The energy in the room was so different. Students were engaged and interested, but they were focusing, listening, reacting appropriately, and sitting still. Thirty eight years ago the body-language, the ability to sit still, their bodies in movement, feet shuffling, elbows moving, jostling the next person, caused reactions. The students were visibly wound up, physical signs of hyperactivity, some challenged by I.Q. losses which we know now could have been caused by lead poisoning. Those signs were gone in the current Will Rogers students. The difference was absolutely striking.
I remember all those years ago attending assemblies in that gym, with the atmosphere alive with unsettledness. That same wound up uncontrolled energy was evident in every classroom. The successful teachers at that time were able to harness it and by doing so allowed everyone to learn. But teachers who lost control, or never got it were overwhelmed and students in that class suffered. One hyperactive lead poisoned kid can change the dynamics in a classroom and as was discovered in the Indian Clinic records in the early 90's one out of three Indian children were lead poisoned. Later blood sampling found lead at levels of concern in non-native children as well.
We know that lead levels in children declined due to prevention awareness and the actions by EPA to remove contaminated soil from yards and playgrounds throughout Ottawa County. That opportunity still is available for any residence, just by calling the DEQ Hotline number 1-800-522-0206. We have to be vigilant, no child should suffer because we failed to act in their behalf since lead poisoning is totally preventable.
Ms. Yazzi's heritage program with Steve Daugherty, BIA Police giving encouragement to the students, MHS student Talon Silverhorn played his flutes, David Lane, Richard Zane Smith and Talon sang while students demonstrating the Alligator dance.
Patti Shinn, a Seneca elder gave an important history of tribal encounters with the European immigrants who came to this country and how that quickly tribes suffered because of the quest for land and resources. She brought me back to my deep feeling of impending doom after the recent election. Much like my Cherokee ancestors must have felt when Andrew Jackson won his election and later overrode the Supreme Court decision and enforced the Removal Act that brought my tribe and so very many others to land in Indian Territory in such tragic ways. Also how the tribes must have felt during allotment, and when Oklahoma became a state.
What I had hoped to share with the students that morning was what brings us all together native and non-native, our most basic need for water. It is truly life and with that statement how fundamental it must be to protect it from poison.
On learning of an act that could taint our water, it would be one thing to say to yourself, "that isn’t right," the next step to say out loud, “hey, don’t do that!" And the next step standing up to actually protect that water, such are the actions taking place by native people joined by countless others from around the country who are peacefully and prayerfully protecting their water on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land in the Dakotas from an oil pipeline set to go under the Missouri River, their source for water. During the construction process, the pipeline has also knowingly destroyed graves of their ancestors. They are worried because it is well known that pipelines leak and a leak will endanger the safety of their drinking water.
Protecting goes beyond protesting. In these coming weeks we will need to practice standing up as protectors, whether that is to protect our precious water or protecting ourselves and others from racist or hateful words or actions.
We can do this remembering that all our ancestors are behind us and we are the result of the love of thousands. We have within us the strength of our roots. And we will need it.
With Deep Regards,