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Rees Elementary Students Perform at Governor's Native American Summit

Submitted by lana.hiskey on Mon, 09/14/2015 - 12:37pm

Rees Students Perform at Governor’s Native American SummitRees students performed for the 10th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit held at Utah Valley University.  The students performed a 12 minutes reader’s theatre, Navajo Code Talkers, as part of the opening session of the two-day conference.  The play was written and directed by Nebo’s elementary drama specialist Lisa Kirkwood Bean, and featured students from the multi-age classroom of Mrs. Brenda Beyal.  The Utah Division of Arts and Museums helped fund costumes for the production, and the production was strongly supported and facilitated by Ryan Pitcher, principal at Rees Elementary.

Last Spring, Mrs. Beyal’s students collaborated with Mrs. Bean on the development of the script as part of an integrated literacy, social studies and drama classroom project.  The script underwent 5 rewrites during its development, and provided students with deep insights on the re-writing process.  The plot emphasizes the heroism of World War II’s Navajo code talkers while explaining the significance of their contributions in context of Navajo and US history.  Student actors learned a number of Navajo words to help them present the material.   

Mrs. Beyal’s class was invited to perform at the summit after the director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, Shirlee Silversmith, saw the play.  Utah has eight sovereign native nations, and the sponsoring tribe for this year’s summit was the Navajo Nation.  In attendance was Utah’s governor, Gov. Gary Herbert, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Navajo Nation president, Pres. Russell Begaye, and Vice Pres. Jonathan Nez.  The performance was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation by the audience of over 600 attendees, and the cast had their picture taken with government officials after Gov. Herbert’s closing remarks.  The theme of the conference was “Hozho Speaks.”  Hozho is the Navajo word for peace, beauty and harmony.