Fourth grade journeys into American Indian territory, right in classrooms

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FOURTH GRADE CLASSROOMS — Maddi Cheers and Uaian Bruno visited the fourth grade on Dec. 3 to teach about American Indian cultures.

They are from a group called Journeys Into American Indian Territory that brings indoor field trips to schools.

Ms. Cheers began her visit by teaching the three classes a greeting of the Mohawk Indians. During the morning, the first half of their visit, Ms. Cheers and Mr. Bruno taught how important friends, family and respect were to the native tribes.

It used to be that everybody that you met became your friend. Your village was your family, and everyone worked together. If a child misbehaved, they were told a story to teach them a lesson, but they were never yelled at or hit.

“Many movies and books show Indians in the past, and not for who they are now,” said Ms. Cheers.

“They only dress up for ceremonies and dances, which is mistaken for their everyday life,” said Mr. Bruno.

The fourth graders were split into groups and rotated to different stations. At one station, you got to touch animal hides and weapons. At another, you could play a drum. The next station, you took a hammer-like tool and smashed the kernels of corn in a basin. At yet another station, you got to look at artifacts.

In another room, the groups played games. In one game, you had a bowl and four wooden chips. You tossed the chips in the bowl, and depending on which way they were facing, you got a certain number of points. The other game required you to hold a stick that had a string attached to it. Attached to the string were three wooden chips. The chips had holes in them, allowing you to try to get as many chips as possible on the stick.

In the afternoon, the fourth grade students learned about the American Indian government. The women chose the leaders, who were men. To show how they would do this, the girls and Ms. Cheers were put in one room, the boys and Mr. Bruno in another. All of the girls chose their leaders while the boys made up rules. There was no such thing as “majority rules,” so everybody had to agree.

During the workshop, the fourth graders not only had fun, but learned about the past and how to work together.