An initiative to incorporate additional Native American studies into social studies courses was introduced at a public hearing and community input session at Magdalena Schools last week.
The Indian Education Act, adopted by the New Mexico state legislature in 2003 mandated that “learning environments and instructional materials [be] culturally relevant for indigenous students and equitable in schools with populations more representative of the dominate cultures; Caucasian and Hispanic.”
Magdalena Schools Superintendent Glen Haven called the open meeting to share what’s being added to middle and high school history instruction.
Business Manager of the Indigenous NM project, De Alva Calabaza of Santo Domingo Pueblo, explained that the project is grounded in grassroots, tribal stakeholder participation and embeds cultural and historical checks and balances through collaboration between tribe members and the state.
“Currently, the goals of the Indian Education Curriculum Initiative are to incorporate Native history and cultural connections within the New Mexico social studies standards,” she said. “Basically, to become a ‘curriculum clearinghouse’ of existing resources for New Mexico educators and to develop new curricula and resources to support the teaching and learning of Native American history and culture in New Mexico schools.”
She said teachers are used to teaching the perspectives they are given in whatever the curriculum is and, “that’s where we come in to give an additional perspective. By all means, the curriculum is not meant to change your perspective as a person, and it’s not meant to replace anything but rather to broaden a perspective.
“Why do we want to integrate Native history?” Calabaza said. “Why do we want to integrate the culture that comes with that history? We want everyone to know who we are. Where we come from. What impacts we have taken.”
Part of the curricula for middle and high school students includes short videos featuring New Mexico natives relating not only their life experiences but also how their culture is challenged by changes in the world.
Principal Leslie Clark said the incorporation of additional New Mexico Native American history would have a positive effect on Magdalena’s students, and pointed out that 47 percent of Magdalena’s student body is Navajo.
“Native Americans will be way more successful if you show them curricula with Native Americans. You bring it in as much as possible,” she said. “What’s missing in a lot of our curriculum is having the Native American perspective. And that’s what’s really wonderful about what you’re bringing. Is that you actually see Native Americans talk about these things.”
Marsha Hubbell-Espinosa, an assistant principal at Rio Rancho High School, said one of the reasons she became involved in the program because, “as an administrator and an evaluator, I observe a U.S. History class that is just focused on Indian boarding schools.”
“They just use one textbook,” Hubbell-Espinosa said. “And teachers are hurting for some resources, and want to teach it as accurately as possible.”
She said history books in a lot of schools are outdated.
“What we’re hoping to accomplish here is we want our perspective known. We want it multicultural, and that’s what New Mexico is,” she said.
The units and lesson plans are in the process of being intensely vetted through collaboration with all 22 tribes in New Mexico including the Navajo Nation.
Haven said his growing up in the Window Rock area gave him insight into relating with Native students.
“I tell my teachers and staff, get to know your kids,” he said.
The curriculum will be introduced to history classes in the Fall semester, Clark said.
Magdalena also recognized the following teachers for their years of service:
Five years: Angela Guerro, Pamela Justice, Marguerite Miller
Ten years: Kenneth Apachito*, Consuelo Candelaria, Clay Clark, Matthew Parker* andVelma Zamora*
Fifteen years: Jennifer Armstrong, Lori Marshal, Mary Anne Mirabal
Twenty years: Rebecca D. Gutierrez, Renee Baca