As a child, one of my fondest memories was participating in the YMCA Indian Guides with my Dad. We explored Native American culture and dressed in Indian attire; we even participated in a Memorial Day parade on a float. In elementary school, our class visited the Algonquian Indians, an Indigenous tribe in Connecticut, and learned how to make authentic Syrup from Maple trees.
On our birthdays, Dad took us to Child World and allowed my brothers and I to pick out one present. I’ll never forget looking at the action figures on the shelfs and wanting a Johnny West, Best of the West action figure. Staring at the toys with eyes wide opened, I looked at the options and grabbed Geronimo: Fort Apache Fighter and put it in the cart while my brother purchased Johnny West. I was inundated with a settler colonial narrative and understanding of Native peoples. Unfortunately, when I attended Western Connecticut State University in the Eighties, Native American history was non-existent, and the history department imparted a colonial settler narrative.
In 1991, I earned my Master’s in History and spent a decade working as a graphic designer for magazines, newspapers and books. I felt unfilled and did not want to turn 50 sitting behind a computer screen over ten hours a day. Fifteen years ago, I left publishing in order to pursue a new career as a teacher. In order to earn my Connecticut Educator Certification, I needed to go back to school. While going to classes, how do I pay my mortgage? Tutoring the SAT and AP U.S. History part-time in the evenings and on the weekends provided the best option to earn a paycheck.
Without any knowledge of the term colorblindness, it became obvious to me that the scholars knew nearly nothing about Native American history. For the past fifteen years, I have tutored over a hundred students, and the vast majority were raised in a family with financial resources and lived in a community of higher socio-economic means. They attended schools that employed colorblind teachers in history courses, and in my experience, the lack of a diverse curriculum clearly impacted the AP scholars.
I spend an inordinate number of hours tutoring Native and African American history as well as the rise of eugenics—the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics—as a political and social movement that infiltrated all facets of society from education to sports. The students were shocked in regard to the hole in their curriculums and the avoidance of the challenging topics by their colorblind teachers. Every year in my AP U.S. History course, I uncover the racial stereotypes of Native Americans and augment the course with activities to illustrate colorblindness to my scholars.