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 Cindy Courson, pictured at another library in a past performance, is an expert on Native American culture. She will lead a virtual presentation for the Hazel Park Memorial District Library the evening of July 8.

Cindy Courson, pictured at another library in a past performance, is an expert on Native American culture. She will lead a virtual presentation for the Hazel Park Memorial District Library the evening of July 8.

Photo provided by Amy Beem


Hazel Park library announces virtual lesson on Native American culture

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 1, 2020

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HAZEL PARK — With health guidelines still advising against large gatherings at this time, the Hazel Park Memorial District Library has shifted its community programming to a virtual format.

Next up on the schedule of online events is a presentation on Native American culture, from indigenous dress and dance to the stories and legends of old. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. July 8, and you can join remotely from home simply by emailing hazelparklibrarysrp@gmail.com to acquire the link and password.

The presenter is Cindy Courson. Her great-great-grandmother is believed to be of Cherokee descent, and her family has kept the culture and lore alive by teaching, storytelling and dancing for the public.

“I try to bring (Native American) culture alive to help people see and understand the history of the (Native American) people of North America,” Courson said prior to a presentation at the Hazel Park library in 2018. “I go over the dress styles of the native people after contact with the Europeans. I have native music that we listen to, and I try to teach them some of the dancing and why they danced. I also go over why the Native Americans were forced onto reservations.”

Among the items in her collection are dresses for a variety of tribes, including the Cherokee, Seminole, Comanche, Potawatomi and Kiowa. She also owns a collection of feathers, arrowheads, baskets and other small items.

She previously explained that the Native American people have suffered greatly over the years, beginning with the U.S. government’s removal policy from 1830 to 1868, where Native Americans were forcibly removed from populated areas. From 1868 to 1887, the policy changed to forced assimilation. Native American children were taken from their families and forced into boarding schools.

“When this did not work, they went back to removing and keeping them on the reservations,” Courson said. “Today, the (Native American) populations on the reservations face many problems. A lack of jobs and dependence on government checks has led to a problem with high rates of alcoholism and suicide.”

Preserving their culture has been another challenge for Native Americans. Amy Beem, a friend of Courson’s and librarian at the Hazel Park library, said that the program promises to be enlightening.

“It is important to learn accurate information about Native American culture, to allow pride for Native Americans and true awareness,” Beem said.

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