Journal of American Indian Education
Volume 22 Number 2
USING AN INDIAN COMMUNITY IN SOCIAL STUDIES EDUCATION
John M. Antes and Barbara J. Boseker
THE NATIVE American Teacher Corps at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has just ended after many years of association with four tribes in Wisconsin: the Menominee, Winnebago, Ojibwa, and Stockbridge-Munsee. Teacher Corps at Wisconsin began with the sixth cycle in 1971 with all four tribal groups and ended with the recent five year cycle which began in 1979 with one tribal group, the Menominee.
During this period from 1971 through the Fall semester of 1981 a social studies methods course was taught under Teacher Corps auspices on the Menominee Reservation. Since one of the purposes of Teacher Corps was to train Indian people as teachers for their own reservation schools, this course, The Teaching of Social Studies, was an important factor in the training of these professionals. Methods courses in each aspect of the curriculum were required for Teacher Corps interns for teacher certification in elementary and middle schools in the state of Wisconsin. This course fulfilled the social studies methods requirement for the interns.
One of the important features of the course was that it was taught on-site on the Menominee Reservation at Keshena, Wisconsin, under the direction of Professor John Antes. Since the University of Wisconsin-Madison is approximately two hundred miles from the Menominee Reservation, the on-site nature of the course was of vital consideration for community people who had commitments of family and jobs on the reservation and therefore could not travel to Madison. Credit was granted from the Madison campus as three undergraduate/graduate education credits.
Those enrolled in the course were in-service teachers, administrators, teacher aides, Teacher Corps interns, and community people. This diverse group proved to be an interesting and stimulating mix which was beneficial to all participants each time the course was offered. During Fall, 1981, thirteen of the twenty-five participants were Menominee.
Since the social studies course was offered on the reservation and the Menominee Indian School District student population was ninety-nine percent Menominee, it was important that the emphasis of the course should be on the Menominee community, its culture, history, and values. For example, the last time the course was offered, students were required to develop a project focussing on some aspect of the Menominee community or traditions. Some of the projects developed were:
Previously during other Teacher Corps cycles the following projects were developed:
- Legend of the Hairy Serpent (in English and Menominee).
- Educational and Spiritual Talks by Tribal Elders.
- Logging Practices and Logging Museum Exhibits.
- Traditional Childrearing Practices Including Use of the Cradleboard and the Swing.
In order to understand a culture, it is important to appreciate that culture’s arts and crafts (see Note 1). In an earlier Teacher Corps social studies class just after the Menominee got their own school district, beading and porcupine quilling were taught to teachers on the reservation. At that time virtually all of the teachers on the reservation were white. Most of them were also new to the district and did not have a background in or knowledge of Indian art. However, they were very enthusiastic about the project and produced some excellent designs in traditional Menominee beading. The class was taught by Menominee artists from the community. It was interesting to note the reaction of Menominee students to their teachers wearing the beadwork which they had created. The response of the Indian students was most positive and fostered improved interpersonal relationships between students and teachers.
Teacher Corps sponsored as a community project the teaching of beading to all students in the district, kindergarten through twelfth grade, as a part of the regular curriculum. It became a very successful program and was later expanded and broadened into more advanced, creative projects such as complete Menominee costume designs, sandpainting, shawls, leatherwork, and ribbon applique on shirts and blouses.
All of the handicapped students in special education in the district were mainstreamed into the beading program (see Note 2). Regular classroom and special education teachers alike were amazed at the quality of the beadwork produced by the students. Because of their success in this art work, these students developed a much improved self-concept which was reflected in their work in other classes.
The beautiful work students took home prompted some parents to request adult evening classes in arts and crafts. Since the Teacher Corps community staff was busy teaching in the schools, it was recommended that the interim governing body of the tribe (the Menominee Restoration Committee) set up such a program, which was later initiated. The Teacher Corps community coordinator acted as consultant to that program.
At the end of the school year Teacher Corps sponsored a Fine Arts Fair in the gymnasium of St. Anthony’s Elementary School in Neopit. All reservation schools participated in the arts and crafts display. Cash awards of three prizes per school were given out to deserving students. The judges had a difficult time choosing winners as the children had all submitted such beautiful projects.
