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December 19, 2017

The winter solstice begins a season of storytelling and ceremony

In the Northern Hemisphere, December 21 will be the year’s day of least sunlight, when the sun takes its lowest, shortest path across the sky. North of the Arctic Circle, it will be the midpoint of the period of darkness, when even twilight doesn’t reach the horizon. As we did with the solar eclipse in August, this December we asked our Native friends to share traditional stories or beliefs they’ve heard about the winter solstice. Their answers highlight winter as a time for storytelling.

Snow Snake Game
Ernest P. Smith, (Seneca, 1907–1975), The Snow Snake Game, 1969. Tonawanda Reservation, New York. Indian Arts and Crafts Board Headquarters Collection, Department of the Interior, at the National Museum of the American Indian. 26/2224

Ojibwe (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe): This background for teachers was prepared by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation/Lessons of Our Land:

Like many events in American Indian culture there is a proper time and place for all activities. Traditional storytelling is reserved for the winter months for many tribes. This was a practical choice given the fact that during the other season's, people were busy growing, gathering, and hunting food. It was in the winter, with the long dark evenings, the snow and wind blowing outside, that telling stories was a way to entertain and teach the children. Another reason is that many traditional stories contain animal characters. To be respectful, people waited until the winter when animals hibernate or become less active so they cannot hear themselves being talked about.

To have a storyteller tell you a story is like receiving a gift. To be respectful, a gift of tobacco is offered to the storyteller before the story begins. The storyteller will often take the tobacco outside and place it on the earth as an offering to the spirits of the story.

San Carlos Apache (Arizona): This reminds me when I was young. My grandfather would ask a really older man to come visit. We would eat dinner; they would visit, smoke. Then my grandpa would put a bundle at his feet. Soon he would start telling stories most of the night.

Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin: We have to wait for the Winter Moon, and there has to be snow on Mother Earth for those stories.

Blackfoot (Calgary, Alberta): Blackfoots are the same with the snow and stories.

Acoma Pueblo (New Mexico): The winter solstice marks our New Year in Acoma. We mark the time with ceremonies not privy to the public.

It’s also the time of haamaaha, storytelling of the coyote, stories of heroes, stories of the animals, sharing of knowledge. My parents said that when you call haamaaha, people will arrive with piñon nuts gathered in the fall that are roasted and shared.

Passamaquoddy (New England): In traditional calendars in the Northeast, the solstice is always marked. For my folks it’s a sign that the frost giants will be returning to the North.

Assiniboine/Sioux (South Dakota): Waniyetu [winter]—time for gathering can'sa'sa [red willow bark] while the Thunder is gone.

Syilx (Washington State & British Columbia): What I know is that it marks the point in time when our Winter Ceremonies can be held. My grandmother sometimes held her first ceremony of the winter at this powerful time. We have winter dance ceremonies; prayers for the new year to come, for the berries, roots, four-leggeds, and fish—the four Food Chiefs; prayers for our families and ourselves. There are songs, dancing, feasting, and a give-away. This is held during the evening and can go all night, depending on the number of sacred singers who come to share. The ceremonies are called winter dances. Or my grandfather also called them Chinook dances. In our territory to the south in Washington State around Nespelem, my grandfather told me of one dance ceremony lasting ten nights in a row!

—Dennis W. Zotigh

Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

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December 18, 2017

A tradition of service: Specialist Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe

In 2020, the National Museum of the American Indian will honor Native American servicemen and women by building the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here, Specialist Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe (U.S. Army retired), a member of the memorial advisory committee, talks briefly about his experiences as a Native Hawaiian in the U.S. military.

From 2015 until the summer of 2017, the advisory committee and the museum conducted 35 community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial. These events brought together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members from across the nation, and resulted in a shared vision and set of design principles for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The design competition for the memorial is open until 3 p.m. Eastern time January 9. All information about the competition is available at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/memorial/.

