As I explore diversity in my studies, the challenge has been posed to consider ways to be culturally responsive towards a family from another country. As I considered briefly the vast world from which to explore, one of America’s greatest –isms occurred to me… colonialism.
As an “older” adult (somehow nothing in my traditional public education quite stood out in my admittedly poor memory) I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a book that had stood in my library at home, unread for some 30 years! I read Crossing Over, by Ruben Martinez. I watched Smoke Signals and Pow Wow Highway, both films with interesting ramifications for any anti-bias conversation. I attended a rally for “Justice for Hawai’ians”. My wife and I went to Taos and Santa Fe, where we were unable to visit the Taos Pueblo, (it was closed for a ceremony) and I felt that twinge of ugly privilege rise up in me as my first reaction was, “Hey, we came all this way, how can this be?!”
I remembered a conversation in college, when a few classmates from Lone Pine, California, expressed their frustration with the advantages held by the Native Americans from the reservation outside their community. I remember thinking, “What advantages?” – then learning about the sovereignty of the tribes and the intersection of this sovereignty with the considerably conservative, blue collar Americans of California’s Eastern Sierras.
And so, today, tasked with considering cultural responsiveness for another country, I have set upon exploring the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. According to www.laplaza.org – “Taos Pueblo… one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States… maintains its tribal sovereignty through the Tribal Governor’s office…”
For this hypothetical scenario, I will explore the considerations that an early education teacher/school in nearby (approximately 71 miles) Santa Fe, New Mexico, might make when enrolling children from the Tuah-Tah tribe of Taos Pueblo.
The traditional name for Taos is Tuah-Tah (Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, n.d.). If I were tasked with the responsibility of preparing myself to be culturally responsive to children and families from Tuah-Tah, I would need to consider a number of factors that inform the experience of current day Taos Pueblo.
- Taos Pueblo today is known for producing “beautiful handcrafted wares using techniques passed down through generations” (Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, n.d.). This is significant for a number of reasons. It means that the children and families maintain a regard for traditional values. It also means that their economy is driven in large part by artisan work and tourism. When setting up our hypothetical preschool classroom, I would therefore look first to incorporating community-made items, furnishings and learning materials. In this way, we would honor not only the predominant community culture, but also the livelihood of the local craftspersons. Imagine the message that would be sent to a community which economy is in large measure based upon traditionally produced crafts, to have a classroom filled with store-bought, mass produced items!
- The people of Tuah-Tah still recognize traditional song and dance (Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, n.d.). In addition, “running has also carried great religious significance at Taos Pueblo” (www.laplaza.org n.d.). For my hypothetical curriculum, we would certainly consult with local musicians, artisans and consultants prior to finalizing the curriculum design. I would endeavor to seek guidance from the parents/families as to appropriate resources using a Family Survey.
- The culture of the Taos Pueblo also incorporates a mix of indigenous and church influences. The community political culture is also informed by indigenous traditional cultural rites (www.laplaza.org n.d.). When designing the curriculum and school calendar, it would be important to research and respect the holidays that are recognized by the Tuah-Tah, such as San Geronimo Day, September 30th (www.laplaza.org n.d.).
- When considering environmental print and other language needs, it will be imperative to seek guidance from the families. The traditional language of the Tuah-Tah is the Northern “Tiwa” dialect (O’Donnell, Jim, 2012). An important resource will be the Cultural Education Committee of the Taos Pueblo Board of Education (O’Donnell, 2012). O’Donnell, 2012, provides a compelling quote from Samuel Johnson, that language is “the dress of thought.” Nevertheless, given the larger context of the Taos community’s relationships with the world, Spanish and English will be important languages to represent as well.
- Finally, I would need to reflect upon my own biases. I certainly have concerns in respect to tourism, cultural tourism, and multiculturalism. It will be important to consult with families in order to identify those parts of the Tuah-tah culture that are meaningful in a current context and to avoid any characterization of culture based upon historical emphasis that is absent current cultural consideration. In addition, Santa Fe (as well as Taos) is greatly informed by art and “hippy” culture (http://nmgastronome.com 2011). This will require an examination of my own biases regarding the gentrification of Santa Fe/Taos and a deft hand at balancing the potentially uneasy intersection of hippy-informed culture with traditional American culture with Tuah-Tah culture. It is noteworthy that Santa Fe, according to areaConnect (sic) is approximately 48% Latino and 47% White/non-Latino and at 2.2%, the third largest ethnic demographic is American Indian and Alaska native. The lack of additional ethnic diversity indicates a need to insure that the learning environment also reflects other cultures in a responsible way. This will point again to the potentially uneasy cultural milieu.
Benefitting from this exploration of culture:
All children will benefit from an examination of cultures that are beyond their own. “Addressing racial, ethnic and cultural diversity with white children in all or predominantly white settings is a vital component of anti-bias/multicultural education work (Derman-Sparks, Louise and Ramsey, Patty, 2005).
Children that are exposed to Tiwa, Spanish, and English will have more appreciation for language and cultural diversity. These children and families, exposed to the influences of multiple cultures will also be more able to participate respectfully and responsibility in the economy of the region which is fueled in large part by tourism and artisanship.
Personally, I would benefit by gaining a better understanding of the community’s resources, cultures, and values. This knowledge would provide opportunities for me to further develop the schemas that combat my internal biases and inform my relationships with others.
areaConnect. 2012. Santa Fe City, New Mexico statistics and demographics (US Census 2000). Retrieved August 7, 2012 from http://santafe.areaconnect.com
Derman-Sparks, Louise and Ramsey, Patty. 2005. Anti-bias/multicultural education with white children. NAEYC, Washington, DC. Retrieved August 7, 2012 from www.achievementseminars.com
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. n.d. Taos Pueblo. Retrieved August 7, 2012 from www.indianpueblo.org
O’Donnell, Jim. 2012. Taos Pueblo works to keep Tiwa from ‘going to sleep’. The Taos News, July 23, 2012. Retrieved August 7, 2012 from www.taosnews.com