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Native Americans visit school to teach Cherokee customs
Daniel Tramper, left, and Cody Grant, right, yell Tuesday during a Cherokee Native American dance to prepare the men for battle while John Grant Jr., center, beats a drum during a performance at the World Language Academy. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
World Language Academy students traveled back in time on Tuesday to a world where seashells were status symbols, beads were currency and moccasin-clad men walked in front of women in the woods to fend off bears.

The Warriors of Anigiduwa came to the academy from Cherokee, N.C., to share with students the culture, language and dances of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians that once inhabited North Georgia and other areas of the Southeast.

John Grant Jr., a member of the Warriors of Anigiduwa, said Anigiduwa is the original name of the Cherokee. Grant said the warriors have traveled to the West Coast and Europe to celebrate the Cherokee Nation’s culture that was once repressed.

“They didn’t see the importance or the beauty of it,” he said. “But in modern times, there’s a push for these things to be brought back — our language, our dances, our customs, our way of dress. We’re just sharing the beauty that is us.”

Carrie Woodcock, dual language coordinator for Hall County schools, said the morning students spent with the warriors coincides with a Native American unit second- and third-graders are learning as required by the state curriculum.

“Since this is the culture of our region from ancient times, we feel it’s important for them to learn about these cultures,” she said.

Grant said the Cherokee were one of the largest Native American nations in the United States, and told students that despite what they’ve seen on television or in old Western films, native groups had very different ways of life.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about us. We teach each nation was different. We all have our own languages, our own medicines, our own foods,” Grant said. “We want to let them know we’re not mascots. We’re not Atlanta Braves. We’re not Washington Redskins.”

Grant and three other Anigiduwa warriors taught students about their traditional style of dress. Men wore shirts, leather leggings held up by garters, beaded woven belts, eagle feather and deer tail headdresses. And if they were mighty warriors, they also wore silver.

“Silver was the bling-bling of the day back then. You had to have proven yourself in battle to wear silver,” Grant said. “It was the war trophy of the day.”

He said much like Christians have the story of Adam and Eve, the Cherokee have the story of Selu, the corn woman, and Kana’Ti, the great hunter.

The warriors also shared with students the Cherokee tradition of dancing. Grant said the nation’s newest dance is the Horse Dance, which is 500 years old. Students learned the Friendship Dance, the Bear Dance as well as the Ant Dance that mimics ants marching in a line and touching antennas to communicate.