Allen Hoe
Specialist Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe (U.S. Army retired), the son and grandson of veterans and a Gold Star father, serves on the advisory committee of the National Native American Veterans Memorial. Photo courtesy of Allen Hoe

 

May I ask you to introduce yourself and to give us your Native name and its English translation?

I’m Allen Kale‘iolani Hoe. My Hawaiian name is Kale‘iolani. It means hawk (io) from the sky (lani), bold, loud, brash (kale)

What is your tribe or Native nation?

I am a Native Hawaiian. We do not identify as a tribe. Our genealogy goes back one hundred generations.

Where are you from?

Hawai'i.

Is the warrior culture strong in your family and tribe?

I am descended from a long line of Native Hawaiian warriors, as well as my Caucasian ancestors from America and England and my Asian ancestors from China and Japan. 

Both my grandfathers served in World War I, and my dad served in World War II. My oldest son, 1st Lieutenant Nainoa Hoe, was an infantry platoon leader with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. He was killed in action on January 22, 2005, in Mosul, Iraq. My young son is currently a staff sergeant with the 442nd/100th Infantry Battalion’s Scout Platoon.

Allen Hoe with flag
Allen Hoe standing in front of a painting that honors his son, 1st Lieutenant Nainoa Hoe. An Army Ranger, Lt. Hoe was killed while leading a foot patrol urging Iraqi citizens to vote in Iraq's national elections. A scholarship in his name is awarded annually to a Hawai‘i high school senior who is enrolled in a JROTC program and who will enter Army ROTC at the University of Hawai‘i. Photo courtesy of Allen Hoe

Why did you choose to serve in the armed forces?

In 1966 there was this little thing called the Selective Service draft. I always say I was so good that Uncle Sam invited me to be on his team.

Did your Native background play any part in your decision to join?

My heritage gave me the pride to step forward and serve with honor.

Why did you enter your specific branch of the military?

I guess the early scouting reports gave the Army the first shot at my being on their team.

What years did you serve and where did you serve?

I served from 1966 to 1968. I was trained as a combat medic at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. I served with an Air Defense Command Unit at Travis Air Force Base, California, then volunteered for Vietnam and served as the senior medic with the Recon Platoon, 2nd Battalion 1st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, northern sector of South Vietnam, known as I Corps.

What was the highest rank you received?

E 5, SPC 5.

Were there other Natives who served with you, and would you care to talk about them?

There were other Native Hawaiians who served with me, as well as Native American Indians. All of them were natural leadrs, recognized for their bravery and their ability to adapt very easily to their surroundings and the natural jungle environment.

Were you treated differently in the service because you are Native?

No not really. My being from Hawai‘i in the ’60s, the discussion somehow always turned to my surfing experiences.

Is there a story or incident that sticks out the most in your mind about your service?

As a combat soldier, you become very superstitious. I lived by three strikes and you’re out. Following the third time I cheated death, I took on a different persona, completely confident in my survival. Nothing worried me from that time forward. I never doubted that I would survive combat.

Where were you when your service ended?

I was in country. My Expiration of Term of Service was out of South Vietnam, and I was separated from service at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

Did your tribe or Native community do anything special for you upon your return home when your service ended?

No, but my family and many close friends celebrated with me.

Are you a member of any veterans groups?

Yes, a number of them—the Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and otehrs.

Would you recommend joining the service to your family members or others of your tribe?

Yes, I do and I have, especially young men and women who are, perhaps, still unsure of their abilities or what career or profession they wish to pursue.

What do you think of the National Native American Veterans Memorial that will be biult on the grounds of the museum in Washington?

It’s long over due and very timely during this particular period in our nation’s history.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. I grew up in a culture that accepted service to the nation as something expected of each of us. I proudly served and believe to this day that the United States would benefit from some sort of compulsory service program across the board, maybe not armed service for everyone, but at least service benefiting the greater good of the community at large.

