“My name is Lakota Stronghearted Eagle Woman,” said Josephine Menard, an Access student. “My English name is Josephine Menard, and I shake your hand with good feelings of my heart.”
Leaning back against her chair, Josie introduced herself in Lakota, a Siouan language, before following with an English translation. From the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, Josie came to Phillips Exeter Academy Summer with a group of Native American students. Far from home and in an unfamiliar situation, the group finds solace in the Native American affinity group.
“We talk about our nation and our past,” said Josie. “We also hang out as a group! This Wednesday we’re going to the beach.”
For Cante Anderson, the small but welcoming Native American community in Exeter helps with her homesickness. Feeling at home, Cante can immerse herself in the culture through the affinity group meetings, which are often filled with discussion over food to cook and their stories from home.
“Everyone here is really nice,” said Josie. “It’s sad though, as the Native American community here is quite small.”
As a minority thrust into a large group of foreign cultures, Native Americans can find it difficult to find comfort here, especially with the several misconceptions about their people. With an abundance of students from different cultures and different education systems, not many knew about U.S. history.
“It can be disrespectful at times,” said Cante. “However, it’s not their fault because they don’t know.”
Unfortunately, some are impolite, often basing all their opinions of Native Americans on the stereotypes they see in the media.
“Some people here can be really disrespectful and ignorant,” said Josie. “One girl asked if I have access to technology.”
“I agree,” said Brooke Badhand, another Access student. “Another asked me if I still lived in a teepee.”
Especially in everyday living situations, students can be extremely inconsiderate, and often times racist. From hearing dorm-mates talking about her behind her back to being cut off in the middle of a sentence, racist incidents occur often.
Even on their own land in South Dakota, the girls had been mistreated in the past. Society in the cities of South Dakota, such as Rapid City, are often very racist.
“It’s going to be like that everywhere,” said Josie.
At such a young age, she already has a mature view of the world outside of this Exeter bubble, one that was forced and crafted from years of apartheid. From being accused of stealing and often at high risk of being attacked, Native Americans are familiar with the segregation in their lives.
One terrifying aspect of this mistreatment mentioned in the interview centers around Carlisle Boarding School, and the forced assimilation that took place there.
“The U.S. government had taken our children and sent them to boarding schools,” said Josie. “We’re just now getting them back.”
The topic of Carlisle Boarding School is an interesting one, especially when compared to Phillips Exeter Academy. With an open and accepting community, the atmosphere here poses a stark contrast to that of Carlisle Boarding School. Founded in 1879, the goal of the boarding school was to eradicate the Native Americans of their “savage nature.” To do so, the children were stripped of their names, languages, family ties and culture, all replaced with Western ideals. With harsh punishments, such as beatings, many of the native students died soon after.
With this stigma surrounding her perception of boarding school, Josie was scared to attend Exeter Summer. More importantly, she was scared of losing her culture.
“If you talked your own language, the school would hit them!” said Josie.
Upon getting hurt and threatened for demonstrating their culture, the students at Carlisle Boarding School started hiding it, eventually almost losing their culture in the process.
“We should learn from our elders,” said Josie. “We should learn our history, language, and culture so we don’t forget about it completely.”
With a firm look in her eye, Josie sat up straight.
“I want people to know the truth,” said Josie. “I want people to know how strong and hard my ancestors fought.”