Lawton_November is Native American Heritage Month and people all over the US have been celebrating all month. The Native American Club at Lawton High School put on a program for its student body Thursday morning where a few dozen dancers and singers from Comanche and Caddo County performed their native songs and dances.
All as a part of the Native American observance issued by the President in 1990. Natives feel they have a very rich culture that may one day die if it's not handed down to younger generations. So, making others more aware and exposing their heritage is another way to keep it alive.
These performers have grown up in two cultures. A modern American half and an ancient spiritual half handed down from their ancestors. Fiona Wetselline is the Comanche Nation Princess and attended the special event in her native dress. A lot of people aren't used to seeing her in her regalia which is why she felt it was necessary. She wanted to show her peers what she was all about.
"Shows people that we do this not only in the real world, but in our own separate world - we live in two different worlds, it means a lot," she says. The other performers are sharing the same sentiment. They want to expose others to their heritage.
Carla Whiteman is Lawton High's Native American Club Sponsor. Her club has 15 members whose doors are open to any race and she welcomes it. This way, those interested in learning more about Native American culture can learn outside of what they read in textbooks or see on television.
She says when they see the dancing and experience it first hand, without the typical stereotypes, it may change their perceptions. "Not the double beat of the drum or the tomahawk chop. We are nothing like that, we are not about that - and they can see that," says Whiteman. "That might make them more sensitive to native things around them - and native people."
Whiteman says since we live in such a diverse culture, sometimes you can lose yourself, which is why it's important for Native Americans to remember where they came from. Exposure and performances like this helps them stay grounded.
The Native Americans performing at the school came from different tribes in Oklahoma and New Mexico and all have different traditions within their own tribes. "It means a lot to me to experience our heritage and see what and where we came from, and how we do things," says Wetselline.