To My 2nd Grade Students: ‘I Believe In You and I Love You’

To my 2nd grade students,

When I first started teaching I did so because it was exciting and each day was always  different. I enjoyed the challenge of planning new lessons each week. I loved setting up my room at the beginning of each new year. I enjoyed the opportunity to find and read new books. I loved the anticipation of new faces, new names, and new families. I enjoyed the many stories you all would share with me. Little did I know that almost 14 yrs later my mission, my goal, my objective, my deepest desire would be for you all to know that you are loved. You make each hour I share with you the most trying, most unpredictable, most cherished, most comfortable, most honest, and most genuine six hours of my day.

Each day you show up full of energy, full of stories and each day I reflect on how best to show you, tell you that I love you. You need to know that each lesson, teaching math, language arts, science or social studies is really a lesson about life. Honestly, each lesson can help us understand how we are all connected. How we live. How we survive.

I have challenged and pushed you in so many ways and with each challenge you have inspired me with your tenaciousness and goodness. I realize there is so much more to your lives than the time we share at school. I know about your parents not having enough money to buy you shoes. I know about how cold you are at night because the blankets are not enough to keep the cold at bay. I know you are afraid to go to the park near your houses because of the shootings, drugs and harassment that happens there.  Please know your heartaches break my heart. Your worries, your fears, your tears rip me to shreds, leaving me wounded with scars that can tell each of your stories.

There are years, days even when I question myself and feel as though I am not doing you any good. I feel completely responsible for supplying you the necessary to tools to navigate life. The question ‘Am I making a positive, healthy difference?’ is a constant one.

But I know I am making a difference. I know this because I see your everyday random acts of kindness. I hear the kind, loving words that you use to lift up a friend or classmate. I see how you self-correct or give a heart-felt apology when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. I see how you work so hard at making others feel a part of the classroom family. I see you sharing. I see you helping each other. I see empathize with others. I see your smile. I hear your laugh.  I see the light of genuine excitement and understanding in your eyes. I see the light of knowledge on your face. I see you giving and I see your love.

If the only thing you were to learn and know is that you are loved, then that is worth every ounce of effort in my body. You need to know you are all WORTH it!

I’ve asked you what love is. You each shared your thoughts with me in such beautiful ways. Know that I believe love is learning about yourself through others. Know that it’s because of your love I know who I am and I continue to learn and grow and experience more love because of you all.

I believe in you and I love you.

Your Teacher,

-J

Smiles and love to you. 12-20-2013

Smiles and love to you. 12-20-2013

My students and I put together theses videos as gifts to their families. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Wishing you all endless love, peace and joy.

I don’t want my students to always rely on being fed someone else’s stories. I want them to know they have the power and ability to tell their own stories. So as an extension activity to lessons we had done on land, water, pollution, contamination, kindness, giving, wants and needs  I asked them to dream BIG. To allow their imaginations to soar and show me what they could possibly dream up for the world they live in. We put this video together to share what they came up with and gifted it to their families.

This video features the songs: Imagine by John Lennon, Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson, and Calling All Angels by Train

Our days have been jam packed with discussion after discussion and lessons on wants, needs, responsibility (the ability to respond), gratitude, giving, kindness, land, water, the earth, environment, pollution and contamination. The objective was: for my students to develop an understanding of the world around them. Define “gratitude & love” and practice experiencing and expressing gratitude. Define, model, and practice appreciation for another person and the natural environment. As an extension activity my students answered the following – When I think about ___________ I am happy. What does love look like? What is love? They drew out their responses and we put this video together as a gift to share with family and friends.

This video features the songs: Think Good Thoughts by Colbie Calliet, Where Is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas

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Words of Indigenous Warriors that Empower, Motivate, and Inspire

I take pride in who we are as Indigenous people, as Indigenous Nations and of the places we originate. We are Native and we make a difference in this world. These are words from our great warriors no longer with us, modern warriors that have passed and words from the warriors of today. These are words gathered to provide a spiritual foundation to empower you to take action, to motivate you as you navigate life’s most challenging pathways, and inspire you to get things done, to take action. I realize that these words of Indigenous warriors can empower, motivate and inspire all people and are not exclusively meant for Indigenous people. However, in most developed or developing countries, Indigenous people are still fighting for the same rights as the dominant population and despite the changes in the way our society has begun to work, we, Indigenous people, still face signficant, in some situations life-threatening challenges when it comes to being heard, asserting our identity, reconnecting to who we are, to our communities and land. That is why it’s important for me to highlight and share these words by Indigenous people as fuel for the fire of resurgence and hope their words empower, motivate and inspire all Indigenous people.

I realize that these words typed on a blog won’t change your life, but they can change your perspective. Because even though we have bad days, life is good. I honor and am truly grateful for the words of Indigenous men and women who understand that life is full of great promise.

***By no means is this meant to be a comprehensive list. It is a gathering of words that have created moments inside me, moments that have magnified my connections to others and reminded me of the timeless support I have as an Indigenous woman. Support that ultimately feeds my reservoir of resilience. At different moments in my life these words have been just the right words to hear or read and encourage me as an Indigenous woman to keep moving forward. These are words that ultimately remind me that my connections run deep into the past and radiate into the future. Please feel free to add to this gathering of words in the comments section.***

A Warrior is the one who can use words so that everyone knows they are part of the same family. A Warrior says what is in the people’s hearts, talks about what the land means to them, brings them together to fight for it.

