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Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments introduces first-ever Indigenous resource guide for state's K-12 schools

indigenous resource guide
The Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments
/
Maawndoonganan: Anishinaabe Resource Manual

Michigan classrooms have a new resource to use when students learn about the history and contributions of Indigenous people in the state.

The Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments has developed a new social studies guide.

Melissa Isaac leads the confederation as its Giigdookwe, which is the Anishinaabemowin word for chair.

WKAR's Megan Schellong spoke to Isaac about the resource guide and how it will improve education about Michigan’s Indigenous past and present.

melissa isaac
Courtesy of Niibing Giizis
Melissa Isaac, Giigdookwe of The Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments

Interview Highlights

On How the Guide Combats Misconceptions Surrounding Indigenous People's History

Well, for the first time in our state's history, tribal nations and Anishinaabe people are included in the standards going all the way through 12th grade, and the way that this is going to help dispel those myths —if there's not a resource there for teachers to use, what else are they going to do? ...And we wanted our students to be able to see themselves in the curriculum, we wanted them to be able to see themselves in an authentic way in their classrooms, and this is a start.

On What She's Most Excited to See In The Guide

Truth from our perspective. From, I always say, tribal history is everybody's history. The land that we live, work, play, make our lives on, was inhabited and continues to be inhabited by the first peoples of the land. And I think that it's really important for people to recognize that, that we're not something that, you know, happened in the past, and we don't exist anymore, we are still fully contributing to the society that we all live in.

On The Outcomes She'd Like To See Come Out Of Teaching The Guide

I mentioned having a more informed citizenry. Moving forward what a lot of people don't understand is that tribal nations are sovereign nations. And we hear that word, and we don't really understand the magnitude of what that means. ...And so we're thinking long game here. The outcomes are going to be more informed officials and diplomats and things like that for our governments.

Interview Transcript

Megan Schellong: This is Morning Edition on WKAR. I’m Megan Schellong.

Michigan classrooms have a new resource to use when students learn about the history and contributions of Indigenous people in the state.

The Confederation of Michigan Tribal Education Departments has developed a new social studies guide.

Melissa Isaac leads the confederation as its Giigdookwe, which is the Anishinaabemowin word for chair.

She joins me now to discuss the resource guide and how it will improve education about Michigan’s Indigenous past and present.

Melissa, thanks for being here.

Melissa Isaac: Thank you for having me, good morning.

Schellong: Good morning. So, this is the first time in Michigan history that the Confederation of Michigan's tribal education departments has been able to share some of these Indigenous developed and vetted resources with Michigan's teachers. Why now?

Isaac: Well, we can take it back to when Michigan decided to update their social studies standards for K-12 education. And at that point, we decided to get involved. Historically, so much of our history has been incorrect, and has perpetuated myths, and really has been appropriated and not developed by indigenous educators. And so, we decided to get involved, the standards got updated.

They were more inclusive of tribal nations in Michigan. And then we needed resources to back that up. And we decided to develop the —it's called Maaaawndoonganan—which is our resource guide for K-12 educators to give them something that is not appropriated. That is by Indigenous educators for educators.

Schellong: So kind of building off this question, how does this guide fight back against some of those myths and misconceptions?

Isaac: Well, for the first time in our state's history, tribal nations and Anishinaabe people are included in the standards going all the way through 12th grade, and the way that this is going to help dispel those myths —if there's not a resource there for teachers to use, what else are they going to do?

You don't know what you don't know.

And so this is more of a way to support our fellow colleagues who are teaching in the classrooms.

93% of Indigenous students attend public schools, and 7% are between Bureau of Indian Education schools, tribal schools, things of that nature.

We wanted to have a bigger impact.

And we wanted our students to be able to see themselves in the curriculum, we wanted them to be able to see themselves in an authentic way in their classrooms, and this is a start.

Schellong: You mentioned that this goes back to your involvement in the guide goes back to when the social studies curriculum was being kind of revised. How did you and your collaborators incorporate the state's social studies standards into the guide?

Isaac: So when you walk through the guide, which I encourage everybody to do, and if you're an educator, you're going to know right away as soon as you get to that first, second-grade standard.

And so there's a code.

And so we took those codes right from the social studies standards from the Michigan Department of Education and listed all of the books, movies, curriculums, podcasts, anything that had to do with that standard, to support it.

Schellong: Melissa, what are you most excited to see in this guide?

Isaac: Oh, truth. Truth from our perspective. From, I always say, tribal history is everybody's history. The land that we live, work, play, make our lives on, was inhabited and continues to be inhabited by the first peoples of the land.

And I think that it's really important for people to recognize that, that we're not something that, you know, happened in the past, and we don't exist anymore, we are still fully contributing to the society that we all live in.

So I'm most excited that there's finally truth. In my experience working with adult learners, people are really upset when they find out that they've been lied to all these years.

And people are upset that they perpetuated those lies, because they didn't know. And so now that there’s a resource available to fix that, it just informs a better-informed citizenry is really what could happen if these resources are utilized the way that we hope they are.

Schellong: What are the learning outcomes that you'd like to see come out of teaching the guide in Michigan's schools?

Isaac: Well, I mentioned having a more informed citizenry. Moving forward what a lot of people don't understand is that tribal nations are sovereign nations.

And we hear that word, and we don't really understand the magnitude of what that means.

And once that is understood, then tribal nations and the state and the federal government, all of those government-to-government relationships can be strengthened.

And so we're thinking long game here. The outcomes are going to be more informed officials and diplomats and things like that for our governments.

Schellong: Excellent. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for your time today.

Isaac: Yes, you're welcome. Thank you for having me.

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