I go to quite a few conferences but the National Indian Education Association is one of my favorites because they fit with my idea of how education should be. I go to mathematics conferences that are all about – you guessed it – mathematics, and technology conferences that are focused on using technology in the classroom, conferences on diversity that emphasize understanding cultural differences.
What’s wrong with that ? Yes, it’s good we progressed beyond those centuries when we wanted to educate the Indian out of children and force everyone to forget their native languages. (Cultural consultant, Dr. Erich Longie has written about that here)
When I see that cultural knowledge is the only focus, it bothers me because I think Native American ( and Latino and African-American) kids need more than having their culture understood. They need math, science and English . Latino kids need more than English. They need math and history, too .
In fact, that was the start of 7 Generation Games, when Erich and I were discussing how he wanted his grandchildren to learn math and their culture and not have to choose between the two.
Well, you get the idea. That’s what I like about NIEA. It has sessions on teaching math, on parent involvement, on including culture in the curriculum. I fact, some of the best sessions on teaching math I have attended have been at NIEA. They understand that a Native American student is a student .
For example, this presentation from Utah talked about having students create baskets, weave, write poetry and make two-minute videos all while learning about their culture. The lessons integrated artwork, English and computer applications.
So, I’m looking forward to NIEA these next few days. Marshall Longie and I have a poster on Transition from School to Work on the Spirit Lake Nation. If you missed us today, you can come by tomorrow, Friday, from 12:00 – 2:00. If you’re in Hartford, come by and say hi.
If you can’t make it to NIEA and still are interested in resources that teach Native American history and please check out our games here.