Native American group opposes draft social studies standards

April 30, 2019 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Native American education advocates are raising concerns that Nebraska’s proposed social studies standards fall short of teaching a comprehensive history of Native Americans.

The newly formed Nebraska Indian Education Association wants the statewide standards that were unveiled this month to better disprove misconceptions about Native Americans and emphasize local tribes, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

The Nebraska Department of Education is seeking public input on the drafted education guidelines.


Derek LaPointe, executive officer of the Santee Sioux Nation tribal council, said Nebraska schools focus on teaching the period of disruption, relocation and war after 1850.

“That’s a blink of an eye in the lifetime of the tribe,” said LaPointe, who’s also an organizer for the association.

The group wants schools to teach about tribal sovereignty and Indian science and horticulture. They’re also pushing for more instruction about the centuries before European settlement when their civilization thrived.

LaPointe said teachers focus on certain events such as the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 in South Dakota, without considering tragic events that occurred closer to home.

There’s “so much focus on Oklahoma and the Trail of Tears, but we’ve all had our share of the Trail of Tears,” he said.

The association formed this year in response to Native American youths’ persistent low-achievement rates in Nebraska schools.

Association leader Marian Holstein said teaching about tribal history could help address an identity crisis that many Native American youth face, which has affected children’s self-esteem and their academic performance.

“There’s never been teaching about our native people, and how intelligent we were,” said Holstein, who’s also a board member of Winnebago Public Schools. “It’s always been the savages, the heathens, that we were less than men. That has trickled down.”

John Witzel, president of the Nebraska State Board of Education, acknowledged that the proposed standards’ approach to Native American topics is “pretty general.”

“We appreciate their inputs, and are going to seek more inputs, and we’ve got time to make changes, adjustments, revisions, whatever’s necessary,” he said.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,