SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2005 Personal Memory Ethnographies
The Story of All StoriesWhen I was in the fourth grade, just before the Thanksgiving holidays my homeroom teacher was about to tell us the story of the pilgrims and Thanksgiving. This is a good time to stop and tell you a little bit about my teacher. She was a strong Christian woman from the mid-west, I think Missouri. I think of her as a country bumpkin but of course she was an educated woman with some less than desirable feelings about minorities.
As our teacher read to the students to reemphasize what Thanksgiving means, I couldn’t help think about what Thanksgiving meant to my people and how we celebrate the beginning-of-the-end for our people. After our teacher ended her interpretation of Thanksgiving, she made the mistake of leaving the floor open for discussion, inviting the students to ask questions in order to have a better understanding of how this temporary union with Native Americans helped the first settlers to survive.
This was my opportunity to ask questions vital to my understanding of how events happen and so I asked, “why do white people treat Indians in an adverse manner befitting the dregs of society.” My fellow students asked general questions like “why did the pilgrims leave their homeland,” and “who was persecuting them there?” Nobody was asking the real question that affects us in the here and now. Even though the protestant and aboriginal peoples celebrated their coexistence, I wanted to know “how come future settlers never honored this tradition in all dealings with native people,” and then put them all on reservations.
The look on her face said it all, crossing over some imaginary line of conduct she quickly recomposed herself and in the process ignored my question and started to pick someone else for questions. I couldn’t believe it. She straight out ignored my question, as if it didn’t have any relevance of importance to Thanksgiving and more importantly to my people. I wondered why she didn’t accept my question as a valued remark. So, I reiterated my question. This time I didn’t raise my hand but blurted it out, but still got the same reaction. I told my friend to ask her, “why do Native Americans live on the reservations?” We could see her face turn red. Before she could answer his question I blurted in again, “stealing our land and holding us hostage.” She really got mad.
Taking me outside in the hallway for a private session of stern reparation she enlightened me on the fact that the land was not stolen but shared mutually between both races. This is where the surreal world meets sublime utterance. I knew she was wrong but I did not have the proper tools to defend my statements. My teacher told me not to repeat such subversive rhetoric. I asked why? She said, “their young minds would not be able to comprehend the dual aspect of American colonization.” I told her, “then how come I know?”
When all else fails, threaten. This is what she told me, “if I didn’t change my attitude about this” she would send me to the principal’s office and tell my parents. When you are little, the last thing you want to do is evoke the anger of your parents. So, I shut up.
I always remembered that feeling of frustration. How can this educated woman be so blind to the obvious truth? Why wasn’t she on my side when I knew I was right? This was all confusing to me and I do remember telling my mother about it. She told me not to worry, when its time the maxim will be upheld. To protect their little minds from the truth, they snap to attention; these young troopers were not allowed to think for themselves but were programmed without a clue, the horror.
Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage