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Indigenous languages make inroads into public schools

By Mneesha Gellman, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emerson College
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Whenever November would roll around, James Gensaw, a Yurok language high school teacher in far northern California, would get a request from a school administrator. They would always ask him to bring students from the Native American Club, which he advises, to demonstrate Yurok dancing on the high school quad at lunch time.

“On the one hand, it was nice that the school wanted to have us share our culture,” Gensaw told me during an interview. “On the other, it wasn’t always respectful. Some kids would make fun of the Native American dancers, mimicking war cries and calling out ‘chief.’”

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