Cowboy and Indian day. Should I talk to the teacher? AGAIN?

Discussion in 'Parenting' started by Levi, May 26, 2004.

  1. Levi

    Levi Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    My older daughter is in first grade. She has brought home some disturbing homework in the past. Really biased things about pilgrims 'helping' the Indians and stuff. She got in trouble for not coloring in a picture that said something like "A pilgrim brings his family, his rifle, and his bible to church." All sorts of other ignorant crap.

    Last Thursday my daughter announced after school that she was supposed to come to school the next day dressed as a cowboy or an Indian. They're not studying anything that might somehow make this relevant. She's wasn't going to be in a play. It was just a dress-up theme day like when they had silly hat day.

    I told my daughter that we did not have cowboy clothes. She wanted to dress like an Indian. I asked her how Indians dress. She said she thought kids would be wearing feather head-dresses and things like that. I told her that's not what the Indians around here wear to school.

    I asked my daughter what people should wear if the teacher tells everyone to dress like white people next Friday. (My daughter and I are white.)

    No answer.

    I asked her, "Well, how do white people dress?"

    My daughter looked at her clothes and mine. Silence.

    I said, "However we want, right?"

    She agreed.

    I told her that's what Indians wear, too. Whatever they want. I tried to explain to my daughter, in terms that I hoped would be meaningful to her, being 6 years old, why it is disrespectful to have 'Cowboy and Indian ' Day at school. I told her that it trivializes cultures and promotes stereotypes, and that this makes people think of people who are different from them in shallow, trivial, objectifying ways. I asked her how she thought Indian kids in her class might feel seeing their classmates dress up like stereotypes of their cultures on that day.

    My daughter got defensive and thought I was dissing her teacher. She was mad because she thought she'd be the only kid who wasn't allowed to dress up. I let her wear a beaded necklace that I bought from the Navajo woman who made it. I told her that if her teacher asked why she didn't dress up she could tell her that Indians do wear pants and t-shirts like the ones she had on to school.

    I thought we had moved beyond this. This is a public school in California. I doubt that talking to the teacher will help. She is not the most culturally aware person I have encountered.

    I am tempted to write a letter, about this problem in general, not naming the teacher or school, to the editor of my dinky little town's paper to just get it off my chest.

    I want to know if other parents on this forum think I should talk to the teacher even though she's kind of dense and if I should write the letter to the editor. I'm also interested in other parents' similar experiences.

    I have spoken up in the past about things, like my daughter and I being treated unfairly because of our epilepsy, and I now have a reputation as a pain in the ass at the school. So, it's not like I'll be tarnishing my reputation. I just feel like this cowboy and Indian day is so wrong.

    Your thoughts, please.
  2. TerrapinRose

    TerrapinRose Member

    Yikes!I also hoped this sort of thing was long gone.What's next,little black sambo day? I suspect talking to the teacher would be pointless,after all this seems to have been her idea. I'd probably write the letter to the editor,and also I'd write one to the principal and to the school superintendant or the school board,somebody higher up. When we don't speak out we are saying it's acceptable.
  3. Maggie Sugar

    Maggie Sugar Senior Member

    This is horrible, levi! How racist. Your response
    should be posed to the TEACHER! Maybe it will make her think.

    I live in a pretty right wing area, and we have never had "days" which glamorize the Old West or the pilgrim times and the racism which was rampant then. I would speak to the teacher and the principal, as well as write the letter, I would also list the name of the school in the letter. I woudln't let my child participate either.
  4. Mari

    Mari Member

    Well, our schools do the pioneer thing about grade three and the kids get to go to a heritage school for a day to see what it was like to be a school child in the 1850's. They are asked to dress up, but NEVER as anything specific, always just what they think kids would have worn to school back then. They also study native tradtions at the same time and have made those construction paper headdresses, had a teepee that they made in the classroom, things like that. I think that it can be a good thing if it is approached properly. It's also important to stress that most native Indians don't dress like that anymore unless there is a special occasion.

