Gikinawaajitoon- Why do we need to be known?

Across Native Land (everywhere on turtle island) students prepare for the culmination of years of hard work, survival, late nights, and get to stand out as the pride of their family.  For many of these students this experience is mixed with the complexity of being a Native person within institutions that do not value or see them. 

Every year it seems there is a school district taking away Native scholars feathers, telling students they can't wear beaded caps, or excluding our culture from the school. Almost without fail we are forced to advocate on behalf of our community about why we need to be known and seen.  

We see some institutions doing the work to build in curriculum, staff, and energy towards building a culture of support for our students.  We are watching the Cloquet school district for years have our Native students sing honor songs for All the students. We want to honor this work and push for more and even better education for all our students.

What we always knew, but research shows is that culture supports well being and academics.  As Native people, we all live every day trying to navigate these different world views, cultures, and value systems. 

What white privilege provides is such a pervasive invisible layer that a lot of institutions and individuals don't even realize that white culture is the "norm" and our culture is seen as "extra".  See the recent Hinckley Finlayson Case for a perfect example of this dynamic. Want to learn more about white privilege? 

Why do we even need to be seen? 

We have always adorned ourselves, our lives to be seen, known, and be beautiful.  Just as all cultures do.  When our grandparents, great grandparents, and for some ourselves were taken to Boarding Schools our languages, families, culture were all stripped both literally and metaphorically.  To learn more about boarding schools watch

Cut to a young Native scholar today, navigating this history and the current reality.  This act of being seen, of Ginikawaajitoon is resistance and anti-assimilation. It is also an act of LOVE.  That we love who we are, where we come from, and that we DO NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE. We can be successful, thriving, brilliant scholars within our own cultural context.  


Today and everyday we honor all of those doing the hard work, we celebrate you scholars, and we look forward to our futures.  We imagine our grandmas at boarding school and all the hopes they whispered into the future.  They see you too and are proud. Stay strong.




PC View through My Lens, Taryn Fleck, Leech Lake Tribal College, National Museum of the American Indian, and MPR

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