I’m deeply inspired and grateful for Montessorian and co-founder of the Keres Children’s Learning Center Trisha Moquino and her webinar, Remembering Indigenous Voices with donations benefiting the Black Montessori Education Fund. Considering my own identity and experience as a White lesbian, cis-gender, mother of two and teacher in North Carolina, how do I create a classroom that is broader than my own lens and experience? Reflecting on Trisha Moquino’s story, her compassion, and her wisdom, I’m committed to taking inventory of my own progress with a few central questions.
Where do I live?
Our sense of place is a critical part of our adaptation. I live on the unceded lands of the Skaruhreh/Tuscarora Nation who live out their motto Ek-weh-ewe, ‘Working Today to Create a Better Tomorrow.’ Websites and phone apps like Native Lands will show on whose lands you’re working, living, or traveling. Sharing this land acknowledgement with children is an important part of affirming Indigenous people today and
recognizing the past.
What do I mean when I say, “We”?
Can every child see themselves and be themselves in my class? If I take an inventory of every picture in our Geography folders, on our Language Shelf, and on our bookshelves who do I see? Who is writing the stories? Who is creating the art, music, and poems I share in the classroom? I’ve grown up in and adapted to a culture that sees White, cis-gender, Christianity as the norm and everything else as
other. Unless I continually take inventory and work to include the stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in their own voices, my classroom will teach another generation of children the lethal myth of white supremacy. Trisha Moquino reminds us to talk about the lives of Native people today when I include pictures and stories of people from Indigenous nations around the world? She asks that Native American authors are the authors of Native stories and that it’s Native experts that are the basis for educational materials. The same is true for other groups.
How do I understand colonialism and its opposite?
Do I understand Settler Colonialism? Do I understand how it shows up today? What is colonialism and what is its opposite? What could it mean to decolonize a classroom?
When I look at the culture of our school and our classroom, do I see that we:
Assimilate or Affirm
Isolate or Connect
Suppress or Amplify
Consume or Donate
Destroy or Preserve?
Do I know about the 500 sovereign Native Nations in the United States? Why not?
Do I understand erasure? Do I understand how erasure is another way that Settler Colonialism is still at work today? To look beyond the damaging misconceptions and biases I’ve been taught, I can look to include the stories of Native people told by Native people and treat those stories with the same reverence I’d approach any other knowledge system or religion.
How can I practice today?
I stand on common ground with fellow Montessorians who share a devotion to precise language, a commitment to objective observation, and respect for all children and humans. That does not mean I’ve arrived at mastery. Instead, I’m committed to lifelong learning. I can remember these core values when I’m asked to listen to stories that challenge me, to change my language or learn new vocabulary, and change my actions when I’m shown a more respectful way of being and teaching.
Bear Fox, singer and songwriter
Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities by Eve Tuck
Dr. Michael Yellow Bird
Indigenous Cheerleader Resource list
Framework for Essential Understandings about American Indians
Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional materials about American Indians
Indian Country Today
Native American Authors and Illustrators