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For Immediate Release: Sept. 18, 2008
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Grant to infuse more Native American history, culture into standards/assessment system

More students will learn about Native American history and culture, under a grant from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. The foundation has awarded the South Dakota Department of Education $40,000 to develop standards and curriculum focused on South Dakota’s Native American culture.

“This grant will allow us to weave the important story of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people into the state’s standards and assessment system,” said Keith Moore, director of Indian education for the South Dakota Department of Education. “Historically, we haven’t had solid understanding across cultures in South Dakota. We are excited about this opportunity to raise the knowledge and understanding of our young people.”

The grant calls for establishing a steering committee to develop core concepts to be infused into existing state standards. The concepts would cross disciplines and grade levels. The grant also allows for the development of curriculum that teachers could use in the classroom. The steering committee will include educators and representatives from each of South Dakota’s nine tribes.

“Right now, the teaching of Native American history and culture can be hit and miss,” Moore said. He believes the grant will result in a more consistent, inclusive approach to teaching these concepts at schools statewide.

Currently, South Dakota’s content standards include some specific items related to Native American history and culture. The items often fall under social studies. This grant will allow the state to expand into other curricular areas such as language arts, science and even math.

“For too long, mainstream education has avoided its obligation to teach the story of Native American peoples,” said Terry Janis, program officer for the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. “It’s encouraging to see South Dakota, a state where nine percent of the population and over 11 percent of public school students are Native American, take a leadership role in this area.”

In the weeks ahead, the Department of Education will work with the nine tribes to solicit individuals to sit on the steering committee.