08-16-12: Students celebrate Native American culture
08-16-12: Students celebrate Native American culture

Jingle dancing, drumming, a ceremonial flag staff presentation, and a history lesson about the Karshner Museum canoe marked Native American cultural celebrations last spring at six elementary schools.

Thousands of students from Brouillet, Carson, Edgerton, Hunt, Maplewood, and Waller Road elementary schools explored the Native American culture during classroom activities and school assemblies.

Greg Farias, a physical education teacher at Brouillet and Edgerton elementary schools, secured a $1,800 grant from The Puyallup Tribe of Indians Charity Trust Board to assist with the school presentations.

The six schools joined several others in hosting cultural celebrations in May and June.

At Pope Elementary, students learned about the Nordic culture. They learned about Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland through hands-on activities including traditional Norwegian Rosemaling (decorative) painting and Swedish Dala horse soap carving.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Edgerton Elementary School has hosted a cultural assembly. In previous years, students learned about the Polynesian, Asian, and Spanish cultures.

This year’s event began on June 5 with a day-long schedule of classroom craft activities, as well as presentations in the gym featuring a jingle dancer and the story of the Karshner Museum canoe.

The following day, all students and staff gathered in the gym for an assembly that featured a native drum song, a storyteller, dancing, a musical presentation by Edgerton Elementary students, a presentation of button blankets made sixth graders, and a formal presentation of a Native American flag staff.

School flag staff presentation

The new Edgerton Elementary flag staff, which is displayed in the school office, features the school colors and mascot in a design that incorporates Native American symbols such as a medicine wheel, a dream catcher, a cedar pole, and canoe paddles.

Marvin Hannah, a Muckleshoot Tribal School teacher who handcrafted the flag staff, carried the gift in a ceremonial walk from the back of the gym to the front stage where it was presented to Principal Liz Knox.

Hannah dressed in Native American regalia and explained to the hundreds of students gathered the symbolism behind his work.

He said the images featured on a medicine wheel inside a dream catcher represent the school mascot — the Edgerton Wolves.

On one side is the school logo, featuring the words “Edgerton Wolves” around a wolf head set against a backdrop of fir trees. The words “Strength,” “Determination,” “Accountability,” and “Commitment” circle around the wolf.

On the reverse side is a pack of running wolves, which Hannah said symbolize Edgerton elementary students playing together and working together as a team.

The wolves are set against a backdrop of fir trees, which he said represent the trees surrounding the school.

A vertical line of 12 small wooden paddles are attached to one side of a blue flag bordered in orange. The paddles represent the 12 months of the year and the canoe people, and the colors align with the school colors.

“We are honored and overwhelmed with this gift,” Knox said.

Karshner Museum canoe history

Students at all six schools had an opportunity to see up close and learn about the history of the Karshner Museum canoe, which was temporarily moved out of the museum and displayed at each site.

The story began eight years ago when Stan Silvernail, a former counselor in this district, realized the canoe was a missing piece from the museum’s Native American collection.

Silvernail, who comes from a family of loggers, called Bob Yapp — a friend who worked as a forester in the area.

Yapp received approval from the company he worked for, now known as Hancock Forest Management, to donate a cedar log to the museum.

Al Zantua, a principal this past year at Quileute Tribal School in La Push and former art teacher at Chief Leschi School, agreed to carve the canoe.

Zantua blessed the canoe during a public dedication ceremony at the museum in June 2004, and it has been a prominent feature ever since in the museum’s Longhouse room.

Silvernail, Yapp, and Zantua reunited at Edgerton Elementary School’s Native American cultural celebration for the first time since the project began to share the canoe’s history with students.

Museum Manager Beth Bestrom also shared the story in June with the Puyallup School Board, which recognized Silvernail, Yapp, and Zantua for their efforts. Bestrom also presented them an engraved plaque.

“This story is truly one of cooperation, with the end result being a marvelous learning opportunity for our students,” Bestrom said.

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