LA PALMA : Seeing Is Believing in Indian Program

The bear and the rabbit ran wild. Nearby, a young boy beat his drum. Another stood ready to cast his net.

The hunt was on.

And probably because it took place in a somewhat cramped corner of the La Palma Branch Library on Wednesday afternoon, the hunt lasted only about 30 seconds.

The brief scene, used to demonstrate hunting techniques, was part of a free program to teach children about American Indian lifestyles and customs from centuries ago.

The La Palma presentation, part of a county library policy to encourage learning about a different cultural group each month, was held in recognition of October's designation as Native American Month.

"I think it's important for us to know about Native Americans," said Ileana Gulmesoff, a Cypress resident who organized and led the 45-minute program. "They were the first ones in North America and they have contributed a lot to this country."

For the 30 kids in attendance, many of them wearing Indian costumes supplied by Gulmesoff, the afternoon's lesson seemed informative and entertaining.

"I learned how the Indians made snowshoes and how they caught deer and rabbits," said Jennifer Philpot, 12, of Buena Park. "It was neat."

"It was fun," agreed 11-year-old Jasmine Wang of Cypress, who dressed as the bear in the hunting scene. "I ran around in the bear costume and saw how they hunted. I didn't know that before."

Gulmesoff used a variety of props and artifacts to help illustrate her points about American Indian lifestyles.

"I've taught elementary school and I think children learn best with visual aids," she said.

And visual aids they got--totem poles, authentic blankets, sand paintings and even an inflatable alligator to illustrate what the Seminole Indians of Florida had to fight to survive.

Probably the most unusual was a mounted white buffalo on wheels. About the size of a large dog, Gulmesoff said it shows how vital the animal was to American Indians' livelihood. The Indians used almost every part of the buffalo for such essentials as food and clothing, and for things of lesser importance, such as cups and forks, she said.

"It was a miracle I even found one (mounted buffalo)," said Gulmesoff, who had searched toy stores in vain. "I'd been looking for a big buffalo for years, but finally I found one at a garage sale in Cerritos and when I told the man what I wanted it for, he gave it to me for free.

"The kids love it," she said.

For information about American Indian programs at other county libraries, call Helen Lotos (714) 566-3029.

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