makeshift tribe"

Indians and Pilgrims

Brownwood Elementary students celebrate America’s heritage

By Laura Pitts
Brady Killen squealed in delight at he petted Isabella, a paint horse, during Brownwood Elementary Heritage Day.

Killen, a first grader, along with all of the other students at Brownwood participated in the day's activities that celebrated America's founding heritage and the first Thanksgiving.

Killen's favorite part of the day was petting the horse and learning how to shoot a bow and arrow.
And:Activities included Indian dancing, mule rides, crafts such as corn husk dolls, bead work, quilting and face painting. Other activities included a variety of physical activities games such as stick ball, arm wrestling, sack races, blind man's bluff and marbles. One fun activities for students was receiving Native American names.

Volunteer Josh Hill, "Big Oak," handed out the Native American names to girls and boys were welcomed into a makeshift Indian tribe.

"I really enjoy doing this like this with the students," said Hill. "It was nice to make the kids feel like they belonged to some part of history, if even for a minute."

Ashley Skipper, a first grader in Regan Webb's class, enjoyed making necklaces and participating in the Indian dance.
Comment:  As in Kindergarten "Indians" Celebrate Pow Wow Day, this event has a multitude of problems, including:

  • A mix of real and phony Indian activities, especially the offensive naming gimmick.

  • All Indians similar or the same.

  • Indians as primitive people of the past.

  • Non-Indians dressing up as Indians.

  • The only thing I'd say in favor of this Alabama school is that it isn't totally immersed in Plains or generic stereotypes: tipis, canoes, flutes, drums, etc. Some of its activities may apply to the Wampanoag of Massachusetts, the Cherokee or Creek of Alabama, and other eastern tribes.

    Even Killen's "headdress" isn't standard for Plains chiefs or warriors. It's like the headdress worn by Powhatan (below) and other East Coast Indians. That isn't much, but it's something.

    For more on the subject, see Washington Curriculum Tackles Ignorance and The Right Way to Teach About Indians.

    Below:  "Brady Killen, a first grader in Luanne Tubb's class, pets Isabella, a paint horse, during Heritage Day at Brownwood Elementary. Heritage Day was a celebration of America's Heritage that allowed students to dress as Indians or pilgrims and learn about founding American customs." (Laura Pitts)

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