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Native Americans Visit South Elementary Third Grades

Nov 29, 2016 06:00AM ● By Marjorie Turner Hollman

Misty Waters and Wolfsong at South Elementary School

Third-grade students at South Elementary School filed into the art room and stared at tables covered with items used by Native Americans. Two members of the Abenaki Tribe, Wolfsong and Misty Waters, both Woonsocket residents, greeted the children warmly and quickly introduced them to something new. The school curriculum for third-graders this quarter focuses on the Pilgrims and Native Americans.

“A-ho!” Misty Waters greeted the children. She got lots of blank looks. “Hello!” she continued. “ ‘A-ho’ means ‘Hello’” she explained. She tried again. “A-ho!” then waved her hand, inviting the children to respond. “You can say, ‘A-ho’ back to us.” This time she got a chorus of “A-ho!” greetings from the children.

Misty Waters and Wolfsong spoke about their clothes, their hair, and the furs and instruments they’d brought with them. The two women often completed each other’s sentences. They noted that while they are not literal sisters, they are “sisters” because they both belong to the same tribe.

They pointed at girls in the group whose hair was tied in a bun, others who wore their hair braided, and others with loose hair. The women described the significance of each of these hairstyles in the life of a native woman. Hair tied in a bun signifies that a girl is too young for a boyfriend, loose hair says a girl is ready for a relationship, and other styles of hair broadcast that a woman has a boyfriend or is married. “But no one besides our husbands can touch our hair,” the women explained.

The children were anxious to examine the instruments and animal furs the women had brought with them. “You may touch anything,” Misty Waters said, “but you must have a question for us about whatever you touch.” Soon children were touching, rattling, shaking, and drumming the various drums, rattles, and rain sticks the women had brought to share with the children—and the children had lots of questions for the two visitors.

“We use every part of the animal,” Wolfsong explained. “The animal sacrifices its life to help us, so we do not simply shoot animals; we hunt them, taking care to shoot at them only if we can be sure of killing them quickly. We are concerned not to cause any suffering. And then we don’t waste any part of the animal. We ask ourselves, ‘What else can we do with this?’ before throwing anything away.”

Reduce, reuse and recycle clearly is not a new concept. Grasping how much we still have to learn from Native Americans is a lesson we are still learning.





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