Tucked in behind Lynnwood Elementary School is something that no one would expect to find there an Iroquois village.
Or, at least, a scaled-back model of one. Featuring a stockade, drying racks, corn garden, a scarecrow lookout, a fire pit and a longhouse, fourth-graders constructed the small village setting after studying Iroquois life in the classroom as part of an annual project at the elementary school to teach the children about the culture and daily life of the Iroquois people.
Just before noon on Thursday, Oct. 26, the students of teacher Valerie Perrotta were going over their notes, written on index cards, to prepare for the tour they were about to give to their fellow students, who had made the short journey from the elementary school — but a long one from the present to the past — to learn about local American Indian history and custom.
Since we’re studying about New York in fourth grade, we’re learning about the Iroquois Indians,` said student Megan Goff, stationed outside the stockade that is made of sticks and branches gathered from around the school.
Garnering a base knowledge of American Indian history in the third grade, Megan had some background information from which to work.
`Last year we kind of learned about Native Americans, but we didn’t really focus on a certain tribe,` she said.
Standing alongside Megan was her tour partner, Reid Vogel, who said giving the tours made learning about it a necessity, something he said he did through research in books and packets.
`We’re introducing them to the Iroquois village so we have to learn about it,` said Reid.
Along with building of the stockade fence, kids joined parents, grandparents and teachers in the construction of the rest of the village.
One parent was Janelle Robles, mother of 10-year-old Taylor Robles.
`It’s a lot more learning that just reading a book,` said Robles. `She (Taylor) was looking forward to this all year.`
Robles, who also has a third-grader in the school, said she would be participating in the project again next year.
He daughter, dressed in the traditional buckskin garb of a clan mother, explained her role as the matriarch of a clan.
`They were usually in charge; they would pick the chief,` she said. `They would decide where to go.`
Nearly all the students had some interesting fact to share about the Iroquois people. One of the more interesting facts was that some tribe members consider the name Iroquois to be offensive.
`It was given to them by their enemies,` said Megan, explaining their traditional name was Haudenosaunee, which means `people of the long house.`
Student Natasha Permaul said that the name Iroquois, supposedly bestowed upon them by the Huron, translated roughly to `evil snake.`
What struck Reid was `how the U.S. government was influenced by the Iroquois Confederacy.`
Megan added, `I was still surprised that there are 60,000 Native Americans living in New York today.`
The idea to bring learning to life excites many of the students, if only because it gets them out of the classroom, said Perrotta.
`It’s a great learning opportunity because they get to use all of their senses,` said Perrotta. `The whole week is hands-on. Everything they learn, they get to share with the entire school.`
The next day, the whole thing would be taken down, and the end of the project was celebrated with a closing ceremony.
Next year, the village will be built again to continue the hands-on teaching of an important, and sometimes overlooked, part of the history of New York.