An Indian Father’s Plea

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Dear teacher, I would like to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf. He is probably what you would consider a typical Indian kid. He was born and raised on the reservation. He has black hair, dark brown eyes, and an olive complexion. And like so many Indian children his age, he is shy and quiet in the classroom. He is 5 years old, in kindergarten, and I can’t understand why you have already labeled him a “slow learner.”

At the age of 5, he has already been through quite an education compared with his peers in Western society. As his first introduction into this world, he was bonded to his mother and to the Mother Earth in a traditional native childbirth ceremony. And he has been continuously cared for by his mother, father, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and extended tribal family since this ceremony.

From his mother’s warm and loving arms, Wind-Wolf was placed in a secure and specially designed Indian baby basket. His father and the medicine elders conducted another ceremony with him that served to bond him with the essence of his genetic father, the Great Spirit, the Grandfather Sun, and the Grandmother Moon. This was all done in order to introduce him properly into the new and natural world, not the world of artificiality, and to protect his sensitive and delicate soul. It is our people’s way of showing the newborn respect, ensuring that he starts his life on the path of spirituality.

The traditional Indian baby basket became his “turtle’s shell” and served as the first seat for his classroom. He was strapped in for safety, protected from injury by the willow roots and hazel wood construction. The basket was made by a tribal elder who had gathered her materials with prayer and in a ceremonial way. It is the same kind of basket that our people have used for thousands of years. It is specially designed to provide the child with the kind of knowledge and experience he will need in order to survive in his culture and environment.

Wind-Wolf was strapped in snugly with a deliberate restriction upon his arms and legs. Although you in Western society may argue that such a method serves to hinder motor-skill development and abstract reasoning, we believe it forces the child to first develop his intuitive faculties, rational intellect, symbolic thinking, and five senses. Wind-Wolf was with his mother constantly, closely bonded physically, as she carried him on her back or held him in front while breast-feeding. She carried him everywhere she went, and every night he slept with both parents. Because of this, Wind-Wolf’s educational setting was not only a “secure” environment, but it was also very colorful, complicated, sensitive, and diverse. He has been with his mother at the ocean at daybreak when she made her prayers and gathered fresh seaweed from the rocks, he has sat with his uncles in a rowboat on the river while they fished with gill nets, and he has watched and listened to elders as they told creation stories and animal legends and sang songs around the campfires.

He has attended the sacred and ancient White Deerskin Dance of his people and is well-acquainted with the cultures and languages of other tribes. He has been with his mother when she gathered herbs for healing and watched his tribal aunts and grandmothers gather and prepare traditional foods such as acorn, smoked salmon, eel, and deer meat. He has played with abalone shells, pine nuts, iris grass string, and leather while watching the women make beaded jewelry and traditional native regalia. He has had many opportunities to watch his father, uncles, and ceremonial leaders use different kinds of colorful feathers and sing different kinds of songs while preparing for the sacred dances and rituals.

As he grew older, Wind-Wolf began to crawl out of the baby basket, develop his motor skills, and explore the world around him. When frightened or sleepy, he could always return to the basket, as a turtle withdraws into its shell. Such an inward journey allows one to reflect in privacy on what he has learned and to carry the new knowledge deeply into the unconscious and the soul. Shapes, sizes, colors, texture, sound, smell, feeling, taste, and the learning process are therefore functionally integrated—the physical and spiritual, matter and energy, conscious and unconscious, individual and social.

This kind of learning goes beyond the basics of distinguishing the difference between rough and smooth, square and round, hard and soft, black and white, similarities and extremes.

For example, Wind-Wolf was with his mother in South Dakota while she danced for seven days straight in the hot sun, fasting, and piercing herself in the sacred Sun Dance Ceremony of a distant tribe. He has been doctored in a number of different healing ceremonies by medicine men and women from diverse places ranging from Alaska and Arizona to New York and California. He has been in more than 20 different sacred sweat-lodge rituals—used by native tribes to purify mind, body, and soul—since he was 3 years old, and he has already been exposed to many different religions of his racial brothers: Protestant, Catholic, Asian Buddhist, and Tibetan Lamaist.

