Trump is playing on your stupidity.

I’ve always felt this way, especially when people tell me the horrifying line “But he says what everyone is thinking.”

If everyone is thinking Mexicans are rapists?
If everyone is thinking Muslims are terrorists?
If everyone is thinking Native Americans are destroying his business schemes?
Then we have more problems than I thought.  I hope people aren’t thinking that way.

I cringe when Trump talks.  He literally has no idea what he is doing.  For a businessman, you would think he could answer a question.

Why does he sound like a moron when he talks?  Well, here’s a video about his speeches being at the 4th grade level.

And if it seems like Trump knows how to manipulate the stupid, it’s because he’s talked at length before on how to do it.  It is all a “publicity stunt”, and he outlines his strategy very clearly, as revealed by the beginning of this video.

 

I’m not saying you should support a non-Trump candidate, because the options aren’t very pleasant.  But if you can flat out say you support what Trump has to say, I have no respect for your support of a sexist, racist, xenophobic bigot.  Even if it’s all part of his “publicity stunt”.  This is verging on promoting hate crimes.  Actually, he’s probably gone beyond that, I’m just sick of listening to him.

riding the earth.

from Earth MovementsTohono O’odham poetry translated

She said she felt the earth move again.
I never knew whether she meant she felt a tremor
or whether it was the rotation of the earth.
I like to think she felt the rotation, because
anyone can feel a tremor.

And when she felt this
she could see herself
standing on the earth’s surface.
Her thick, wide feet solidly planted,
toes digging in.
Her visualization so strong
she almost feels her body arch
against the centrifugal force of the rotation.
She sees herself with her long hair floating,
floating in the atmosphere of stardust.
She rides her planet the way a child rides a toy.
Her company is the boy who takes the sun on its daily journey
and the man in the moon smiles as she passes by.

L’utilisation d’Inès Serrano dans la Pièce Huis Clos par Jean-Paul Sartre

Found an old paper of mine from when I was living in Arles, France.  For my History of Theatre course.

Kayla DeVault
Le 25 juillet 2013
L’histoire du théâtre

L’utilisation d’Inès Serrano dans la Pièce Huis Clos par Jean-Paul Sartre

La pièce du théâtre, Huis Clos, était publiée par Jean-Paul Sartre en 1944, juste avant de la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale.  L’histoire est au sujet de trois personnes – Garcin, Inès, et Estelle – qui sont trappés ensemble dans une salle en Enfer.  Ils restent dans la salle et ne voient qu’un garçon a la porte fermée.  Après quelques temps, c’est évident qu’Inès aime Estelle, Estelle aime Garcin, et Garcin cherche pour leur foi de ses histoires et ses actions.  Ils torturent leur-mêmes par leurs pensées et leurs avis et chaque personne ne peut pas trouver un miroir pour voir soi-même comme il veut.  Sans miroirs et sans sortie, ils découvrent éventuellement qu’ils sont leurs tortureurs, l’un l’autre.

Huis Clos est souvent analysé pour ses manifestes politiques à cause de sa coïncidence et sa juxtaposition avec l’Occupation de la France par l’Allemagne pendant la guerre.  Sartre soi-même était une partie de la résistance contre cet Occupation.  L’écriture de cette époque et de la France était souvent une proclamation artistique et un peu dangereuse contre le gouvernement nouveau.  Cependant, il y a des autres parties scandaleuses dans Huis Clos en addition à la comparaison de l’Occupation à l’Enfer : Sartre, un hétérosexuel très connu, a souvent écrit des pièces avec des personnages homosexuelles.  En Huis Clos en particulaire, ce personnage est Inès Serrano.

La présence des personnages homosexuels en écriture pendant cette époque est vraiment plus rare et bizarre.  Pendant la guerre en particulier, il y avait beaucoup de haïr et peur autour du monde contre les blacks, les juives, et les homosexuels.  En lisant Huis Clos et réalisant l’utilisation d’un personnage homosexuel, on peut penser que Sartre suggère que les homosexuels sont damnés à cause de leurs choix.  Cependant, si on continue de lire le texte, on trouve qu’Inès est damnée à cause d’une « affaire avec Florence » (55), la femme d’un ami qui puis les a tué.  Elle suggère souvent pendant l’histoire qu’elle est une lesbienne avec des petites phrases, comme quand elle dit « en chemise ou non, je n’aime pas beaucoup les hommes » (34).  Donc des questions importantes restent pour demander : Pourquoi Sartre a choisi une lesbien pour comprimer une des quatre personnages dans cette pièce et comment elle effet l’histoire ?

La première observation est la plus simple : l’existence d’un personnage homosexuelle vraiment rend possible l’histoire.  C’était nécessaire de créer plus que deux personnages dans la salle pour ajouter la torture et les effets plus dramatiques sur les esprits de l’un l’autre.  On peut écrire une histoire avec deux hommes et une femme, mais la présence d’un lesbien dans Huis Clos supprime plus tension entre les personnages et limite les solutions possibles au problème romantique par les intérêts de chaque personnage.  Au contraire, quand il y a deux hommes et une fille, la fille peut change ses préférences sans réservation.  Les personnages dans Huis Clos ont un choix seul : Inès peut aimer Estelle et Estelle et Garcin peut aimer l’un l’autre, mais Garcin refuse.  C’est Inès qui a l’intelligence pour découvrir que « le bourreau, c’est chacun de nous pour les deux autres » (42).  Cette observation fait la distance entre les trois.

