Students get lesson in Native American history

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealNora Esparza demonstrates a dance at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School during Wa-Pai-Shone.

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealNora Esparza demonstrates a dance at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School during Wa-Pai-Shone.

As Nevada readies to celebrate its anniversary of admission into the Union this weekend, students at Bordewich-Bray got a glimpse into what life was like for those living here even before statehood.

"I like history and stuff," said Chloe Walt, 8. "I'm really curious about what happened before us. It's pretty cool learning about it."

Students traveled through several stations Thursday learning of tribes native to Nevada - Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone - through the Wa-Pai-Shone demonstration.

Lori Pasqua, Indian education adviser for Douglas High School, said the program started in Douglas County more than 20 years ago to combat stereotypes and promote understanding.

"Nevada Indians are unique," she said. "Every tribe has their own traditions and ways. This is a way to give them an idea of what the Nevada tribes are like."

For instance, not all American Indians lived in tepees.

Pasqua showed students a replica of a galis dungal, the traditional Washoe home.

"I never knew that to build their houses they needed to use willow and stuff like that," said Rachel Rundell, 8.

The school typically hosts a Nevada Day celebration with stations dedicated to various aspects of the state's history.

However, vice principal Susan Squires said staff saw the Wa-Pai-Shone demonstration in Douglas County and decided to bring it to their school.

"We're trying to give the children a better idea of the natives of Nevada and what it was like here before it was built up," Squires said. "They give the students hands-on activities so they can more fully understand the native culture."

In addition to stations that showcased cultural traditions like dancing and basket making, students also learned a popular game called stone jacks.

The rules are similar to jacks, but played with rocks rather than jacks and without a ball.

A stone is tossed in the air and the player must grab a second stone off the ground and catch the tossed stone in the same hand before it hits the ground.

But not all students saw the appeal.

"It's way too hard," concluded Sarah Gomer, 8.

Aaron Thacker, the Native American coordinator at Bordewich-Bray, said he also wanted to stress to students that the American Indian is not a relic of the past.

"A lot of kids don't know there are Native Americans at this school," he said.

That's why Alicia Singleton, 9, wore her traditional dress to school Thursday.

"I'm very proud to show that I'm Native American," she said.


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