As if the Native American community didn’t have enough to deal with including voter suppression and ongoing efforts to protect their land, they still face hardships within the school system. Centuries after being colonized, Native Americans are still being persecuted with acts of racism and injustices. Take, for example, this heartbreaking story out of New Mexico.
Two female high school students were ridiculed by their teacher in their classrooms because they were Native American.
The incidents against the students occurred on Halloween at Cibola High School. The majority of the student body and staff dressed up for the occasion, however, some of them were dressed as Native people.
It’s important to note that Native Americans represent 10.6 percent of the New Mexico population and have 22 tribal communities in the state along with 19 pueblos and three tribes spanning five reservations.
The Native students told the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico that they had to withstand the site of their non-Native peers dressed up in stereotypical Native costumes. But that’s not the worst of it.
The Native students say their teacher, Mary Jane Eastin, who was dressed up as Marie Laveau, a historic voodoo witch, instructed the class to participate in a learning game. According to the ACLU: “She would ask students questions out loud. Those that answered correctly would be rewarded with marshmallows. Those that answered incorrectly would be given dog food. Ms. Eastin encouraged her students not to worry, as the dog food was ‘organic.’ Some of the students who answered incorrectly ate the dog food. Others refused.”
Eastin then approached one Native female student and threatened to cut off her braid with the box cutter. She then put down the box cutter and cut her braid —approximately 3 inches — with a pair of scissors, “and then sprinkled it on the desk in front of her.” The teacher then pointed out to the other female Native student who had fake blood on her face — she was dressed up as the Little Red Hood.
The ACLU states that the exchange went as so:
The teacher asked her, “What are you supposed to be, a bloody Indian?”
“In response to the collective gasps from her students, Ms. Eastin doubled down and stated, ‘What? She is bloody, and she is an …’ Ms. Eastin stopped short of finishing her sentence and allowed her racist comments to linger.”
One month later the ACLU demanded the school district “make immediate changes to prevent students of color from being subject to racially-hostile school climates.”
— ACLU of New Mexico (@ACLUNM) November 28, 2018
According to KUMN radio station, a spokesperson with the school district said they are “seeking expert assistance for cultural competency training and will seek public input on the training.”