October 26, 2010

Classmates thought Alexie would shoot them

Leaving reservation brought its rewards

Native American author tells CSU-Pueblo crowd about overcoming obstacles

By Gayle PerezAlexie spoke about his decision to leave the reservation school to attend a much more progressive high school in a bordering town.

He said on the first day, he was terrified of the "white kids" and they were terrified of him.

"They literally thought I was going to pull out a bow and arrow," he said. "We weren't human beings, we were Indians."

Now looking back on that experience, Alexie said crossing the road to get to that high school was his ticket to a better life.

"What I realize now is that road, that street was my Atlantic Ocean and that little white farm town school was my Ellis Island," he said.

"I was a first-generation immigrant into the United States, which is pretty funny because I am indigenous. I was an indigenous immigrant, which was pretty ironic," he said. "So I was an ironic, indigenous immigrant and that is what I still am."
Comment:  Once again we see the direct link between Native stereotypes and tangible harm. Because of these stereotypes, Alexie says, white kids were terrified of him. We don't know exactly what the consequences were, but we can guess: some combination of bullying, taunting, and shunning.

Imagine how much worse it would be for a kid who wasn't as smart and funny as Alexie. Who couldn't handle himself in tense situations as Alexie probably did. This is one reason why Native kids give up and drop out of the system.

For more on the subject, see Stereotypes Teach Natives They're Inferior and Stereotypical Thinking Causes Racist Results.

Below:  "Author Sherman Alexie talks to a large audience Monday at Colorado State University-Puebloas part of the school's Distinguished Speakers Series." (Chieftain Photo/Chris McLean)

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