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Tepee treat for students

November 17, 2010

Charlotte Story, center, shows Concordia Christian students
a tool Wednesday like the ones used
by American Indians. Story's children, Laurie, left, and Jarett, help
their mother share the American Indian
culture through story telling.

Many Concordia Christian Day School students have been camping, but most of them never went camping in a tepee.
Charlotte Story, whose two children attend Concordia Christian school, brought her father's tepee Wednesday to share with students at the school in Conover.
"My dad has a special place in his heart for Native Americans, and he's always had a special place in his heart," Story said. "He wants to share everything he knows about them."
Story is descended from the Cherokee tribe of American Indians, and she thinks it's important to teach others about the tribe's history. Story grew up camping inside tepees, much like the one on display Tuesday for Concordia students.
About 25 people fit comfortably in the tepee as Story displayed American Indian moccasins, tools, tanned hides and other music makers.
"It's like a puzzle," Story told students about the intricate tepee. "Everything has to go in the right spot."
The tepee was pitched outside Concordia school for several days, and the structure's design prevented rain from drenching the inside.
"We had a lot of rain last night," Story said. "When we came in this morning, it was completely dry inside."
The tepee has a hole in the top, but the design of the poles wrapped around the structure draws raindrops away from the tepee's center. Gravity pulls the water down each pole and into the ground.
The tepee's liner creates a vacuum inside the structure when a fire is lit inside, so smoke is lifted up and out of the tepee and away from the people staying inside.
Students were also treated to traditional American Indian music performed by Concordia and University Christian High School English teacher Cheryl Brinn.
Brinn played concert flute for almost three decades, but her interest in other types of flutes led her to American Indian instruments.
"I started to get curious if there were other types of flutes, and I started to collect flutes," Brinn said.
Brinn played several melodies for students, including a song played with two flutes simultaneously.
The instruments' design makes it difficult to play traditional music, so many of the melodies are improvised or played from memory.
"These are made to go out and find the song," Brinn said. "And it constantly changes with the wind."
Concordia eighth-grader Thomas Colton is Boy Scout and a member of the group's Order of the Arrow. As part of the prestigious society, Colton learned about the traditional dress and dance displays of American Indians, and he demonstrated that knowledge to other Concordia students.
"Every part of the dance costume has a different story about it," Colton said.
He wore a traditional costume, including a headdress, breastplate and bustle made from feathers.
After Colton demonstrated the traditional dance, students had an opportunity to display their dancing skills, too.
They followed Colton in a line behind him as they danced around the Concordia field while the sounds of American Indian music drifted from a CD player.
The American Indian history lesson and demonstration comes at a good time in the students' classroom curricula, said Concordia Christian Principal Bill Unverfehrt.
Students study American Indian culture, history and family trees.

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