Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Indians aid area pupils with history

Shawnee show caves

The Associated Press

        BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio — Fourth-graders from St. Bernard-Elmwood Place schools and their eighth-grade mentors studied Ohio history with an overnight stay with an Ohio Indian tribe.

        The 53 students arrived at the Zane-Shawnee Caverns and Southwind Park on a sunny October Thursday afternoon to spend time with the Shawnee United Remnant Band. The tribe owns the park and maintains homes, cabins and campgrounds there.

        Expenses were covered by a grant written by the St. Bernard-Elmwood Place media center specialist, Beth Staggenborg, and a Shawnee chief's wife, Melassa.

        They applied through the Martha Holding Jennings Foundation, which awards up to $4,000 for classes to take part in creative learning experiences.

        Project NATIVE, as the overnight trip is called, is an acronym for Native Americans Teaching Important Values of Earth.

        “In the fourth grade, students must learn about Ohio's history for the proficiency tests,” Melassa said.

        “So we thought, why not give them the best of everything? Let real natives teach them about our ways and history.

        “One of the philosophies of the Shawnee people is to share our history with the general public,” she said.

        “And one of the most important groups to reach are the schoolchildren. We're trying to give them a view of history through Native American eyes.”

        Students participated in traditional aspects of the tribe's life, including sessions touring the museum, being introduced to Shawnee language, weapons skills and a tour of the caverns that underlie the park.

        Pinjisa (Kitten) and Beading Bear led the tour of the museum of several different eras of the Shawnees' 12,880-year history. The students also learned of the Shawnees' historical migrations, agricultural practices and games.

        During the language session, Melassa taught important words such as “bisson” (hello), “naga” (no) and “megwich” (thank you) and a traditional song.

        At the weapons session, Soangetaha (Strong Heart) demonstrated throwing the tomahawk, archery and blow guns.

        The tours of the caverns were led by Brian Dalton (Brother of Deer), who explained the formation of stalactites, stalagmites, cave straws and cave pearls as well as offering a history of the discovery and creation of the modern-day caverns.

        For dinner, students ate venison stew and squash prepared over an open fire. They started fires using flint-and-steel and played Shawnee double ball.


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