By Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014
Over the past several weeks, I have enjoyed introducing educators to a great new resource that connects classroom curriculum with the stories and experiences of Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes. The Oklahoma Indian Education Resource (OIER) strengthens Indian cultural education in Oklahoma, and I am proud to share it with you.
Since my first day in office, a primary goal of mine has been to better educate Oklahoma students about our state’s 39 tribal nations. As part of that initiative, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) joined with tribes, American Indian leaders and educators, as well as local education organizations to create a hub of information and classroom content.
This resource is the product of many people, particularly the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education and the committee of Indian educators and other educators who came from all across the state, devoting their valuable time and knowledge to this more-than-two-year project. The OIER is now on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website at http://www.ok.gov/sde/oier.
Although this resource is mainly designed for schools, the information it contains is important to anyone seeking a richer understanding of our great state. As I said when we unveiled the OIER last month, the story of our state is, in many respects, the story of American Indian tribes. The impact of Indian culture on Oklahoma is deep and enduring. It is critical that all of us — particularly the youngest and future generations — learn about and appreciate the traditions and the legacies of our Indian tribes.
I have had an opportunity to explore the OIER myself, and it is rife with fascinating information. One of my favorite features is the collection of Oklahoma Indian Education Tribal Guides. These give an overview of the history, culture and beliefs of each of the 39 tribes. Most sections here feature an objective found in our state academic standards in social studies matched to relevant experiences of a tribe.
As an example, I read the guide for the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma. It quotes a portion of our standards calling on students to “integrate visual and textual evidence” to trace the migrations of Native Americans into our present-day state. Then the guide provides a detailed history of the Caddo people with several images and maps.
The resource also includes a valuable collection of links to lesson plans that cover individual tribes, the code-talkers of World War I and World War II, traditional arts and many other topics. Plus there is a collection of even more resources that can help teachers research the American Indian experience.
One great thing about the OIER is that teachers, members of tribes and anyone else can always submit lesson plans and information. This is an expanding resource that will be updated continuously.
This resource helps our teachers take education standards and illuminate them with individual histories as told by tribal members themselves. I encourage everyone to explore it today.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction