Gyasi Ross: A message of encouragement to Native graduates

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks to the 2015 graduating class at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas. Photo from Facebook

Gyasi Ross encourages Native graduates to return to their homelands:
This is a great time of year—NBA Playoffs are in full swing, it’s almost strawberry season, and graduation time! Graduation time is special for many of the families that I grew up around—our young folks finishing school represents the culmination of a lot of love, a lot of struggle and our family moving into a new era that begrudgingly appreciates the function of western/white education.

My family is very fertile (don’t read this column too closely—things happen) so we’ve seen the educational evolution over and over for the last several generations. For many of us Native Generation X-ers, “getting educated” was kinda unchartered waters for us, a new thing. Some of our folks had went to school a bit, but for most of us there wasn’t any legacy or blueprint of how we were going to excel at school and ultimately use it to better our own lives and our communities. It was an important lesson to learn that school has no real significance for Native people if it’s not being used as a tool to tangibly improve our communities. There is a delicious lie out there that is constantly floated in front of Native students—“Do for self. Get a degree and make some money for yourself and you will be the same as the privileged white people. That is the way to equality.”

“Forget the past. Forget your homelands. Forget that the majority of your people are struggling and just make things comfortable for yourself, and that’s good enough.”

It is a lie because using education to only make a little bit of money for ourselves without any notion of history and community responsibility simply replicates White America’s individual model of success.

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: A Note to Beloved Native Graduates: Keep Up the Great Work (and Always Remember Home) (Indian Country Today 5/17)

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