Good morning! Today is Nov. 1, marking the beginning of Native American Heritage Month, sometimes referred to as American Indian Heritage Month. Here is a great video on how Native American Heritage Month came to be, with roots that easily go back to 1914. If you're a professor or a school teacher, it might be a cool thing to do a land acknowledgement and talk about what this month means to you personally.
For my part, I would like to acknowledge that my home sits on the Indigenous lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what now is called North America. Moreover, I would like to acknowledge the Alabama-Coushatta, Caddo, Carrizo/Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Comanche, Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, and all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories in Texas.
I also want to acknowledge my own Indigeneity—of Purépecha and Apache descendancy—from Michoacán, Mexico and the Southwestern region of Arizona/Northern Sonora/Southeastern California, respectively. I owe my very life and well-being to my ancestors.
I also want to acknowledge the important work that we do at our Saturday School, Academia Cuauhtli (or Eagle Academy in Nahuatl) together with the Kalpulli Teokalli Teoyolotl that teaches danza to the children at the school. We are in partnership with the Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos, the Austin Independent School District, and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. A key partnership is with Azteca Sirias' Aztech Kidz Code Summer Camp that offers our Indigenous STEM Summer program. We are largely comprised of volunteers and all of our educators are certified bilingual/dual language teachers from within the Austin Independent School District.
Academia Cuauhtli is in its ninth year of operation. In addition to our two-week summer program that promises to expand to even greater numbers of students next summer, we have already expanded to five after-school programs in AISD directed by current and former Academia Cuauhtli teachers. In nine years, we have prepared well over 250 teachers to teach our co-constructed curriculum and the units are made available districtwide to all AISD teachers.
As student, professor, elder, and parent volunteers, our work in maintaining the school is truly a labor of love to offer an East Austin, largely immigrant, Spanish-speaking, working class community a free, culturally revitalizing and enriching curriculum. Many thanks to the staff at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center, our physical home. Many thanks, as well, to our AISD partners for working with us and supporting our work despite shrinking budgets.
We all benefit from this magnificent work that invites the sacred into education. After all, what could be more sacred that the education of our youth? That we, in the process, are ourselves revitalized, speaks not only to ways that we are capable of knowing, but also a lived experience that combines a life of the mind, heart and spirit that lives in and breathes through community.
At our best, as once expressed by the Rev. Dr. King, our efforts equate to the "beloved community" about which he spoke. In Spanish, "El pueblo amado," is so incredibly sonorous and resonant, if not inviting.
Shouldn't this be the gold standard anyway toward which we should all aspire in education? Are we not better with, than without, escuelita (our school)? Should there not be many more? Should there not be many more everywhere?
No question about it. Because of Academia Cuauhtli, our lives, if not our very species-being, which is, at its base, communal, finds fulfillment—a replenishing source of joy, love and identity. We are alway much more than we know ourselves to be. We are always much more than who we are told that we are. Hence, an ingrained need for self-discovery, a kind of psychic anchoring and epistemological commitment.
It's all so very tender and humbling. Working around, with, and for children and youth does that to you...💗
We must all do our part to perfect the union.
Check out the video below. Happy Native American Heritage Month!