Ioway, Iowan

Today was Culture Day at school.  Students flood in dressed in the clothes of their home countries (or countries of interest).  Teachers and parents dress to the nines as well.  The basic format is that each of the elementary teachers chooses a culture and makes a lesson based around that.  It's something hopefully both informational and experiential.  This year was my first year participating as a teacher with a workshop.  I shared with students about the Ioway people...while dressed in Indian clothing.

The idea was to begin by distinguishing between the terms "Indian" and "Native American"--that and I always thing that Indian women in traditional dress are absolutely gorgeous.  Anyhow, I felt such a positive energy from the day.  As students rushed around in clothes from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain, France, Korea, India, Japan, and on while filling their mouths with food that their and their classmates' moms had made, I really felt like they were experiencing exactly what the day was about.  It was about enjoying one's origins while also seeing the beauty and uniqueness of those cultures around.

Growing up in small-town Iowa, with friends with last names of German or Scandinavian origin, it was hard to feel any deep roots.  Most Americans where I'm from don't have roots in the USA more than 150 or 175 years--unless they're native Americans.  Perhaps that's what prompted me to take such interest in ethnic identity at university.  At that time I tried to figure out what it meant to be a European American, to be white.  Yet now, being displaced in the Czech Republic, my national identity takes more form, and I find myself more able to identify myself.  To complete this all-too-nostalgic post, I'll leave it to another proud Iowan.


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