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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Preschoolers learn about American Indians

Children's Thanksgiving introduction starts with the Cherokee that used to live here.

By Marc Dadigan, Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer

Wearing construction-paper headbands and feathers along with finger-paint-adorned white smocks, the group of 3-year-olds sat around a pair of tepees and pounded on tin-can drums.

About to experience the first Thanksgiving they're likely to remember, the children from First Baptist Church's Weekday Preschool were busy invoking the spirit of American Indian culture and learning about Georgia's earliest inhabitants during the school's annual powwow Tuesday.

"I think it's just precious," said Anna Clower, whose daughter Anabelle, 3, is a preschool student. "I think it's wonderful that they're learning these folk tales and about this sort of culture."

After the children marched into the room in hand-crafted Indian regalia and beat their drums to a couple of songs, Carey Tilley, director of the Chieftains Museum, regaled them with an old American Indian fable about a possum whose tail is shaved by a mischievous cricket.

"I just wanted to give them a sense that not all Indians lived in tepees and that the cultures were diverse," he said. "Hopefully, they'll realize not all the stereotypes of Indians are true."

Unlike the Plains Indians commonly portrayed in movies and books, the Cherokee Indians who once populated Georgia lived in clay huts with thatch roofs instead of tepees, and they hunted deer while supplementing their diet with corn, he told the preschoolers.

"There were Indians who lived here in Rome, but it wasn't called Rome back then," he told the children.

The event, which drew a crowd of video camera-toting parents, is a tradition at the preschool, said Director Patsy Cooper.

"It's a great way to introduce them to Thanksgiving," she said. "It helps explain the whole idea of pilgrims and Indians and what the holiday is all about."

Rob's comment
The text says the museum director teaches kids the difference between the real Cherokee culture and stereotypical Indian cultures. Maybe so, but the first paragraph tells us the kids are learning pure stereotypes: feathered headbands, warpaint, teepees, drums. Which is likely to predominate in their minds: a short lecture or a hands-on activity that results in take-home artifacts and a parental videotape?

Related links
Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes

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