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Speaking of the Indian Narrative

I had read Gyasi Ross, the Blackfeet attorney and writer who lives among the Suquamish so I was happy to be able to hear him speak at the final assembly of NIEA on Sunday. I look forward to meeting him.
Gyasi greeted the attendees with enthusiasm for his story and centered his remarks in the influences on the Indian narrative. I appreciated him saying that the Native educators who have the good fortune to educate our Native youth have the future of the Indian narrative in our hands. I was reminded of the words of my father who when I was very young and I called some boy a “bucky Indian”, said that was what wasicu (white people) called the full bloods because they did not speak English well and were reserved. He said it was a bad word, he said I was talking about him. It reminded me of the teachings of great Native writers like Scott Momaday who I first heard as a young college student speak to the power of the words we choose to use as Indian writers. Our words, our descriptors of ourselves are powerful, they are gifts that come from our hearts and minds into the world to create a public version of who we are.
Recent experiences reinforced for me the importance of the narrative being shared by Native people. We are not victims, our children are not lost, we are not alone. Our children are not hidden, they are visible to the Creator and to us. We live in abundant cultures, we are rich in family and spiritual relationships. Poverty has taken a terrible toll on us and on many other people in this country. It is poverty that we as educators must help our people overcome. Education enriches our lives and gives our children opportunities. They will be better relatives with a good education. They will be prosperous and able to participate in our Native ways and in the redistribution of wealth that is the foundation of our traditional economies.
As Gyasi shared, educators influence through their words and actions. Tribal leaders guide educators no matter where our children go to school by setting high standards for access and high expectations for learning. I am at NCAI now, where I see the partnership between tribal leaders and tribal educators unfold through the words that communicate those standards and expectations.

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