American Indian Culture Comes Home Stories, Hides and Artifacts Take over Where Books Stop

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan McKernan Daily Herald Staff Writer

Long before modern houses and roads were built, long before the plains were farmed, Northeastern Illinois was the home to several tribes of American Indians.

Last week that tribal past and culture came alive when a couple of ancestors of the nation's indigenous people came to visit the children of Cary.

Dressed in animal hides and armed with artifacts and stories, Jon Jordan, ancestor of the Lakota tribe, and Edward Murray, a relative of the Shawnee tribe, came to Oak Knoll Grade School to give students there a hands-on glimpse into the real world of Native-American Indians.

Books can only go so far, so Jordan and Murray assumed their American Indian identities and showed the children how many American Indians lived, ate, hunted and passed on the history of their people.

The lesson began early in the week when Jordan - known as Tahca Inyanka, which translates into Running Deer - and Murray - who is known as Ogle Zi, or Yellojacket - erected a 20-foot-tall canvas teepee on the school grounds.

They invited the children inside in small groups. Displayed on the ground were various tools that helped the Indians perform common tasks, such as scraping hides, sewing, cooking and hunting.

"It was really different than our houses and all the stuff they use," said 9-year-old Harry Kuikendall, a third-grade student. "If it got cold and snowy out, you would be really cold."

Jordan and Murray also showed the children how the American Indians related past events through rich and colorful stories. "Oral history is a very important part of the Native-American culture. That's how history was passed from generation to generation," Jordan explained.

In the school gym, Jordan and Murray passed on Lakota stories that explain many of the facinating phenomenons in life, such as how the earth was born, how music started and why animals are camouflaged in the wild.

In between the tales, Running Deer and Yellowjacket performed native Lakota dances and songs.

In one dance, Jordan hopped on the ground in circular patterns, with a hide-covered hoop, to the beat of a drum played by Murray.

Before the dance began, Jordan explained the importance of the hoop. …