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Re: Culture essentials - Judy's Soapbox


From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Jul 13 2003 - 09:18:28 PDT

Ok... I admit - this turned out to be longer than I anticipated -- maybe
there isn't a short way after all....

> That's yet another reason I hate seeing lessons on "Native American
> art." They cannot be lumped together as one generic culture!
> Maggie (getting off her soapbox)

Hi all...I have been thinking for DAYS how to respond to this Native
American/Culture issue.....The long way always keeps popping into my
head....But I think the short way would be most appropriate here. A Native
American nearly destroyed me one summer by his attack on White Culture and
everything that WE have done wrong.....he attacked EVERYTHING about us --
including our religion -- and of course attacked the way we teach art (there
were two art teachers in the class)-- He even blames US for the death of his
brother. I said "I don't understand.... I am a Christian and my way is to
lend a hand and pull up a loved one who is struggling." He said "That is not
the Indian Way -- you do not help an Indian unless they ask for help" -- No
it is NOT our fault that his brother died from alcoholism....Nor is it his
fault. I don't teach that culture and have not even spent much time surfing
for art for that culture (I have a few links - but not many). Now the only
culture/cultures I teach are those where I can use "authentic" materials. I
teach Native cultures ceramics (and yes, do focus on individual ones - not
all lumped together)....BUT we do not recreate their designs -- we
appreciate what they have done - admire it and come up with our own ideas
now. I could show you some images of the "old way" I taught the lessons -
and some examples of the new way I taught the lesson -- but that would take
too much time for me to find the images to show. I will just make sure I
get some of the "new way" on my Pre-Columbian lesson - Well... I just
checked - two images are the "old way" - taking Pre-Columbian ideas -
reinterpreting. The third image - the seated Indian is the new way.
The gal that made that is half Indian/ half Mexican - so she WAS doing her

The effigies on this lesson are all the "new way"

Here is the "old way" ceramics lesson:

I am still proud of this lesson and what all I accomplished..... NOW to the

PLEASE when someone posts an idea for sharing that they enjoyed doing with
kids to teach about culture DO NOT post to the ENTIRE list that that was the
wrong thing to do (send them a personal note if you must). If we can not
share our successes with our art teacher friends - then who can we share
them with? Some folks are truly afraid to post to the list because they
don't want their ideas/comments to be wrong in your eyes (I often hear this
offlist)..... Well now get ready for this.... I DID teach my third graders
about Pueblo cultures by having them make toilet paper Kachinas! (I know I
did not spell this right - but don't have time to look up the new correct
way)....and I am proud of the way I taught the unit. I even have my little
guy displayed in my house with the Kachina I purchased. We used them as a
TEACHING tool (which the small Kachinas are). Each day as we worked, I would
teach them more about the culture. We would start the day with our learning
session -- then move on to the creation.....and hold on to your hats....This
was such a difficult lesson for these little ones (it was too hard for many
of them)....It went on finally we had to turn them over to the
Elder (me) to finish. I went in one night and did all of the hot gluing --
and added little "gifts" (I made little bead necklaces for each and
everyone -- and added little fur collars to those who requested them)....So
there to all of you out there who NEVER touch your students' work. LOL at
me. I purposely stayed out of all of those discussions over the years. Those
kachinas were the project that group liked best (It is just a good thing I
only did them with that one class - I changed the project for the other four
third grade classes). WOW! and this was the short way? LOL - what would the
long way have been like.

Don't tell us we are "Wrong".....Help us do it right.....Help all of us
enjoy our successes. Teaching about cultures is hard - there is so much to
learn. Each year I taught about Africa I would learn more about individual
cultures myself and try to focus on individual cultures with my
students....but I NEVER expected my students to keep all of the different
cultures straight - there is just too much to learn. I didn't want to take
the enjoyment out of learning. I have one African lesson on Ndbele that I
will try to get online this summer - I just don't have a project sample - I
left that at school).

OK laundry -- I hear ya....but this was calling louder....


P.S. I had to look....I can not find the correct way to spell Kachina now --
I just know it does not have a "ch" in it....If anyone who is reading
knows - please post.