Parents want better representation of American Indian culture in schoolss
The Farmington district isn’t meeting American Indian students’ needs, according to a resolution presented by a parent committee at a recent school board meeting.
In a letter to the school board, the group of five parents and two district employees recommended the district better represent American Indian culture through artwork and signage written in native languages. They also suggested there be “more opportunities for students to explore their native heritage and connect with other American Indian students.”
This was the first time the American Indian Education Program Parent Committee requested school board action, said Barb Duffrin, educational programming director and a committee member.
"It's very exciting. They had some terrific ideas," Duffrin said. "It's really a collaborative process and everyone's excited to be a part of it."
The resolution was approved by the school board on March 28.
“We, as native people, not only need to educate our next generation but we also need to educate the whole student body and let them and all parents and teachers know that we are not just mascots or pages in a history book,” wrote Numen Smith, the district’s American Indian education liaison, to the school board.
Other recommendations included taking field trips to historical sites and to each student’s reservation, a mentorship program, guest speakers, tutoring, a summer program including pow-wow visits and community outreach.
"We love our culture and I want people to see how beautiful it is," Smith said in an email. "My end goal, however long I am in this position, is to get our culture and language back into the schools."
Smith is the first American Indian education liaison the district has hired. He's a member of the parent committee and has already started organizing cultural activities for students. They are eager to continue with them, Duffrin said.
More students now identify as American Indian than did before Smith was brought on, Duffrin said. Forty American Indian students attend school in the district, according to state numbers, but the district counts about 55.
The state requires any district enrolling 10 or more American Indian students to create an American Indian advisory committee. Each year by March, the committee must submit a resolution to the school board stating whether members approve of the programs offered by the district or not.
Minnesota districts now receive funding for American Indian educational programs on a per-pupil basis, so there is money set aside for Numen’s part-time role and programming catered to the students, Duffrin said.