IDI Newsletter | November 2023

A key focus of our November IDI newsletter is National Native American Heritage Month. Our Middle School students led a land acknowledgment ceremony as a reminder about the people who previously occupied the land upon which many of us now work or live. The month also offered the opportunity to consider Indigenous Peoples around the world who seek to have a history of oppression acknowledged, and who continue to face challenges due to lack of understanding and representation. While not covered in this newsletter, we also want to acknowledge Veterans Day on November 11 and Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. And let's not forget Diwali on November 12, which you can learn more about by watching the IDI video interview below. 



IDI Community Spotlights shine a light on individuals within our community. Sushmita Vargo, our Upper School Geography Teacher, shares her insights into Diwali and its personal significance while Grade 12 student Naomi shares how she connects to her family heritage.

IDI Profile

My name is Naomi, I am a senior at WIS and co-president of the Asian Student Union (ASU). I am half-Asian, as my mother comes from Myanmar (formerly called Burma). It’s a country in Southeast Asia that often gets overlooked, but is filled with beautiful golden pagodas, floating villages and delicious mohinga. Though my family immigrated from the country before my mother was born, I share a profound connection with the country. I have loved sharing Burmese culture with peers at WIS, and through ASU. Last year, at our ASU potluck, I shared some of my mother’s signature Burmese chicken curry. I have been able to visit several times, seeing family in Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan, an ancient city filled with thousands of pagodas.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go back to Myanmar recently, as the country is currently in a civil war. The war began after the military staged a coup d’etat in 2021, overturning the democratic elections, and returning to full control over the country, as it had before 2011. The overturned elections led civilians to take to the streets to protest against the military’s undemocratic actions. The representatives from the country’s popular democratic party, the National League for Democracy, now lead a government-in-exile called the National Unity Government (NUG). The conflict is an issue very near to my heart, but it frustrates me when I don’t hear people talking about it in the U.S. We talk about other wars, but this one seems to be forgotten. Even in the media, I barely see headlines that cover the conflict.
It has been my mission for a while now to raise awareness on Myanmar, writing articles for International Dateline about my aunt’s experience in Myanmar, giving presentations at assemblies, hosting fundraisers, and tutoring Burmese students. I hope to not only continue raising awareness about the war through ASU, but also keep celebrating the beauties of Burmese culture.

IDI Video Interview

Meet Sushmita and learn how to celebrate Diwali!


This month's playlist — Native American and Indigenous Artists You Need to Know — is a lovely blend of traditional Indigenous Artists and modern sounds, with artists like The Halluci Nation, who blend instrumental hip hop, reggae, moombahton and dubstep-influenced dance music with elements of First Nations music. 

CLICK HERE to go to the Spotify Play list or open the Spotify App on your phone to scan the code below. 

MLK Jr. Day Special: Harmony Through Diversity

Our next IDI Newsletter will be a Winter Special that will be released in January. In anticipation of MLK Day, we are excited to announce the next IDI playlist will center around the theme of dreams. Join us in creating a playlist that reflects the power of dreams and the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream for a better future. We invite each of you to contribute by sharing your favorite tracks via this FORM

Recognizing Indigenous Peoples

At the Primary School, the IDI team created an Interactive Native American Heritage Month display, which gave students the opportunity to SEE, THINK, WONDER via provocations inspired by Native American and Indigenous themes. At the Middle School, students attended a webinar about Indigenous street art and led a land acknowledgment ceremony during the monthly assembly.

Youth in Action: Indigenous Street Art Webinar by River Garza

The Middle School had the opportunity to hear from River Garza, an Indigenous street artist who lives in Los Angeles. His work draws on traditional Indigenous aesthetics, Southern California Indigenous maritime culture, skateboarding, graffiti and Mexican culture.

He spoke to students about how graffiti resonated with him and how the material and people around him inspired him to explore further. River observed that Indigenous street artists use mural painting, graffiti, billboards, and other mediums to build community and draw attention to issues. As he discussed his own path, he said that mentors had been essential to achieving his aspirations and suggested that students find their own guides as they explore activities and passions.

