Nearly 300 students watched Wednesday as Nicholas Bird performed a traditional Cherokee dance with several hula hoops at the Cole Auditorium. Bird’s performance was part of the Native American dance performance every held every year for students who participate in the Richmond County Schools Indian Education Program.
This year’s performers, who call themselves, Birdchopper, a came to Richmond County by way of Cherokee. The group specializes in song and dance has performed at a Number of Pow wows, festivals and other special events in states including North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Ohio.
Ric Bird serves as the Master of Ceremonies and said the program offers a quality dance and drum show for audiences of any age.
“We offer an excellent program that is both entertaining and educational,” Bird said in a statement.
Students watched performances and some took part in a special dance workshop, in which they learned the moves and then performed in front of their peers. Students also had the opportunity to purchase authentic Native American items in the lobby of the Cole after the performances.
Throughout the school year American Indian students participate in activities to enhance their educational experiences, but a special focus is placed on November because it is Native American Heritage month.
The Richmond County Schools Indian Education program is federally funded, and provides a strong support system for Native American students. The program ensures that students of American Indian descent are able stay in touch with their heritage and culture, as they receive the support they need for student success.
“It is our mission to provide educational leadership and services which promote equal educational opportunities, quality practices and programs that enable Richmond County Native American students to become fully productive members of society,” said Billie Allen, Indian Education Specialist, grades K-5.
Native American students who participate in the program have had the opportunity Native American clubs at each school with a Native American student population. During Native American Heritage month, the students participate in a number of special events.
Tina Bass, Indian education specialist for grades 6-12, stressed the importance of the Native American heritage month, and the need to raise awareness about Native American culture and history.
“What began at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the First Americans made to the establishment and growth of the United States has resulted in the month of November being designated for that purpose. It’s so important that we share these experiences with our students.” Bass said.
Through Native American clubs and other programs, students in the Indian Education program have the opportunity to interact with their peers, and supplement what their learning in the classroom with information about their heritage and culture.
“The Indian Education program is a team effort. The support of the parents, school, and community is what makes the program a success. We firmly believe that with love, support, communication and dedication these students will succeed.” Bass said.
Students like Jessica Benoist appreciate the efforts made to connect students with culture and help them succeed. Benoist is a junior at Richmond Senior High School.
“(The Indian Education) program is important because we get chances to learn more about who we are and where we have come from. Benoist said. “It’s fun to see and meet new people who share your same heritage.”