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5/2/2018
Culture Fair held at Houghtaling Elementary
Terri Burr of the Killer Whale clan performs a song and dance that she wrote on Friday during the Culture Fair at Houghtaling Elementary School. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek


By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer

Students at Houghtaling Elementary School traveled the globe with passports in hand on Friday at the school’s Culture Fair. Those passports had a recipe from each area they were studying, such as fish cakes, lefse, panipopo, challah bread and adalu — Nigerian beans and corn porridge.

They rotated throughout different classrooms, exploring the many cultures that make up Ketchikan and the United States. The cultures they explored included Finnish, Haida, Norwegian, Tsimshian, Tlingit, Hawaiian and Tahitian; Samoan; Nigerian and German; and Jewish.

“It celebrates the diverse population in our school,” said fourth-grade teacher Starla Agoney.

Teaching about Finland was Holly Filyaw; Linda Schrack taught the students about Haida; Karen Nelson taught the students about Norway; teaching about Tsimshian was Terri Burr; Lisa DeWitt-narino taught the students about Tlingit; and Pam Christianson taught the students about Hawaiian and Tahitian.

Students also learned about Samoan culture from Roxanne Bauer; Nigerian and German culture from Renee Oyedeji; and Jewish culture from Leslie Roussan.

Oyedeji explained to the students that Nigeria is very hot and sunny. Because of that, they make their clothes out of light and airy material so they don’t overheat. He also showed them a drum made of goatskin that is often played in Nigeria.

From Oyedeji’s classroom, Hawaiian music could be heard through the walls, because students next door in Christianson’s room were hula dancing.

That's not the only music that could be heard — Schrack was down the hall playing a drum, giving the students a glimpse into the Haida culture.

As a group of students rotated to their next classroom, they saw Nelson sporting a viking hat, ready to talk about Norway. She explained to them that 100 years ago, Norwegians settled in Ketchikan.

Nelson said they started a club called The Sons of Norway. She added that the word “fjord” comes from the Norwegian language — and many of the students were familiar with the term because of visiting Ketchikan’s Misty Fjords National Monument.

She then got around to why she was wearing a viking hat. Nelson explained how 1,000 years ago, the seafarers called vikings set out from Norway, Sweden and Denmark in search of gold. She said they were most famous for being fierce warriors who were feared everywhere they went.

“They built and sailed in warships, like this,” Nelson said while showing a miniature ship. “These are called longships. They raided many places in Europe, but they also founded settlements in Iceland and Greenland, and even explored the coast of North America.”

A few rooms over, students could be heard practicing the Tsimshian language Shm'algyack. Burr taught the students about the four clans that are in the Tsimshian nation: Killer Whale, Eagle, Raven and Wolf. Burr is of the Killer Whale clan.

She explained that members of the Eagle clan dance with their wings, or arms, above their head; those in the Raven clan dance with their hands down; those in the Killer Whale clan dance with their dorsal fin up, and sometimes make a splashing sound while doing so; and those in the Wolf clan show their long muzzle.

During Bauer’s lesson, she taught the students about Samoan culture and how faith and family are important to the Samoa people. She told them that men always cook instead of women — which means there are a lot of barbeques there.

Bauer told the students that women wear flowers in their hair and the men have long hair. She said there is a student at the school who is Samoan, who has been mistaken for a girl. She said he has been bullied because of his long hair.

“He shouldn’t be getting bullied because it’s part of his culture,” Bauer said. “The longer the hair, the stronger you are. So for him, his long hair represents his strength. It’s not weakness.”

On the other side of the school, those words will still resonating with fourth-grader Brooklyn Williams, who listened to Bauer speak about Samoan culture earlier that day.

“Now hopefully he won’t get bullied again because they all know,” Williams said.

The Daily News caught up with Williams and fourth-grader Chelsey Weber as they were finishing up learning about the Jewish culture. Weber said it was her favorite station that day, because they got to play dreidel and eat “really good” bread.

The girls were on their way to their next station, where they learned about Finland with Filyaw. Filyaw explained to them that “Fins” are crazy about hockey — so much so that they invented the ice skates.

Filyaw also explained that Fins don’t enjoy small talk, so you won’t catch them chatting about little things. They only talk when they have something to say, and that’s why they might appear as not very nice.

In fact, Filyaw said, they have a great sense of humor. She said that is shown by their many funny competitions in berry picking, wife carrying, cell phone throwing, swamp soccer and air guitar.

For a few minutes, students in Filyaw’s classroom were able to partake in that part of the Finnish culture. She played a song from Lordi, a Finnish heavy metal band, and some students laid on the floor and began spinning in circles while strumming their air guitars.