Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cowboys vs. Indians Day at Thunderbird High School (with short update)

Tonight on the University of Arizona's Tohono O'odham Student Association (UA TOSA) Facebook page, I learned about a situation happening in Phoenix that shocked, disgusted and angered me. 
Thunderbird High School is hosting a "Cowboys vs. Indians Day" tomorrow (10/24) as part of the "Spirit Week" leading up to their Homecoming on Friday. 
A Native student named, Traviz Tuvungytewa, a junior at Thunderbird, posted the following video to his facebook page and asked others to share it on his behalf.
"My response to Thunderbird High's Cowboy vs. Indian day.  I hope you guys watch this despite the length. I hope you guys at least see this from my perspective.  SPREAD THE WORD THIS IS NOT OK" -Traviz 

In the video Traviz shares that upon hearing about the Cowboys vs. Indians Day, requested that the school change the theme for that singular day. 

He took his concerns to the principal and she declined his request.  She then justified her decision to allow the day to continue as planned, despite the offensive nature, because their school's mascot... is a "Chief."  

No, the school is not predominately Native American.  Yes, I understand there is a great sense in pride for predominately Native American schools to use Native terms and imagery in their school's athletics.  I side with these schools for their ownership of these terms and images.  This, however, is not one of those situations.  This is a school in Glendale, Arizona.  This student is of the minority.   

Of course, this comes on the heels of today's ignorant statements in made by Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer regarding the "Redskins" team name.  You can read her skin-crawlingly offensive drivel here: Brewer: Nothing offensive about 'Redskins' team name 

I greatly admire this young man for his honesty and bravery on such a shockingly polarizing issue.   

For those of you who are still trying to justify the use of Native American terms and imagery in athletics, please take the time to listen to this young, Native American describe how alienated and persecuted it makes him feel just to attend his local school, which has a "Chief" as their mascot.   
Although the student feels that it is "too late" to change the minds of his administrators, even with outside support, he hopes that it will at least begin a discussion regarding the changing of their school's mascot. 

I wrote the following letter on his behalf and sent it to an administrator at Glendale Union High School District.

Mr. Capistran, 
It has come to my attention that Thunderbird High School is hosting a "Cowboys vs. Indians Day" as part of their spirit week festivities tomorrow.  It has also come to my attention that at least one Native American student has voiced their concerns to the Principal of Thunderbird High School and his request to have the theme changed has been denied.    
I am shocked and disappointed by the Student Council's decision to host such an event.  Although I'm disappointed by their choice, I would like to emphasize that I do not place blame on them, as they are young and have much to learn about the world around them.  
I am, however, truly offended and angered that the administration of Thunderbird High School not only approved the theme, but continued to support the event even after a Native American student voiced his concerns, and requested that the theme of that singular day, be changed.  
I am shocked that Thunderbird High School, an educational institution is continuing to promote this theme, which blatantly disrespects its Native American students!  
The "Cowboys vs. Indians" era in American history was an extremely violent and devastating period for the American Indian People of the Southwest. That era in American history was a time in which Indigenous populations were aggressively, brutally and mercilessly invaded, relocated and/or murdered for the sake of land, gold and "progress."   
Having a day such as a "Cowboys vs. Indians Day" is comparable to hosting a "Germans vs. The Nazi's Day" or a "Slaves vs. Slave-owners Day".  It is unacceptable and deplorable that this event is being supported by Thunderbird High School.     
Choosing to host such an event both alienates and ostracizes your Native American students and makes a mockery of the pain and persecution that our people have endured throughout history.  It creates an antagonistic racial divide between those who are Native American, and those who are not.  
It is our job as educators to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive learning environment for our students, one which is free of hostility, discrimination and hate.  
I hope that by drawing attention to this severe lapse in judgement, the Glendale Union High School District can bring about administrative action on this event and open up the discussion on how your schools can educate your students to honor, respect and celebrate cultural differences, rather than perpetuate offensive stereotypes and facilitate racism.  
I am asking that you personally visit the Thunderbird High School on 10/24 and discuss how you and the principal can bring an end to this offensively "themed" day.  
I look forward to your response, 
Thank you, 
My full name 
My contact information
For those of you still engaging in the "Native Americans as Mascots debate," the debate is now over. 
It's done.  It's offensive and it's unacceptable.
It's time to take action.
::UPDATE:: (Sorta)
Here's a short update from Traviz' cousin', who is the person who originally brought this story to my attention.  Here's what she shared with the UofA Tohono O'odham Student Association's page
"So far I've gotten word from 2 news stations who have taken special interest in the story but here is the latest update as of an hour or so ago. A few parents and my Aunt (Travis' mother) have spoken with the principal to address this situation concerning Thunderbird High Schools spirit day, themed, "Cowboys versus Indians" earlier today. The principal stated she did not realize the implications and effects the theme raised. However, as educators the school and principal should have known better and should have stopped this from ever happening. The Glendale Union HS district administration will be contacted. We feel that the the American Indian students deserve an apology! Another student from ASU's AIS suggested the school release a public apology at the pep rally, the school reluctantly did not go for the idea. The principal stated the theme of "Cowboys VERSUS Indians" was taken out of context and was supposed to be, "Cowboys AND Indians" (As if that were any better!!!). It still represents and perpetuates the same notion of racism, segregation and the emotional infliction it bestows upon the American Indian students of that school. The high school is supposed to ensure the safety and well being of every student, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity etc. Thunderbird High School is not up holding those responsibilities. My family members do not deserve to put up with this and basically be told by the the school that it's ok to segregate and exploit the American Indian students. These students deserve an apology and the Thunderbird High School principal and faculty need to address this situation to their non-Indian students and educate them on what this theme disrespectfully represents."

Let's let that sink in...  "The Cowboys VERSUS Indians theme was taken out of context and was supposed to be, 'Cowboys AND Indians."
I'll try to keep you posted!
Thank you to all of you who wrote emails on behalf of Traviz!

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Dear Deer Brother

My middle brother, Pasqual, has always been extremely hyper-active.  Despite having asthma as a kid, he was always very athletic and never seemed to run out of energy. 

Pasqual was always an extremely hard worker; he would always be out chopping wood, hunting for food, working with the cowboys in our village, driving tractors with our dad or working out in the fields.  Even at the young age of 10 or 11, he would work alongside full-grown men in our village as an equal.  Pasqual worked hard to provide for our family and there were even times when he was basically our family's sole provider. 

However, when Pasqual wasn't doing all of those extremely responsible things, he'd usually be getting himself into trouble or acting like a complete idiot.  He liked to pick fights with everyone.  Pasqual was obnoxiously fearless.  He loved to prank people, especially my oldest brother, my sister and even our mom.  He loved, loved, loved to get in people's faces and annoy the heck out of them.  

Pasqual was really quick, he'd come in like a Tasmanian devil, wreaking havoc for a few minutes until you were angry enough to fight back, then he'd jump through a window, or onto the roof for a quick getaway.  He relished in other people's anger.       

My three brothers, my sister and I spent a lot of time at home unsupervised.  It's really a wonder we made it through unscathed.  We had more tolerance for each other, but our mom was easily annoyed by Pasqual's antics.  Pasqual, after all, was always coming up with new and creative ways to be obnoxious.       

One day my mom was in the middle of what we called "her mean sweep".  The Mean Sweep occurred whenever our house was dirty (which it always was) and when no one had sprung into action after her repeated instructions to clean.  She would angrily sweep through the entire house push anything and everything in her path into a big pile by the front door.  She didn't care if there was a blanket or a pair of shoes, clothes, homework, books, anything at all that had been left on the floor would be swept into one huge pile.  As soon as she started the mean sweep, there would be a frantic rush for all of us to hurry up and pick up before she got there.  If you got in her way, she'd hit you with the broom and try to sweep you out too. 

Although we laugh about it now, as a kid, this always made me cry.  It really was not a laughing matter at the time.

There were two ends to Rosella's Mean Sweeps: Either she gave us a chance to pick up everything out of the giant pile by the front door (usually with the door wide open, in case she wanted to sweep it all the way outside) OR she would pick up everything herself and angrily throw it into the garbage.  We would have to wait until she calmed down later to quietly pick our shoes and clothes out of the garbage. 

The main part of our house was one large room, the kitchen led into the living room and we had a couple of big pieces of furniture taking up most of the space. We had a big dining room table, a couch and a bed, all of which were always cluttered and messy. 

On this particular day, everyone was already upset because mom was doing her mean sweep through the house, and Pasqual had refused to help.  Instead he chose to antagonize my mom.  I don't remember exactly what he did to annoy her, but she ignored him at first.  Pasqual, however, was relentless.  Finally, she swatted at him and he quickly jumped away from her to avoid the slap.  You could almost see the lightbulb go off in his head as he came up with a new idea.  He jumped again and said "Look mom, I'm a deer!"  

Our mom was FURIOUS.  She was already mad to the point of doing the Mean Sweep, add in Pasqual intentionally mocking her, and she absolutely lost it.  He continued prancing around our kitchen table, disregarding my mom, who by now was shrieking at the top of her lungs for him to cut it out and clean up, but he calmly replied "I can't. I'm a deer." as he stopped to check his surroundings, perfectly mimicking the movements of a deer.   

My oldest brother and sister were both mad and were yelling for him to stop acting like an idiot and help us clean.  My mom, who usually couldn't be distracted from her mean sweep got so angry she started chasing him around with her broom.

