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Students Study Native American Culture

Mattaponi Indians guide students through hands-on activities.

When Jacqi Roueche saw members of the Mattaponi Indian Reservation at the Riverbend Park Indian festival, she decided that she would find a way to bring them to Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls.

"The thing is, most of these kids have sporting events on Saturdays so they don't get a chance to see them [at Riverbend]," said Roueche.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 18 and 19, James Fallenwater McGowan, his younger brother Running Deer, and his mother Little Dove — all members of the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in King William County — helped to create a miniature Native American village for the students of Forestville Elementary. Fallenwater, Little Dove, Running Deer and members of the PTA manned multiple stations, each designed to teach the students different aspects of Native American culture.

"We have a miniature scale canoe, so we show them how to make a canoe from start to finish by burning it out and chipping and shaping it," explained Fallenwater. "We are also giving them exposure to different types of games that teach hand-to-eye coordination for learning to throw spears and shoot a bow and arrow."

Students were also able to learn rope making and corn making, as well as how to make and use various stone tools.

"The students love it because it's extraordinarily hands-on," said Roueche. "They get to touch and feel the furs and use the tools, and we have a replica of the original book that Pocahontas read from so they can look through that."

Fourth grader Drew Ackerman said he enjoyed the corn dart activity the most "because it's kind of like a sports game." Students had to throw the corn darts through a hoop to simulate how Native American children first learned spear-throwing skills.

"It's pretty exciting," said Ackerman of the various activities.