It takes a long time to absorb and reflect on these kinds of experiences, so maybe that is why you think my Indian child is a slow learner. His aunts and grandmothers taught him to count and know his numbers while they sorted out the complex materials used to make the abstract designs in the native baskets. He listened to his mother count each and every bead and sort out numerically according to color while she painstakingly made complex beaded belts and necklaces. He learned his basic numbers by helping his father count and sort the rocks to be used in the sweat lodge—seven rocks for a medicine sweat, say, or 13 for the summer solstice ceremony. (The rocks are later heated and doused with water to create purifying steam.) And he was taught to learn mathematics by counting the sticks we use in our traditional native hand game. So I realize he may be slow in grasping the methods and tools that you are now using in your classroom, ones quite familiar to his white peers, but I hope you will be patient with him. It takes time to adjust to a new cultural system and learn new things.

He is not culturally “disadvantaged,” but he is culturally “different.” If you ask him how many months there are in a year, he will probably tell you 13. He will respond this way not because he doesn’t know how to count properly, but because he has been taught by our traditional people that there are 13 full moons in a year according to the native tribal calendar and that there are really 13 planets in our solar system and 13 tail feathers on a perfectly balanced eagle, the most powerful kind of bird to use in ceremony and healing.

But he also knows that some eagles may only have 12 tail feathers, or seven, that they do not all have the same number. He knows that the flicker has exactly 10 tail feathers; that they are red and black, representing the directions of east and west, life and death; and that this bird is considered a “fire” bird, a power used in native doctoring and healing. He can probably count more than 40 different kinds of birds, tell you and his peers what kind of bird each is and where it lives, the seasons in which it appears, and how it is used in a sacred ceremony. He may have trouble writing his name on a piece of paper, but he knows how to say it and many other things in several different Indian languages. He is not fluent yet because he is only 5 years old and required by law to attend your educational system, learn your language, your values, your ways of thinking, and your methods of teaching and learning.

So you see, all of these influences together make him somewhat shy and quiet—and perhaps “slow” according to your standards. But if Wind-Wolf was not prepared for his first tentative foray into your world, neither were you appreciative of his culture. On the first day of class, you had difficulty with his name. You wanted to call him Wind, insisting that Wolf somehow must be his middle name. The students in the class laughed at him, causing further embarrassment.

While you are trying to teach him your new methods, helping him learn new tools for self-discovery and adapt to his new learning environment, he may be looking out the window as if daydreaming. Why? Because he has been taught to watch and study the changes in nature. It is hard for him to make the appropriate psychic switch from the right to the left hemisphere of the brain when he sees the leaves turning bright colors, the geese heading south, and the squirrels scurrying around for nuts to get ready for a harsh winter. In his heart, in his young mind, and almost by instinct, he knows that this is the time of year he is supposed to be with his people gathering and preparing fish, deer meat, and native plants and herbs, and learning his assigned tasks in this role. He is caught between two worlds, torn by two distinct cultural systems.

Yesterday, for the third time in two weeks, he came home crying and said he wanted to have his hair cut. He said he doesn’t have any friends at school because they make fun of his long hair. I tried to explain to him that in our culture, long hair is a sign of masculinity and balance and is a source of power. But he remained adamant in his position.

To make matters worse, he recently encountered his first harsh case of racism. Wind-Wolf had managed to adopt at least one good school friend. On the way home from school one day, he asked his new pal if he wanted to come home to play with him until supper. That was OK with Wind-Wolf’s mother, who was walking with them. When they all got to the little friend’s house, the two boys ran inside to ask permission while Wind-Wolf’s mother waited. But the other boy’s mother lashed out: “It is OK if you have to play with him at school, but we don’t allow those kind of people in our house!” When my wife asked why not, the other boy’s mother answered, “Because you are Indians and we are white, and I don’t want my kids growing up with your kind of people.”

So now my young Indian child does not want to go to school anymore (even though we cut his hair). He feels that he does not belong. He is the only Indian child in your class, and he is well-aware of this fact. Instead of being proud of his race, heritage, and culture, he feels ashamed. When he watches television, he asks why the white people hate us so much and always kill our people in the movies and why they take everything away from us. He asks why the other kids in school are not taught about the power, beauty, and essence of nature or provided with an opportunity to experience the world around them firsthand. He says he hates living in the city and that he misses his Indian cousins and friends. He asks why one young white girl at school who is his friend always tells him, “I like you, Wind-Wolf, because you are a good Indian.”

Now he refuses to sing his native songs, play with his Indian artifacts, learn his language, or participate in his sacred ceremonies. When I ask him to go to an urban powwow or help me with a sacred sweat-lodge ritual, he says no because “that’s weird” and he doesn’t want his friends at school to think he doesn’t believe in God.

