Social studies teachers from 27 Wyoming school districts gathered in Riverton this week for a two-day professional development workshop. Many used the time to learn about Wyoming's new Indian Education For All standards, which were approved by then-Governor Matt Mead in 2017.
The new standards require all Wyoming schools to educate students on the history, culture, and contemporary contributions of local tribes, including the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho.
Rob Black, a social studies consultant for the Wyoming Department of Education, said about a third of breakout sessions at this week's workshop were designed to introduce teachers to culturally appropriate classroom resources.
"A lot of non-Native teachers don't have the resources, or they're just not comfortable with resources that are out there for teaching about Native Americans," Black said. "Many want to be sensitive. They don't want to be culturally irresponsible."
One session focused on a series of video learning modules produced by Wyoming PBS in collaboration with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. Those modules explore topics ranging from contemporary tribal governance to Indigenous language revitalization.
During a Thursday morning session, Cultural Education Coordinator for the Fort Washakie School District Lynette St. Clair emphasized the mandate that schools consult with tribes while developing Indian Education curricula.
"It's really critical that when you begin discussions about anything that has to do with the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, that they are at the table, that it's not an afterthought," St. Clair said.
She added that the new standards will help students and teachers move beyond stereotypes and gain a more complete understanding of life on the Wind River Reservation.
"When we talk about putting on tribal presentations in your schools, please understand that I'm not telling you I'm going to send over a group of dancers to perform for you," St. Clair said. "We want to give you a true perspective. We want to show you that we're more than beads and feathers."
A recent study by the National Congress of American Indians found that across the country, 87 percent of state history and social studies standards include no mention of Native Americans after 1900. When Wyoming's Indian Education for All standards go into full effect in the 2021 - 2022 school year, it will join states like Colorado, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin in mandating Indian Education in K-12 schools.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savannah is a Report For America corps member.