‘Gloria’ was very involved in a recent discussion on Indians. It was a huge moment in teaching. She understands being different.
It happened like this…
I have finished reading “Little House on the Prairie” to my preschoolers. At the end of the book, the Indians ride by in a long line, led by the chief that Pa had met in the woods. As Laura watched that long line pass her house, she was smitten by a papoose with black eyes who stared at her.
She wanted that baby Indian. She kept crying and talking about those black eyes. As always, children jumped in to start a conversation.
“Jennie, remember the Indian that liked Laura? The one who came into the house? His eyes sparkled at Laura.”
“Yes, I remember. His eyes were black, too.”
The child recalled this from much earlier in the book. She remembered the word ‘sparkled’. We had talked about the eyes back then. And, we had talked about Indians. That was the first time Laura had seen an Indian. She was scared.
Let’s back up, because what happened earlier in the book was quite a build-up to what happened with Gloria and the Indian baby’s black eyes.
Pa’s neighbor and friend, Mr. Scott, had remarked:
“The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Whoa! That’s where I stopped and put the book down. Well, I actually slammed the book down. The words “Can you believe he said that?” came pouring out of me. Most fellow teachers are hesitant to read aloud that statement. Not me! How can children learn true acceptance if they aren’t faced with prejudice? If they know of oppression, they can understand, and therefore they can become better human beings. It’s how the heart grows.
When the Indians rode away, Pa’s friend said again that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Gloria heard. She was there on her stool listening to chapter reading, too. I looked over, and I could tell she was sad. Or maybe it was something else.
“Gloria, I can see you’re not happy.”
Silence. All the children looked over at Gloria.
“Gloria, Mr. Scott didn’t understand. He said that because he doesn’t know. He never met an Indian.”
Still silence, and the children were glued to Gloria.
“I know that makes you unhappy. What? You remember when children called you a witch? I know, it was a terrible thing. But Mr. Scott is just like those children. They didn’t know any better, and neither did he.”
“Jennie! Gloria has black eyes, too!”
“My goodness, she does.”
“Gloria, you have black eyes! Laura loved black eyes. Laura knew they were friendly. Maybe everyone knows you’re friendly because you have black eyes, too.”
Children were excited. Gloria has black eyes, like the Indians.
This was big. Things all seemed to come together. Gloria was ‘the real deal’, the person who brought the story of Indians and prejudice to life for the children. Thank you, Gloria. No wonder everyone loves you. We’re so glad you have black eyes, too.