The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Native American curriculum requirement catching some schools by surprise


In its issue of July 13 this year, the Yakama Nation Review, a publication of the Yakama Nation, carried a lengthy article on its front page called “Washington schools to have tribal curriculum.”

The news has not gotten around. There are school districts in the state that haven’t a clue this education is now required.

“I hadn’t heard that it was mandated, only encouraged,” says Goldendale School District Superintendent Mark Heid. “This is another example of the state mandating something new with an already heaping plate of things to accomplish already.”

State officials seem to have done a poor job of informing school districts.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate bill 5433 on May 8 this year that changed the teaching of Native American history from an encouragement to a requirement. The bill says Washington public schools will learn about Native American history, culture, and government with consultation with the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes. Native Americans have been concerned with getting accurate information to the schools, and they are looking to be an active part of the process. And now, by law, they have to be included.

Bill 5433 is based on a 2005 state law “encouraging” the teaching of Native American history. A lot of curriculum was developed over the last 10 years for that purpose. Presently, however, it’s uncertain how many schools in the state are in fact ready to roll out the mandated curriculum this fall, given that teachers still have to be trained in the curriculum. Not only must they teach, but they must also do so in conjunction with tribal authorities.


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