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.