- By Neely Bardwell
A watered-down bill was introduced in the Michigan senate on March 15 that “strongly encourages” local school districts to teach Native boarding school history, instead of directing the Department of Education to make changes to the state-wide curriculum.
This updates a previous bill introduced in February meant to ensure that accurate history about Native boarding schools was taught in grades 8-12. That bill was pulled and the new bill, SB962, was reintroduced just a month later.
These changes were made "per recommendations" received by the Department of Education, a source in State Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) told Native News Online. Schmidt, who introduced both bills, claimed in a statement to Native News Online that the intent is the same: to make sure that accurate Native history is taught.
Both Schmidt and the bill’s co-sponsor, Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), citizen of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa, say the “recommendation” bill reflects their commitment to sharing the knowledge of Native boarding schools.
“What Senator Schmidt and I are trying to get done is to make sure that students in Michigan learn about the horrific history of the Indian boarding schools here in Michigan, and learn about how recently some of these atrocities occurred,” Irwin told Native News Online.
There is nothing in the new bill that will guarantee anything about Indian boarding schools will be taught. Missing from the bill is any language that would ensure that school districts teach Indian boarding school history.
The bill has been stuck in committee since March and is not expected to go anywhere.
Only 12 states currently mandate that content regarding Indigenous history should be taught in grades K through 12. Wisconsin became one of them in 1989 when the Wisconsin state legislature passed Wisconsin Act 31, or American Indian Studies in Wisconsin.
Act 31 requires that all public school districts teach the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of the eleven federally-recognized tribes that are located in Wisconsin to grades 4th through 12th. On top of that, teachers must receive lessons in the study of minority group relations, including instruction in the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of the federally recognized tribes and bands located in this state in order to receive a teaching license. However, there is no standardization for what qualifies as a Native American history, culture, or tribal sovereignty teaching credential.
More Stories Like ThisNew York State Education Department Orders Schools to Lose the Native Mascots or Lose Funding
Lionel Bordeaux, Sinte Gleska University’s Long Time President, Passes
American Indian College Fund & Pendleton’s Student Blanket Contest Underway
VA Education Dept. Backtracks from Labeling Native Americans as “America’s First Immigrants”
Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills to Speak at Two Michigan Universities This Week
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Most often, our donors make a one-time gift of $25 or more, while many choose to make a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.