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Storyteller Offers Gifts And Gab Tribal Elder Shares Tales And More With Class

Tue., Oct. 7, 1997

Lawrence Aripa leaned forward in his rocking chair, his hands weaving through the air as he told an old Coeur d’Alene Indian story about the antics of the notorious Coyote.

The nearly 45 Ramsey Elementary School kindergartners and first-graders sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of him listened attentively.

“A long time ago, we didn’t have any classrooms,” the tribal vice chairman and elder told the youngsters Monday morning. “They didn’t have any books, and so the only way they could teach their children was with stories.”

Aripa visited Ann Wilkey’s kindergarten class at Ramsey not only to tell stories but also to present the class with $300 worth of gifts - CD-ROMS, videos and books.

The tribe will donate $10,500 in similar gifts to 35 other classes in the Coeur d’Alene, St. Maries, Post Falls and Lakeland school districts this year. Each $300 donation will go to the classroom of a teacher nominated for 1996 teacher of the year. Names are drawn randomly.

The donations are part of the tribe’s tradition of sharing, said Bob Bostwick, press secretary for the tribe.

“The tribe’s idea is to go beyond the reservation to educate about our area’s history and culture,” he said. “We have 5 percent of all our gaming profits committed to schools. This is above and beyond that.”

Wilkey received a CD-ROM dictionary and books on science and phonics.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I got to pick the books I wanted.”

In each donation, the tribe will provide materials on math, science, literature and art. In Wilkey’s gift, the tribe included “Stories of the World,” a book of traditional Indian stories. Middle school and high school classes selected will receive “Saga of the Coeur d’Alenes,” a history of the tribe.

“We’re looking forward to educating the public a little more about who we are,” said Laura Stensgar, marketing director for the tribe’s gaming enterprises.

Aripa told the children three stories: one about how a huge rock chased Coyote around the Palouse, finally landing in Lake Coeur d’Alene; a second about about how one of his ancestors earned his name; and a final story about how Coyote’s tendencies to ignore the advice of his elders landed him in trouble.

“It’s something that was told to me by my old people and they told me to remember and pass them down,” Aripa said of the numerous stories he tells at schools, universities and to groups. “Oh, golly, I’ve been doing it for years and years.”

As he rose from his rocking chair after finishing his last story for the day, one little boy asked him, “Are you an Indian?”

Aripa smiled.

“Oh, you betcha,” he replied.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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