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Avoid Promoting Stereotypes of Native Americans – Tips & Links Thanksgiving

By Teachers.Net Community
 

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Teaching Children about Native Americans – How teachers can avoid promoting stereotypes
with helpful resources and links at end of article

by Diane Tells His Name, Oglala Lakota

[links edited and updated for 2010]

My name is Diane Tells His Name, Oglala Lakota. I have been an Indian Child foster parent, parent mentor, speaker and concerned mom of native children for many years. I am currently working at a Tribal Cultural Center helping to undo 500 years of “stereotyping” of the First Peoples of this country.

To begin, what do you think of when you think of the word “Indian”? What images immediately come into your mind? If you are like the majority of the population, you will think of dark skinned men on horses dressed in hides and feathers. You will think of buffalo and teepees, war whoops, wagon trains being encircled with the Calvary on the way to “rescue” the pioneers. The Lakota Nation and other Plains People of the Americas is what typically is envisioned when the word “Indian” is brought up. This image is not only incorrect for the other 499 Nations of native people in this country, but it is stereotypical of what people think of when they think of “Indians”.

This image comes from a number of sources, including our own schooling. Think back in elementary school, making Indian “tom-toms” out of oatmeal boxes. “War bonnets” made of construction paper and feathers. Maybe you added “war paint” to your face and stomped around the room patting your hand onto your mouth so as to make the “war whoop.” Just as a reminder, many of the students in your school may have been Indian/Native American, but do you think they would ever come forward after a lesson such as that? (The depiction of the California Mission era is particularly inaccurate and is constantly being revised, with California Indian input.)

Times have changed, but not that much. My own grandchildren (in the 5th, 3rd, 1st grades and preschool), are taunted and ridiculed on the playground, usually on the first or second day of school when the students are allowed to “tell” a bit about themselves and their family. Our family and extended family attend many native gatherings and powwows as do many other native families. The grandchildren speak freely of this and other things our family does, perceived as “odd” or “weird” by non-Native children. Fellow students ask the grandchildren if they live in a teepee, if they have to kill their dinner, if they…if they…if they…

I believe this is due to student’s lack of knowledge regarding native people in this day and age and I applaud those who make the effort and take the time to help the schools become a place of true education and learning.

In addition, to help the grandchildren deal with this, I have made myself available to any of their classes, to come and speak about our people and the other people (Nations) of this country. I make sure to start the lesson with the understanding that we are citizens of two nations…the United States and our Nation of birth (Lakota, Crow, Kumeyaay, etc.) and I make sure to let the classmates know that we

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010 and is filed under *ISSUES, November 2010, Teachers.Net Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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