An Indian Education for All

By Matt Remle

 

Matt Remle (blue shirt) with Denny Hurtado and Michael Vendiola from the Office of Native Education providing testimony to the Marysville School Board to adopt the STI curriculum. Photo by: Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil

Matt Remle (blue shirt) with Denny Hurtado and Michael Vendiola from the Office of Native Education providing testimony to the Marysville School Board to adopt the STI curriculum. Photo by: Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil

 

The Washington State legislature has introduced a bill requiring Northwest tribal history, culture, and government to be taught in the common schools.

Washington SB 5433 is an amendment to the 2005 House Bill 1495.  H.B. 1495 “encouraged” Washington State school districts to teach Northwest tribal history, culture, and government.  The Since Time Immemorial tribalsovereignty curriculum (STI) grew out of H.B. 1495 and was developed in partnership with the 29 tribes in WA State and the State’s Office of Native Education.

Since its passage, only two school districts in the state have adopted STI as core, or mandated, curriculum.  The Marysville school district located just north of Seattle and whose school boundaries include the Tulalip tribes became the most recent to do so.

State law makers are now seeking to have the curriculum required in the State’s schools with the introduction of S.B. 5433.

S.B. 5433 states:

The legislature recognizes the need to reaffirm the state’s commitment to educating the citizens of our state, particularly the youth who are our future leaders, about tribal history, culture, treaty rights, contemporary tribal and state government institutions and relations and the contribution of Indian nations to the state of Washington. The legislature recognizes that this goal has yet to be achieved in most of our state’s schools and districts. As a result, Indian students may not find the school curriculum, especially Washington state history curriculum, relevant to their lives or experiences. In addition, many students may remain uninformed about the experiences, contributions, and perspectives of their tribal neighbors, fellow citizens, and classmates. The legislature finds that more widespread use of the Since Time Immemorial curriculum developed by the office of the superintendent of public instruction and available free of charge to schools would contribute greatly towards helping improve school’s history curriculum and improve the experiences Indian students have in our schools. Accordingly, the legislature finds that merely encouraging education regarding Washington’s tribal history, culture, and government is not sufficient, and hereby declares its intent that such education be mandatory in Washington’s common schools.”

If passed, Washington State would become the second state to mandate the teaching of tribal sovereignty curriculum. Montana is currently the only state to mandate Indian education for all state schools when it passed House Bill 528— the Indian Education for All Act, in 1999.

Matt Remle (Lakota) works for the Office of Indian Education in the Marysville/Tulalip school district and was on the curriculum committee that helped pass the districts requirement to teach the Since Time Immemorial tribal sovereignty curriculum in the Marysville schools.

Tribal history and culture to be taught at all MSD schools

Marysville School Board members, MSD Native American Liaisons, Denny Hurtado of WA Office of Native Education and Dr. Kyle Kinoshita the Ex. Dir. of Learning and Teaching, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, following the passing of Since Time Immemorial curriculum in MSD schools. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Marysville School Board members, MSD Native American Liaisons, Denny Hurtado of WA Office of Native Education and Dr. Kyle Kinoshita the Ex. Dir. of Learning and Teaching, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, following the passing of Since Time Immemorial curriculum in MSD schools. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

MSD adopts Since Time Immemorial curriculum during regular board meeting

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

MARYSVILLE – The work to correct history began long before the Marysville School Board met on December 8, to vote on adopting accurate tribal history and culture via the Since Time Immemorial curriculum into their district schools. The idea was first introduced by then newly elected Rep., John McCoy (D-Tulalip), in HB 1495 on January 26, 2005. The bill proposed requiring school districts to offer tribal history and culture along with Washington State and United States history curriculum. It passed 78-18 in the House on March 9, 2005. However, since then school districts have lagged in offering accurate tribal history on the 29 federally recognized tribes located in Washington state. On December 8, MSD decided to unanimously pass adopting the Since Time Immemorial curriculum as part of required curriculum in all their schools.

“This is awesome. This is a big district and to have a school board adopt it means a lot to us at the Native Office of Education, us as Indian people, and the people who created it. This is a great thing, because they are saying how important it is to start teaching about our history and our culture,” said Denny Hurtado, the outgoing Director of Washington Office of Native Education, following the vote.

