By Susan Hayden
Indian Wells Elementary School hosted its annual Native American Night Nov. 29 at the George Gardner Performing Arts Center in Holbrook. The event was the culminating activity of Native American Culture Week at the school.
As master of ceremonies, Alfred Clark introduced the various performers and shared amusing anecdotes along the way. The stage was set with a realistic façade of a Navajo hogan, complete with a traditional rug weaving over the door-way. Several paper reproductions of Navajo rugs, contributed by every classroom in mosaic format, lent style and beauty to the setting.
Fifth grader Jessika Tso began the evening with the National Anthem, singing in both English and Navajo. Sandra Salabye-Slimko’s second grade class followed in Navajo with the Pledge of Allegiance and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. During the evening, first and second place Native American Essay winners Wheylaya Becenti and Caitlyn Clark shared their inspiring essays with the audience.
Various IWES students performed in the talent show portions of the program, demonstrating talents as wide ranging as singing and dancing, and tying a traditional Navajo hair bun. Interspersed throughout the program were video inter-views of many IWES students sharing their favorite native traditions and foods, and reasons they are proud of their heri-tage.
Several types of attire graced the stage during the fashion show segments of the program. Students of all ages, outfit-ted in traditional, tribal, native contemporary or Western clothing, mounted the platform and executed a charming pirouette for a delighted audience before stepping down and off the stage. IWES fifth and sixth grade students then performed a lovely melody, the I Walk in Beauty song.
IWES student participants included Shaun Altsisi, Deirdre Barton, Kimberly Billie, Samathay Billie, Natalie Black-rock, Wheylaya Becenti, Josten Chee, Daniell Charley, Caitlyn Clark, Riley Clark, Leland Clark, Lance Crow, Shailyn Curtis, Julia Dale, Orayonyss Dickson, Chaslyn Evans, Nesha Fowler, Sueann Gibson, MorningRain Honani, Quincy Jensen, Demiko Jim, Eli Joe, Alana Johnson, Kobin Lester, Adriano Lowery, Emeral Lowery, Kyra Manuelito, Alishaye McKee, Ashlynn Morris, Garilyn Multine, Tinequea Sales, Ariah Secody, Madison Smith, Kathryn Spencer, Kerensa Spencer, Candace Tso, Jessika Tso, Makalee Williams, Myles Williams, Edison Wilson, Demita Yazzie, Dezbah Yazzie, Diyanii Yazzie, Starla Yazzie and Shane Yazzie.
Holbrook School Superintendent Dr. Robbie Koerperich contributed to the festivities with a few of his recollections as the first principal of IWES. Donning a native headband (with traditional Navajo hairbun attached!), one would almost believe that he had become native himself. Dr. Jeri McKinnon, current principal at IWES, joined him onstage to receive a bouquet of appreciation from the staff. How the audience laughed when Master of Ceremonies Clark tied a native scarf over her hair.
Traditional powwow dancing concluded the performances of the evening. Hampton, Theron, and Preston Olney, stu-dents at IWES, danced in full native regalia to the accompaniment of a professional drum group. Denaye Jack, the boys’ mother, described each dance and explained the attire for an appreciative audience.
Near the end of the program, four sheepherder baskets, donated by IWES staff, were awarded as door prizes. An in-formal reception with light refreshments was provided after the show as attendees browsed the IWES Student Art Dis-play in the gallery.
The Native American Art Contest winners were Cedric Joe, sixth grade, firstplace; Myron Begay, fifth grade, second place; and Jenna Johnson, third grade, third place.
Families were also offered the opportunity to have a picture taken with their children. A “photo booth” with a lovely, native-inspired backdrop provided memories of the occasion.
The entire program was a delight for all who attended. IWES has hosted Native American Night in the multipurpose room at the school for many years, so this was the first time it had been held in the George Gardner Performing Arts Center. Performing in a venue such as this was a wonderful opportunity for these young students, and it greatly enhanced the presentation designed by Theresa Yazzie and the IWES School Environment Committee.
By Susan Hayden