We are looking forward to graduation for our eighth grade class in a couple of months. I am proud to say that I have had many of these Lakota students since they were in their younger elementary years at St. Joseph’s Indian School.
This time of year, I have the honor of helping them to prepare their class banner, make their medicine wheels (which are used in the graduation ceremony) and prepare them for life after St. Joseph’s.
One of the more enjoyable items I share with them is giving them their eighth grade portfolio. This portfolio encompasses all of their works from the time they entered my Native American Studies room until they graduate. It is so fun to hand back papers and watch them look through their past years of learning! I can hear them sharing their drawings and writings with each other. The giggles and smiles reinforce the reason I have them create the portfolios.
The students made their personal portfolio out of brown paper bag and yarn. They are modeled after the par fleche containers Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Sioux) people used long ago. The containers from long ago were made of rawhide and sinew. Today, we make them in a much more inexpensive, modern way.
In the past, the par fleche was decorated with tribal designs specific to one’s tribe and tiyospaye – extended family. This made it easy to return a lost container to its rightful owner, much like luggage tags today. The par fleche carries meaning and a lot of knowledge of each St. Joseph’s student.