Braiding in Native American history

Representative Ruth Buffalo talks about the effort to get public schools in North Dakota to teach American Indian history. And we'll hear from Minneapolis community member Kate Beane about the changes in police force and what it could mean for Native Americans.
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A bill that requires all North Dakota schools to teach Native American history, culture, and treaty rights passed the state senate on Tuesday, April 6 in a 72-21 vote. State House Representative Ruth Buffalo of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation who authored the bill, says that prior to its passing, state law left it to school districts to add Native Americans. Representative Buffalo joins us today to talk about the new law, which is now part of American history. 

The Minnesota Twin Cities is home to a large Urban Indian community and a long history with police interactions. From the start of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s to the murder of George Floyd last year, racism still reverberates.  Joining us to comment on what it means for her family is Kate Beane who is Flandreau Santee Dakota. She’s Director of Native American Initiatives for the Minnesota Historical Society​.

A slice of our Indigenous world.

  • Interior Secretary Deb Haaland marks her first time addressing the White House press corps as a cabinet member.
  • Jill Biden’s visit to the Navajo Nation covered climate change and health care.
  • President Joe Biden is nominating Bryan Newland to be the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. 
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs is announcing plans to distribute 850 million dollars earmarked for the Bureau of Indian Education.
  • NDN Collective is announcing its second cohort of NDN Changemaker Fellows.

Find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Ruth Buffalo:

"It was a variety of responses, after the 47 to 47 failed vote on the house floor, March 23rd we spent about two straight hours listening and just really hearing out from the prevailing side, those that voted against the bill. A lot of their concerns were in the language. But we also received a lot of really, really good responses. And so I think people are often fearful of what they don't know or what they don't quite understand initially. And so we're just excited that this is moving forward and just really want to say thank you to everyone who came out and rally behind this bill. We're very grateful and thankful."

"This bill, it was originally introduced February 1st in the Senate Education committee and it went through a series of amendments. Originally, it had four weeks of instruction specifically on Native American history, but coming out of the Senate, it was amended to be more integrated into the existing curriculum. And so through this series of amendments it was even split into two separate parts, A and B. Some of the legislators really favored more the fourth and eighth grade North Dakota studies curriculum, which is already in existence and is already in law."

"And so they wanted to build off of that piece of legislature or piece of law. The second part of the bill was focused more on US history and high school students. And the third part section three has an effective date of 2025. And that is for graduation requirements. So the incoming freshmen, this August, they will be the first cohort where it will be a graduation requirement for them. And so there was a little bit of confusion there on thinking that the overall bill will not take place or become law until 2025, but it becomes law August 1st. And so everything will go into effect this coming school year."

Kate Beane:

"It was like a tidal wave of relief. As Native people, we're used to being weary. We're used to things. Not always going our way and our black brothers and sisters are right there with us. And there's been so much solidarity between our communities and across our beautiful city. When the verdict was read my husband and I packed up our kids and we went down to 38th and Chicago. We wanted it to them to see that historic moment."

"And my daughter actually took a sweetgrass braid down and put it down there on 38th and Chicago, which is where George Floyd was murdered. It was a teaching moment for them, and it was a moment for us to breathe a sigh of relief. We live near the third precinct, and near Lake street where a lot of the social unrest or revolution, whatever you want to call it has occurred here in the Twin Cities. And it's been quite a year."

"Minneapolis, which we called the Bde Ota, Many Lakes is, this is Dakota territory. And Mni Sota Makoce is Dakota Land. And Anishinaabe Ho-Chunk, Ioway, other relatives have migrated or lived in this area over time. But, here in the Twin Cities, in particular, our creation tells us that we're from here from the Minneapolis St. Paul area. And there was a long history of police brutality here against Native people as well. And what we really saw was the creation of American Indian Movement in the late 1960s. Really came came out of that police, that response to police brutality in Native territory. And the reason that we have so many Native people is that during federal Indian policies of Termination and Relocation, a number of Native people were moved to Minneapolis.  

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

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