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American Indian Culture Should Be Taught in Oklahoma Schools

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Oklahoma state schools superintendent Janet Barresi recently told a symposium that American Indian culture should be taught in state schools.

“We will be looking for ways that we can develop strategies in this state to effectively educate Native American children, no matter where they are in their schools,” Barresi was quoted as saying in The Oklahoman. “We want to work with councils, with each of you, to look at ways that we can infuse the rich culture of our Native American heritage within curriculum, across curricula, and ways we can infuse that within what is taught within our classrooms.

“Oklahoma has a proud culture, and I want the rest of the nation and the world to understand that. How better to show that than when Oklahoma's children begin to appreciate and understand that."

Barresi wants suggestions from Oklahoma tribes on how the culture should be taught and incorporated in subjects like reading, social studies and science.

“It is a part of what we are,” she said. “Just as it's important to teach U.S. history within our schools and have students understand our current form of government … it's also important for Oklahoma kids to understand the culture that made Oklahoma what it is, made it great.”

The symposium was organized by the University of Oklahoma's Native American studies program, and attended by tribal educators and officials.

Attendees were glad Barresi brought up Native Education. Quinton Roman Nose, of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and president-elect of the National Indian Education Association, pointed out that only a few other states have taken steps to bring tribal culture to the classroom.

“There's a lot of misunderstanding between the tribes and the state,” Roman Nose said in The Oklahoman, describing the relationship as “adversarial. If they … would teach the concept of tribal sovereignty in public schools, just think how much further along that relationship would be.”