– Bighorse, Diné

The happiest people I’ve ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people who are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are those who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. People who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or who will speak up about an injustice when they see it.

– Wilma Mankiller, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK, 2009 commencement address (quote begins @9:33)

The lands of the planet call to humankind for redemption. But it is a redemption of sanity, not a supernatural reclamation project at the end of history. The planet itself calls to the other living species for relief. Religion cannot be kept within the bounds of sermons and scriptures. It is a force in and of itself and it calls for the integration of lands and peoples in harmonious reality. The lands wait for those who can discern their rhythms. The peculiar genius of each continent—each river valley, the rugged mountains, the placid lakes—all call for relief from the constant burden of exploitation.

The future of humankind lies waiting for those who will come to understand their lives and take up responsibilities to all living things. Who will listen to the trees, the animals and birds, the voices of the places of the land? As the long-for- gotten peoples of respective continents rise and begin to re- claim their ancient heritage, they will discover the meaning of the land of their ancestors. That is when the invaders of the North American continent will finally discover that for this land, God is red.

– Vine Deloria, Jr in God is Red p. 300-301

“At about 5:15 that’s when the tilten trucks rolled in and the S.W.A.T. team came out. There was three of us that just looked at each other… and one of the women said ‘Holy shit they’re here.’ Our instincts kicked in and we said the women have to go to the front, because it’s our obligation to do that, to protect the land, to protect our Mother. And I can remember looking at the faces of the S.W.A.T. team and they were all scared. They were like young babies who had never met something so strong; who had never met a spirit, because we were fighting something without a spirit. There was no thought to it; they were like robots.”

– Ellen Gabriel, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (quote begins @ 2:33)

The reason why we are here gathered around here is to gain consensus, to find out is our traditional way, to find out what each individual wants to do. The reason why we are here, we are all here for each other, we are all here for the water, we are all here for the injustices done against all of our people. What has been happening here hasn’t been right and we’re here to correct this wrong. We’re here to unite as a people. Doesn’t matter where you’re from. We are all treaty people. Our treaties are to protect the settlers and that’s what we’re doing here, we’re protecting them because they are asking for our protection. We’re helping them and they’re helping us. We’re coming together and we’re uniting. This is a beautiful day. It’s a great day to be Indigenous. Look around, it’s a great day to be human. You know. You look at what we accomplished today. We did a lot. Because we united together and we did not separate. The moment the separation started is when we have to come back together and decide what are we going to do as a collective. Because we can’t be running around all over the place. We need to decide together what we want to do. 

-Mi’kmaq Warrior Suzanne Patles via Submedia.tv – It’s a Great Day To Be Indigenous

“…We are free, we are independent of the dominating foreign force. We can exist independent of that force if we so chose. We can exercise our creator given inherent sovereignty…”

-Chase Iron Eyes on Last Real Indians (LRI) tribute to Russel Means (quote begins at 3:47)

Think of the woman, how she goes from a child into a woman who is naturally purified and she goes through this life rearing children, teaching men how to nurture and being balanced and then reaches the change of life. She becomes the elder that lives longer than men and has this full woman power. Until you know a woman, you will never know life. So our ceremonies here on this earth are to celebrate womanhood.

– Russel Means on women/matriarchy via Steven Lewis Simpson (quote begins at 3:58)

What is happening to the Blacks in South Africa today has already happened and continues to happen to us here in the Americas. The America holocaust has claimed all but perhaps six million of us in what is now called Canada and the United States. But from Central, south to South America we number all the way from 80 to 100 million. So in building this United Indian Liberation Front we are working realistically toward our liberation and I want to emphasize we have every right to carry on that liberation struggle.

– Vernon Bellecourt, November 23, 1988 (quote begins at 42:03)

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,even a stranger, when in a lonely place.Show respect to all people and grovel to none.When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

– Chief Tecumseh

It does not take many words to tell the truth.

– Chief Sitting Bull

The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine; not only for the body, but for the soul, it is the spiritual connection to history, ancestors and the land.

– Winona LaDuke 

This is our land here. This picture you see is our traditional art form, which describes our land and our people that are here. It’s very important to us, because what I want to talk about is our opportunity to be omaa akiing, here on this land — our opportunity to do the right thing. We are the people that can keep our mother from baking. We are the people that can stop them from knocking off the top of big mountains. We are the people that can stop them from rebooting the nuclear industry. We are the people that can do the right thing, and what a great spiritual opportunity that is. So let us be those people. Let us be courageous.

– Winona LaDuke, Ware Lecture, 2010 

Our bodies should be on the land so that our grandchildren have something left to stand upon.

– Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Elsipogtog Everywhere 

The reasons why we have Land (not in an in ownership sense but in a Sovereign Nation sense), Treaties, and that we are even alive is because our ancestors refused to “get with the times”.  What does “get with the times” really mean, anyway?  Does it mean to ignore the Consciousness of our bloodlines that is connected to our land and to identify ourselves with modern day colonial borders?  Does it mean to participate with the abuse of the land by the extraction of resources and adopt same values as the colonist?  Does it simply mean ignoring our indigenous values all together?  Quite honestly, “getting with the times” never made sense to me when it’s used in a counter argument against those who are defending the land and following through in the inherit qualities and values of indigenous consciousness.

The reality is it is time to become the best we can possibly be and follow through with the certainty that we are Nations within a Nation.  Part of that is denouncing the imposed identity that we are Canadian.  My friend Jodi Kechego articulated it well when he stated “My bloodline is inherently separate from Canada in that my ancestors have been here for literally thousands and thousands of years– as opposed three or four generations”.  I support this statement and also add that the Consciousness of who we are has been within our lands since the beginning of time.  We can not forget this.  Our young people have a political responsibility that is very likely to involve the rebelling against a strategic regime and continued agenda of oppression.  Often times this rebelling evokes fear of various flavors.  Fear of what ifs, what others will think, fear of being abandoned, ostracized, fear of repercussions, scolding, and oddly fear of upsetting the oppressor.  In fact, it’s interesting how the oppressed always seem to apologize to the oppressor.  We can connect the dots a million times within our brains and reflect on the reasons our current circumstance is the way it is.  With great honor and respect to our moshums and kokums that are champions of life as they over came the genocide of residential schools– we have to step beyond the confines of our fears cross that line of comfort within ourselves.

– Colby Tootoosis, Canadian Flag Hung Upside Down in a Powwow Grand Entry via Last Real Indians

…It is not simply a matter of dealing with the effects of colonization, which we all agree need to be dealt with. You can’t let people suffer in that regard. We have to look at the fundamentals and we have to recognize that the disconnection from the land is more than just an economic deprivation. The disconnection from the land is more than just a political injustice. The disconnection from the land when Native people are in that situation, they can not be Indigenous. They are prevented from living out the basic responsibilities of their Nation in terms of their original teachings. In terms of what it is to speak as an Indigenous person. What it is to do the things, what it is to be spiritually, culturally connected and to feel like you are actually a human being as Onkwehonwe in our language as a Native person. Unless you are able to live out your culture and have the connection in your own homeland and to relate to that in a meaningful way there’s really no justice in the relationship at all. There really is no justice in that person’s life. 

Taiaiake Alfred on the psychological effects of disposition, 2013 Narrm Oration, The University of Melbourne (quote begins at 23:53)

…education starts with the Native community.  Teaching them “belonging” and “purpose”—our communities used to do that (and still can, if one looks hard enough). See, historically, in order to be considered a member of a Native community, one had to participate in that community.  There weren’t many “non-practicing” tribal members—you had to belong.  If a person did not serve and/or participate in the community’s activities—whether those activities were hunts, religious ceremonies or observing community values—that person would not be a member of the Native community long. How could they?  With very small, very interdependent communities, everyone had to pull their own weight.

If you didn’t, someone else had to carry that weight which put a strain on the entire community.  The community’s survival required everyone to participate. Participation and service equaled “belonging.”

That was part of the value of being a member of a community—that you had protection, many hands with which to make light work, and common values.  But in exchange, you had to offer protection, hands to help make that work light, and common values.  The reciprocal to the “belonging,” was the “purpose” piece.

Our purpose was to contribute to the community. Everyone had an obligation, a duty.  Along with that obligation and duty camepurpose—people knew that the community depended on them and that their work was crucial and vital to the community’s survival.

-Gyasi Ross, Using Tradition to Teach Our Kids Purpose: Mentorship Matters, Part II via ICTMN

You see, it was crucial for European colonialists to paint Natives as aggressors to justify their own violence against the original inhabitants of this land.  While Natives fought against settlers, these battles were waged primarily in self-defense.  America invented the “savage Indian” to subjugate Natives, abrogate Tribe’s sovereign rights, and so they could freely initiate war against them for any reason whatsoever.  As long as Indigenous peoples are consigned to the post of savage, we are the “other,” and those in power can argue that they do not need to follow their own laws when it comes to us.  We are still being forced to deal with the consequences of this “savage” invention.

This column isn’t about whether I took offense to a statement made on a television show.  This is about equality.  To truly benefit from a diverse global society, we must raise public discourse above antiquated race-based language couched in manifest destiny.  Ignorance is no excuse, because Natives are not silent- you’ve only to hear us. 

As far as debate is concerned, read Sun Tzu.  Throw away your race-based terminology and discover the true nature of your adversary, or ally.  Learn about Native history and who we are.  To get respect, you must give it.  This is how you invite us in as intellectual, physical, and spiritual equals.  This is how you might win an argument against me, based on merit alone.  But be warned, I count coup with keystrokes and my arrows are dipped in ink.  Now, who’s the scalp?

– Ruth Hopkins, Of Scalps and Savages: How Colonial Language Enforces Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples via Truthout

To me, Indigenous resurgence means filling Indigenous spaces with the exercise of our socio-political orders from the smallest individual unit to the largest communal grouping. These spaces will not become full with things, but with actions.

