While Native American Heritage Month is coming to an end, we should continue our learnings about Indigenous peoples and tribes in our country. Alongside my students, I am learning and asking questions every day. I am by no means an expert but would like to share some resources that I have used so far this school year that may be helpful for you, your families, and/or your students to facilitate more conversations about those who lived here first.
The lands in which I live and work in belongs to Duwamish Tribe. You can check Native Land Digital to educate yourself on what Native Lands you occupy.
To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in October, my students and I discussed about the city and state that we live in, and how Native people were here before anyone else. We watched a video which explains this crucial part of our United States history in an honest, yet developmentally-appropriate manner. We learned about what a land acknowledgement is and why it is an important practice to do. If you are interested to download and edit my PowerPoint slide to create your own land acknowledgement, you can click here.
In addition, my class talked about whether it was fair or unfair that white people claimed that the lands were theirs and did whatever they could to get what they wanted, even if that meant committing acts of violence. I did not go into the details of the gruesomeness of their actions since my students are still kindergarteners; my job as their teacher is to plant the seeds of knowledge which will grow as they get older and as they gather more information along the way. It is important that I create a safe space in which they feel comfortable sharing their questions, thoughts, and feelings about what is happening or what has happened in the world we live in.
We also read a story called, "We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga" (pronounced oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) written by Traci Sorell who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. The story follows the traditions of the Cherokee people as they say, "Otsaliheliga" throughout the year to express their appreciation for each other and for Mother Earth.
While I do not have Native/Indigenous students in my class, I will keep reading and discussing books with my students that are related to various tribes throughout the year. It it crucial to read multicultural literature that can captures a variety of their lived experiences, not simply about what happened in the past. Colorful Pages has a comprehensive book list for Native American Heritage Month that I will refer back to! By knowing the significance of our neighbors and their histories, there comes a greater understanding of the environment that we share, as well as the people who have been and are being stripped away from their rights, languages, homes, cultures, and traditions.
Growing up, I did not gain an extensive background about Native/Indigenous history and current issues. I remember a time in my white elementary school when we studied the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In middle school, we read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," took the mandatory Washington State History course, and I had my first and only Native teacher. There were very few students in my schools who identified as being Native.
When we have a limited understanding about a group of people, that is when we rely on our implicit biases to make us think and feel a certain way about them. There are still more connections that I need to make in order to have a deeper understanding of our indigenous neighbors and the challenges they face today. For the Native/Indigenous individuals that I know, I always admire their grounded and calm perspectives on life and nature. As a daughter of Cambodian refugees, I am grateful for this country that we live in and I will continue my gratitude through my learning and teaching of Native/Indigenous Peoples. If you have any resources or individuals that you would like to connect me with, along with our 2 Khmerican Sisters community, please comment below. Thank you!