La deuxième observation est un peu plus complexe : avoir une personnage lesbienne comme Inès permit une contraste forte contre une personnage hétérosexuelle comme Estelle.  Estelle est très, très féminine ; elle est un peu bête et complètement consumée par les miroirs et son apparence.  C’est la même apparence et beauté qu’Inès adore.  Estelle refuse Inès, puis Garcin refuse Estelle comme il refuse la compagnie des deux femmes.

La personnage d’Inès donc a cette niche entre les autres : elle dote sur Estelle, conduit la femme de fuir a Garcin qui est compliqué par sa couardise.  Cette couardise, la cause de son abandonnement de l’armée, est la même chose qu’Inès se moque sans réserve.  Elle a une personnalité très forte, honnête, et direct.  Inès n’a pas peur de dire qu’ils sont « en enfer !  Damnés !  Damnés ! » (41), quelque chose qu’Estelle voudrait oublier.  Elle n’a pas honte de parler des choses qui blesse la fierté de Garcin, mais elle protège Estelle avec les mots doux et polîtes.  Inès est très directe, comme quand elle dit à Garcin « Ne me touchez pas.  Je déteste qu’on me touche.  Et gardez votre pitié. » (66)  Parce qu’Inès est une lesbienne, elle peut ignorer Garcin, être gentille avec Estelle, et donc conduire la torture mentale entre les trois sans révocation de son personnage naturel.

Avoir un personnage homosexuel dans Huis Clos est donc très vitale pour la compréhension de l’histoire.  Inès est la factor qui conduit naturellement le conflit et la torture mentale parmi les occupants dans la salle en Enfer.  L’utilisation d’un personnage comme Inès est encore rare pour l’époque, mais Huis Clos soi-même est vraiment radicale pour une histoire écrit pendant l’Occupation allemande de la France.  Sans Inès, on ne peut pas vraiment sens l’effet de l’Enfer français de l’époque.

Sartre, Jean-Paul.  Huis Clos.  Editions Gallimard, 1947.

this is white supremacy.

It’s already difficult working in policy where you have to talk about intricate things like paradigms and culturally-relevant language.  Try speaking to government leaders – who make important decisions affecting tribes – about very specific tribal philosophy.  Many of those leaders still fail to realize tribe exist, that they have a supposed sovereign status, and that their culture is unique and rich.  If there’s any concept of a Native culture, it’s usually some Hollywood-inspired, Pan-Indian misconception.

More often than not, policy and projects are entrenched in this White Savior Complex as almost this default residual of past Manifest Destiny tradition.  This can be hard to see.  For example, NGO projects look well-intentioned on the outside, but in reality they are just a tool of modern colonization.  One group assumes power through knowledge and resources over another, comes in to “fix” that community’s problems, and meanwhile fails to connect at a cultural level that respects the community’s traditional wisdom, values, and belief system.

Epistemology is a popular term in Navajo Philosophy.  In many ways, it describes how Native cultures have knowledge and wisdom in Pre-Columbian times.  The problem is the lenses of Western society fail to acknowledge the credibility in that knowledge.

Epistemology studies the nature of knowledge, the rationality of belief, and justification. Much of the debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truthbelief, andjustification,[2][3] (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification.

Not acknowledging the complex culture and wisdom of non-Western societies is the horrible error made by Europeans who attempted to colonize the Americas.  Manifest Destiny was based completely on this concept of “inferiority”.  Despite the incredible Aztec temples that are still visited by tourists today, the white leaders of the Manifest Destiny era only saw wild, untamed societies who lacked their God.  A lot of the NGO work that is done today has nuances and undertones of the same superiority-inferiority complex.  But critiquing work for not incorporating traditional wisdom or philosophical paradigms is just one small but intricate piece of lingering white supremacy.  Some of it is far more blatant.

How can we progress when leaders are making public announcements that white people built the world?  That white people are the reason for everything great?  That Christianity has done nothing but save everyone?  Anyone with a true understand of World Civilizations and an unbiased perspective will see this is far from true.  But Representative Steve King, a Republican in Iowa, is convinced otherwise.

While on a panel discussion with MSNBC host Chris Hayes, discussing the racial makeup of the Republican Party on the first day of its convention, Mr. King blatantly declared that nonwhite “subgroups” have not contributed to society.  The conversation began when Mr. Hayes commented about diversity maybe finally making its way into the party.  The conversation continued as such:

Mr. King: “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie.  I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about?  Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
Mr. Hayes: “Than white people?”
Mr. King: “Than Western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”
(Panelist frantic shouting)
April Ryan (reporter on panel): “What about Africa? What about Asia?”

