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Mohegan Tribe to offer grants to teach Native American curriculum

Los Ninos Elementary serves mostly Mexican-American and Native American families, as well as a few Somali students.
Elissa Nadworny
/
NPR
Los Ninos Elementary serves mostly Mexican-American and Native American families, as well as a few Somali students.

The Mohegan Tribe will continue its tradition of a grant program that provides educational resources and funding to teach Native American history in classrooms around Connecticut.

This year marks the 20th year of the Mohegan Challenge Grant program.

The program provides educational resources and funding to teach Native American history in classrooms around the state. Applicants must submit lesson plans that would address issues of Native American history, traditions and culture. Teachers from across the state have until midnight on December 31, to submit applications.

Each year, the tribe picks between elementary, middle, and high schools to receive grant funding. The classroom chosen for the top spot will receive educational and classroom materials, in-person instructional programs at their schools, and complimentary field trips.

Samantha Cholewa is the director of Mohegan Curriculum & Instruction for the tribe.

“We brought all of these teachers on to Mohegan hill, where they went to the Tantaquidgeon Museum. They went onto Mohegan Village and our Mohegan church and from that event a lot of teachers had reached out to me so that I could work with their districts, Cholewa said.

Seven teachers received a grant of $1,000 last year to use on classroom materials. The tribe gave a $500 grant to six runner-ups. Schools also receive a one-day instructional program visit sponsored by the tribe’s Cultural and Community Programs department.

“We teach you more about Mohegan culture, history and storytelling. Sometimes there are dance demonstrations depending on who goes as a representative,” Cholewa said.

Connecticut will implement a law that requires schools to add Native American studies to the curriculum in September. The grant may help schools get a jump on new state requirements to include Native American curriculum in the next school year.

Teachers that are awarded the grant will be able to use it starting in January. The next round of challenge grant applications will also open from October through December 2023.

The tribe will give all teachers access to additional resources, regardless of if they win the grant through the Mohegan Educators Project. The project is an online portal with lessons and resources to teach Native American curriculum that launched earlier this year.

Teachers that would like to apply to the Mohegan Challenge Grant or obtain access to the Mohegan Educators Project and do so through Mohegan Tribe's website.

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