This I Believe

Raina - Bemidji, Minnesota
Entered on October 2, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: prejudice

The first day of fifth grade was great. Walking down the freshly waxed hall with all the freshly dressed students, and watching all the smiles. Everyone was asking me were I came from and why I chose Bagley. Everyone seemed so nice. I took me a month or so to notice others around me and overhear a number of conversations I could have lived without hearing. Riding the school bus was the regular routine and hearing the comments other older students would make about drunken Indians was also an unfortunate routine as well. I just let them speak, because I knew saying anything would result in a conflict. Also I was taught that racism is a consequence of an individual’s ignorance to the real world. People with problems such as being narrow-minded or uneducated usually are unfortunately ignorant. These students were raised to believe these types of derogatory comments were true.

In the middle of my fifth grade year at Bagley elementary staff introduced Native American Arts and Crafts class. The fist week students made beaded bracelets and necklaces. The second week they were asked to draw an animal and after they were finished they were given the Ojibwe word to say that particular animal. The following day the students got to bring their artwork home to show their parents. In a furious rage, a number of parents brought back the artwork and demanded their children not to participate in “Indian” class. Some students sat in the hallway while others made clay pots. The next week more parents found out about the class and dismissed their children from the class as well. Before the class even had a chance, the school board was forced to pull it from the curriculum.

The town of Bagley is surrounded by three large Indian Reservations; White Earth, Red Lake, and Leech Lake. Why don’t they finally except the fact that they live near Native people, and Native culture will always be around the community they chose to live. Bagley has a lot to learn about cultural acceptance and how to deal with situations that have to do with another’s ethnic background. The whole town of Bagley should have a big workshop on cultural diversity, acceptance, and procedures to work Native American culture into their community.

Should one feel sympathetic towards an individual that does not know any better than to hate for no realistic reason? Well what about the internal oppression Native Americans have towards the European races. The term internal oppression means: Internal prejudice that stems from past oppression an individual’s ancestry encountered by others ancestry. Bagley has many Native students that can’t stand the fact that they are being taught by white teachers, being fed by white lunch ladies, and being hated by white students. No one has the right to hate, and maybe the Native American students can have some incentive for putting up with racism while they are learning in their own homeland. They certainly should not have to put up with demeaning comments that will be brought down for generations to come.