As if the Chinese invented nothing.  As if the Mayans did nothing.  Or Indians.  Or Egyptians.  What about the impressive skills of the Maori?  All of the scholars and scientists who have come from the continent of Africa?  Or this site, describing a vastly non-white number of civilizations that are widely considered some of the most “advanced” civilizations on earth?  My Archaeoastronomy course in college that studied ancient Native civilizations as being complex in ceremony and their knowledge of multidimensional math to follow the pattern of celestial bodies?   And construct large buildings around it?

The fact that we have people like that in power is terrifying.  His mentality is not very different from that of Hitler’s when you think about it.  Christianity saved the world?  Christianity has also been responsible for mass genocide for thousands of years.

strangers.

Everyone has a purpose in our lives.  Sometimes, it would seem like people only exist to anger us or annoy us.  But there’s a purpose to why they’re there.

Or, maybe we retroactively assign the purpose.

But,

Whatever the case,

There’s a take-away from each account.

Sometimes those people are only people in our lives because we passively encounter them in public.  We may never say a word to them, or even look directly at them.  We might only overhear a comment they make, and then they move on.  That moment might be the only moment in all of history that we are near that person, never to see them again.  But what they say, we might hear it.  And it might stick with us.  And if it angers us, it might become fuel for us.

Today, I am writing from Phoenix.  It is currently 106F.  Hot, yes, but not as hot as it gets in the summer here.  To be honest, I like the heat.  I think it’s because I’m always cold.  People pull me out of the sun constantly, saying “Stand in the shade!”  I just say, “I sit in the shade too much.  I need this.”  It feels good.  It makes vitamins.

I miss the forests.  I miss the moisture and the greenery.  I want so badly to swim, but there are very few rivers or lakes to swim in.  The absence of these things really tear at me.

But I also love the desert.  I love its resilience.  I love the chemistry of its skies.  I love its living geology.  Its biodiversity becomes so much more evident to me as I drive from the Chuska Mountains to the Sonora Desert.  Elevation has an incredible effect on beings.  We must adapt to our environments.

Unless you’re a human in Phoenix.

At lunch, I overheard a conversation about weather.  The man beside me was complaining about the cold.  He insisted living in cold weather was illogical and nearly impossible.  It was too much work to shovel snow off a car.  It was too cold to warm back up again.  All you needed to do was live where it is hot, run some air-conditioning, and feel comfortable.

This person, I might never see him again.  I never looked at his face, just his right shoe.  I don’t know his name.  What I do know is that he has no regard for the environment, no concept of the climate crisis, no idea of how social status affects one’s access to things like electricity and climate control.  Based on his comments during the conversation, he lives in Phoenix because he lives in an isolated, indoor environment, completely detached from the reality surrounding him in the environment, on tribal lands, and on the international southern border.  The woman across from him even described a friend of hers as being someone “interested in environmental rights or whatever you call it”.  Like, what?

This person could easily mean nothing to me, but was he really without purpose?  Whoever he is, he did contribute in one way or another to my view of Phoenix, of Arizona, of the United States, of the world.  It is a valid point that people don’t understand that air-conditioning is no global solution.  It is true that these people don’t realize the seriousness of living the way people live in Phoenix, the heart of a desert enclosed by tribal and park lands to the point that its growth is severely limited without infringing on environmental and/or indigenous rights.

Sometimes, we have to overhear the ignorant comments and conversations.  Without them, we wouldn’t know where to make corrections.  We wouldn’t know how to identify progress.  We would be stagnant.

In a way, strangers represent an entire population.  The majority of a population will likely always be strangers anyway.  It’s the ideas they have, the things they think and say, and their inability to see through other perspectives that become my concern.  That’s where I see the importance of strangers to my career path and my life.  Without these strangers demonstrating street ignorance, I might not realize the severity of such gaps in perspectives and understanding of critical topics.

Yahdilah…y Pa’lante!

COP22.

Today, was invited to – and officially accepted – COP22 as a U.S. delegate.  I don’t think it has completely set in yet.  Honestly, receiving a cheery call from Morgan Curtis of SustainUs feels cheery in and of itself; realizing that’s she’s really saying, “See you in Morocco to push amazing global policy work on climate change and the environment!” is a whole other thing.  To think, 10 years ago today I was stressing out over which shows my high school, Celtic Rock band would or would not choose to play in…Actually, 10 years ago this summer I was competing in my first Junior Olympics in Detroit.  But that’s besides the point.  The reality is, 10 years ago today I never imagined I would be more than a female violinist behind a male-dominated music ensemble, or more than a defenseman on a team I hardly made the cut for.

It’s exciting to see all of my work come together.  What’s the most exciting is not a day goes by without me realizing how much of my work came from my grandmothers.  My paternal grandmother, who just had her 87th birthday on Friday, taught me work ethic.  She’s been independent for decades.  In fact, she’s been independent her whole life.  The only girl among many brother and half-brothers, she always held her own.  She worked a whole slew of jobs, bought her own cars, and even worked to keep the farm afloat when her husband died and she was on the verge of poverty.

