450 people gathered at the Native American Education Conference to celebrate the passing of a bill that mandates all Wyoming school’s to begin teaching the history and culture of the state’s tribes.
Wyoming Department of Education’s Rob Black said, the Indian Education For All Act sailed through legislature on the first try. State Senator Cale Case, Northern Arapaho Chairman Roy Brown, and Eastern Shoshone Chairman Shakespeare discussed the benefits of the bill at the conference. Chairman Brown said he is in favor of the bill.
"I think it is going to do wonders for our Native student’s identity to be able to see our history and who we are as a people being put in such importance as being taught in a classroom in schools off the reservation," said Brown.
Because there was no money attached to the bill, Jason Baldes with the Wind River Native Advocacy Center said he was approached by Tom Rea of WyoHistory.org with an offer of help. Curriculum development began shortly after that. Tom Rea said his website doesn’t have nearly enough content about the Eastern Shoshone or the Northern Arapaho tribes.
“I wanted a way to do it right and I wanted a way to do it in consultation with tribal people,” said Rea. “This bill has opened doors as a way to do that. What we plan to do is to commission a number of articles and work closely with Native educators to make it available, so teachers will have something to pluck off and use quickly, and easily, and useful.”
The next step in the Native Education For All Bill is to develop a curriculum and find the money to teach it.