Japanese students meet Cherokee culture

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Japanese students meet Cherokee cultureSometimes communication transcends mere words. Getting a taste of Cherokee culture, by way of an Indian taco lunch and a presentation by Little Deer Durvin and several members of the Cherokee Community of Central California, Ridgecrest Area, gave local youth and visitors from the other side of the globe some new viewpoints.

A group of 26 Japanese students, ages 13 to 17 in the Junior Study Program, came to the U.S. for 10 days and are staying with host families in Ridgecrest. Traveling with a translator and chaperones, the students are from Kagoshima, Japan.

The students and host families came together at the American Legion Hall on March 30 for the Cherokee presentation. The students are attending Monroe Middle School during their stay here in America.

The program is offered through the MinamiNihon Culture Center in Japan, which also hosts American students coming to stay with Japanese host families.

Durvin spoke to the group about shawls, Cherokee clothing, drums, the Cherokee written language, cradleboards, Cherokee Communi-ty activities, baskets, the Trail of Tears and more.

Assisted by Dixie Flynn, Dan Bushey, Stevanee Carmichael and Tracy Cooper, Durvin offfered traditional storytelling, speaking a few sentences at a time, then waiting for translator Tomoka Tsudawa to repeat the sentences in Japanese, eliciting an “Aaahhhh” of comprehension from the students.

After several stories, the Cherokee group led everyone in a Native Friendship Dance.

Stevanee Carmichael, 15, prin-cess of the Cherokee group, performed the Jingle Dress Dance. She described how she earned the title by studying Native history, helping others with special projects and keeping her grades up. “I feel honored,” she said of her title.

For lunch, Cherokee Communi-ty members cooked up fry bread and topped it with seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese, chopped lettuce and tomatoes, plus sour cream. When the Japanese students confronted this foreign repast, some seemed confused for a moment, especially by the sour cream. One student took a photo of her taco before touching it so she could show the folks back home.

They soon figured out the delicacy. They cleaned their plates, and many came back for seconds. The cooks were delighted to dish up more. The translator said the word “taco” in Japanese means “octopus,” so there may have been some initial confusion about what was being served.

Asked if he liked the food, Koshiro Imakire, 15, smiled broadly and nodded enthusiastically. He indicated his favorite activity so far on the trip was playing basketball after school with some of the host families. He enjoys basketball and running track back home. Asked what he thought of the United States, he said, “Very good!”

After lunch the Cherokee group demonstrated how to make cornhusk dolls. Materials were passed out, and everyone made their own dolls. Soon both the exchange students and the host-family youngsters were holding up their dolls, laughing and chatting like youngsters everywhere.

In addition to the Cherokee presentation, the students have also seen the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, toured a Kern County Fire Station, toured the BLM?Horse and Burro Corral and spent time in Jackson Park with the Easter Bunny, dyeing Easter eggs.

“The children are enjoying the trip very much,” said Tsudawa. “The first day, they were a little worried because everything is so different. But they’re kids and they adjusted quickly. They don’t speak much English, but the gestures and facial expressions helped, and their host families and host sisters and brothers helped them, too. They are having a very good time.”

“I want to educate the children. The diversity of two different cultures here today is a rare opportunity to teach,” said Durvin. The Cherokee Community is basically a teaching organization, dedicated to preserving and sharing the Chero-kee history, culture, language and traditions.

For more information about the Cherokee Community, call Durvin at 760-382-4096.

For more information about the exchange program, see www.mncc. jp/japan_homestay.

Story First Published: 2013-04-03