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Continuing the sacred circle of life


Iris Ortiz, 11, Maliah Sisneros, 9, and Gabe Knowshisgun, 13, talk about gourd rattles in the music appreciation class during the Summer Cultural Enrichent Program for Native American students at Valley High School on Wednesday. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Angel Cyrs-Price held a silver metal hoop in one hand and weaved purple – her favorite color – yarn through the opening with the other.

The silver disappeared under the fibers with every loop.

She tied knots along the way so the yarn wouldn’t unravel, keeping its hug on the hoop tight.

Pualani Omandam, 11, works on a dream catcher in APS’ Summer Cultural Enrichment Program. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

She’ll create a web of string in the middle, leaving a hollow in the center and feathers to dangle down the bottom.

In a couple of hours, the 10-year-old’s work will become a dream catcher, a skill she learned at Albuquerque Public Schools’ Summer Cultural Enrichment Program for Native American students.

“Sometimes my hands get a little tired,” she said smiling.

Her teacher Roberta Armijo taught her the craft, explaining the ring represents the sacred circle of life, the web represents Spider Woman’s weaving to catch the bad dreams and the feathers allow for good dreams to trickle down.

“You have to put good feeling into it,” she tells her students while they work.

The beadwork and dream catcher teacher says the program and her class are important to keep students’ heritage from dissipating.

“It’s part of their culture,” she said.

The dream catcher class is one of several offered through the program with some students learning Native American traditional storytelling like Sheiyann Thomas, 12, who recently finished drawing and writing her story chronicling the adventures of a wolf.

Some students pinched clay together or painted pots in the pottery room.

Other classes include Navajo and Zuni language as well as music, song and robotics. For high-schoolers, the program is a chance to make up credits in English, math, science and social studies at no cost.

From 8 a.m. to noon at Valley High School, about 200 Native American students took advantage of the program this summer with breakfast and lunch provided, too.

Sheiyann Thomas, 12, shares her story and art she made during the summer program’s storytelling class. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“It keeps a connection to where they come from,” said Indian Education Instructional Manager Jay Leonard.

Leonard said parents have been grateful for the program, which began eight years ago, because their kids have a place to exercise and learn about Native American culture.

This summer’s program began June 4 and ends Thursday, but Leonard said there’s plans to host it again next summer.

Leonard, who is from the Zuni Pueblo, said when he was growing up school focused on academics and the cultural part was left to the families.

But, the enrichment program is helping fill the gap, integrating customs and arts into a classroom setting.


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