By: Mariel Frost, Hyde-Bath Senior
The Leaders & Learners workshop series kicked off this year with Dr. John Peacock, a college professor, who shared his story about how he discovered his Native American heritage. Peacock spoke to the school community with a strong voice full of conviction. Students and faculty were captivated by his personal story.
Dr. Peacock was 50 years old when he discovered he is one-quarter Dakota-Sioux. Before that time he explained he had lived his life slowly, just going through the motions.
After his discovery, he found a new sense of purpose in his life. His mother, who is ½ Dakota-Sioux, told him that he is a descendent of the Spirit Lake Dakota Sioux, which resides in a reservation in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.
Peacock told of several instances in his life when he was challenged by fellow Native Americans. Several students, he explained, brought a new understanding of the Native American culture and a vibrant sense of passion to education.
One inspirational moment in Peacock’s life involved an incident at a Sundance in North Dakota this past summer with his son, Sean, a senior at Hyde School in Woodstock, Connecticut. Though he and Sean had been invited to the Sundance by Tribe elders, they were asked to leave the first night. Peacock responded to the man in the Dakota language and was surprised when the man replied that he did not speak the native tongue. This incident gave him a new sense of understanding. He concluded that language, or the ability to speak it, and physical appearance are not what makes one a Dakota.
Peacock was also surprised to discover that many of the Dakota beliefs and the Hyde School philosophy, such as the Five Words: Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity, and Concern, are very similar and embrace the concept of Truth, Humility, and Compassion.
Discussions about what it is to be a leader and a learner led many students to ask themselves how the qualities that comprise both apply in their own lives.
Senior Olivia Chance said of her experience in the Leaders & Learners session: “The fact that Dr. Peacock had the curiosity and motivation to immerse himself in the Native American culture…even learn the language… is inspiring. It makes me want to research my own heritage and discover who I am and where I came from.”