    We live in a very culturally diverse area and the schools usually celebrate this by asking the kids to wear something from their culture for a day. We have kids from every corner of the world literally. Two years ago our school started an annual event based on this. Each classroom choose a country and learned about it in class, with the teachers incorporating the lessons into their daily routine in what ever way they chose. The day of the fair they decorated their classrooms with things from the country they chose, artwork they had made, served refreshments, and some had music. There were little booklets given out when parents came in and they were to get a stamp from every country they visited. I was involved in this as I was on school council at the time. I have to tell you that we had a HUGE turn out from parents, they brought other family members and everyone had a great time. I know a lot of these parents from working at the school and through my kids. I did not hear one bad comment about the whole thing. Everyone was pleased with the event and begged council and school staff to keep it as an annual event. I'm very proud of that fair, the kids that worked so hard to make it happen, the teachers for being behind it 100%, and the parents for coming out, supporting their kids, meeting their neighbours, and being open minded. Best of all everyone learned something, and came away from that experience with a smile and a little more understanding of the world around them, and how good things can be. Important lessons in the times we live in.

    Having said all that I agree with you and what you told your daughter. I also think that you should contact the school if you have a problem with anything they are teaching. Perhaps you could suggest something like we did if they want to teach about culture. Teaching stereotypes is not the way to go.
  5. Levi

    Levi Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    That's exactly how I feel! I just can't stand to sit back and say, 'Well, it's just a school activity, I don't want my kid to be left out."

    Treating cultures like novelties is so demeaning. And not rocking the boat a little to keep the rednecks comfy just impedes progress.
  6. Levi

    Levi Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    Where I live it is also racially and culturally diverse. White people will soon be in the minority in this part of California. SO, it seems like this biased, bogus curriculum is totally unnacceptable!

    I have to wonder if other parents feel the same way and have spoken up. I talked to a friend about it. Her son is the only black kid in my daughter's class. (The teacher tries so hard to prove that she's not racist against him that she refuses to discipline him in any way, causing much frustration for his parents.) My friend said that her son thought the whole idea was so stupid he refused to participate on his own.

    On a lighter note, I had some funny ideas of how I could have dressed my kid. I could have sent her in a Sari like some Indians from India wear.

    Or, at my local co-op they sell t-shirts with a picture of some Indians with rifles. Under the picture it says, "Pinoleville Band of Indians, protecting homeland security for 500 years." or something like that. I didn't send her in that shirt because she probably shouldn't wear a shirt with guns on it to school.

    Next friday is Hawaiian Day! Isn't that a whole lot like Indian Day?! More indiginous people the U.S. invaded and robbed and murdered to protect their profits and land interests, etc.?!

    I'm sick of this shit! If they must have a theme day, bring back silly hat day. If they want to highlight other cultures, teach a more diverse, inclusive version of history and current events.

    I feel like I have no choice but to get on this teacher's and this school's nerves. All along my mother (a very hip teacher) and I talk to my daughter about why the story and pictures she's getting at school aren't the whole story. Maybe that's not enough, though.

    I wish my daughter's school's teachers had to have an inservice with Howard Zinn and Angela Davis! And my mom!
  7. Megara

    Megara Banned

    is it really racist? I doubt she is going to have the cowboys kill the indians or portray the indians as brute savages who go around scalping innocent white women and the cowboys as being victorious heroes. THAT would be racist.

    The question of stereotyping is interesting. Pretty much you are stereotyping something unless it is all inclusive. No, not all indians wore headdresses, but many did. Some wore suits, many did not. Is it racist to wear a headress and say you are an indian? I think not, because there were many who did. To say that this is the only way they dressed is wrong, but it is not, however, racist to say that indians wore headresses.

    Are we going to cry stereotype if on revolutionary day people wear whigs and tricone hats? Are we going to cry stereotype if on slavery day people dress up wearing chains? Are we goign to cry stereotype if people wear tye dye shirts and bellbottoms on hippy day? At what point does this end? There are facts behind these things.