Resurgence means building capacity in the most authentic sense: beginning with the individual and spreading out to encompass all of our peoples within a web of interrelated relationships. It is the work of generations, and short-term advances that sacrifice these relationships for economic gain often leak out of our spaces of nationhood. I do not believe that our spaces must be completely filled before we are able to engage in Indigenous nationhood. In fact, unless we engage in action, we will never have hope of filling them. Nationhood is not a final destination it is a process of strengthening relationships—and claiming space.

âpihtawikosisân, Nationhood is a Verb

The current state of global environmental affairs calls for the children of earth to rise to the task of protecting for the health and well being of current and future generations. Regardless of where we live, we all have a roll and responsibility towards seeing to the protection of our first Mother and all her children. The front lines are in fact everywhere. 

– Matt Remle, LRI Call to Action: The Front Lines are Everywhere via Last Real Indians

An awakening of forgiveness and heart talk opened my mind and released years of anguish and frustration. I have learned in order for me to have an understanding of forgiveness, I needed to learn about betrayal. In that process of forgiveness I also found love.

– Renee Holt, The journey to healing begins with the first step via 4 the love of the People

“When we get past these barriers and fences that divide us, we have a lot in common. and so with story telling i believe we can break down the barriers and break down the fences and say walk a mile in my moccassins.” 

Wab Kinew, on Getting Attention for Native Stories via George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight

Viewing this case through a gendered, decolonizing lens shows the historical process by which the Diné were incorporated into the white heteronormative patriarchal American nation. By the 1950s, their transformation as U.S. citizens was also indicated by the adoption of American systems of governance, economics, and social organization. My analysis of the uprising and its aftermath speaks to, first, the erasure of the amount of violence and coercion used to turn Natives into colonial subjects. Secondly, it raises questions about the nature of technologies of surveillance and the institutions used to transform Natives into their own version of heteronormative nations and community. It also gives us pause as Diné and Indigenous peoples about the possibilities for decolonization—in a time when tribal nations and leaders face issues and problems that have a foundation in the legacy of U.S. colonialism, we should take stock and articulate visions about the realization of true sovereignty and what that means for all of our tribal citizens.

Jennifer Denetadale, Indigenous Feminisms, Queer Indigenous Critique, and Settler Colonialism in the Uprising at Beautiful Mountain via First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

Before this world existed, the holy people made themselves visible
by becoming clouds, sun, moon, trees, bodies of water, thunder
rain, snow, and other aspects of this world we live in. That way,
they said, we would never be alone. So it is possible to talk to them
and pray, no matter where we are and how we feel. Biyázhí daniidlí,
we are their little ones.

Lucy Tapahonso, Remember the Things They Told Us

Being Indigenous today means struggling to reclaim and regenerate one’s relational, place-based existence by challenging the ongoing, destructive forces of colonization. Whether through ceremony or through other ways that Indigenous peoples (re)connect to the natural world, processes of resurgence are often contentious and reflect the spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political scope of the struggle.

Jeff Corntassel, Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination via Decolonization Indigeneity, Education & Society

“…Allegiance to ‘America’ or ‘Canada’ legitimizes the genocide and colonization of Native peoples upon which these nation-states are founded. By making anti-colonial struggle central to feminist politics, Native women place in question the appropriate form of governance for the world in general.” 

Andrea Smith,  Indigenous Feminism Without Apology via New Socialist, 2006

In the process of struggling against racism white people will discover that there own lives have not been filled with joy or freedom. If they don’t struggle with racism they will never be able to chart their own path to freedom. Their humanity will always be tainted, imprisoned by the horrific lie that “at least my life is not as tragic as ‘others’.I have bent my back to this plough for some decades now. It is Canada’s turn. Look for your complicit silence, look for inequity between yourself and others. Search out the meaning of colonial robbery and figure out how you are going to undo it all. Don’t come to us saying “What can we do to help?” and expect us not to laugh heartily. You need help. You need each and every white person in this country to commend those lone people of colour sticking their necks out and opposing racism where it rears its ugly head. You need to challenge your friends, your family whenever they utter inhuman sentiments about some other race of people.We — I — We will take on the struggle for self-determination and lay the foundation… But so long as your own home needs cleaning, don’t come to mine, broom in hand. Don’t wait for me to jump up, put my back to the plough, whenever racism shows itself. You need to get out there and object, all by yourself.We have worked hard enough for you.

Lee Maracle, Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel

With love and deep respect,

-J

Joyce Ann 12-13-2013

Joyce Ann 12-13-2013

 

Stories as Weapons of Resurgence & a 2nd Grade Classrooms Act of Solidarity & Support for Elsipogtog First Nation

Our youth must always be free, discussing and exchanging ideas concerned with what is happening throughout the entire world.” – Che Guevara

My second grade students cannot tell you stories about the disorienting, frightening, and utterly devastating aftermath of bombs being dropped in their neighborhoods. They cannot tell you about the sudden disappearance or massacre of entire families. But they can tell you story after story about the sound of a gun being fired in the middle of the night. They can tell you what happens when a bullet is shot through your window and lodges itself in the wall. My second grade students can tell you about the fear they have of being caught in gang crossfire when playing in their neighborhood. They can tell you about the time their dad was sent back to Mexico. They can tell you why they have to live with grandma while their mom or dad works to get clean from drugs. They can tell you how to hang your food in plastic bags on ropes to keep it away from mice and cockroaches. They can tell you about the times they had to run a power cord from the neighbor’s house into their house because they had no electricity.

