In Anishinaabe culture, there are phases of becoming. You begin as an abiinoojinh, a child–one completely dependent on the care of others to survive and thrive. Then you can choose to be on the path of gizhenaabe–one learning to be in service to others. Finally, if you are persistent with your training for MANY years, as an Elder you may become ogimaa–one who leads with love and by example. In choosing Virginia Tech as your school, with its focus specifically on UT Prosim, you have made a conscious choice on developing and using your unique usefulness to others. A long time ago, I also made this choice in attending VT. This week we will be looking at excellence and Ut Prosim–the responsibility we carry as Hokies of being useful in the process of equitably inclusive service. We will examine our lens, think about the development of excellence, look as ‘I and We Ethics’ in relation to the development of excellence and contribution of service, and consider an example.

1. Lens. Virginia Tech is a ‘predominantly white institution’ or PWI. I came to Virginia Tech in 1995; through experience, even though it may not seem like it now, I can tell you that it IS historically a PWI. I have been active with the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, Admissions, and the Division of Student Affairs since 2017 in ambitious and multi-dimensional initiative to increase our campus diversity and inclusion to 40% underrepresented groups by 2022. This is being done because as a Land Grant Institution, it is our mission to serve all the citizens of the state equitably. If we are to serve all the citizens of the state equitably, our demographics should match the state’s demographics. That mission sounded wonderful in its inception, but it is problematic. First, the words ‘Land Grant’ imply that no one was here and this land could be gifted to someone. You know this is not the case as we now honor the Monacan and Tutelo peoples as the ancestral stewards and residents of this land. Also, as you have seen in this class in relation to eugenics, historically in America and maybe more profoundly in states like Virginia, laws were created to exclude most from the definition of ‘citizen.’ Therefore, historically most residents were not included in being served by VT. Thankfully, over the last 150 years of Virginia Tech’s life, ideas about who is to be served, has grown slowly over time and exponentially in the last 3 years. That said, I am thankful that you may not have experienced the lack of diversity that I have, but the momentum of the prior 147 years still influences us greatly. I am in a panel this week to discuss my ideas on how we shift internal lenses for imagining the world to create inclusive transformation; the panel is centered on the work of Robin DiAngelo. Watch: min in length).

A. What are your thoughts on this video?

B. Thinking about ‘intersectionality’ from last week and how different aspects of our identity shape our gifts and ability to contribute, if a person says that they see all people as the same, what are your thoughts on if they are actually opening their hearts and minds to others to give them the support needed to fully contribute their unique gifts?

2.Excellence. Read Chapter 15 (p. 182-185) of American Indian Thought.

A. What are your thoughts on this and approaches to teaching and learning for cultivating excellence (provide specific examples from the chapter to support your ideas)?

B. My work is in Indigenous education—how we can cultivate excellence using and optimizing Indigenous teaching and learning practices. What are your thoughts on this chapter in relation to this class and the way I scaffold your learning experience?

3. Excellence through inclusivity. Watch the first 33 minutes of:

A. In relation to what you have learned in this class so far, what are your thoughts on this?

B. Now read, my uncle’s story: WingedOnes&Four-Legged.doc. How does this relate to the dominant lens in America that shapes our institutions, how inclusive excellence can be optimally achieved, and your experience in school (provide specific examples from the article to support your ideas)?

4. I and We Ethics. Empowerment is a word, like all other words, made of meaningful pieces: em—power—ment. These pieces refer to a power that comes from within. It is NOTHING someone else can give you, but I have seen the power love and contribution have on re-igniting this inner fire. You must expect that you have gifts, know them, honor them, develop them, and contribute them. Unfortunately, you must also know how to protect them; you possess them for healing our injured world, but there are many challenges that may arise to prevent that from happening. Therefore, service is not ‘selfless.’ You must have a strong, well-cultivated, and cared for ‘self’ to optimally serve. You each possess a unique gift and that relates you to others; that is, when you contribute your gift, the community’s action is whole and when you do not, the community’s ability experiences a void. In honing your gifts and contributing them, you become empowered (energized from within) and through doing this in concert with the gifts of others, you empower and build the collective capacity of your community. Read Chapter 14 (p. 173-181) in American Indian thought.

A. What are your thoughts on this chapter and ‘I and We Ethics’ (provide specific examples from the chapter to support your ideas)?

B. Right now, we have to take personal actions to protect ourselves and our community. How are things like wearing a mask, physical-distancing, limiting travel, and reporting symptoms of sickness related to ‘I and We Ethics’? How is caring for yourself (the ‘I’) related to the wellness of others (the ‘We’)?

5. Indigenous Excellence and ‘I and We’ Ethics for Ut Prosim. I would like to share an example with you of someone I admire greatly, Wilma Mankiller. When Wilma Mankiller was a child, her family was relocated from her Cherokee reservation home in Oklahoma to San Francisco, CA. This was part something the government did called the “Indian Termination Policy” and lasted from the mid-1940s through to the mid-1960s. It removed people from their homes and scattered them in unfamiliar settings in large cities throughout the United States. It was hard on many and had lasting impacts on Indigenous identity and solidarity. It was hard on Mankiller, but also shaped her in beautiful ways, as is the nature of the most things that cultivate our gifts, insights, and ability to optimally contribute. I want you to watch this movie: (57 min. in length). **NOTE: This is a video you are viewing through the VT library system. You need to be logged into your VT amount to access it. If you are already logged into Canvas, it should just pop up, but if it doesn’t you can look up the film, Mankiller, in the library system to watch it.

 Anishinaabe culture

Anishinaabe culture

A. Think about what we looked at last week as the ‘marbles of identity’ and how they create spaces in between them—‘interstitial spaces’—that we don’t notice at first, but draw upon for survival. Think about all the things that others may use to identify Mankiller’s identity (community, culture, language, socio-economic status, gender, traumas, interests, environment, etc). Whether another judges them as good or bad does not matter because they all equally shaped Mankiller into the great leader she became. What are you thoughts on how Wilma Mankiller made sense of and mobilized her gifts for optimal contribution (use specific examples from the film to support your ideas)?

B. What interstitial, previously unseen, aspects of Wilma Mankiller’s being did she access and mobilize for optimal contribution?

C. You will note in the film that in returning to Cherokee after being away in San Francisco, she brought with her, outside ideas and wanted to become a leader. Mankiller is related to many of you in this way: many of you have left your communities to come here, hope to return to them one day with new ideas, and become leaders who support positive change. The idea that she brought with her about change for the Cherokee involved the building of a school. That is a physical structure that can carry a person’s name on it and, as a rising leader, remind people of that person in a good way everyday…it is good advertising. That could have expedited Wilma’s rise to power, but upon arrival she bravely, changed course. She saw that what the people first needed was clean water as well as self and community empowerment. She found funding and mobilized the community to build a water system. A water system is underground, it did not serve as a billboard to build Mankiller’s name, but it served a mighty purpose. In creating the water system, the Cherokee people found a force within themselves. Through my experiences visiting with the Cherokee, I can say that once lit, this fire never went out and has spread. The Cherokee became a model for showing other Native communities what true sovereignty, independence as an Indigenous nation, could look like. Throughout her life, Mankiller had to constantly care for herself so she could contribute to building the capacity of her community. She also did not do her work alone, but always with the help of others, often very different from herself. What are your other thoughts on this film in relation to the rest of this lesson on lens, excellence, ‘I and We Ethics,’ and Ut Prosim—the responsibility we carry as Hokies of being useful in the process of equitably inclusive service?

Requirements: For each answer 3-4 sentences   |   .doc file