This week a new program at Saint Cloud State University aims to put more Indigenous teachers in front of Minnesota students. Emma Needham has more on two scholarship programs for Native teachers plus a new curriculum plan to help teach Native issues to students throughout Minnesota.
Minnesota’s students are much more diverse than their teachers. According to the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board, 34 percent of students in Minnesota identify as students of color or Native American while only five percent of their teachers identify the same way. Saint Cloud State University professor Darlene St. Claire is working to change that.
“Introduction in Dakota.” ….Hello, my relatives, I’m Iyekiyapiwiƞ. My Wasicu name is Darlene St. Claire. I’m Dakota…. I’m a teacher, I teach Native Studies at St. Cloud State University. I’m an associate professor, I teach Native studies for the Department of Ethnic, Gender and Women’s Studies. I’m the Director of the Multicultural Resource Center, which is an academic center focusing on race and people of color in the United States. I’m also the director of a new initiative called the Institute for Indigenous Education studies. And this is a new initiative based in the College of Education and Learning Design at SCSU.”
The Minnesota Indigenous Teacher Training Program and the Teacher Preparedness Partnership aim to bring more Native teachers to Minnesota classrooms. Professor St. Claire says there’s a lot of support in the MITTP and TPP programs.
“So through this program, you’ll receive really full support for up to three years. And in that support, you would receive housing support, living stipend, childcare support, for books and technology, and of course, tuition. And on top of that, you get all kinds of mentoring support from native staff. This individual we have Allicia Waukau-Butler just started and she’s amazing and I would be the faculty mentor for everyone in the TPP, or the teacher preparation partnership,” said Professor St. Claire.
Many school history curriculums only teach about Native peoples up to the year 1900. Professor St. Claire stresses the contemporary impact of those history lessons on Native people today.
“The narrative is a long time ago, there were Native people, now they’re gone. So now this is ours. And if that’s the narrative that most Minnesotans have absorbed, that has a real impact on how Native people live in the world..,” said Professor St. Claire.
Professor St. Claire developed a curriculum for 6th grade students called “ Mni Sota Makoce, The Dakota Homelands Curriculum” which is being implemented in some schools in Minnesota.
“But we know that having native people in classes, having native people in schools and districts does make systemic change. We know, we hear the stories all the time of the ways that native people, within these systems, start to interrupt or disrupt things that have been harmful,” said Professor St. Claire.
Professor St. Claire stays hopeful for healing in education.
“We’re going to develop parents who parent differently, we’re going to develop leaders who lead differently, we’re going to develop voters who vote differently. We’re going to develop gatekeepers and policymakers who do their work in a different way. Because as young people, Native people are not erased from their understanding of the place that they live,” said Professor St. Claire.
If you are a native person interested in enrolling in the Minnesota Indigenous Teacher Training Program, The MITTP, or the Teacher Preparedness Partnership, the TPP, you can find information on the American Indian Center page at Saint Cloud State University’s website. Contact information for both programs is listed on the applications.
For Minnesota Native News, I’m Emma Needham.
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