So, dear teacher, I want to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf, who is not really a “typical” little Indian kid after all. He stems from a long line of hereditary chiefs, medicine men and women, and ceremonial leaders whose accomplishments and unique forms of knowledge are still being studied and recorded in contemporary books. He has seven different tribal systems flowing through his blood; he is even part white. I want my child to succeed in school and in life. I don’t want him to be a dropout or juvenile delinquent or to end up on drugs and alcohol because he is made to feel inferior or because of discrimination. I want him to be proud of his rich heritage and culture, and I would like him to develop the necessary capabilities to adapt to, and succeed in, both cultures. But I need your help.

What you say and what you do in the classroom, what you teach and how you teach it, and what you don’t say and don’t teach will have a significant effect on the potential success or failure of my child. Please remember that this is the primary year of his education and development. All I ask is that you work with me, not against me, to help educate my child in the best way. If you don’t have the knowledge, preparation, experience, or training to effectively deal with culturally different children, I am willing to help you with the few resources I have available or direct you to such resources.

Millions of dollars have been appropriated by Congress and are being spent each year for “Indian Education.” All you have to do is take advantage of it and encourage your school to make an effort to use it in the name of “equal education.” My Indian child has a constitutional right to learn, retain, and maintain his heritage and culture. By the same token, I strongly believe that non-Indian children also have a constitutional right to learn about our Native American heritage and culture, because Indians play a significant part in the history of Western society. Until this reality is equally understood and applied in education as a whole, there will be a lot more schoolchildren in grades K-2 identified as “slow learners.”

My son, Wind-Wolf, is not an empty glass coming into your class to be filled. He is a full basket coming into a different environment and society with something special to share. Please let him share his knowledge, heritage, and culture with you and his peers.

Lake reports that Wind-Wolf, now 8, is doing better in school, but the boy’s struggle for cultural identity continues.

A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1990 edition of Teacher Magazine as An Indian Father’s Plea

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An Indian Father’s Plea, Essay Example

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 “ An Indian Father’s Plea”: The Consideration and Application of Cultural Standards

In the essay “An Indian Father’s Plea,” author Robert Lake (a.k.a. Medicine Grizzlybear), a member of both the Seneca and Cherokee tribes, offers an impassioned argument against the idea that his son is a “slow learner” (as he has been labeled by his teachers in his “Western” school). Lake counters the suggestion that his son is a slow learner by asserting that his abilities must be assessed in the context of his cultural background and upbringing prior to his introduction to Western mores and beliefs. As Lake puts it, his son is not “culturally disadvantaged,” but simply “culturally different.”

He begins by describing his son, Wind-Wolf, and recounting some tales from his upbringing. Wind-Wolf was raised in a close relationship with multiple relatives, and learned much of what he knows by watching his elders perform daily tasks, from fishing to cooking to engaging in arts and crafts. There was little in the way of “formal” education; Wind-Wolf learned by watching and imitating those around him.

Many of the concepts discussed in the accompanying material are relevant to Wind-Wolf’s situation, and his subsequent labeling as a “slow learner.” Cultural Imperialism, for example, can explain why those who labeled him slow would automatically assume that his cultural background is a “disadvantage,” and why they feel it appropriate to “force” Western culture onto him as a means of measuring his learning abilities. There are certain Cultural Universals that are applicable to Wind-Wolf; in the context of early education, for example, most young children are taught to count, though the tools Wind-Wolf used at home were quite different from the tools he encountered in a Western classroom.

Lake’s primary objection to the standards being imposed on his son rest on the grounds of Ethnocentrism: the idea that he is being judged not by the standards of his own culture, but of Western culture, with which he has little experience. Lake pleads for Wind-Wolf’s teachers to shun ethnocentrism, and instead to embrace the idea of cultural relativism; that is, the idea that he must be measured and viewed in the context of his own cultural standards.

Lake makes a compelling argument in favor of his position. Wind-Wolf knows how to count; he simply learned how to count while helping his elders work and play, rather than with textbooks or numbered building blocks. He understands the concept of “months,” but has been taught that there are thirteen months because there are thirteen full moons in a year. These and other examples demonstrate that he is quite capable of learning, but that he has simply been learning in a different cultural framework. As his father describes him, Wind-Wolf “is not an empty glass coming into your class to be filled. He is a full basket coming into a different environment and society with something special to share.” Lake’s plea is that his teachers will understand and respect his heritage, and simply add to it, rather than try to destroy it.

