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Updated: Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 9:49 PM CST
Published : Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 4:56 PM CST
An area class is making a difference by helping kids feel proud about their heritage. At the same time, it's keeping the Oneida Nation culture alive.
Oneida Tribe leaders are trying to change that. The program is called "Music through our Culture." Classes are being taught in the Green Bay area. Each week, the younger members of the tribe are learning traditional songs, dances, and vocabulary.
"They're being introduced to their own original identity and they're being taught to be proud of who they are. And it's important to know that they understand their roots of where they come from," said Kalana Brooks, class instructor.
About 30 students attend the classes. They're held during the school year and the summer. Many students realize the lessons are important.
"It's kind of good for our language because it helps us learn our language and all that and it's really good," said Naomi House, eight-year-old student.
"I wanted to dance and sing," said Shako Danforth, 10-year-old student.
"To learn more about our culture and to sing along and to get to know others in our community," said Vanessa John, 13-year-old student.
Others have a family member who gave them a nudge.
"My grandma said I have to learn how to sing,” said Xavier Escamae, seven-year-old student.
“And how's it going so far?” asked FOX 11’s Michelle Melby.
“It's cool," replied Escamae.
For the youngest students, the learning is a fun challenge.
"Some of the parts when we're singing...they get easier, and then harder," said Ernest Stevens, seven-year-old student.
Organizers say these lessons are keeping culture and tradition alive.
"And for some of them, this is the first time they've ever been introduced to what it means to be Oneida student youth. And it's good. It's great," said Brooks.
Students learn a variety of music. They talk about acceptance and respecting everyone's background. Because some tribe members were brought up with Oneida hymns. Others know Iroquois earth dances.
"Through the gift of song, we can together, sit together, side by side, and sing and feel good. And it doesn't matter who you are in terms of how you were raised," said Brooks.
When the group sings, you can feel the life and energy in the room. And judging by the smiles on everyone's faces, these classes are making a difference. And will be for years to come.
This year, there is also an apprenticeship program. Those people will eventually be able to help teach future classes.