Minnesota standards require us to teach about the indigenous people to our state. From that point, it is our responsibility to ensure that what we are teaching is accurate. Minnesota state standards require that our students encounter different teachings about Dakota and Ojibwe people throughout their K-12 experience. Learning about Indigenous People and the history of our area before America’s colonization is fundamental to understanding the relationships between people and place. We cannot truly understand the dynamics of our area if we do not include a long and multi-perspective history. Teaching accurately about Indigenous People benefits not just our Native students, but also all students.
In my short time working for the school district, I have noticed there is never enough time in a day to teach all the things that need to be taught and there is an ever-present desire to find new resources. I have also noted the increasing number of blogs and information hubs, such as Pinterest, that have easy ready to use ideas.
Unfortunately, by using these resources, what ends up happening is an overload of information that often times isn’t well researched or vetted through any credible sources. Inadvertently, this can lead to activities that perpetuate stereotypes, keep Native Americans in the past, and demote native culture to cute crafts.
Something we want to work to avoid is only exposing students to historical views of Native Americans. Today there are 572 federally recognized tribes, 11 of which are located in our state. We want students to understand the sacrifice these tribes have made at the benefit of our country, as well as learn about tribes that have called Minnesota home for 100s and thousands of years to help build well-rounded learners.
An example of how we can begin to do that is to help students make connections and understand the differences between the various Native tribes. Many people know southwest Indians use adobe dwellings to stay cool, but let’s not stop there. We should build on understanding that each tribe has its own traditions, clothing, types of dwellings, etc. dependent on the region they inhabited. It is important to learn about tribes from around the country, but Minnesota state standards require us to place an emphasis on learning about our tribes here in Minnesota.
As educators, we can be better equipped to teach our students about Indigenous people by taking advantage of events and professional learning opportunities provided by various education associations and societies. Here are some of the great upcoming opportunities, most of which happen on an annual or even more frequent basis.
As we approach summer and think about professional development in our upcoming year, I encourage everyone to consider one of these amazing opportunities. Let us all strive to teach Native American content in the humanizing manner with which we teach all other subjects. As always, I am here to help in whatever way I can.
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