A Different Kind of Kindergarten Lesson

Carol A. Hand

“White people call us ‘dirty Indians
“But you got these bugs from one of the white children in your class
“Now you have to take baths with this special soap everyday
“I have to boil your clothes and bedding
“Don’t’ get too close to them, they’re not like us
“They think we’re dirty Indians
“You have to show them that we’re not
“You have to be better than them in everything you do
“You have to show them we’re worthy of respect.”

me 2

Overcoming the legacies of oppression and prejudice is not an easy task.


36 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Kindergarten Lesson

    1. Thank you for your comments, Michael. Yes, lice are an equal opportunity parasite. In my case, the issue was scabies – associated with lack of cleanliness and less easily visible but perhaps more shame-inducing for a mother who survived the daily messages of the Catholic boarding school where she spent at least a couple years of her childhood.


  1. I clicked on Like Carol, but felt Cognitive dissonance hitting the back of my head … I wanted to ‘Like’ the point you are making but equally felt both ashamed and angry at the ignorance shown by white people … in the end it was a no brainer … I LIKED WHAT YOU WROTE, and the more people that read it the better. Once again, you have stirred many emotions in me including shame, anger and a longing to hear more of your words……love from over the pond to my favourite wordsmith xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your kind and thoughtful words touch my heart, Pat. A brutal history, to be sure, but the shame of it is not of your doing. But I appreciate the righteous indignation about oppression that has fueled the work you continue to do. I send love back to you “over the pond,” my dear friend and brother in spirit. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We need to disengage from this age-old system from hell, and then get back to being free and unique individuals in a collective, and not colors/races, religions or nationalists/patriots in separated herds (nations/races/countries/religions). Humanity, as a whole, has allowed itself to be twisted and turned into the freak show it has become today, and only humanity has the power to take back this world, life and peace.

    And if humanity, as a whole, ever does take back its individual/corporate life, then there will be no need for any mother, anywhere on this planet, to have to make such a statement as this to her child!

    I, too, am sorry for what has happened to you and millions upon millions of others, Carol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate your passionate comments, Dave. The reality of feeling/being marginalized is that it can sometimes ultimately result in resilience, special talents, and unique perspectives. At least for those who manage to survive long enough. In retrospect, I wouldn’t trade my experiences on the margins for the comfort of privilege. It’s gifted me with unique perspectives and skills that I can use to reach others in similar circumstances. I know you know that innovations come from those on the margins.

      My experiences have also taught me the dangers of assimilation. I have no desire to be part of a homogenized global community. I prefer the wonder of diversity, embraced for the myriad ways of seeing the world. The challenge is figuring out how we can live in peace long enough to learn to value each other and work together rather than compete.

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      1. Yes, this is why I always emphasize the individual first, when I am speaking of a united humanity.

        We must have the freedom to be the unique individuals we have been made to be, and at the same time, learn how to come together, collectively, without losing out unique individuality:

        “To live, free and single like a tree
        but in brotherhood like a forest,
        this longing is ours.”

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        1. Dave, I have been thinking about our seemingly different perspectives on this issue. This morning, I was thinking about a Japanese scholar I met a long time ago in San Antonio. We were both part of a group of scholars/authors exploring elder abuse in minority communities. We arrived at similar frameworks to describe cultural differences in perspectives. My colleague spoke eloquently about “the I self” vs. the “We self.” The We self took precendence for elders. Their sense of identity and security demanded that their first obligation was to protect the group rather than themselves. The concepts that I used to explain Native American culture in relation to the dominant US population were: “collectivities of strangers” vs. “communities of relatedness.” The sense of enduring relationships to land and one’s people over the course of the past, present, and future has profound influences on how one sees the world and defines one’s actions. The sense of connection to one’s own group is a source of tremendous strength. It need not result in defining others who are different as inferior or the imposition of one’s beliefs, institutions, or lifeways on others. In Ojibwe culture, each individual was expected to make their own connections to a greater force, to find their strengths and path, in order to contribute those gifts to the community overall. This may be what you are saying, but I needed to say it in different words. It’s not quite the same as individual freedom as much as individual responsibility for the well-being of the whole.

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    1. I’m not surprised to hear this, Stuart, although oppression and prejudice are unacceptable. As I wrote this, I was thinking about the universality of this experience for children from ancestries, castes, religions, etc., that are marginalized in different times and contexts. It’s a heavy responsibility for children to succeed despite discrimination for the sake of their parents and “peoples.”

