January 10, 2013

Montessori School mocks Native culture

Mocking Native culture at Maria Montessori School

By Brandon Ecoffey“My daughter Jada came home and said, ‘Ina (mother) they are trying to make fun of us at school’ and handed me a flier detailing the school's Thanksgiving celebration,” said Jeanie Eagle Bull-Oxendine.

During the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday the Maria Montessori School-where the Oxendine’s two youngest children attend school-holds a week long holiday celebration where non-Native teachers, parents and school administrators hold a number of events recognizing the holiday, which according to the school are meant to promote thankfulness and the importance of the first Thanksgiving.

Some of the events could be seen as highly offensive and ignorant. The festivities include the making of Native American headdresses, the giving out of “authentic” Native American names, the construction of drums, and culminates in a meal where teachers, parents, and students are encouraged to come dressed as either a Pilgrim or the much more coveted Native American.

“I approached the teacher at the school and told her that as Native Americans and as veterans we found these practices extremely offensive,” said Jeanne Eagle Bull-Oxendine. “I asked them to stop the practices and even offered to come in and help educate the parents and other students about Native American culture,” she added.
And:The school’s response was not what was expected. Instead of working to help address the concerns of the Oxendine’s and their dissatisfaction with the Thanksgiving holiday events the school suggested that the best course of action would be that they keep their kids out of school while the events took place.

“It is our intent to not exacerbate this situation any farther, and hence our request for your children to remain home for this week,” the school said in a letter.

Shocked at the schools response Jeannie began approaching other parents at the school informing them of the concerns that she had. This however was greeted with an additional letter from the school.

“As a school, we also want to limit your public discussions amongst our parents of your displeasure with our long-standing traditional Thanksgiving observance in our pre-school. Because of your dissatisfaction with the changes we offered to make in the curriculum, some of the activities that cause you so much concern will continue through this week,” the school responded.
And:While looking [for help] however, the family was informed by the school that they would need to reapply for their kids’ scholarships. Tuition to attend the school is over $8,000 a year. Ironically the Oxendine children were awarded their scholarships based on their Native American lineage according to Jeanne Oxendine-Eagle Bull.

“It seems like as soon as we started contacting other organizations about our concerns the scholarships were questioned,” said Eagle Bull-Oxendine. “All we want is the best education possible for our kids in an environment where they can be respected as people and as Native Americans,” she added.

The family feels that had they not questioned the practices of the school their kids would still have their scholarships at Maria Montessori School. The school did not respond to requests by Native Sun News for comment. The Oxendine’s have begun looking for legal advice and the support of other Native American organizations in southern California.

“We feel like we have exhausted all our options with the school and are now reaching out to other Native organizations for help,” said Jeanne. “We are also looking in to possibly exploring legal action against the school hopefully something works out for us,” she added.
Comment:  I can sort of understand not wanting to change a 30-year-old tradition--no matter how racist it is. But really, to dismiss the parents' concerns without an ounce of discussion? To "request" the kids' absence for a week? And to take away their scholarships because of the controversy? Unbelievable.

This situation sounds like an ACLU lawsuit waiting to happen. Did the school consult a lawyer, or the long record of Native controversies in education, before deciding to do nothing? Some school officials should be reprimanded for negligence, at least. Acting as if this is a one-time oddity, rather than the umpteenth example of prejudice against Indians, is grossly ignorant.

Ironically, the school is located at 4544 Pocahontas Ave. in San Diego. I wonder if the school and its community have a long history of slighting or stereotyping Indians. That wouldn't surprise me at all.

For more Thanksgiving-themed controversies, see Snoop Dogg in a Headdress and Stereotypical Thanksgiving TV Promos.

Below:  "The Eagle Bull-Oxendine family challenged the offensive curriculum promoted at their children’s school. As a result they may have lost the scholarships that their children had received based on their Native American heritage."


Anonymous said...

What's hilarious is, a lot of the Montessori methods are things Indians (and most of the world,k for that matter) did traditionally. Go figure.

Rob said...

A year later, the conflict continues:


Family Stands Against School’s Racist Thanksgiving Curriculum

After receiving a newsletter describing the week of potentially offensive activities, his wife, Jeanne Eagle Bull-Oxendine, Oglala Sioux, decided to try to engage the school in creating a culturally appropriate curriculum.

What followed is in dispute. School officials say they immediately ended the curriculum and have tried to cooperate with the Oxendines.

But the Oxendines say the school resisted ending their Thanksgiving tradition, and told them to keep their kids at home rather than change the curriculum and eventually revoked their daughter’s scholarship to be rid of their complaints.