Hoyt, KS – December 17, 2019
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation worked collaboratively with Royal Valley USD #337 on the 2nd Annual Cultural Heritage Night, held on Tuesday, December 17, 2019. The intent of the event is to raise awareness of the diversity of culture in the school district and provide an opportunity to share elements of Native American culture, such as values, food, language, and self-expression with the local community.
During the day, students in kindergarten through 12th grade attended presentations with “Supaman,” Christian Parrish Takes the Gun (Apsaalooke Nation). Supaman is a Native American fancy dancer and hip hop artist who empowers people by sharing Native culture, hip hop and comedy. Supaman has received many accolades during his career including Best Hip Hop Album and Best Producer in 2018 at the Indigenous Music Awards.
In meeting with the elementary students, Supaman covered the topic of bullying. One of the best preventions for bullying is to teach kids how to identify it and provide tactics for standing up to it safely. Supaman also addressed a source of bullying, specific to Native Americans, which is when boys have long hair. In American culture long hair trends toward females, in contrast long hair for is accepted and embraced for both boys and girls and is valued as a source of strength in Native American culture.
Supaman engaged the middle and high school students during the afternoon, focusing on choices, peer pressure and respecting others.
In the late afternoon, the Boys and Girls Club of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation sold Indian tacos in the high school gym commons. Indian tacos, while not an actual traditional food, are tasty and considered a Native American food, providing another means of sharing Native American culture. The main component of an Indian taco consists of fry bread or dough that has been deep fried in oil, and covered in standard taco toppings of meat, lettuce, cheese and tomatoes.
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Wellness Connection program was also staged in the gym commons, handing out promotional items and providing information on their services. The Wellness Connection has programming in the Royal Valley middle school available to all students to encourage empowerment and anti-bullying measures.
The nighttime portion of events were interwoven into the school’s basketball schedule. Royal Valley student-athletes donned “ShÏpshiyēk” warm-ups prior to the varsity basketball games against the Holton Wildcats. ShÏpshiyēk is a Prairie Band Potawatomi term which translates into big cat, such as a panther, the Royal Valley school mascot. Although a term printed on clothing is seemingly small, language is a vital component of identity, and the inclusion of the Potawatomi language in the Royal Valley School system is significant.
Prior to the start of the Royal Valley Varsity Girls Basketball game, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation American Legion We-Ta-Se Post 410 Color Guard presented flags while Melvin “Nanoki” Lewis, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Language and Culture department staff, provided an introduction to the evening’s events delivered in the Potawatomi language, translated to English afterward. This was followed by a vocal rendering of the Potawatomi flag song by members of the Potawatomi drum group Little Soldier. A flag song has meaningful cultural significance to Native Americans similar to the American national anthem.
Special guest emcee Manny King (Northern Cheyenne), of Haskell Indian Nations University introduced each varsity basketball team and announced both games with his signature flair.
During the halftime of the Varsity Girls’ game Supaman presented his DJ’ing skills to the throng of students, parents and fans in the stands. They moved up and down, joining in hip hop dance moves while Supaman sang and tossed CD’s into the crowd.
The highlight of the cultural night was a special presentation of the Royal Valley Singers and Dancers, the school district’s powwow dance troupe, during half time of the Royal Valley Varsity Boys basketball game. The Royal Valley Singers and Dancers is a school-sanctioned group for the Native American student body, grades K through 12. Dressed in dance regalia, the dancers flooded the high school gym floor in an exhibition performance of powwow dance moves. Supaman and a few parents dressed out and joined the students in solidarity. Each style of dance; traditional, jingle, grass, and fancy were highlighted and showcased for the crowd.
Both Royal Valley USD #337 and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation representatives were excited to see the student body and the larger Jackson County community accepting and embracing the community’s diversity.
“It is important for our children, and our community, to continue strengthening our ability to communicate and relate with one another, activities like this build social equity,” said Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairman Joseph Rupnick.
Royal Valley is one of few school districts in Kansas that serve the membership of a tribal nation, with approximately 143 enrolled PBPN members being served by the district and 35% of the 868 students that attend Royal Valley school district identifying as Native American.
- For more photos visit the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Facebook page.