When Tremeka Greenhouse first saw the school assignment for her daughter Nyemah to “dress like an Indian,” she was planning to skip doing it. But 5-year-old Nyemah didn’t want to get in trouble with her teacher, so they came up with a compromise to fulfill the requirements of the culturally appropriative assignment.
“I’ve been following the story of the DAPL protestors and thought it would be good for Nyemah to go dressed as a water protestor instead of an actual Indian ‘costume,’” she told The Huffington Post. “I discussed with Nyemah and she loved the idea. Especially after I explained to her the purpose of the protest and we went over the pictures.”
With help from Greenhouse’s older daughter, Taniyah, they used a water-colored pillowcase and acrylic paints to create a vest protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The vest, which expresses solidarity with the protestors and people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, has “Water Is Life” and #NODAPL written prominently across the front.
Activists have been protesting for months against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would run underneath Lake Oahe near Standing Rock, and which they say could contaminate their water source and threatens tribal lands.
While Greenhouse says they don’t have a specific history of activism in their family, she does encourage her four girls to “speak up when they see something they don’t agree with.”
“I’ve tried to teach her what really happened with the Native Americans in this country, but at her age, what the teacher says is golden,” she says. “We do a lot of reading and I’ve shared lots of pictures of Standing Rock with her.”
Greenhouse’s daughter Taniyah, a 20-year-old public health student, shared the picture of Nyemah in costume on her Twitter account, with the text “My sister was supposed to dress like “”””an Indian”””” today for kindergarten. This happened instead.” The original photo included the hashtags #WeStandWithStandingRock and #NextGenerationActivist.
The family hasn’t received any negative feedback from the school, and Nyemah was excited to stand up for Native American rights. Greenhouse plans to keep sharing the outcome of the protests at Standing Rock with her daughter and hopes for a positive outcome.
It’s obvious where Nyemah got her #nextgenerationactivist spirit.
Says Greenhouse of her daughters, “When I drop them off to school, I don’t say goodbye, I tell them to ‘Be great!’ I think that each of them will be great in their own way and have an awesome impact on this world.”