STI is the result of partnership between the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, private and public agencies and several of the 29 federal recognized tribes in Washington state. The curriculum provides a basic framework of Indian history and understanding of sovereignty for grades k-12. Aligned with the Common Core standards for English, language and art, STI lessons can be adapted by teachers to reflect the specific histories of tribes in their local area.

Denny Hurtado, outgoing WA Office of Native Education Director speaks to Marysville School Board, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, on developing Since Time Immemorial curriculum. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Denny Hurtado, outgoing WA Office of Native Education Director speaks to Marysville School Board, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, on developing Since Time Immemorial curriculum. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Teachers Shana Brown from the Seattle School District who is of Yakima dependency, Jerry Price, a middle school teacher with the Yelm School District and Elese Washines, an educator in the Yakima Nation Tribal schools, developed the curriculum under the leadership of Hurtado. STI was designed not just for non-Native students, but also for Native students. Its purpose, explained Hurtado to MSD board members, is to breakdown Native American stereotypes and misconceptions and to build bridges between tribal communities and non-Native communities.

“All they [students] know about us is what they learned in school, which is very little, and what you see on TV, which is not true, and what you read about during Columbus Day and Halloween,” Hurtado said before the vote.  “I didn’t want this curriculum to seem like it was just an Indian thing. This was a true partnership to develop something good for our school to use. The purpose is to build bridges between our community and your community. That is a big point for us Indian people, because we have a lot of mistrust of the education system because our first experience of education was the military boarding schools.”

Over 1,000 teachers have received STI training by the Washington State Office of Native Education and 30 percent of school districts in Washington are using STI curriculum in some shape or form. Montana, Oregon and Alaska have also adopted STI curriculum in their school districts, and currently the Seattle School Board is looking into implementing it into their schools.

Tulalip member and MSD Native Liaison Eliza Davis speaks to Marysville School Board members, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, on the importance of accurate tribal history in school curriculum. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Tulalip member and MSD Native Liaison Eliza Davis speaks to Marysville School Board members, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, on the importance of accurate tribal history in school curriculum. (Tulalip News/ Brandi N. Montreuil)

Matt Remle, a Lakota Native from the Standing Rock Reservation and Native American Liaison with MSD, who was present for the voting, said the change was long overdue. Fellow liaison, Eliza Davis, Tulalip tribal member, said the history of her own Tribe was lacking during her high school education.

“I graduated from Marysville-Pilchuck High School. I remember in Washington State history we watched the movie “Appaloosa.” That is what I remember of Washington State history. I don’t remember learning a whole lot about our Indian people or about Tulalip Tribes. I support the curriculum 100 percent. It is so important for our kids, all of our kids, and the whole community to understand the true history of all Washington Tribes, and also the history of Tulalip, Marysville, and what Tulalip does for this community as a whole. I think adopting this curriculum is the right direction.”

“I am excited for this day. I am excited about this and I am ready to approve this. We should have had this a long time ago,” said MSD board member Chris Nation right before the unanimous vote.

For more information on STI, please visit the website www.indian-ed.org.

 

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com

 

The Rise of Indigenous Peoples Day

By Matt Remle, Indian Country Today Media Network

On October 6, 2014, in a packed Seattle city hall council chambers room, the Seattle city council voted unanimously to rename the second Monday in October, the federal holiday Columbus Day, to Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the city of Seattle. The room erupted in emotion with loud cheers, the sound of drums and the sight of over joyed, smiling and crying faces followed by an impromptu singing of the AIM song in the halls of Seattle city hall.

The Seattle city council vote followed the previous weeks unanimous vote by the Seattle school board to both establish the second Monday in October as a day of observance for Indigenous Peoples’ and to make a board commitment to the teaching of tribal history, culture, governance and current affairs into the Seattle public schools system.

The origins for both the Seattle city council and Seattle school board resolutions date back to 2011, when I was attending an Abolish Columbus Day rally in downtown Seattle. As I was listening to the beautiful songs of a local canoe family, I started thinking about South Dakota and their successful effort to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. That night I decided to contact members of the Seattle city council, as well as, my local State Legislatures to see if they might be willing to do something similar on either the City or State level.

To my surprise, the following morning I got a phone call from Washington State Senator Margarita Prentice and proceeded to have a long conversation about the genocide brought by Columbus to our Native relatives in the Caribbean and how she would love to sponsor a resolution on the State level. She simply asked that I draft a resolution and seek support from area tribes first before she would sponsor the resolution.

