Ross Students Learn About Iroquois Culture


On Wednesday, April 3 Mrs. Kemmerlin’s fifth grade class at Lulu Ross Elementary was introduced to Iroquois culture by guest speaker Elise Glisci. Ms.Elise Glisci, a member of the Mohawk tribe, is currently a student at Syracuse University and working on her thesis as part of her final preparations for graduation. An industrial design major and native studies minor, Elise has been working with reservation centers in New York State teaching students about Iroquois culture through an interactive hands-on approach.

Growing up in a Caucasian dominate school herself, Elise found it difficult to learn about her own culture as a child. Although her family is predominately Mohawk Indian, her interactions through school and other families left little time to discover the principles and cultures of the Iroquois.

As an undergraduate student at Syracuse, Ms.Elise Glisci has developed methods of introducing the native culture into the everyday lives of children. A combination of her industrial design and native studies work , she has developed a board game to help students become familiar with Iroquois culture and principles.

“I hope that students learn about the Iroquois culture while playing the game and use those principles in their daily lives,” stated Ms.Elise Glisci. “Through the game they will learn that winning is not everything and that they must work together to be successful.”

During Ms. Kemmerlin’s class, Elise stressed the four dominate Iroquois principals which would be reinforced through the game: Only take what you need, use what you take, never think about yourself and consider in your actions the impact on the next 7 generations. The game, which was completely handmade down to the game pieces stressed the importance the Iroquois placed on respecting Mother Earth.

“The Iroquois believe that the Earth is a gift to us from the Creator,” commented Elise. “Therefore, we must take care of that gift and secure it for future generations.”

As Mrs. Kemmerlin’s students began to play the game they noticed that the very principles it was teaching challenged the normal objectives of iconic American board games such as Monopoly. As the students traveled through the Iroquois nation they were reminded to wait for the other players and help each other in answering questions. Teamwork instead of individual victory prevailed as the lesson of the game and helped students to understand the importance of working together in Iroquoian culture.

As Elise continues her studies she hopes to begin introducing the Iroquois culture to children at an earlier age. Since a large percentage of modern Iroquois live among other Americans and not on reservations, Ms.Elise Glisci hopes to encourage Americans to rethink their own principles of conservation and going green.

“Buying a ‘green car’ is not going to help us preserve our environment for future generations,” stated Elise. “We need to be more conscience about our addiction to technology and how we use it.”

As she returns to upstate New York, Ms.Elise Glisci will continue to work at local centers to introduce native culture to children while she finishes her degree at Syracuse University. She is currently creating a phone application that will help individuals live by Iroquois principles by providing information about native foods, recipes and lifestyles. After graduation this May, Elise hopes to pursue a career that will combine her two collegiate studies by designing products that focus on Native American culture.

Ms. Glisei speaking to Ms. Kemmerlin's classroom