Students at South Elementary and North Elementary schools had the opportunity to learn first-hand about Native American life and culture through a visit to each building by family members from the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers from Pipestone.
Superintendent Bill Gronseth reminds us that the very land we live on was once home to Indigeonus peoples of the area. “There is a long history that far outdates the communities we know as home today. It is important for all of us to learn this history and to understand how the lives of Indigenous people were and continue to be affected. When we learn more about each other, we build a brighter future for all of us.” Members of the Keepers that were here included Bud Johnston; his daughter, Rona Johnston; and his granddaughter, Moon Johnston. The Johnston family members engaged the youngsters at South and North in storytelling, drums, and singing as part of their teachings about Native American life in the past and present. Keepers’ members travel the world offering presentations on a variety of topics, from American Indian history and Native American storytelling to pipemaking and beadwork. What better way to spend time with your family, friends or students than to immerse oneself in tribal art or history? Our craft and dance demonstrations can help enrich the lives of our audiences and open up a wealth of knowledge into Native American cultures.
“We’ve traveled all over the world sharing our story and enjoying making connections with people from many walks of life,” Bud Johnston said. “We really enjoy meeting children because they are excited to learn and we enjoy seeing them get involved with us.” The St. Peter Native American Parent Advisory Council, which assisted in bringing the Keepers to St. Peter, is made up of parents of Native American students in the Saint Peter School District. Saint Peter Middle School Principal Jon Graff serves as the district representative for the group which is made up of Native American parents who serve in an advisory role for the district. Districts, charter schools and tribal schools that report an American Indian student count of 20 or more to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) are eligible to participate in the American Indian Education Aid (AIEA) program. This program uses the state American Indian student count along with a per-pupil funding formula to determine aid award estimates. The intent of American Indian Education Aid is to enable districts and schools to scale up and enhance American Indian education programs and initiatives, or, in the case of those newly eligible to receive aid, to build sustainable programs that are culturally and academically tailored to American Indian students. “Because SPPS's Native student population has met the 20 student threshold, we were eligible to receive American Indian Education Aid funds,” Graff said. “These funds are used directly to support Native American students and to educate all students on Minnesota's Native history and culture.”