Every day twenty-one students come to my class and each seven-year-old life is filled with truly powerful stories, heartbreakingly sad stories, and laugh out loud, hilarious stories. Some of their stories may be common and occur in other parts of the world with some variation.

Dad and mom pack up the kids. They want a better life for their children. They move to a new country or to the city. They leave their extended family behind. They struggle to learn English. Dad has to work more than one job so the family can afford a place to live and food. The kids are told that the way to succeed is to learn English and get good grades in school. Mom and dad do all they can to provide a better future for their children encouraging them to assimilate, to be American even in the face of the oppressive and dehumanizing laws of the Western Empire. They do not ever return to their place, their village or their clan. Their human spirits are broken, reshaped, and their ability to question and think for themselves is reduced generation after generation until all memories and dreams no longer exist, wiping away their true identity.

As an Indigenous educator how do I begin to keep the fires of genuine optimism, kindness and what is pure in children lit and safe from the force of imperialism? How do I fuel the fire so the ability to think, create, heal, empower, connect and act is fierce and burns hot?  I don’t want to feed my students the same doctrine I consumed; it only made me uninformed, unimaginative, accepting of the Empire and a consumer of what I was told to consume – dominant ideologies. How do I help my students cling to their stories and their storytellers so that one day they too have the foundation to take a stand, to question and to not just demand the change of the system but destroy the system?

Indigenous grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters organize to protect the land and water in Canada and the United States and across the globe everyday. They have attended teach-ins and lectures, organized and attended rallies and events. They have made multiple posts to Facebook and Tweeted the heck out of Twitter with news of actions, and injustices, in hopes of educating others, bringing global awareness to the struggle of Indigenous Nations and to build solidarity. They are living life as activist. They are activist in their own way. They are living, breathing, transforming, educating, and standing everyday acts of resurgence. They are on the front lines exposed to tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, police batons, police K-9’s, racist trolls, hate, and vile contempt.

I have sat feeling helpless as I’ve watched the struggle at Elsipogtog First Nation unfold. I felt helpless because I was so close yet so far away as grandmothers and grandfathers protested the theft of Diné water and later as Navajo communities organized & continue to organize to save sacred sites. I felt helpless while a Cherokee man’s biological daughter was stolen from him. I’ve felt helpless as Native brothers and sisters stood their ground against white supremacist in North Dakota.

Multiple events in the daily lives of my Indigenous brothers and sisters and I did nothing to show my solidarity. I failed to stand with them. I failed to take ACTION. I am angry. I feel a mix of immense rage and an overwhelming sense of pride as I see the grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, women, men, children willing to sacrifice their lives for their land, water, and ways of being because I know as a Diné woman I need to be making those same sacrifices. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and quit making excuses. I need to get off my a$$ and put to good use the skills and opportunities I have and ACT, as a Diné woman should, with dignity, honor, strength and wisdom.

As an Indigenous woman, mother and educator I am in a unique position to fuel the fire of resurgence for generations to come. Some of the ways I am trying to serve my students is by expecting them to not be so complacent and unconditionally accepting of the conditions of their own existence. We are constantly talking about the importance of knowing yourself, where you come from and what stories your place holds for you. I share with them stories about the importance of protecting the natural world and the importance of assuming more responsibility in the classroom, in their families and in their communities. I share stories with them. I integrate stories of major issues such as poverty, human rights, and the environment across the curriculum. It helps that my students are asking questions befitting an adult perspective of what is presently occurring in the news, politically, socially, economically and environmentally. I know I have the intellectual capacity to explain to my students with complete honesty the current state of affairs in terms they can understand.

One such story I shared was that of the Mi’kmaq warriors of Elsipogtog and their current stand against destruction of their homeland. The discussion has been ongoing for several weeks, as I have kept up with current affairs through Warrior Publications consistent blog post on the resistance of the Elsipogtog anti-fracking struggle.

What moved me to act with my students was a piece I read written by Dr. Taiaiake Alfred titled – What Does the Land Mean to Us? and the quote he used at the beginning of the piece –

A Warrior is the one who can use words so that everyone knows they are part of the same family. A Warrior says what is in the people’s hearts, talks about what the land means to them, brings them together to fight for it. – Bighorse, Diné

I read Dr. Alfred’s words and wanted to know what connections my students have to the land. We had already spent several weeks discussing struggles occurring for land and water- Belo Monte Dam, Defending the Rivers of the Amazon , Umatilla, Utah Tar Sands Resistance, Tavaputs Plateau, Elsipogtog Frack Off via MsNativeWarrior, Navajo Nation & struggle with Uranium Mining, etc.

