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Introducing First Lady is high honor
3 October 2008

BISMARCK (UTN) Torrence Israel had the best seat in the house when the nation's First Lady came to Bismarck. The sixth grade student sat next to the Laura Bush when she visited Riverside Elementary School October 2.

Honored Role
HONORED ROLE: Torrence Israel, a sixth grader, sits between First Lady Laura Bush and Tom Lindsay of the National Endowment for the Humanities during a program October 2 at his school in Bismarck. United Tribes News photo.

      For the 11-year-old Torrence, the honor went even further.

      Before Mrs. Bush came to the podium to speak to an assembly in the school's gymnasium, Torrence introduced her with a short speech in a soft-spoken voice.

      Mrs. Bush was at Riverside to promote "Picturing America," a program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program provides schools and libraries across the nation with replicas of famous American art, free of charge.

      Some of the artwork was displayed in the school's gymnasium, including an 1832 portrait by artist George Catlin of Mandan people in what is present-day North Dakota.

Proud Mom
PROUD MOM: It came as a shock when Dawn Israel (Sisseton-Wahpeton) learned that her son Torrence was chosen to introduce First Lady Laura Bush at a program at his school. Afterward she said she was proud of him and nearly cried. United Tribes News photo.

      "By painting this one scene of American daily life, the artist preserved the Mandan people's culture and history, dress and customs, for generations to come," said Mrs. Bush in her speech. "George Catlin's artwork is now recognized as a cultural treasure."

      Mrs. Bush, a former school librarian, urged the students to cherish history and to learn from it.

      "Catlin wrote that many people underestimated American Indian culture because "they didn't stop to investigate it," said Mrs. Bush.

      "Today, Picturing America is encouraging students across our country to stop and investigate these stories, people and ideals that define our culture," she said. "By teaching our youngest students about America's past, we can trust them to choose the best course for our nation's future."

Catlin 'Picturing America'
ON DISPLAY: The "Picturing America" Catlin image shows the great Mandan leader Ma-to-toh-pa surrounded by his people as he is painted by Catlin.

      The Catlin print is one of four images with Native American content in the 40 print Picturing America collection. It seemed appropriate to call it to attention at Riverside because half of the student population is American Indian. Torrence was chosen for his honored role because he is president of the school's student council.

      Torrance's mother, Dawn Israel, she said she couldn't believe the news when she learned her son had been chosen to introduce Mrs. Bush.

      "I had to ask again to make sure it was for real," she said.

      Israel is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Agency Village, South Dakota. She and her two children live in Bismarck. She is a former student at United Tribes Technical College.

      Wearing a flag lapel pin and glancing at his notes, Torrence's introduction of Mrs. Bush ended with a broad smile and applause from his classmates.

      Afterward, he listed the emotions he felt: happy, excited, and nervous.

      As part of his cultural training and responsibility, Torrence had presented Mrs. Bush with the gift of a Dream Catcher that he had made.

      To learn more about Picturing America, visit the website:


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