District 518 Column: Native American cultural learning options abound, from Brulé shows to Pipestone visits
"A student, representing the Ojibwe tribe, took part in a Lakota star quilt presentation during a city band concert."
It is critical that students of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds are welcomed, valued and included as full members of our district, schools and classroom communities. Recognizing a student's culture is an important aspect of a student’s identity, as well as a bridge to learning and expanding content knowledge.
District 518 is a diverse district with many ethnicities represented including Native American. Minnesota’s academic standards, which is what public school students are expected to learn in reading, math and other subjects, embed standards in every content and grade level related to Minnesota Native American tribes.
In addition to learning and understanding the historical and cultural significance of the Native American people, District 518 also works to strengthen and promote positive experiences that affirm and value their unique cultural identities.
One of these experiences happened last June. A student, representing the Ojibwe tribe, took part in a Lakota star quilt presentation during a city band concert. The star quilt is one of the Lakota tribe’s most valued gifts. It represents honor and generosity and was presented to Worthington’s sister city, Crailsheim, Germany.
Throughout the year, teachers use genuine Native American artifacts to teach the historical importance the different artifacts were to the survival and life of the Lakota and Ojibwe people. Some of the artifacts have more of a historical significance and others are still important to the tribes today in a contemporary context.
Teachers also use books written by native authors to provide accurate views and perspectives. Native American students see their experiences normalized and other students gain a wider world view and perspective. In addition, teachers are able to facilitate conversation about tolerance, respect and different perspectives.
Every October, the fourth grade students go on a field trip to the Pipestone National Monument. They tour the monument, talk with carvers and learn about the importance of pipestone, and take home a free National Parks pass good for the year.
In November, Prairie Elementary’s Discovery Room was transformed into a Lakota Village featuring tipis, a canoe, a fire pit, a trading post, and life-size cutouts of a bison and horse. This hands-on learning experience increased understanding and retention of the Native American kindergarten through second grade standards.
In May, every K-12 student in District 518, St. Mary’s School and Worthington Christian School will attend a concert at the Memorial Auditorium and be thoroughly entertained by the Native American group Brulé.
This event is being made possible through grants by the Southwest Initiative Foundation, Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation and American Indian Education Aid. This student experience is a result of the collaborating efforts of Brulé, Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, the city of Worthington and District 518.
The Brulé concert is designed to focus on cultural pride, spirituality and wellness as individuals and as a part of a community through the lens of Native people. The mission of the program is to reach youth and instill hope, faith, pride and confidence.
In June, teachers will have the opportunity to receive professional development to help build their knowledge and better equip them to teach the Minnesota standards related to Native Americans. The goal is to provide both a historical and contemporary context for staff and gain an understanding of significant historical events that impacted the relationship between Native Americans and the Europeans that settled in Minnesota.
These efforts to help students reach their full potential within our school community through meaningful, equitable and targeted educational experiences affirms and values the unique cultural identities of all our students.