service project

Honestly, it has been a really long time since I have been in school. When I think back to k-12, there aren’t too many teachers that stand out that resonate with this particular passage. I have to dip into my undergrad experience to find a teacher that evoked a passion for learning that went beyond the classroom.
To finish my requirements to minor in Native American Studies, I needed to complete Federal Indian Law and Policy. It was a weighty subject. The professor running the class was Dr. Andra New Holy.  I had taken a few courses from her before and found the classes engaging and insightful.  The Federal Indian Law and Policy course differed in that we were required to undertake a service project while studying the laws and policies that shaped lives of countless indigenous people of all tribes, clans and nations.
I learned of the ward relationship Native Americans have with the US government.  The various tribes status as Domestic Dependent Nations. Studying the law that has made up the policies, greatly affected my psyche and motivated me to complete a service project that gave something back.  It was probably extremely naive, but we made an attempt in the Montana state government to pass legislation to ban the use of pepper spray in youth correctional facilities because of the disproportionate number of incidents involving Native American youth.  We traveled across the state to interview a juvenile parolee. He still bore the scars on his face from the repeated pepper spray incidents when we videotaped his interview which we later played as testimony at a Judiciary committee.  We contacted the media and wrote the editors of papers.
Through all this, Dr. New Holy cheered us on and provided support. The project went far beyond school.  We had been learning of all the injustices that our own government had been doling out since before it was a government.  She brought us to a place where the struggles of over 500 years continued to manifest themselves.  It should have been no surprise when the committee tabled the bill to ban the use of pepper spray in Montana youth correctional facilities. I choose Andra New Holy because she gave me the tools to push myself beyond the sphere of academia and into the harsh realities of a racist system where we made our heartfelt albeit feeble attempt to make a change for the better.  I believe that is powerful teaching.

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