Please let me extend condolences from all my colleagues at the museum on the loss of your son. Thank you for your service to the country and thank you for helping build the National Native American Veteran’s Memorial.

—Dennis W. Zotigh

The design competition for the National Native American Veterans Memorial closes on January 9, 2018, at 3 p.m. EST. All information about the competition is available at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/memorial/.

Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

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A tradition of service: Captain Jefferson Keel

In 2020, the National Museum of the American Indian will honor Native American servicemen and women by building the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here, Captain Jefferson Keel (U.S. Army retired), a member of the memorial advisory committee, talks briefly about his experiences as a Native American in the U.S. military.

From 2015 until the summer of 2017, the advisory committee and the museum conducted 35 community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial. These events brought together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members from across the nation, and resulted in a shared vision and set of design principles for the National Native American Veterans Memorial. The design competition for the memorial is open until 3 p.m. Eastern time January 9. All information about the competition is available at https://nmai.si.edu/nnavm/memorial/. 

LtGov Keel Tomb Unknown Soldier
Jefferson Keel, Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Jefferson Keel

Thank you for serving as co-chair of the Veterans Memorial advisory committee. Please introduce yourself.

My name is Jefferson Keel. I am the Lieutenant Governor of my tribe, the Chickasaw Nation.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Is the warrior culture strong in your family or tribe?

Yes, it is. I come from a long line of combat veterans, in my family and my tribe. My father served in World War I, where he received the Silver Star. I have uncles who served in both World War II and Korea, and brothers who served in the Air Force and Navy. My younger brother and I both served in Vietnam.

Why did you choose to serve in the armed forces?

The military appealed to me, and I could not wait to join. When I turned 16, I persuaded my mother to sign so that I could join the National Guard. I wanted to be an Airborne Ranger, so from there, I enlisted in the regular Army.

LtGov Keel Army Ranger
Jefferson Keel as a U.S. Army Ranger. Photo courtesy of Jefferson Keel

What years did you serve and where did you serve?

I joined the National Guard in 1963 and enlisted in the regular Army in March 1966. I served until 1974, when I returned to college and was commissioned and returned to active duty. I retired from active duty in 1989.

What was the highest rank you received?

Captain.

Were there other Natives who served with you? Were you treated differently in the service because you are Native American?

There were a few other Native Americans. Mainly we were treated with curiosity.

Is there a story or incident that sticks out the most in your mind about your service?

I lost a lot of friends in Vietnam, but there are too many stories to try to recall any one in particular.

Where were you when your service ended?

I was a Combined Arms Tactics instructor at the U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Are you a member of any veterans groups?

I am a member of the Chickasaw Warrior’s Society.

Would you recommend joining the service to your family members or others of your tribe?

Yes.

In addition to being the lieutenant governor of your tribe, you’re the co-chairman of the Advisory Commitee to the National Native American Veterans Memorial. What made you want to support the memorial?

I think the memorial is a long-overdue tribute to one of the most underappreciated links to America’s heroes. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for this opportunity.

Thank you for giving the museum this interview, and thank you for helping build the National Native American Veteran’s Memorial.

—Dennis W. Zotigh

Dennis W. Zotigh (Kiowa/San Juan Pueblo/Santee Dakota Indian) is a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and San Juan Pueblo Winter Clan and a descendant of Sitting Bear and No Retreat, both principal war chiefs of the Kiowas. Dennis works as a writer and cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

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December 11, 2017

For the holidays, six favorite picture books from imagiNATIONS Story & Discovery

Every month the staff of the Washington museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center highlights a different book during our Story & Discovery program. We choose books written by Native American authors or by non-Native authors who have consulted with Native communities. By choosing the books in our story program with care to showcase the diversity of Native cultures throughout the Western Hemisphere, we hope to break down stereotypes. Thinking critically about the characters and illustrations in these books is also a great way to help young children develop empathy and cultural sensitivity skills. This holiday season we are sharing six of our favorite books that we think would make great gifts for kids age 5 to 7.



