Doctor, Lawyer, Chief: HELP WANTED On Ideas For Raising More Indian PhDs
There’s a doctor livin’ in your town
There’s a lawyer and an Indian, too.
This was according to a popular song from 1945, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, and it was certainly true of my town, which was in Oklahoma.
An “Oklahoma Indian,” I learned as an adult, is a bit culturally suspect. Most Indians practice a lot of exogamy, but Indian Territory was supposed to be the last resting place for so many different tribes that it’s not just a matter of white Indians and black Indians, but also 4/4 Indians of multiple tribal nations and the result is cultural cross-pollinating everywhere you look.
I was raised waist deep in Creeks and knee deep in Cherokees. We had relatives “over on Osage” and “over on Sac & Fox,” as the phrase went, but since we never had a car, I could count the number of visits there without taking off my shoes.
I was fortunate to be already schooled on my history by relatives, and so did not have to rely on the Oklahoma schools. But that’s only my history. One of the dumber “Oklahoma Indian” misunderstandings I had is where the Lenape came from. I thought they were from just up the road. The state of Delaware didn’t get my attention.
The little brown kid named Teehee in a small Oklahoma town never had the option to play white boy like the adult Professor Russell does. Taught to revere Will Rogers, it would never occur to me to deny being Cherokee, so I faced public education as a Cherokee and I did no better than most Indian kids do.
Now, I fancy myself a policy wonk, so imagine how I felt when a reporter asked me what changes I would make to higher education after reading my yearly screed about the sorry state of Indian education.
The purpose of this article is to hear from you via the comments section about the one thing you think Indian education needs—mentors, better schools on the rez, etc., so we can get that information into the hands of reporters who, up to now, are only able to cite statistics, not opinions or ideas.
For the rest of you, if you want to know what I think, keep reading.
My column spoke to what adults can to for their kids: books in the home, library cards, no buying into Indian inferiority. But what do I want on the policy front?
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