A Native American Theme
Some themes are just too broad and this is one of them. We could have focused on just one tribe or just Native American music, but it was fun not knowing where our broad theme would take us!
I had a beading project for the group at the Community Center. I showed them some furry ankle bracelets my mom had given my kids years ago. I told them how Heidi and Scott used to drag the boom box into the yard, with a cassette of drumming purchased at an Oklahoma powwow. They would circle the yard with their serious stomping...the bells jingling each time their bare foot hit the ground. The seniors smiled as if imagining their own children, then set about stringing beads and bells onto leather cords. I will soon take their gifts to the kids at the Women's Shelter and let them try out a little dancing.
A Different Perspective
I had wondered how my folks from Mexico would view this Native American subject. Like the United States, Mexico has a complicated history in regards to its indigenous people. The Indian tribes in Mexico have evolved and mixed very differently than those in the States. It was a nice surprise to see the group's enthusiasm about the subject. They were eager to share about tribes that exist in Mexico today. Maria sighed and said she envies the music and traditions of the Mexican Indians. "We don't have anything special." And I chuckled becuase I'm envious of her Mexican heritage. Then Ramona looked up from a book showing Hopi children. "Look at this!" She pointed with enthusiasm. "This little boy looks just like my nephew!"
On to Silverado
Sometimes it's hard to believe I'm talking with residents of an Alzheimer's Home. Their memories seem more secure when we go back further in time. I talked about when I was a child and my understanding of Native Americans came mostly from TV and movies. "I wanted to ride bareback on a horse...I wanted to be Tiger Lily from Peter Pan."
Our views of Indians changed over time.
We shared some funny stories about our mutual ignorance and then moved towards more thoughtful understanding today. Betty grew up in Tulsa and spoke about the Trail of Tears. "Can you imagine? It would be like answering your door one day and being told you no longer have a home. These Indians didn't just lose their homes. Many of them died on their journey to Oklahoma."
Music and Nature
We talked about the role of nature and music in almost all Indian tribes. We talked about music and rhythm and how it can be found in nature. We tried to find our own heart beats and match it on the drum. Then we experimented with leading and following rhythms. We concluded there is something comforting about a soft and steady beat.
Music Brings Smiles
They smiled as they tapped on drums and rattled and shook various instruments. But someone always has to ask, "Where do you keep all this stuff you drag in each week?" I had to laugh as I looked at my mom. (way above in checkered shirt)
"Mom you are the one who passed down this silly obsession with themes! I think half this stuff you purchased!" My mom always loved a theme. And she was more than curious about Native American cultures. I remember how sad she was when my family moved from St. Louis to Tulsa. Then she insisted, "But when I come to visit, we're going to a Powwow!"
Show and Tell
My last stop was Atria, which often turns into Show and Tell! Katherine walked in and saw all the Indian drums and blankets and headed back to her room. She returned with a dream catcher. Before we even got started we were off on a wonderful tangent about how a dream catcher works...and then a tangent about interesting dreams.
By the time I left Atria after 90 minutes, my head was spinning with all I learned. I go to these groups prepared to share and almost teach...But I become a student, absorbing their stories and knowledge.
What I learned from my Atria Group
Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by Comanche Indians as a child. She was rescued many years later but wanted to go back with her Comanche family. There's a Coushatta reservation in Livingston, TX and they have powwows. There is a pecan named after Coushatta! During both world wars, Indians were recruited for "code talking" in Navajo and other Indian languages.
There really are too many facts to share. But I left feeling satisfied that it wasn't just the younger generation that has an appreciation for the Native American culture.
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.