is Really Good at Basketball, Flathead Reservation, Montana,
2016 (photo by Sue Reynolds for Everyday Native)
Everyday Native Uses
Stories, Photos To Overcome Bullying
More Native American
students in Montana say bullying is an issue at their school than
their white peers. Sue Reynolds thinks a heavy dose of cross-cultural
education could change that.
She and a team of Native
American and non-Native collaborators are releasing a new online
teaching resource this week that aims to foster understanding and
respect through stories, Reynolds photography and poetry by
celebrated Salish author Victor Charlo. Everyday Native goes live
this week and Sue is here to talk about it.
Sue, thank you so much for joining us today.
You're welcome Nicky. I'm happy to be here.
NO: You've created
this online resource called Everyday Native. Can you tell me a little
bit about what that is and how you came up with the idea for it?
SR: Its goal is
to help heal racism by asking students to reflect on the daily lives
of Native American youth, who have to walk in the two worlds of
both non-Native and also Native life.
NO: Can you give
me some examples of the stories and lessons that are included in
SR: There's one
really moving story and it's about Leo Kipp who was 8 years old
when I spent an afternoon with him and his family on the Blackfeet
Reservation. Leo wears his hair in a traditional three braid style
and he also has light skin, and so that hairstyle and his light
skin has made him the target of racial bullying. When his family
lived off the reservation he was six years old and he was the target
of this racial bullying. His classmates teased him about being a
girl because of his braids and they also said he wasn't Native American
because of his light skin. So Leo hit himself and he told his mother
he wanted to die. His family then moved back home to the Blackfeet
Reservation and Leo now attends a Blackfeet immersion language school
and he's doing well. So some of the stories are personal. Others
are history from a perspective that goes beyond mainstream narratives
to show Native American experiences. So for example, to show how
conflicts with the U.S. government and having Native Americans ancestors
moved on to reservations still impacts Native American people today.
NO: There can
be a danger when we're talking about Native Americans to kind of
compress that experience so that it seems like if you're Indian,
you're just Indian, and you're not part of a very specific tribe.
And I'm wondering how you how you addressed that.
SR: There is definitely
a stereotype or an idea out there in the general U.S. population
that an Indian is just sort of one generic type of Indian, which
is not at all true. I've become aware of that because I've traveled
a lot because I've spent time with different tribal communities.
When the teachers and students look at photographs or read the content
that there are tribal names associated with that individual, that
child, with a particular geographic area or a historic event or
contemporary current story. And we've tried to do that throughout
so that people understand this is a story about a Blackfeet family,
or a Blackfeet boy, or something else is a story about a Salish
family or a Crow family. That's very very important for people to
understand that different tribes are different.
NO: For people
who are using Everyday Native either in the classroom or maybe on
their own, what do you hope they take away from it?
SR: Well I hope
that students and teachers and parents who use Everyday Native can
learn that it's important to get to know and respect people who
look different. I have become very aware of how damaging racial
bullying is for Native youth, for Native children, and what I've
learned from the statistics as well as hearing the first-hand stories
is that racism against Native Americans contributes to Native youth
suicides that are about two and a half times the national average.
And that's for youth ages 15 to 24, and so hearing those stories,
and also there's just so much more bullying than there used to be
with cyber bullying and all of that. I really felt it was important
to do what I could with my particular skills to show the accuracy
of what Native American lives and children's lives are really like
on reservations. There's a lot of stereotypes out there and there's
also a lot of ignorance. I think that that racism occurs because
of ignorance and fear. I felt that a teacher's resource was very
important to create understanding and respect between non-Native
children and Native American children. And the other thing I should
mention as well is that tribal communities on reservations are either
poorly understood or they're invisible among most Americans, so
there needs to be more more understanding more knowledge and more
accurate facts about tribal communities.
Sue Reynolds worked with
teachers, Native American families and curriculum developers to
create Everyday Native. The website, along with lesson plans and
discussion topics for students grades four through twelve, is now
available online for free to be used by home educators and classroom
This resource is meant to help heal racism by building bridges of
understanding between non-Native and Native American youth. It began
in 2014, when a radio host asked if my Native Celebrations photographs
might be contributing to popular stereotypes. I suddenly saw that
wasnt the whole picture. To learn more about what everyday
life is like for Native people on reservations, I listened as Native
families in South Dakota and Montana shared difficult stories.