Social Studies

North Dakota Introduces Native American History

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — April 20, 2017 2 min read
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North Dakota’s department of education is planning to incorporate Native American culture and history into more school curricula, the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Some 10 percent of students in the state’s public schools are Native American. The state superintendent, Kirsten Baesler, told the Tribune that she hopes having a more culturally relevant curriculum and teachers who are more knowledgeable about Native cultures will help increase those students’ engagement and attainment in school.

“Our belief is that there’s a link,” Baesler told the Tribune, and that “when we are able to become more culturally sensitive and have our teachers have a better understanding of what our Native American students have experienced, or what their culture and beliefs are...they’ll be better able to teach them.”

North Dakota plans to offer professional development for teachers and has developed lesson plans and units already.

South Dakota, Washington, and Montana all have efforts focused on culturally-responsive programs for Native American students; late last year, Wyoming’s state legislature also considered a bill that would create an “Indian Education for All” curriculum.

Development in ethnic studies

The push for more curriculum, resources, and training related to Native American students mirrors the growing movement in schools and districts around the country to offer or require various ethnic studies courses.

Indiana’s legislature is considering a bill that would require high schools to offer ethnic studies. A Nevada bill would make it a core academic subject for high schoolers. And Oregon is considering creating a set of standards for the subject. (Last year, California became the first state to have standards for ethnic studies.) State efforts have bubbled up and failed before: Kansas lawmakers last year rejected a bill to create ethnic studies requirements. But 2017 seems to have more of these efforts percolating.

In Texas, a recent conference on ethnic studies addressed the fact that there were no viable options when the state issued a call for a Mexican-American studies textbook. A professor told the crowd that there’s a growing need for classroom resources for ethnic studies courses.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.