Then there’s my maternal grandmother, teaching more than maybe she realized.  I’ve traced my lineage through a line of medicine people, the clan I’m enrolled in, and it seems fitting.  The emphasis she placed on plants.  The central part gardening played in our lives growing up.  Making salads of Lovage from her Salad Bowl…It has all translated into my work today.  It has taken me some time, but I finally realize how many people have lost this common sense.  That’s why so much of my work is dedicated to food sovereignty, seed saving practices, and native seed banks.

One thing I love about engineering is how flexible it can be.  I learn all of the tools to apply it to fancy technology, but there’s a whole other realm of possibilities too.  That realm is where engineering overlaps with the most basic concepts.  “Expounding on traditional knowledge” is probably my favorite way to describe it.  It’s taking engineering to analyze why certain traditional farming and other techniques work, then looking at how to make them even more efficient or effective.  Water use and resource management.  Seed cleaning, saving, and distribution.  Even traditional structures.  (Did you know kivas utilize convection to function?)

It’s hard to imagine, based on how I grew up, that people don’t raise their own food, that they don’t know how to grow it or how to save seeds.  But I’m realizing how much that is the reality.  Through the local programs our AISES group has been collaborating with, I’ve been able to work with Working in Beauty, members from COPE, and a variety of other organizations to tackle food sovereignty topics on both the educational as well as policy levels.  Outreach.  Outreach.  Outreach.

If you ever want me to speak at your function, be sure to contact my agent.  Just kidding…my agent’s on vacation this month. 😉

lemonade.

I have been avoiding listening to Lemonade by Beyonce.  Why?  Because I don’t really care about Beyonce’s music, and I most certainly don’t care about “celebrities”.  (Seriously, people ask if I “keep up” with such-and-such…but WHO CARES.  They are people, we are people, and we obsess over details in their lives, details we don’t even care to know about our neighbors.  In that way, modern society is pathetic, imho.)  However, I finally listened to the whole album in the last 24 hours.  And I’m not sure I’ll be able to encapsulate the disappointment and hurt the album caused me, but I’ll try.

From what I’ve popularly heard about Lemonade, people have praised its musical power – specifically in having elements the closest to blues that Beyonce has ever had.  However, some friends I know have praised it (undeservingly, in my opinion) for its powerful black woman message and its unique, poetic sound.  Let me just say first of all: I haven’t listened to much Beyonce, but this album sounded exactly like the Destiny’s Child album I have from 2000-something where she dramatically quotes the Bible.  She’s changed…so much (sarcasm).  And while I do love certain motifs regarding the sacredness of matrilineal heritage and womanhood, I find that she completely destroys those values.  Her “powerful” message was nothing but insulting and weak as I heard it.  In fact, the messages I was hearing were so triggering and upsetting for a person who has been through experiences she was glorifying that I actually had to walk away and keep myself from having a panic attack.

I was thoroughly disturbed by the message she was sending.  After listening to the whole album, I still am.  This is not an album to emulate.  This album brings shame to women.  It hurts me to think people call this “strength”, but I guess these people haven’t experienced the things I have.  If you did, you would likely be triggered in the same way and be revolted by Beyonce’s weakness.  And the argument that she’s so strong for making lemons out of lemonade, for making an album like this out of her pain?  Okay, cool, she’s exploiting true women’s issues for profit.  I don’t admire that.  Who the F*** would admire that.  Especially as a person living and coming from Indian Country, glorifying a man making the sacredness of a woman un-sacred – and her accepting of it – is absolutely sacrilegious, damaging, and horrifying.  Maybe it’s the privilege of not having experienced what I have experienced that makes people fall in love with this kind of bullsh*t.

Lemonade
The album consists of a number of songs: 1) Pray You Catch Me, 2) Hold Up, 3) Don’t Hurt Yourself, 4) Sorry, 5) 6 Inch, 6) Daddy Lessons, 7) Love Drought, 8) Sandcastles, 9) Forward, 10) Freedom, 11) All Night, 12) Formation, and 13) Lemonade.  In the music video, there are interludes of text read the same way Destiny’s Child read the Commandments in their previous work.

Pray You Catch Me starts off in an intriguing way.  Beyonce is in a field, without makeup.  There’s a southern feeling like Savannah to it with women in dresses.  But Beyonce immediately starts off talking about men in a way that implies abuse is “tradition”, that it is inherited.  That it is a curse.  She even suggests suicide from her distraught, demonstrating how completely vulnerable she is.  Fasting, abstaining from anything that makes her happy, acting like womanhood is less than human…everything about the first track and a half screams shame on women, and men are in control.

NOT.  POWERFUL.

The scene is in this extortionist style of film, dramatic but not settling in how it portrays womanhood.  It talks about self-sacrifice, about no matter how much she tries to make herself a better person, she is still bent out of shape over the idea that her husband has cheated on her.  I literally can hear nothing but I’M WEAK I’M WEAK I’M WEAK, I am not an example for young women.  It makes you think: maybe she’ll evolve?

