Parish learns way of Lakota Sioux WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

ODENTON DREAM CATCHER

October 06, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Arriving from South Dakota a week ago, Luie Blue Coat brought a suitcase of clothes, some turquoise beads and the ingredients for a Dream Catcher.

He brought the items -- icons of his Lakota Sioux culture -- to give members of the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Odenton a taste of his way of life and to participate in a fledgling cultural exchange program between the Sioux and the church.

He arrived at the church Sept. 28, on a trip arranged by the church pastor, the Rev. Phoebe Coe, as part of an effort to establish an Indian Cultural Center at the church.

Mr. Blue Coat will be teaching youngsters about Indian culture and history as part of their regular Sunday school classes.

Multicolored beads and turquoise are still used by the Sioux to decorate their jeans, jackets and sneakers, he told his audience. The Dream Catcher -- a circular hoop with a web woven over it and a feather dangling from it -- is a kind of guardian against bad dreams.

The web, made of fibers from a cow's intestines, is intended to catch and hold captive one's bad dreams. Good dreams pass through the webbing and slip through the feather into the universe, so they may become reality.

"It's one of those cultural beliefs that's been handed down through the generations," said the tall, soft-spoken Mr. Blue Coat.

Ms. Coe met Mr. Blue Coat's parents four years ago while serving on temporary assignment at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Depree, S.D. She kept in touch, and using their relationship as a launching point, Ms. Coe started the Indian Cultural Center at Epiphany to increase the church's awareness of American Indians.

As part of the program, a group from the congregation went on a four-day camping trip in June to the Sisston Indian Reservation, in the northeast corner of South Dakota.

William Thomas, a congregation member from Severna Park, said the trip changed the way he viewed Indians and U.S. policies in the settling of the American West.

"It's made me more aware of how people from different parts of the country have been treated," he said. "That land out there was basically stolen from them."

Such exchange programs are fairly common. Some 80 percent of the Indians in South Dakota are Episcopalian, and the Episcopal Church nationally sponsors a program called "Paths Crossing," which encourages cross-cultural exchanges between Indian and non-Indian people.

Church members from Odenton also may celebrate Columbus Day Monday by going to the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. There, a church-sponsored "Celebration of Survival" ceremony is planned to honor Indian traditions and history.

National Episcopal Church leaders have been trying to raise political awareness about the negative effects Columbus' travels had on American Indians. A series of posters put out by the church paints Columbus as more pirate than explorer, and highlights the diseases, the taking of the tribal lands and exploitation of the Indians that followed his voyage.

But at the Odenton church Sunday, Mr. Blue Coat's talk was more a traditional civics lesson than politics.

The youngsters learned about Sioux culture, language and symbols and made parfleches, heavy envelopes used like purses or suitcases.

In the end, Mr. Blue Coat said, the children got the point.

"There are people who still think we live in tepees," Mr. Blue Coat said. "But I think kids are pretty culturally aware. They tend to ask about very common-sense things, like, 'Do you have a horse?' or 'Does it get cold in South Dakota.' "

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