More states are requiring schools to teach Native American history and culture

For years, many Native American tribes felt that their history had not been recognized by schools in Connecticut, a state named after an Algonquian word meaning “land on the long tidal river.”

Soon, however, schools will be required to teach Native American studies, with an emphasis on local tribes, under a law passed this year at the behest of tribes, including the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation, better known today. hui for its Foxwoods Resort Casino.

“When you’re in Connecticut, not to learn about the Eastern Forest tribes, the tribes that Connecticut was founded on, (that’s) the issue we were focusing on,” Rodney said. Butler, President of the Mashantucket Pequots.

It is a long-standing goal of many Native Americans to have more information about their history and culture taught in elementary schools. New demands have been passed in Connecticut, North Dakota and Oregon and advocates say their efforts have gained momentum with the nation’s recognition of racial injustice since the murder of George Floyd .

Legislation regarding schools has progressed alongside new bans on Native American mascots for sports teams and states celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day.

The push for curriculum requirements has not been without challenges, with some legislatures deeming new laws unnecessary as Native American history is already reflected in school curricula. There have also been steps in the opposite direction amid battles over how matters related to race and racism are taught in classrooms.

In South Dakota, a group of teachers and citizens tasked with developing new state social studies standards said last month that Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration had removed many elements from its draft recommendations intended to strengthen students’ understanding of Native American history and culture. They said the changes to the project gave it a political edge they had tried to avoid, instead aligning it with the Republican governor’s rhetoric on what she calls patriotic education.

The education ministry said in a statement that it relied heavily on the task force’s recommendations and made “some adjustments before the draft was released to provide more clarity and focus for educators and the public.” .

Meanwhile, in Montana, tribes and parents of 18 college students have filed a federal lawsuit in July, alleging that state education officials violate a state constitutional requirement to teach all children about the unique culture and heritage of Native Americans.

A 2019 report from the National Congress of American Indian, which surveyed 35 states with federally recognized tribes, found that nearly 90% of states said they had made efforts to improve quality and l ‘access to the Native American studies program. While a majority said it was included in their schools, less than half said it was necessary and specific to the tribal nations in their state.

We’re seeing a focus on different races and issues, ”said Aaron Payment, first vice-president of the National Congress of American Indian and president of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan.

Payment, who has a doctorate in educational leadership, said Native American studies should be integrated into the curriculum and not taught “just on Thanksgiving, where it’s kind of a condensed module.” He does not support states that make the program mandatory per se, but believes states should provide incentives and funding to develop the program, with input from tribes.

Connecticut law requires schools to teach Native American studies starting in the 2023-2024 school year. It was adopted despite concerns expressed by teachers’ unions and the state education commissioner, Miguel Cardona.. Cardona, who is now the US Secretary of Education, had said it was important to teach about Native Americans, but he was wary of unfunded mandates for school districts that are still working to implement other courses. that lawmakers and the governor have asked them to teach.

In North Dakota, a bill became law this year that requires all elementary and secondary schools, public and private, to include Native American tribal history in their curriculum, with an emphasis on tribes of State.

In Oregon, a similar law came into effect in 2019 to provide a “historically accurate, culturally integrated, place-based, contemporary and developmentally appropriate” curriculum for Native Americans and Alaska Natives in five subject areas.


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