Minnesota Native American Essential Understandings for Educators

The idea of creating a Minnesota essential understandings document was recommended in Restoring Our Place, a groundbreaking report commissioned and published by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s (SMSC) Understand Native Minnesota campaign in 2022. That report, which provided a resource scan of teaching resources about Native American subjects in actual use in Minnesota K-12 schools, recommended six important strategies to improve the way Indigenous content can be learned by future generations of Minnesotans. The first and most fundamental foundation of those strategies was the creation of “essential understandings” which could serve as the basis for curriculum and textbook writing, professional development for educators, and classroom instruction.

The Understand Native Minnesota campaign was intent on realizing this recommendation and asked the Native Governance Center (NGC) to partner on a project to develop a Minnesota centered publication. NGC was uniquely positioned to help with this work—it is Native-led, has a working relationship with tribal governments throughout Minnesota, and is focused on building human capital in Indian Country. It has also been the fiscal sponsor of We Are Still Here—Minnesota (WASH-MN), a grassroots Native organization working on narrative change. WASH-MN’s executive director, Ramona Kitto Stately, is a long-time Indian Education professional and chair of the Minnesota Indian Education Association; she was ideally suited to lead the project resulting in this publication. We are grateful for her work and the work of the many people who helped draft, review, comment on, improve, and design this publication.

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