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an indian father's plea essay


An Indian Father’s Plea Summary

Summary & analysis of an indian father's plea by robert lake.

In Robert Lake’s  (aka.  Medicine Grizzlybear )  An Indian Father’s Plea , a father introduces his son,  Wind-Wolf  to his teacher and expresses concern about how Wind-Wolf’s cultural background and experiences are not understood or appreciated in the Western educational system. The father describes the rich cultural upbringing and teachings that Wind-Wolf has received within his Native American community, emphasizing the importance of spirituality, connection to nature, and traditional practices.

  The father addresses the teacher directly, highlighting the challenges Wind-Wolf faces in adapting to a new cultural system and learning environment. He discusses how Wind-Wolf’s different perspectives, such as the concept of time or the significance of long hair, may clash with the mainstream educational system. The father also  raises issues of racism and discrimination  that Wind-Wolf has encountered, which have led to his disconnection from his cultural heritage and a sense of not belonging.

The plea emphasizes the need for understanding, cultural sensitivity, and support from the teacher for Wind-Wolf to succeed academically and retain his cultural identity. The father suggests that the school should take advantage of resources available for Indian Education and promote equal education that encompasses Native American history and culture. He concludes by urging the teacher to  view Wind-Wolf as a unique individual who has valuable knowledge, heritage, and culture to share with his peers and the educational community .

An Indian Father’s Plea | Summary

  The text “An Indian Father’s Plea” presents a heartfelt appeal from a Native American father to his son’s teacher. The father, speaking on behalf of his son Wind-Wolf,  describes the cultural and spiritual upbringing of the child within their Native American community . He emphasizes that Wind-Wolf’s education goes beyond the conventional academic curriculum and includes teachings from his tribal traditions, rituals, and connection with nature.

The father challenges the label of “slow learner” that has been assigned to Wind-Wolf, emphasizing that his son has already undergone a comprehensive education within his Native American community. The child’s early experiences include a  traditional native childbirth ceremony, bonding with family members and tribal elders, and being raised in a secure and nurturing environment . Wind-Wolf’s education involves learning from his mother, observing, and participating in various tribal activities, listening to stories, attending sacred ceremonies, and gaining knowledge about different tribes, languages, and healing practices.

The text highlights the unique educational practices of the Native American community, such as Wind-Wolf being placed in a specially designed Indian baby basket, which serves as his first classroom. Although this practice may seem restrictive to Western society,  it is believed to develop Wind-Wolf’s intuitive faculties, rational intellect, symbolic thinking, and senses . The father emphasizes the integration of  physical and spiritual aspects of learning , where experiences in nature, cultural traditions, and the learning process itself are interconnected.

The father acknowledges the challenges faced by Wind-Wolf in adapting to the Western educational system and its methods. He urges the teacher to be patient and understanding, recognizing that cultural differences may contribute to Wind-Wolf’s initial struggles. The father asserts that his son is  not culturally disadvantaged but culturally different . Wind-Wolf’s knowledge and understanding of numbers, for example, reflect the teachings within his Native American culture, where concepts like the number of full moons or tail feathers on an eagle differ from mainstream education.

The text also highlights  instances of discrimination and racism experienced by Wind-Wolf , leading to his feelings of alienation and shame. The father recounts a hurtful incident where Wind-Wolf’s friend’s mother refused to let him enter their house due to their racial differences. These experiences further contribute to Wind-Wolf’s reluctance to engage in Native American practices and share his cultural heritage with others.

The father implores the teacher to recognize Wind-Wolf’s unique background and support his development in both cultural contexts. He highlights the  need for the education system to recognize and include Native American history and culture , not only for Native American students but for all students to develop a thorough grasp of the larger community in which they live.

An Indian Father’s Plea | Analysis

“An Indian Father’s Plea” presents a compelling narrative that sheds light on the cultural and educational experiences of a Native American child , Wind-Wolf, within the context of a Western educational system. It raises important points about the need for cultural inclusivity and understanding in education. One of the text’s strengths is its  ability to portray the significance of cultural heritage and the distinctive educational practices of Native American society . It challenges the narrow definition of education and highlights the value of holistic learning that incorporates spiritual, experiential, and communal dimensions. By emphasizing the integration of nature, storytelling, and rituals, the text brings attention to the broader educational landscape that exists beyond traditional academic subjects.

