Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Summer Learning Continues

Menominee Forest

Menominee Tribal Enterprises

Replica at Mohican Library/Museum
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in the American Indian Studies Summer Institute through DPI and UW-Green Bay. It was a week filled with learning. The best part was interacting with people from all around Wisconsin with a common focus. We had amazing participants and the facilitators brought much knowledge and experience to the table. Field trips were available to both the Menominee and Mohican reservations. As a side note, did you know that The Last of the Mohicans was not quite as true as it could have been? The forests of both tribes were amazing. The Menominee are known throughout the world for their sustainable forestry. There are some beautiful spots on both reservations. One of my favorite afternoons was spent on the Pow-wow grounds of the Mohican reservation. A few participants sat on rocks out in a river and spoke with several tribal members. Making such connections was very meaningful. It will be an afternoon that I will remember for a long time to come.

Church and Mission School

Mission School
As part of our first visit to the Mohican reservation, we stopped to see the Red Springs Indian Mission School - part of the residential school era. It's part of a complicated bit of history. Children were taught to abandon their culture (often as a result of punishments) and assimilate to white society. They learned how to read and write, but were prepared for menial jobs as a general rule. There are Natives that speak of their time or their parent's/grandparent's time in the residential schools as very harmful to their family and culture while a few look back on it as a positive thing. Still others find it a mix of both positive and negative. If you are interested in learning more about the residential school experiences, here are some books that you may want to read:

Some of these titles are fiction such as Sweetgrass Basket and My Name is Not Easy, others are memoirs like Pipestone (reviewed here) and Fatty Legs, and still others are informational texts like Boarding School Blues and Boarding School Seasons. Whether fiction or non-fiction, all delve into the complexity of the issues surrounding the residential schools.

Our time was not all spent on residential schools though. Through the week, we looked at the history of the tribes in Wisconsin and explored Act 31. This is the educational act which requires schools to teach the history and culture of the federally recognized tribes in WI in addition to tribal sovereignty. We were given tools to help us do that in our home schools. We all created a plan for the coming school year and I am eager to begin. As a start, I wrote a blogpost over at Rich in Color about why we need diverse literature, how to find it, and how to evaluate what we do find.

If you are in the state of Wisconsin and are a teacher, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to attend the summer institute. Another similar learning event is the annual Widening the Circle event in La Crosse, WI. This year it will be held November 7-10. It is not as in depth as the institute, but many similar topics are explored. I have enjoyed learning there every time I have gotten to attend. The community meals are fantastic too.

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