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Youngsters celebrate Native American History Month

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Local children exclaim "BINGO!" during a game of "Native American BINGO," on Wednesday, at a "Native American Storytime and Bingo" event at the Clayton County Library System's headquarters branch.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Local children exclaim "BINGO!" during a game of "Native American BINGO," on Wednesday, at a "Native American Storytime and Bingo" event at the Clayton County Library System's headquarters branch.

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Did you know the "Milky Way" was created from a trail of cosmic dust left by a flying dog, as it fled a tribe of drum-banging Native Americans?

Well, that's the story that children's authors, Joseph Bruchae and Gayle Ross, told in "The Story of the Milky Way," and a handful of local youngsters are sticking with it -- for now, at least.

The children heard the story from Bea Mengel, the youth services librarian at the headquarters branch of the Clayton County Library System, on Wednesday, during a Native-American celebration at the library.

"It's a myth, designed to explain why the Milky Way exists," Mengel told the children. "The Native Americans created stories to explain things they didn't understand," she added.

This was the first year the headquarters library branch has done a Native-Americans storytime event, and even though it was held the day before Thanksgiving, the event actually had little to do with turkey day, and its pilgrims and "Indians" origins, according to Mengel.

"It's Native American History Month this month," she said. "We got this 'Native American BINGO' game, back over the summer, I believe, and we thought 'Well, we could make up an event to use it' ... It all just kind of tied in together [with Thanksgiving]."

Mengel read a couple of stories about Native Americans, and the children played the "Native American BINGO" game, in which Mengel read a description of something related to Native Americans, and the children had to, first, figure out what the item was, then, see if they had it on their boards.

A CD of some Native-American flute music played in the background, but there were no displays of traditional Native-American dancing.

Mengel also taught the children the story about the first Thanksgiving.

So, when you take a handful of children, sit them in a circle, and replace the Native-American dancing with a game of BINGO, can you call what you are left with a "pow-wow?"

Well, Mengel told the children it was similar, during the BINGO game. "A pow-wow is when the different Native-American tribes come together, and they sit in a big circle, just like we're doing now," she told the youths.

Children and parents, alike, said they enjoyed the event because they found it to be educational. Jonesboro youngster, Leebaan Mousse, 6, said he learned everything about Native Americans, from what they made jewelry out of, to what the "Trail of Tears" was. He added that he, of course, also learned that the first Thanksgiving came to pass after the Native Americans helped the pilgrims learn how to survive in North America.

Andrew Campbell, Jr., 5, also of Jonesboro, said he learned that Native Americans "hunted for their food." His father, Andrew Campbell, Sr., said even he got an education by taking his son to the event. "I definitely learned some new facts about Native Americans, and some of the instruments they played, and the places they lived," the elder Campbell said.

Mengel said she can see the first-ever Native American Storytime and BINGO event becoming an annual affair, much like the library's "Breakfast with Mrs. Claus" event in December.

She said she would be open to inviting Native-American storytellers, and dancers, to participate in the future.