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Two Red Birds: Blackfeet Teachers' Work Displayed at the Smithsonian

Glacier Reporter (Cut Bank, MT) , June 2, 2005


When children in Head Start classes on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation chime, "There were two red birds, Sitting on a hill / One named Jack, The other named Jill," the youngsters giggle and clap to the nonsensical nursery rhyme. Their version is unique: The children recite in Blackfeet.

The Smithsonian honors Blackfeet Head Start educators Julia Schildt, Carol Bird and Ethyl Grant by displaying their Blackfeet language and cultural curriculum material in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.

"Representatives from Head Start in D.C. visited Browning last year," said Bird. "They asked for a copy of our curriculum to display in the Smithsonian's new Indian museum. Two binders are now installed in the resource center and categorized with the Smithsonian library."

Bird and Grant asked storyteller and cultural teacher Cecile Doore to teach Blackfeet language.

"During quiet time, the bilingual teacher told Na'pi stories, lessons or fairytales," Bird said. "The children really learned to listen. She told the Na'pi stories in English and added words in Blackfeet, words like 'dog' or 'blackbird.'"

The Na'pi stories are meant to teach things like respect, values, honor and politeness, said Grant.

"When an elder gives you a Na'pi story, you listen," said Grant, noting that Na'pi, or Old Man is a main character in Blackfeet legends. "If you are misbehaving at a powwow, an elder might pull you aside and tell you a Na'pi story. When you leave, you know that you now must behave or Na'pi will get you."

"The children should know who they are and where they came from," Bird said.

Subjects Covered: education

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