Native Village
Youth and Education news
February 2010 Volume 2

Young Chief Leschi students show connection to old ways
by Debbie Cafazzo
Condensed by Native Village


Washington: Students from Chief Leschi Schools are dancing the dances of their ancestors.

“It’s like you’re making history,” said Shana, a 7th grade Leschi student.

Chief Leschi schools are operated by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. Ten of their students, along with drummers and singers, performed at an American Indian celebration at the Tacoma Art Museum.

The Chief Leschi dancers formed two lines of five dancers each. They faced each other, then moved to the drum beat as singers chanted in Twulshootseed, the Puyallup language.

The dancers twirled, jumped, raised their hands to shoulder height, crossed arms and traded places. For their final dance, they grabbed wooden canoe paddles and circled through the audience as they danced.

Shana, 12, explained the canoe dance: “You’re paddling to your destination, and when we get to our destination, we stop and honor the lead person.”

“You flow with the water and the canoe,” added Alexis, 11.

The dancers say they love making a cultural connection through their art form and their school.

“We’re passing on traditions,” said Alexis. “It’s an honor to be in this school.”

Teresa Harvey instructs dance at Chief Lechi school. She said dancing and singing helps American Indian kids relate to their community.

“I tell my kids that when you sing a song, and learn it, once you understand it, you will feel it,” she said. She describes the sensation as a spiritual feeling.

Harvey, 57, didn't learn American Indian dance until later in life. While she grew up on the Nisqually Indian Reservation, her mom sent her to school in Lacey.

“There were no Native kids there,” she said. “I felt alone.”

But Harvey said the experience gave her a good education. She passes that lesson onto students.

"I tell them to get an education, graduate and go to college,” she said. “Then bring what you learned back to us and share it with your community.”

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