A couple of months ago I attended the national conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE). It was quite good. The best bit, however, came at the end. Dr. Buffy Sainte-Marie delivered the closing keynote address. She has been involved in education for over 30 years. Her Cradleboard Teaching Project brings an aboriginal perspective to all subjects in all grades. Her protest songs were part of my childhood. She is very inspiring. Of course, the main reason I know her work is from watching Sesame Street in the 1970s. So, after her presentation I screwed up my courage and went to thank her for the talk and to say how much I admired her when I was a child. I believe the exchange went something like this: “Dr. Sainte-Marie, I just wanted to thank you for the talk. I loved you on Sesame Street when I was a kid. I wanted to be an Indian.” WHAT?! Apparently, my brain and my mouth were not cooperating at that moment! So, Dr. Sainte-Marie, what I meant was …
I loved watching you on Sesame Street. I loved your hair and your clothes and your voice. There was always love in everything you did. I thought it would be wonderful to be native because then I would have a beautiful voice and shiny black hair and beautiful tan skin. Around the same time that I was watching you on TV my dad took me to a Pow-Wow at Ska-Nah-Doht – an Iroquioan heritage village near London, Ontario. I fell in love with the songs, the dancing, the food. I was so jealous that I was just a regular Southern Ontario white kid. I wanted so much to have what I saw at the Pow-Wow – culture, heritage, history. I have come to understand that my culture, heritage and history are wrapped up in the story of Ontario, Canada, Scotland and England. But on that day I wanted to be an Indian.
So, that’s what I meant. It’s unlikely that Dr. Sainte-Marie will ever hear this, but I really needed to get this off my chest. Now that this is floating around in cyberspace I feel a bit better. Confession is good for the soul.