Teaching Native American Culture Creatively


Caleb Pendleton, Op-Ed Editor

Junior English teacher, Alicia Brankel aka Ms. Ally, believes that Native Americans have been oppressed and shamed out of society and should be discussed in school more often. Ms. Ally has come up with a creative way to teach the Native American perspective – through children’s creative book writing that focuses on Native American identity struggles and perseverance in the United States. Since Arizona is home to one of the biggest Native American Tribes in the United States, Brankel believes that learning the history of Native Americans is historically underrated and we need to take a step back and learn about the entire native history from the place that we live in right here.

Assigned reading Code Talker

Ms. Brankel teaches how Native Americans had a big impact in World War II.  They used their language to spy on and obtain information on the enemy. These Native American spies were called “Code Talkers”. Her junior class read the book, Code Talkers by Joseph Bruchac, and then all created a children’s book telling a story in the view of a Native American character. The name code talkers is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers specially recruited during World War II by the US Marine Corps. Code talking, however, was pioneered by the Cherokee and Choctaw peoples during World War I.  Ms. Brankel tells her students that if we did not have the Code Talkers in World War II, we wouldn’t

Ira Hayes – Man on the Left, A Native American Man Helping to Lift the American Flag.

have been able to win the war. Rights that other Americans were able to have over the years, especially being able to vote, was given to Native American people last. Ms. Brankel says, “The Native Americans were the first ones to be in America, and were the last ones to be cared for.” In the interview with Ms. Brankel, I even learned that the iconic picture of American soldiers lifting the flag in Iwo Jima includes a Native American man on the left who is actually from the Pima County area, Ira Hayes.

Sahuaro junior, Jason Kyle Renfro Jr. , has a Native American tribal tattoo that belongs to the Native American Mohegan Tribe. Jason has the tattoo to symbolize tribal insignia and show tribal pride.

Jason Renfro’s Tribal Tattoo

He did a presentation in Ms. Brankel’s class during this unit, showing his fellow classmates the significance of having the tattoo. He says, “I was trying to show my classmates that Native American Tribes still exist today, and that they could look like the average everyday people.” He found it interesting to learn about the Navajo Tribe and the Native Americans who were part of World War II and how much they affected the war.