So after the discussions we used a Circle Map (Thinking Maps) to brainstorm ideas on – What the land means to us. I asked each student the question and they had to respond in a complete sentence what the land meant to them and record one word onto the circle map. We went around the room as each student responded, explained their reasoning and recorded their word. The next several days we discussed the ways in which people are standing to protect the land and water and actions that we could take. We discussed what it means to stand in solidarity and we discussed the sacrifices that people are making to protect the land and water. I then asked each of my students to draw what the land means to them, write about it and also send words of gratitude to those standing to protect land and water.

As an Indigenous woman, mother, sister, auntie and educator I am at the frontlines fighting for the survival of real stories. Everyday I look down the barrel of the Empires compassion killing, dream killing, hope killing and love killing educational system that advocates and implements imperial policies. I want my second grade students to know that they can help shape the future- and that there is no action too small to show solidarity and stand against corporatist and governments that oppress those at the margins. As an Indigenous woman, mother and educator I want to arm my students with the ability to take constructive action. I want them to be armed with the knowledge that there are other ways of knowing. I want them to know that their words and their stories are powerful weapons of resurgence and are very much apart of who they are. I want them to know there is no time for feeling helpless or sorry for yourself. We have to act.

What the Land Means to Me

What the Land Means to Me

Take a look at my students’ drawings and words of thanks to Elsipogtog First Nation here ->  WhatTheLandMeansToMe_My2ndGradeClass

Student Work

Student Work

Sample2

Student Work

Scholarship worthy of your time and read:

Preparing teachers of young children to be social justice-oriented educators by Celia Oyler

Indigenizing the academy: Insurgent education and the roles of Indigenous intellectuals by Jeff Corntassel

Contesting the curriculum in the schooling of indigenous children in Australia and the USA: from Eurocentrism to culturally powerful pedagogies by Anne Hickling-Hudson & Robert Ahlquist

Early Childhood Eduction Programs For Indigenous  Children In Canada, Australia and New Zealand: An historical review by Larry Prochner

Indigenous Struggle for Transformation of Education and Schooling by Graham Hingangaroa Smith

Indigenous Knowledge and Pedagogy in First Nations Education: A Literature Review with Recommendations

Excuse me: who are the first peoples of Canada? A historical analysis of Aboriginal education in Canada then and now by Erica Neegan

Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing by Ray Barnhardt

Understanding the Earth Systems of Malawi: Ecological Sustainability, Culture, and Place-Based Education by George E. Glasson, Jeffrey A. Frykholm, Ndalapa A. Mhango, & Absalom D. Phiri

A Study on the Role of Native Culture in the Teaching Experiences of American Indian Educational Professionals by

Power and Place: Indian Education in America by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Daniel R. Wildcat

Power and Place: Indian Education in America

Power and Place: Indian Education in America

With love and deep respect,

-J

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

Reignited by running – Passion for life…focusing on what can be, rather than what is not

Diva Half Marathon - Dec. 8th, 2013

Diva Half Marathon – Dec. 8th, 2013

Race Results 12_8_2013

Race Results 12_8_2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I tackled one mile at a time until I reached 13.1. However, half-marathons, marathons, and any other road race doesn’t simply end at the finish line. The goal setting and persistence it takes to run and finish a race is something that remains with me in my everyday life. I’ve have a greater sense of clarity and trust myself because I run.

JoyceBeforetherace1

Before the race

MeandMyBabyGirlBeforetherace

Me and my baby girl before the race

At one point after mile 10 during today’s half marathon I was suddenly overcome with emotion. All that I have gone through and accomplished these last couple of months finally hit me – I am surviving because I am strong, I am kind, I am grateful, I am Diné and I have the blood of my ancestors running through my veins. The same mental characteristics needed to run and not give up are the same characteristics needed in life. I’ve learned life is like running – you get out of it what you put into it. I had filled my life with fear. I had flooded my life with doubt. As a result that is exactly what I was getting back – fear and doubt. Being honest about my fears then facing them down, acknowledging then divorcing my doubts  has reignited my toughness, my creativity, and my generosity. I have reignited faith in myself and the ability to dream on a grander scale.

AtTheFinish_12_08_2013

At the finish and feeling great! 12-08-2013

All smiles after the race 12-08-2013

All smiles after the race 12-08-2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I run, I will myself to be the best I can be. The courage and endurance that it takes to get through a long run has seeped into my life in every way. I am able to motivate myself when I am down. I am able to endure difficult times with resiliency, and kindness. I have learned to take the measure of myself, and no longer allow others to define who I am.

I am Diné…and will always be Diné!

I am a daughter…and will always be a daughter!

I am a grandaughter…and will always be a granddaughter!

I am a niece…and will always be a niece!

I am a mama…and will always be a mama!

I am a sister…and will always be a sister!

I am an auntie…and will always be an auntie!

I am a friend…and will always be a friend!

I am a student…and will always be a student!

I am a teacher…and will always be a teacher!

I am a runner…and will always be a runner!

Wishing you all love with all of my being,

-J

Love and light 12-8-2013

Love and light 12-8-2013

Writing without fear. Writing with love…

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

My 2nd Grade Students 2013-2014

“Everyday Acts of Kindness” has been a constant topic of discussion in my second grade classroom since the start of the year. My class cubs are an extraordinarily amazing group of human beings. I’m in awe of the amount of cultural capital/forms of knowledge they bring to each discussion at such young ages. I could listen to them all day. Building on  “Everyday Acts of Kindness” we began a discussion about – Needs and Wants.

