Our Story
Welcome from the Head of School

Naming Fall Break

November 17, 2021
As we prepare for Fall Break, I have been reflecting on how we give thanks for our communities, our health, and perhaps our current sense of wellbeing. I recognize, also, that the origins of next week’s holiday - Thanksgiving - must include the corrective narrative of Native Americans. How do we reconcile the history of this holiday with the spirit of coming together, celebrating family, and giving thanks?

One of my goals as Head of School is to seek out and lift up the voices and perspectives of those who are not yet brought to the foreground. The traditional narrative around Thanksgiving erases the experiences and truths of an entire nation of people. With the racial reckoning we’ve experienced in the past two years, it’s imperative that we move beyond acknowledging the harm committed and focus on uplifting the Native American narrative. 

At the start of the year, I wrote a letter about how we share space in our community with other organizations and community members. We do not own this land, we benefit from it. At St. Paul’s, we center on people and place as part of our work in Community Engaged Learning and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to disrupt systems of oppression and check our own entitlement. It’s essential that we approach our relationships with humility and empathy.

As a school, we cannot speak for the history that has been erased, but we can advocate for and help recenter the narrative of the Ohlone people who continue to live and work in our community today. It’s not only about focusing on the single narrative of genocide and colonialism, but also reflecting on the story of resilience, survival, and empowerment. St. Paul’s dedicates time to understanding our very real relationship to Huichun. This is the Ohlone name of the East Bay: where we learn. We relate to the land that we occupy when we study Lake Merritt or when we gather at Lakeside Park for lunch, for chapel, and for outdoor classes. To counter settler colonialism, we ask our students and employees to pronounce the names of local indigenous tribes and languages in our Land Acknowledgement whenever we gather as a full community. 

This begins to define how we look at our curriculum to deepen our participation in antiracist work. We struggle in partnership with the BIPOC community to dismantle white supremacist culture by decentering white hegemony. We create time for intentional, explicit, and courageous conversations about identity and the various perspectives and experiences we represent in this work for both adults and students. Antiracist work requires active engagement, critical thinking, and courage. 

As we observe National Native America and Alaska Native Heritage Month and move through this holiday season, consider the following: What is our connection to this land? How do we engage with our sense of place as a school?

Finally, as you gather with family and friends, and/or serve other communities, make time and space to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice and gifts from others. Thank you, St. Paul’s community, for the opportunity to learn from all of you - parents, employees, and most of all our students. 

With gratitude,
St. Paul's Episcopal School
116 Montecito Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610