The study of the family is a vital part of the social studies curriculum in the elementary grades (see Notes 3 and 4). Two students in the on-site social studies class elected to explore the childrearing practices of Menominees of the past. These practices have changed quite drastically in recent years. It was felt that some of these changes were not for the best, so research was done on past values and practices of childrearing which might help solve some problems which Menominee youth are encountering in today’s world. Since Margaret Mead has advocated bringing parents and grandparents back into the teaching process (see Note 5), the two students produced a videotape interviewing three elderly Menominee grandmothers. The researchers were concerned with some of the following questions:
The elders interviewed on the videotape were concerned with two important values: respect and sharing. Children in an Indian community were respected as individuals and played important roles in the extended family (see Note 6). They were taught to share and to cooperate but not for selfish gain. The elders felt that children should be taught from early on to respect everything in nature; the earth, the trees, the lakes, and the animals. When they have been taught to respect their environment, children are much better able to respect themselves, other human beings, and the whole world.
In traditional Menominee life discipline was also different. The elders (grandparents, uncles, aunts) not only were respected but also had a special role to play in this aspect of childrearing. No one resented discipline by an elder. In fact, any elder could discipline any child whether that child was a member of the family or not. The elders interviewed felt that there was less respect now for them and that some parents resented disciplining by others.
An interesting attitude toward the handicapped emerged on the videotape. A retarded or physically handicapped child was considered special throughout life and was accepted and watched over by the entire tribe.
This videotape has been used by the high school home economics teacher in her child development class. It has also been used in the Menominee history class in the senior high school as part of showing the traditional way of life of the Menominee.
Another of the recent projects using community resources was an Indian Recipe Calendar. An English teacher and a special education teacher in the district accompanied their students into the community to interview men and women (some of whom were the grandmothers of students in the classes) as to their favorite traditional recipes which would be appropriate to the various months of the year. For example, the March calendar had a maple sugar candy recipe, May had French fried milkweed and milkweed soup, September had venison meat pie and wild rice, and November had roast beaver. Each month’s recipe had an accompanying photo of the person whose recipe was featured. The development of the calendar culminated in an Indian dinner which was researched and prepared by Menominee students in the English class.
Although Teacher Corps has been phased out, the curriculum materials, videotapes, and projects developed over the years have had an impact on the Menominee Indian School District. In previous years the reservation schools were part of a neighboring all-white school district. When the Menominees got their own schools, they were able to develop curriculum materials and teaching strategies which were more relevant to Indian students. The social studies class sponsored by Teacher Corps played an important role in assisting in this change.
1. Hunkins Francis P., Jan Jeter and Phyllis Maxey. Social Studies in the Elementary School. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill, 1982, pp. 128-135.
2. For a further discussion of the mainstreaming of Indian children see: Pepper, Floyd C., "Teaching the American Indian Child in Mainstream Settings," in Mainstreaming and the Minority Child. Reston, Virginia: Council for Exceptional Children, 1976, pp. 133-158.
3. Ellis, Arthur K. Teaching and Learning Elementary Social Studies. Second Edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1981, pp. 194-204.
4. Preston, Ralph C., and Wayne L. Herman, Jr. Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary School. Fifth Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981, p. 54.
5. Mead, Margaret. "The Future As the Basis for Establishing a Shared Culture." Daedalus, Vol. 94, No. 1, 1965, pp. 135-155.
6. For a further discussion of the roles of children in the extended family see: Ritzenthaler, Robert E. and Pat Ritzenthaler, The Woodland Indians of the Western Great Lakes. Garden City: Natural History Press, 1970, pp. 33, 48.
7. For instructions on how to make a recipe calendar see: Weitzman, David, My Backyard History Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975, p. 41.
John M. Antes spent several years working as Teacher Corps Director of the Wisconsin Native American Teachers Corps program. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin.
Barbara J. Boseker was a program development specialist for the Wisconsin Native American Teacher Corps and is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Moorehead State University, Moorehead, Minnesota 56560
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