The text also effectively highlights  instances of discrimination and racism  faced by Wind-Wolf, which contributes to his feeling of alienation and disconnection from his cultural identity. This aspect raises awareness of the challenges faced by marginalized communities and calls for a more inclusive and supportive educational environment. However, certain portions of the narrative must be closely examined. While advocating for cultural inclusivity, the text does not fully acknowledge the importance of a balanced education that incorporates both cultural traditions and mainstream academic subjects. While indigenous knowledge and practices have value, it is  crucial to recognize the necessity of foundational skills and knowledge  that are typically taught in a formal educational setting.

Moreover, the text presents a somewhat  idealized portrayal of Native American educational practices  without delving into potential limitations or shortcomings. It does not address the diversity within Native American cultures and the variations in educational approaches across different tribes and communities. This lack of nuance may oversimplify the complex reality of Native American education. Additionally, the text primarily focuses on the  perspective of the father, presenting a single narrative without exploring alternative viewpoints  or engaging in a broader conversation about the challenges and possibilities of integrating diverse cultural perspectives into mainstream education.

In terms of the writing style, while the text is  emotionally compelling , it could benefit from providing more concrete examples and evidence to support its claims. Incorporating specific instances of Wind-Wolf’s educational experiences and their impact would strengthen the argument and make it more persuasive.

An Indian Father’s Plea | Themes

The plea explores the struggle of Wind-Wolf , a Native American child, to maintain his cultural identity while navigating a Western educational system. The text advocates for the need to  incorporate diverse cultural perspectives into mainstream education . The story sheds light on the experiences of discrimination and racism faced by Wind-Wolf within the educational system. 

It  challenges the narrow focus on academic subjects  and advocates for incorporating elements such as nature, storytelling, and rituals into the learning process. It emphasizes the  father’s plea  for his son’s cultural education and the significance of parental involvement in supporting and shaping a child’s educational journey. It encourages a  broader perspective  that encompasses a range of cultural backgrounds. The text  critiques the Western educational system’s tendency to prioritize mainstream knowledge  and neglect alternative cultural perspectives. It calls for a more inclusive approach that recognizes and values diverse forms of knowledge and educational practices.

An Indian Father’s Plea | Character Sketch

  In “An Indian Father’s Plea,” the  narrator is not explicitly identified , and the story is told from a  third-person perspective . Based on the information provided in the text, we can infer certain characteristics of the narrator: The narrator deeply cares for his son, Wind-Wolf, as evidenced by his heartfelt plea to the education officials. The narrator is also strongly connected to his Native American heritage. 

The narrator’s plea is driven by a sense of  desperation and helplessness in the face of the assimilation pressures faced by Native Americans . He recognizes the challenges and the potential loss of their culture, which leads him to implore the education officials to understand and support their cause. The narrator maintains a  spiritual connection to nature  and his ancestral roots. He draws upon the symbolism of the Coyote and the wisdom of nature to emphasize the importance of their cultural heritage. This suggests a belief in the interconnectedness of all living beings and the spiritual significance of their traditions.

The narrator possesses a  persuasive voice  and an ability to convey his thoughts and emotions effectively. His words are impassioned and reflect his deep understanding of their cultural significance. This indicates an articulate nature and a strong sense of conviction.

An Indian Father’s Plea | Context

  The story is set in a society that  comprises diverse cultural groups , with the focus being on the Native American community. The social context emphasizes the  presence of multiple cultural identities and the challenges faced by marginalized communities  in maintaining their cultural heritage. The story highlights the social context of the  educational system , which is predominantly influenced by Western perspectives and practices. This context shapes the experiences and struggles of Wind-Wolf and his father as they navigate a system that may not adequately cater to their cultural needs.

The story alludes to the  political context  surrounding educational policies and legislation. It implies that  existing policies might not sufficiently address the cultural needs of minority communities , which raises questions about the inclusivity and effectiveness of government initiatives. The political context is evident in the power dynamics between the dominant culture and marginalized communities. The story sheds light on how power structures within society can contribute to discrimination, marginalization, and the struggle for cultural preservation.

The cultural context highlights the  pressures faced by marginalized communities  to assimilate into the dominant culture. It portrays the tension between  preserving cultural identity and conforming to societal expectations .

