Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Views on Indian Education (Part Two)

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that my perception of everything changes over time. Since last year and the beginning of this year, my perceptions have shifted 180 degrees. And I’ve realized that I have outgrown so many of my old beliefs. Perhaps it’s a sign that I am finally growing up or just growing old-er. But nah!

Back to Where I left Off from Part I in Fall of 2004…

Five days after I withdrew the Nebraska Department of Education lawsuits in November of 2004, I attended an Indigenous Justice Seminar sponsored by the Omaha Tribal Court and the Weed & Seed Project. The trainer was Ada Pecos Melton, (Jemez Pueblo), President of the American Indian Development Associates, out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What drew me to the seminar was the whole concept of Indigenous Justice. I wanted to know what that meant because I was searching for a way to come to terms with my experiences with the NDE, etc.

The training centered around youth issues such as status offenses and juvenile delinquency, and the ways to combat these issues through our cultural traditions and self-esteem building. I enjoyed Ada’s workshop because she exhibited total confidence and knowledge in this area. Her presentation style was based on a Native outlook and was holistic, and she also tied it to a logic model example, which I was quite familiar with through my previous work.

Throughout the day of the workshop, I gave my input and made several suggestions. I even said that I was available as a cultural consultant, if they were interested in hiring me part-time. Three days later, I found myself working for the Weed & Seed Program and Omaha Tribal Court as the Juvenile/Community Restorative Justice Specialist. The other one had resigned the previous day.

I worked for the Omaha Tribal Court for about four months. Part of my duties were to research traditional tribal forms of conflict resolution and to develop an alternative tribal court system based on the Omaha culture. All this in order to create a tribal sentencing process that would be more binding than the Western one. It was a lot to do and I was expected to put it together in such a short space of time. At the outset, I was very interested in seeing how this would work and I did the best I could do, however, life has a way of intervening and changing one’s path…

February, 2005…Conflict Can Often Serve As A Catalyst

My children are my mainstay. They’ve grounded me more than anyone or anything else in my life. Yet, for five years, I had hardly had a chance to spend time with them in the way that I wanted to. I was either studying or working long hours. I believed that this was natural because we had to make a living for them, right?

It was right at this juncture when I was still feeling blistered by events from the previous year and when I was investigating further into the process of victim/offender and community mediation, especially as it dealt with the tribal circle process, that I faced another test.

My son Rain was in Kindergarten 2004-2005 and was having a challenging year. Very challenging. He is very intelligent and he always has to be doing something. So, during his first year in school, he was having difficulty transitioning from one subject to another. When he'd start working on something, he had to finish it before he'd move onto something else. Or if he became bored, he would just get up and walk right out of the room and wander through the halls. Then he would get into fights and he was getting suspended from school.

I was unaware of all that he was doing in class. But the suspensions were definitely drawing my concern. I wondered what was going on here?

About this time, my perceptions of the public school system were changing. I was looking at the school more critically. I began to develop very different views of what school should be like for our kids.

One day, I was late bringing Rain into school. As we were walking to his class, his teacher and classmates came bustling around the corner. I was not feeling well and had a doctor's appointment scheduled that morning. So, the last thing I expected was a confrontation with Rain's teacher.

She walked right up to where Rain and I stood in the hallway. Her body language presented her anger before she said anything. Then once she opened her mouth, that was it. I reacted from reflex. I no longer saw her as a human being. I just saw someone who was another government official out to burn me. And I went off!

At my best, I am usually very amiable...but at my worst, I can be just like a maddened horse that is rearing and kicking. So, let's just say that this confrontation did not go well and it was very public.

Conflict can often serve as a catalyst for improvement. On that particular day, I made an important decision, which was to remove my kids from school and homeschool them. I was a teacher after all, so how difficult could it be? It was something I'd thought of doing for two years because I was dissatisfied with the public schools in my area. But it suddenly hit me that I could no longer wait for anything to change in the school system. Instead, I had to change. And, so, I did.

I talked to the Elementary School Principal and told him what I was going to do. Then I went home and began to plan. But, of course, I had to cry first to get out all the left over emotions. I realize now that what I was actually dealing with was left over trauma.

Catching My Breath...

The feeling I had that day was relief mixed with a lot of anxiety. There was a feeling of reaching a point of no return.

For a few more weeks, I continued on with my position as Restorative Justice Specialist but for some reason after that confrontation, I didn't feel that I was the person to take on the task of developing a peacemaking program because I was not feeling very peaceful at all.

I then made the decision to leave this position in order to be home with my children. Once I was home, I rested for several days, catching my breath. I realized that I hadn't had any time to relax in years. It was quite a change in pace. I began to work from my home as an online instructor and cultural consultant. And I also began to plan for my children. The possibilities were open for exploration.