My 9-year-old daughter is a bit shy. She’s loud at home, and with her friends, but usually not in class or in other environments. I often implore her, “speak up, I want to hear, everyone wants to hear, what you have to say.” Her teachers have commented that she needs to find her voice and speak out. It’s different from my experience as a kid. I was talkative and chatty. Adults used to ask me to stop asking questions and stop talking.
This year my daughter is in a 4th/5th mixed class at a public school. They’re studying US history, and they began with the history of how Columbus mistreated (“was so mean to people he didn’t even know!” exclaims my daughter) the people he met when he “sailed the ocean blue.”
The class is now studying Native American history. They divided into groups of 4 kids with each group assigned a tribe to study. Her group is studying the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu). She’s fascinated. She’s read/devoured 3 books about the Nez Perce and highlighted and notated a book on her Kindle. Recently she recited a bunch of quotes from Chief Joseph to me (“Do you want to hear my favorites of all the things I read about Chief Joseph?”). I was surprised.
Yesterday morning, on our walk to school, she described how her group only wants to put a big picture of Chief Joseph in the middle of their presentation board. “But he wasn’t the only chief,” she said, “there were other chiefs and so many other people. A tribe isn’t just one chief. A tribe is everyone in the community. He was a leader but you’re not a leader without a community. How do I convince my group that the Nez Perce are not just one chief?”
Oh, kid. You have to speak up.
She moved on to talk about how Chief Joseph died of a broken heart, “so is that natural causes? Or is it murder? Is it natural to die of a broken heart? How does someone die of a broken heart? How does the heart break?”
I don’t know.
This morning her teacher told me that yesterday my daughter stood up and quoted Chief Joseph to the class. She spoke up! The surrender speech is what my daughter loves. She memorized a portion of this and recites parts of this regularly:
“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
She’s speaking up and speaking about injustice. Warm fuzzies.