The historical context encompasses  the history of colonization, displacement, and oppression faced by Native American communities . This context informs the challenges and discrimination experienced by Wind-Wolf and his father, as they navigate a society shaped by historical injustices. The context also reflects the resilience and determination  of Native American communities to preserve their cultural heritage despite historical adversity. 

An Indian Father’s Plea | Literary Devices

The text employs  metaphors  to create vivid imagery and make abstract concepts more relatable. For example, the phrase “a white man’s pot of gold” is used metaphorically to symbolize the Western education system and its perceived value.

Similes  are used to make comparisons and enhance descriptions. For instance, Wind-Wolf’s father is described as having “a heart as wide as a prairie,” emphasizing his compassion and generosity.

The text utilizes  imagery  to appeal to the reader’s senses and create vivid mental images. For example, the description of the father’s tears as “rivers of sadness” evokes a powerful visual image.

Symbolism  is employed to represent larger ideas or concepts. The father’s name, “Wind-Wolf,” symbolizes his connection to nature and his Native American heritage. It represents his spirit and resilience in the face of adversity.

Repetition  is used for emphasis and to create a rhythmic effect. The repetition of phrases like “I beg of you” and “help me preserve” underscores the father’s desperate plea and reinforces the central theme of cultural preservation.

The text  makes allusions to   historical and cultural elements  to add depth and meaning to the story. The mention of Coyote, a significant figure in Native American folklore, refers to the rich oral tradition and spirituality of the Native American culture.

The  dialogue  between Wind-Wolf and his father serves as a literary device to develop character relationships and convey emotions. It allows the reader to understand the father’s plea directly and creates a more intimate connection with the narrative.

Personification  is used to attribute human qualities to non-human entities. In the text, nature is personified as a “wise old grandfather,” emphasizing the deep reverence and spiritual connection Native Americans have with the natural world.

Speech Sounds | Summary & Analysis

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an indian father's plea essay

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Argumentative Structure in "Indian Father's Plea" (3 levels of support)

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North Carolina English Language Arts Standards

Learning Domain: Reading: Informational Text

Standard: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

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Standard: Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

Standard: Analyze how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text.

Standard: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.


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  • Argumentative Essay
  • Native American
  • Text Structure

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I planned on confronting my absent father about his parenting. But when I asked to hear his side, I learned a powerful lesson.

  • My father was absent throughout most of my life, so I went to Ghana to confront him about it. 
  • In Ghana, I learned about my father's past and understood his perspective for the first time. 
  • Although we will never be close, the conversation healed our relationship and taught me empathy. 

Insider Today

A few years ago, I visited my father in Ghana and asked to hear his story about why he was an absent parent . This conversation helped me heal, forgive, and transform how I view disagreements today.

At the time, I had a lot of built-up resentment and anger toward my dad. In my mind, he stopped making a meaningful effort to see me or show up for me after he remarried. He and his new family lived in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Finland — while my mom, my brother, and I initially struggled with being unhoused and being on welfare here in the US.

I dealt with a lot of feelings of rejection , which I'd reflected on and worked through in therapy during my 20s. But in my 30s, it all came back, and I needed to deal with it head-on.

I decided to meet with my father to talk things through

There were times when I'd be driving, and I'd find myself weeping, questioning what I'd done to cause him not to fight for me. It was clear his rejection of me was still affecting the way I move about the world.

During a leadership training program, my cohort and I discussed our origins. I shared with the cohort that I had an upcoming trip to Ghana, and I had plans to confront my father.

Politely, a cohort member raised their hand. "Hey, what would it look like if you took a different approach?" he asked. "We all have empathy for each other because we know each other's stories."

I felt my heart rate quicken and my jaw clench in defensiveness. Despite my defensiveness, his words planted a seed that I brought up with my therapist. Together, my therapist and I started preparing for how I would turn my "confrontation" into a "conversation" with my father.

When the time came for my kids and me to travel to Ghana, I asked my father for one-on-one time and broached the topic.

"Hey, Dad, I never really heard your story. What was life like growing up for you, and what happened between us?"

Related stories

My father told me about his journey with his dad, his custody struggles , and the interpersonal conflicts between him and my mother. Eventually, he explained that he concluded: "Justin will come find me when he's ready."

