Nov. 24—PERU — Blair Pointe third graders sat at the feet of Sharon Dillman as she told them the story of Frances Slocum.
Impersonating Slocum, Dillman recounted the historical figure’s life as a young girl captured by Delaware warriors, growing up in Indiana, marrying into the Miami tribe and reuniting with her white family in old age.
Dillman peppered in Native American facts as she told the story of Slocum, such as how children weren’t named until they were held in their mother’s arms. The first thing the mother saw became the name of her child.
Slocum named her daughters Cut Finger — for a scar on her finger — and Yellow Leaf.
“I try really hard to put them back in time,” Dillman said. “I want them to believe what I’m telling them is true.”
Dillman was part of Native American Celebration Day at Blair Pointe Elementary. The entirety of Tuesday was dedicated to teaching third graders about Native American heritage, the Miami Indians and the still-present connections in Miami County.
In another classroom, English teacher Kim Cox gave students a background on Miami Indians. Cox can trace her own heritage back to the Miami tribes in the area.
“(I want students) to realize the Miami people are still here today,” she said.
Students watched a short video on the Miami Indians before splitting off into groups. One group tried on Native American garb. Another group learned how Native Americans used what they found in nature.
Students passed around animal horns, used to drink out of, and a turtle shell turned into a small satchel-like container.
“We use all parts of the animals,” Cox told the students.
As the students left class, they said “aya” — the Miami Indian word for “hello” — as they passed others in the hallway.
The inherent connection between Native Americans and nature was also on display when Megan Black showed students how tribes made bead necklaces.
“Anything they could find in nature, they could use as a bead,” Black, a parent volunteer, said.
This includes rocks, shells, gemstones and animal teeth. Native Americans would drill holes in what they found to create jewelry.
“They had to really use their imagination,” Black said.
Students also learned about tipis and the importance of corn in Native American cultures and took a virtual tour of the Wampanoag tribe using virtual reality goggles.
Dillman concluded her story about how Slocum, with the help of a lawyer, avoided being removed from Indiana by the US government.
In 1845, Congress passed a resolution exempting Slocum’s Miami village from removal to the Kansas Territory. The group was among those who formed the present-day Miami Nation of Indiana.
Dillman is a retired school teacher. She spends her time as a storyteller, playing more than 50 characters, including presidents’ wives, Betsy Ross and suffragist Marie Stuart Edwards.
“The reading of books and telling of stories to children is sort of a lost art,” she said.
Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.