Many families, students and teachers in the Nebo School District braved the snowy blast from Mother Nature on Monday night to attend the Title VI Storytelling Night held at Larsen Elementary. It was truly an authentic, accurate and enriching event. Holding with tradition; on such nights where the land is covered with snow and the cold sends you inside, Native American families throughout our country would gather together in their hogans, tipis, wickiups, long houses or pueblos and tell stories, give counsel and sing songs. And so it was on Monday Night. We welcomed our district family to Larsen Elementary.
The evening started with a dinner of Indian Tacos. Some just wanted frybread with honey butter. But, there was no honey butter, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar to be had, because, traditionally a pinch of salt is the only topping put on frybread. Some tried it, others ate their frybread plain, a new experience for their palette.
The Nebo Performing Arts Group entertained during the dinner hour with songs and dances they learn on Wednesdays at the homework lab held every week. These students recently represented Nebo School District on the hill by invitation from our Superintendent, Rick Nielsen. On this night, the students were able to share their cultural knowledge and yes, dance gratitude for the moisture that the land just received. Among the dancers, our own two beautiful Nebo princesses shined with grace. Jenna Woods, Navajo and Tava Groves, Hopi-Ute are examples of strength and vitality of Native American youth in our district.
The highlight of the evening were two storytellers. Julius Chavez weaved his telling through how things came to be and into how young men and women should carry themselves. He sang songs that told their own stories and ended with a charge for all to search out what the creator has set them here on earth to do. Larry Cesspooch told humorous personal stories of his early life experiences. Through these tellings, the audience was able to reflect on how different yet similar childhood is. He explained how the six fingered flute came to the Ute people. He also gave counsel on finding your strengths and allowing these gifts to carry you through life. Both storytellers enthralled those in attendance.
The Storytelling Night was attended by many Native American families. But, the most pleasant surprise was the attendance of many non-native families. Our own superintendent Rick Nielsen and director of federal programs, Mike Larsen with his family joined in the gathering. Others came with friends or even alone. Many of these were students whose teachers offered extra credit for this event. Applause to these students who were willing to step out of their comfort zones even if it was for a few extra points. Their authentic learning will last longer than the class. One student said, “Where can I go to another one of these?” An indication that hands were stretched across cultures.
A very special thank you to those teachers who saw this event as an opportunity for students to experience firsthand traditional ways. And, most importantly these teachers didn’t limit learning about Native Americans to a three-week unit in their history books last fall. It is to such educators we say, the world looks bright. Thank you also goes to Larsen Elementary principal, Cami Thomas, who saw the worth of such a night. She dove right in and learned how an Indian Taco is made by helping serve those who gathered. She also experienced Native humor which might still make her chuckle.
All in all it was a memorable event. It happens every winter, storytelling; now in apartments, brick homes, condos, and yes, schools. Just as it should be.