I also asked my father to share his experiences growing up

My father grew up in Ghana, and his own father was only around a fraction of the time. My father also left his entire family for boarding school at 14 years old, and at 16, he left Ghana to come to the US.

Hearing this story, a lump formed in my throat as I felt — for the first time — empathy for my dad. I wonder how he felt as a little boy.

Fully immersing myself in my dad's story wasn't easy. It was challenging to remove my biased perspective of anger and distrust. I pushed myself to engage from a place of curiosity and ask him questions as if I was a student.

Hearing my dad's story helped me understand

At the end of our conversation, I told my father I disagreed with his approach but understood how he arrived at his conclusion. We hugged, and my father told me he was proud of me, which I never heard growing up.

This conversation did not transform us into a father-son duo holding hands and walking into the sunset. My dad's decision not to fight for a place in my life robbed both of us of father-son experiences that we can never get back.

However, this conversation gave me access to my heritage, Ghana, which I'd previously avoided. This allowed me to get involved in social entrepreneurial projects, like working with an elementary school and hiring and training Ghanaian staff members.

It also gave me access to an incredible mentor, my father . Previously, I avoided my dad. Now, I actively seek him out, particularly when I need feedback on a project.

Perhaps most importantly, this conversation taught me a profound lesson I now apply to every area of my life. I learned that when we do not seek to understand and respect the person we disagree with, it only hurts us.

That day, if I had chosen to confront my father from a place of vitriol and anger, his rejection would still haunt me, and I would have never learned the powerful lesson that every person has a story that shapes who they are today.

Justin Jones-Fosu's book, I Respectfully Disagree (releasing April 2024), challenges the reader to focus on building bridges with people rather than barriers from them. You can download an excerpt here . Justin is also a dad, the founder of Work.Meaningful where he serves as an international keynote speaker, a social entrepreneur, a critically acclaimed author, and a mountain climber.

Watch: I was assaulted by a Met Police officer at 14, I now train them. Here's how police racism works

an indian father's plea essay

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  1. PDF An Indian Father's Plea

    An Indian Father's Plea Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear) Dear teacher, I would like to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf. He is probably what you would consider a typical Indian kid. He was born and raised on a reservation. He has black hair, dark brown eyes, olive complexion. And like so many Indian children his age,

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    The father's plea is a poignant reflection of the deep-rooted prejudices and biases that exist within Indian society. He begins by recounting the accusations made against his daughter, emphasizing the shame and dishonor that has befallen his family as a result. The father's desperation to seek help from the authorities highlights the ...

  3. An Indian Father's Plea (Opinion)

    An Indian Father's Plea. Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear), a member of the Seneca and Cherokee Indian tribes, is an associate professor at Gonzaga University's School of Education in Spokane ...

  4. An Indian Father's Plea, Essay Example

    "An Indian Father's Plea": The Consideration and Application of Cultural Standards. In the essay "An Indian Father's Plea," author Robert Lake (a.k.a. Medicine Grizzlybear), a member of both the Seneca and Cherokee tribes, offers an impassioned argument against the idea that his son is a "slow learner" (as he has been labeled by his teachers in his "Western" school).

  5. An Indian Father's Plea: The Realities of Parenting in a Divided World

    In conclusion, An Indian Father's Plea is a poignant and insightful essay that addresses some of the most pressing issues of our time. It offers a personal and relatable perspective on parenting in a divided world, and it challenges us to rethink our assumptions, biases, and prejudices.

  6. An Indian Father's Plea Summary

    The text "An Indian Father's Plea" presents a heartfelt appeal from a Native American father to his son's teacher. The father, speaking on behalf of his son Wind-Wolf, describes the cultural and spiritual upbringing of the child within their Native American community. He emphasizes that Wind-Wolf's education goes beyond the ...

  7. Summary Of An Indian Father's Plea By Robert G. Lake-Thom

    In "An Indian Father's Plea" by Robert G. Lake-Thom, Lake-Thom uses transitions to help connect his ideas and create a well written essay. In the twelfth paragraph the author discusses the knowledge that his son possessed before he began going to the school he is currently attending. Since Lake-Thom is listing the knowledge his son ...

  8. Argumentative Structure in "Indian Father's Plea" (3 levels of support

    Students analyze the argumentative structure employed by Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear) in his essay "Indian Father's Plea." There are three versions with varying levels of support. title "Argumentative Structure in "Indian Father's Plea" (3 levels of support)" 2024 by Kristen Fox under license "Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ...

