Celebrate: Song, Dance, and Story!

Background Information


The cultures represented in this learning center come from many different places. Some culture-bearers still reside in their traditional homelands while others have traveled across oceans to find their current homes. Each of these cultures has a story to tell. Although the cultures and people are different, through these stories we begin to see that humans share some very important similarities. The cultural backgrounds are important because experiences have shaped each culture into a beautiful and vibrant group of people, with significant contributions to all mankind. Although the lives of the Choctaw, Native Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, and Wampanoag people have changed significantly over time, many traditions and values continue to be carried on from generation to generation.


Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

The Choctaw are Native Americans from the southeastern part of the United States. Their original homeland includes Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Today, the Choctaw can be found primarily in Mississippi and Oklahoma. The Choctaw were considered one of the Five Civilized Tribes, and were forced into the removal, to become known as the Trail of Tears. The treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed over the tribal lands east of the Mississippi River. The signing of this treaty began the Choctaw move to Oklahoma (Choctaw word for Red-homa People-okla) Territory. The Choctaw who refused to leave the land of their mother mound hid out in the swamps and fringes of society and their descendents are now the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.


For more information on the Choctaw, see the following link:

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians



The Native Hawaiians are the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Archipelago. The Hawaiians belong to a group of people called the Polynesians, who were great ocean navigators. Many islands in the Pacific Ocean were settled by early Polynesians. The Hawaiian Islands were governed under several kingdoms until they were united by King Kamehameha I, who began the Hawaiian monarchy. Later, this monarchy fell, due to American influence. Today, the Native Hawaiians are experiencing a rich cultural revitalization. They have created a successful model for Indigenous Language Revitalization.


For more information on Native Hawaiians, see the following link:

Bishop Museum


Iñupiat of Alaska

The Iñupiat are the indigenous people from northern Alaska. Their villages and communities are located in Northwest Alaska, the North Slope, and along the Bering Straits. Iñupiaq people have traditionally gathered their food resources from the land, sea, and sky. Today, the Iñupiat still rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. The Iñupiat are great whalers. Each year, the people hunt and utilize bowhead whales. The Iñupiat continue to be involved in Alaska’s oil industry which has been an important revenue source for the communities of the north. Climate change has now become a major concern for the Iñupiat and other northern peoples, since global warming has the potential to cause disastrous effects in the Arctic. This would severely impact the Iñupiaq way of life.


For more information on the Iñupiat, see the following links:

Iñupiat Heritage Center

Alaska Native Heritage Center


Portuguese Immigrants to the U.S.

The Portuguese people are native to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe,specifically the country of Portugal. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Portuguese were masters at sailing and ocean navigation. In the past, Portugal colonized parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This resulted in Portuguese-speaking communities around the world. Starting in the 16th Century, Portuguese people began emigrating to places far away, such as the Americas, India, and Macau. The largest influx of Portuguese people to Brazil and the United States came between the middle of the 19th century and the late 1950’s. Today, many people of Portuguese descent live in the United States. States with sizable Portuguese populations include the New England states, New Jersey, California, and Hawaii.


For more information on the Portuguese people, see the following link:

Go Lisbon

Central Yup'ik

The Yup’ik are the aboriginal people of western and southwestern Alaska. Yup’ik people also live in the Bering Straits and Russian Far East. The Yup’ik people of southwest Alaska reside in communities on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Nushagak Rivers, and along the Bering Sea Coast from Bristol Bay in the south to Norton Sound in the north. The Yup’ik people continue to live a subsistence lifestyle. Many families still rely heavily on hunting and the gathering of resources in their environment for survival. Animals such as seal, beluga whale, caribou, and moose are hunted for food. Countless fish, including salmon and fresh water species, are also important food resources. In addition, small mammals, birds, berries, and greens also contribute significantly to the Yup’ik diet. The Yup’ik people have a rich history which includes elaborate presentations in the qasgiq (men’s house). Traditional festivals included songs, dances, and stories. Today, the Yup’ik people live modern lives, but hold on to their language, culture, values, and many of their traditional ways of living.


For more information on the Yup’ik people, see the following link:

Alaska Native Heritage Center



The Wampanoag are Native Americans from southern New England. Wampanoag lived in places such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts long before the Pilgrims arrived in North America. The Wampanoag seasonal cycle and the gathering of food resources consisted of fishing, planting, harvesting, and hunting. Many different types of fish and game were used for food. Corn, beans, and squash are very important crops in the Wampanoag culture.


During the 17th Century, the Wampanoag groups formed a confederacy which was led by a sachem. King Philip’s War was detrimental to the traditional lifestyle of the Wampanoag, even to those groups which remained neutral during the war.


Today, there are five groups of Wampanoags. However, only the Mashpee and Aquinnah groups have received federal recognition. Currently, the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project is being implemented in hopes that the Wampanoag language will be spoken within their tribal territories.


For more information on the Wamapnoag, see the following links:

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe