Feathers. Moccasins. War Paint. Battle Cries. Arrows. We only had to be quiet momentarily. Once we got done with the pilgrims, we could really let it rip. On the playground, we fought like our lives depended on it and enjoyed every minute of it. I thought nothing of it. Why would I? I was having a blast. Nobody told us that it was important to respect Native American cultures. I don’t think anybody cared. Time did what my teachers couldn’t. Slowly, knowledge arrived and the thrill was gone. Truth has a funny way of sobering the past. Triumphs are often revealed for what they are…evil. Injustice. Disease. War. Pain. Death. Genocide.
The kids rushed through the door. One of my young children was particularly excited about a project he was assigned at school. The more I read, the more disturbed I was. In a piece of cardboard the size of a shoebox, he was supposed to build a miniature teepee that included proper markings. Of course, the children weren’t given any instruction about what any of these markings might represent. If that wasn’t problematic enough, the instructions also alluded to the idea that white men brought their horses and helped the “Indians” move west. I was growing angrier by the moment. Before exploding, I called a few of my Native American friends. Repeatedly, they told me how problematic the entire thing was…but cautioned me to use this as a time to demand further education…unless they resisted. I prepared to go to war.
The night before the assignment was due. I sat our entire family down and explained the genocide that our ancestors perpetuated against Native Americans and how inappropriate and evil it is to treat the cultures and histories of other people this way. For their age, I thought they understood pretty well…which made me wonder why an adult creator of curriculum wouldn’t be able to as well. Later that night, I sent an email to the teacher explaining how problematic it was to give assignments like this with no Native American input. Then, I scheduled a meeting with the principal. Though he is a very nice guy, I was prepared for a fight.
He knew I was angry. Before I could even begin, he apologized and assured me that this would be the last time that any study of Native Americans would take place in the school without direct consultation with Native Americans. Almost instantaneously, he promised to begin right away. I would have accepted nothing else. Cranking the car, I prayed for moments like this to be taking place all over the country…in all sectors of life. It is our job to atone for the sins of our ancestors…
The genocide of Native American peoples must end.