Journal of Educational Controversy


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Groundbreaking Curriculum on Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State

Denny Hurtado

Director, Indian Education
Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
Washington State

In 2005, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1495, which officially recommended inclusion of tribal history in all common schools.

The resulting curriculum is called Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State. The final product will be web-based and will be available in August 2010.

This curriculum uses three approaches:

An inquiry based approach with five essential questions:

How does physical geography affect the distribution, culture, and economic life of local tribes?

What is the legal status of tribes who negotiated or who did not negotiate settlement for compensation for the loss of their sovereign homelands?

What were the political, economic, and cultural forces consequential to the treaties that led to the movement of tribes from long established homelands to reservations?

What are the ways in which tribes responded to the threats to extinguish their cultures and independence, such as missionaries, boarding schools, assimilation policies, and the reservation system?

What have tribes done to meet the challenges of reservation life? What have these tribes, as sovereign nations, done to meet the economic and cultural needs of their tribal communities?

A place-based approach. Our approach encourages teachers and students to address the essential questions in the context of tribes in their own communities.

An integrated approach. Teachers choose how much time to spend on tribal sovereignty content to complete their units throughout the year. The integrated approach provides three levels of curriculum for each of the OSPI recommended social studies units, each level building on the last. Where appropriate, units build toward successful completion of Content Based Assessments (CBA).

Selected goals of tribal-sovereignty curriculum

Elementary School:

• Understand that there are more than 500 independent tribal nations and that they deal with the United States and one another on a government-to-government basis.
• Define tribal sovereignty as "a way that tribes govern themselves in order to keep and support their cultural ways of life."
• Identify the names and locations of tribes in their area.

Middle school:

• Understand that under the U.S. Constitution, treaties are "the supreme law of the land."
• Understand that tribes are subject to federal law and taxes, as well as some state regulations.
• Understand that levels of sovereignty vary from tribe to tribe and that there are continued threats to tribal sovereignty.

High school:

• Recognize landmark court decisions and legislation bearing on tribal sovereignty.
• Understand that tribal sovereignty works toward protecting tribes' ways of life and toward the development of their nations.
• Explain the governmental structure of at least one tribe in their community.

1 comment:

Alli said...

How do teachers convey this material and information in a respectful, appropriate way and open dialouge between non-native and native students in their classroom? Is there a format for the teachers to broach the unique characteristics of resident tribes without seeming presumptuous or interfering? How can public schools involve area native schools in sharing the history of their culture during these units?