Last week, Governor Matt Mead signed the Indian Education For All Act that requires the Wyoming Department of Education to teach the history and culture of Wyoming’s two tribes, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho.
Wind River Native Advocacy Center Director Jason Baldes said social studies teachers will soon be able to access Wyoming PBS video modules made in collaboration with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone on the Education Department’s website.
Baldes says the tribes have been working to achieve Native American education in Wyoming schools for decades.
“The rich history that we have in this United States isn’t really taught, unfortunately,” said Baldes. “And so the fact that Wyoming and other states have stepped up with this Native American education program for all recognizes the important contributions that we’ve made in the past, but also in the present and into the future.”
Both tribal business council chairmen attended the signing.
Baldes said, learning Native American history in social studies classes may help reduce racial conflicts among kids in Wyoming.
“When our sports teams travel to other parts of the state, we don’t want to hear racial slurs,” said Baldes. “And unfortunately today, a lot of young people are faced with that. I think that an educational program that teaches kids history is a way to squash that racism, bigotry, and discrimination. The more you understand about somebody, the less you’re going to have ill will toward that person.”
During the final days of the 2017 legislative session, Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns wanted to alter the bill to include other tribes, like the Crow and Cheyenne, who also have a strong presence and history in the state's northeast corner. But the final bill limited the program to Wind River Reservation tribes with the option for other tribes to add to the curriculum later.