Blair Pointe third graders learn about Native American cultures news

PERU – Third graders from Blair Pointe sat at Sharon Dillman’s feet as she told them the story of Frances Slocum.

Dillman portrayed Slocum and chronicled the life of the historical figure as a young girl captured by Delaware warriors, raised in Indiana, married into the Miami tribe, and reunited with her white family in old age.

Dillman spiced up Native American facts as she related the story of Slocum, such as how children weren’t given names until they were held in their mother’s arms. The first thing the mother saw was her child’s name.

Slocum named her daughters Cut Finger – for a scar on her finger – and Yellow Leaf.

“I’m trying really hard to put them back in time,” Dillman said. “I want them to believe what I’m telling them is true.”

Dillman was part of the Native American Celebration Day at Blair Pointe Elementary. All of Tuesday was devoted to teaching third graders about Native American heritage, the Miami Indians, and the enduring connections in Miami County.

In another classroom, English teacher Kim Cox gave students background on the Miami Indians. Cox can trace her own heritage back to the Miami tribes in the area.

“(I want the students to realize that the Miami people are still here today,” she said.

The students watched a short video about the Miami Indians before splitting into groups. A group tried on Native American costumes. Another group learned how Native Americans used what they found in nature.

Students passed around animal horns that used to be drunk from, and a turtle shell turned into a small bag-like container.

“We use all parts of the animals,” Cox told the students.

As the students left class, they said “aya” — the Miami Indian word for “hello” — as they passed others in the hallway.

The inherent connection between Native Americans and nature was also evident when Megan Black showed the students how tribes made strings of beads.

“Anything they could find in nature they could use as a bead,” said Black, a volunteer parent.

These include rocks, shells, gems, and animal teeth. Native Americans would drill holes into what they found to make jewelry.

“They really had to use their imaginations,” Black said.

Students also learned about teepees and the importance of corn in Native American cultures, and took a virtual tour of the Wampanoag tribe using virtual reality goggles.

Dillman concluded her story on how Slocum, with the help of a lawyer, avoided being deported from Indiana by the US government.

In 1845, Congress passed a resolution exempting the village of Slocum, Miami, from resettlement in the Kansas Territory. The group was among those who formed what is now the Miami Nation of Indiana.

Dillman is a retired school teacher. She spends her time as a storyteller, playing more than 50 characters, including the President’s wives Betsy Ross and suffragist Marie Stuart Edwards.

“Reading books and telling stories for kids is kind of a lost art,” she said.