FORT HALL, Idaho – Native American educators in Idaho say they are pleased with a proposed requirement for kindergartners through 12th-graders to learn about the history, culture and art of Idaho’s five tribes.
The Idaho State Department of Education proposed the new curriculum requirement last week.
“I am impressed; I am really thrilled and really happy they would do that,” Loretta Edmo, cultural instructor at Fort Hall Elementary School, told the Idaho State Journal. “I think it would help a non-Indian to better understand where we come from and why we are where we are. I do think there is a lot of prejudice, still.”
Fort Hall Elementary School is in the middle of the Fort Hall reservation, in the Blackfoot School District. It already has programs similar to the one proposed by the state education agency.
Outside of schools such as Fort Hall, the new standard will help promote an appreciation and respect for the Native American tribes in Idaho, said Marilyn Howard, superintendent of public instruction.
The revised standards will become a temporary rule in February and will be implemented for the 2006-07 school year. They will go to the Legislature in 2007 for approval as a permanent rule.
“I think it is great,” said Donna McArthur, who served the past 20 years on the state’s Indian Education Committee. She just retired after 20 years as the Indian education coordinator for the Blackfoot School District. “The (Native American) kids need to have something they can relate to that helps build their self-esteem, something they can be proud of, and if we put something like this into the curriculum, it helps reinforce, ‘Yes, you are important. Yes, your history is important, your culture is important, your language is important.’ “
The new standards will also benefit non-Indian students, McArthur said.
“It is important for them to get a good background of their neighbors, the people they live around,” she said. “The whole idea of multicultural education is to share what we have with one another.”
Stephen Fox, Indian education coordinator for the school district that includes Pocatello and Chubbuck, said he has concerns about how the new curriculum will be developed. He also said there is concern among tribal members about distortion of important cultural and traditional information that is shared with non-Indians.
“It has been our perception and our view that what we provide to (the school districts and the state) gets augmented and changed so drastically to something that fits the dominant perspective,” he said.
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