Mr. Kirby: Wow, the idea of a Single Story is a powerful concept.
Ms. Two-Rivers: What did you learn from reflecting on these videos?
Mr. Kirby: I think I actually have internalized a couple of Single Stories about Native Americans. These are stories I’ve heard my whole life, so they’ve just become automatic for me.
Ms. Two-Rivers: What’s one of the Single Stories you’ve heard?
Mr. Kirby: First is the idea of Native Americans as proud and noble. It’s more the stereotype of the “noble savage” though—noble and good at heart but “uncivilized” or uneducated.
Ms. Two-Rivers: I certainly saw that image a lot growing up. My neighbor loved old Western movies. They definitely reinforced that Single Story. I’ve had to work against that image in my own career at times. People expect me to not understand technology or talk down to me because I’m Native American.
Mr. Kirby: What other Single Stories about Native Americans have affected you?
Ms. Two-Rivers: Have you ever heard that Native Americans are nature lovers or “protectors of the earth”?
Mr. Kirby: Maybe not said exactly like that, but I’ve heard that Single Story.
Ms. Two-Rivers: Well, I definitely respect nature and I do feel that all life on earth is connected. However, sometimes people ask me to identify some obscure plant or bird just because I’m Native American. They think that I must be an expert on all things in the natural world because of that Single Story.
Mr. Kirby: I bet that would get annoying, especially if it happens often.
Ms. Two-Rivers: It is a little irritating, although I’m used to it now so I can laugh it off.
Mr. Kirby: Were you ever affected by Single Stories about Native Americans when you were a student?
Ms. Two-Rivers: When I was in middle school, I remember a teacher complaining. She asked me if all Native Americans were so disrespectful and disengaged in class like me. She said she always felt like Native Americans were avoiding giving her a straight answer because we never looked her in the eye and didn’t speak up enough.
Mr. Kirby: Ouch! I can see why that experience would still stick with you after all these years.
Ms. Two-Rivers: That teacher had a Single Story about Native Americans being unwilling to speak up in class. She also believed that not sustaining eye contact means you’re avoiding someone or maybe being dishonest. However, I was raised in an environment where holding eye contact too long is considered disrespectful.
Mr. Kirby: Is that common for Native Americans?
Ms. Two-Rivers: It’s certainly not a universal trait, but it is shared by a number of different Native American tribes and cultures. Respect for elders, including teachers, is a really important value for us that isn’t always shared by others in the dominant culture. By not talking out of turn and sustaining eye contact, I thought I was showing respect for my teacher.
Mr. Kirby: But she had no idea that you were being respectful by the standards of your own culture.
Ms. Two-Rivers: Right. I got all these messages from her about how I wasn’t engaged in class, and eventually it made me disengage. I didn’t want to participate any more.
Mr. Kirby: Hmm…I need some more time to think about this. I wasn’t even aware of my Single Stories previously. I need to spend some more time analyzing my own actions. I bet I’m communicating negative messages about those Single Stories without realizing it.
Ms. Two-Rivers: When we communicate those messages, even inadvertently, our students can internalize them. It can affect their views of themselves.