She never does.  She just gets weaker.

Hold Up is about ANGER.  It is about not being able to control yourself.  Beyonce rattles on about how her cheating husband is the best, how she loves him, asking why would he treat her like this if she’s the best.  She’s going through his phone.  She says, “Imma f*** me up a b*tch”…”What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy?”

WHAT?

Weak.  Pure weakness.  Honey, you’re letting this man rule your life.  Do me a favor and STOP PROMOTING THAT THIS IS OKAY.  It is HARMING our COMMUNITIES when women default to thinking this way!!!

To make matters worse, she goes into this dark poetry, discussing how she’ll take on the appearance of this other woman.  She’ll wear her face, her hair, her skin – basically saying, use my body if you think it’s this woman you love more and I won’t complain.

This.

Is.

So.

Wrong.

I CAN’T EVEN!  From a women’s rights, anti-women’s-violence perspective, I literally just can’t even… (Yes, that’s me going into teenage sass-mode, but I can’t even.  Can’t even so much that I just can’t…I just…can’t.)

Oh, but wait!  She mentions her father’s violence against her mother.  Strangulation.  Brilliant.  So now we painted this picture with violence and somehow justified it in the name of broken love (which, sorry, but it doesn’t exist anymore.  Not after all of this.)  She mentions that everyone else can see her, but he can’t.  And this disturbs me too.  This attitude that, just because someone is a celebrity, they are a “catch”.  F*ck, no.  People are people.  If you think a celebrity is a catch, you’re probably just sexualizing her body.  Probably because she exploits it for fame.  And that’s not the f*** okay.

I’m also not a fan of how she exploits men.  Women don’t talk as much about this topic because women are currently much more exploited than men, but it’s not like it doesn’t happen in the other direction.  Her sassy, “strong” look is merely accompanied by language like “dick boy”, how she’s going to walk out on her husband for what he’s done.  There are traces of strength in this song, but not in any degree worth applauding when you look at the abusive language she chooses.  Also, she quotes Malcolm X, saying that black women are the most unprotected and neglected Americans.  That’s actually not true, but close to true.  Violence against Native women is considerably higher.  Like, appallingly higher.  (It’s not a pity fest, and I understand why she put it in there because black women need respect in society, but I’m just making that point.  Not enough people hear it.)

In her Apathy monologue, Beyonce compares what her husband has done to her as killing her.  This is insulting, as many women are actually killed because they won’t leave their abusive husbands.  Beyonce was cheated on, and yet she won’t leave him.  I don’t know, isn’t that kind of hypocritical?  In some way, isn’t that privilege?  Either way, it’s not doing anything to hold up women in bad situations.

Her song Sorry, she wears some kind of tribal painting and hints that she’s leaving him.  But she doesn’t.  Oh, actually, she becomes a complete hypocrite.  This song is about how he’s “interrupting [her] grinding”, in other words an “eye for an eye”.  That is NOT something to EMULATE!  Seriously.  I was expecting a powerful album out of this, not hypocrisy and weakness.  She even suggests killing herself again, suicide.  It’s disgusting.  She pathetically ends a song, crying “Come back, come back, come back…”

She talks about abuse.  Physical and sexual abuse.  Father and husband abuse.  She normalizes it.

She repeats, “You are the love of my life.”  Over and over and over again.

“10 times out of 9 I know you’re lying”, she says.  “You’re my lifeline, are you tryna kill me?” she asks.  Then she says, the only way to go is up, she says her skin has gotten thick and she’s tough.

Beyonce is literally saying toughness = weakness.  Toughness is dealing with problems you should be LEAVING.  This is what we see in Indian Country, this dependency.  THIS is what you should never teach your daughter.  THIS is an example of severe weakness, of needing help.  Beyonce is making this look like strength.  I am disgusted by it.  (Also, anyone else catch the New Orleans Indian headdress exploitation?  Yeah, sore topic.  Thanks, Beyonce, for sexualizing the headdress yet again.)

Her next section is Forgiveness, and I wish I had an album in hand so I could smash it to a million pieces and make something useful out of it.

Sandcastles.  Letting another woman completely tear her apart.

Freedom.  The idea that returning to a cheating husband is somehow freedom or strength.

Redemption.  Comparing the strength of her grandmother to the choices she’s making today.  That, to me, is an insult.  That is not how you honor your ancestors.  “Nothing real can be threatened” should mean a real woman can move on and be strong.  Instead, Beyonce twists her grandmother’s words to justify her weakness and her dependency.

All Night.  Trusting again.  Like, are you joking me.

I’m sorry but, as a woman defined by our lovely government as a person of color, I seriously cannot tolerate this.  I fight too hard on the policy level to allow mentalities such as the one perpetuated by Beyonce to solidify in the minds of women in our communities.  We face the highest rates of violence, rape, assault, you name it.  Abusive relationships are so rampant, we become numb to it.  When Beyonce writes an album like this, she’s touching people who feel the same because they’ve been through it – then she proceeds to normalize the abuse and to justify accepting it.  It’s so freaking damaging, I’m literally in shock that people are okay with it.  Does no one else feel this?  Maybe you have to feel what she’s talking about to realize it’s so wrong.  The irony of it all.

