Thursday, September 20, 2001

Reproductions of history

Students get lesson in American Indian lore

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PINER — For nearly 25 years, John Arrasmith's reproductions of American Indian clothing and artifacts have been featured everywhere from museums to Academy Award-winning motion pictures.

[photo] John Arrasmith, clad as a Sioux of the 1870s, shows Piner Elementary students an arrow.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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        Even as he displays the artifacts that appeared in such films as Dances With Wolves, it's the give-and-take with students that the 54-year-old Petersburg resident enjoys the most.

        “I have been given a gift that I can share with you,” Mr. Arrasmith — clad in an Indian war shirt, moccasins and bear claw necklace — told an audience of about 150 Piner Elementary pupils Wednesday. “Through you, I hope to keep my culture alive.”

        For more than an hour, the man who introduced himself as Monmeshewa, the Sioux name for Spotted Horse, held the attention of the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students with his tales of the earliest Americans' way of life, and the display of more than a dozen Indian artifacts and reproductions.

        The talk was one of six he's given this year to groups from young children to a multiculturalism class at Northern Kentucky University.

[photo] Piner Elementary students examine American Indian artifacts.
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        During Wednesday's presentation, Mr. Arrasmith repeatedly urged his youthful audience to respect authority and preserve natural resources.

        But it was through the display of artifacts, such as ancient mussel shell necklaces, a camp knife with a handle fashioned from a prehistoric mammoth's tusk and a deerskin coat he created for the Academy Award-winning Dances With Wolves that he held their attention.

        “What you see is real,” Mr. Arrasmith said, as the children oohed and ahhed over a buffalo rug and a tomahawk made about the time of the French and Indian War. “It is all handmade. It is made the way (the Indians) made it.”

        Interested in his Sioux and Cherokee heritage since childhood, Mr. Arrasmith became a collector of Indian artifacts as an adult.

        In 1978, he turned his hobby into a full-time business after landing a small role as an American Indian in a regional movie filmed in Friendship, Ind.

        Since then, he has either acted in, or created costumes, weapons or other Indian artifacts for, movies such as Last of the Mohicans, Geronimo and Last of the Dogmen.

        “One thing led to another,” he said. “I got most of my jobs through word of mouth.”

        Fifth-grade teacher Janice Whaley said that she invited Mr. Arrasmith to Piner in hopes that his appearance would help her pupils realize the differences, as well as similarities, of the many Indian tribes.


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- Reproductions of history
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