Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For Native Boys In Public School

Public school should be easy to deal with. The worst parts should be testing, pimples, and cliques. But when your a Native (Inyana) child, public schools can be much more stressful than it should be. To begin with you have more obstacles to overcome. You're a Native child in a nation where people treat you as if you are extinct. Remember the joke in Dave Chappelle's stand up act? "Indians! I read about you guys in Social Studies class. Let it be known that the American Indian is alive and well. I've seen them in the hunting isle of the Walmart."

When people think you're extinct they dismiss your needs. They criticize you for not assimilating. This is frustrating. Add to that the school dress codes and culturally insensitive mascots. Here are some tips to make things a little easier.

Your Hair

Most school districts have a rule that states that boys cannot have hair passed their ears or their shoulders. Check with your school district and find out if your school district has this rule. Then find out what the exceptions are. Typically exceptions are made for Natives but this isn't a guarantee. If your district does not allow for long hair no matter the reason, ask for a district transfer. Chances are, and exception will be made or you will be allowed to attend a school where you can keep your hair long. Just remember that there may be rules to the long hair exception. My son is allowed to wear his hair long as long as it is in one braided ponytail behind his head. He cannot wear two braids or wear it down. He is given a two braid exception on Native holidays. He is also allowed to wear a red hair tie (braid wrap) during times of prayer. Find out what you are or aren't allowed to do with your hair before you register for school next year.


Thanks to countless school shootings, most schools have a zero tolerance policy on bullying. But did you know that being picked on for being Native is considered a school hate crime? If someone makes fun of your long hair and calls you a girl, it is considered bullying. If someone makes a culturally insensitive joke about Native Americans, this is also a violation of your school Zero Tolerance policy. Never hesitate to report abuse or bullying to your school Principal. You also have the right not to participate in Thanksgiving or Columbus Day activities at your school. It's no different than a Jehovah's Witness or Jewish person not having to do Christmas assignments. Make sure your teacher is aware that you will not be participating prior to the assignment so that he or she can make an alternate assignment for you.

Self Expression

Many Native boys don't like to wear ribbon shirts or moccasins to school because they don't like answering 20 questions. This can be frustrating. To curb this inquisition, ask your teacher to set aside time to allow a member of your Native community to come in and share about your culture with the class. This will allow a forum for the 20 questions you would otherwise have to answer yourself.

Claim Your Heritage

A big reason why Natives are underrepresented in public school statistics is because many do not claim their heritage. It's easier to state another race on your registration forms than it is to state that you're Native. You may be afraid of being singled out or mistreated. But one of the reasons people treat you as if you are extinct is because you sit silently when you should be counted. Claim your heritage on your registration forms. Be counted.


Everything you experience now will be experienced by a Native younger  than you. Become a mentor to another Native boy. You can help them prepare for uncomfortable situations that face Native American students in public schools. Pass on what you've learned and connect him with your contacts. Keep your community strong.

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