The Need for a Native Focused High School by Amadanyo Joseph Oguara IIITweet
We need a Native-focused high school in Seattle because there’s no high school in Seattle where Urban Native/Indigenous youth can feel welcome, safe, and have their culture and background respected, or access to an education structured around our Native cultural values of finding everyone’s strengths and uplifting everyone; instead we have to go through the mainstream education system that devalues students if they cannot get high scores on tests that are not well suited to them.
Students are highly unlikely to gain anything meaningful from standardized tests. Standardized tests don’t work well with most students, don’t help to enrich or build the strengths of most students. We students are disregarded for having different learning styles that don’t work well with the mainstream education structure.
Combined with the lack of cultural understanding and visibility, Native students don’t get the support we need to succeed. Many of these occasions result in demeaning statements from teachers or administrators directed towards Native/Indigenous learners and/or their families. There’s a continuing overwhelming lack of culturally competent instructors that understand how to work with Native students and many issues we’ve faced for decades that’ve gone unfixed.
We have to overcome great cultural barriers, generational trauma, and lack of visibility in our education spaces. Our cultural barriers and trauma come from historical sources that aren’t well taught in all schools in this country to this day.
Aside from the European colonizers’ genocide against Indigenous people, that greatly decimated the populations of people who long lived in these lands undisturbed, only to be nearly wiped out by disease and massacres and lose almost all of their homes, what followed was centuries of United States governmental policies against Indigenous/Native people that continued to steal and destroy the homelands of Native peoples, justified many mass murders against Native tribes that were continued and approved by the U.S. government, continually destroyed Indigenous peoples’ sources of food, criminalized traditional Native practices and ceremonies, and forcibly separated and/or destroyed Native Indigenous families through boarding schools.
The boarding schools were places where Native children were forcibly taken to, places where they were horrifically abused, forbidden from speaking their languages or practicing their ceremonies, and many Native children had died because of these boarding schools.
These government sanctioned facilities continued atrocities of kidnappings, rapes, and murders of Indigenous/Native people and created a problem of suicide that has stuck with Native people, while at the same time creating trauma for the survivors that often led to violence Native people inflicted against Native women and/or Native children, and created a great loss of knowledge that native tribes have of their own languages and traditions.
Urban Native/Indigenous students succeed when they have a sense of belonging, a stronger sense of cultural identity, and don’t have to deal with people and a system that dehumanizes them due to a hatred and/or fear of nonwhite people. We need a native-focused high school in Seattle for us to succeed, survive, heal, and create a better future for our families and our community.
By Amadanyo Joseph “AJ” Oguara III
AJ is an Urban Indian born and raised in Chief Seattle Territory. He is an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes from his mother’s side and a descendant of the Nembe tribe of Nigeria from his father’s side. His passions are civil rights, restorative justice, tribal sovereignty, equitable public education, youth empowerment, and video games. He was awarded the King County Profiles in Courage Award in 2016 for his engagement in volunteering and working with different social justice groups.