Sunday, March 30, 2014

Boarding Schools - Not as fun as you'd think

What finally hooked the kids on this book, Ojibwe in Minnesota, was the boarding schools.

They were mortified.  They quoted Anton Treuer's writing in outrage -

 - Mrs. Aakhus,' Kill the Indian in him and save the man'. They said that

"I know"

-  They didn't even know their parents when they came home.

I know.

- They wouldn't even send them home if they had died.

I know.

- They didn't even know the same language as their parents.

I know.

- They didn't have a role model, Mrs. Aakhus, they didn't have their parents.

I know.

My students' compassion is awakening. Maybe they will learn with more compassion and see the young boy (from my previous post) patting the book in the far off corner, too.

On Powwows and Birch Bark Canoes

For the past two weeks, we've read 40 pages of Ojibwe in Minnesota.

It's been slow rowing....

This book has a lot of dense information.  Most of the kids were having a hard time getting into powwows and birch canoes.They were struggling with the fact that they were gong to have to re-read the information and build new knowledge.

I heard complaining from some of the most dedicated students.

But what keeps me going...

is that one kid who hides his book on the top of my book shelf.  He takes it down at the beginning of the class and pats it and looks at the pictures over and over.  He is coming home.  We are learning about his history.  He doesn't add to the conversation much, but he sits and smiles quietly and discreetly.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ojibwe in Minnesota

Because English Language Arts standards of Minnesota stress nonfiction and encourage the study of Minnesota Native Americans, my 8th grade class has been reading Ojibwe in Minnesota by Anton Treuer.  When I set the books out on my desk, there was instant controversy...

"What!?  Why don't we study Norwegians in Minnesota?"

"I think Native Americans are boring"

"Why do they have powwows?  Who cares?"

"Reservations aren't fair.  Why do they get special rights?"

Of course,  I was proud to hear;

"Finally, something interesting."

"I know all about this; my grandpa is half Ojibwe.  I go to powwows all the time."

And I knew.  This is why this is in the standards.  They needed a gentle lesson in racism.  We had read all year about the Holocaust in Germany, and now, the same type of  racism is being studied about our own state.  I think it's time to squirm.  I think it's time to look in the mirror and call ourselves out.  I could see the one boy, called Chief by his uncle, stroking his book and smiling.

Last Friday, I left the first chapter of Red Earth White Earth by Will Weaver for the kids to read with their sub.  I'm curious about their reactions.  I wonder if they see Guy's father's tantrums and think about the things they are saying about the reservation just a few miles away. Will they be mad that a dad could be so heartless and rude and realize they may be on the same path?

I'll find out today.