Californians for Justice is celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2018 by highlighting the contributions of Native Americans and drawing attention to the the brutal genocide that was launched by European colonists against Indigenous communities. These practices continue to this day and include recent efforts to build the Dakota Access Pipeline over traditional Native lands and other attempts to limit the access of Native communities to land and resources.
Shifting the narrative away from the “discovery” of the Americas to the history of institutional racism in the US is an important lesson to teach students and a more accurate representation of world history. Students of color feel more engaged when they see themselves represented in curriculum. This engagement helps further develop critical thinking skills as students invest time and energy in their classes when history is portrayed in a more honest manner that takes into account the voices of people of color.
Hear from a CFJ Fresno Youth Leader on the impact inclusive history lessons make on students.
How do you see race show up at school? Is racial justice or race talked about in class?
Does this make you feel good or bad?
My Race and Social Justice class was one of the only classes where we would talk about race. It was a history class, but instead of white history we talked about the people who get brushed over: African American, Chicano, Filipino, and the truths underneath. It was interesting and engaging and better than other classes. I liked it more because I got to learn about myself and my history. In the past years, not so much. In Modern World History I learned European history, not African history or Mexican history. It made me feel like I was acknowledged. In other classes I didn’t feel like my history was being acknowledged. It made me feel good. It was something that I was interested in and I wanted to learn. I got an A in that class.
Representation in school and curriculum matters to students of color. Parents and educators should seek ways to present more complex portraits of the peoples who make up the US, and recognize the efforts of different communities to gain respect and dignity for their respective groups. To do so, we must learn to talk about race openly in our classrooms and to recognize race and relationships as a crucial lens to examine our society.
Learn more about the contributions of Indigenous peoples and how to frame these communities with some useful tools from the Howard Zinn Education Project and Teaching Tolerance:
- Reconsider Columbus Day: https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/reconsider-columbus-day
- Resources for teaching a people’s history of Columbus: https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/columbus-in-america-2/
- Whose History Matters? Students Can Name Columbus, But Most Have Never Heard of the Taíno People: https://www.zinnedproject.org/if-we-knew-our-history/whose-history-matters-taino