Washoe boy teased into cutting his hair

Silas Jim

Silas Jim

One of the biggest clues that 9-year-old Silas Jim was being made to feel bad about the length of his hair was when his teacher found a clump of it in his desk.

Silas, a Wa-she-shu boy, had grown his hair all the way down his back, the way his ancestors did.

But at some point another boy in his class at Meneley Elementary School started taunting him about it, calling him a girl and bullying him.

Silas said that made him mad and he started cutting bits out of his hair with a pair of scissors he had at school.

On Nov. 17, Silas got his locks cut off down to his shoulders, not a buzz cut by any stretch of the imagination, but his parents said it wasn’t something he should have wanted.

“He’s been acting out in school because of it,” mother Brittney Jim said. “He’s been cutting his hair at school. Before I cut it, his teacher found a chunk of it inside his desk.”

Jordan and Brittney Jim are the parents of two other children, Leland and Tira. They and their uncle Art George sat down for an interview with The Record-Courier.

Jordan Jim credited third-grade teacher Teresa Rose for dealing with the child who had been bullying Silas. She invited Jim and George to do a presentation to the class about why the Wa-she-shu grow their hair.

Descended from Carson Valley’s original residents, Silas will be going to Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in a couple of years, which roughly translates to People of the Valley.

“It’s been difficult raising boys with longer hair because not only are we supposed to teach them to be respectful and have manners and listen, but also to have faith and trust in teachers and the adults supervising them,” said Jordan who wears his hair in a braid. “There’s only so much any person can take, and the instant anyone reacts to it, the attention is on him, not the kid who has been instigating it the whole time. I always try to tell my kids, ‘Defend yourselves, stick up for yourselves,’ but then they have conflicting instructions from teachers, ‘Oh, don’t do this, use your words.’”

Jordan and his uncle will talk to the classroom about their people and why they grow their hair out.

“When we have long hair that’s our memories, that’s our power,” George said. “And so when we express ourselves with that long hair we get to represent ourselves as a whole person, both spiritually and physically. We’re all Wa-she-shu here. We’re the people and that’s described as land, animal, air, water and plant.”

Jordan agreed with George.

“The hair is part of our culture,” he said. “It is where our memories are. It’s our connection to everything around us. It’s our guide.”

He said that he will tell Silas’ classmates to be accepting of others.

“Everybody’s different in their own way,” Jordan said. “When bullying somebody, you see the one thing you are passionate about and you’re just dragging them down and making them feel less because of it, it’s wrong. It’s dehumanizing.”

November is Native American Heritage Month.


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