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Letters: Eastin has history of discrimination

In light of the recent incident of the two Native American students who were racially discriminated against by Mary Jane Eastin (“Teacher at center of racist incidents no longer employed,” Dec. 6), I feel it is time to tell my story. I am a member of the Navajo Nation. I graduated from Cibola High School in Albuquerque in 2004.

I, too, experienced racial discrimination by Mary Jane Eastin, who was my AP English teacher my senior year of high school. During an in-class assignment, we read a poem containing vivid imagery of a snake-like creature.

Navajo beliefs depict snakes as a negative omen. While reading the poem aloud in class, the words made me feel ill. I grew clammy, short of breath, and my hands trembled. Ms. Eastin made fun of my physical and emotional response to the words of the poem. She laughed at me in front of my peers, making me feel embarrassed and weak.

Later, I privately explained to her my cultural beliefs about snakes. I did not ask to opt out of the assignment; instead, I sought to help her gain insight into my beliefs in hopes she would better understand.

At the end of the school year, Ms. Eastin presented each student with a senior gift. She gave one student who had a particularly challenging year lemons and sugar so that she would always remember that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She gave another student a coffee pot. When it was my turn to receive a gift, she had me close my eyes. When she told me to open my eyes, she threw a handful of plastic snakes at me. Taken off guard, I screamed, jumped to my feet, and covered my eyes. She and the other students erupted in laughter.

One student, feeling sorry for me, gathered the snakes and hid them away. I did everything I could to hold back my tears. Ms. Eastin was aware of the significance of snakes in my culture. She had witnessed first-hand my legitimate fear of snakes. She made an intentional decision to disregard my beliefs and fears when she threw plastic snakes at me. She humiliated me in front of my peers.

I am choosing to come forward with my experience now because I want the Albuquerque Public School Board to know that Ms. Eastin’s recent behavior was not an isolated incident. I want to stand in support of the two Native American students who were discriminated against and bravely chose to come forward.

Tiffany Garza
Houston, Texas
(Hometown: Crownpoint, N.M.)

A silent but sweet Christmas

Christmas was always your best time of the year, your heart filled with excitement as it anticipates a decorated tree every year by Nov. 1st. December is the time that brings the Christmas spirit with family gatherings, and as the winter breeze sets in, you see families hustle to the mountains to haul firewood, which you enjoyed being a part of.

A wonderful memory I have of you, especially now with the cold weather, is placing more wood in an already built fire to warm your home with the sound of crackling wood cedar, as you sat with Dad drinking Navajo tea while looking at Facebook updates on your phone. Shi’ma, one year has passed since you left us, yet I can still hear your voice, feel your hugs and see your sweet smile. As each day passes, our hearts remain heavy holding dear the many wonderful memories of you, memories that will forever be cherished.

The amazing thing about memories, it lets your mind recreate moments, moments that make your heart feel good again. Now family events and holidays, especially Christmas will never be the same, it will be silent but sweet. We will continue to be there for each other as you and Dad have taught us and forever hold the spirit of Christmas each year for you, starting Nov. 1st.

A mother’s love is very special, and our mother’s love is missed. Not a day goes by, Shi’ma, that we all on our own, especially Daddy, will sit in silence thinking about you – your love, your decency, sincerity and kind soul will stay with us forever.

Ayóo anííníshni Shi’ma, Ayóo anííníshní.

Artencia J. Beyal
Tohatchi/Buffalo Springs, N.M.

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