Students, educators work together to plan Native American Heritage Month programs

Monday, November 4, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Shaler Area students, local educators and community leaders are collaborating to offer culturally appropriate library programming.

The first free event is an Indigenous Nation Celebration for primary and elementary school students and their families 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at Shaler North Hills Library.

Ingrid Kalchthaler, library youth services coordinator, said guests will “learn more about Native American gifts, issues, diversity and contributions.” Miguel Sague Jr. will share traditional stories from Southwestern Pennsylvania tribes, library staff will show Bookflix’s animated tale “Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message” by Chief Jake Swamp, and Shaler Area High School multicultural studies students will lead pottery painting and mural making.

Register at tiny.cc/celebrationshaler or by calling 412-486-0211.

A second event, from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 27, at Millvale Community Library (MCL), is geared toward upper-elementary and middle school students.

“At both library programs, guests will participate in Indigenous-inspired, culturally appropriate, and environmentally sustainable take-home crafts and a collaborative group art project, storytelling and meet-and-greets with members of our local indigenous population, samples of indigenous foods, demonstrations, and discussions of indigenous sports, music, and art,” said Nick Haberman, who has collaborated on the programming, along with his multicultural studies students, with Kalchthaler and Roman Benty, MCL youth program director.

“We hope to provide the full picture of Native Americans at the time of the Colonial invasions and today,” Kalchthaler wrote in a letter to the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center. “We hope this will just be the beginning, where this kind of education is year-round, and these understandings are ingrained in the souls of our community.”

The partnership is a venture through the Leadership through Innovation in Genocide and Human Rights Teaching (LIGHT) Education Initiative that Haberman founded to “inspire, prepare, and empower students for leadership roles in Holocaust, genocide, and human rights education, remembrance and advocacy.”

The Shaler Area students, Haberman said, are gaining real-world outreach and educational program development experience.

“We wanted to create culturally appropriate, empathetic, and educational family programming surrounding Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Thanksgiving through art, music, sports, and storytelling, with our SAHS students at the helm,” he said. “They are working on planning, coordinating, designing, and promoting for the events and they will be volunteering on Nov. 15 and Nov. 27.”

“I am just so blown away by the high school students. I was never that aware. I credit Mr. Nick and Mr. Roman, but I also credit those students because they had to care first, you know? I believe people are good, I really do. I think we do the best we can with the information and ability we have at the time. And being with these people just shows me that, again and again,” Kalchthaler reflected.

The group plans to work together on future programming surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Shaler Area’s second annual “An Evening of Holocaust Remembrance & Education” in partnership with the national nonprofit Together We Remember, advocating for “victims of atrocities, genocide and identity-based violence.”

Also in honor of Native American Heritage Month, SNHL is hosting a “From Stone to Steel: Native Culture Presentation at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

Join Todd “Ghost in the Head” Johnson, a native cultural interpreter, for a non-tribal historic presentation of native culture, from “stone to steel.” View a large display of museum-quality artifacts, including tools, clothing, weaponry and jewelry.

This free, interactive program is suitable for all ages.

Register on shalerlibrary.org or call 412-486-0211.