Monday, November 16, 2015

Celebrating Indian Education for All

Did you see the article in the fall issue of Teaching Tolerance that touts Montana's commitment to Indian Education for All? 

After reading it and feeling proud of our state, I realized it had been a while since I had posted specifically about IEFA. To paraphrase, the price of progress is eternal vigilance. 

In no particular order, here are some interesting IEFA-related materials/opportunities I've seen lately.

Humanities Montana has some great IEFA-related Speaker in the Schools programs. At no cost to your school, you could bring to your classroom Richard Ellis (author and retired history professor) to talk about "The Changing Image of American Indians in Film," Director MusEco Media and Education Project and elementary teacher Scott Prinzing  to talk about "American Indian Music: Even More Than Drums and Flutes," or historian and folklorist Nicholas Vrooman to talk about "The Métis in Montana History," among others.

Reservation Ambassadors, a student club at Arlee High School that meets with or Skypes with students in other areas in an effort to break down stereotypes, has a Facebook page on which hey posted a link to this thought-provoking poem, "Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question," by Diane Burns. It is one of the texts they've used to "to launch discussion and encourage frank conversations about stereotypes and reservation life." (You can ask them to meet with your class by emailing club co-advisor Anna Baldwin at abaldwin@arleeschools.org.)   

Indian Country Today recently ran this article in anticipation of Thanksgiving: "Beyond the So-Called First Thanksgiving: Five Children's Books That Set the Record Straight."  

"Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today’s True Native Americans" is an article that features the photography of Matika Wilbur, a high school teacher who, "Weary of stereotypical representations of Native Americans, ... is determined to photograph every federally-recognized Native American tribe in the country."

That article reminded me of the work of Crow photographer Adam Sings in Timber, whose images of every day Crow life was featured in the New York Times. Typically, as the Times reporter notes, "America has only two frames through which to view its native culture: ceremony and pageantry or poverty and addiction." But--as Sings in Timber's photos show, "there is so much more...."

I'm reminded by all the sources above how important it is not to relegate American Indians to the past but to emphasize that Indian people and Indian tribes remain an important part of our present.

I'm quite proud of our IEFA lesson plans, but because we are a historical society, most of them deal with ... well, history, and mostly with pre-World War II history. (Two exceptions are Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things! Connecting Biography to Larger Social Themes Lesson Plan and "Mining Sacred Ground: Environment, Culture, and Economic Development on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.") So I'm asking you: What are your favorite lesson plans that focus on post-World War II (or better yet contemporary) Indian life and tribal issues? 

Interested in reading more about IEFA? Check out these past blog posts.

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