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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Expanding Perspectives by CFT

Teachers need to consider all the possible multiple perspectives and actively seek them out. Then make choices and think about why they want to include or exclude particular perspectives and what that means to the topic and to students.

When we teach about a cultural group who has been oppressed, it is important to show the “glory” of the culture; the amazing achievements of each group.

Oppression is not inevitable, there are “reasons” it existed, and the oppression created a lasting legacy, so it is important to show the resistance of the people and the allies who supported/helped them. The legacy of enslavement is one example.

It is also relevant to show *current* people and their resilience.

Be aware of stereotypes associated with some groups. Some ethnic groups, like Native Americas, are only seen in the past and need to be shown as a contemporary people.

Much of what is depicted represents the Euro-American moral and legal right to dominate a land and people. Don’t pass on misinformation and stereotypes.

Be historically accurate and culturally authentic.

Be aware of over-representation of the dominant European culture and actively include multiple perspectives.

Actively include the NA perspective, “Westward Expansion” could just as easily be “Eastward Invasion.”

Be aware of omissions, distortions, misinformation, stereotypes, absence of role models, and absence of contributions regarding Native People.

Teach students to be critical thinkers (analyze the stereotypes and myths in images, media, etc.)

Teach the Native perspective as a regular part of American History (not just at “Thanksgiving time”).

Represent past/present NA traditions and resistance with primary sources, authentic images, and respect.

Make sure sites, dates, actions, and statements about treaties are accurate.

Be respectful of sacred objects and ceremonies

Don’t trivialize - give proper religious or cultural significance to pipes, feathers, dances, ceremonies, etc.

Don’t combine many tribes into one - be aware of what Nation is being presented.
  • Respect and depict tribal diversity, as well as individual variability.
  • Use specific Nation names (tribes) or geographical locations for identification.
  • Connect a Native leader/person by his/her name to his/her nation.
  • Identify specific ethnic foods, tools, activities, clothing, etc. with specific tribal nations.
  • Provide culturally specific knowledge (pertaining to a single Nation) rather than overgeneralized stereotypes.
Ask NA children to explain unexpected answers or responses to questions, sometimes there is a deeper understanding than what one may initially think.

Many of us, but not all, have a community-orientation, see time as "relative", use story-telling to make personal and academic connections, learn by experience/participation and modeling, are keen observers, are spiritual, understand and learn from the natural world, and demonstrate knowledge through oral tradition.

Recognize that NA children may come to school with a prior knowledge of concepts such as “racism”, “prejudice” and “stereotype”. Use these “teachable moments” as ways to discuss racism, inaccuracies, ethnocentricity, historical bias, and prejudice.

Not everyone is a spokesperson all the time for all the people or necessarily even knows about their own culture (we also learn about ourselves in school, like many people in the dominant culture learn about themselves).

Be aware of controversies, like the “Pledge of Allegiance”. Acknowledge Native American traditions regarding respect for this country.

Be aware that art, spirit, and culture are inextricable intertwined.

When books don’t exist, it is our job as activists to find additional resources (Internet) in order to present “missing voices” until a suitable book exists.

Teacher-created summaries can meet the need of a more inclusive story AND also make the topic accessible to children with language limits – e.g., teachers can adjust language and readability level, computers can read text to students.

When using literature, try finding actual photos, when possible.

Consider the type of books and use a mix of books with stories, not just “legends” or documentary style information presented in book format.

Be careful using visuals, illustrations, books, movies, films, filmstrips, puzzles, games, posters, etc. You want cultural accuracy and a NA voice.

Search for material recognized by a NA organization or publication. If nonNative, what qualifies the person to be able to write about NA’s in an accurate and respectful manner?

Know the experience and perspective of the author of text and creator of materials.

Reject and discard material that is not diverse and inaccurate or distorted.

Return unacceptable material to publisher with a clear letter why.

Be sensitive to holidays which sometimes reinforce “sameness”, “braveness”, “savageness”, and that it’s okay to dress up as another culture (and that it’s possible to capture culture in one outfit), such as, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day.

Be sensitive to holidays that may reify an oppressive event for Native people, such as, Thanksgiving and Columbus Day.

We may celebrate different events (ie: green corn, puberty rites) and/or holidays, often honoring cycles greater than ourselves, like Equinox.

Thanksgiving isn’t something that happens once a year. We say thanksgivings all the time - When we wake up, when we braid our hair, when we eat, when we begin a ceremony. A thanksgiving is like a “blessing” or “prayer.” We also have festivals like “Strawberry Thanksgiving” and “Cranberry Thanksgiving.”

We are still here. We are still alive.

We have evolved. We are a contemporary people.

Language has power. Pay attention to how and when you choose to use what words.

If it happened in the Americas, then we were there. The history of America *is* our history.

This is the land of our ancestors, we are connected to it, and we continue to want to protect it.

Reclaiming, preserving, and passing on our culture is more important than blood quantum.

Keep educating yourself. As awareness grows, so does understanding, and ultimately we are empowered be better allies and to make positive change.