On March 10, 2017, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed House Bill 76/House Enrolled Act 119, which aims to educate all Wyoming students about American Indian tribes of the region, including the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes.
This decision aligns with NCTE’s long-standing Guideline on Non-White Minorities in English and Language Arts Materials(1978). The guideline notes, “During the course of their education, students acquire more than skills and knowledge; they also find and continue to modify images of themselves, as they form attitudes toward other persons, races, and cultures. To be sure, the school experience is not the sole force that shapes self-images, nor does it totally influence one’s attitude toward others. But to the extent that school does exert influence, it is essential that its materials foster positive student self-images deeply rooted in a sense of personal dignity. School materials should also foster the development of attitudes grounded in respect for and understanding of the diverse cultures of American society.”
State leaders, district and school officials, and classroom teachers are equally responsible and obligated to provide students “the opportunity to learn about the history and literature of other Americans who are non-whites.” In alliance with NCTE’s guideline, the Wyoming law requires the State Department of Education, in consultation with the tribes, to make available materials and resources on the agency’s web site to assist school districts in meeting social studies benchmarks relating to the study of American Indian tribes.
In the center of Wyoming is the seventh largest and fifth most populated Indian Reservation in the United States: the Wind River Reservation, home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Wind River Education (http://windriveredu.org/) offers resources and modules addressing the following questions:
· Who are the People of the Wind River Reservation?
· Who are the Eastern Shoshone?
· Who are the Northern Arapahoe?
· How Does Tribal Government Work?
· Preserving the Ways – Culture and Traditions.
In addition, the site offers videos, lesson plans, and links to educational resources for teachers and students.
The Wyoming State Board of Education has been tasked with reviewing Wyoming’s social studies standards to ensure the cultural heritage, history and contemporary contributions of American Indians are addressed. The Wyoming State Department of Education, at https://edu.wyoming.gov/in-the-classroom/native-american/, provides periodic updates on the process of reviewing the standards and development of materials.
The state’s decision also aligns with NCTE’s Resolution on Native American Literature which states the following: “that Native American literature and culture be taught kindergarten through college; and that programs in teacher preparation be encouraged to include resources, materials, and methods of presenting Native American literature and culture.” While the state’s initiative is aimed at social studies teachers, it is apparent that NCTE and English Language Arts teachers could also work to ensure the cultural heritage, history and contemporary contributions of American Indians in Wyoming.