Washington state requires Native American curriculum

All 29 Washington tribes contributed to the curriculum

All K12 schools in Washington are mandated by a new state law to teach Since Time Immemorial, a curriculum that focuses on the history and culture of the state’s 29 federally recognized Native American tribes. About 130,000 Native Americans live in the state.

“The goal is not only to address the needs of tribal youth, but to address the understanding of tribal culture” says Michael Vendiola, program supervisor with the Office of Native Education in Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Tribes don’t necessarily have a ready-made curriculum, so you’ll see a school district working directly with a tribal council.”

Since Time Immemorial delves into tribal sovereignty and the challenges of self-governing as well as current Native American concerns, such as the achievement gap. It also examines the historical impact of physical geography, such as the need to be near salmon, a centerpiece of early tribal life. Students will learn about the hardships of reservation life and problems created when people are moved from their established homeland.

The Office of Native Education designed full lessons, instructional videos, and a tribal directory and reservation map to enhance existing social studies curricula. The materials can be adapted to each district and its regional tribes.

All 29 Washington tribes contributed to the curriculum, which also encourages schools to invite local tribal leaders to help provide instruction. “You now see districts working with tribal culture departments, language departments and even those who have tribal museums. It’s all good stuff. It’s interesting and new territory” Vendiola says.

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