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Native American educators.

Clues are found when I reflect on my own experiences
working with Native American educators. A T’Chinook
man introduces himself by saying, “Before I speak, I
have something to say,” and then commences to recite
his lineage back to the treaty signing with Isaac Stevens,
territorial governor of Washington. A Northern
Cheyenne educator closes his letters with the expression, “all my relations.” A Turtle Mountain woman
teases me that it’s a shame that European Americans
are such “human-doings” rather than human-beings.
A Umatilla veteran expresses his patriotism as “the
opportunity to bring honor to my people.” A Coeur
d’Alene woman laments that “when you fail an Indian
child, you are failing my people.” What could these
things mean, particularly for educators in schools
serving Native American students?
Often, in spite of best intentions, some educators don’t
get it. Native American people do not necessarily want
to become European Americans, and they don’t want
European Americans to become Native American. This
is a simple idea that somehow gets lost in our wellintended cultural relativism.
Our cultures and worldviews are not the same.
European American society values individual achievement over the common good. The American Declaration of Independence reflects a European-influenced
tension between “the commonwealth” and individual
rights “to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Traditional Native American and Alaska Native people
are more linked intergenerationally to families and
communities. Social obligations go far beyond individual achievements and family honor. Each individual is
inextricably linked to the community destiny.