Pilgrim students learn about Eastern Native Americans


With a traditional drum circle and ceremonial dances, a handful of Eastern Native American tribes visited Pilgrim High School last Friday to educate students about their cultures.

Students were awed by the presentation and said they learned a few things about the customs and beliefs.

“It was really interesting because in most books we learn about Western Native Americans,” said tenth grader Christian Gamez. “We don’t see a lot of information about Eastern Native Americans and got an explanation of it.”

His friend Maddison Caron, also a tenth grader, agreed and said, “I never knew they danced like their favorite animals.”

Another tenth grader, Ryan Oatley, said he thought it was an “eye-opening experience.”

“I’m actually part Native American and it was nice to see what it is all about,” he said.

Ray Watson of the Wauchaunat Band of the Narragansett Nation led the presentation. He said he felt honored and blessed to share his background with students.

“It’s fantastic because usually when people learn about Native Americans they hear about our Western brothers,” he said. “I’m very proud of my culture.”

During the ceremony, brothers Lee “Braveheart” and Harry “Hawk” Edmonds of the Pokanoket tribe wore feather headdresses, handmade moccasins and suede clothing that covered them from head to toe, only revealing their faces and hands, as they believe their bodies are holy and not to be put on display. The many fringes that hung from the borders of their garments represented each of their family members.

Harry recited a tobacco prayer and told students of their admiration for the plant. He said they consider it sacred and burned it for their creator, asking for a good crop, successful hunt, to get them through a severe winter, and to bring health to their families.

“It’s all about respect and honor,” said Harry. “Normally we form a circle when we say the prayer.”

Further, the men performed traditional dances, as Watson, along with Daryl “Black Eagle” Jamieson of the Pocasset Wampanoag Pokanoket Nation, Artie “Red Medicine” Crippen of the Montauk tribe; Israel Hector of the Chickasaw Cherokee tribe; as well as Kathy Crippen of the Ramapough tribe, provided drumbeats.

Additionally, Artie informed the assembly that women are held in high esteem in their culture, as are children.

“Women ran our council while men were there to protect them,” he said. “Children are the most important people because they are our next generation.”

Then, Kathy shared a story about the reverence and love they have for turtles, as Native Americans originally called the Americas “Turtle Island.”

The presentation ended with students looking over items such as a ceremonial peace pipe, an Eastern war club, a hawk claw, as well as a traditional Eastern headdress that Watson put on display.

Tenth grade English teacher Brian Callahan was pleased with the event and said when he teaches Native American culture he focuses on creation writings, as well as the story of Christopher Columbus. However, he said the presentation gave students a unique look at their history and way of life.

“November is Native American Heritage Month so we wanted to expose the students to new information,” he said. “Native Americans represent a lot more than casinos and sports’ mascots.”


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