Students awed by cultural artifacts

“Oohs” and “aahs” were all that could be heard from Emerald Heights Elementary School students as they passed around American Indian baskets, tools, dolls and rattles.

The excited group of fourth-graders got a first-hand look into the culture of American Indians on Thursday. The large group, made up of three different classes, sat in rows as various items were passed from one student to another after Sha’na Taylor, a collector of American Indian artifacts, explained what the items were and what exactly they were used for.

The group of students all have been studying Washington history and American Indian culture.

“There are so many connections here to what we have been studying, they are now seeing it in real life,” teacher Carol Butts said.

Pouches made out of animal fur, hand made toys and clothes and even tools made out of coyote legs and buffalo ribs were passed around so each student could examine the item up close.

“Nothing went to waste, everything was used. It was against nature to waste anything,” Taylor told the students.

Taylor, with the help of her husband Steve, has been presenting to elementary students for about the past five years. It was actually her son (who was in Butts’ class four years ago) who got her into American Indian artifacts and volunteered her to speak in his class.

“I was volunteered against my will, but then I fell in love with it,” she said.

The Taylors have about 500 American Indian items that they have collected for years. Sha’na got a lot of the items off the Web site e- bay and many of them also have been donated by various tribes. She has artifacts from more than 30 different tribes.

“It’s all really cool. My favorite was the toy that you had to get the ball in the cup,” said fourth-grader Jenna Kunz, referring to the cup on a stick toy.

The Taylors get different reactions and questions from the kids they visit especially the question, “Is it real?”

A couple years ago the Taylors were visiting a local school and one of the students was carrying around an artifact made out of a turtle shell and became very fond of it, but when they told her what it was made out of, the young girl vomited.

Sha’na is currently in the process of starting up a teacher’s learning library which will allow teacher’s to checkout books, posters and music. She will provide a list that teachers can choose from.

They are always looking for more American Indian items, especially those for their teacher’s library.

Call the Taylors at (360) 434-5331 if you have any items that you would like to sell or donate to them.

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