Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

Presenter showcases a hand made drum to elementary students seated on the floor in front of the classroom.
Throughout November, for Native American Heritage Month, several elementary and middle school classes had the opportunity to learn more about the traditions and way of life of the native people who inhabited, and still live in, our local areas.
Select classes were visited by Carmel graduate, Alicia Briley, who is a member of the Wappinger-Nockpeem band of the Wappinger Confederacy. Briley took the students on a journey that highlighted the beliefs, traditions and way of life for her family and local Native American people, as well as their history. She also spoke about the significance of the names of many local sites and areas to her family’s history.
Through her presentation, students also learned about the distinct types of regalia worn and the customs that are part of dances during pow-wows. Briley showed photos of her dance regalia and videos of her dancing while explaining the significance and reasons behind dancing.
“When we dance, we pray. We are praying for somebody to heal,” said Briley. “Every step is a prayer. This is our way of praying.”
Using a hand-held drum that she made herself, Briley also sang a Water Song for our students.
Students then had the opportunity to share their own family histories with their class. For those who were unsure, Briley urged them to ask their family members when they returned home.
“We all have a story to share,” she said. “We are all important. Stay true to who you are and don’t change for anyone.”