Interview with Ricky White: Embracing Cultural Responsibility and Educational Transformation

Interview with Ricky White: Embracing Cultural Responsibility and Educational Transformation

Many of you know him from the powwow circle, but today we're diving into what he does outside of it. Please introduce yourself, Ricky.

“Hi, bonjour. We got not a foot in the goal, but you don't go to them. Not going to go on in. I just should not back. Ricky White, traditional Ojibwe Anishinaabe protocol introduction, my spirit name, and of course, I'm Lynx Clan and I come from a little reservation in the middle of Treaty 3 Territory, northwestern Ontario. Called Whitefish Bay First Nation. My English name, as I said, is Ricky White. So, bonjour, hello.”


Listen To The Full Interview with Ricky White


Thanks for spending some time with me today, Ricky. We got to visit a bit up there in Manito Ahbee and it’s always great to be with you on stage at powwows. You bring so much more to the role than just announcing what’s going on.

“Well, you know, I think that's kind of rooted in what we would call responsibility. A lot of times we think of it as a burden, you know, these things and these experiences that we've gone on in our travels and whatnot. Rooted right there within your community and your familial teachings. My spirit name is Niga Ananakaka, which means in front of the cloud. It's about leadership grooming from those grandmother whispers in your ear, telling you that true leadership is making others feel good just having met you.”

I love that teaching. You have this deep understanding and ability to connect with people.

Can you tell us more about your work as an educator?

“As an educator, it's about finding a way to contribute to our people. I started as a teacher of middle school students in St. Paul Public Schools, teaching Ojibwe language and culture and American Indian Art and Music. It was the first time it had ever been done for middle school students. Then I moved into school administration and spent about 20 years as a school administrator. What I found was that education systems weren't built to include us. Our people were like ghosts in schools, and it reflected in our performance. That realization led me to start First Nations consultants, focusing on making schools more culturally educated.”

That’s incredible. The idea of cultural competency is so important. But in places like South Carolina, where legislators are trying to pull cultural references out of classrooms, how do you address that?

“Well, it's a challenge. Critical race theory has scared many educators. But honoring the identity and the person in your classroom is all about relationships. I've seen the exact opposite of what legislators fear. When students see their culture and identity recognized, it awakens a spark. For example, a math teacher I worked with in North Dakota saw amazing results just by integrating some Native American best practices. His students, from various backgrounds, became more engaged and performed better because they felt valued and respected.”

That's such a powerful story. The impact of respecting and valuing students’ identities is clear. What’s the motto of your consulting company again?

“Our motto is ‘What is good for Native American students is good for all students.' It’s about bringing everyone together using Native American themes and concepts as a guide. It’s been glorious to see the positive impact.”

How educators can better integrate cultural teachings into their classrooms?

“Educators need to be guided on this journey. Sprinkling in cultural elements connects with their own values and norms, creating a synergy that makes students feel valued. It’s about creating an environment where students feel recognized and their identities are respected. When that happens, the magic of learning truly begins.”

Thank you so much, Ricky, for sharing your insights and experiences. 

Hear the rest of Ricky's thoughts on how to achieve an educational transformation with cultural teachings on the podcast!

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.


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