Flashes of red trim whirled by the students. They were sitting on the auditorium floor, watching the dancer hop and move slowly across the room. A drum beat and a male voice urged the dancer on, as third-, fourth- and sixth-graders watched transfixed.
Native American performers visited students at Green Hedges Elementary on Friday, to demonstrate how different tribes have different dancing and costume styles. Earlier in the fall, the third-graders studied Native American history as part of their curriculum, and each student was assigned to study a tribe.
From the studies, students made reports and models showing how Indians ate, worked and slept. Several students also read their reports at Friday’s presentation.
"It’s educating the students," said Mikki Bird, one of the Native Americans who performed, when asked why she participates in school demonstrations across the Washington area. Her tribe is the Mandan Hidatsa, and her grandparents were Sioux and Winnebago.
As the presenters explained how they made their costumes, they passed around several Indian objects, including a corn husk doll and a lacrosse stick.
"I liked the costumes," said third-grader Nikki Dutta, pointing to Bird’s red outfit.
Fellow third-grader Nathaniel Chen said he liked the performances. "I liked the guy - the way he danced," Nathaniel said, referring to Manuel Rodriguez of the Apache tribe.
John Wigle, one of the organizers of Friday’s presentation, hoped that students took away some new insights about the pluralism of Native Americans. A software engineer by day, Wigle gives presentations to schools wanting to know more about Native American culture.
"I think educating the kids is very important, because they get so much misinformation from so many different sources," said Wigle, who also advocates for the American Indian Society and sings with the Spring Creek Singers, a Native American music group. "The different costumes and dances show that American Indian culture isn’t as monolithic as they think it is."