To introduce the concept we read the book, A Chair for My Mother. This is a heartwarming story about a family & the values of saving and working together towards a common goal after all their belongings are burned in a fire. To build on the theme of community & giving the author illustrates how friends and neighbors bring furniture to the new apartment. However, noticeably missing is a television, x-box, etc. As a class we discuss how the girl, who along with her waitress mother, save coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their new apartment — the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Into the jar also goes the money Grandma saves when she gets a bargain at the market.

It’s a good story that builds on our discussions of “Everyday Acts of Kindness” and “Giving”. After our discussion, I drew two large circle maps (Thinking Maps – used to brainstorm all of our thoughts about the concept of “Needs” and “Wants”). In the center of the circle map we wrote the topic we wanted to brainstorm. Some questions we wanted to answer were – What can we not live without? What are things we need to live? What does your heart need? What does your body need? If you can have anything in the world what would you want? We are still building on our thoughts and will add to the circle maps tomorrow. Tonight as part of their homework they need to ask their family – What are the families needs? They also have to come up with some ideas about what their community may need and what our earth needs? The families needs, communities needs, earth’s needs will be written into the circle map using a different white board marker color in order to aid in our ability to classify the needs. Throughout the week we will add more to our maps as we prepare to organize our thoughts and write a paper on “Needs” and “Wants” and what we each have the power to do in making our world a kinder place.

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their "Needs" & "Wants"

My 2nd graders spent some time brainstorming a few of their “Needs” & “Wants”

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Adding to the Circle Map (brainstorming) 12-3-2013

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

Recording what he believes he & others may need.

There have been moments in my life that have been extremely challenging and I have struggled. I’m not perfect, however with each challenge (I now view these challenges as pathways) I have discovered the power gratitude can have in my life – it all began with realizing I can not control circumstances, events or anyone BUT myself. With each pathway I’ve clung to cultivating an attitude of gratitude and have expected myself to extend that further into my everyday actions and thoughts. So now that my student’s actions are springing from a desire to be kind and show kindness to themselves and others I want them to realize that they are not too young and no act of kindness is too small to help their families, communities, and planet. As we discussed other ways we can/could show kindness one of my students had a wonderful idea to share their stories with others “so it can help them if they are having a sad day.” Another said “maybe I can write a funny story to cheer them up,” another said “I can write a letter and tell them why they are important.” I said, “YES, YES, YES!!!”  They made me cry. I was deeply moved to witness their hearts in action.  So we decided as a class to write letters to whomever needs cheering up, to whomever just needs to hear a funny story, or to whomever needs someone to tell them they are important.

This is where we need your HELP. My students need people to write letters to. They are ready to write letters to anyone who request one. I hope, no, I pray that I can get responses to this blog requesting a letter from one of my second grade students. So I need at least 21 request (I have 21 – 2nd graders). They are excited and looking forward to putting their hearts into each letter and are hopeful it will make someone smile. My class cubs mean the world to me. I want them to always be filled with questions. I want them to always question. I want them to be able to put things into perspective. I want them to be able think critically and not settle for the status quo. So, pplleeaassee…help me be of service to them.

If you would like to request a letter from one of my students please tell us a little about yourself and share with us your story and need. We would like to mail you a response. If you are not comfortable with sharing you address I understand, I can share my email address if you prefer.

Help my second grade students realize that their HEARTS, their WORDS, their TIME and ACTS OF KINDNESS can bring peace and love to their life and to the receiver’s life as well.

With love and deep respect,

-Joyce Ann

Joyce 12/2013

Joyce 12/2013

We are valuable…thinking of Native communities on World AIDS DAY

I took time today to research a Native organization which is active in raising the awareness and addressing the HIV/AIDS issues that impact our  Native communities. On this day, World AIDS day, observed on December 1, every year I dedicate this post to the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn the facts. My hope is that if I or you can understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today in our Native communities – we can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of our loved ones, and ensure that everyone living with HIV on our reservations, in our communities is treated FAIRLY, and with RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING and LOVE. In addition, realize that these Native organizations need support ALL year round.

The National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC) offers a variety of programs to help promote education about HIV/AIDS, support prevention efforts, and help foster healthy attitudes about sexuality and sexual health in the Native community.

A Way to Wellness: Locating and Understanding Native-Specific HIV Data

National Native American AIDS Prevention Center Surveillance Highlights, 2011

Keeping Our Hearts from Touching the Ground: HIV/AIDS in American Indian and Alaska Native women

Native Women Public Service Announcement – Know Your Status – Early Detection of Sexually Transmitted Diseases – Get Tested

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations”
– The Great Law of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy –

Commitment to Action for 7th-Generation Awareness & Education: HIV/AIDS Prevention Project

CA7AE: HAPP’s mission is to work collaboratively with communities to increase effective HIV/AIDS prevention, and encourage and support early detection through testing.

