Browning High takes up 'Let's Move! in Indian Country' fitness challenge
6:45 AM, Sep. 24, 2011 |
Browning High School sophomore Claudia Birdtail pauses and laughs during the Beyoncé "Move Your Body" dance, part of the school's participation in first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move! in Indian Country" initiative. The Friday afternoon fitness event coincided with Montana's American Indian Heritage Day. TRIBUNE PHOTO/JOSHUA KODIS
Written by KRISTEN INBODY
BROWNING — The Beyoncé Bounce met Blackfeet culture for a whole new kind of dance at Friday's "Let's Move! in Indian Country."
The Montana premiere of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move! in Indian Country" initiative on American Indian Heritage Day was an event of fun, fitness and nutrition education at Browning High School.
The Aamsskáápipikani Beyoncé "Move Your Body" dance combined the hit singer's choreographed moves with those from the traditional appa and chicken dance. The student body filled the gym floor to perform the dance together.
Cheerleader Shaunell Wippert said the "Let's Move!" dance was hard at first, but "it's going good now." Her squad watched a video about the dance online and practiced all week to be ready to teach their peers.
"Everyone is really excited to dance it," the senior said. "It's a lot of fun."
Rachael DeMarce, the Montana director of "Let's Move!," spent three months working with the first lady's office on events for the initiative. On Friday, she led the dancing.
"It's a way to have fun, get active and feel a bit like Beyoncé," she said.
DeMarce has played lacrosse on the White House lawn, but she said taking the programs developed in Washington, D.C., back to her hometown was a bigger thrill.
"Today is the most rewarding," she said. "It makes the biggest impact when actually in Indian Country, where American Indian youth are twice as likely to be obese."
While the day was fun, she hopes the more lasting impact is incorporating health lessons into daily life.
The school's film class is editing a video of the mass dance to post on YouTube.
"We've never had something like this come to our school before," senior Dakota Running Crane said. "It's exciting."
As he ate a traditional meal of boiled buffalo, berry soup and bannock, traditional bread, Running Crane was joined by his siblings Ethan, 10, and Fierra, 5, who were the youngest to bust a move on the gym floor.
"They want to do the dance," mom Wendy Running Crane said. "I like the idea behind it, to promote healthy lives. I wanted to support it with my family."
As she passed Ethan a bottle of water at the community-school feed, she told him, "We're supposed to be eating a healthy meal, and that doesn't include pop."
In the hallway outside the school, students learned just why pop, fast food and candy is unhealthy at a display manned by Rodabird Rattler. The table showed junk food with baggies of sugar representing how much each product contained.
The biggest surprise for her was to see how much sugar chicken nuggets have — 11 1/4 teaspoons, more than any candy on the chart, Rattler said. The sugars are hidden, though, in fast food.
Pass on pizza for lean, traditional foods like buffalo to ward off the diabetes that is costing Blackfeet people limbs and kidneys, rancher Ervin Carlson told students.
The campaign to encourage people to eat buffalo instead of marbled beef has been slow to catch on but is gaining momentum, said Carlson, who is director of the Blackfeet Nation Buffalo Program.
Buffalo are going to be incorporated into more school lunches, said Lynne Keenan, Browning schools food service director.
Not too many high schoolers made a meal of the buffalo Friday, but many tried it, she said. But she hopes that as the meat is incorporated into meals for younger students, they'll grow up eating it and make it part of their way of life.
Learning traditional games is a way to pass them on and incorporating them also can mean a healthier life, said Marilyn Bullshoe, Blackfeet and Native American studies director.
Traditionally, "we had activities that kept us healthy," she said.
Passing out sticks for double ball, Everett Armstrong, a middle school facilitator of alternative education in the middle school, offered a brief history of the game.
"Basically, it's a women's game, but it's transformed into a men's game because it's so physical," he said.
Double ball is something like football, but with two balls linked and passed with sticks before being whipped over stick goalposts.
Sophomore Jarika Tatsey scored a goal to tie the game 1-1, holding her own in the rough-and-tumble game.
"The boys ain't got nothin' on me," she said. "It was really fun."
As tough as the other players were, the wind was an even bigger obstacle, toppling the goalposts and flinging the balls backwards.
The wind didn't have so much impact on the round of Salish shinny, a game similar to hockey but played with bent sticks, a ball, no goalies and on grass not ice.
"Every time, kids just love this," said Jacob Stalnaker, a traditional games instructor. "These games get people going."
Junior Megan Potts stood over the ball waiting for someone from the opposing team to face off against her.
"You guys scared?" she challenged.
Though her team lost, Potts said the game was the highlight of a great day.
"I learned a lot more than I knew about my culture," she said. "And it was really fun."
On the same windswept field, students played horse games, and the Flathead's 10 Sticks lacrosse team taught Browning students how to play the sport.
Jerome Finley, a 9th grader on the lacrosse team, was adept at tossing the ball back and forth to his teammate and fellow freshman Shawn Brave Rock.
"It's a mix of basketball, tennis and soccer, and I like all those sports," Finley said.
Children were engaged and active in the event, observed Denise Juneau, the Montana state superintendent of public instruction and a Browning native.
"It was awesome," she said. "The whole day focused on physical activity, nutrition and incorporating Native American culture, something I'm proud to see come to fruition."
Browning School Superintendent Mary Johnson said the event fit perfectly with the school's mission to promote healthy children.
"It's a big event, and we're proud to be able to host the kick-off of Let's Move! in Indian Country," she said.
"We realize we have a huge heart and diabetes problems on our reservation, and education is a way to curb that," she said. "We do what we can at school to make sure our kids are healthy."