HELENA – Educators and American Indian advocates gathered in the State Capitol for the Office of Public Instruction’s biennial Indian Education for All (IEFA) Rotunda Day.
Friday’s events were intended to raise awareness about IEFA while also showcasing best-practices and success stories from across the state.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen hopes the event helps raise awareness among legislators and others in the capital of the state’s constitutional requirement of IEFA.
“Indian Education for All is something that every student in Montana should have embedded in their curriculum,” said Arntzen. “We’re showcasing people that have come from all of our different tribes and share what they’re doing.”
IEFA Director Zack Hawkins praised Pryor and Livingston school district for their work and cooperation towards honoring and understanding Montana’s American Indian heritage.
“They do all kinds of collaborative units and they do cultural exchange,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins previously worked a teacher in Lodge Pole and Heart Butte and stressed the importance of American Indian students to feel validated in their heritage and culture.
“All Montana students should be proud of who they are, where they come from, and who they want to be Indian Education for All helps our students achieve this goal,” said Arntzen.
In the rotunda, Arntzen also noted the current disparity between the high school graduation rates of tribal school and the rest of Montana Schools.
“There’s a gap between our state aggregate and our tribal schools,” Arntzen explained, “So we need to make sure that that gap is as less as possible. The more conversations we have, the more understanding we have the better for our students.”
Article X of Montana’s Constitution and the Indian Education for All act encourage all Montana schools to educate students on the state’s rich American Indian Heritage.
The Office of Public Instruction will be holding an IEFA Best Practices Conference in March.
John Riley reporting for MTN News