December 16, 2010

Kids make sand paintings, horse masks

Leeds students learn about Native American art mediumsThe art students at Leeds Elementary School have been busy studying different media and its use in Native American Art.

Kindergarten and grade 4 read Native American 'trickster' tales by Gerald McDermott. The kindergarten class read "Arrow of the Sun" and Grade 4 read "The Raven." Grades 1 and 2 made Native American rain sticks and learned how to they were used in the Native American ceremonies. Grade 1 also did Native American picture stories on paper buffalo hides.

The folk figure "Kokopelli" was studied and drawn by Grade 2. Grade 3, after studying the Navajo in their classroom, did sand painting and made horse masks. Grade 5 learned how to weave and the history weaving had in Native American culture.




Comment:  It's Arrow to the Sun, not Arrow of the Sun. As I noted in a previous posting, this book has a lot of problems. All of McDermott's "trickster tales" may have similar problems.

Also, the article labels everything "Native American" rather than specifying which cultures it's talking about. That may be the reporter's fault more than the teachers'.

Nevertheless, I think Leeds is on the right track. The kids aren't learning generic or stereotypical things: tipis, canoes, bows and arrows, etc. They aren't making fake costumes and pretending to be Indians. (I'm still not clear on how that's supposed to teach anything.)

Instead, they're learning about varied and unique items--Kokopelli, sand painting, horse masks, rain sticks, drawing on buffalo hides, weaving--from real, specific cultures. There's nothing generic about these items. Perhaps that's why you rarely if ever hear about them in programs about Indians.

Again, I don't know if the teachers identified the specific cultures. Maybe these kids are too young to grasp the concept of hundreds of Indian nations. Maybe the reporter failed to understand or pass along the distinction between cultures. In any case, this is the right kind of approach to teaching about Indians.

For more on the wrong approach to teaching about Indians, see:

"Little Yummy Banana" in beads and feathers
Kindergarten "Indians" celebrate Pow Wow Day
Elementary students join "makeshift tribe"

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