I’m a mom. I’m a student. I work and then I also volunteer my time at Café Cultura. I was working at Metro last year taking between three to four classes. I was doing 20 hours at the school and 15 hours or more at Café. My girls dance, my husband drums, and so does my son so on the weekends we go to Pow Wows. My kids are my motivation. I want them to have a community where they feel supported. I want them to be able to learn something that they couldn’t learn in school. Right now, Lucy is at Escuela, but it’ll be her last year there. Lacy and Jericho are at a predominantly white school. They have been very accommodating, but with the support and guidance of the Jeffco Indian Ed program. There have been times where I’ve had to go back to the school because they come home with pilgrim stuff or Columbus stuff. I go and say, “This is not appropriate and they’re not going to do it. If you need them to do something like that, you need to give them a different project.” But they have been very accommodating. Yet still lack the knowledge of indigenous (native) history and culture.
They’ve been bullied since they were really small. In kindergarten is when a lot of the bullying started. They’ve always been really proud of their culture because that’s the only thing they’ve been taught. They wanted to perform and show stuff about their culture like dancing and drumming. It’s just been something that has been natural. They were really proud to show that and it was met with, “Well, you’re not a real Indian.” Lacy was the Jeffco community princess Pow Wow so they’re like, “You’re not a real princess.” They made her cry. My son has long hair so they would pull his hair. My daughters have their hair shaved and they have a whole other style to them. They did that because they just like this hoop dancer named James Jones. Most of the girls wouldn’t want their hair to be shaved, but Lucy went further and cut it short. These are just things that they feel comfortable enough with themselves to do. They’re already finding out who they are. A lot of that has to do with the community that they’re in and being a Café and having all of these supportive adults around them that constantly encourage them. It’s not just Café Cultura. It’s the vendors that come too. They’re always so kind to my girls and giving them coloring pages. They’re artists and they tell my girls, “You know, I got picked on and I got bullied.” They are very supportive. During her performance at grantee event, she was crumbling and she usually can perform a pretty good. At Café, she has no problem but it was like “Oh my God, I’m in front of all these people that I don’t know.” You see the effect of that. It was a very emotional piece for her and she might have felt like, “What if they judge me? What if they don’t understand?” All Franklin did was to say “Come on, you got this.” He just stood there, stood beside her and encouraged her. That’s what Café is to us.
Jason and I did not grow up like that, learning about our culture. Jason grew up off and on the reservation and here in Colorado. I grew up going back and forth between New Mexico and Colorado with my dad’s oldest brothers in the summers. My auntie and uncles lived in a small town and they had a restaurant and animals so I got to do all these fun things that I wouldn’t learn being a city kid. Neither of us grew up being around our culture, but we knew when we had the kids that this is something that we wanted to instill in them. We wanted to give them the history, the community, and all these things that are beautiful about our culture to them because we struggled. I’m older now and I should be done with college but I’m barely finishing college. That wasn’t something that I was ever pushed to do but I knew I want to get a degree. It became something that was important to me because I had a learning disability and people told me I wasn’t going to graduate high school. People at school were like “You’re not graduating high school. Don’t worry about it. You have a learning disability, it’s fine. Go work at McDonald’s.” If it wasn’t for Ms. Lacy constantly pushing and challenging me, I would have not achieved so high. She was my special ed teacher and family friend. Having her support and encouragement is part of the reason I have been able to achieve my dream of earning my degrees. I knew I could do it so it took me a lot longer but I’m almost done and I’m here. I’m two semesters away from having my bachelor’s degree. I want my kids to see the educational part as an important piece, but I also want them to be proud of their community and who they are. I want them to know their indigenous identity, culture and history. I want them to find out who they are now while they’re young because me and my husband did not have that. It took us a long time and when I had my kids I knew I wanted to instill these indigenous values into them.
My dad was always in the Pow Wow community, but we were not around it. My mom had my brother in football and she was concerned with my learning disability. We were in two different worlds. My dad was doing the cultural stuff and my mom was focused on my brother’s football and getting me through school and making sure that I could read. Even though Lucy does have a learning disability and is struggling in school, I know that by her having a community and being able to feel proud of her community and culture, she’ll be able to withstand stuff like the bullying. She’ll have a place where she actually does fit in. When I was in school I felt that way and I feel like that sometimes that now; I was like, “All these kids have it so easy for them. They can do everything. They can not read the book and still pass. I have to study, study, study and do the 50 other things I have to do. I’m getting more out of school than all of the other kids because I put a lot more effort into. I want to instill that into her and Jericho and lacy. I feel like school and the mainstream culture is lacking when it comes to kids of color, but then I go to Café and I’m like “This is home. This is where I’m at. This is my support. This is where I excel at.” Although I don’t perform, Café has provided a place for my kids to be proud of their culture and indigenous values. Café has become an important piece of teaching and raising my kids. It’s a place they feel safe and belong. It’s all about my kids; that’s my pride and joy to see them know who they are and being able to be themselves. Look at us, we are all wearing the same shirt, but we have totally completely different styles. That’s what it’s about.
-Monique Left Hand Bull
Monique volunteers at Café Cultura, one of Chinook Fund’s multi-year grantees. Take a look at Monique’s children (Lacey, Lucy, and Jericho) perform at Café Cultura!
Lacey and Lucy