It is easy to be brave from a distance.

by caitlynpickens

On our second day of teaching, we had a total of 18 kids in the class! This was a huge success, because we were actually worried about losing students, but ended up with more than the first day. Often on the rez, students ditch school if it’s boring. Our job is to make our workshop as exciting and enticing to them as possible, and it seems we did a good job on the first day.

Today I learned many of the students names, and some of them are very beautiful traditional Lakota names. Some examples are:

  • Leo Kills Back
  • Curtis Asa James White Crane Walking III
  • Shanteddy Two Eagle
  • Jasmine Fast Wolf
  • Kylie Cedar Face
  • Tiny Belt
  • De Etta Ghost
  • Moses Blue Horse
We spent our day’s lesson by having the students develop their own short stories to animate. We discussed fractured fairy tales and proposed the problem of turning Iktomi and the Fawn into a modernized version. They brainstormed new characters and dilemmas for Iktomi [who, as a shapeshifter, can take any form the students want him to]. We gave out a mad-lib type storyboard for them to complete the written story, then do sketches of their fractured tale.

Storyboard Mad-Lib:
Fractured Fairytale-Iktomi and the fawn

After lunch, we took them upstairs to the computer lab and they began designing their environments in the Alice software. This concept was basically like creating a video game landscape by dragging and dropping objects into the workspace. We encouraged them to ~think big~ and develop extensive settings for their stories. The students got really into this task, and all *just happened* to be working intently when the school’s new principal stopped in. It made us look great as teachers! :] She seemed really pleased with the workshop, and encouraged us to write a proposal that she can pass on to some administration at the high-school level of the GEAR-UP program (who we currently collaborate with loosely).

About twenty minutes til dismissal, we invited the students over to a projector to do a show-and-tell of their work. We only had time for about three presentations, but the students seemed to really like showing their work off on the big screen to the other kids. This skill is an important one which we are trying to teach them – standing up and talking in front of their peers.

After class got out, Tracy, Anica, and I traveled about an hour to Red Cloud to visit the heritage museum housed there. We were hoping to see a contemporary art show, but it doesn’t start til next week. Instead, we hung out in the gift shop there, looking at hand-made Lakota jewelry. Also in the gift shop was a copy of the movie “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee,” which Tracy purchased for us to watch. Outside of the heritage center is the grave of Chief Red Cloud.

On our way back to Porcupine, we stopped at a smallish grocery store in Pine Ridge to get some bread and chocolate and other items we were running low on. That’s one of the qualities that Anica and I have found we have in common – love of chocolate.

In the evening, we ate leftovers for dinner and watched the movie. It was awful seeing the America/Native conflicts with fresh eyes, especially knowing that the atrocities happened *right where we are now*. After watching the movie, Tracy told us that we had actually driven by the graves from the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee (which you can read about here), and that we could visit the grave site while we are here. Anica was especially angry with the American government for their behavior in the past and their current behavior in dealing with Native Americans. I am mostly astonished that a lot of this history is not taught in upper level (high school and college) history classes.

Lastly, I want to mention the medicine wheel. A lot of the tribal symbols rely on the concept of the medicine wheel, which is said to represent four stages of life (in the womb until birth, birth until puberty, puberty until middle age, middle age until elder status). The circle can be seen in powwow site structures, in the seating arrangement of the tribal council, and even in the architecture of the new Pahin Sinte Owayawa building that we are living in. Chanda, one of the two teachers, explained all of this to me during class at one point; I love hearing her talk about her Lakota origins and culture: