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Shawnee women share Native American lore with middle schoolers

From left are Hummingbird (Janice Shrock Sprague), Dancing Dove (Norma Haight), Many Wings (Jeanne Blackstone) and Sky Wind (Tamila Blackstone). In front is Snow Bird (Janice Mattox).

      Women from the East of the River Shawnee Nation gave special meaning to Native American Heritage Month on Friday during a presentation to Mansfield Middle School students.

      “Many people think all Indians live on reservations or are dead. That’s not true. We are here among you and we all don’t look alike,” said Jeanne Blackstone of Mansfield whose Shawnee name is Many Wings.

      Blackstone’s daughters, Tamila (Sky Wind) and Snow Bird (Janice) are eighth- and fourth-graders, respectively, in Mansfield City Schools.

      Speaking from the Senior High auditorium stage, Blackstone urged the middle-schoolers to reject stereotypes.

      “Most of what you think about native cultures comes from where? That’s right, from Hollywood – in the movies or on TV,” she said.

      Blackstone was joined by her mother and aunt, tribal elders Hummingbird (Janice Shrock Sprague) and Dancing Dove (Norma Haight).

T      racing their lineage to the first-born daughter of Pocahontas, the women wore buckskin dresses patterned after those worn prior to the 1840s. They displayed tables of artifacts and animal pelts while explaining Shawnee customs, beliefs and daily living.

      Among the items Blackstone showed students was a medicine bag whose purpose, she said, is misunderstood.

      “It contains no medicine. Its name means ‘good energy,” she said. “Maybe a friend gives me a shell. It’s something I keep in my medicine bag. It contains things that are important to me and give me good energy.”

      After the women’s presentation students were allowed on stage to closely examine the items that Blackstone had described.

      Before closing, the 73-year-old Hummingbird echoed Blackstone’s caution about stereotyping.

      “Be proud of who you are,” she told the students.

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