By now, we've all seen the news of Dominique (Arapaho/Cheyenne) from Clinton, Oklahoma, who was allegedly attacked by two other boys who cut off several inches of his hair. The story sent shockwaves throughout Indian Country.
The young boy expressed he was traumatized by the event and initially did not report the incident to school authorities for fear of retaliation—a chain of events that's all too familiar. The Clinton Police and superintendent stated that they carefully examined the case and didn’t find enough evidence, even though the surveillance video showed an unnamed boy exiting the restroom.
The reality is, there have been countless stories like Dominique's, in which boys are bullied and tortured because of their long hair. Police, school administrators and local laws seem to ignore the crimes committed against indigenous boys and young men, who are often seen as “less than” in a society that, at times, seems to default toward the erasure of indigenous culture.
Please see the joint statement below between the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Clinton Public Schools about the alleged incident earlier this week. pic.twitter.com/H4RIHHLiRY
— Tyler Bridges (@bridgestyler) September 4, 2021
Several media outlets posed questions about whether the investigation was sufficient, but also why indigenous culture isn't a bigger part of our school curriculums. The generational trauma from years of abuse in residential schools is still extremely raw, even years later and many survivors still struggle with the lack of closure. Now our children are being subjected to their own strand of institutional racism and lack of understanding by teachers, fellow students, local law enforcement and school officials.
It’s just not a lack of understanding of indigenous culture, but a lack of respect. Indigenous children deserve respect and to feel protected. Sadly, many of our children are bullied for their hair because many refuse to respect the connection that hair has to the sacred—our culture, our families and our communities. Hair is a symbol that ties us to the Creator, but it's been abused by systemic racism.
In 2021, we refuse to sit silent and allow something like this to be forgotten or dismissed. The school and the perpetrators must be held accountable. It is not the responsibility of an indigenous child to educate his school staff, classmates and law officials on cultural differences, indigenous history, and what it means to have respect for one another. School systems need to stop asking, “how did this happen?” and focus on why it happened and why a student felt comfortable attacking an indigenous child in school. This is another reason why accurate depictions of history needs to be taught in school.
Eurocentric views on how people should dress or what they should look like are no longer acceptable. We need allies—law enforcement officials and policymakers to demand a change so other children can simply focus on being kids.
Featured Image Credit: News on 6