PAOLA — Cottonwood second-graders have been learning about Indians and how the first people arrived in the Americas, and their lessons took life recently thanks to a visit by Osage Indian Ed Smith.

Smith talked about the origins of the Osage tribe, as well as other tribes in Kansas, and how they were eventually relocated to reservations.

The young students were amazed to learn there are still more than five million Indians living in the United States today. That includes more than 550 different tribes and more than 150 different languages still spoken today, he said.

Smith highlighted a few prominent Indians, including baseball player Jacoby Ellsbury.

Much of Smith’s presentation was focused on food and how the Indians mastered farming techniques and developed foods that are still used today.

“Over 70 percent of the food the world eats today originated in the Americas,” Smith said. “Plants domesticated by American Indians have become staples in the diets of people around the world.”

This includes corn, beans and squash.

“Corn has been grown by Native Americans for almost 10,000 years,” Smith said. “Native Americans had over 200 types of corn. It was taken to Europe in the 1500s and spread all over the world. Corn is used in everything.”

Second-grade teacher Ashley Blackman said Smith’s presentation was the perfect fit for the unit, during which the students learned about Indians from different regions and how they used their natural resources to survive.

“Students have learned about Native Americans from the Pacific, southwest, plains and southeast and northeast woodlands regions,” Blackman said. “Students are also learning some of the culture and common games and legends different Native American tribes in those regions may have had.”

Some of those include the Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, “Keeper of the Fire” game, “Handgame,” and “birch bark,” Smith said.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or

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