It took me reading other articles with the same vein of thought to realize I’m not alone.  I just wish more people could see it.  Because they can’t, well that points exactly to why certain elements of this society are crumbling.

Eurocentric Curricula: A Modern-Day Colonizer of Young Minds and Perspectives

This is a paper I did for HST102 at Dine College.  I probably could have written thirty pages, but I already went over the limit…

 

Kayla DeVault

Dr. King

World Civilizations 102

20 April 2016

Eurocentric Curricula: A Modern-Day Colonizer of Young Minds and Perspectives

Formal public education in the United States has its roots in the American Colonia Era. During this era, Christianity and white supremacy affected every aspect of political and social life in the United States as well as in many places in Europe or colonized by European countries. With an educational system being borne from this era, it is therefore understandable that the subsequent system be entrenched in Christian values and a Eurocentric perspective on the world and on racial equality. As eras have passed, more and more work has been done by the government and pressuring citizens to rewrite the curriculum, resulting in changes of religious content in curricula, the inclusion of a more racially diverse student body, and even topics like anthropology that explore more human histories. However, are the curricula in public schools still heavily Eurocentric? In particular, how are the histories First Americans portrayed today in these systems, if at all, and how does it reflect on how they portray themselves?

Until the Indian Citizenship of 1924, any Native American who did not relinquish his or her tribal citizenship could not be considered an American citizen. In some ways, becoming a citizen of both a tribal nation and the United States was controversial as it could be seen as undermining tribal sovereignty. Even so, this change means that it has been less than a century that Native American histories have become part of American history rather than an “us vs. them” viewpoint, i.e. a Eurocentric perspective. The question is whether or not the curriculum has shifted to reflect this societal change. Considering the heightened “Indians and Cowboys” film activities in the 1950s and 1960s, the American obsession with “us vs. them” and the Plains Indians cultures prohibited non-Indian Americans from seeing anything but the 1800s, stereotypical Indian fighting invading frontiersmen.

Even as the American Indian Movement rose alongside other Civil Rights movements in the 1970s, old-fashioned mentalities continued to affect modern Natives. The involuntary sterilization of thousands of Native women by the Indian Health Service during this era, under the guise of “helping” Native communities, demonstrates the prevalence of this outdated, “us vs. them” concept of Indians in the popular American viewpoint. Furthermore, the continued lack of coverage on such acts of genocide reinforces the disparities in including Indians in American history. Yet this is merely one example; American Indian histories extend for thousands of years over thousands of miles, and those histories are living. How well is our public school system doing to address such an enormous spread of topics and in a way that is culturally appropriate, accurate, and inclusive?

One of the first methods used for reviewing the curricula in public schools was to study the guidelines for Social Studies provided by the Bureau of Education. Various public school superintendents, from Flagstaff to Tuba City, confirmed that the Arizona Bureau of Education’s standards are the best resource for studying the curriculum of social studies from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Having also been a student in the Pennsylvania public school system, I spent some time analyzing that curriculum as well. I also took Advanced Placement United States History (APUSH), and so materials were reviewed for APUSH as another “American History Standard”. In all areas, the curriculum was reviewed for: 1) inclusion of Native histories; 2) presentation of Native peoples as historic-only, contemporary-only, or both; 3) breadth of Native cultures included; 4) emphasis on local history, including local tribes; 5) perspective on Native histories (Eurocentric or unbiased); 6) included or excluded historic events that are significant in Indian Country; and 7) Navajo history, especially the Long Walk.

Having attended several public and private schools in Pennsylvania, I am particularly interested in the changes being made to curricula as well as where there are still disparages. Indian mascots are used widely across eastern States, yet so many curricula fail to educate students on proper Native history, thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle of ignorance. One of my private schools is currently looking into a curriculum revision that includes training teachers on how to present materials in ways that are more culturally inclusive. In a conversation with my former school’s headmaster, she described the old curriculum as being “written and presented from the view of the oppressor”. In my years at that school and others, I can only recall a focus on the Removal Act, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, and a very general view of Indian Policy. Otherwise, topics included “Indians”. My younger brother was even given an “Indian name” in 5th grade, and we were both made to create paper headdresses to celebrate Thanksgiving. These activities not only inaccurately depict past and present Native peoples, but they also assume no Native child is on the receiving end of that education by the nature of how the information is presented. These lapses contribute to the Eurocentric curriculum perspective.

