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Native Americans share culture at South Allegheny

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 2:16 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Carrying her daughter Ashlynn JoElla Simms through the South Allegheny auditorium, Krisa Spangler leads seventh-graders in the Snake Dance during a Wednesday presentation for American Cultures classes.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
On the South Allegheny auditorium stage, Michael Simms dances between seventh-graders Josh Hoover, left, and Gerard Lawrence as he performs the Sneak-Up Dance during a Wednesday presentation for American Cultures classes.

Members of the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center shared traditional clothing, songs and dances with South Allegheny Middle School students who are learning about early people and cultures.

An assembly was the culminating activity for a seventh-grade lesson in American cultures. Teacher Janel Biagiarelli welcomed Michael Simms, Krisa Spangler and their 10-month-old daughter Ashlynn JoElla Simms to give students a real-life look at aspects of Native American culture that remain in today's society.

“We've learned about the culture, and the students have done individual projects,” Biagiarelli said. “To see it and experience it firsthand was great for them. Our presenters did a wonderful job, and they got the kids involved.”

Students participated in the Snake Dance with Spangler, who took them through the aisles of the auditorium in a serpentine pattern. They took to the stage, forming a circle around Simms as he performed the warriors' Sneak-Up Dance.

Students Joe Hernandez and Maddie Klein described the presentation as cool and nothing short of exciting.

“It corresponded with everything we learned,” Maddie said. “The coolest part was the way they used their voices to make songs that don't sound like words to us. It's a whole different language.”

“It was so unique — their dress, the way they sang,” Joe added.

Simms is of Cherokee and Seminole descent, and Spangler is Mohawk. They visit regional schools often to share their culture.

“We do these presentations to show kids that, while we live amongst you, we have our own identity and culture that we keep alive,” Simms said.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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