December 24, 2008

Montana's multimedia Indian education

Native Stories, Our Stories:  Tribes choose various mediums for projectThe goal of Indian Education for All is to make Indian poetry as familiar as Walt Whitman, to put bull trout and bitterroot flowers in biology class, and make the Fort Laramie treaties as much a part of social studies as the Treaty of Paris.

“The great hope for Indian Education is with the kindergartners starting this year,” Juneau said. “They're the ones who will get the full scope of Indian histories and tribal sovereignty issues. It will make us a very progressive state.”
How they're doing it:[T]he situation in which Sean Chandler found himself at Fort Belknap Community College was predictable, if not predicted. The American Indian Studies professor designed his college's history project around a collection of video interviews with Gros Ventre and Assiniboine elders. He produced a five DVD set of interviews, using cameras and editing equipment purchased through the history project. That gear is now being used to teach students video editing.

At the Flathead Indian Reservation, history project director Julie Cajune had the benefit of a well-established printing shop at Salish Kootenai College. But to produce a collection of Salish women's songs and stories, she had to raise an additional $60,000 for recording and production costs.

[Jim] Shanley took a different approach to the project. His researchers delivered “The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation, Montana 1800-2000” on deadline, using the services of the Montana Historical Society Press in Helena.
Comment:  This is roughly the way every state and school should approach education about Indians. Not with paper headdresses and vests on Thanksgiving. Or with white guys lecturing on flutes and teepees during Native heritage month.

Rather, they need a concerted effort to integrate Indians into the fabric of their daily lessons. An effort led by Indians themselves. As this project shows, that's eminently doable. All it takes is the will to succeed (and a little money).

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