Potawatomi hosts first educational dayPublished 3:50pm Thursday, September 20, 2012
Dowagiac Middle School seventh grade students, teachers and parents got a taste of Potawatomi culture Thursday during the first annual Heritage and Education Day in Dowagiac.
The Rodger’s Lake campus of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians welcomed nearly 450 students from Michiana to take part in a cultural learning day presented by tribal members and staff. In an effort to educate younger generations, tribal citizens decided to present a day of activities and traditional food that local students, teachers and parents could attend. Beyond DMS students, the Band also welcomed students from Niles and Goshen, Ind.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this,” Conrad Church, youth cultural coordinator for the Band, said. “In the past, we would set something up in individual schools, but it became difficult to schedule sometimes.”
Church said that instead of trying to find tribal citizens and volunteers to go to the classroom, they decided to bring the classroom to them.
“We originally capped it at 200 students, but we opened it up to bring in Dowagiac kids, too,” Church said. “We want them to be able to understand our culture and our people.”
Tents set up around the campgrounds of the tribal land included Potawatomi history, storytelling, crafts and dancing in the pow wow arena. After all visitors rotated through the tents, they were served a traditional Potawatomi lunch of Indian tacos, corn soup and fried bread. Some adults who accompanied the students said they had never attended anything presented by the Band or knew that the Rodger’s Lake campus existed.
DMS guidance counselor Kara Cox said students got the opportunity to erase of the stereotypes they have picked up over the years about Native Americans.
“Kids a part of the tribe know what all this means, but other don’t know what it’s about,” Cox said. “It’s cool that kids of the tribe can come here with their classmates and sort of show this off and find a common ground.”
Student advocate Jeff Winters agreed, saying he enjoyed the fact that kids could get out of the classroom and learn something close to home.
“It’s nice they were able to come here and learn this culture,” Winters said.
DMS student Jessica Schoff said she couldn’t wait to attend the field trip after hearing she had Native American ancestry.
“It’s also my first field trip at the middle school,” Schoff said. “It’s a cool first trip to take.”
Classmate Nathan True agreed.
“I want to learn the language and history,” True said. “It’s cool we get to learn about the tribe.”
Church said that he was happy to see students joining in dancing and crafts, taking interest in the Potawatomi culture.
“There’s a balance with the presentations to give them an idea of everything,” Church said. “Each part is important.”