Culture is one of the most important defining characteristics of our lives. It determines how we speak to each other, the holidays we celebrate, the rituals we practice, the food we eat and how we engage with the world around us. Our perspectives and worldviews are shaped through culture.
European contact led to devastating loss of life and dramatic adverse effects on culture for Native Americans across the U.S., the effects of which continue to be felt today. Through federal legislation, U.S. schools have a responsibility to provide meaningful educational opportunities to Native American students while fostering cultural identity and pride.
Native students and parents benefit from a strong cultural foundation supported through the vital work of the Indian Education program serving Osseo Area Schools students. Indian Education educates and empowers Native students through events like the Teaching and Learning Gathering that took place on Jan. 4.
The Teaching and Learning Gathering featured important lessons about American Indian history, art, culture and language shown through Drum and Dance. The Drum and Dance performers included students from Maple Grove Middle School and Osseo Senior High, staff, community members, and an Osseo Area Schools alumna. (Drum and Dance performers are shown in the photos at the top and at the bottom left.)
Jennifer Simon, chair of the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee, explained the committee’s role in helping to create a learning environment that celebrates, honors and enriches Native American students. Reuben Kitto Stately, a local indigenous rapper, performed his songs and talked with students about telling their story of who they are, where they come from, and where they are going. (Reuben is shown in the photo at the bottom right.)
Lastly, Native students attending the event heard from their peers on a student panel where they had the chance to ask questions of each other and start a dialogue about what it means to be Native American and how they can embrace their cultural identity. The advice students had for their peers included:
- “Don’t be afraid to speak up”
- “Be proud of who you are”
- “Reach out to learn who you are and it’s okay not to know who you are”
All second-graders across Osseo Area Schools will read two books in Minnesota Indigenous languages: one written in Dakota, “Taku Wadaka He?” (What do you see?) by Joanne Zacharias, and the other written in Ojibwe, “Bow Wow Pow Wow” by Brenda Childs. These stories will help students learn Dakota and Ojibwe languages and experience Dakota and Ojibwe cultures. This was all made possible through a collaboration between Indian Education and the elementary staff development team.
Additionally, for the second consecutive year, the Indian Education team will host four full days of staff development session for all teachers across Osseo Area Schools to learn about Minnesota Indian history and strategies for finding authentic resources for their classrooms.
For more information about the Indian Education program at Osseo Area Schools, visit this website.