October 22, 2021

‘Racist and Irresponsible’: NDN Collective Responds to Math Teacher’s Mockery of Native Americans in Classroom Lesson

“This type of derogatory behavior by an educator is a prime example of the continued racist attitudes Indigenous people have experienced in educational systems that began with Indian boarding schools. Our Indigenous students need healing from the trauma inflicted by these ongoing racist practices. That begins with a curriculum that reflects the language and culture of the students being served."

For Immediate Release: October 21, 2021

Rapid City, SD — On Wednesday, October 20, a video went viral on social media of high school math teacher Candice Reed at John W. North Highschool in Riverside, California making a mockery of Native Americans. While delivering a classroom lesson, Reed put a fake headband of feathers on her head and began making motions of a “tomahawk chop,” whooping loudly, dancing and running through the classroom, even pretending to pray to “rock gods.” The lone Native American student in the class recorded the mockery on their phone and posted it to social media where it spread quickly. Outrage quickly ensued.  

The Riverside School District released a statement and placed the teacher on leave as the district investigates. In response, NDN Collective released the following statements: 

“The behavior of this teacher has roots. Her actions and ignorance depict the lack of cultural competency and disconnection to the original peoples of the land. The statement from the Riverside Unified School District Administration is the first step of accountability. Still, to adequately address the harm caused by this teacher’s actions, we need sustainable change through an equitable and inclusive curriculum, creating safe spaces for Indigenous students, and equitable policies that protect students from harm.” –-Sunny Red Bear, NDN Collective Director of Racial Equity

“Candice Reed’s actions were racist, irresponsible and perpetuate erasure and false stereotypes of Indigenous people. The Unified Riverside School District needs to do the right thing and fire her permanently. There needs to be zero tolerance for teachers engaged in these racist antics.” –– Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO

 ”This teacher’s actions are a grave reminder of the harm inflicted in the so-called United States by teaching history solely through the lens of the oppressor. Our young people continue to miss opportunities to learn about how Indigenous people have contributed to this country since the onset of colonialism and continue to do so. The time for inclusive and accurate history to be included in the educational curriculum for all youth in our country is now. Indigenous history is U.S. history.”-– Amy Sazue, NDN Collective Education Equity Organizer

“This action underscores the necessity of efforts toward the preservation of Critical Race Theory, and reinforces the need for explicit inclusion of Indigenous history, culture, thought and philosophy within school content standards. This is imperative for cultivating culturally responsive and inclusive learning environments. Due to the historic and active erasure of our Indigenous knowledge and experiences from our education system, the entire narrative of Indigenous people is not only absent, but when visible, is often minimized, misrepresented and misappropriated in instances such as this. If the the foundational policies and standards of education were written through a more inclusive lens, we would see a reduction of systemic harm and an opportunity for students to think more critically and inclusively about the world we live in.” — Sarah White, NDN Collective Director of Education Equity

“This type of derogatory behavior by an educator is a prime example of the continued racist attitudes Indigenous people have experienced in educational systems that began with Indian boarding schools. Our Indigenous students need healing from the trauma inflicted by these ongoing racist practices. That begins with a curriculum that reflects the language and culture of the students being served. Culturally responsive teaching establishes a learning environment that is reflective of the students who are in the class. This creates a strong sense of belonging and strengthens cultural identity which leads to positive academic outcomes for students. ” — Mary Bowman, NISN Fellow and Lead Designer of the Oceti Sakowin Community Academy

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NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.

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