American Indian Parents Hold Schools to Account on Culture, Curriculum

(dramatic music) I have two daughters
that came to this school. The first one kind of
slipped through the system. She ended up in alternative school. There was a lot of racial
discrimination here. She just didn’t fit it, and so when my younger
daughter came up to the school, she came home with her history book, and I was like, “Hey, let
me see your history book.” I looked for Native history,
there was one paragraph and it was misinformation. I was like, “No, I’m
going to the school board. “We’re gonna get this book changed, “we want the real history told.” And lo and behold, I became the chair of the Parent Committee and I just came to a meeting
to express my concerns. (dramatic music) – So our school district is
just under 11,000 students. We serve three primary cities. North St. Paul, Maplewood and Oakdale, but we also included several other neighboring communities around us as well. Part of what makes the program so special is that there has been parent involvement from the very beginning. You know, there’s a long history of the education system
with Native Americans, where the forced assimilation,
they lost their identity. I let my oldest daughter slip away, I didn’t want this to happen again. It’s like, “Hello, my friends.” Isn’t that cool? Say it again. (teacher and students
speak in foreign language) We’re gonna tell some
Ojibwe and Dakota stories because not only do we
have different languages, we have different stories too. When we first started this program, the Parent Committee empowered
us and the school district to develop well-vetted, authentic, American Indian curriculum that could be easily used by teachers and it needed to align with
the Minnesota state standards. (dramatic music) To give you an example, in Second Grade, the
Minnesota state standards revolved of compare and contrast of Ojibwe Dakota people then and now. If you went on our website, we’ve broken it up into seasons,
the seasons of the Ojibwe. So during Fall, which
is a big season for us because we do a harvesting wild rice, which is a major event for us. If the teachers were going to do that, they would go into the learning trunk and get all the things
that they would need to highlight that lesson
and it really works. I feel the little hairs. I know, isn’t that cool! You know, everything
we do as Native women, kind of come in this form so when you go to
pow-wows you look at those women traditional dresses. This is just a continuation
onto what we already believe. This year we started to do
a monthly culture nights because rather than just
doing the culture class within the school, we wanted
to make it a family time. Last month we did traditional necklaces. Tonight we are doing ribbon
skirts and hand drums. For American Indian students, it means that they feel proud, and for other students, to learn about cultures other of their own helps wash away some of those stereotypes. (dramatic music) – Well I think as long as that the achievement gap is still there, there’s not any concurrence. Until we have that gap closed, it’s quite fair to have
a vote of non-concurrence and we respect that 100%. A reason why
our students feel invisible is because who they are is not represented or
seen in the curriculum, unless it’s from the past
and we’re still here. If there’s something you don’t like, go tell somebody because I think administrators and educators
they are willing to listen. My mom, she was a boarding school child. She never came to my school,
she was afraid of it, and to see our culture displayed in a way that’s accurate and
relevant and just alive now it makes a big difference for sure. (dramatic music)

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