Native American culture highlighted

Second-graders from Kingman Academy of Learning are studying native tribes of the Southwest and got some insight into their beliefs Monday by visiting the home of director Betty Rowe.

Rowe has a collection of 64 kachina dolls she has been assembling since 1989.

"Kachina dolls come in a lot of different colors and you can make them out of all kinds of stuff," second-grader Jessica Valandingham said after the first of two 45-minute presentations by Rowe.

True, but the lesson went deeper than colors and construction materials.

Rowe began by asking whether anyone knew what a kachina doll is.

The pupils responded that the dolls are Indian, artifacts of Indians, made out of wood, and Native American dolls.

Kachina translates into "spirit being."

Rowe said the dolls depict what Indians do in real life and are carved by elders as teaching tools for children.

Elders come forth out of ceremonial rooms called "Kiva" to communicate with spirits, she said.

Hoop dancers are headed dolls that are placed around the arms, legs or both.

The rings are symbolic of the circle of life, meaning life, death and reemergence.

A buffalo warrior is a spiritual protector of the tribe, keeping out evil thoughts.

The eagle dancer is the most sacred kachina.

He is a messenger to heaven and can carry one's dreams there.

"Different tribes dance before planting, do a rain dance during times of drought and dance once the crops are picked," Rowe said.

Many kachinas depict an animal, each of which has its own symbolism.

Bears and badgers are healers, while wolves are alert to danger, Rowe said.

"There are over 900 documented kachina dolls, so my 64 are practically nothing," Rowe said.

"It's a high honor to have a kachina doll bestowed upon you."

Most of the kachinas in Rowe's collection are Hopi or Navajo.

Rowe answered questions about individual dolls toward the end of her presentation.

She also showed Indian-related items such as types of houses in which they live and some of their sand paintings.