You Gotta Stop Treating Native American Students Like They're Stupid

You Gotta Stop Treating Native American Students Like They're Stupid

“If you treat someone like they’re a dumb Injun long enough, eventually they become a dumb Injun.”
Jersey
Jersey
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“If you treat someone like they’re a dumb Injun long enough, eventually they become a dumb Injun.”

I am going to start this article with a personal story, just one of many that could have been talked about. The incident herein described has really stuck with me, pushing me to be better than the expectations.

In my Grade 11 University-track Math class, we started the year off in an overcrowded 50 student class. The professor we had at the beginning of the year talked so quietly that you couldn’t hear anything, especially when you were all the way at the back. The first three weeks of class were basically a huge blur of hour-long number-drawings that I, and other students in the back section, could not understand. They eventually separated the class into two different sections, and I got a new teacher. This woman apparently already had some preconceived notions about Native American students, and as I was the only one out of 50 students to be of color and of a perceived disadvantaged background, she was clearly channeling her micro-aggressions towards me. Because calculus and functions builds on itself, the confusion from the first few weeks really got to me. I would put my hand up to ask a question or for some help, I would have to keep it up for at least 10 minutes, as she would either completely ignore me or proceed to go to other students and neglect me of any help. I would have to beg her to let me go to the Native Student Resource room, where they would teach me the lesson. A couple times she made comments about special treatment, missing school for important Indigenous holidays, and one time, I overheard her talking shit about Native American students–how they were not smart enough to be taking university-track classes. She also said that, “no dumb Injun should need calculus. They are not going to university and you don’t need calc to count drug money.” As the only Native taking her class, I really felt personally attacked in that situation.

Here’s a fact: If you refuse to teach someone because they are a “dumb Injun,” eventually they are going to become just that. I became that “dumb Injun” who knew nothing about calculus. I was repeatedly getting strong-armed into dropping out of high school and, trust me, I almost did 20-30 times. I prevailed obviously, as I am writing this in my senior year of college. Don’t worry, I made sure to blow kisses at all the shitty teachers I had on graduation day, all the while rocking my Syracuse University t-shirt and holding my bursary plaque. I was incredibly fortunate, because other Native American students were dropping like flies.

Native Americans are not stupid. Native Americans are not white America’s “dumb Injun” teddy bear, despite what the Lone Ranger and Tonto would have you believe. I say teddy bear because they get really uncomfortable when they are without that comfort of our inferiority. When white society sees a “dumb Injun,” they are seeing a product they created. If you plant a flower underneath the shade of a tree and another in direct sunlight, you’ll see the growth differences. If you seclude Native Americans to a reservation riddled with poverty and unfavorable conditions, then expect them to produce the same results as the fortunate, you are going to see the marked difference.

Truth of the matter is, however uncomfortable it makes white society, many Native Americans have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, Supreme Court Justices, Congresspeople, Members of Parliament, professors, historians, etc, despite these unfavorable conditions. They are continuously breaking the stereotypes of “lazy, drunk, dumb Injuns,” “welfare abusers” and “drug dealers.”

The discrepancy in education lies within the system itself. It is failing us. Many students are forced to drop out of school and then become drug dealers, smugglers, and criminals to survive. A lot of times you hear the same story, “Well, he was an amazing lacrosse player. Not even a freshman in highschool and he’s got Syracuse, Duke, and UNC looking at him.” Well why did they end up where they are? They dropped out before they could even think about signing intent papers. They got messed up in drugs. They got arrested. The potential is there, but they can’t do anything if they cannot even graduate high school.

How can we change this problem? It’s not going to be easy. Funding is definitely a problem, but not the only one. Not every student is going to have thick skin when it comes to the racial divide that occurs when we send kids to off-reservation schools. Teachers have to have sympathy towards the plight Native American students face, not judgement and obvious disdain. Academics have to fit the students, not the students trying to mold to academia.

Native American students out there, I sincerely hope that you persevere through your schooling. Find a support system; maybe a teacher, a student liaison, a group of other Native American students. Find your crew and push yourself to finish whatever degree it is you are working towards. Once you gain all that knowledge, they cannot take it away from you. I wish I could say that that piece of paper does not define who you are, but it does. That is the world we live in. There is going to be obstacles in your way. There will be teachers, professors, and other people in academia who want to keep you from getting an education. You are what they feared you could be, an educated Native. Knowledge truly is power, and they are afraid of what will happen if that power is in our hands. Trust me there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can stop an educated Native.

Cover Image Credit: Twicsy

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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A Day In Immigration Court

"America is a nation founded by immigrants" could not be more true in this space.

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This past month, I started my summer internship with a local immigration attorney. Throughout the summer, I will be observing the day-to-day responsibilities of an immigration law office, which includes observing client appointments, compiling evidence and legal research for cases, and attending hearings at the federal immigration court in New York City. Immigration court is vastly different than anything I had ever experienced, and the harsh reality of the American immigration system manifests itself in the immigration courts themselves. Yet after only a couple of days witnessing various hearings in court, I want to look beyond the inefficiencies ingrained in our current immigration system and instead paint a picture so that you can understand the underlying effects of the American dream taking place.

There are two floors designated for the immigration courts in the federal building. After exiting the elevator, there is an overwhelming presence of individuals and family units awaiting their presence in court. One time I saw a woman holding a baby that was days old outside of the courtroom. Courtrooms are numbered and labeled with the last name of the immigration judge on the door, and individuals are expected to wait outside with either an attorney, accredited representation, or any other people accompanying the respondent before his or her trial.

Aside from the large conglomerate of immigrants on this floor, there are multiple signs taped to the walls contain directions in languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, etc. While on these floors, you cannot help but be surrounded by different people, languages, and cultures. In its essence, this is the presence of the American "melting pot" at its finest. There is something inherently beautiful about intersecting cultures and ways of life, and being in the presence of such different people can allow yourself to open your eyes to such different perspectives. Is that not what America is about?

The popular saying, "America is a nation founded by immigrants" could not be more true in this space.

Since my first time at immigration court, I have witnessed individuals win and individuals lose their case. However, a loss does not have to be the end for some individuals. There is an option to appeal the decision from the immigration judge to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within thirty days. In cases where the individual receives legal status, it feels as though a large burden is placed off of the individual's shoulders. No longer do they have to struggle through the American immigration system after years of perseverance, and in some cases, individuals can move towards becoming an American citizen.

It is almost funny to think that my presence in a government building could spark an inspirational motivator. However, I think my experience in immigration court is more humbling than anything. It puts into perspective the lengths that individuals take to make their case in front of a judge. For them, America is worth fighting for. Although there are various inefficiencies within the current immigration system, I am not trying to romanticize the reality of immigration court. Most of the time, the lines are long, interpreters are unavailable, and cases are more difficult than ever to win. However, instead of focusing on these points, I think it is important to re-focus on the bigger picture behind the immigration courts, realizing the positives amidst all of the negatives.

Although this is only the beginning of my internship, I am excited to see where this opportunity will lead me. I am excited to hear the stories of others, which showcase their determination against hardship and persecution. And I am determined to not only witness but also initiate change first-hand, one case at a time.


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