Family Sued for Standing Against School’s Racist Thanksgiving Curriculum
In the fall of 2013, Jeanne Eagle Bull Oxendine and her husband James Oxendine conducted a series of media interviews, including with Indian Country Today Media Network, about their stand against the culturally insensitive Thanksgiving curriculum at their children’s school, a stand they believed led to their daughter to unfairly lose her scholarship.
But now officials from Maria Montessori School in San Diego, which gave scholarships to two of the Oxendines’ children in part because of their Native heritage, have filed a $20,000 defamation lawsuit against the Oxendines, as first reported by Brandon Ecoffey of Native Sun News.
In the lawsuit, the school officials argue the news stories led to negative and “malicious” Internet comments as well as hate mail that purposely injured the school’s reputation and held them to “public contempt and ridicule.”
The officials also claim in the lawsuit that the pre-school curriculum was not racist and historically-based even though it included classroom activities that encouraged students dancing around teepees, dressing up as Indians with headbands and multi-colored feathers and giving each other “nature-based” Indian names.
James Oxendine, who is currently deployed overseas with the U.S. Navy, said they have been advised by their lawyer not to comment on the case.
“It was historically accurate. When they built the teepee it was a privilege and an honor to be in the teepee,” said Chris Morris, the attorney representing Maria Montessori. “It just seems like the mention of race in the educational setting is enough to offend someone, and that’s not where we need this country to go. The school should be held up approaching these issues with a high standard.”
However, some Native American school officials and educators stated these pervasive Thanksgiving lessons that ignore the perspective of the Wampanoag (the tribe that met with the Pilgirms), their oral histories as well as the context of colonization are detrimental to children.
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