Berry Magic cover W400
Berry Magic
written and illustrated by Teri Sloat and Betty Huffmon (Yup’ik)

Community focus: Yup’ik, Alaska

Why we love this book: Berry Magic is one of our tried and true program books; we have been using it for years! Yup’ik Elder Betty Huffmon shared this traditional story of how berries came to her people with author and illustrator Teri Sloat. Their collaboration produced a book with beautiful pictures, Yup’ik vocabulary words, a song to sing together, and even a recipe for akutaq, a traditional Yup’ik dish made with berries!

 

 

 

Hungy Johnny W500Hungry Johnny written by Cheryl Minnema (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Wesley Ballinger (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe)

Community focus: Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota

Why we love this book: Johnny is a very relatable character who just wants to EAT, EAT, EAT! This book touches on some common holiday themes, such as food and community gatherings, while teaching the value of patience and the importance of respecting elders. Hungry Johnny is also full of Ojibwe imagery that inspires close looking, such as wild rice cooking on a stove and traditionally beaded jewelry and clothing.

Goat in the Rug W352

The Goat in the Rug written by Charles L. Blood and Martin Link, illustrated by Nancy Winslow Parker

Community focus: Navajo (Diné), Arizona

Why we love this book: This fun story is told by Geraldine, a goat whose wool is woven into a rug by her Navajo friend Glenmae. Based on a true story from Window Rock, Arizona, The Goat in the Rug teaches the complex process of creating Navajo rugs in a way children can understand and appreciate. Geraldine’s unique insight and sense of humor make this a book that adults and kids will enjoy reading together!

 

 

 

 

Thunder Boy Jr W500Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie (Spokane and Coeur d’Alene), illustrated by Yuyu Morales

Community focus: Spokane, Washington, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Why we love this book: The character of Thunder Boy Jr. is a great depiction of a contemporary Native child—he strums a guitar, rides his bike, plays (and fights) with his sister, and is a powwow grass dancer. He also hates his name. Read along as Thunder Boy Jr. learns to navigate his relationship with his father, Thunder Boy Sr., through love, respect, and understanding.

 

Gecko and Mosquito W579Gecko and Mosquito written and illustrated by Melissa DeSica

Community focus: Native Hawai’ian

Why we love this book: At the museum we strive to promote the preservation and use of indigenous languages. This book delightfully pairs Hawai’ian language with rhyming text that begs to be read aloud! A glossary in the back of the book provides translations and pronunciation for the Hawai’ian words. Bright and colorful illustrations complement this entertaining story about the harms of bullying.

 

When Turtle Grew Feathers W426When Turtle Grew Feathers by Tim Tingle (Choctaw), illustrated by Stacey Schuett

Community focus: Choctaw, Oklahoma

Why we love this book: Classic stories are told in many different ways throughout the world. The Choctaw version of the age-old race between the tortoise and the hare, for example, may be a little different from the one you know! This account features a turkey wearing a turtle shell, an adorable cheering squad of baby turtles, and lovely paintings of the High Plains. In the end, Rabbit still gets his comeuppance and Turtle learns the value of a helpful friend.

 

 

 

We hope our recommendations remind you of how wonderful it is to share a book, as a reader or listener. Join us at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall for imagiNATIONS Story & Discovery! Our current program times are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11:15 a.m.

Recommended age: 3+

Please note: Groups (e.g., school or home school classes, daycare, camp, or scout groups, etc.) are required to schedule entry time to the imagiNATIONS Activity Center.

The Smithsonian museums are open every day of the year except December 25. Happy holidays!

—Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an educator at the National Museum of the American Indian’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center in Washington, D.C. Her work includes developing culturally appropriate family programs, creating partnerships with local organizations, and educating pre-k to 3rd grade school groups. In addition to having a background in museum education, she holds an M.A. in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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