Native American Curriculum Initiative

Native American Hoop Dance 2021: Competition and Reunion

Watching the Native American Hoop Dance is an experience that sticks with you. Maybe a Native American group visited your school or you witnessed the dance at a cultural event. Whatever the case, those moments make a lasting impression. You may not remember the faces or names of the dancers, but the feelings and the power of the dance remain. If you’ve missed the pleasure of absorbing this experience, now is the time! Sponsored by the Heard Museum, the annual Hoop Dance Contest is virtual this year due to COVID, thus expanding the audience and widening the participant pool. Instead…

Teach Your Content with a Utah Twist

In my work with the National History Day (NHD) program, I have witnessed the transformative power of relevancy in student learning. So often our students report that they didn’t think history was relevant in their lives… until they had the opportunity to delve into something that was meaningful to them. “By doing these projects,” a high school student reflected, “not only do you feel that you have a place in a vast universe, you feel more empathetic. Human.” I have learned that finding the local in the global can help students identify with content across curricula in the arts, humanities,…

Moving Towards Culturally Responsible Classrooms

The start of the new year is a great chance to hit the reset button. As we move forward, let’s pause to contemplate how we as educators can examine our complicity in perpetuating stereotypes and, in response, activate empathy, knowledge-seeking, and change. As we ask hard questions and are willing to seek out answers, we can move from our old normal to a new normal, one that creates new healthier circuits and behaviors.   Some of our 2020 experiences have given us a reckoning of how Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have been treated. They have propelled us to…

Another Way to Listen

National events during this difficult year evidence a need for better models of civil dialogue and respectful communication to solve the complicated issues we face. How can each of us reach across the aisle to shift the direction of the widening divide? As educators who teach by example, how can we think critically about the challenges before us and practice effective communication for synergistic collaboration to achieve creative solutions?   I have learned a lot about this while participating in the BYU ARTS Partnership Native American Curriculum Initiative (NACI). NACI works across various cultures, belief systems, and values. It offers a…

Veterans Day Art: Celebrating the Individual and the Community

Melissa Deletant teaches art in the Uintah schools, one of Utah’s most diverse districts. At Lapoint Elementary, which borders the Ute reservation, the population is mostly a mix of Native Americans and the white descendants of Mormon ranchers. Instead of seeing these differences as a challenge, Melissa sees opportunity.  Raised in a homogenous rural Pennsylvania community, Melissa’s first teaching job was in Virginia where 96% of her students were minority populations. Notions of being “color blind” evaporated when she realized that embracing each student’s unique background, perspective, and gifts would help her see the whole student and create a culturally…

“What do you want children in Utah to know about your tribe?”

In 2018 we asked Patty Timbimboo-Madsen, cultural specialist for the Northwestern Tribe of the Shoshone Nation: “What would you like children in Utah to know about your tribe?” That seemingly simple query launched our Native American Curriculum Initiative and models our guiding principle to honor the Native voice.  We asked that pivotal question because educators had expressed anxiety about teaching Native art forms due to misunderstandings and lack of guidance to navigate varying cultural ideologies. Teachers want to integrate other cultures in sensitive, accurate ways, and without guidance, many hesitated to incorporate native topics. As a partnership committed to inclusive…

Truth Telling

Image: Navajo Woman Weaving, Navajo Reservation, Arizona 1985. Sue Bennett, Photographer I walked into my living room a while back and saw my nephew’s sons (whom I call grandsons and they call me grandma) using my late mother’s Navajo spindle and batten as swords, chasing and chasing each other around the room. I stopped them both and said, “These were your Grandma Daisy’s weaving tools, and now they are mine to take care of. They are not swords but are tools for weaving rugs.” I brought out several rugs that their great-grandmother had woven and showed them how the tools…

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