Grandparents and elders visit Casa Blanca Community School
October 5, 2018
Aaron J. Tohtsoni
Gila River Indian News
Casa Blanca Community School celebrated Native American Recognition Week during Sept. 17-20 and culminated in a day for grandparents and elders during the shortened week ahead of the Community-wide holiday.
The week-long celebration focused on connecting the students with not only their own culture but other Native American cultures.
“It was very successful,” Priscilla Espinoza, community school liaison, said about the Native American recognition week. “We had a big turnout of grandparents. At Casa Blanca Community School, we have awesome teachers here. They are here for our students and they integrate their culture with our culture. Sometimes you hear the non-Native teachers speaking our language and that makes us feel so good. They are embracing our culture and I think that is so important.”
The week started when the school invited the Tribal Education’s Cultural Program and Ramona Farms to the school on Monday for lessons and demonstrations.
Anthony Gray, culture coordinator, provided the students with the history of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh. Jarrod Lewis, culture and language curriculum developer, demonstrated different dances and explained the importance and meanings of the dances. The students also joined in the dancing, celebrating their culture.
Tammy Histia, assistant culture coordinator, taught the students about the land and plants that are a part of the Community’s culture. She showed the students edible seeds from devil’s claw and saguaro cacti. The students had an opportunity to taste the seeds.
Also presenting was Ramona Farms, who discussed a traditional diet with the students.
They discussed the different types of beans and seeds. They sent the students home with seeds to plant on their own.
On Tuesday, the school had a traveling museum display courtesy of the Heard Museum.
On display were the Tohono O’odham, the Navajo, the Hopi and two displays called Who Are the Apache and Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience.
The displays came with photographs and artifacts for the students to observe and learn. They also provided books that discussed the history, governments and real-life stories from tribal members. The students were able to touch wool, a major supply for the Navajo Indians. Also, provided were Hopi masks and katsina dolls.
“The kids got to know that their teachers were Native,” said Espinoza, who highlighted the teachers’ tribes. “They didn’t know and it was important to connect and let them know that we are different nations but we are one.”
The fourth-grade classes researched different Native American tribes and created tri-fold bulletin boards on their respective tribes. The boards were displayed in the library and each grade had the opportunity to do a walk through and learn about the different tribes.
The final day of the week was dedicated to elders and the student’s grandparents were invited to class for an activity and a lunch meal. Each class had their own activity from making a dream catcher, t-shirt painting, reading and beading.
“It was about honoring them,” said Espinoza. “We want to honor our elders and provide those connections for the children.”