Today, education in Pennsylvania still lags behind in quality like much of the nation, but changes in the curriculum are evident. In fact, after reviewing resources for public education standards in Pennsylvania, I was pleased to discover some social studies curricula specifically geared to dispel “Indian” stereotypes in young students. One example of this is a 3rd grade activity that focuses on Anishinabe peoples relative to the Great Lakes region of the United States. This activity introduces students to past and present cultures of the various Anishinabe/Ojibwe people, discussing both original and contemporary locations. The culture and tradition of the Ojibwe people are studied in depth. The class is then tasked with researching the topic of migration of the peoples and reflecting on this migration’s role to culture. Another section, specified for grades 3 through 5, is “Not ‘Indians’, Many Tribes: Native American Diversity”. The point of this section is to show similar interactions between environment and culture for the Abenaki, Hopi, and Kwakiutl Nations. Students are asked to contrast and compare these wildly different groups and to demonstrate how their environment has shaped their cultures. These activities are encouraging to find in the curriculum guidelines because they demonstrate an effort to dispel stereotypes and create a better understanding of native peoples in both a past and present context.

However, not everything in Pennsylvania’s standard curriculum is up-to-date. While the examples found were great ones, they are not representative of the efforts across the board. These two examples were perhaps the only examples that could be made of this myth debunking, and the word “Navajo” only returned results for a collection of poems under a long list of books recommended under one track of high school history. Searches for the term “Long Walk” returned nothing, and so it is expected that even an intensive scouring of commonly used textbooks in the Pennsylvania curriculum will likely result in very little representation of significant southwest tribal history. Even the vocabulary used by these curricula to teach the most disgraceful parts of American history is rather biased. Textbooks are quick to describe the actions of Nazi Germany as “genocide” by means of “concentration camps”, but the reality is these Nazis replicated American designs that were used against tribal peoples – and yet we continue to use language like “walk”, “march”, “relocation”, and other milder terms.

Furthermore, there are many elements in the Pennsylvania history and social studies curricula that, as they stand, continue to present negative figures in a positive light. One prime example of this is the depiction of Andrew Jackson. As most Americans have likely been educated to believe, Andrew Jackson is generally portrayed as a war hero with many great accomplishments. His face appears on the twenty-dollar bill for this reason. Yet, as many modern Natives understand, and as activists like Deloria Vine, Jr. have loved to remind America, Andrew Jackson is far from a hero. Then how is it that, under the standards for social studies teaching for Pennsylvania on the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson is described as having a victory over the British in New Orleans which made him “a new hero” in the United States? (PDESAS). In fact, the link referenced for more information continues by stating: “Added to his fame as an Indian fighter, this brilliant action propelled him to national prominence and ultimately to election as president in 1828” (American History). How would an Indian student reading that line feel about what it was suggesting? Would it even occur to the other students and teachers who are non-Indian that this passage is an incredibly exclusive piece of “history”? The entire section also seems to fail drastically at educating students on contemporary issues, such as why today Andrew Jackson is so widely rejected as a hero in Indian Country. How could a modern, non-Indian student understand the motion to change the face of the twenty-dollar bill when any portrayals of Andrew Jackson in the public system are so positive?

The standards for education in the southwest are similarly governed by the States. In Arizona, the curriculum prioritizes Native history far more than eastern curricula tend to. Various Superintendents across northern Arizona supported this observation in phone conversations about their schools’ curricula. Just by reviewing the very general outlines Arizona sets for education in high school, topics regarding Native Americans appear in history, geography, and government strands. The first mention is in Paleo-Indian topics; an effort is made to differentiate the various kinds of tribal peoples and their specific inheritance. One section is set aside for the southwest populations, relevant as a local cultural topic. Unlike many other curricula for different states, the Arizona curriculum does require students to analyze the movements of American military and government and how these impacted the cultures and lives of the tribal peoples affected. In the government section, students are required to learn about the voting rights issues Natives faced – not just on a National level in 1924, but also following World War II in Arizona. This section also talks about the Code Talkers.

However, one observation is that the “Long Walk” is never specifically detailed in the curriculum, and neither is its famous eastern counterpart, the “Trail of Tears”. Even in descriptions of Kit Carson, his supervisor Carrelton, and Fort Sumner, many American texts shy away from capturing the true brutality, injustice, and Eurocentric mentality that dominated the era (Gordon-McCutchan). Carson, long praised for his efforts as written in White history, is in fact a criminal by modern standards. Especially among the Navajos, this holds true. Students today should be taught the same perspective, for anything short of that would be at conflict with the human rights topics they cover in other classes. Students on the Navajo Reservation or living near it – or perhaps just in the Southwest in general – should absolutely be made aware of not only this topic in history, but of the shift in perspectives regarding how we now reference it. Imagine if we still read passages on slavery in American history books written by those in support of keeping slavery in the economy. There are some perspectives that have to be updated and erased, so why is it taking so long to change Native American passages?

