Jeanne Eagle Bull-Oxendine
Jeanne Eagle Bull-Oxendine and James Oxendine are shown here with their four children - Jase “Maste”, 5; Jada “Sich”, 7; Jake, 13; and Caske, 15.

Family Sued for Standing Against School’s Racist Thanksgiving Curriculum

Marc Dadigan

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.

RELATED: Family Stands Against School’s Racist Thanksgiving Curriculum

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.

RELATED: What Really Happened at the First Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag Side of the Tale


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newworldman's picture
Submitted by newworldman on
Where on earth did this school conceive of the idea that the Thanksgiving celebration involved Indians who lived in teepees? The Wampanoag people of present-day New England lived in "wetus," or domed huts made of sticks and grass. Plains tribes lived in teepees. That simple fact right there reveals just how woefully ignorant people in America are about Native Americans. And this kind of flawed school-sponsored curriculum only perpetuates that ignorance among an entirely new generation of students. This family should stand their ground with their publicly aired complaints.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
What a joke! This Catholic school feels they were harmed via mean emails & so forth! Nonsense! The only ones harmed are these Native children when they were asked to stay home all the while this school went on with this white version of Thanksgiving that IS offensive to we Native people! ......................................................................................................................... The Catholic Mafia strikes again! Sorry if this offends Catholics out here, but it's true. Any time a Catholic business, whether it be a school or one of their many hospitals all over the USA is offended & at times challenged for being in the wrong they send their army of lawyers after folks. You don't believe it? Just do a bit of research & you'll have your eyes opened quickly about the true nature of the Catholic Church, their many businesses & schools all over the place. They aren't just in the business of saving souls, helping the poor, hungry & homeless, they can also cause people to get to that poor house when you go against them or are sued by their army of lawyers & don't win. ......................................................................................................................... I ask that all our readers across Indian Country pray for this family as they face the unknown in this situation. Oxendine family, don't be discouraged with this situation & upcoming ordeal, know that MANY of our tribal nations brothers & sisters all across Turtle Island are praying for each of you at this time. May your voices be heard & these judges hearts & minds be opened with compassion & justice as they hear your case when it comes before them. Prayers & blessings to each of you my friends. .........................................................................................................................

mcd's picture
Submitted by mcd on
Montessori schools are not Catholic. Montessori is a licensed way to educate. Montessori schools can be very different. It's really sad that this school chose to ignore a very meaningful, teachable moment and instead shut their minds and doors to the children they had promised to serve.

teacher25's picture
Submitted by teacher25 on
This represents problems with the Diversity and Human Values program that the school represents on their websites. Doesn't seem like a conversation about this event took place OR that the school responded to requests for changes. But, for the post from the reader below, it is not a Catholic school. Maria Montessori School is a private school without religious affiliation; their website indicates that.

nativewomn's picture
Submitted by nativewomn on
They are going to look like jackasses in court, with their representation of what is 'historically accurate'. The Natives are going to make one hell of a presentation, and they're going to be sitting there with egg on their faces. They all ready look pretty foolish! They are so arrogant, they're so busy looking down their noses, so high in the air, that they can't look down and see what they've stepped in.

angryduck's picture
Submitted by angryduck on
Absolutely stand your ground. This is one reason why Native mascots should not be allowed. Our local high school had a Peter Pan caricature with a big nose in the gym. Uneducated students from another country claimed that indians don't matter because they're all dead anyway. The stories go on and on at the university level all the way down the preschools. By the way, Peter Pan caricature...gone!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Although this WAS (thankfully) brought up in the article, I found this particularly interesting. _________________ “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.” ___________________________ How does dressing up like an NDN help you learn about our culture? In what other instances is this "educational tool" used? Do students dress up in rags and chains when they study slavery? Do they dress up in Chinese clothes when studying Chinese-American contributions? Do they dress up in rags while studying the Holocaust? Are they forced to choose either gray or blue when they study the Civil War? No! ___________________ Why do they feel the need to dress up "like Indians" when entertaining their "historical" view of what happened on that first Thanksgiving? ___________________ On a side note it was Abraham Lincoln who sold that erroneous image of the first Thanksgiving. He was looking for a way to re-unite the country after the Civil War.

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
The schools' own behavior is outrageous...!! They should have WELCOMED the input from the family.. and learned things from a different perspective. A real shame the school chose such a harsh attitude from beginning...!!