Native American life and culture have often been misrepresented or excluded in American history textbooks, but a new online resource that puts Native voices first and includes Salish voices could help change that.
Everyday Native, a free online resource for Native and non-Native educators, includes photography, poetry, history lessons and stories from Native American sources, including works by Salish poet Victor Charlo and stories from youth on the Flathead Reservation.
"Everyday Native really came from wanting to give teachers accurate information so that those teachers can then create better understanding and also respect among their non-Native students for the Native classmates and their Native neighbors," said Sue Reynolds, the program's founder.
Now based in California, Reynolds got the idea for the site after she moved to Missoula in 2005 and learned how racism affects her native friends and their children.
The curriculum — at everydaynative.com — is meant to help heal racism by building an understanding of Native culture and fostering empathy among fourth- to 12th-grade students and teachers.
The program was launched in August 2018, and it has already spread to 37 states. Montana's Office of Public Instruction endorsed it as one of many resources the state recommends to educators to bolster Indian Education for All, a public education initiative born out of Montana's constitutional requirement to recognize and help preserve the cultural heritage of American Indians.
Reynolds introduced the curriculum to Missoula County Public Schools, and she said the Indian Education Department was excited about it.
Although she herself is not Native, Reynolds vetted the curriculum through Native educators across the country and through friends, including Charlo whom she previously collaborated with for a photo-poetry book called "Still Here: Not Living in Tipis." The site also includes poems selected from Charlo's books, "Dirty Corner Poems and Other Stories" and "Put Sey."
"It's important just being able to write to other Native people, and I think for non-Native people, to try to get them to understand a little bit more about Natives," Charlo said.
Everyday Native provides non-Native teachers information to help them be culturally responsive in classrooms, especially those on reservations where they're teaching a majority of Native students.
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"If your teacher doesn't include you in the discussion or bring a point of view that you can relate to, it's kind of hard to feel like you belong, even though you rode the same bus to school," said Adele Martin, a Salish language teacher for the Arlee Joint School District and a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Martin just heard about Everyday Native and has not used it yet, but she said it seemed authentic after looking at the site, and that she will likely recommend it to teachers.
"It's Native students in modern-day setting," Martin said. "It's not just them in their regalia. It also shows them in everyday life because we do walk in two worlds."
Martin said it touched her heart to see a young Salish woman named Patricia highlighted in one of the videos in which Patricia shares the hardships of living on the Flathead Reservation and how she learned to embrace her heritage.
Reynolds said the site provides history but "not necessarily history as it’s taught strictly from a non-Native worldwide perspective."
"Europeans tended to look at their history as being the only history, and so this country for a long time was taught in the context of European descendant history or white people's history," Reynolds said. "Going to the Native American histories, they haven't been told, or they haven't been told accurately."
Everyday Native helps address some of the misconceptions people have about Native Americans, said Anna Baldwin, the grants and federal programs manager for the Arlee school district.
Baldwin designed a new teacher induction program for teachers that are new to the Flathead Reservation so they can understand unique issues Native students face.
"I think a lot of people think that Native Americans are in history, so it's important to help all people see that contemporary life is also part of the Native experience," Baldwin said.