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Tribe-specific Curriculum for Montana Schools

studentsMontana state standards include the teaching of tribal sovereignty, and this curriculum is an excellent fit with our state efforts to include authentic American Indian content in all Montana classrooms.

–Mike Jetty, Curriculum Specialist, Montana Office of Public Instruction

In 2008, Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) funded the adaptation of ILTF’s K-12 curriculum, Lessons of Our Land, to reflect Montana tribal histories and cultures and to implement the curriculum in classrooms state-wide.

Montana public schools educate nearly 150,000 students each year, with Indian students making up about 12 percent of the student population. Montana has been on the front line of an emerging trend in state legislatures’ and education departments’ mandatory inclusion of tribal histories and cultural components into classroom materials. In 1999, the Montana Legislature passed the Indian Education for All Act, requiring all public schools throughout the state to include coursework in the history and culture of Indian tribes in the state. Teachers in Montana now have a wealth of resources to incorporate Native American perspectives in classroom materials.

The newly adapted curriculum was developed through extensive research and interviews with tribal elders and historians from Montana’s 12 tribes who reside on seven reservations throughout the state. The resulting product is a rich and varied source of lesson plans and materials, including photographs, slideshows, maps and a Montana tribal lands jeopardy game. All of the lessons align with Montana’s state-wide content standards.

ILTF hopes that the curriculum adaptation and implementation in Montana will serve as a catalyst for other states, especially those with significant Indian populations. In 2007, South Dakota, where nine percent of the total population and more than 11 percent of public school students are Native American, passed an Indian Education Act to support existing statewide Indian education programs and provide teacher training. Despite this progress, the state has yet to pass a mandate similar to Montana’s. To help them move in that direction, in 2008, ILTF made a grant to South Dakota’s Office of Indian Education to support the development of state academic standards in American Indian history and culture for the state’s K-12 programs.

The Head Start and K-12 curriculum is free and available to all.

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