Native American Day; South Dakota celebrates American Indians, not Columbus

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CRAZY HORSE, S.D. -- Native American Day has replaced Columbus Day in South
Dakota, observed this year on Oct. 10, and reconciliation and education
were the focal points of a celebration of American Indian culture at Crazy
Horse Memorial.

Two cultures -- one ancient; the other relatively new -- look at stars in
different ways but with a similar conclusion, as was borne out during the
celebration's program.

Phillip Whiteman Jr., Northern Cheyenne, said he thought of what his
grandfather told him about the stars as he listened to featured speaker and
astrophysicist Theodore Gull, of the Goddard Space Flight Center in
Maryland.

"The Cheyenne people are known as Spirit Seekers and came from other
planets and from Mother Earth. The Creator shared stories with us to give
us direction, to keep Mother Earth alive. Mother Earth goes through a
cleansing. And I think the hurricanes are a way for Mother Earth to
cleanse."

Gull said that exploding stars emit minerals not originally found on Earth.
The human body is made up of those minerals, and the exploding stars spread
them around.

American Indian culture is celebrated in a spirit of reconciliation on
Native American Day; not as a tribute to the so-called "discoverer of the
Americas," but to the indigenous people who live on the continents today.
Education plays a very important part in the understanding of the cultures
to achieve the goal of reconciliation.

Students from more than 13 tribes, and non-Indian students from local
schools, engaged in educational activities a complementary buffalo stew
lunch and entertainment. In all, nearly 1,000 students, adults and teachers
from various schools statewide attended the event.

Alicia Robertson, Navajo, performed Navajo songs and the Bad Nation drum
group provided Lakota songs.

Oglala Lakota elder Nellie Two Bulls, a perennial participant in Native
American Day festivities, told stories and sang the Lakota Flag Song.

Featuring hands-on bead working, artifact hunting, buffalo hide scraping,
music and an opportunity to explore history within the Indian Museum of
North America, the event brings together children and adults from many
cultures to learn and interact. Storytelling is a special feature of the
events.

"The same colors I see in the rainbow and the same colors I have in my
Grass Dance outfit are the same colors I see in the audience," Whiteman,
who educates young people through storytelling, music and dance, said. He
received a special honor at the Black Hills Pow Wow for his Grass Dance
story.

Before playing a flute, Whiteman related the story: "A young man was
walking in the woods and heard sobbing. He found a woodpecker on a tree
stump, crying. The woodpecker said he wanted to be like the other birds and
sing. He asked why the Creator didn't make him like other birds. He said,
'I only make holes and carve wood.'

"The woodpecker was told to make seven holes in a piece of cedar and put
two pieces together. The wind then blew and made a beautiful sound never
heard before in the forest."

Gull's family settled in South Dakota. He said his grandfather came to the
area, probably not liking the American Indian; and the American Indians
didn't like him for taking land.

He developed an interest in astronomy while attending school nearby in
Edgemont. His school principal, William Smith, from the Lower Brule Sioux
Tribe, was stern but fair: and he encouraged him and other students. From
there he went on to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where
he received a degree in physics. He now works with the Hubbell Space
Telescope.

"When you get to be adults, you may find planets like your own," he told
the students. "Why is there life only here on Earth? If it exists, can we
communicate?"

Gull works with Oglala Lakota College and the South Dakota School of Mines
and Technology as a mentor and educator to encourage American Indian
students to pursue education in the sciences and math.

Each year, a teacher is named "Teacher of the Year" by the Crazy Horse
Memorial Foundation Scholarship Fund.

Marlyce Miner, Oglala Lakota, was honored with the award this year and
received a $1,000 check for the Rapid City Academy.

"Education is all about the students. Education is the key to racial
reconciliation," Miner said.

She teaches at Rapid City Academy, an alternative school; she has worked as
a long-time guidance counselor at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee on the Pine
Ridge Reservation and a part-time instructor at Oglala Lakota College,
where she received a portion of her education. Her goal, she said, is to
achieve a doctorate in education.

Whiteman, Gull and Miner are all teachers, although they use different
methods to open student's minds. Miner incorporates American Indian culture
into her teaching; she organized the Native American Day at her school.
Whiteman engages youth by using cultural stories, and helps them with the
use of horses and Cheyenne ways.

In 1990, then-Gov. George S. Mickleson, while attending the 100th
anniversary gathering at Wounded Knee, declared a year of reconciliation.
The declaration was later changed to a "century of reconciliation." The
South Dakota Legislature subsequently passed legislation creating Native
American Day.