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MDE, Tribal Educators to Partner in Developing Student Curriculum on Indigenous History

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE), in continued partnership with the education departments from the 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan, will develop curriculum and teacher supports to help students learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Michigan.

The state’s bipartisan state School Aid budget provides funds for MDE to collaborate with the Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments (CMTED) “to design, implement, and evaluate professional learning and optional curriculum modules for the purpose of learning Michigan Indigenous tribal history including the history of Indian boarding schools in Michigan as described in Michigan’s social studies standards for grades 8 to 12.”

“Developing these important learning materials for our educators to share with Michigan children will bring a greater understanding of the history, culture, and contributions of the tribal nations that shared this land with one another,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “We appreciate the opportunity to deepen our work with our tribal educational partners, whose leadership we value.”

MDE and the 12 federally recognized tribes that share geography with the State of Michigan have been working together for the past six years through CMTED and MDE’s Indigenous Education Initiative to build a cohesive and sustainable approach for collaboration among the tribes, the state, and local entities to identify and address educational issues and shared priorities.

“The creation and development of authentic curriculum and teacher supports centered on Indigenous Peoples, and the Tribal Nations that share geography with Michigan will begin the shift of longstanding historical practices that have attempted to erase our histories and perpetuate the invisibility of our tribal communities in the public education system,” said Jordan Shananaquet, CMTED Eniigaangidoong (Chairperson). “CMTED will continue to fulfill our responsibility to our educational sovereignty through our ongoing partnership with MDE’s Indigenous Education Initiative and our shared commitment to maintaining an authentic and meaningful consultative relationship.”

The funding and language included in the state School Aid budget for the development of Indigenous tribal history curriculum and teacher supports are the work of State Senator Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, chair of the Senate K-12 School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee. “We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Schmidt to help make available these important resources for our students and staff,” said Dr. Rice.

The $750,000 in funding will help to support Michigan’s K-12 Social Studies Standards, which were approved by the State Board of Education in 2019. CMTED and tribal communities were directly involved in the work to update the standards, which had last been updated in 2007. The 2019 updated standards included additional references to tribes and tribal governments in Michigan.

A related but separate piece of legislation, Senate Bill 962, also introduced by Senator Schmidt, intends to encourage districts to teach about Indian boarding schools, is still before the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. MDE remains hopeful that this additional legislation will move forward during the current legislative session.

“It’s been an honor to work with MDE and my colleagues to secure funding to ensure that this important history is not forgotten or repeated”, said State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “This issue was first brought to me by constituents who are members of the tribal community. Today, we have taken a step in the right direction, but there is much more education to do.”

The collaboration with CMTED furthers MDE’s efforts to support and learn from Anishinaabek communities in Michigan. Supported by funding in the state School Aid Act, this partnership will help ensure that Michigan learners better understand the history of Indigenous Peoples in Michigan, including the use of Indian boarding schools.

“Indian boarding schools caused the loss of so much of our values and culture,” said Jamie Stuck, Chairperson of Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) and NHBP Education Committee Chair. “Michigan Tribes continue the work to help our people heal and repair the trauma caused by these institutions, as well as revitalize our Indigenous knowledge and educate our community. We are grateful for this opportunity to partner with MDE and look forward to sharing our history and culture with Michigan school systems to enrich all peoples.”