    There is something very terrible happening in America. We are losing our sense of identity. Anything from the past is considered racist. If someone is offended then it is automatically racist or bigoted. Cowboys and indians have been apart of Americana for over 100 years. I agree that we should not teach that indians are savages or bad people and thta the cowboys were brave heroes. But should we WIPE This from our history? That is exactly what we are doing. We are rewriting history to remove anything we dont want. That is not only horribly wrong, but scary.
  8. HappyHaHaGirl

    HappyHaHaGirl *HipForums Princess*

    I don't think I would be so offended by it that I wouldn't let my kid participate. It's 1st grade... they're just having fun. I played cowboys and Indians when I was a kid and I'm not a jaded racist.... I know that there are stereotypes and things that are "holding people back," but I don't think this is on that level.

    *Is there really a hippy day?*
  9. Megara

    Megara Banned

    i agree whole heartedly.

    we had a 60's day at our everyone dressed like a pot or acid though :p
  10. Maggie Sugar

    Maggie Sugar Senior Member

    NO, but when you are talking about the dominant race and class, it is totally different. Let me tell you, if our school had "Heritage days" I wouldn't have a problem, in fact, it would be fun, but if they decided to have "Daigo Day" or "Mick Day" and all the children were expected to wear some stereotyped Italian or Celtic get up (insulting MY heritage,) with little attention paid to the actual cultures involved, I certainly would be upset and insulted!

    And now my cultures are incorporated into society at large, unlike people who have had a rougher time from White America. I think taking a culture who has been abused and mistreated and making them a side show is wrong. If sensitivity is used, say, learning a certain tribes rituals and clothing in an atmosphere of respect, it is VERY different. But this thing is being used as a novelty and that is not respectful of anyone's culture.
  11. Maggie Sugar

    Maggie Sugar Senior Member

    Hippies aren't an ethnic group. It is a lifestyle, and usually a misinterpreted one, at that.
  12. I remember when I was a little kid this girl came to school for halloween dressed as an "indian". I was kind of weirded out by it. I think that a lot of people in North America see Native culture and Native people as jokes. Look at the way OutKast did that thing where they dressed up as "Indians" on whatever awards show that was (I can't remember) and you didn't even hear anything about it because it wasn't that big of a deal to anyone but Native Americans.
    I used to dance in Pow Wows when I was a little girl, and my white friends would always call my regalia a "costume" and I would have to tell them that costumes are for halloween, these are my pow wow clothes, people dressed like this, I understand that they were just kids, but when parents and even teachers treat Native Culture as something that is just for fun and halloween or doesn't matter for anything except costume days at school, I get so frustrated.
    There were kids when I was little who used to tell me that their parents told them they couldn't come to my house because I didn't have electricity because I lived in a teepee!
    Another story: One day there was a face painter at this fundraiser I was at, and this little girl got her face painted like "an Indian". Then, this lady, who was organizing the fundraiser said to her "are you a good Indian, or a bad Indian?". What the heck is that supposed to mean?
  13. TerrapinRose

    TerrapinRose Member

    Of all the different cultures living here in the US I believe the Native aboriginal people get treated with the least sensitivity and the most disrespect. There are far too many people who think of "Indians" as historical rather than as an ethnic group or culture existing today. Isn't it interesting that after an attempted genocide followed by long efforts at cultural genocide (children taken away to white "Indian schools" where they were forced to speak English and convert to christianity,etc) America would rather ignore the continued presence of those whose stolen land their homes rest on? When other stereotypes are allowed there's usually an uproar. Even when that Taco bell dog spoke Spanish a few years back,people complained. But there go the Atlanta Braves and their fans doing that damn "tomahawk chop" thing. Even supposedly "positive" views of Native Tribal peoples are often romanticized or mysticized,not really like people at all but just a less offensive type of fiction. I grew up in Minnesota and had lots of Ojibwa and Lakota friends,so I know about the ignorant comments "where's your feathers?Do you live in a Wigwam?" The conditions on the reservations are some of the worst poverty in the US also. How tragic.
  14. Levi

    Levi Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

  15. Megara

    Megara Banned

    Daigo day compared to cowboys and indians? Come on. There is no comparison.

