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Tribal leaders back bill on teaching Native American history

November 23, 2020 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Leaders of American Indian tribes in Connecticut voiced their support Monday for proposed state legislation that would require the teaching of Native American history in public schools.

The tribal leaders issued a statement with state Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat, in support of the bill she plans to introduce within the next several weeks. The legislation would require all public schools to include Native American studies in their social studies curricula, with a focus on the tribes that lived in what is now Connecticut.

“We fully support this bill, which will assist in public re-education that includes an accurate portrayal of the First Nations People in Connecticut,” said Katherine Sebastian Dring, chairwoman of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation. “The Pequots were not destroyed, we survived. Truth may lead to positive change if we work together for a good life for all nations.”

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Joining Dring in the statement were leaders of the other four state-recognized tribes: Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation; Beth Regan, vice chair of the Mohegan Tribal Nation’s council of elders; Leon Brown of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation; and Richard Velky, chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

Osten and other lawmakers introduced a similar bill earlier this year that drew concerns from state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, teachers’ unions and municipal leaders. The bill died as the coronavirus shut down much of the legislative session.

Cardona said in March that while it is important to teach about Native Americans, the bill would be an unfunded mandate for school districts that are still working to implement other courses lawmakers and the governor have required them to teach.

New state laws passed in the past two years require schools to teach African American and Latino studies, as well as courses on the Holocaust and other genocides. Many schools have had curriculum on these subjects already in place, but the laws solidify their teachings.