, Muskogee, OK

May 21, 2013

Students learn Indian culture

— By Wendy Burton

Times Editor

Four girls chattered happily as they wove baskets during Fort Gibson’s annual Indian Culture Day on Monday.

Kali Gleissner, Kylee Adreon, Andrea Wekenmann and Gracie McCoy were among hundreds of students standing in the Intermediate Elementary school yard weaving baskets.

Kylee said she and her friends also tried to play stickball earlier in the day.

“There’s a fish up there, and I almost hit it,” Kylee said. “But Kali couldn’t toss it to me.”

Kali laughed and said, “It kept falling off my stick!”

Victor Wildcat, Native American cultural instructor at Fort Gibson, said the annual event features high school and community volunteers.

The basket weaving is definitely the favorite of girls, while boys tend to enjoy playing stickball, shooting blow darts and playing marbles much more, he said.

“It’s a lot of work, but we have some good volunteers,” Wildcat said. “And we want our older kids to mentor our younger kids, so it all works out.”

A girl approached Wildcat as he talked about Indian Culture Day and asked for help.

“I’m done. It sort of turned into a plate,” the girl said to Wildcat, holding out her colorful “basket.”

“Go dip it in water and bring it back here,” Wildcat said to the girl. “We finish the tops for them, and then they get to take them home.”

Kylee, Kali, Andrea and Gracie all made baskets too.

“I’m pretty horrible at this,” Andrea said. “I tried so many times but it kept poking and scratching me, so I gave up.”

Andrea said she really enjoyed the stickball game and planned to head inside the gymnasium to check out the blow darts.

Gracie left decorative loops around the rim of her mostly green basket.

“It’s not that great, but I’m going to put stuff in it,” she said, and laughed. “I already did stickball, but I could never get it up there (to hit the fish), but I did hit the pole.”

Over at the stickball pole, which is about 20 feet tall with a wooden fish perched at the top, a group made up of mostly boys were running with the sticks and shouting.

Inside the gymnasium, a large group of students, with the help of several high school volunteers, practiced shooting blow darts at targets hanging on the wall.

In a nearby field, students played Cherokee marbles.

Volunteers also set up displays of Native American cultural items for the students to explore, and Robert Lewis from the Cherokee Nation did storytelling for the event, Wildcat said.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton