HELENA — Pieces of Native American culture and tradition are helping students at Helena Public Schools learn about Montana's Indigenous people.
The Indian Education for All initiative is implemented throughout Montana. It works to educate all Montana schoolchildren about Indigenous culture and history.
Amanda Walking Child, the Indian Education for All Instructional Coach for Helena Public Schools, tells MTN that Montana is the only state in the union that has made this Indigenous education mandatory for all public schools. Her job is to go into the schools and teach the teachers about Indigenous education so that they can in turn teach their students.
“All students will have the knowledge base of, you know, Montana. 'Cause Montana is native lands, originally,” says Walking Child.
Currently, this fall in the Helena Public Schools, a tipi is being shared amongst different schools. This tipi is a good way to get a conversation started about Indigenous culture.
“I think it could be like an icebreaker. Kids are like, ‘Hey, what's that? Why is that here?’, you know. And then teachers have an easier hook to start talking about Indian education,” says Walking Child.
Some of the schools will teach classes inside the tipi. Indian education can vary depending on the school, but some in the Helena area will cover a broad field.
“If they go into music they’ll learn about native music and dance. And when they go to PE they'll learn about traditional games and play traditional games. And then when they go to library they go into the tipi and they read stories,” says Walking Child.
This program can also help those with Indigenous family to connect to those roots and take pride in their heritage and culture.
“And it is important for Indian Ed. for All to be in the districts because it gives a sense of belonging to native students who are actually the shy ones,” says Walking Child.