A Great Year at American Indian Magnet School

Guest blogger: Laura Czaplewski, American Indian Magnet School

It has been an exciting year at American Indian Magnet school full of amazing projects done by my students.  One of the courses that I have a privilege to teach is 6th grade Minnesota Studies through a Native Perspective.  It is my charge to embed Native history throughout all the eras and events that we learn about in this class.  I am so impressed with the work my young scholars have engaged in this year, and I would like to share some of the work with all of you. I would like to invite everyone to attend our end of the year Wacipi (powwow) on June 3. We have grand entries in the afternoon and in the evening.  I am unsure of the times right now, but I will respond to this blog later if anyone is interested.  Our address is 1075 E. 3rd Street St. Paul, MN 55106.

History Day Projects

First, we had a group of young men create a documentary about the Bdote for their History Day project and were selected as State finalists.  They were able to visit Fort Snelling State park and hike the area.  While they were there, they learned about the camp that the Dakota were forced to live in after the U.S.-Dakota War.  They learned about the Mdewakanton creation story earlier in the year in class, and were eager to find out everything they could about this sacred area. See “What Does Justice Look Like? : The Struggle for Liberation in Dakota Homeland.” by Waziyatawin, Ph.D.

We also have a 7th grade student who created an exhibit board about the Ojibwe Migration Story that will be displayed in the Madeline Island Museum this summer, so if you are in the area please check it out!

lost bird HD projectMy students created projects about the History of La Crosse, Ojibwe Activist and Singer Anne Humphrey, Little Crow, and Zintkala Nuni-Lost Bird of Wounded Knee .  Zitkala Nuni’s story is one of tragedy.  She was an infant and survivor of the Wounded Knee Massacre; she was found three days after, frozen to the ground in her mother’s blood under her body.  A U.S. Colonel named Leonard Colby claimed her as a souvenir and brought her home to be raised by his suffragist wife Clara Colby. Lost Bird, who struggled to find acceptance in both Native and Non-Native culture, was often ill due to lack of a resistance to diseases, encountered extreme poverty, was exploited in silent films and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and died at age 29. She was buried in California, but later exhumed and laid to rest at the Wounded Knee Cemetery in South Dakota.  The young scholars that did this project learned that Native Adoption into Non-Native families is very common.  They learned that laws like ICWA Indian Child Welfare Act attempt to protect Native children by keeping them with relatives or members of their community if they are placed in foster care or adopted.

Other Exciting Projects

Norval Morriseau inspired Clan Animals

Students participated in an Art project where they learned about the Ojibwe Clan system. They learned the meaning behind each animal and the responsibility that is associated with being from a particular clan. Some great resources available that are often free for teachers come from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  We also looked at the artwork of Ojibwe artist Norval Morriseau, and created clan animals inspired by his style of art. He shows the spirit of his drawing by showing what is inside of a human or animal.

clan animals

Minnesota Reservation Webquests (Why Treaties Matter)

One of our units this year was all about why treaties matter today, and students learned the history behind each reservation in Minnesota.  They also had an opportunity to explore Reservation websites and see what these communities are doing today.  Many students discovered information about Native-run fisheries, wild rice companies, and natural resource and wildlife preservation organizations.

Building a Wigwam for Pre-K Students

Pictured below is a wigwam made from willow branches by AVID students for our Pre-K class as a space for reading.

student wigwam

Every year we take our kids to Harding Senior High to experience a story-telling event.  This year we had the privilege to listen to local Native hip hop artists Tall Paul and Native Son.  It was a blast.  Here is a link to one of the videos by one the artists: Native Son-Red Power.

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