By Ignacio "Iggy" RubalcavaDecember 13, 2012
It's become a tradition for Louise Gregory's first grade class to perform during the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder's annual National Native American Heritage Month celebration and this year was no exception. The children danced, sang and chanted several Native American oriented numbers to the fascination of all the guests.
Gregory's students have been performing during National Native American Heritage Month for the past three years. "The two prior years, other classes have performed with mine," said Gregory.
The Children practice for approximately three weeks for this event but not every day. "Children of this age learn songs and dances very quickly. I integrate their practices and performance into our social studies and language arts," said Gregory.
Gregory varies the focus in her curriculum frequently and the children learn about other cultures such as Hispanic, African, and Asian/Pacific.
"I focus on Native American culture this time of year because the military has declared it to be Native American Heritage Month. I believe in making children aware of cultural diversity and appreciating cultures different than our own," said Gregory.
Exposing children to various cultural experiences fits right in to Department of Defense Education Activity standards which state that students should explore and describe similarities and differences in the ways groups, societies, and cultures address similar needs and concerns.
Another standard focuses on comparing similarities and differences in customs, foods, play, recreation and celebrations of families in the community. "I integrate my teaching to include all these standards," said Gregory.
After the children's performance, special guest Peter Forest Wolf, a German national who was integrated into a North American Indian tribe and actually adopted by the tribe's chief, gave a short presentation about his experiences with the tribe and about his German ancestry. Wolf also had several Native American artifacts on display during the event.
Gregory explained that she personally loves learning about different cultures. "By living overseas and by traveling, I am continually exposed to different cultures and people. I grew up in South Dakota and was continually exposed to Native American culture. I went to elementary, secondary school, and university with many Native American Indian students. Many of these former classmates are still my friends today," said Gregory.
This year's observance included a special tribute to Spc. Lori Piestewa who was the first Native American woman to die while in combat for the U.S. military. A short video memorializing her life and service to the U.S. military was shown.
Unfortunately, she was the first woman to be killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Piestewa's father was of the Hopi Tribe and her mother was of Mexican background. Her father had served in the military as well as her grandfather and Piestewa carried on the tradition.