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10 Tips to Decolonize Your Classroom

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Transcript of 10 Tips to Decolonize Your Classroom

Discard any toy that perpetuates stereotypes on Native Americans.
Avoid games that depict Native Americans as the bad guys such as "Cowboys and Indians" and some video games.
1. Toys and Games
3. Thanksgiving
If you discuss Pilgrims and Native Americans, explain that both groups have living descendants today.

Thanksgiving Interactive: You are the Historian:
10. Books And Web Resources
Some of the most popular books “about” Native Americans do more harm than good.
Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo), a renowned expert on children’s literature, created a website with book reviews, guidelines for how to assess books, and other great resources.

2. Halloween
Have a discussion with your students (prior to Halloween!) about why some costumes are inappropriate.
By Teaching Native American History
10 Tips to Decolonize your Classroom
9. Pay Attention to Verb Tense
Using only the past tense freezes Native people in the past, reinforcing the false idea that they do not exist today.

6. Diversity
Teach your students about the diversity of the Native American population. There are 562 federally-recognized tribes in the US and many more are still fighting for recognition.

Look at the following Google map of the tribal communities in the North East.

4. US History
Native American history is an integral part of American history.
Include native perspectives into non-native specific topics.
Still from the documentary True Whispers: The Story Of The Navajo Code Talkers.
From: http://itvs.org/films/true-whispers
5. Current Issues
Include current Native issues in your curriculum.
Stay informed by reading sources like
Indian Country Today
We Still Live Here, Âs Nutayuneân
, Trailer
"Children get their information and images about Native Americans from a variety of sources which includes adults— particularly teachers, museum displays, food packages, advertisements, television, radio, movies, books, and toys. Many of these sources frequently transmit unfavorable stereotypes and inaccurate information about Native Americans thus preventing children from developing a realistic picture of past and contemporary Native life."
Arlene B. Hirschfelder,
American Indian Stereotypes in the World of Children: A Reader and Bibliography,
2nd ed. (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999), 139.
Sleeper-Smith, Susan, ed. Why You Can't Teach United States History Without American Indians. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
Native History: Astronaut John B. Herrington, Chickasaw, Becomes First American Indian in Space
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/23/native-history-astronaut-john-b-herrington-chickasaw-becomes-first-american-indian-space
7. Who Lived Here?
When was your town or community established?
Who lived here before?
What did they call the place where you live?
Can you identify indigenous words or place names in your community?

8. Who Lives Here Now?
You may have Native American students in your classroom.
There are certainly Native Americans in your community.
Look for local organizations and tribes, potential guest speakers or visiting artists, and events that you and your students can attend, such as powwows.
For example: Wampanoag people ate blueberries before the arrival of the Pilgrims.
Comment: Wampanoag people continue to enjoy blueberries today, whether they are store-bought or fresh-picked.
Using only the present tense can also freeze Native people in the past.
For example: Wampanoag Indians live in wetus.
Comment: Wampanoag ancestors lived in wetus. Today, Wampanoag people live in modern houses. They are not “less Indian” because they live in houses.

Be specific, and encourage your students to think about why verb tense matters.

The internet can be a great source of (mis)information. Websites must be evaluated with a critical eye, just like other sources.
Techniques for Evaluating American Indian Websites

You can also find resources on the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums:

Indian country is all around you.
This film is a great example of how to connect past and present. You can buy it here:
Read current research on the history of Thanksgiving.
Thanks for your interest. We hope you will keep learning.
Related project offering great resources:
Check the interactive version here:
Full transcript