Archive for Saturday, September 26, 1998

HASKELL CELEBRATES INDIAN CULTURE

September 26, 1998

Advertisement

Haskell students celebrate their heritage with the American Indian Day Celebration.

The drum is small enough for dancer Tom Spottedhorse to hold in his hand, but the beat has been heard for centuries.

Members of the Kiowa tribe like Spottedhorse are among the younger generation of dancers dedicated to keeping alive the tradition of the gourd dance. The dance incorporates movement and drumming.

``You don't have to be a veteran to be a good gourd dancer,'' Spottedhorse told a group of Haskell Indian Nations University students on Friday.

Spottedhorse's presentation was part of the Haskell American Indian Day Celebration. Students and faculty participated in campus activities as a way to express tribal pride and promote Indian heritage.

``When you dance the gourd dance, you think about the old ones,'' Spottedhorse said. ``You think about the old ones who have gone on. You don't think about your family here; you think about the old ones.''

While the gourd dance originated with the Kiowa, a nomadic Plains tribe, it is now performed in almost every Indian dance gathering, Spottedhorse said.

``That's fine to see other tribes doing it,'' he said. ``All you have to do is respect the songs and dance.''

Student Chaney Bell entered the T-shirt contest as part of the celebration.

The contest was held as a way for students to express themselves through a written voice.

Bell's shirt was designed by his cousin and addresses the Columbus Day holiday and the treaty rights that belong to Bell's home on the Flathead Reservation in Montana.

Bell's shirt read ``Columbus Discovers America ... NOT!''

``My shirt means something to me,'' he said. ``I don't really celebrate 500 years of the worst genocide we've ever seen. I protest that day.''

Bell, who also performed songs at the Friday night powwow, said he wanted to be involved in the day's activities because outsiders look to Haskell for leadership.

``It sets a standard for other people to follow,'' he said. ``The government is always looking at Haskell and if we do things like this, others will follow.''

Dorothy Stites, management assistant with the city of Lawrence and a Haskell graduate, talked to students about the importance of retaining their Indian identity.

``Some important traits that we share are value systems, extended family, humor and spirituality,'' she said. ``The reason I emphasize those aspects is to prepare us for the challenges of today's society and the new millennium.''

Stites said that the celebration of Indian heritage and culture isn't just a one-day affair.

``It isn't for us Indian people,'' she said. ``We live this every day. Having this (day) for non-Indian people helps us understand each other better and helps us get along as a diverse society. It's important that we respect other cultures.''

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.