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Native American Studies offers assistance to public school teachers

By Erin Cleavenger

The West Virginia Board of Education has set standards for each grade level that represent educational goals and expectations for what students should know, understand and be able to do. According to the social studies standards, West Virginia students will examine the settlement of North America by Native Americans and determine the causes and effects of European exploration starting in the third grade.

Each year, the West Virginia University Native American Studies Program receives multiple requests from West Virginia educators to provide instructional presentations and programs for kindergarten through 12th grade students.

“Typically, textbooks are written from the perspective of European Americans,” said Bonnie Brown, coordinator of the Native American Studies program at WVU.  Brown is also a member of  Morgantown Human Rights Commission, which plans to ask Morgantown City Council to officially declare the second Monday in October Indigenous People’s Day when council convenes for its committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 26.

The Associated Press reported that President Joe Biden Friday issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The day will be observed Oct. 11, along with Columbus Day, which is established by Congress.

WVU’s programs are designed to address overall issues of concern among history and social studies teachers when it comes to Indigenous Americans.

“Sometimes, it’s a teacher reaching out to us saying, ‘I would like to try this in my classroom. Is there anyone there who can come and do a presentation?’ ” Brown said. “And we try to accommodate as much as possible.”

Members of the NAS program committee deliver the presentations according to expertise and availability in the schools. While committee members may not always be able to deliver an in-person presentation they can direct educators to other available resources.

“What we can do sometimes is offer reference materials or offer age appropriate information.

There are so many materials that are offered online now than ever before.” Brown said. “If we are going to go speak in a classroom, we try to find the best person in our faculty to handle the request.”

In some cases, teachers are also referred to the National Museum of the American Indian Native Knowledge 360 Program, designed to provide curriculum assistance to teachers.

The program offers assistance to not only public school educators, but any group who would like to learn more about Native Americans and their history. They have also presented information to WVU student organizations and service groups, WVU classes outside of Native American studies and at Extension 4-H summer camps, the Boys and Girls Club, the Shack, Arts in the Park, the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, Rotary Club, the Morgantown Public Library and elsewhere.

Public school teachers or anyone interested in learning more can follow the NAS program on Twitter @WVU_NASprogram or on their Facebook page WVU Native American Studies Program. You can also find links to educational materials and find additional information on the NAS website

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