Interacting with Our Native American Tribes

Interacting with Our Native American Tribes

by Dr. Richard Peters, superintendent, Crandon School District

As Superintendent of the Crandon School District, a portion of my responsibilities involves planning and interacting with two Native American Tribes: the Forest County Potawatomi and the Sokaogon Chippewa. One third of the district’s students come from these two tribes.

Native American eventInfuse in the Curriculum

In order to implement Act 31, our state law which requires Native American history and culture to be woven into our district curriculum, our director of instruction holds regular curriculum meetings which revisit the ways in which we weave historical and cultural knowledge and experiences into each grade level.

I have attended the last two annual National Indian Education Association conferences and our director of curriculum, a Native American teacher and a Native American tutor have just attended the State Indian Education Conference. We bring back ideas and resources for enrichment opportunities for our Native American History and Culture curriculum. Each year, the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction holds a week-long summer meeting on new ways to implement Act 31. This year both the Director of Instruction and I will be attending this meeting.

Native American EventRespect the Culture

Teachers are encouraged to invite tribal elders to their classroom to tell stories and recount their lived knowledge of the culture of their tribes. Each month during the school year all Crandon Administrators as well as two School Board Members meet with Native American tutors, home/school coordinators and any interested Native American parents to share and examine concerns and to plan special events such as the district pow wow.

This year’s pow wow was organized by Roberta VanZile and a committee of other staff members and volunteers. We welcomed several tribes to our school to sing, dance and share culture. In addition to the pow wow itself, local tribal members came into several classes to demonstrate the making of dream catchers and bead work.

Develop Student Respect for Diversity

Students also take field trips to the tribal museums and to observe the whole process of making maple sugar. Native American students take great pride in their culture and enjoy having our non-Native students experience the making of maple sugar in a traditional way. In the past classes have gone to the Sokaogon Chippewa reservation to see how the wild rice is harvested.

Provide Inservice for Teachers

Working with our Native American tribes involves setting goals and planning. Tribal representatives are working now with the School District of Crandon to set up an inservice program for all our teachers on Native American learning styles. At the start of the next school year, elders will be invited to speak with our teachers on ways to interact with our Native American students. Approaching student learning with a knowledge of culturally relevant ways to communicate we hope will enhance the learning of our Native American students.

Invest in Communication

While the Internet is a huge resource, information passed on from local tribal elders remains the most relevant resource in teaching our Native American students. Efforts to continually develop better communication between schools and tribal leadership are an investment in student success. Having more interaction with our local tribes on Native American history and culture will help to build bridges between school and the tribes.

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG