The topic for this week’s current connection was deculturalization of Native Americans, specifically in schools. I have a little bit of previous knowledge on this topic because it was one we discussed in my highschool AP Lang course. An idea that stuck with me from that previous lesson concerned the contrevrsy of different sports mascots which depict racist images of Native Americans. Many fans do not see a problem with the images, but a quote from an article described that the main issue with these images is that sports fans were decking out in costume-like native garb and dancing mock tribal dances around grand stands, while at the same time the native americans themselves were being deculturized and not free to wear their own clothes and practice their own dances.
Native American deculturalization began around the 1800s and continued into the 1900s however, the issues deeply rooted from this act of stripping away ones identity, have left racist undertones in schools and society. The current connections article I found is titled, “Restorative Education, Reconciliation, and Healing: Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonizing Leadership Education”, it discussed how we can continue to heal, what teachers can do in the classrooms, and how Native American students can reclaim history lessons.
The article I chose for current connections opens by providing examples on the hurt that still goes on today. From an example in 1975 of Native Americans being kicked out of class for speaking their tribal language, described as “dog grunts” to more recent and just as harmful hate speech in 2018 where there was a viral video of a white student mockingly giving a thumbs down to a native american student performing a tribal dance at a school assembly. Not to mention, we have constant reminders all around us of who our culture deems “dominant” or the “winner; we see monuments and statues that glorify colonizers and are placed right on old Native American ground in front of schools. These hateful words and actions lead Native American students to feel not only ostracized but targeted. And really how is a student expected to be able to focus on math problems when they have a constant fear of being physically or mentally abused. The article describes the effects fear has on learning, “the Indigenous brain is in a hyper-alert state poised to fend off threats to the cultural self and therefore less available for engaging in deep critical thinking.” On a fundamental level, discrimination is barring Native American students right to FAPE.
As teachers it is our duty to ensure all students, most importantly those at risk for being discriminated against, feel safe and protected. We can do this by setting standards right away that this classroom is not a place for discrimination, bullying, harassment, or anything of that kind. We need to ensure ample representation exists in the classroom perhaps through Native American thinkers, authors, or other professionals that can be used as examples in different subject areas. Of course, one of the most important things to do is also the most obvious; we must ensure that history is being taught accurately from the beginning. In second grade I learned about the first thanksgiving and how swimmingly the Native Americans and the Pilgrims got along. Now, obviously spare the gory details from a second grader, but teach right from the beginning so students have a foundation to build off of. It is important as a society that we first recognize our mistakes so we can learn from them, “reconciliation could not be achieved without racial healing and risked being temporary unless sustained through transformative actions.” The current connections article I found, discusses one method used to bring about realizing our errors and how to reconcile and correct, is called a “Racial healing circle”. In this circle the perpetrators listen to the victim from the victims point of view and vice versa. In our classrooms we will most likely not have any one who has modern day first hand experience of being deculturalized or of being a colonizer (however it is possible, especially the former). However, perhaps we can have roleplay in the classroom where a Native American student reads aloud a first hand experience of a Native American living in the time of assimilation and a different student can read a point of view of a school teacher from that era. Listening to each point of view validates everyones experience and the ultimate goal is to, ” form transformative relationships across racial, class, gender, and cultural lines… to reject the false hierarchy of human value based on race”. Creating an inclusive environment can also come from inviting Native American speakers or other professionals into the classroom as ways of representation and noting that Native Americans have vitally important thoughts to share. I am a middle childhood education major and I am currently studying the importance of establishing a positive identity in adolescents. It is so important developmentally for an adolescent to have a positive self identity, we must embrace Native American cultures in schools so these students don’t feel underrepresented or even ashamed of their identity.
The original article read for class described the practice of assimilation which held the motto, “kill the Indian save the man”. We see the blatant racism in these acts as well as the error of our ways. If we ignore this crime committed we only ensure that it will happen again. It is important to recognize our mistakes and teach it in the classrooms so future generations can learn from the past. It is also important to teach in our schools because we need to teach acceptance and equality. We must make active efforts to decolonize our schools and our society to ensure Native Americans have a safe and inclusive learning environment; in doing this Native Americans can academically succeed and we can all get one step closer to harmony.
Cross, T.L., Pewewardy, C. and Smith, A.T. (2019), Restorative Education, Reconciliation, and Healing: Indigenous Perspectives on Decolonizing Leadership Education. New Directions for Student Leadership,