Elated, I immediately contacted Theresa Sheldon and Deborah Parker from Tulalip, who were both policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes at that time, and whom currently sit on the Tulalip Board of Directors, to let them know the news. They agreed to take the resolution to the 2011 Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians annual conference and put the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution before the conference for a vote. The resolution was unanimously approved, and although the resolution ultimately did not succeed on the State level, the seeds of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution for Seattle were sown.

When Minneapolis approved its Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution in the early spring of 2014, I figured now might be a good time to revive our efforts in Seattle especially given that we had two new Seattle city council members who had been responsive to the needs and issues of Seattle’s Native community. I again reached out to the Seattle city council members and before the day was over council member Kshama Sawant responded back that she would sponsor an Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution and asked if I would draft one for her.

I drafted a resolution and sent it out to other members of Seattle’s Native community for additional input. From there a grassroots effort was underway to build broad base support for the resolution. By the time the resolution was presented to the Seattle city council for vote, we gained the endorsement of forty various community organizations, non-profits, human rights organizations, local and national tribal organizations and letters of support from numerous area tribes.

In drafting the resolution, one thought was that we should be pushing for something more than just the renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, so language was included to have the Seattle city council “encourage” the Seattle public schools to adopt the guidelines established by the 2005 H.B. 1495 and the subsequent Since Time Immemorial Tribal Sovereignty curriculum [STI] that was developed out of it.

Many within the Native community had tried for years to get the Seattle public schools to adopt the STI curriculum, but had always been met with resistance. We figured if we could get the Seattle city council to pass a resolution calling on the school district to adopt the curriculum, we would have good leverage to pressure the school board to adopt it.

Over the summer, a letter was sent to the Seattle school board from the Seattle Human Rights Commission, an early resolution backer, to inform them of the efforts being worked on with the Seattle city council surrounding the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution and to encourage them to align efforts with the city to meet the goals of the proposed resolution.

In late July, I was contacted by the Seattle city council and was told that they were ready to put the resolution to the full council for vote. I was given two possible dates to introduce the resolution, one in August and one in September. Since the September date fell on the day before school started in the Seattle area, we went for the September date knowing that we would most likely generate wide-spread media attention and given that Columbus is often one of the things students learn about first, we figured this would be a good strategy to get the evils committed by Columbus on the minds of students.

Up until the September 2, Seattle city council hearing we largely kept the Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution from the media spotlight. Days before the council meeting we released a press release on the Last Real Indians webpage, whom I am write for. The idea was that we would be asserting our voice on this issue and establish the framework for which the issue would be discussed on our own terms. As the massive rally descended upon the Seattle city council hearing on September 2, the mainstream press was playing a game of catch up on our resolution that had already generated Turtle Island-wide buzz amongst Native communities.

While a decision was made on September 2 to hold the vote off until October 6, we were able to secure the endorsement of Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray a generated nationwide attention on our Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution.

Throughout September, we keep up a steady stream of pressure on both the Seattle city council and Seattle school board with emails, petitions, phone calls, and letters of endorsement from area Tribes and other supporters, as well as, built broad support through social media campaigning.

For me personally, it was phenomenal to see such a concerted and collaborative joint effort develop between Seattle’s urban Native community, Tribe’s and Tribal leaders. By time the October 1 Seattle school board vote and the October 6 Seattle city council vote came around a true urban and Tribal partnership was firmly established. The Seattle city council vote saw testimony given from tribal leaders David Bean (Puyallup), Fawn Sharp (President of both the Quinualt Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians), Mel Sheldon (former Chair of the Tulalip Tribes), as well as, numerous members of Seattle’s urban Native community.

Throughout the whole process, we keep the perspective that we are simply part of a larger movement being fought on the local grassroots level to not only abolish Columbus Day, but see our communities rise up and assert our own voices on our own terms on issues of importance to us.

We sought to show the power our communities possess when we come together unified under the belief and knowledge that what we do today is both work to heal past generations and lift the spirits of our future generations.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Mitakuye oyasin.

Matt Remle (Lakota) lives in Seattle.  He works for the office of Indian Education in the Marysville/Tulalip school district. He is a writer for Last Real Indians @ www.lastrealindians.com and runs an online Lakota language program at www.LRInspire.com. He is a father of three and the author of Seattle’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day resolution.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/10/13/rise-indigenous-peoples-day