Fort Worth students study Native American history at Central Library

FORT WORTH -- Fifth-graders on a field trip to learn about American Indian traditions on Tuesday discovered that many of the images they've seen in movies and on television are based on myths and stereotypes.

Taking a look at a feathered headpiece, the students were surprised to find out that the bonnet is never worn in battle.

"Hollywood has called it a 'war bonnet,'" said Alice Barrientez, liaison for Fort Worth schools' American Indian Education Program. "But this is a leader's bonnet. This is a ceremonial piece. This is a crown."

Students from M.H. Moore and Rosemont elementary schools received a tour of a Fort Worth Central Library exhibit on Comanche history. They used library computers to answer research questions and had a cultural workshop with Barrientez.

The field trips for about 1,400 fourth- and fifth-graders were made possible through a partnership between the Fort Worth school district and Imagination Celebration of Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization that provides free programs and course materials to supplement curriculum.

Rosemont Elementary teacher Lara Iadarola's class is completing a unit on American Indians. "This is a good way to reinforce activity for them and they're getting to see the artifacts they heard about in school," she said.

Barrientez demonstrated how to raise a small tepee inside the library, starting with three 10-foot poles to create the framework for the tent.

"This is a tripod. There is physics behind putting up a tepee," said Barrientez, of Navajo and Apache heritage. "You need three poles to put up the base of the tepee because that canvas is very, very heavy."

The students learned a round dance, with boys forming an inner circle and girls in a larger, outer circle. As Barrientez beat a drum, the students paced counter clockwise.

Daniela Castro, 10, a Rosemont fifth-grader, said the dance was the best part of the visit. She said she also liked the tepee. "I'd like one of them in my room," she said.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326

Twitter: @jessamybrown