Honoring Native American Heritage Month
Across the nation, November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month. In Downingtown Area School District (DASD), students and staff alike were treated to a unique learning opportunity focused on the indigenous peoples of the Leni Lenape.
On November 17, Barbara “Blue Jay” Michalski stopped by Brandywine Wallace Elementary School and West Bradford Elementary School to share her heritage, answer questions and play traditional games with students. Blue Jay is one of the tribal council leaders for the Lenape nation and performs programming for elementary schools around Pennsylvania.
Deborah Kearney, Principal of West Bradford Elementary School said, “these programs and events allow DASD students and staff to participate in a variety of activities celebrating the unique experiences and successes of the Native American community. We were proud to host Blue Jay, and are thankful for her participation in our monthly celebration.”
Students were captivated by the assembly as Blue Jay told the story of her people and the Lenape Nation. Students played games, learned about the Lenape language and participated in a traditional ceremonial dance. Students were also able to touch and interact with Lenape artifacts, tools and instruments.
Shawn Wright, Principal of West Bradford said, “I was impressed by the historical knowledge she brought our students. They were in tune with her activities and amazed at her relatable stories.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the assembly, students learned more about Lenape culture, music, food and customs. One student asked, “Do you live in tepees or do you live in houses?” Blue Jay responded, “Of course we live in houses, we live like most of you all. We go to the supermarket, we go on vacation and we have heat and AC. We are not gone; we just look differently and live different than the books portray us.”
These presentations and initiatives are one of several ways that DASD is recognizing Native American Heritage Month. In 1990, former President George H.W. Bush issued a joint resolution designating November as National Native American Heritage Month. Each president thereafter has annually reissued this resolution in celebration of our Native America history.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Justin Brown, noted, “It is important for students to get to experience all people from different walks of life. It is truly amazing to hear their questions, to see them engage and to help them learn the value of understanding different cultures. This November, and every month, we celebrate the culture and heritage of these remarkable Americans who deeply enrich the quality and character of our nation. We are proud of our DASD community as they contribute and collaborate with us as we have these important conversations.”
In 2021, DASD adopted a land acknowledgement recognizing Chester County as the ancestral home of the Lenape people. This acknowledgement recalls European settlers encroaching on the Lenape land, during which the Lenape people were systematically, and in many cases, forcefully removed.
To learn more about DASD’s diversity, equity and inclusion program and to see examples of its program in action, please visit www.dasd.org/diversity.