On Sunday afternoon, November 4, a capacity audience at the Jenks Senior Center gathered to hear racial justice educator and author, Debby Irving, and activist Claudia Fox Tree of The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness hold a public dialogue around the myths that continue to frame indigenous people in stereotypical ways.
Ms. Irving began by telling of a talk she once gave in which she spoke of those in this country who have not enjoyed the system of unearned advantages known as white privilege. While she touched on Native Americans in her remarks, Claudia Fox Tree, who was present at that talk, felt she did so all too briefly. At the end of Irving’s public remarks, Ms. Fox Tree approached her to say as much. This moment marked the beginning both of their friendship and their collaboration.
Each went on to share her origin story:
Audience members then gathered into small groups where they recalled myths they had been taught in which the actions of the white settlers were valorized while those of the native people were distorted.
The audience was then invited to offer suggestions about what might be done today to redress this legacy of ignorance:
Concluding the afternoon, Ms. Irving stated that she hoped members in the audience could get more training in how to better navigate difficult conversations across all differences. Ms. Fox Tree, for her part, left the audience with a reminder of what multicultural educator James Banks has said; namely that is not enough simply to know. One has to know, then care, then act, to make a difference.
Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States
James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans