Beautiful Greeting from Native Americans

By Lindajoy Fenley

When Lorraine Klaasen issued her signature, “Good morning, everyone!” in a way to elicit a strong response from each and every student present at Lac du Flambeau Public School, several students instead said, “Boozhoo!” Several ensemble members speak French and thought they heard “Bonjour.” However, the Native American students had greeted their South African visitors in the Ojibwe language.


Lorraine Klaasen and her ensemble pose with students from Lac du Flambeau.


Ojibwe language and culture teacher Minogiizhig Good Skye sings for South African visitors.

Once that was clear, a special exchange began. It was the second time the South African cultural ambassadors had visited a Native American school on their Arts Midwest World Fest tour. (The first time was at the Circle of Nations School inter-tribal school in Wahpeton, ND.) Lac du Flambeau Public School is on the reservation named after the Native tradition of lighting torches to be able to fish at night.


Lorraine’s ensemble performs in a music room on the Lac du Flambeau reservation.

Students filled Lisa Hernandez’ music room twice to learn about South African music and culture. While most were reserved, eighth-grader Klay Burnett could not keep from moving to the African beat. Even when sitting on the floor, his outstretched arms moved forward and back. When he stood up to dance, seventh grader Raymond joined him.


Klay and Raymond stand and dance.


Then, Lorraine invites them to the front of the room.

The music teacher, whose classroom is filled with colorful music messages and art, took time to speak with each ensemble member individually. She also pulled out her checkbook to purchase 10 concert tickets from Nicolet College Theater Director Jim Nuttall. Four days later, she drove students to Rhinelander, about an hour away, for the public performance and final concert of the tour.


Music teacher Lisa Hernandez chats with Andre Whiteman between workshops.

While only a select few students could go to the public concert, all of the students—including one deaf girl who understood the words thanks to a sign-language interpreter—were attentive at the school workshops.


Breanna Busch signs for students during the workshop.

Not surprisingly, Klay, the student who danced at the workshop and took a short drum lesson from Klaasen’s drummer Noel Mpiaza, was among the students Ms. Hernandez selected to go to the concert at Nicolet College.

Klay also was the student who—when Mongezi explained that his last name, Ntaka, meant “little bird”—noted that the guitarist’s first name reminded him of Migizi, the Ojibwe word for eagle.


Students line up behind Lorraine Klaasen for a post-concert photo.

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