More than 1,000 Chelsea Elementary, Middle School and High School students packed into the gymnasium Friday morning for a special assembly honoring Native American cultures and traditions.
The event, Our Native American Heritage, was hosted by the Chelsea Native American Student Association (NASA), and included traditional stories, dances and songs from many Native American tribes.
About a fifth of all the hands in the room shot up when students were asked if they were Native American, proving that Oklahoma is still Indian Country.
The children listened raptly as Cherokee Storyteller Choogie Kingfisher played a tribal song on a uniquely shaped flute and told stories about the trickster Rabbit who took Coyote’s fish by playing dead and helped Wolf trap turkeys by dancing.
Dancers from the Intertribal Indian Club of Tulsa performed a handful of traditional dances, including the fancy shaw, the southern cloth, the jingle, the southern straight, the buckskin and the chicken dance.
Some of the performers lived in Chelsea and attended Chelsea public schools.
Ashkii Tsosie, a 1st grader and a champion dancer, danced the southern straight while dressed in lime green ceremonial garb, with an otter skin and genuine eagle feathers.
Lena Tsosie, a 3rd grader, danced in her jingle dress, made from rolled snuff can lids. The students in the room who watched her dance were taught that the dance was considered to be healing, and would be performed at the homes of the sick to help them get well.
Fifth-grader Minnie Tsosie and 7th grader Nazhoni Tsosie also danced for their fellow classmates.
Teachers and students were included in many of the group dances.
“Our goal in NASA is to ensure that every Native American student has a clear understanding of what opportunities are available to them in high school and beyond,” said NASA Advisor Pam Phillips. “We hope that by starting as young as 1st grade we can instill a sense of pride in our Native Heritage, as well as college awareness in every student.”
The assembly followed a week of students learning about Native American history in their classrooms, creating art projects and dioramas depicting what they learned.