Published on December 11, 2013 by Amy
Efforts by the Eastside Native American Education Program integrate native culture into the classroom in a manner that deserves recognition and repeating.
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Educators have long known students perform better academically when they can connect what they’re learning in school to their lives. For 230 Native American students enrolled in the Bellevue, Lake Washington and Northshore school districts, participation in the program has helped them make the connection. During weekly sessions, the students, representing 43 tribes, are exposed to a blend of drumming, storytelling, basket-weaving and classwork. Cultural connections are made and the joy of learning is retained. It is that simple. There are likely many more Native American students around the Puget Sound region who could benefit from such a program.
A celebratory powwow hosted a week ago by the Eastside program highlighted November as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The establishment of this annual observance in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush was important. But let it remind us to consider Native American culture and history beyond one month.
An impressive standard has been set in Montana, where schools are required to integrate Indian history and culture, an effort strengthened by the mandate’s inclusion in the state’s constitution. The Indian Education for All program is the only educational mandate of its kind in the nation. It’s something for our state to consider.
The federal Indian Education Act of 1972 requires a comprehensive approach for the inclusion of Native American culture and the needs of its students in our educational system.
It benefits all of us when our future policymakers and community and business leaders have a strong grasp of the relationship between tribes and critical issues such as natural resources, the environment, gaming and treaty rights.