Pasqual completely undisturbed by the shrieking and the yelling,
continued to take great, big, prancing leaps all over the house while proclaiming, "I'm a deer, I'm a deer!"  He jumped from the couch to the bed and around the kitchen table as if completely unaware that Rosella was chasing him with a broom.    
With big, confident leaps, he managed to evade my mom's broom again and again as she chased him around the house. She was getting angrier with each wild swing of her broom, but Pasqual remained calm and unconcerned with her, as if unaware she were chasing him.  He was in full character.  He was a deer.

My mom tried to anticipate his jumps and kept swatting at him with the broom and each time she missed she manages to knock something over.  She finally started to gain on him, so Pasqual started to make his exit.  He announced "I'm a deer." one more time as he effortlessly leaped just out of her reach.

Pasqual gracefully headed for the open door, my mom, now sweating, with her hair flying everywhere, wildly ran after him as she realized he was about to escape her wrath.

Pasqual took one final flying leap, and much to everyone's surprise, hit his head on the doorjamb and came crashing down to the floor.  Pasqual laid flat and unmoving for a few seconds as the room errupted in laughter.  

Although we laughed, we still rushed over to make sure he was okay.  Everyone that is, except for Rosella.  She was still filled with burning fury so she yelled, "OH! SO YOU WANNA BE A DEER HUH?!" as she smacked him over and over as he laid on the floor. 

I had always remembered my mom hitting Pasqual with the broom, but according to him, she threw the broom at him, then picked up a shoe and repeatedly hit him with it while yelling about him being a deer.  He says he was too dizzy to get up at the time, so he curled up in a ball until he could collect himself, then jumped up and ran out of the house.  

We're pretty sure that he gave himself a concussion, but we'll never know for sure.  Rosella was too mad to even look at his forehead.     

Later, when we asked him what happened, he simply replied, "I miscalculated the jump."   

This little stunt earned my brother the nickname, E"-pac g m-kua" which translates to, "Broke Your Head". 
It's been twenty or so years since that chaotic day, and from time to time my siblings and I still tease him about it

This is what I sent him this year on his birthday:

FRONT: Happy Birthday, Pasqual! You'll always...
INSIDE: Be that idiot that pretended to be a deer in the house, almost knocked yourself out, mid-jump, then got smacked with a broom while laying on the floor by mom.  Love you.  Hope you have a great birthday.  <3 Gabby

Anytime we talk about it, Pasqual will shake his head and say with a smile, "Yeah, I tell people, those were the days before CPS."  


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rosella the Millionaire

I'm constantly trying to explain to my mom that the letters that she gets in the mail, which promise her money are scams. 

I've shown her websites, newspaper articles and pamphlets about how to identify these "sweepstakes" or these "free prizes".  But she won't listen.  I've watched news segments on it with her and I've even helped her close two bank accounts and file two separate police reports after she's gotten money stolen from her bank accounts. 

Now she doesn't have a bank account.  She doesn't write checks anymore... now she sends money orders. 

She'll send $12.00, a "processing fee" for a 1.5 million dollar check.  And she'll tell me things like, "Well, if everything works out."  And she truly believes it. 

I don't know how many cars she's told me she's won.  She's been absolutely convinced. 

This is a constant argument.  I used to yell and get high pitched and everything. Now I just try to patiently tell her how I know something is a scam.

"Mom, free money is always supposed to be FREE.  You're not supposed to send money in order to get a free prize.  Free stuff is supposed to be FREE."

"Mom, stop responding to these people, they're scamming you.  Look, this isn't 'Publisher's Clearinghouse' it's 'Publishers', they're not legit, and see, they're asking for money."

"Mom, they're sending you junk.  You paid $80.00 for something you can get for $20 at Wal-mart.  Stop sending them money,  I'll take you to the store, wherever you wanna go."

"Mom, this isn't an iPod, this is an MP3 player."

Nothing I say or do makes a difference.  So now my mom has become very secretive about why she needs money orders or stamps, and tries to redirect the conversation when I ask her what she's sending. 

It's her money, but it makes me feel sick that someone is taking advantage or my mom. 

It's EXTREMELY frustrating. 

She doesn't send letters or cards to anyone, she only mails back her claim forms for her millions of dollars, or her free cars, or her expensive jewelry and prizes!  All of them are scams, scams, scams.  They aren't even CONVINCING scams, they're very OBVIOUSLY scams

Tonight, she asked me for three stamps. 

I took a deep breath, and very nicely asked, "Who are you sending mail to, Mom?"

There was a long pause while my mom considered her answer.  Finally she says, "A loved one." which we both knew was a lie. 

My husband in the kitchen says, "Who are you in love with? Ed McMahon?"

My mom's cherished loved one

Super-official junk mail sent by the PRESIDENT of Processing and Judging!
Yes, she opened this one.
Federated Allocation Bureau
"Personal and Confidential"
(because we don't want your daughter to know you're getting scammed)

"To Be Lawfully Opened By Addressee Only"
"Official Mail"
"Open Without Delay"