Michigan bill does not guarantee Indian residential school history will be taught

A watered-down bill was introduced in the Michigan Senate on March 15 that “strongly encourages” local school districts to teach Native boarding school history, instead of asking the Department of Education to make changes to the curriculum. statewide.

This updates a previous bill introduced in February aimed at ensuring the accurate history of Indigenous boarding schools is taught in grades 8-12. This bill was withdrawn and the new bill, SB962, was reintroduced a month later.

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These changes were made “in accordance with recommendations” received by the Department of Education, Kirstie Sieloff, chief of staff for State Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), told Native News Online. Schmidt, who introduced both bills, said in a statement to Native News Online that the intent is the same: to ensure accurate Indigenous history is taught.

Schmidt and the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a citizen of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa, say the “recommendation” bill reflects their commitment to sharing knowledge of residential schools.

“What Senator Schmidt and I are trying to do is make sure Michigan students learn about the horrible history of Indian boarding schools here in Michigan and learn how some of these atrocities happened recently,” said Irwin at Native News Online. .

There is nothing in the new bill that will guarantee that anything about residential schools will be taught. The bill lacks any language that would ensure that school districts teach the history of residential schools.

The bill has been stalled in committee since March and is not expected to go anywhere.

Only 12 states currently require Native history content to be taught in K-12. Wisconsin became one of them in 1989 when the Wisconsin State Legislature passed Wisconsin Law 31, or American Indian Studies in Wisconsin.

Law 31 requires all public school districts to teach the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of the eleven federally recognized tribes located in Wisconsin to students in grades 4 through 12. In addition to this, teachers must receive courses in the study of relations with minority groups, including courses in the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the tribes and federally recognized bands located in this State in order to receive a teaching license. However, there is no standardization for what is considered a degree teaching Native American history, culture, or tribal sovereignty.

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About the Author

Neely Bardwell
Author: Neely BardwellE-mail: This email address is protected from spam. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indian), who started as an intern at Native News Online in the summer of 2021, is a freelance writer. Bardwell is a student at Michigan State University where she majored in politics and minored in Native American studies.


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