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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

 

September 22, 2001 - Issue 45

 
 

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 Tribes Back Education Bill

 
 

 by Benjamin Spillman The Desert Sun-September 18th, 2001

 
California Indian tribes once again are rallying behind a measure that would change what school children learn about the history of tribal people in the state.

The tribes are supporting an education bill they say would give students a more accurate picture of how the gold rush impacted tribal people, how enslaved Indians contributed to the building of missions and the role of tribal governments in modern society.

Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a similar bill last year saying it circumvented the normal procedure for introducing new curriculum.

Proponents hope changes introduced to the current bill will satisfy Davis, but so far the governor has given no indication where he stands on the issue.

"What is in the school books is ridiculous," said Maurice Lyons, chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. "I would say that California doesnít want this to come out."

Critics of the existing efforts to educate children about California Indians say classroom materials are outdated and mostly deal with the Indians of the great plains and eastern states.

Even teachers who want to include California Indian material are hampered by a lack of institutional knowledge within the stateís education system.

"There are wonderful teachers that are trying to provide this information," said Lisa Giroux, a representative for Sen. Deirdre Alpert, D-San Diego. "Many simply do not know enough."

Alpert sponsored both bills that were sent to Davis.

The governor has until Oct. 14 to consider the current proposal.

A spokesman for Davis said the governor supports the concept of updating the methods of teaching California Indian history. But he gave no indication of whether Davis plans to sign the bill.

"He will obviously take a look at the new version," Davis spokesman Roger Salazar said. "He is supportive of efforts to ensure that the contributions of all groups are recognized."

If he signs it, the law would then direct the state librarian to fund efforts to develop curriculum and submit it to the state board of education.

Teresa Mike, a member of the Lummi tribe of Bellingham, Wash., who lives in the Coachella Valley said children are led to believe that California Indians were culturally the same as Indians from other parts of the country.

"I donít think everyone understands the role that Native Americans played in California history," Mike said.

Mikeís husband, Dean, is chairman of the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, a Coachella-area tribe that is made up of descendants of Chemehuevi Indians who live near the Colorado River.

Mike said children also need to learn that Indians survived attempts to erase their culture and are managing to restore tribal governments.

"These real people are still here," she said. "Most people think they are extinct."

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