- Sense of Place -

In 1972, language was added to the Montana Constitution, Article X, Section 1(2):

The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the  preservation of their cultural integrity.

In 1999, the Montana legislature passed House Bill 528 into law – MCA 20-1-501 – that has become known as Indian Education for All.

It is the intent of the legislature . . . that every Montanan, whether Indian or non-Indian, be encouraged to learn about the distinct and unique heritage of American Indians in a culturally responsive manner . . . all school personnel should have an understanding and awareness of Indian tribes to help them relate effectively with Indian students and parents .. Every educational agency and all educational personnel will work cooperatively with Montana tribes . . . when providing instruction and implementing an educational goal.

Indian Education for All (IEFA) is about “all students in all Montana schools learning about Montana’s first people” (OPI, 2008).

One of the many challenges with this legislation is how to develop curricula and pedagogical frameworks that appropriately incorporate tribal knowledge, diversity, and ways of knowing into a formal educational system that was founded on Western principles of education.

The PlaceNames Project advocates the use of a “critical pedagogy of place” to help schools integrate tribal understandings into their teaching communities. Embedded in a critical understanding of place is a commitment to culturally responsive teaching. This requires that students be conscious not only of their place, but that of others’ places, and the relationship of these places to their identity and others’ sense of being.

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