After his talk, he opened the floor to questions. Students were curious to learn about his current projects and to know more about the intersection between art and Indigenous cultures. 

Middle School November Assembly

The focus of the November 15 Middle School assembly was on National Native American Heritage Month. The DC History Class provided a concise overview of the Indigenous history of the city. While additional lessons on Indigenous history are planned for some Grade 6 students in the spring, the assembly featured discussions on the significance of DC as a lens to understand  Indigenous communities. The students presented a timeline of key Indigenous events and shared other insights.

Class of 2030 representatives also shared a land acknowledgment they had written collectively. As explained by Grade 6 student Desi, “A land acknowledgement is intended to acknowledge and apologize for the hostile colonization of the Indigenous land on which we live, learn, and work, and to express a desire for a better relationship with our Indigenous neighbors. It is important to acknowledge the Indigenous territory with gratitude and empathy to those whose territory was colonized.”

Media Recommendations

Primary School

 "Bowwow Powwow" by Brenda J. Child (illustrated by Jonathan Thunder) is a children's book that introduces young readers to a vibrant celebration of dance, community, and Native American culture.

Middle School 

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" is a coming-of-age novel that follows the journey of Junior, a young Native American artist, as he navigates the challenges of adolescence and identity.

 "Smoke Signals" is a captivating film that explores friendship, family, and Native American identity. It's a journey of self-discovery with humor and poignant moments.

Upper School

"There There" is a powerful novel that weaves together the lives of twelve characters as they attend the Big Oakland Powwow, exploring contemporary Native American urban life.

IDI Happening at WIS

Friday Family Film Series

We are excited to continue with our Friday Family Film Series, an evening for families to participate in language learning opportunities. The second session, on Friday, December 1, features Coco en Español. This film is geared towards Primary School children but is appropriate for all ages. English subtitles included!

The screening will begin at 6:30 PM in Davies Hall (the Mansion). Children attend for free; all accompanying adults will be charged $5.00 per ticket. Tickets can be reserved in advance HERE. We'll provide the popcorn and one special thematic treat, but feel free to bring your own snacks as well.

Future features will have varied languages and genres. We encourage groups to attend and enjoy language learning through the magic of cinema. Upcoming movies are: January 26, March 1, and May 3. Please contact Sarah Merianos, Director of Extended Learning, with any questions.

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year celebrates the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year. It is one of the most important holidays in China and is widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. Each year, WIS students and faculty have an opportunity to learn about various aspects of the holiday including the Chinese Zodiac, traditional Chinese outfits and artistic performances.

On February 7, 2024, up to 12 Primary School students in Grades 3–5 may participate in a field trip to East Dumpling House with WIS Middle and Upper School students studying Mandarin Chinese. A sign-up form will be sent in January. The first 12 students to register will be able to attend. Questions? Contact Lisa McNeill at

Additional OpportunitY

AIELOC and ISS Book Club

The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) and International School Services (ISS), in collaboration with partner organizations, are thrilled to announce a book club that will enrich your knowledge and understanding of International-Mindedness, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The Club will explore DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing it Right by the insightful and powerful author, Lily Zheng. This book serves as an indispensable resource for anyone eager to engage in a critical examination and practical application of IDI strategies within organizations.

The Club will meet virtually on the following dates in 2024 (times all EST):

  • Friday, January 19; 9-10AM
  • Friday, February 23; 9-10AM
  • Thursday, March 14; 10-11AM

Faculty or staff interested in participating should contact Mr. Wynter, Ms. Sneed, or Mme. Geneix for additional information and to obtain a discount for purchasing the book.

Remember that November is not the only time to celebrate Native American Heritage and that we all benefit from continually embracing a spirit of understanding, appreciation, and unity. #celebrateindigenousvoices