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|  2020 E-NEWSLETTER  |  VOLUME 20, ISSUE 3  |

Circle of Hope

 STANDING IN SOLIDARITY

I am a Native mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The men, women, girls, and boys in my family are Indigenous. I have spent my entire life living with the possibility of violence or death aimed at myself and the people who I love the most. 

Every single time an act of violence against a person or a group of people of color is in the news, I know in my heart it is only one visible act – and that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of violence, overt and covert, committed against people of color every day that are not witnessed by anyone but the recipient. I know this because this is my experience – I see it every day. 

For nearly 40 years I have worked with Native education leaders creating equitable access to higher education for Indigenous people. Our institutions graduate Native leaders and seek a better way of life for our children, families, and Native communities. We are on a restorative economic, social, and spiritual path, healing generations of trauma resulting from government policy and treatment of Native people. 

The senseless and violent killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the harmful rhetoric about people of color, is deeply disturbing. Their deaths are a painful reminder of the number of people who have been victims of systemic racism and invisibility. When someone calls out for their mother, I hear it just as I heard my own children call for me when they were looking for me to join them – to celebrate, to share sorrow or anger, and perhaps, just perhaps, to save their lives. 

We are angry and we stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters. We know only too well the vulnerability of all people of color and the risk to our well-being that violence and chaos create. 

One thing that I know to be true through my work is that creating equity in education is meaningful because Education is the Answer to all of the disparities and challenges that society faces. Through education, we learn the truth about history, gain a shared understanding of values and relationships, and develop skills for communication and engagement. We learn how to provide better law enforcement and healthcare, more meaningful jobs, stewardship of the environment, and an improved quality of life for people of color. 

Protests have erupted across our nation, demanding a new and better way forward in our country that is being ravaged by a virus that has disproportionately impacted people of color and the poor, laying bare our nation’s systemic and structural racism. Racism in America is nothing new. To be anti-racist means to stand in solidarity with people of color and to commit to transforming our nation’s systems, institutions, and relationships. 

Our Indigenous teachings show us that we are all related. We have the choice to walk on the good road, the red road. This choice requires discipline, courage, accountability, and generosity. Our teachings remind us that each of us has gifts we can contribute for a better society – some of us by working to change systems, others by sharing their art and their words, and some by marching in the streets. 

We must move forward with even greater resolve and an even greater commitment to using our Indigenous values as the guide for our daily work and for our vision. Recent events remind us of the vision the founders of tribally controlled education had; reminders that we must gather up our weapons of intelligence, resolve, cultural teachings, and resilience, to fight for a better future. For the American Indian College Fund, our weapon is education. 

We join other justice organizations, advocates, communities, and especially our youth to move forward using our values of respect, responsibility, relationships, reasoning, and resilience. 

We call upon our brothers and sisters nationwide to raise a unified voice to demand a humane, just, and equitable nation for people of color for the next seven generations. No one will grant us this vision – it is one we will only achieve through hard conversations, hard work, and dedication. I call upon us to work together to make our voices heard, our communities visible, with the goal of creating a home where all of our children can thrive in peace. 

We reiterate our declarations of purpose for educational equity to reform education systems at all levels from early childhood education through college and adult education to eliminate racism. Racism is one of the greatest public health risks faced by brown and black people, and education is the shared space where good health and quality of life can be restored. 

This is a time when people are broken hearted. As human beings, we know that we can carry love, joy, grief, and anger at the same time. We, at the American Indian College Fund, promise to listen and to be present with the sorrow and anger that we and others feel. We promise to work on solutions, with each other, and with our allies. 

Pilamayayapi (thank you) for your support and friendship, 

Cheryl Crazy Bull

BEING AN ALLY FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

Once again, the national conversation about racism has risen to the surface. As Native people, we are all too familiar with the effects of racism, and so we stand alongside all those who suffer injustices, hatred, and subjugation. We ask that you be an ally as well. 

Facing racism and the unjust systems that support it is not easy. It requires an inward focus involving self-reflection and learning, as well as activism and speaking out.  

In this fight, there will be leaders who rise up and make their voices heard. It is up to us to seek out this type of leadership and to support those who will help amplify our voices.  

Here are some ways you can stand with us in the fight for equity for all. 

Talk to your leaders.

Tell government officials what you think about public policies and services. Write letters to your local paper, serve on task forces, call or email elected representatives, and provide input on proposed new policies. YOU can make a huge difference in just 60 seconds!

Educate yourself.

Take time to learn about the issues you are passionate about. Are you most concerned about social justice, the environment, or equity in education? All of these issues affect Native communities disproportionately more than others.

Vote.

You have the power to influence the lives of Native communities by electing officials who support Indian Country.

Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation. By voting in tribal, local, state, and national elections you have the power to choose the leaders who determine funding for schools and higher education programs, transportation, housing, healthcare policy, and the security of our nation. These issues have a significant impact on Native students and their communities!

