Signs in support of Indian students at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo: Jenn Orator

Leader of Navajo Nation demands action for 'cultural assault' at high school

President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation is calling on the state of New Mexico to take action following an incident of "cultural assault" at a public high school.

The incident occurred on October 31 at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, which is the state's most populous city and is home to a large urban Indian population. According to a letter sent to parents, a teacher was accused of calling one student a "bloody Indian" and cutting some hair off of another student.

The teacher was placed on leave for the "unacceptable behavior," according to the November 2 letter, which did not admit any wrongdoing. But administrators say they are investigating the incident.

Mary Eastin, English teacher at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, made a return from paid leave today. In what the...

Posted by The Red Nation on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

“Our Native youths should not have to endure this kind of behavior, especially in the classroom," Begaye said in a press release on Tuesday. "We will hold the teacher, the school and the district accountable for these actions, and we demand recourse.”

Begaye brought up the incident during a meeting of the New Mexico Indian Education Advisory Council on Monday. He said he told Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski to implement cultural sensitivity training at the district, which has been one of the demands of Indian parents and activists.

“The district, from top to bottom, needs cultural sensitivity training,” Begaye said. “It must be immediate and mandatory. It needs to happen now, before more incidents like this take place.”

One of the students who was victimized is Navajo, Begaye said. He met with the youth's parents on Monday and was told that the incident has traumatized their entire family.

Indian activists already held a protest at Cibola High School on November 7 to support Indian students. The Red Nation is calling on the public to attend a school board meeting in Albuquerque on Wednesday to raise more awareness of racism and discrimination against Indian students.

"Another young Indigenous high school student had experienced racial discrimination in her classroom this school year at the same high school," the group said in a post on Facebook.

More than 5,600 American Indians and Alaska Natives are enrolled at public schools in Albuquerque, according to the Indian Education Department. They represent about 5.1 percent of the entire student body.

Overall, about 4.4 percent of the population in Albuquerque is American Indian or Alaska Native, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Several reservations are located near the city.

Read More on the Story
‘Cultural assault’ alleged in Cibola High student protest (The Albuquerque Journal November 7, 2018
Teacher on leave over ‘Halloween stunt’ (The Albuquerque Journal November 2, 2018
Cibola HS teacher suspended for making 'culturally insensitive remark,' cutting student's hair (KOB November 2, 2018)
Cibola High teacher on leave for alleged 'cultural' remark, hair cutting incident (KRQE November 2, 2018)

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