Tri-Central Middle School history teacher Jacob Wilson, center, is passionate about Native American history. A Native American village will help bring his students closer to the culture and history indigenous tribes. Staff photo by Tim Bath
Tri-Central Middle School history teacher Jacob Wilson, center, is passionate about Native American history. A Native American village will help bring his students closer to the culture and history indigenous tribes. Staff photo by Tim Bath
SHARPSVILLE — Students at Tri-Central Middle School can not only learn but experience Native American culture thanks to a recent grant by the Tipton County Foundation.

Two tipis were installed at the middle school a couple weeks before summer vacation. History teacher Jacob Wilson calls it the beginning of a Native American village.

Native American history is a passionate topic for Wilson and one that comes up frequently during lessons inside his eighth-grade classroom.

It’s also one that tends to get looked over. Too often, Wilson said, the history of indigenous peoples in America is glossed over by teachers.

But Native American history is crucial for understanding the history of the country that followed after the arrival of Europeans.

“You can’t understand the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Civil War without understanding Native American tribes,” Wilson said. “They’re part of it.”

Wilson said he covers the early history of tribes, the cultural differences among them, their tradition of oral history and even their economics.

The tipis are large enough that an entire class can sit inside, perfect for getting out of the classroom. They were instantly popular among students. Wilson said every one of his classes wanted to go outside to the tipis.

“To say it’s been a big hit would be an understatement,” he said.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Tipton County Foundation. The grant, worth $6,255, covered the cost of materials.

Chad Huff, program director, said the foundation liked the project as a way to teach history while also creating a new learning space.

“Mr. Wilson had shown in his proposal the benefit he could derive from having the learning space,” he said. “One of the selling points was the support he had from teachers and the school.”

Setup of the tipis provided its own lesson. Leroy Johnson of the Me-to-cin-yah Longrifles demonstrated to students how a tipi is set up while wearing period-specific attire from the mid-1800s.

While tipis are associated with Native Americans in general, they were used by tribes of the Great Plains. Wilson would like to add wigwams, also called wickiups, which were used by tribes native to the local area, such as the Miami.

A wigwam is a domed dwelling covered with bark, cloth, grass or hide.

Wilson sees many opportunities for cross-curriculum activities with the village. STEM fields such as math can study the cone-like shape of tipis, art students can learn Native American design and English classes can practice the oral storytelling traditions of indigenous tribes.

Wilson said he hopes it can also serve as a way to entice parents to send their kids to Tri-Central.

“I’m so excited to have the opportunity at Tri-Central,” Wilson said. “There are so many possibilities. We’re excited to bring this together and bring it to life.”
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