I care deeply about education. I care deeply about education for Native youth. By vocation, I work hard to bring the very best education into every classroom serving Indian Country. But my grandmother was NOT a Cherokee, and that’s okay.
I appreciate all that our educational system has contributed to the youth of this nation. But, I also appreciate that some of our forefathers used education for the wrongs reasons. They used it as a tool to destroy indigenous culture and assimilate a diverse population of Native Americans into the dominant culture of the time. And while the dominant culture has moved on from this bleak era, the scars still run deep in Native minds. Seven generations past and seven generations into the future are in the hearts of each Native soul. These souls still feel the sting of wounds from the past and exhaustion from too many sleepless nights worrying about the future.
We have moved on, yet we bestow onto them an educational system that is born from a dominant culture; propagating traditions, history and values that are foreign to Native peoples. This system disconnects Native students from their rich cultural heritage, traditional languages and oral history. But, we don’t see it. We don’t get it.
I could recite all of the statistics that support the deplorable state of Native youth in the United States. Suicide rates, alcoholism and drug abuse rates, dropout rates –you name them, they are the worst in the land, by a long-shot. But here’s the thing…when you know the system is broken -very broken- you try to fix it. And you give it all you have got.
When I look around the education landscape, I see some amazing things happening in indigenous education. Look at the Native American Community Academy (NACA) and the NACA-Inspired schools, the WoLakota Project, the increasing number of Native teachers who are National Board Certified…and our HEART Initiative.
Since we have established that my non-existent, long-lost Cherokee grandmother is not the motivation for this work, you might ask why? The answer is a simple one -when you know better, you need to do better. We can’t just stand by and watch Native American students fail because they are part of a system that was once used to destroy their culture. There are many ways for you to engage and support our work. Share our website with people who know (or should know) what’s going on in Native education, feel free to reach out and ask questions, or consider funding our work. Please, do something. Because the only way we fail is if we all knowingly keep heading down the wrong path and we do nothing new and different about making it better. Thanks for your support.
Learn more about the HEART Initiative here.