Prior Lake, Minn. – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) today announced the launch of Understand Native Minnesota, a $5 million, three-year strategic initiative and philanthropic campaign to improve the Native American narrative in Minnesota schools. SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton, who will lead the campaign for the tribe, announced the effort at the 50th annual convention of the National Indian Education Association, held in Minneapolis.
“Most education about Native Americans does not acknowledge the existence and vitality of modern Native communities. We have been mostly invisible,” said Secretary/Treasurer Crooks-Stratton. “We believe that by promoting Native narrative change in Minnesota schools through a dedicated campaign, we can improve younger generations’ understanding of tribes, Native peoples and their contributions to the state.”
The Understand Native Minnesota campaign aims to improve public attitudes toward Native Americans by incorporating greater awareness of Native Americans, along with accurate information about their history, culture and modern tribal governments, into Minnesota’s K-12 education system. Programming of the campaign will include classroom resources, improved curricula, and professional development for teachers and school administrators.
“Understand Native Minnesota creates a new opportunity to reframe kids’ and ultimately adults’ thinking about Indigenous people in our state,” said Ramona Stately (Santee), board chair of the Minnesota Indian Education Association and Indian education program coordinator for the Osseo Area Schools. “We in the education profession, Native and non-Native alike, who teach about Native Americans can be grateful for the possibilities which this new initiative now gives our work.”
A report released today by the National Congress of American Indians on current efforts across the United States to bring high-quality educational content about Native peoples into K-12 classrooms found that while its efforts are stronger than many other states, Minnesota lacks access to curriculum for educators. In addition, national polling conducted by the Reclaiming Native Truth project found that 72% of Americans agree it is necessary to make significant change to school curricula about Native American history and culture.
“Efforts to improve the public’s knowledge about contemporary Native Americans is spreading nationally,” said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), CEO of IllumiNative, a national organization focused on increasing the visibility of and challenging the negative narrative about Native Nations and peoples in American society, and co-director of the Reclaiming Native Truth project. “Shakopee is known as an extraordinarily generous and visionary philanthropic leader in Indian Country. With its focus on Minnesota’s K-12 system, the tribe’s new campaign gives fresh inspiration to everyone working in the narrative change field across the United States.”
For more information about Understand Native Minnesota, visit UnderstandNativeMN.org.
About the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Dakota tribal government located southwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Following a Dakota tradition of generosity, the SMSC is one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota and is the largest contributor to other tribal governments and causes across the country. It is a strong community partner and a leader in protecting and restoring natural resources. The SMSC’s government, Gaming Enterprise and various other enterprises are collectively the largest employer in Scott County and attract millions of visitors to the region.