Inspired by the chapter “Allegiance to Gratitude”
By Lauren Meyer
Catori is a young girl from the Potawatomi tribe. She attends a school that says the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning, but she does not like this. With the help of her friends, Catori plans a walk-out in order to start the morning with The Thanksgiving Address.
- Skittish: nervous
- Fidgeted: make small movements out of nervousness
RIIIIIING. That was the sound of the morning bell. School was about to begin. I gathered myself and sat down at my desk to begin the school day. The principal started speaking to the entire school to let us know the announcements for the day. I fidgeted with my pencil as he spoke– all I wanted to do was start science class.
The principal finished up the announcements, and suddenly, all of my classmates stood up. It was time for the dreaded Pledge of Allegiance.
I did not stand. I had 26 pairs of eyes staring at me, including my teacher. The thing is, I did not believe in this weird chant. “Liberty and Justice for All.” What does that even mean!?
The truth is, I am a Native, daughter of the Potawatomi tribe. My name is Catori. I did not believe in this silly thing they called “The Pledge.” In the morning, we express our gratitude to Mother Earth. My ma taught me the ritual. We stand over the hill at sunrise, and express our gratitude to the world.
After the Pledge, I went along with my day, learning about different studies. I have always loved science. The land, the fish, the crops… I love it all. As I returned home, I saw my Ma standing on the hill outside of our home.
This land was beautiful. Filled with wonderful wild flowers and a creek with fish. As a child I would explore this land with my little cousin. We would plant tiny seeds and watched as they bloomed into bright orange flowers.
Over this hill you can see the land of Onondaga.
“Ma, I wish I could go to that school on the other side of the hill.”
At that school, there are children who look just like me. Black hair, excited to give the Thanksgiving Address. Over there, children enter the school to recite the Thanksgiving Address, not the Pledge of Allegiance, something I will never understand.
“No, my beautiful girl, you cannot go to that school. I heard you did not stand for the Pledge. Why?” ask Ma.
“I don’t understand it. They force us to say it but I do not want to. I want to go to that school and begin with the Thanksgiving Address.”
Catori pointed to the school across the hill.
“I know my sweet girl,” Ma responded, “But you must stay at your school. It is where we belong.”
They both went back home to eat dinner together. Catori was not happy that she could not go to school with the other children that looked like her. She was determined to make a change, and make it fast.
Catori started working on her science homework. Her class was completing Moon observations. Catori was very familiar with the Moon as her family gives thanks to it every morning. As she looked out, the moon appeared to be big and bright. The moon gave her inspiration, which was exactly what Catori needed.
As days passed, Catori continued to sit for The Pledge, gathering more and more support from her peers. As days went on, it went from only her, to her entire class sitting down. Not a peep to be heard.
Catori had been telling her classmates about her idea to start the day with the Thanksgiving Address. How could she convince the principal to make this happen?
Catori had a wonderful idea. She would just do it herself.
She gathered her classmates and told them of her master plan.
“Okay, listen closely. After The Pledge is said on the speaker, we will leave and enter the gym where we will begin our day with the Thanksgiving Address. How does that sound?” asked the girl.
“Are you crazy?” one boy asked, “We will get in so much trouble!”
Many students agreed with the boy. It was too dangerous to try.
The girl felt defeated. How would her plan work?
“Uh.. I.. I..”
The girl turned her head and saw that it was Dakota. He was a shy boy, also a part of the Potawatomi tribe. He was struggling to speak up.
“Yes?” the girl responded.
“I like your plan,” Dakota responded.
The girl and her peers were shocked. She found somebody to support her! The classmates became fidgety and rethought the plan.
“Okay… “ one boy said. “We can try it. But only once!”
Catori was so excited that her plan was starting to work. Starting tomorrow, her entire class would walk out to the gym and start their day with the Thanksgiving Address. The girl went along with her day, nervous that her teachers would find out. Nobody said a word.
The next day came and the students were guttering in their seats. Their teacher had a puzzled look on her face. Catori began to believe that the teacher knew.
RIIIIIING. That was the sound of the morning bell. The principal began his announcements and began The Pledge. Nobody stood. The girl was starting to believe that her plan would work.
Soon, The Pledge ended. In one swoop, the entire class stood up and walked out.
The students marched to the gym. As Catori led the group, the principal stopped them.
“What do you think you are doing?” The principal asked.
All of the students looked skittish. They knew the plan wouldn’t work.
“We are here to begin our day with the Thanksgiving Address and you can’t stop us!” said Dakota.
The students were shocked that such a shy boy could say that to the principal.
“Well then, off you go. Do not be late to your second period class,” responded the principal.
Catori was shocked. Her plan worked!
The students began to recite the Thanksgiving Address. Catori was so proud of herself for sticking up for what she thought was right.
As days went on, the students began every day with this Address. Catori felt wonderful when giving gratitude to her Earth.