I grew up in a time when the stereotyped portrayal of Indigenous people was that seen in early western movies. For example, as a child I would see a Plains tribal member being played by a non-Indigenous person speaking my own Díne language, when clearly the character was not of my tribe. And I honestly cannot think of one book that represented me when I was in school. In fact, I didn’t see a reflection of myself on television, in books, in school, or in educational materials.
Now as an educator, I am excited to see the change in educational materials that elevate the diversity of Native peoples, and to see them become more available. I am also excited to be filling my shelves with books that represent my students—I am leading with an equitable lens so that my classroom represents my students and honors their Indigenous identity.
The bottom line is when we change the stereotypes of Native peoples, we change the negative narratives of racial biases that are harmful. My mission is to ensure students have an equitable opportunity to become leaders and I am committed to ensuring Indigenous students have a solid foundation that allows them to be part of a competitive global society, while honoring their language, heritage, and culture—the resources that will help me achieve that goal are game changers.
As you embark this November on a celebration of American Indian Heritage, begin by learning about the first inhabitants of your own towns. Be thoughtful and engaging and lead with good intentions in celebrating the first peoples of this land. And as you continue to celebrate this November month, and even throughout the year, do so with intent to honor and uplift the stories of Tribal Nations in your community, in your state, and across this nation.