Teaching the Iroquois Culture and History
On June 14th 2010, another successful Arts & Education Residency program was conducted for the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. I traveled from South Florida to the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin near Green Bay. The focus was on bringing together a young-aged group of Oneida Nation children and teaching and connecting them to their Iroquois/Haudenosaunee heritage through music, songs, dance and stories presented in the English and Oneida languages.
For five days, I was teamed with an Oneida Nation woman who was very familiar with community members, as she was a teacher of songs, dance, history, music and Clan history. There were three other music programs also being conducted simultaneously and the children would rotate from class to class, absorbing as much as possible. Native American music revolves around spiritual and social acknowledgement and respect. Other music classes being taught were the Big Drum, Various flutes, Christian hymns and piano.
The experience was as beautiful as it was challenging because each child came with and without their own different experiences and understandings of their heritage. As always, the Haudenosaunee way is to start each day with a Thanksgiving Address to bring our minds together as one, and to give proper acknowledgement to the natural world which sustains us. This in itself is a great teaching effort and responsibility.
Some children were shy, some were anxious, some were full of questions and some had the makings of leaders and teachers themselves. By the end of the week, they were ready to showcase what they learned through a demonstration of songs, dance and oral presentation. We all had fun and the cultural identity connection was made on various levels of understanding.
I always leave these experiences with a better appreciation for our full-time teachers who tackle the adversities of classroom teaching head-on. When I’m called upon to fulfill my teaching responsibility, I don’t take it lightly and I give great care and attention to the details of each student as if they were my own son, daughter, niece or nephew.
I've learned that children become what is taught and demonstrated to them and what is reinforced throughout their life lessons. If we teach them goodness and demonstrate love, respect, compassion and the benefits of each, they will carry that attitude and demonstrate that behavior. If we teach them hostility, chaos and disrespect, they will also carry and demonstrate those attitudes and behaviors throughout their lives towards others.
On my last evening, I had a live performance at a local Café. The crowd was anxious to hear an out of town guest musician. I showcased my music from my Spirit Walk recording as well as Hopes and Dreams and new music from my upcoming 2010 release, which is simply entitled ‘Howie Lyons”. Michelle Libby, who sings harmony and backing vocals on my new recording, sang live and added dimension to the vocals. I invited a local percussionist to sit in with hand drums and rattles adding to the rhythm. We all had a great time and hope to return again.