Jefferson Elementary School students were told they would have to give away their most valuable possession and that would bring them closer to becoming a man or woman.
“I could see the expressions on their face. The dread!” said Jeremy Red Eagle, from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe.
Red Eagle told the students that children their age at one time would give away their most prized possession in order to learn about generosity. It was a step to teaching the children of the tribe the value of equality, which is represented by teepees and everything circular. No one member is above any other and all members of the tribe are equal, he told them.
Holding hands in a round dance, creating a circle with the teepees and the teepees themselves are all symbolic of the circle.
Duran Caferro, a pro boxer, who was representing the Cheyenne tribe, talked about flags and the symbols on the flags.
Sixth-grader Calvin Kanudson, who is a gifted bead worker, talked to students only one year younger than him about the symbols on his moccasins and regalia.
The students were educated at seven different stations throughout the day Thursday; one station for each of Montana’s seven Indian reservations.
“The dance is my favorite (station). You get to move not just with your own gender,” Samantha Henrikson, a fourth grader, said. “It’s fun to get to move around.”
Cameron Faehnrich said Caferro’s station was his favorite because he learned about a great boxer.
“I really like the sport,” he said. “I learned that you have to eat healthy, go to bed early and train.”
Students were shocked, amazed and, at times, embarrassed at the sixth annual Ksistsikomi, which in Blackfeet means “celebrate.”
“I think it’s great that there’s a day that’s honored, but here in our district it’s something that’s an ongoing tradition. It’s something we celebrate all year long,” said Roni Hawkins, Helena Public Schools K-5 Indian education coordinator.
Dylan Brown: 447-4077, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/IR_DylanBrown