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Connecticut partners with tribal nations to develop Native American curriculum

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Davis Dunavin
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WSHU

The Connecticut State Department of Education will partner with tribal leaders to develop a comprehensive and culturally inclusive Native American studies curriculum.

Governor Ned Lamont said Wednesday that the state will collaborate with five sovereign tribal nations in Connecticut. Lamont made the announcement at the Capitol along with leaders from the Mohegan Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal, the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

Last year, Connecticut passed a law that requires public schools across the state to teach Native American studies. Lessons for students in grades K through 12 will focus on local and national tribal contributions. The law requires lessons to be added to the social studies curriculum and implemented by the 2023-24 academic school year.

Irene Parisi, the chief academic officer for CSDE, spoke about the importance of providing resources to implement these lessons. Parisi said students should have a strong understanding of the tribes’ perspectives, contributions, and diverse cultures from tribal nations in Connecticut and nationwide.

“We respectfully engage in this partnership with our tribal nations," Parisi said. "In doing so we can uplift the stories of our five recognized tribes and make a promise that they are included in this curriculum."

Beth Regan, the vice chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribe Council of Elders, said she has been teaching Native American history for decades. Regan, who worked as an educator in the past, said now it's important to implement Native American curriculum statewide.

“Now all Connecticut students can learn about our roots through the voices of our people. Not through the colonizers’ voice but through the voices that have been left out to tell our true, tragic, yet also very wonderful history,” Regan said.

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Mohegan Tribe
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Native American curriculum online portal

The Mohegan tribe has been working with school districts to provide assistance with lessons through an online platform. Regan started the project as a way to share Mohegan history with tribe members. The tribe has collected information and resources on the tribe’s history.

Samantha Cholewa is the director of Mohegan Curriculum & Instruction for the tribe. After the law was passed, Cholewa was tasked with organizing the information through an online portal and making connections with school districts. The initiative is called the Mohegan Educators Project.

In an interview with WSHU, Cholewa said the online platform is a host to dozens of K through 12 lesson plans that meet common core standards. The website provides access to videos, photos, primary sources, and an interactive map.

“This Educators Project isn't the first part of us sharing our knowledge or our understanding. It's really a way for us to level up what we have provided what we have had in the past. By having our resources online they’re able to be more accessible to everybody,” Cholewa said.

The digital study resources include printable study guides, worksheets, and video assets available to educators and homeschoolers. Cholewa said units and lessons available can be tailored to meet the needs and educational standards of the respective classroom.

Cholewa said although the project is in its first year, she has already begun working with school districts to provide and implement units of study. She said teachers who have worked with the tribe in the past have reached out about using the resource.

“The response from teachers has been great. They’re loving the resource,” Cholewa said. “They’re also saying it’s so much information that they want help navigating it as well.”

Jeniece Roman is WSHU's Report for America corps member who writes about Indigenous communities in Southern New England and Long Island, New York.