Vote.

You have the power to influence the lives of Native communities by electing officials who support Indian Country.

Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation. By voting in tribal, local, state, and national elections you have the power to choose the leaders who determine funding for schools and higher education programs, transportation, housing, healthcare policy, and the security of our nation. These issues have a significant impact on Native students and their communities!

SCHOLAR PROFILE

COMBATING RACISM THROUGH EDUCATION: ALBERTA

The earliest brush with racism I can remember was around third or fourth grade in music class. We were learning an old Texas folk song, and our teacher told us that in those days, if an Indian was caught in Texas, they would be shot. I looked over and a group of white boys were all motioning that they were shooting me.  

In middle school I started to educate myself on the Navajo Long Walk and other atrocities in Native American History, as well as the American Indian Movement, John Trudell, Mary Crow Dog, and Wilma Mankiller. My involvement in activism when the Arizona Snowbowl proposed the use of treated waste water on our sacred mountain outside the city of Flagstaff attracted more racism.  

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico with some relatives and visited the Institute of American Indian Arts. I felt at home. I cried as I found my place that would heal me and regain my confidence that had been stripped of me from years of combating racism. I would be in a place that would allow me to be the silly, strong, unapologetic Diné woman I am. 

I graduated with honors in 2016 with a bachelor of arts in Indigenous Liberal Studies, and now I am an educator at a charter school. I think back to when I was my students’ age and how I didn’t have the support I needed. As an educator now, I tell my students that they’re safe in my classroom. That’s all some youth want is a safe place, like I found attending a tribal college. It wouldn’t have happened for me if I didn’t have the support of my family, my tribal college family, and my family from the American Indian College Fund.  

SCHOLAR PROFILE

EXPERIENCING RACISM: NATASHA

scholar profile Natasha

When I was growing up, I had a hard time finding someone to relate to. There weren’t any TV shows, movies, cartoons, or dolls that represented me or my world. I didn’t really understand why I didn’t see myself reflected in the world around me until I got older and started to understand the erasure of my people, heritage, and culture.  

As I went through school and learned about the concepts of patriarchy, capitalism, Manifest Destiny, and the Doctrine of Discovery, I became more and more thankful to be alive during a time when I can challenge these concepts. They all played a part in determining my life and I want to be a part of changing that for future generations.  

Racism has forced me to navigate the world carefully. From small decisions about the things I might post on social media to larger decisions about where to go to school or to raise my children, the way hundreds of years of systemic racism shapes my perception of the world is never absent from my mind. My freedom to practice the faith of my choice, my freedom to vote in this coming election – these are basic rights my recent ancestors (even my parents in the case of religious freedom) did not have. While it pains me to think of the oppression they experienced, I do find hope in knowing I am fighting back against the continued effects of that history every day.  

Arming yourself with an education or learned trade is the best way to fight micro aggressions and racism. It will help you identify situations that need to be addressed. Cultural appropriation, along with historical misconceptions and inaccuracies, are topics of discussion in almost every realm of the world: work, education, and politics. Also, by taking advantage of your voting rights and filling out the Census, you help ensure your views and interests are represented. 

IN MEMORIAM

When the Purvis family lost Christopher suddenly and unexpectedly this past spring, all agreed they wanted to do something special and lasting in his name.  

Christopher was an educator with an insatiable curiosity and genuine interest in people, cultures, languages, and the world, which started as a child when he spent time in New Mexico. He was fascinated by Navajo culture and the stories of the Hopi and Anasazi people. 

He spent much of his 20s traveling and living in places like Guatemala and Kenya, where he learned to speak Spanish and Swahili. Christopher cared deeply about the levels of unfairness and unhappiness he saw in the world and committed himself to doing everything he could to level inequity. 

His empathy and compassion for indigenous peoples, coupled with his love of education and learning, led his family to the American Indian College Fund and the establishment of the Christopher Purvis Memorial Scholarship. This endowed scholarship will give hundreds of American Indian students the opportunity to attend college. 

“The American Indian College Fund reflects all the things our son believed in,” says Mike Purvis, Christopher’s father. “His compassion and generosity will live on in each student supported by this scholarship.” 

For more information about how you can honor or memorialize someone through an endowed scholarship, contact AMartin@collegefund.org or call 303-429-4191. 

Did you know?

 

The Census is a critical and powerful information source that will significantly influence American policy for the coming decade.

We all benefit from being fairly and accurately counted in the census; when citizens are counted, their neighborhoods and communities are fairly represented at the federal, state, and municipal levels.

The Census does more than supply statistics. Undercounting minority populations results in a loss of critical public funds for services, dilutes minority voting power, and threatens accurate apportionment of Congressional representation.

In short, people who are not counted in the Census are essentially rendered invisible. Their communities are short-changed on services in education, healthcare, housing, and even basic security.

Going uncounted means surrendering civic power and giving up community services.