A Quarter of American Indian Studies

Guest blogger: Pete Bothun, Harding High School

This year has been a year of change in our Social Studies department: for the first time, we were able to devote a whole quarter to American Indian Studies! We approached the unit from a different perspective and worked from modern day backwards. This approach really hooked the students in and got them involved.

We started with the mascot issue and looked at the various perspectives on this issue, and our discussions took on a life of their own. The first mascot lesson we looked at was the University of North Dakota. This was particularly relevant because of the logo and nickname change. We also offered the opportunity for our students to either observe or take part in the October 18 protest at TCF Bank Stadium, before the football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs. As a part of the discussion about this protest, we were able to get Barry Frantum, one of the organizers of the protest, to speak to our classes.

What was extremely challenging was developing the curriculum on the fly. Our American history PLC worked countless hours to make sure the curriculum we taught was intentional and thoughtful. We were one of the first schools to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. As a part of our celebration, our students put together multimedia presentations highlighting Native American heroes and activists. We did this as we were breaking down the 1970s protest at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. We used the PBS program We Shall Remain, which generated some passionate discussion about the reasons why this happened.

The students then finished the quarter by producing an interactive timeline chronicling the history of the Native nations and the issues that they have faced over the course of the history of North America, beginning with the first European contact. The final piece of the assignment was a reflection on the quarter as a whole. We are still looking at the data, but the feedback we received from our students was very positive!

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2 thoughts on “A Quarter of American Indian Studies

  1. It is nice to see that other teachers are having positive experiences of starting in the present and working backward to teach about indigenous history. It is incredibly important that our students understand that Native American History is happening all around them at this very moment.

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