While it is true that local histories should be emphasized in one curriculum more than another, it is still important that the histories being taught at a national level should cover a significant part of Native histories. The curriculum set in place for APUSH is essentially a national standard for understanding United States History. The scores from the AP exams in this area are capable of earning college credits for high school students pursuing higher education degrees. The curriculum therefore should reflect an intense and holistic view of what is widely accepted as “American history”. Yet, APUSH does not define as “American History” starting at its Independence of 1776 or even in just the years leading into that event. Instead, it defines “American History” as 1491 and beyond. This inclusion of one year before Columbus landed in the Caribbean in a way implies that Native history is a part of the American story, but in reality its purpose is to establish an idea that Native populations have been conquered and how it was done. This is a troubling approach as it disseminates Columbus’ viewpoint on the peoples he and the Europeans after him used to justify their actions: Native peoples in a limited, narrow, and uncivilized context that fails to acknowledge cultural diversity and richness. Without making this distinction between how these “conquerors” viewed Native peoples and how they should be viewed, it becomes increasingly difficult to put contemporary Indian issues into a historical context. For example, just the very idea of “Indian policy” as a blanket term for how to “deal with” Indian peoples perpetuates the blurring of lines between sovereign nations and the “us vs. them” mentality that devastates understanding modern issues faced by tribal governments and citizens in the Americas.

Although the curriculum largely focuses on the “Five Civilized Tribes”, the Spanish missions and encomienda system in the southwest, and some of the political movements from the American Indian Movement in the northern Plains, I saw no indication of Hawai’ian and Alaskan indigenous histories. The Dawes Act and subsequent Indian Reorganization Act is mentioned, but no curriculum notes outline the Residential Boarding School Era, the Navajo Long Walk, the Livestock Reduction, the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, or even the Termination Era of Indian Policy. In fact, Native history seems to end in 1973 with Wounded Knee – although, sadly, that is much more impressive than most histories that end with the Trail of Tears and which fail to portray Natives as living citizens with professional careers.

In addition to these curricula, one business book for business classes at Coconino Community College was analyzed for material relevant to Indian businesses. The book is “The Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Environment of Business” by Bruce D. Fisher and Michael J. Phillips (1998). The purpose of the book is to “[emphasize] the relevance of legal environment topics to business functions” and to present a “strong emphasis on ethics, international law, environmental law, and women’s legal concerns”. After scanning the book’s contents for any coverage on Indian businesses or tribal entities, it was found that Native Americans are mentioned very few times in the text.

On page 459, a section devoted to “Exclusions from Coverage” mentions employer discrimination policies. In this, it explains that Title VII does not apply to Native American tribes, but nothing more is stated to explain why this is so. For the Navajo Nation, for example, there is a complicated business arrangement. Not only is employment priority Navajo (not simply Native American), but all business transactions fall under a complicated bidding process with Navajo Priority 1, Priority 2, and Non-Priority. Indian services provided by the Federal government, on the other hand, are Indian Preference. This concept is so widely misunderstood by the non-Indian population that it should be emphasized in all business texts. In a school like Coconino Community College, surrounded by Indian Country, it is somewhat surprising that is excluded. Another mention, on page 783, casually describes the Department of Energy attempting “to convince Native American tribes to accept [nuclear] wastes on their reservations in exchange for federal money”, as if this is ethical business practice (Fisher).

All in all, it appears as though states are making an effort to be more inclusive of non-biased Native histories that assist in dispelling stereotypes. However, the transition is slow, and it is especially slow in areas where there are less Native students or Native populations – i.e. areas that may have a higher tendency to not see Natives in a modern perspective and who would, therefore, benefit from these contemporary lessons the most. So many curricula focus on the expulsion of Spanish powers from the southwest without consideration that people already lived there. That is why incorporating lessons on the Long Walk is such a key point for introducing the atrocities committed by all armies during the 1800s in present-day New Mexico and Arizona. The real story of the Long Walk is not lost among today’s Navajos, however. Modern music about the walk can be heard regularly on KTNN, the local Window Rock radio station. There is also the famous song Shí Naasha, written in 1868, that sums up the true emotions of the walk back from Fort Sumner:

Ahala ahalago naashá ghą

Shí naashá ghą, shí naashá ghą,

Shí naashá lágo hózhǫ’ la.

Shí naashá ghą, shí naashá ghą,

Shí naashá, ladee hózhǫ’ǫ’ lá.

I am going in freedom.

I am going in beauty all around me.

I am going, I am going, in beauty

It is around me.

This song reflects the anxiousness and relief of the people returning. It is also cultural significant when one realizing the story and the impact of reentering the boundaries of the four sacred mountains. Furthermore, “walking in beauty” and “harmony” play such an important part to Navajo culture, and seeing it as such a positive way to recover from Fort Sumner demonstrates the resilience and cultural strength of the Navajo people. The spirituality is completely interlocked with their experience at Fort Sumner, despite the conditions and lack of hope. Their song and prayer is what kept them together. These are things students are not able to learn from modern curricula and therefore are not able to understand wholesomely when visiting the Navajo Nation or surrounding areas.

In conclusion, the American education system still has a ways to go before it will be truly and equal and unbiased learning experience. Once students are able to recite the culture, history, capitals, and names of tribal nations as well as they can European ones, they will be closer to understanding the country they actually live in; and once students can stop using descriptors like “African”, “Asian”, “Indian”, and “French” or “Italian” as if they are parallel words, equality will be better established in the way we perceive the world. We have had numerous battles about removing religion from schools; it is time we begin making greater strides to reform the “Native American” curricula in these schools as well.