a letter to the community about racism, violence and injustice
June 19, 2020
Posoh, Boozhoo, Shekoli, Hinikaragi – Greetings to All.
This message comes from the ICS Board of Directors in solidarity, unity and peace during a time of great unrest. We are sharing this message against racism, violence and injustice as a show of support for people of color and for marginalized groups. As educators and community members, we understand that we have a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot and to join the voices of many in calling out injustice. We offer sincere condolences to all who grieve the tragic and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others like them, whose lives have been taken. We understand the trauma inflicted upon the Black community and echo the peaceful protests against violence, oppression and racism. We acknowledge that change is long overdue and that compels us to work harder for justice.
Our school was created out of activism for reasons not unlike what is happening today. We too have experienced the failure of systems and policies that oppress, brutalize, diminish hope and kill our people. What began as stolen lands and stolen people, has resulted in unimaginable injustices affecting black and brown people throughout Turtle Island for more than 500 years. Our ancestors endured those atrocities, while praying for the next seven generations. Today, we are the result of those prayers, so with that understanding, we look to the teachings of our ancestors to help us through the extreme difficulties experienced at this time.
Our teachings tell us that we are one part of creation and that we must find a way to live in balance, peace and harmony within that circle. We rely on our SEVEN SACRED GIFTS of Love, Respect, Wisdom, Humility, Bravery, Honesty and Truth to guide everything that we do here at the school, including standing up for what is right.
As you talk with your children about the recent events of racism and the injustice unfolding in front of them, please know that we are here to support you and your family. We will continue to do everything we can to empower our students to see themselves as future leaders and to instill in them, pride in knowing that it was students who led the charge in replacing Columbus Day with INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY. Their work taught us that you don’t have to be an adult in order to make change happen.
We will continue to educate our students about the fight against bullying, violence and race-based mascots and logos. We will promote an anti-bias education through ACT 31. We will teach our students about our shared responsibility to advocate, protect and care for Mother Earth and her lifeblood (our water and wetlands), along with all of creation who depend upon her for life: the four leggeds, winged ones, crawlers, swimmers, trees, our traditional foods, plant medicines and the air that we breath. We will also do our part to raise awareness about MURDERED AND MISSING WOMEN (MMIW), our brothers and sisters protesting to bring about change through BLACK LIVES MATTER (BLM), LGBTQ + INCLUSION and the many other marginalized groups who also experience racism, violence and injustice.
We pray for unity and healing knowing that many people in our community are hurting, exhausted, angry and discouraged. We stand in solidarity with them and are determined to do our part to educate and advocate for justice. We support the efforts of those who cry out for change and we ask the Creator to watch over those who march peacefully, seeking a better future for all people. We’d like to share with you, a strawberry teaching that comes from a beloved and well-respected elder from Manitoulin Island:
The strawberry teaching is a story of forgiveness and peace. The strawberry is shaped like a heart and strawberries are known to our people as heart berries. We were taught stories like these from a very early age. In the strawberry teaching, we learn something about death and about the power of change and healing, and that finding peace doesn’t necessarily come from the head — it comes from the heart.
— Nimkii Biness Mijissi Kwe ba
Grandmother Lillian Pitawanakwat ba
Like our ancestors before us and the Founding Mothers who bravely took action 50 years ago, these are the times that will define our strength as a community. Our commitment to education is unwavering as we stand together, for our children, for our community and for the ancestors yet to come.
Wāēwāēnen, Miigwech, Yawʌɂkó, Wa’įniginąp šąną – thank you for standing with us!
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF INDIAN COMMUNITY SCHOOL:
Carmen Flores, Chair
Sommer Drake, Vice Chair
Diane Amour, Secretary
Justin Thundercloud, Treasurer
Carrie McGhee Gleba, Board Member