Navajo AIDS Network

Established in 1990, the Navajo AIDS Network, Inc.(NAN). served as a volunteer organization, consisting of very dedicated Navajos who foresaw the potential danger of HIV in the Navajo Nation and surrounding communities. NAN provides unique, culturally appropriate and carefully constructed approaches to HIV prevention services and continues to be at the forefront of HIV care for HIV positive Native and non-Native people in and around the Navajo Nation.

Health, Education, and Human Services Committee receives report on recent HIV trends on the Navajo Nation Diné people encouraged to learn more about HIV and get tested

Understanding HIV and other STDs on the Navajo Nation 

Navajo Nation HIV Prevention is on Facebook

Giving, loving and living…

…sigh. What would you do if you knew how much time you did not have left on this earth? Would you tell your family? Would your heart overflow with gratitude? Would you be kinder? Would you say “I love you” more? Would you forgive yourself? Would you apologize to those you hurt or wronged? Would still allow fear to paralyze you (emotionally and physically). Would you just give up on life and waste the bit of time you do have left? Would you deliberately wound and hurt (get back at physically, emotionally, and spiritually) those who hurt you knowing you would be gone in time and not have to deal with the rotten, bitter, vile, hateful energy you left in the universe?

A few weeks ago while in New Mexico a dear friend shared with me his heartbreakingly sad news. His father was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors shared with the family that he had at best 9-12 months left to live. I was home in New Mexico at the time having had already spent a couple of weeks there to restore balance, take part in ceremony and savour the love and warmth of my family and place. My dear friend took time away from his father’s bedside on Veteran’s day to spend the day with me. I accompanied him on a short road trip as he was to give a Veteran’s day speech in a small community. I look back on that day and I am truly grateful for his time, his willingness to listen, to comfort, to understand and words of wisdom. I appreciate his honesty and perspective and it helped me tremendously. Unfortunately, for him his father slipped away with death the next day. He did not have the 9-12 months the doctors had predicted. There was no more time. Days later I asked him if he was there, with his dad when he slipped away. He shared that he was with him moments before. He said he knew his dad was leaving and he knew what he had to do, so he stepped out of the room. He knew his dad well enough to know that he wanted the time to die alone. I cried.

My mother is the best and the strongest person I know. She is a fighter. She is a survivor. She is my mama. My mother has always been bluntly honest with me when it comes to knowing about the world. She didn’t filter her discussions about love and sex. She told me how different they both are and how easily you can confuse the two. She told me exactly what to expect. She was honest about what I would feel. She was almost completely right about the emotions that came along with it. She was also very honest and open with me about the violence she lived with. She told me about the time she thought she was going to die by his hands. She told me when she decided to leave and never return to that abusive relationship. There are other things she didn’t have to tell me. Through her actions and words I saw first hand how she cared for my grandfather, her father. How he was her everything. I saw first hand her generous heart and kindness when she would take in family who had no place else to go. I saw first hand as I tagged along with her and we would walk to people’s houses and she would sit with them and just listen, listen to them share their stories of their current struggles, pain and grief. Sometimes she would cook them a meal while we were there. She would fry up some potatoes with spam or ground beef and make fresh tortillas. She would tell me to go see if there animals needed water or food. She didn’t have to tell me but I knew I was to be quiet. I knew these visits were not about her or me. I knew that she was GIVING what she had and that was her time.

You’re probably thinking right about now –what is this blog post about? I share the aforementioned because they are both two completely different moments in my life but both have something in common. Time.

I know how much time I don’t have. Because I know, I want every person in my life who has ever had an impact (small or big) to know that I value them and I am truly grateful for them. I want the people in my life to KNOW that they are important, that they matter to me, I care about them and will forever be grateful for them and their time. Through out my life there have been people who have gone out of their way to show me how much they care by gifting me with their time. Some have offered advice, words of encouragement, understanding, patience and simple kindness. Others such as my mama have shared intimate, personal, heartbreaking never told before stories of life to show me that life is good and that people are good. I can still hear her words, “Awéé, you are so good to people. You are good to your sister. You help people and are so trusting. That is how I know you.” Words that have touched me deeply and words that I am so thankful for. My heart melts and I transform into the little chiizi Navajo girl every time my mom calls me, awéé (baby).

Family, friends, co-workers, people I have only had the pleasure of spending a short time with, YOU all have to know you did something for me (in your own unique ways), you touched me and showed me how to be kind. I don’t want to ever be too late and regret not telling you. I am kinder because of YOU. I am full of gratitude because of YOU. I am full of love because of YOU. I tell those I love, “I love you,” everyday because of YOU. There is no fear because I know who I am. I would not and will never, never, never deliberately set out to hurt anyone. If I have I am so sorry. I will and would do all I could to make it right. I truly am grateful for amazingly good-hearted cubs. I am grateful for an amazingly resilient, strong Navajo family. I am truly grateful for my place, the land that heals me. I am grateful for the smiles, words, & warm touches. I will live my life giving, protecting and loving. Giving and protecting the land that has always healed me. Giving, protecting and loving my family, my community, nation (Navajo Nation) and friends. Giving and loving myself.  I have an amazingly beautiful life filled with amazingly beautiful people and places. Thank YOU! Thank YOU! Thank YOU!

I love with all that I am,

-J