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    Native Boys with Long Hair - Article by Georgina Badoni, Native Education Consulting Teacher
    Posted on 11/19/2018

    For Native Americans, having long hair is culturally relevant and significant. The importance of having long hair differs from tribes and nations. Some tribes believe long hair gives them power and knowledge, others feel connected to the cosmos, and some grow it long to honor their ancestors and culture.

    Many are unaware of the historical significance having long hair is to Native peoples. The impact of systematic colonization and forced assimilation brought on new euro-centric values and standards. Native American children were specifically stripped of their cultural identity in schools through not being permitted to speak their Native languages, being given new “white” names, wearing uniforms, and having their long hair forcibly cut short. It is important to acknowledge these kinds of racist practices in our school system's history to ensure students today safely can express their cultural identities in our schools.

    Growing long hair is a way many commemorate Native history and honor ancestors that were forced to “civilize.” Unfortunately, Native boys face ridicule, bullying, and often being called girls by not only peers but also adults in the school setting. These actions continue destructive colonizing tenants lingering in our schools and the impact on our Native students is tremendous. This is an Intent vs. Impact moment. Mistakenly identifying a student’s gender happens but the responsibility is on us to empower students who push our mainstream norms. Native student response to this kind of interaction can range from big to passive but none the less it breaks the spirit of Native students, taking away their independence and Nationhood.

    Following are recommendations for how to support cultural and traditional practices in the classroom:

    • Be an ally to Native students. Ask them about themselves and how they choose to exhibit their culture to build stronger one-on-one relationships. Show students you respect their culture and support their traditional practices.
    • Pay attention, acknowledge, and create space for Native students' voices and knowledge in the classroom without making them the expert on all things Native American.
    • Accommodate multiple world-views acknowledging that of the 500 Native Nations in the US each has its own cultural norms and students today may present with multiple tribal affiliations/cultures.
    • Work with parents, elders, family, community, and tribal members to educate yourself and your classroom.
    • You are on Indigenous land, learn about the tribes’ culture, customs, traditions, language, and community.

    Georgina Badoni, Diné, Ph.D.
    Native Education Consulting Teacher
    Seattle Public Schools