Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Native Americans don't use watches"

The clock shown here is hanging in my home. If you look closely, you'll see that the numbers are Tewa words (Tewa is the language we speak at Nambe). I've put it here today for a specific reason. A Native reader wrote to me earlier this week to say that her cousin's middle school daughter's teacher said that Native American's do not use clocks or watches to tell time. The girl rose her hand, told the teacher that she's Native, and that she uses a watch. The teacher replied saying that most Native Americans do not.

Maybe this teacher is among those who think that 'real' Indians live today in the same way Indians lived hundreds of years ago. Maybe this teacher is doing a Columbus "discovered" America unit, and his/her head is in that time period. Whatever the case, I wish more teachers would be comfortable admitting mistakes..

They aren't alone, of course, in their misinformation about who American Indians are! Newspapers play a role in 'what we know' about this or that topic. The Native American Journalists Association has conducted studies on the ways that newspapers cover Native news. Their most recent study is called "The Reading Red Report: 2007." Among the findings is the on-going use of stereotypes and cliches in headlines. With details about the method for the study, I think middle and high school teachers might want to read it and conduct similar studies with their students.

Note: I got the clock from the Indigenous Language Institute.

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