Dorothea Nordstrand Remembers a School Play on Green Lake (Seattle), in the 1920s

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 7/18/2001
  • Essay 3445

In this reminiscence, Green Lake resident Dorothea Nordstrand (1916-2011) remembers playing Indians in a play based on Longfellow's "Hiawatha" performed by the pupils of Green Lake Elementary School in 1922 or 1923. In 2009 Dorothea Nordstrand was awarded AKCHO's (Association of King County Historical Organizations) Willard Jue Memorial Award for a Volunteer, for contributing these vivid reminiscences to various venues in our community, including's People's History library.

Gitchi-Gumi on Green Lake

In 1922, when I was in first grade, Green Lake Elementary School put on a pageant, using as theme, Longfellow's poem, "Hiawatha"

What we called the "little" raft at East Green Lake bathing beach, (because it didn't have a diving tower like the "big" raft), was towed from its usual mooring at the beach to a spot along the shoreline and anchored there. The back half of the raft, as it faced the shore, was fashioned into a bower of evergreens for a backdrop. We had wonderful, fringed costumes made by our mothers from potato gunnysacks. Seagull feathers, stuck into elastic headbands, made impressive war bonnets.

Behind the evergreens, older children took turns reading the story-telling lines:

"By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis"...

while on the stage, we "Indians" milled around the tall teepee, (painstakingly fashioned from more gunnysacks), trying our best to look like fierce, brave warriors. We banged with sticks on the ends of round oatmeal boxes hung around our necks on long shoe laces, while chanting our version of an Indian war cry.

We had practiced for weeks, and the applause from the audience on shore was music to our ears. I think the whole neighborhood came to share in our moment of glory.


This story originally appeared in the Green Lake Alliance Newsletter, March 2000 and May 2000.

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