“Sovereignty in Education” offers new pathways to advance Native identity through teaching and learning

“Sovereignty in Education” offers new pathways to advance Native identity through teaching and learning

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This week, the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) announced the publication of a new resource for Native communities looking for opportunities to take an active role in the education of their citizens. Sovereignty in Education: Creating Culturally-Based Charter Schools in Native Communities” is a charter school handbook that provides an overview on how to start a Native charter school, strategies to implement within the school, and examples of innovative programs in Native communities that fit the academic and cultural needs of Native students across the United States.

“NIEA hopes Native communities can learn about new opportunities in education and see shining examples of innovation,” said NIEA President Jolene Bowman said of the publication. “Our communities are capable and able to provide for the education of their citizens – charter schools are one option for them to utilize and we’re happy to provide them foundational knowledge. Our students do best when they see themselves reflected in the classroom and in their curriculum, any opportunity that can make this a reality for them is critical.”

Native charter schools provide an avenue for communities to build schools and curriculum that are grounded in Native ways of knowing and cultural practices. Communities that have designed their own programs are using the flexibility provided by charters to raise new generations of fluent language speakers and create challenging coursework by integrating culture and traditions into the classrooms.

The handbook highlights particularly strong Native charter schools across the country. Examples include:

Walatowa Native Charter School, in Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico (Pueblo of Jemez/ Pueblo of Zia), which meets Native community needs by creating an environment where “young people who understand their identity and appreciate their unique heritage are best-equipped to become effective students and citizens.”

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Okeechobee, Florida (Seminole Tribe of Florida), a school “that meets high standards of academic achievement by providing a rigorous curriculum, infused with Seminole language and culture, in an environment that is safe, nurturing, conducive to learning and designed to preserve Seminole traditions.”

The handbook is part of NIEA’s ongoing work to provide more robust resources to education advocates, tribal leadership, and stakeholders on opportunities to support Native students. Its publication was made possible through generous financial support of the Walton Family Foundation and the guidance of NIEA’s Charter School Advisory Board.

To read or download “Sovereignty in Education: Creating Culturally-Based Charter Schools in Native Communities,” please click here.

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