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Tuscarora School celebrates culture, traditions of community

Tue, Jun 9th 2015 05:20 pm

Culture Night has been a longstanding tradition at Niagara-Wheatfield's Tuscarora Native American School. It was started by the late Marge Printup, who taught the Tuscarora language at the school.

"The purpose of the evening is to come together by showing the students' work in culture and language classes along with the community," said culture and history teacher Joanne Weinholtz. "Throughout the year, we have guest speakers from our community who come in and share with the young people of Tuscarora. The evening represents not only the young people but the elders who continue to teach them."

The event was held in the gymnasium at the school and many of the crafts and traditions were on display for everyone to see. The game of snowsnake, an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) tradition, was observed as one of the community members built a track for the boys to learn how to play as part of an afterschool activity. Beautiful beadwork was on display that students and community members made in an afterschool class. The Tuscarora History Group was also in attendance for anyone interested in sharing or learning more about their history.

One of the most notable displays was one created by fourth graders and their families.

"I started the longhouse project many years ago," Weinholtz said. "It has become a tradition and a highlight of Culture Night. Students learn all about the physical end of the longhouse homes we lived in long ago; some were longer than football fields. They are then given the assignment of going home to their families and sharing in building a model longhouse."

The longhouses were then judged by the clan mothers on Culture Night, and three were chosen to be on display at Old Fort Niagara, the Tuscarora Environmental Program Office and the New York Power Authority Tuscarora display.

"The fact the longhouses are judged and selected for display is secondary to the experience," Weinholtz said. "It is great to hear students, parents and grandparents, etc., tell how they enjoyed the activity together. Once more this year, one of the grandfathers brought in the longhouse and told me how he and his grandson walked through the woods and selected the wood for the model and so on. I loved hearing his experience, because the point to the assignment is spending time together and learning from each other."

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