“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”—Sitting Bull (one of the quotes on the Honor Circle in the courtyard of our new middle school)
This summer I started reading a favorite series from my childhood to my daughter, the Little House books. She knew we had Native American ancestry far back in our blood, so lines like “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” were challenging to navigate, to say the least, as were the books’ assumptions about settlement rights. (The children’s picture book The Buffalo Are Back provided a lot of great social and environmental context, which helped.)
Ultimately though, reading the Little House books has been a good thing for us to do together. It’s created a lot of dialogue about our ever-changing country, race issues, our ongoing cultural stew, what we’ve done right, and areas where we still have a long way to go.
With those conversations fresh in my mind, along with our country’s percolating nationality issues, we found ourselves at the ribbon cutting of her future middle school this week. The event featured a tribal blessing in honor of the man the school was named after, a celebrated Indigenous educator lauded for his contributions to our city’s public education system. They also honored the land itself, sacred Indigenous treaty land graciously shared with our youth.
What I experienced in that moment was unexpectedly profound in a way I can’t truly express.
To witness this heartfelt and thoughtful tribal ritual hours after the DACA decision… And to see and hear the overwhelming humility, grace, and even excitement of this family joyously sharing of their heritage and land for the betterment of all our kids, it brought tears to my eyes.
A brother of the honoree made a comment along the lines of:
We are all called to live in harmony with the Earth that we were created from as well as all who were also created to share it.
Harmony. Many different voices working together toward something beautiful. If only we could figure out how to do that, our kids would soar—all of our kids.
As Sitting Bull said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Or in the words of our country’s motto, “E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.” Harmony. If we are to believe our motto, perhaps that’s the real American dream.
What are we, as parents and educators of our youth, doing to make that dream a reality? I’d particularly love to know any children’s books you’d recommend. Please add them in the comments.
One thought on “Parenting in Harmony”
One thing that I really like is trying to balance the problematic parts of the classics with stories told by and about marginalized communities. So, for Little House on the Prairie, I’ve heard librarians suggest reading Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House as a balance for a Native perspective on a similar time period. I don’t think that we should avoid reading problematic books (partly because there pretty much aren’t problem-free books), but it’s the conversation while reading that is so important for addressing inequality and helping kids to create harmony in their own worlds.