Today, April 20th, one of our 7th grade classes had the opportunity to Skype with Ambassador from the Choctaw Tribe, Sarah De Herrera. Ms. De Herrera is on the Board of Directors of Okla Chahta Clan of California, an organization that preserves and shares the Choctaw Native American culture. Ms. De Herrera also works to recruit Native American students from reservations for the college of Cal Poly Pomona.
When asked about major challenges facing Native Americans, Ms. Herrera shared that many think of Native Americans as, “Invisible people, others believe we are extinct, but I keep my composure and remember my mission to conquer stereotypes, we don’t all have dark skin and dress like a Pocahontas character.”
Ms. De Herrera visits both public and private schools to spread awareness about Native Americans in the 21st century. “Because of years of suppression, people choose to forget their culture, sometimes for survival against prejudice, I’m going out and saying ‘Hey, we exist’, I’m working to bring back the culture and share some of our values with others, especially the values of Love, Education, and Family. Our identity is not determined by the what the United States government says in terms of % of Native American blood, it is demonstrated by a proud shared heritage and history that I hope to pass onto my children one day.”
Perhaps the highlight of our time with Sarah De Herrera was when she sang the United States National Anthem in Choctaw. She has performed the anthem publicly in front of thousands of people, but in our classroom, we were transfixed by the beauty of her voice, a voice that represents a culture that is still very much alive and part of our United States.
For more information about the Choctaw and Sarah De Herrera’s non-profit organization, please contact: http://www.oklachahta.org/