As a native woman and student that has attended years of private, public and boarding schools, I have seen my fair share of bullies from all social classes. I have also found that bullying can be from adults towards their students. This situation is one that I have experienced personally as well.
My professor at the time had suggested I should get my learning capabilities tested to determine whether I was a visual learner, a student that focused better via lecture, or if just by reading.
I at first didn’t understand why I would need this done at all, since I knew what I could retain and how I learned from my own life experiences, so in confusion I called my mother asking her opinion. It infuriated her to find that they were doing this to me alone as well as to the one native student they had attending the school. She explained further to me that in the previous years they did this to native students as a way of demeaning them and passing them off with mental issues, such as retardation or with attention deficit.
These issues concerned, so I decided to talk to my adviser at the school about her thoughts, considering she was not only an academic adviser but had experience in therapy. She had also recalled that this was what had happened in the past but thought that it most likely wasn’t the teacher’s intention. I had previously had issues with the teacher and wanted to believe the best but had constantly had feelings of the worst possible scenario believing that she was fully capable of something along the historical lines.
In the end, I had to take the daylong test with a psychologist, who had told me everything I already knew about myself. For the rest of the year however, I had all of these thoughts and became very aware of how different this teacher treated me in comparison to the other students. Even visiting the school was uncomfortable when I ran into the teacher; while the encounter was cordial she was not as enthused to greet me as much as she was to my friends and classmates.
In a related article done by Indian Country Today, on September 24, a first grade native boy from Northern California was reported that his teacher punched him in the arm after he didn’t immediately sit down when the class was told to do so.
No matter what race the child is, violence against children is wrong, especially from those who are being employed to be role models to children.
However, what makes this story important for native people is that this is not the first instance that violence and discrimination has happened in the Northern California schools.
Being targeted by students, teachers and administrators is one of the most common and historic issues for indigenous students around the world. While there are plenty of awareness programs provided by the government, religious groups, and town communities, discrimination almost always comes down to a person’s level of respect and education.
The fact that both of these situations have involved a teacher, is it the education system at fault? Or is it just these individuals?