Our Turn to Lead and Heal

By Salma Perez

My roots of identity, culture, and traditions sprout from the rivers streams deep in the mountains of Oaxaca. My name is Salma Ocelotlxochitl Perez, I am a young indigenous Zapoteca and Mixteca, I belong to the cloud people. I am a student, organizer, and activist. I grew up in El Sereno, a small community in Los Angeles, Ca.

I attended Anahuacalmecac International Preparatory of North America, the only K-12 International Baccalaureate Indigenous community-based school in the country. Anahucalmecac is a school under the umbrella of semillas sociedad civil, an indigenous community based nonprofit organization that organizes youth, parents and educators to advance self-determination, sovereignty and human rights through autonomous education and advocacy. I have learned that Indigenous and Native American history have long been erased and ignored throughout time and space.

Through my education at Anahuacalmecac, I have had the opportunity to cultivate my connection to my identity, culture and academic excellence. I have learned that maternal language, autonomous education and universal access to national and international education institutions are essential to children of color, indigneous children and our education system. At Anahuacalmecac students experience an A-G aligned curriculum embedded in traditional knowledge, native wisdom, a cultural and intellectual history that is, Indigenous Peoples and the promotion of positive social awareness, things that have been long ignored for generations and centuries.

At the age of five, I began traditional dancing and has become a central point to who I am, my connection to self, and the connection to those who come before me. I have learned the importance of being an indigenous youth with a mission to respect and honor the lands we live on and the resources we utilize.

Knowledge measures beyond the walls of an institution, but rather knowledge is inherited from our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Many indigenous peoples and Native American tribes such as the Haudenosaunee who have long ago introduced a concept known as the seven generations, which echoes the importance of living in sustainable, harmonious and conscious ways to one another, the land and all living organisms. The Seven generations is an understanding that our decisions today have an impact on the next seven generations.

As a young indigenous womyn, I recognize it is OUR TURN to lead and heal the next generations to come. It is a time in which we inherit the generational work that is to strive for the right to education and knowledge. We are to demand the right to exist and learn one's true identity, cultures and histories.