Racheal Bailey: The Tohono O’odham made it to Philadelphia! 

I am a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, we are the “Desert People.” On the first day of school I introduced myself to my class in my traditional native language. “S-ke:g Tash! An:i an ab ce:ji, Ms. Bailey. Amejed Wa:k Ceksan. Good day! My name is Ms. Bailey. I’m from the San Xavier District in Tucson.”

My first year as a Lasallian Volunteer has been essential in growing as an individual and as a young Lasallian. Living in Philly and adapting to the new culture has been an experience I did not think I needed, but has helped me grow in so many ways. I have never lived in a different city, let alone a different state all the way across the country.

I felt homesick on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 12th. Being the only Native American around and feeling alone was something I have never felt before. I come from Tucson, Arizona, where there are Indigenous people practically everywhere, and now that I’m in a big city on the east coast, it makes me feel like I am truly meant to be here for a reason. I personally feel that I have been placed here to expose to those of Philadelphia, what they have not yet learned of my Native American culture. Most importantly, I believe that it is vital for my students to see and hear from an Indigenous person, an Indigenous woman.

The culture shock here really got to me. It knocked me down and for the first time in my life, I failed to feel proud as an Indigenous person. After talking to multiple friends, family and my LV cohort, I felt the support that I needed and got back up. I have come to really take pride in who I am: being a strong, Indigenous woman, indigenizing the spaces where my people were not welcomed before. What I hope for now is that I can walk alongside my students and help them realize just how glorious they are.

My current role of teaching juniors and seniors has allowed me to recognize that they are finding their way, finding out who they are. So far being on this journey with them has been such a blessing. One of my favorite quotes from Saint John Baptist de La Salle is, “Example makes a much greater impression than words.” I have really reflected on that quote this year, thinking of ways I can be a good example to my students. I believe that my experience of feeling lonely on Indigenous Peoples Day has contributed to the success of vulnerability that I have been able to disclose with my classes. Ultimately, I can trust that this process will help my students strive to be more confident in who they are and allow them to see that even Ms. Bailey is still growing.

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