First graders at Johnson School hosted a special guest to highlight their Culture unit. Spencer resident, Max Elg, spent time with the students to share his story, past and present.
Max asked students who had the longest name in the classroom. Despite many tries, nobody could top Max’s full name, Gerald Brooks, Myron Elg, Mitchkapadora, Micah, Max,Tatanka Inwawe. A product of two cultures, Max was given one name by his birth parents, and then his adoptive parents gave him another name. After the jaw drop of the students when hearing Max’s lengthy full name, he went on to say that they could lovingly call him, Uncle Max.
Raised on a farm in Minnesota, Max loved to raise animals, hunt, fish and go to school and church. As Max grew older, he traveled throughout the United States as a professional musician, and during that time, he met his birth parents. It was then that Max learned about his Native American culture and family to which he was born, and he shared different aspects of that with the students, including music, dress, speech and artifacts.
The students engaged in singing songs and getting to touch different items on Max’s Cheyenne Leader Shirt that was made for him by a friend. It contained buffalo hair, beadwork, horse hair, hawk feathers and patches, which were all meaningful and symbolic to Max’s journey through life.
As a business man, Max communicates by listening and speaking with his head, but as a Native American, he has learned the importance of slowing down when speaking so that it is from the heart, nuttah. Nuttah is also significant to Max because it is the name of his first grandchild, and he wrote a lullaby named “Nuttah.” The students were able to clap quietly and sing along as they picked up the words.
The students were excited when Max brought out artifacts representative of his Native American culture. Students got to examine a walking staff, handmade tomahawk and dance stick while passing them around the classroom. These items all held special meaning as well.
Through all of the teachings that Max shared with the students, he ended by asking the students, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” After many responses, he went on to share his hopes for the students and said, “What I want for you when you grow up is to be happy. Being happy is the most important thing.”