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  3. Kinda reminds me of two of my parents sayings in regards to Black people. Both of my parents were born in 1930 and my mother suffered under Jim Crow in Dayton, Ohio.

    You’ll have to be twice as good as the white person to get half as far.

    If you’re white you’re alright. If you’re Brown stick around. If you’re Black get back.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and the wisdom passed down by your mother, Fiery Spirit. As I wrote this, I wondered how parents from other marginal cultures prepared their children to deal with discrimination.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Quote: “Overcoming the legacies of oppression and prejudice is not an easy task.” No, it’s not and you can be sure of this: it’s an endless task. As long as all members of the species remain slaves to their belief systems (which is idolatry) they will keep all of their socially negative traits of false pride, oppression and murder, and each new generation will reawaken them ever and anon until the species destroys itself and is replaced by a truly natural and spiritual species of humans; or the earth is left bereft of humanity to make the best of its own evolution, it its own time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, Natalie. Tragically, derogatory names merely give voice to deeper attitudes that result in deadly destructive actions and oppressive discriminatory policies and institutions. But words can wound deeply and perpetuate divisions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely true Carol and ya know those can and should be stopped in the schools! I never allowed any of my students to get away with derogatory comments about anything! It is a learned habit and habits can be broken. I was made fun of in school for being so tall and skinny and freckled face. And though nothing as bad as what you wrote about the sting took a toll for a long time! I still get stared at a lot and I have to remind myself that it matters not! Love and hugs dear Carol‼️❌⭕️

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, you wrote:

    “This may be what you are saying, but I needed to say it in different words. It’s not quite the same as individual freedom as much as individual responsibility for the well-being of the whole.”

    What I am referring to, and have had to put up with my entire life, is the herd mentality that pretends to be individual freedom: the US of A.

    Any collective, where a few rule over the many, I believe is contrary to the natural way human beings were meant to live. And what you have described here, if I understand it, is not a collective where a few rule over the many? If so, then I am in agreement with you.

    The individual, or individuality, or individual freedom, seems to have become the new communism, the new anathema/taboo, it’s verboten. And I don’t really understand this? We are all born individuals, first and foremost, and then we become members of a collective. Without the individual, there is no collective. But if the individual has no concern for anything but himself, then, of course, he is of no value to the collective or himself.

    On the other hand, if the individual is stuck thinking, believing and acting in accord with the collective, then his uniqueness, imagination and creativity die. And this death is of no value to anyone, especially the collective. Maybe this is the

    In the U.S., individualism is a negative, since the individual cares nothing for others, and only is only concerned with self (self-gratification, self-actualized, selfies). And this what I reject.

    I hope this helps to explain what I meant?

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  6. Carol,

    I had insomnia last night, and I woke up thinking about this issue. I also remembered what the incomplete sentence was supposed to say: Maybe I feel this way because I am a musician, and artists tend to draw inward.

    Anyway, this morning, while struggling to get back to sleep, I came to the realization that I am having a very difficult time explaining what I mean, when it comes to this particular subject. And it isn’t just here on your post. I am having a hard time trying to explain this to friends in person as well.

    I have tried to explain this in posts I have written, but I never felt satisfied afterwards.

    So anyway, I do know I don’t mean an individual life devoid of putting others first, a self-absorbed individualism. Beyond this, I guess I am not ready to explain the rest accurately.

    Carol, I hope I have not offended you in any way? This was not my intent. You are the last person I would want to offend!

    And don’t feel like the need to post this comment. I just wanted to share this with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Honest, thoughtful reflections never offend me, Dave, and I hope my honest replies don’t offend others. I never feel like you’re trying to prove you’re smarter than others, that you have to have the last, definitive word even if it means descending to the world of ad hominem attacks. Sometimes, I have allowed those types of comments on my site if I think they have some heuristic value…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes “dirty Indian ” reading brings me back, back to the look on my Shuswap nation Mums face describing past experiences when that phase was used. Living in suburban Ohio, so far away from my homeland But carry the ember of unity always:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing these bittersweet memories, Ray. For young children, it must have been shaming and painful but somehow through the years, many elders can look back knowing that they survived and could teach the next generations how to survive, too.

      Ohio is a long way from where you grew up. I’m glad to hear that the connection to your homeland and family is always with you. 🙂

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