Indian Curriculum Bill Advances in California Senate
SACRAMENTO -- A campaign to educate California students about Indians in their home
state passed its first legislative test Wednesday.
The Senate Education Committee on a bipartisan vote of 8-0, approved a bill by Sen. Deirdre Alpert, D-San Diego,
that would require state education officials to develop a voluntary model course of study about state American
Supporters said current efforts to teach students about this subject are too limited and outdated, focusing on
only a few, often out-of-state tribes and concluding in the early 1900s.
“We need to tell our story,” said Steven TeSam, chairman of the Viejas Tribe, who testified on behalf of the bill.
“Kids go to school and ask did we live in teepees, did we wear war paint and feathers. We didn’t do that in California.”
The bill also was endorsed by Barry Brokaw, a lobbyist for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who said
his client has its own academic program in the Palm Springs area schools.
“The interaction they find is terrific with the local kids in the local public schools and they would like to see
a more uniform statewide approach to increasing and bettering the curriculum,” Brokaw said.
Alpert’s measure, Senate Bill 41, next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
A similar bill was vetoed last year by Gov. Gray Davis, who said he supported educating students about all groups
that make up the state’s population.
But the governor said that the 2000 measure, Senate Bill 1439, would have circumvented the normal procedure for
developing curriculum, which he said already has the authority to include Native American studies. Further, he
said, local school boards also can add class work on additional subjects.
Alpert said she plans to work with the governor to make sure her proposal complies with his approach.
In fact, she is trying to move the bill on a legislative fast track so that California Indian history can be considered
by the State Board of Education in its next regular review of the history-social sciences curriculum.
That review is set for 2003, which she said, requires her bill to be passed by June. If the bill misses this regular
review cycle, there won’t be another opportunity until 2009.
SB 41 directs the Department of Education to request interested education groups to submit lesson plans on American
Indians for grades one through 12.
by Jake Henshaw Desert
Sun Sacramento Bureau
Support Grows for American Indian Studies
AUGUSTA, ME — Everything Rep. Matthew Dunlap learned about the American Indian he learned
from James Arness and John Wayne in television and movie westerns, the Old Town Democrat admitted to the Legislature’s
Education Committee on Thursday. It wasn’t until he found an arrowhead on the beach one day that his interest in
Indian culture was sparked.
On Thursday, Dunlap joined a long line of speakers to endorse LD 291, a bill to require the teaching of American
Indian culture in Maine schools. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Donna M. Loring, the representative of the Penobscot
Nation, would create a study commission to develop the curriculum.
“Maine history and Maine Indian history are interwoven. You cannot teach one without the other. Make no mistake,
we are unlike any other ethnic group,” Rep. Loring told the committee. The Wabanaki tribes — the Penobscots, Passamaquoddys,
Houlton band of Maliseets and Aroostook band of Micmacs — had their own government, traditions, language and culture
long before the Europeans arrived, she said.
The tribes played a prominent role in the American Revolution and the 1820 agreement that created Maine stipulated
that the state must honor the existing Indian treaties with Massachusetts, Loring said. “That 180-year relationship
has gone unnoticed in the history books as well as in the classrooms. Only recently has it started to come to light,”
Loring admitted that it wasn’t until she was elected to the Legislature in 1997 that she became fully aware of
the history of the tribes in Maine. “I was never taught one word about my tribal history in Maine schools. I realized
that the average Maine citizen knew nothing about Maine history, let alone current Indian issues,” Loring said.Maine
is the only state which had Indian representatives to the state Legislature and is looked at as a model for other
states, she said. “The state of Maine and the Wabanaki tribes have a history together and this needs to be recognized
through education,” she said.
Loring found plenty of support for her bill in more than two hours of testimony.
Teaching the history and culture of the “first people of Maine” would “pass the roadblock of ignorance through
education,” said Rep. Donald G. Soctomah, the Passamaquoddy tribal representative.
Co-sponsor Rep. Mary Cathcart, D-Orono, admitted her education on American Indians also came from cowboy movies.
She endorsed the Loring bill because, “We all should value our history and customs.”
by Emmet Meara of the Bangor
Syracuse University to Offer Native American Studies
Syracuse University, in the heart of Iroquois country, will now offer a minor in Native
"It's very important, being so close to the Onondagas," said Philip Arnold, an SU religion professor
who helped organize the program. "It's too important to neglect at any university, and especially at this
The Onondaga Indian Nation, just south of Syracuse, is at the center of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy,
which for centuries lived on the land that today is Upstate New York.
History professor Stephen Saunders Webb announced the new minor Thursday at an SU performance by singer Joanne
Shenandoah, an Oneida Indian who is nominated for a Grammy Award for her album "Peacemaker's Journey."
The university Senate approved the minor Wednesday.
As long ago as the 1970s, SU faculty and students were lobbying for a program in Native American studies, but the
efforts always fell flat, Webb said."It's very hard to separate Native American academic studies from the
politics," he said. "Back in the '70s the energy for the program was largely spent on civil rights issues,
and that took people's energy away from academics."
But recent issues - such as land claims, casino gambling and sovereignty - have raised the area's consciousness
about Native American concerns, Webb said.
"People are starting to realize what historians always knew - that the past determines the present. To understand
(the issues concerning Native Americans), we have to look at the history," he said.
"The university has got its ear to the ground and when there's this much public interest, the university is
apt to pay attention to it," Webb said.The program also will seek to make SU more attractive to Native American
students and faculty, Webb said. There are currently 27 Native American full-time undergraduates and 26 Native
American graduate students at SU.
Webb and Arnold worked with anthropology professor Maureen Schwarz to create the minor, which will be an interdisciplinary
program with a director and a small staff to administer about 15 classes.
Several courses were new last year, others have been taught for more than a decade. Current classes include Native
American Literature; Iroquois History: Peoples of the Longhouse; Representations of Indigenous Peoples in Popular
Culture; and Land & Culture: Native American Perspectives on the Environment.
by Jennifer Jacobs Syracuse