I am a Native mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The men,
women, girls, and boys in my family are Indigenous. I have spent
my entire life living with the possibility of violence or death
aimed at myself and the people who I love the most.
Every single time an act of violence against a person or a group
of people of color is in the news, I know in my heart it is only
one visible actand that there are hundreds, if not thousands,
of acts of violence, overt and covert, committed against people
of color every day that are not witnessed by anyone but the recipient.
I know this because this is my experienceI see it every day.
For nearly 40 years I have worked with Native education leaders
creating equitable access to higher education for Indigenous people.
Our institutions graduate Native leaders and seek a better way of
life for our children, families, and Native communities. We are
on a restorative economic, social, and spiritual path, healing generations
of trauma resulting from government policy and treatment of Native
The senseless and violent killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor,
and Ahmaud Arbery, and the harmful rhetoric about people of color
is deeply disturbing. Their deaths are a painful reminder of the
number of people who have been victims of systemic racism and invisibility.
When someone calls out for their mother, I hear it just as I heard
my own children call for me when they were looking for me to join
themto celebrate, to share sorrow or anger, and perhaps, just
perhaps, to save their lives.
We are angry and we stand in solidarity with our African American
brothers and sisters. We know only too well the vulnerability of
all people of color and the risk to our well-being that violence
and chaos create.
One thing that I know to be true through my work is that creating
equity in education is meaningful because education is the answer
to all of the disparities and challenges that society faces. Through
education, we learn the truth about history, gain a shared understanding
of values and relationships, and develop skills for communication
and engagement. We learn how to provide better law enforcement and
healthcare, more meaningful jobs, stewardship of the environment,
and an improved quality of life for people of color.
Protests have erupted across our nation, demanding a new and better
way forward in our country that is being ravaged by a virus that
has disproportionately impacted people of color and the poor, laying
bare our nations systemic and structural racism. Racism in
America is nothing new. To be anti-racist means to stand in solidarity
with people of color and to commit to transforming our nations
systems, institutions, and relationships.
Our Indigenous teachings show us that we are all related. We have
the choice to walk on the good road, the red road. This choice requires
discipline, courage, accountability, and generosity. Our teachings
remind us that each of us has gifts we can contribute for a better
societysome of us by working to change systems, others by
sharing their art and their words, and some by marching in the streets.
We must move forward with even greater resolve and an even greater
commitment to using our Indigenous values as the guide for our daily
work and for our vision. Recent events remind us of the vision the
founders of tribally controlled education had; reminders that we
must gather up our weapons of intelligence, resolve, cultural teachings,
and resilience, to fight for a better future. For the American Indian
College Fund, our weapon is education.
We join other justice organizations, advocates, communities, and
especially our youth to move forward using our values of respect,
responsibility, relationships, reasoning, and resilience.
We call upon our brothers and sisters nationwide to raise a unified
voice to demand a humane, just, and equitable nation for people
of color for the next seven generations. No one will grant us this
visionit is one we will only achieve through hard conversations,
hard work, and dedication. I call upon us to work together to make
our voices heard, our communities visible, with the goal of creating
a home where all of our children can thrive in peace.
We reiterate our declarations of purpose for educational equity
to reform education systems at all levels from early childhood education
through college and adult education to eliminate racism. Racism
is one of the greatest public health risks faced by brown and black
people, and education is the shared space where good health and
quality of life can be restored.
This is a time when people are broken hearted. As human beings,
we know that we can carry love, joy, grief, and anger at the same
time. We, at the American Indian College Fund, promise to listen
and to be present with the sorrow and anger that we and others feel.
We promise to work on solutions, with each other, and with our allies.