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Native American History Being Taught In Conn. Schools Not A Moment Too Soon For Indigenous People

Davis Dunavin

Tribal leaders in Connecticut are trying again for a long-sought-after goal — to make Native American history a mandatory part of the state’s public school curriculum.

Rodney Butler is the chair of the Mashantucket Pequot — one of the state’s five Native American tribes. He says Native American history is the history of Connecticut. Dozens of tribes lived in the area — they had their own politics, ecology and cultures.

“But also the real story about the interaction between the colonists and the Natives, and how that’s shaped the landscape not only here in Connecticut but over the entire country,” Butler said. Like the Pequot War in the 17th century. Colonists in the Connecticut River Valley massacred the Pequot tribe — Butler’s ancestors.

“It culminated with the Treaty of Hartford in 1638. That said that Pequots no longer existed, couldn’t speak our language and were divided up into slavery. 1638, right? This was the first major conflict between colonists and Native Americans in North America,” he continued.

Butler said the time is right to teach history. This year has seen statues of Christopher Columbus come down in Connecticut and elsewhere. He said that’s a start.

“Until we educate people, they’re never really gonna know why it’s offensive or why that statue shouldn’t be up, right?" Butler said. "It’s just simply a symbol of it without understanding.”

State Senator Cathy Osten proposed the bill. Osten’s district includes the Pequots’ tribal land and the land of the state’s other federally recognized tribe — the Mohegan. Both tribes back the bill — along with leaders from the state’s three other tribal organizations.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.
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