Happy Indigenous Peoples Day…
I’ve been especially distracted in my classes today… Today is a weird day for me… I actually forgot what day it was until I got on Facebook this morning when I reached campus. I shared one video then politely asking no one to wish me a “happy” Columbus day and then I went about my regularly scheduled Monday. I thought I could leave it at that. I thought that if I acted like today was just another day that it would be.
But it’s not.
When things get quiet, when my mind starts to wonder in class or while I’m making my trek across campus, I start thinking about it. The inner turmoil and questions start to come to the forefront of my mind. By ignoring it and acting like it’s just another day am I just contributing to the problem? Am I perpetuating the popular thought that we’re not here anymore? that we’re invisible? It brings up a feeling of invisibility, of feeling lost. Because I don’t look like everyone’s picture of a Native American, its never even a thought in someone’s mind that today might be a hard day for me, especially now being a student at Virginia Tech. I am one of 5 graduate students out of nearly 5,000 that identified as Native American in the 2015-2016 year….
1 in 5.
Wow. I literally am 20% of the Native graduate student population at VT… That is an incredibly lonely thing to realize. I came here from Oklahoma State where even as someone who didn’t visibly identify as Native, I had a strong community of over 1,000 students. On the second Monday of October, I knew I had a support system nearby that were just as angry about the national celebration of the genocide of my ancestors as I was.
In terms of higher education and working on becoming the next generation of professors, I am reminded of the importance of making a safe & brave safe for my future students and acknowledging that each of us bring things into the classroom that are important to recognize and give a voice that are not visible whenever we walk into the room. I know that for myself, I’ve decided that when I teach on this day in the future I would open class with a “Happy Indigenous Peoples Day” and ask if this day is hard for anyone. I know that I would have really appreciated that today… And now, I want to be aware of other days which might be hard for other groups of people so that I can be better aware of others in my classroom as well.