Indian Education For All in
Remember discrimination has to be taught,
children learn it from their family, friends, and community.
Over the past several years I have advocated the
importance of the history of the First People of Utah to be added to
the school curriculum in Utah's public school system. Quoting from
the Salt Lake Tribune article by Lisa Shencker November 25, 2009:
"These kids are living in Utah, and they need to know the whole
story," said Elizabeth Player, curriculum coordinator for the Utah
Indian Curriculum Project at the American Advertisement West Center
at the University of Utah. "If we miss out on the first people in
our state and their current status, we're missing a huge piece of
that puzzle as to who we are as Utahns."
Some say it's a lesson that has been absent from Utah classrooms for
far too long.
"Too often, museums and other institutions portray Indians as they
do the dinosaurs, like we're dead and gone," said Forrest Cuch,
director of the state Division of Indian Affairs. "But we're not. We
wanted this curriculum to show Indian people are alive and though
we're not as well as we should be, we're at least alive and
Indian children are required to attend
public schools, and there they, unlike non-Indians, are not taught
their own Indian history. Aside from teachers mentioning Indians in passing,
in-depth discussions about their culture such as customs and
sacred beliefs are not explored as non-Indian
The Indian student then feels left out,
ignored as that they are
excluded in this way from the community. Because their history is ignored and left
out of school curriculum consequently the drop-out rate for the
Indian student is very high.
The Tribune article continued, "This
year, every school in the state received binders full of lessons for
fourth-graders, seventh-graders and high school students about
American Indians' unique contributions to Utah. And
the American West Center has been training teachers how to teach the
topics using videos, oral histories, photographs, interactive maps
and tribal documents.
Fourth-graders will learn about how the Goshutes communicate
cultural values through Coyote stories. Seventh-graders will learn
about how the Miss Navajo Pageant helps Navajos transmit their
culture to younger generations. High school students will learn
about the Southern Paiutes' struggle for tribal sovereignty.
"I feel like I can finally do it justice," said Quinn Rollins, a
seventh-grade teacher at Bennion Junior High in Taylorsville."
Tollestrup, an eighth-grader at Crescent View Middle School in
Sandy, said she's eager to learn more about her own heritage and
American Indian historical figures.
"We learn about other backgrounds and a lot about how they lived and
their history," Tollestrup said. "I think it would be great if we
learned about ours."
Damon Pitts, a senior at Jordan High in Sandy, said he thinks it
might give American Indian students a reason to do better in school.
He said what he's learned as part of his school's Standing Tall
program, which mentors American Indian students, has already helped
"It gave me a boost to do better, to know that someone cares," Pitts
Montana has adopted and
mandated a policy called "Indian education for all". The
results of the "Indian Education for All" program has been
remarkable. As Indian students have a sense of belonging, racists
jokes and attitudes has all but disappeared from the schools. And
the drop-out rate has decreased remarkably.
When a people are deliberately denied access to their own history by educators and institutions as the American Indian have been,
when their children are forced to accept
solely the victors point of view, when cultural traditions and customs of the American Indian are systematically replaced by western beliefs; when they are denied their right to speak their own language and denied their religious freedom, when they are repeatedly denied equal access to justice and protection under the law, when these things happen they are discriminated against and segregated.
I applaud the efforts of the
documentary film project "We Shall Remain", Forrest Cuch
Executive Director of Indian Affairs, KUED, and the Board of
Education and all the many teachers who have at long last made
Indian history a part of the school curriculum.
- Phillip B Gottfredson
Utah failing to educate Indian kids, report says
By Stephen Speckman
Deseret Morning News (Friday, September 19, 2003)
Utah is lagging behind several other states in its efforts to
educate American Indians, according to a report from the Utah
American Indian/Alaska Native Education State Plan Advisory
Committee. The advisory committee's study concluded that Utah is
behind Idaho, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Montana and
Minnesota, which have all mandated that their education systems
change their social studies core curriculum and counseling programs.
Forrest Cuch, director of the state Division of Indian Affairs, will
present the plan Wednesday to the legislative education interim
committee. A group of 65 tribal leaders, tribal educators, state and
federal education officials compiled the document.
"They don't know how to educate Indian children," Cuch said of
Utah's schools. "We have generally failed our kids over the past 50
One goal, Cuch said, is to integrate more education that includes
American Indian history and a sensitivity to Indian culture.
Cuch met Friday with Richard Kendell, deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt
for higher education, public education and economic development.
"I agree that Native American kids are not being well served,"
Kendell said. "They drop out in disproportionate numbers, and their
achievement levels in school are not very good."
Cuch gave Kendell a copy of the report and asked for the governor's
assistance with funding education programs that target Indian
students. "You've got to address their needs," Kendell added. "We'll
be making a budget come December, and we'll give consideration to
this request as well as a bunch of others."
The plan finds that "Indian people are still suffering from and have
not healed from the North American conquest, nor the violent
struggle to settle Utah, predominantly by members of the LDS Mormon
faith." In order to educate Utah's American Indian children, it's
important for those youths to understand their past, "begin to heal"
and start believing in themselves, according to the report.
