This page includes resources about Deaf People of Color. It will continuously be added to as I get more information.
Open Letter in Support of Indigenous Deaf Communities
Received by Dr. Melanie McKay-Cody & written by Indigenous Deaf Communities
This is an open letter to the Deaf community. The purpose of this letter is to educate the Deaf Community about our Indigenous Deaf communities in North America. Many of the people in Deaf Community are ill-informed about our Indigenous culture. We have seen many non-Indigenous Deaf people follow one person’s signs based on inaccurate information, which has resulted in an on-going effort by Indigenous Deaf peoples to educate the Deaf communities with accurate information. Many Deaf people are linguistic gullible (McKay-Cody, 2019), meaning that Deaf people may easily adopt or use signs that are not acceptable and serve to perpetuate stereotypes about our Indigenous Deaf communities. It is important to note that Sarah Young-Bear Brown, who has been known to spread inappropriate signs, is not an Indigenous Deaf leader and does not represent all North American Indigenous peoples. She has many years to learn about our Indigenous cultures. Per our Indigenous culture, no one single person should be the “representative” of “all” Indigenous people. That is not our way of doing from our Indigenous lens. There are over 800 tribes in USA, and many more in Canada and Mexico, and concepts of “one cookie cutter that fits all” or “one size fit all” which does not apply in Indigenous contexts. In our Indigenous Deaf communities, we do things for the good of our community by providing collaborative community-engaged services to our people. We collaboratively stand with our Indigenous hearing relatives and follow our traditional ways. This means that elders in Indigenous communities are the ones who decide on certain changes, including sign language. The younger Indigenous people who honor our elders’ decision, are respectfully following centuries-old traditions. The sign V-INDIAN (war-paint sign) is a stereotypical sign. It does not fit hundreds of our people, some tribes are very peaceful people, and they do not or did not ever wear warpaint. This sign is not from a consensual agreement among our Indigenous Deaf people, it was decided by ill-informed person. Sarah does not and did not have the permission from many Indigenous Deaf elders to use this sign. She as an individual who may chose to use the sign for herself; however, applying the stereotypical sign to all tribes, it is unfair. Many Indigenous hearing people disagree with that sign and find it offensive and stereotypical. We, in the Indigenous Deaf community ask Deaf individuals and the Deaf community to be respectful of Indigenous members across hundreds of tribes in respecting our way of collaborative agreement and honoring our elders’ community-based decisions. Respecting our collective cultural frame will reduce such confusion in misinterpretation in signs, cultural information, and many others.