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An Indian Father's Plea

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  • An Indian Father's Plea

    I do not want to infringe on the copyright rules and regulations, I do want to tell you that Robert Lake wrote this article. Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear), a member of the Seneca and Cherokee Indian tribes, is an associate professor at Gonzaga University's School of Education in Spokane, Washington. I AM NOT A NATIVE AMERICAN, BUT I SAY I AM EVERYTHING, SO I GUESS I AM. I BLOODY LOVE THIS ARTICLE, I WANT TO BE RAISED LIKE WIND-WOLF! I apologize for not formatting it nicely, I am just too tired right now.

    An Indian Father's Plea
    Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear)

    Dear teacher, I would like to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf. He is probably what you would consider a typical Indian kid. He was born and raised on a reservation. He has black hair, dark brown eyes, olive complexion. And like so many Indian children his age, he is shy and quiet in the classroom. He is 5 years old, in kindergarten, and I can'tunderstand why you have already labeled him a "slow learner." At the age of 5, he has already been through quite an education compared with his peers in Western society. At his first introduction into this world, he was bonded to his mother and to the Mother Earth in a traditional native childbirth ceremony. And he has been continuously cared for by his mother, father, sisters, cousins, uncles, grandparents, and
    extended tribal family since this ceremony. Wind-Wolf's educational setting has been not only a "secure" environment, but also verY colorful, complicated, sensitive, and diverse. He has been with his mother at the ocean at
    daybreak when she made her prayers and gathered fresh seaweed from the rocks, he has
    sat with his uncles in a rowboat on the river while they fished with gill nets, and he has
    watched and listened to elders as they told creation stories and animal legends and sang
    songs around the campfires. He has watched the women make beaded jewelry and
    traditional native regalia. He has had many opportunities to watch his father, uncles, and
    ceremonial leaders using different kinds of songs while preparing for the sacred dances
    and rituals.
    It takes a long time to absorb and reflect on these kinds of experiences, so maybe that is
    why you think my Indian child is a slow learner. His aunts and grandmothers taught him
    to count and know his numbers while they sorted out the complex materials used to make
    the abstract designs in the native baskets. He listened to his mother count each and every
    bead and sort out numerically according to color while she painstakingly made complex
    beaded belts and necklaces. He learned his basic numbers by helping his father count and
    sort the rocks to be used in the sweat-lodge -- seven rocks for a medicine sweat, say, or
    13 for the summer solstice ceremony. (The rocks are later heated and doused with water
    to create purifying steam.) And he was taught to learn mathematics by counting the sticks
    we use in our traditional native hand game. So I realize he may be slow in grasping the
    methods and tools that you are now using in you classroom, ones quite familiar to his
    white peers, but I hope you will be patient with him. It takes time to adjust to a new
    cultural system and learn new things.
    He is not culturally "disadvantaged," but he is culturally "different." If you ask him how
    many months there are in a year, he will probably tell you 13. He will respond this way
    not because he doesn't know how to count properly, but because he has been taught by
    our traditional people that there are 13 full moons in a year according to the native tribal
    calendar and that here are really 13 planets in our solar system and 13 tail feathers on a
    perfectly balanced eagle, the most powerful kind of bird to use in ceremonial healing.
    But he also knows that some eagles may only have 12 tail feathers, or seven, that they do
    not all have the same number. He can probably count more than 40 different kinds of
    birds, tell you and his peers what kind of bird each is and where it lives, the seasons in
    which it appears, and how it is used in a sacred ceremony. He may also have trouble
    writing his name on a piece of paper, but he knows how to say it and many other things in
    several different Indian languages. He is not fluent yet because he is only 5 years old and
    required by law to attend your educational system, learn your language, your values, your
    ways of thinking, and your methods of teaching and learning.
    So you see, all of these influences together make him somewhat shy and quiet -- and
    perhaps "slow" according to your standards. But if Wind-Wolf was not prepared for his
    first tentative foray into your world, neither were you appreciative of his culture. On the
    first day of class, you had difficulty with his name. You wanted to call him Wind,
    insisting that Wolf must somehow be his middle name. The students in the class laughed
    at him, causing further embarrassment.
    While you were trying to teach him your new methods, helping him learn new tools for
    self-discovery and adapt to his new learning environment, he may be looking out the
    window as if daydreaming. Why? Because he has been taught to watch and study the
    changes in nature. It is hard for him to make the appropriate psychic switch from the right
    to the left hemisphere of the brain when he sees the leaves turning bright colors, the geese
    heading south, and the squirrels scurrying around for nuts to get ready for a harsh winter.
    In his heart, in his young mind, and almost by instinct, he knows that this is the time of
    the year he is supposed to be with people gathering and preparing fish, deer meat, and
    native plants and herbs, and learning his assigned tasks in this role. He is caught between
    two worlds, torn by two distinct cultural systems.
    Yesterday, for the third time in two weeks, he came home crying and said he wanted to
    have his hair cut. He said he doesn't have any friends at school because they make fun of
    his long hair. I tried to explain to him that in our culture, long hair is a sign of masculinity
    and balance and is a source of power. But he remained adamant in his position.
    To make matters worse, he recently encountered his first harsh case of racism. Wind-
    Wolf had managed to adopt at least one good school friend. On the way home from
    school one day, he asked his new pal if he wanted to come home to play with him until
    supper. That was OK with Wind-Wolf's mother, who was walking with them. When they
    all got to the little friend's house, the two boys ran inside to ask permission while Wind-
    Wolf's mother waited. But the other boy's mother lashed out: "It is OK if you have to play
    with him at school, but we don't allow those kind of people in our house!" When my wife
    asked why not, the other boy's mother answered, "Because you are Indians, and we are
    white, and I don't want my kids growing up with your kind of people."
    So now my young Indian child does not want to go to school anymore (even though we
    cut his hair). He feels that he does not belong. He is the only Indian child in your class,
    and he is well-aware of this fact. Instead of being proud of his race, heritage, and culture,
    he feels ashamed. When he watches television, he asks why the white people hate us so
    much and always kill our people in the movies and why they take everything away from
    us. He asks why the other kids in school are not taught about the power, beauty, and
    essence of nature or provided with an opportunity to experience the world around them
    firsthand. He says he hates living in the city and that he misses his Indian cousins and
    friends. He asks why one young white girl at school who is his friend always tells him, "I
    like you, Wind-Wolf, because you are a good Indian."
    Now he refuses to sing his native songs, play with his Indian artifacts, learn his language,
    or participate in his sacred ceremonies. When I ask him to go to an urban powwow or
    help me with a sacred sweat-lodge ritual, he says no because "that's weird" and he doesn't
    want his friends at school to think he doesn't believe in God.
    So, dear teacher, I want to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf, who is not really a
    "typical" little Indian kid after all. He stems from a long line of hereditary chiefs,
    medicine men and women, and ceremonial leaders whose accomplishments and unique
    forms of knowledge are still being studied and recorded in contemporary books. He has
    seven different tribal systems flowing through his blood; he is even part white. I want my
    child to succeed in school and in life. I don't want him to be a dropout or juvenile
    delinquent or to end up on drugs and alcohol because he is made to feel inferior or
    because of discrimination. I want him to be proud of his rich heritage and culture, and I
    would like him to develop the necessary capabilities to adapt to, and succeed in, both
    cultures. But I need your help.
    What you say and what you do in the classroom, what you teach and how you teach it,
    and what you don't say and don't teach will have a significant effect on the potential
    success or failure of my child. Please remember that this is the primary year of his
    education and development. All I ask is that you work with me, not against me, to help
    educate my child in the best way. If you don't have the knowledge, preparation,
    experience, or training to effectively deal with culturally different children, I am willing
    to help you with the few resources I have available or direct you to such resources.
    My Indian child has a constitutional right to learn, retain, and maintain his heritage and
    culture. By the same token, I strongly believe that non-Indian children also have a
    constitutional right to learn about our Native American heritage and culture, because
    Indians play a significant part in the history of Western society. Until this reality is
    equally understood and applied in education as a whole, there will be a lot more
    schoolchildren in grades K-2 identified as "slow learners."
    My son, Wind-Wolf, is not an empty glass coming into your class to be filled. He is a full
    basket coming into a different environment and society with something special to share.
    Please let him share his knowledge, heritage, and culture with you and his peers.
    Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear), a member of the Seneca and Cherokee Indian tribes, is an associate
    professor at Gonzaga University's School of Education in Spokane, Wash.

