On April 12, 2017, 33 ladies of our St. Steven’s Ladies Guild visited St. Peter Indian Mission in Bapchule, Arizona. On our arrival, we were greeted by several individuals and were led by the president of the student body, an 8th grade student, to the Joe Garagiola Center with a welcome from Sister Barbara Jean and the school principal, Sister Martha. At the beginning, we were entertained by songs given by the delightful second graders who were led by Mrs. Gillian Tevlin, the Music Director.
The highlight of the afternoon program was given by the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students in their traditional dress, who shared several traditional dances based on Tribal legends. They were introduced by Mrs. Corina Harrison and narrated by Mr. Bryson Hall, the Indian Cultural Humanitarian Studies teachers. Among some of these acted out were the Coyote, the Butterfly and the Basket Dance. The older boys sang and kept the background music with their rattle gourds, which complemented the stories.
Within the Gila River Indian Community, men were the singers and the women danced. Only the men can keep the dance rhythm with the rattle gourds and sing the songs that have been handed down from the elders for many generations.
All students weekly attend three “Culture Classes,” during which they learn their language, customs, history, songs and dances, with a huge emphasis on the traditional O’Odham values of Respect, Reverence and Responsibility!
As the students finished the program, each one came and shook hands, giving us an opportunity to thank each one individually. What a joy and privilege it was to be here to see these young students share their Indian culture with us.
A tour of the school grounds took us to several classrooms, the student chapel and the lunchroom. Along the way, we enjoyed the colorful fragrant flower gardens.
When we returned to the Center for the luncheon, Sister Barbara Jean, Anjelica and other helpers had laid out a beautiful presentation of food for us which we all enjoyed. And, believe me, it was as good as it looked!
Before leaving, Mrs. Harrison presented each of us with a gift … an Indian beaded key fob which is a nice remembrance of this special day. A heartfelt thank you to everyone at St. Peter’s Indian School for our wonderful visit full of love and joy.
To quote my husband Tom Vitolo, “St. Peter’s Indian Mission, approximately eight miles south of Sun Lakes. Beautifully maintained. Happy children learning life skills from the Franciscan Sisters of Charity. Thank you, Joe Garagiola, I’m sure you are looking down on the place you love.”