  9. An Indian Father's Plea.

    Increasing Preservice Teachers' Support of Multicultural Education. Pamela M. Owen. Education, Sociology. 2010. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to build candidate knowledge utilizing Katz and Chard's Project Approach (1989) promoting movement across Nieto's (2000) levels of support for…. Expand. 15.

  10. Summary Of An Indian Father's Plea

    Summary Of An Indian Father's Plea. 600 Words3 Pages. "Wind-Wolf knows the names and migration patterns of more than 40 birds. He knows there are 13 feathers on a perfectly balanced eagle. What he needs is a teacher who knows his full measure" (Lake 75). There are variant forms of culture worldwide; individuals get a unique identity by ...

  11. Argumentative Structure in "Indian Father's Plea" (3 levels of support

    Students analyze the argumentative structure employed by Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear) in his essay "Indian Father's Plea." There are three versions with varying levels of support. Subject: English Language Arts Level: High School Grades: Grade 9, Grade 10 Material Type: ...

  12. An Indian Father 's Plea Essay

    In "An Indian Father's Plea" written by Robert Lake, the piece of fiction discusses how Wind-Wolf makes his own decisions based off of his past experiences. "... So now my young Indian child does not want to go to school anymore.". (92) Wind-Wolf is bullied at school for his cultural heritage, and decides he doesn't want to go to ...

  13. An Indian Father's Plea: An Analysis

    In the essay, "An Indian Father's Plea" by Robert Lake, the author takes to explain to his audience that your culture can greatly impact your perspective of others. For example, when the teacher Wind-Wolf a slow learner, the father writes a letter explaining why wind-wolf is not, but in fact the opposite. The author said "If you ask him ...

  14. An Indian Father's Plea Analysis

    In the story An Indian Father's PLEA by Robert Lake the father of Wind-Wolf received a letter telling him that his son is a "slow learner" but he says otherwise. When Wind-Wolf was five he had already had an education and knew a little more than the other kids in the class. He was taught by the traditional people from where he is from.

  15. An Indian Fathers Plea By Robert Lake Analysis

    In the story "An Indians Fathers Plea" by Robert Lake, he is writing a letter to his sons teacher because the father feels that his child, Wind-Wolf is being treated unfairly. Wind-Wolf is full Indian so his culture and beliefs are different than everybody elses in his class. His teacher put his son into the slow learners class and the ...

  16. Rhetorical Analysis Of An Indian Father's Plea By Robert Lake

    Robert Lake's, "An Indian Father's Plea," uses logos, pathos, ethos, rhetorical tropes and schemes to successfully support his argument of the difficulty of being culturally different and not disadvantage. His usage of literary tools persuades readers that his son is in fact a culturally different child that needs time to cope with a ...

  17. PDF An Indian Father•s Plea

    An Indian Father•s Plea Robert Lake (Medicine Grizzlybear) Wind-Wolf knows the names and migration patterns of more than 40 birds. He knows there are 13 tail feathers on a perfectly balanced eagle. What he needs is a teacher who knows his full measure. Dear teacher, I would like to introduce you to my son, Wind-Wolf.

  18. An Indian Father's Plea By Robert Lee

    In the letter "An Indian Father's Plea" written by Robert Lakes, a father from an Indian tribe writes a letter to his son's teacher. This teacher is not used to dealing with Indian children in her society. Her culture is not similar to the parent so she sees his son in a different way than the father. So the father writes a letter ...

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    The essay argues that by incorporating theoretical insights and critical race theory insights, we can better understand and study of race and race relations. ... In "An Indian Father's Plea" by Robert Lake, Wind-Wolf's father, Medicine Grizzly Bear, explains why his child isn't a slow learner, and that he is just different from the ...

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  21. An Indian Father's Plea Summary

    An Indian Father's Plea Summary. Decent Essays. 476 Words. 2 Pages. Open Document. Ethnocentrism is the feeling that your culture is superior to others and can lead to different decisions which are caused by the way someone was raised. If ethnocentrism is not existent will exposure to a new culture increase it?

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    An Indian Father's Plea Language Analysis. 142 Words1 Page. In An Indian Father's Plea, culture strongly influences Wind-Wolf, the speaker's son, in all aspects of his life. Wind-Wolf has been raised with certain values that have changed the way he interacts with others. Although others may not be accepting of him, he manages to make a ...