  • #2
    Western Society

    Yes, western society is tough on slow learners.

    I was thrown off the Short Bus in the middle of nowhere as a little child. I was told to catch squirrels to survive. I was starving...all because of western society.

    I climbed the mountain to speak with the wise man. He said climb ten more mountains to speak with ten more wise men.

    Then I looked at my reflection in a calm pool of water...the answer was...I must climb a tree and act like a catch a squirrel...

    Now I go fold my laundry, the dryer just buzzed...more wisdom later.

    Wise men tell no tales


    • #3
      You are a funny clown Amigo K.
      Wanjica Infinity No One


      • #4
        Yeah, I'm a wannabe comic...

        ennyhoo, I found an online ad for Shaman classes...hmmm...Berkeley?

        The shamanic journey is one of the oldest technologies for understanding the world of spirit and energy. It has been the foundation of spiritual and healing practices of vast numbers of cultures for thousands of years. Today, the shamanic journey still offers a dependable method for exploring the psyche and accessing inner wisdom.

        In this class you will learn to sustain a journeying practice that will help you heal parts of yourself you have had difficulty accessing; problem solve for yourself and others; serve others effectively and efficiently; and understand the nature of different levels of consciousness.

        Note: the Introduction to the Shamanic Journey is a prerequisite to many of our classes.

        Class Details and to Register:

        Jul 29, 2010 - Free Teleclass: The Shamanic Journey (Register Now)
        Aug 26, 2010 - Free Teleclass: The Shamanic Journey (Register Now)
        Sep 11, 2010 - Introduction to the Shamanic Journey (Register Now)

        All classes are held at the Sacred Stream Center (2149 Byron St, Berkeley, CA) unless otherwise indicated.

        Student Quotes

        "I loved the Introduction to The Shamanic Journey class this weekend. What a rich and fulfilling time you provided! I learned a lot, and look forward to more. The material is fascinating, and presented so well." - Susan S.

        "The Shamanic Journey is one of the best things i've done for myself." Meg D.

        "Introduction to the Shamanic Journey has truly been a wonderful experience for me. Your beautiful masterful interpretation and offerings are in and of themselves very special to listen to. This is something I have been looking for and find gives me much peace." - Mary B.
        Last edited by AmigoKumeyaay; 07-26-2010, 08:27 PM.


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