Don’t Judge a Man Until You’ve Walked Two Moons in His Moccasins
Honoring Native American Culture, Promoting Awareness and Diversity
The folk proverb “Don’ t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins” would apply well to the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) cultural awareness activities this year. Each month students have the opportunity to experience different cultures through guest presenters. For the month of November, the students honored Native American cultures through the eyes of Judy Stout, the Clerc Center student enhancement educator and a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina—the ninth largest Indian tribe east of the Mississippi.
At the invitation of student Tanea Brown, MSSD’s Diversity Club president, Stout shared stories about her life growing up as a deaf person on Indian tribal lands in Pembroke, North Carolina. She was the second oldest and the only deaf member of her five-sibling family. She lost her hearing at 2 years old due to a fever. Her family supported themselves as subsistence farmers and lived in a small house of four rooms with no bathrooms or water faucets. Stout told stories about her life at home helping out with farm chores and attending the local school where she “spent a lot of time drawing pictures…I was not able to read or write.” Stout also shared, via PowerPoint, photos from her family album and brought samples of Lumbee clothing—a deer skin vest, a leather hat, a ceremonial skirt, moccasins—for students to see.
The MSSD students in the audience were amazed when Stout dramatically acted out the time her father took her to an Indian man to try and heal her “broken ears.” The man cocked her head sideways and put medicine drops into each ear. Then “suddenly he thrust his hands on my ears so hard I thought he was going to bust my head off! His hands trembled with deep prayer as he asked the Lord to make me a hearing person,” said Stout. The treatment did not work.
Stout eventually attended schools for the deaf in North Carolina where she learned sign language. She also attended Gallaudet University and there were days when she “felt overwhelmed with mixed emotions as a result of being culturally different from others.” She graduated from Gallaudet with a bachelor’s degree in the arts and a minor in psychology, and she went on to earn a master’s degree in school guidance.
Stout encouraged the MSSD students to be active advocates in their lives and in the lives of others. She shared her dream of seeing more deaf and hard of hearing people get involved in state government activities and maybe even run for office!