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Bully tactics and the Native American Child
By Roy Cook
Native American students may be bullied for some of the following reasons:
Stereotypes and misconceptions of what it means to be Native American and inherent bullying by the predominant culture: generational poverty, generational alcoholism, drug addiction, poor nutrition and diet, substandard and inadequate housing and of course the list goes on and on. As human beings, we need to recognize the diversity that is the fabric of America and respect each others' cultures and beliefs.
One of the saddest things about bullying is that it is not just students who target minority groups, but teachers as well. One statistic said, "Latin American, Native American, Alaskan Native and mixed-race 10th graders at low-minority schools were the most likely to feel "put down by their non-ethnic teachers." Teachers hailing from low-minority high schools are likelier to insult, isolate or otherwise marginalize Latin American students at a rate of 17.3 percent and Native America, Alaskan Native and mixed-race students at 17.8 percent.http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2011/02/20-startling-stats-on-minorities-in-our-schools/
Another frightening statistic is that Native American children, on average, have some of the highest rates of suicide and mortality compared to any other group. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics almost one in four Native American youths has attempted suicide.
One of the biggest issues with bullying is that parents are not aware that it is happening, or they choose to ignore it and surrender the responsibility to the institution. Traditional Tribal culture dealt with these same issues in a human scale of the Tribal band, clan or extended family context. When social or economic circumstances dictate that we are out of that Tribal context there are still many ways to help your child.
If your child tells you about a bully, try not to interrogate them to ‘find’ fault with them but focus on offering comfort and support, no matter how upset you are. Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it's happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed and angry.
Sometimes kids feel like it's their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently it wouldn't be happening. Sometimes they're scared that if the bully finds out that they told someone it will get worse.
Praise your child for being brave enough to talk about it. Speak to them about our elders and what they had to endure to preserve our tribal ways. The courage to endure is not the same as giving up. Remind your child that he or she isn't alone - a lot of people get bullied at some point. Emphasize that it's the bully who is behaving badly - not your child. Reassure your child that they are not alone and you will both figure out what to do about it together.
Sometimes an older sibling or friend can help deal with the situation. It may help your daughter to hear how the older sister she idolizes was teased about her braces and how she dealt with it. An older sibling or friend also might be able to give you some perspective on what's happening at school, or wherever the bullying is happening, and help you figure out the best solution.
Many states have bullying laws and policies. Find out about the laws in your community. In certain cases, if you have serious concerns about your child's safety, you may need to contact legal authorities.
Please take the time to talk to your child or a friend. It is our tribal way to deal with conflict in council. You never know when you could be saving a life from despair.