RSIC Education Column: Bringing our ancestors to school (part two)
Special to First Nation’s Focus
“If our children are culturally centered, then when they face an obstacle in their life, they can use their culture as a source of strength to find the best answer.”
To illustrate the lesson provided by this RSIC parent, let’s imagine a Venn Diagram wherein we have two intersecting “spheres of influence.” These two worldviews always co-exist and more often overlap.
Sometimes we have to exercise “code switching” and act in a way that we wouldn’t behave if we were on the Rez — for instance, in the classroom or on the school bus. And vice versa, we community members fully understand the rez-etiquette, and our visitors quickly learn that there exists an unwritten code that everyone abides by, either in ceremony or on the basketball court.
In last month’s article, “Bringing our ancestors to school,” we primarily explored the first sphere of our Venn Diagram as we discussed different avenues we can take to make space within our public and/or community classrooms.
As a result, the centerpiece of the Venn Diagram, where the two worlds overlap, is that space that is created in which our students could feel comfortable being their cultural-authentic selves on their school campus.
The prime objective of RSIC Education Goal 5 is to build out this intersection as much as possible. As the overlapping/middle piece grows more and more, we will see our schools becoming responsive to the cultural needs of our Native communities.
Now, with “…Because our ancestors are always standing with us,” let’s explore the second sphere of our Venn Diagram. Technically, our Venn Diagram is in reverse order of operation, for the second sphere is the primary sphere because it is of greater magnitude.
This is our Native Universe. This sphere serves as our subjective lens for our individual identity and frames our behaviors as we navigate both worlds.
To the Mother who told me, “If my child is culturally-centered, then when they face an obstacle in their life, they can use their culture as a source of strength to find the best answer,” I want to ask her “How?”
How do we instill this strong sense of self-worth? The unwritten code of rez-etiquette is learned and it needs modeled by adults. Adults who know how to act right! We need all aunties and uncles, all our gramps and grannies, to diligently demonstrate the proper behaviors for the next generation.
We need to show our children how we take care of each other as Tribal people … how to doctor one another and how we doctor ourselves.
I want to offer another image. Imagine you are standing alone, just going through this world by yourself, feeling all the pressure and demands, you become disconnected from yourself, disconnected with your Native ways, maybe begin to self-identify more with the Western worldview.
Nonetheless, when you close your eyes and quiet your mind/heart, you can sense that your ancestors are standing with you. When we close our eyes, sit in the sweat lodge, or if go sit on the hill because we are seeking a lesson, we can see our ancestors are all around us.
They visit us and commune with us throughout the day; they dance with us, they visit with us, they teach us, and they hold us. If we listen closely, we can hear them telling us how to be good relatives to one another.
I want to end this article with a call to action. Here is a call to change your current mode of existence and recalibrate to become more culturally centered. I want you find that space, if you don’t already have it, find a place where you can go get in touch with yourself, your ancestors and with Spirit.
Find someone who runs sweat, or find a place in Nature where you like to sit and meditate, or check out a Sundance or House Ceremony, or spend time with your elders. Make time to sit in this place and commune with your ancestors, reconnect yourself and balance your energy.
Make time to doctor yourself in this way. Because in this way, we are stronger in everything we do, if we have faith that our ancestors are always standing with us.
Justin Zuniga works as an RSIC Education Advisor at the Hungry Valley Center in Sparks. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.