By Julia Wilson-Peltier, Nathan Hale High School Student
My name is Julia Wilson-Peltier. I attend Nathan Hale high school and I am a tenth grade student; I am Lakota Sioux, Assiniboine Sioux, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and Northern Cheyenne. I recently had a bad experience with a book at my school titled Brave New World. This book is very racist towards American Indians, and mocks our culture. Brave New World enforces negative stereotypes of Natives by referring to them as “savages” and makes it seem as if Natives are dirty drunks. In the book, the reservation is like a zoo and people visit it and look at Natives as if they are animals. Because of the fact that my culture isn’t represented in my school, it felt like kids were getting a bad impression of Natives. My language arts teacher did nothing to address the racist remarks in the book. It seemed as if no one respected Native culture because no one was doing anything to stick up for it, not even my teacher.
One evening I talked to my mom about this toxic reading material. She was shocked by how incredibly offensive the content was. My mother couldn’t even believe Nathan Hale would teach such a book. This conversation initiated a meeting with all of the tenth grade language arts teachers at my school. Some of them objected to the idea of banning the book from Nathan Hale, but luckily my principle, Jill Hudson, agreed that the book’s content was culturally inappropriate, irrelevant, and insensitive. Most of the language arts teachers at Nathan Hale lacked cultural competency, which made them unqualified to teach this book. Jill Hudson (the principle of Nathan Hale) helped my mom object to the book to the curriculum alignment committee. My mom and community members met with this committee to object to Brave New World and have it removed from the required reading list. My mother and community members worked so hard to have the book removed, that eventually Nathan Hale removed it from the curriculum of next years tenth grade language arts classes.
From this experience, I have learned that with a lot of hard work and dedication you can make positive change in the community. I believe in order to make change happen you have to be passionate about a cause because if you don’t care much about it, you will not put forward your best effort to create change. I believe this is exactly what my mom has done. She was very passionate about removing that book because it affected the Native youth at my school in a very negative way. My mom showed a lot of dedication and perseverance because it was an approximately four month process of having the book removed from Nathan Hale. I am very proud of my mom for this, she is a very good role model because she’s not afraid to stick up for what she believes in which shows strong leadership. Brave New World continues to be on the required reading list District wide with the exception of Nathan Hale. An appeal process is in motion to remove this text district wide. This is the first text book on the required aligned curriculum list to be protested and therefore setting a new standard for appropriate, relevant and culturally sensitive reading literature. It is unfortunate that in 2010 we continue to struggle against inequality, social injustice and racism in the school systems, however with solidarity, unity and proactive community involvement we can make sustainable change. We are change agents when we stand up, take a position and voice our opinions, thoughts and feelings. This is called cultural integrity and I believe as young Native youth we can and will thrive as carriers of our heritage, traditions, culture and tribal values.