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
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
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
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