While an Indian education specialist discussed integrating
American Indian history into classrooms Friday, hundreds of area
elementary school students watched local Indian children at the
Civic Center perform traditional and competitive styles of pow wow
of my grandchildren were demonstrating," said Sharon Two Teeth,
a local Chippewa Cree and Kootenai Elder. "It's good for the
children to learn our heritage; maybe there won't be so much discrimination
fourth Friday in September was designated by the 1997 Montana Legislature
as "American Indian Heritage Day."
is the sixth consecutive year that Montana schools have been asked
to focus Friday's school-day activities in September on the role
of American Indians in Montana's past and present.
you agree that all children deserve an education, then make sure
that your classroom addresses the heritage, background and experiences
of all your students and their neighbors with whom they will continue
to learn, work and reside with or near," said Linda McCulloch,
superintendent of public instruction, in a prepared statement.
education of Indian history and education of Indian children is
not a new or recently driven hot issue in Montana. However, American
Indian Heritage Day is as important as Columbus day, Flag Day, and
Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays, said McCulloch.
than 30 years ago, Montana became the first state to adopt a specific
title in its Constitution that both recognized and preserves the
distinct and unique cultural American Indian heritage and its cultural
both adult Indians and non-Indian continuously debate whether or
not there has been any progress in teaching Indian education, students
unabashedly quizzed local Indian elders and danced freely alongside
the young Indian boys and girls Friday morning and early afternoon.
kids should learn about (Indian) kids that do dance because some
(non-Indian) kids don't understand our children; maybe now the (non-Indian)
kids will have a better understanding," said Two Teeth.
the day, Cary Youpee, drum leader and key organizer of the 5th Annual
Last Chance Community Pow wow, answered as many questions from as
many students as time permitted.
example, students asked if they could drum with the drum group and
how long did it take to prepare the pow wow? Other students wanted
to know how a person's regalia was made; why did they need a drum;
how did they get the designs for the regalias?
how to drum with the drum group is acceptable in most cases, he
said, and organizing a pow wow takes several months. Several pieces
of a person's regalia are handed down from generation to generation,
while some individuals create their own unique designs. A drum is
the heartbeat of the community without the drum, the way
of life of Indian people would cease. Lastly, the designs found
on regalias usually represent what tribe a person comes from, or
the accomplishments of individuals.
third-grade student from Hawthorne Elementary, who said he had been
learning about Indians throughout the week, asked if his class could
dance with the other dancers.
when the time comes then you can dance too," replied Youpee.
town, educators, like students, were firing off questions and searching
a board room at the Office of Public Instruction, Linda Falcon,
specialist in Indian education, explained to various educators that
not a lot of information was available to help contribute to classroom
purpose of education is about my kids, family, and community,"
she said. Falcon, a former teacher herself, said that instruction
should be in a culturally responsive manner.
one educator asked if Indian people knew their own cultural values,
while another asked what a culturally responsive manner was supposed
educators questioned their level of confidence in their ability
to be culturally sensitive when they don't have an understanding
of Indian culture.
said that if a teacher's lesson plan is well written, with Indian
history already integrated, then all a teacher would have to do
is just walk right through it.
OK to ask questions about how the history of American Indians has
evolved and to want to be more knowledgeable about Indian spirituality
if you're searching to find similarities between religions,"
questions, she said, can be inappropriate and offensive.
said that when she was teaching in Arizona, she would ask the students
to research their own heritage regardless of their background.
when a first-grade student at Friday's demonstration day at the
Civic Center was asked over a loud speaker if he had learned about
Indians in school this week, he quickly said no.
teacher, sitting two seats down, replied that there wasn't enough
time in class this week.