Another finding is that Utah's tribal communities continue to blame
failed economic and educational systems on or near reservations for
many problems within tribes. But the plan says the blame game
between schools, American Indian parents and their children needs to
"We have learned that for American Indians in the state of Utah,"
the plan says, "social dysfunctions are real and have a major impact
on education and what happens in schools." Among possible solutions,
it says some tribes, which have their own sovereign rights, are
willing to enter into agreements with the government to clarify
expectations between the state, tribes and school districts.
Cuch said that Utah's failings have meant that American Indian
children are falling through the cracks in greater numbers. They're
dropping out of school and turning to self-destructive behaviors
that involve drugs and alcohol at an alarming rate, he said.
"We've got to sit down and solve this problem," Cuch said. "It's
costing all of us taxpayers." In rural school systems in particular,
Indian youths do not see a nurturing attitude. The report says,
"American Indian students in the state of Utah are intelligent and
just as capable as any other student." It adds, however, that many
American Indian children enter school lacking English proficiency.
The report goes on to say a lack of "accurate and culturally
relevant curriculum" perpetuates stereotypes and contributes to low
self-esteem among Indian students. Administrators, counselors and
teachers, the group said, should have to demonstrate cultural
competency related to American Indians as a graduation requirement.
During my research of the history of the
First People of Utah, time and time again I have been told by
members of the LDS church "We have given the Indians every chance to
succeed. Yet they choose to live off the government, get drunk, do
drugs and live in poverty. It's their own damn fault."
If this is truly what Utahans believe then they too are victims
of an education system that has failed to teach the truth. I have no
doubt they have been given every chance to accept the white man's
ways. I have no doubt that Indians have rebelled and made the
decision not to learn the white mans ways. And I can't blame them.
For any student regardless of race to be forced to listen to lies,
is it any wonder they drop out of school and turn their backs on
white society? If all educators teach are half truths, platitudes,
omissions in their class rooms, how does that build self esteem? How
does that promote a sense of belonging? How can anyone expect a
person to embrace cultural genocide of their own people?
Each and every human being has the unalienable right to live a
- Phillip B Gottfredson
Native Education - By Naomi Isshisaka
"The only chance of saving any of this race, will be by
children, at a very early age, and educating them in our
habits, in a
situation removed from the contagion of Indian pursuits."
- William Tudor in Letters on the Eastern States, 1821
"How smooth must be the language of the whites, when they
can make right
look like wrong, and wrong like right."
- Black Hawk, Sauk, 1800s
Over the course of U.S. history, one of the most
intransigent battles in
the fight for equality and justice for people of color has
access to quality, culturally relevant education.
For many people of color, education - far from being a tool
for uplift -
was a bludgeon, designed to strip culture, difference,
non-white children and to "civilize" them with the master
U.S. history. For Native people, this calculated cultural
done with force, as Native children were taken from their
sent to government boarding schools designed to "Kill the
For about 100 years, ending formally in the 1930s but
the '70s, Native boarding schools used coercion and often
abuse to force
children to lose their connection to their languages,
traditions and families. As an elder, Lone Wolf, Blackfeet,
the 1890s, "School wasn't for me when I was a kid. I tried
three of them
and they were all bad. The first time was when I was about 8
The soldiers came and rounded up as many of the Blackfeet
they could. The government decided that we were to get the
education by force.
"It was very cold that day when we were loaded into the
wagons. None of
us wanted to go and our parents didn't want to let us go.
Oh, we cried
for this was the first time we were to be separated from our
Nobody waved as the wagons, escorted by the soldiers, took
us toward the
school at Fort Shaw. Once (we got to the boarding school)
were taken from us, even the little medicine bags our
mothers had given
to us to protect us from harm. Everything was placed in a
heap and set
"Next was the long hair, the pride of all the Indians. The
boys, one by
one, would break down and cry when they saw their braids
thrown on the
floor. All of the buckskin clothes had to go and we had to
put on the
clothes of the White Man. I remember one evening when we
were all lined
up in a room and one of the boys said something in Indian to
boy. The man in charge caught him by the shirt and threw him
room. Later we found out that his collar bone was broken.
father, an old warrior, came to the school. He told the
among his people, children were never punished by striking
Is it any surprise, then, that with the legacy of this
system, Native students continue to be at the greatest risk
out of school? The 2001 McDowell Report on Alaska Native and
education says, "American Indian and Alaska Native students
considered the most at-risk for failing to complete high
college. Whatever the reasons for leaving school, dropout
symptomatic of the failure of an educational system that
accept cultural differences as a strength rather than a
To help address the persistent impact on Native students and
communities, a number of new initiatives have emerged. We
look at two,
Antioch University's Early College Initiative and the
College. These efforts aim to reverse the pattern of lack of
appropriate education, lack of Native educators and
consequent lack of
interest and commitment from students. Just over the past
dropout rates for Native students in the Early College
Ferndale High School near the Lummi Reservation decreased
percent to 16 percent. Test scores are also up, both
potential for positive intervention in what could seem an