    So its ok to stereotype the dominant race but it is unacceptable to stereotype a minority race??? whatk inda logic is that.

    No one is making them a sideshow by having cowboys and indians. I am sure the school wasnt about disparaging indians.

    I'm sorry, but it is people like you that have allowed america to become one big giant double standard. It is alright to disparage whites in anyway, but godforbid anyone do or say anything that might upset even one indian.

    I wasnt aware that it was acceptable to stereotype lifestyles choices. Dont tell that to the gays or the vegans.
  16. Megara

    Megara Banned

    When my sister and my niece/nephew and brother in law dress up in their revolutionary outfit for SAR/DAR reinactments i call their garments costumes too. People are overly sensitive over every little thing. It's really not that big of a deal.
  17. Megara

    Megara Banned

    oh the Irony. The 'cowboy culture' is dying because some people feel that it is racist.

    cowboys and Indians are a part of Americana...or it was...but revisionists seem to be doing their best to destroy that part of America.

    No one is making them out to be a novelty act. A teacher having kids dress like indians isnt promoting stereotypes. Are they telling all kids to wear headresses and war paint? Are they telling them to carry a tomahawk and bow and arrow? Are they telling them to act mean and go rape white women? To scalp any white men? Come on, lets be sensible here. It sounds pretty damn open ended to me. Maybe it should be the responsibility of the Parents(GOD FORBID!) to explore the idea with their kids and dress appropriately.
  18. Maggie Sugar

    Maggie Sugar Senior Member

    You keep insisting NONE of these issues (either in the women's forum or this one are a "big deal" yet YOU keep posting. If it isn't a "big deal" why are YOU so upset by it? Perhaps you need a higher class website with less "irrelevant" postings and less people who are so "over sensitive."

    And, no, dude, I wasn't comparing my Italian heritage to Native American. IF you had read the very next paragraph, you would have seen I explained MY Mediterrainan and Celtic heritage has had an EASIER time being incorporated by White America (which, when my people came over here was nothing more than German, English and Nordic American!) I wasn't "comparing" them, simply stating how ridiculous it would be to have a "Daigo Day" or a "Mick Day" to highlight the ludicrousy of "Cowboy and Indian Day" at a school.

    I also fail to see how your comment about "Hippie Day" was relevant. We were talking about schools and thier often disrespect for certain people's heritage. Hippies are a lifestyle, and isn't the same as someone's hertiage, which they cannot change or choose.
  19. Applespark

    Applespark Ingredients:*Sugar*

    I remember being in kindergarden and wareing a puretain woman hat and dancing with my class...some people in pilgrem hats and some people in indian hats. We were learning about the pilgrems etc. The best way for children to learn is to experience a lil bit of what they are learning. And even though the concept to you is very badly based and you are right...the children don't see it that way and they won't remember it that way. It's more about playing pretend and appritiating that people were very different back then. I really don't see it as too big of a problem since they did give the kids a choice on what they wanted to dress like. I do see the problem with giving an image of an indian to a child and that's waht they think indians if they all ware feathers and don't ware pants and shirts etc like western culture. I can see where that could have been confusing to kids.

    I find it intresting that that is alowed actualy...I mean in black history month it would be very not accepted to have an idea that all children paint their faces and dress like what they think "black" people dressed like back then or something.
  20. Applespark

    Applespark Ingredients:*Sugar*

    but how appropriate is it to have children dress up like these people? indian or have your child dress up like something they dont even really know about...they are not dressing up like them for anything but to portray an image AN IMAGE of someone and not to portray the history and that is a stereotype. we have already rewritten history to whipe out the info we don't want peopel to hear..that is the point. the kids are not really getting the real info. All through school history is sugar coated.

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