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From Erasure to Visibility: Ethnic Studies Support Materials

Explore Native existence, resistance, and plans for the future.


About The Lessons:

"From Erasure to Revitalization": Lessons for Ethnic Studies is a collaborative project between Redbud Resource Group and the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, as a part of the California Indian Education for All project

Adaptable for grades 6-12

Essential Questions:


  1. How does erasure impact communities?

  2. Who should tell our stories, and why does it matter?


Most Americans know very little about Native peoples. This is not an accident. Settler communities (communities made up of people whose indigenous ancestry is not rooted in the place where they live) have very little access to the Native point of view or experience. 


In California, and in other states, Native culture, perspectives, and existence are largely ignored in all spaces of modern, public life. This includes politics, economics, the humanities, medicine, science, and more. Cultural erasure of Native peoples has  historically been used to: 


  1. Justify the expansion and development of land by settler communities in Native land

  2. Justify violence inflicted onto Native peoples by settler communities throughout colonization, into contemporary times


Ignoring, overlooking, or rewriting Native history, culture, and existence keeps Native people from receiving the proper support, respect, and justice that they deserve. 


In the lessons included in this unit, students learn about the concept of erasure, consider ways that cultural erasure impacts Native communities, and explore ongoing movements to combat erasure and improve Native visibility. Students have opportunities to reflect on their own cultural identities, and the ways in which they might improve positive examples of cultural visibility in their own communities.


Teachers may choose to teach these lessons in a unit, or in isolation, to fit the thematic structure of a larger ethnic studies unit course. 


Major Ethnic Studies themes and pedagogies that are present in this course, as outlined in “Ethnic Studies Pedagogy as CxRxP, Cuauhtin 2019”, and “Counter-storytelling and Decolonial Pedagogy, Fernandez 2019 include:


  1. Indigeneity and Roots (lesson 5)

  2. Coloniality and Dehumanization (lesson 2, 3, and 4)

  3. Regeneration and Decoloniality (Lesson 5 and 6)

  4. Counter-storytelling (Lessons 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6)


The narrative flow of the unit is as follows:


1. Introduction to Native Identity- Political, cultural, racial elements of identity are explored. 

2. The Myth of Inevitable Extinction- Students challenge the idea that Native people are extinct. Students understand that state sanctioned violence decimated Native populations, and that these movements were a conscious choice.


3. Historical Erasure and Dehumanization- The dehumanizing treatment of Ishi, a Yahi Native man, by anthropologists at UC Berkeley is compared to Native perspectives on his life and legacy.  Students discuss the importance of communities telling their own stories. 


4. Assimilation and Resistance- Through poetry analysis and local examples, students discuss the relationship between assimilation and resistance. Students connect state sanctioned violence against Native people to assimilation. 


5. Relationship to Place- Students analyze examples of cultural erasure of Native people in public spaces. They then explore the Native worldview as it relates to ecology, and imagine what Native visibility in these places can look like. 


6./7. Resilience and Revitalization - Students learn about contemporary cultural revitalization movements, and reflect on the impact that revitalization can have on the community at large. Students reflect on their own communities, and brainstorm ways to become positive examples for their peers.


Note about sources:


The sources included in this unit are available to the public on the internet. It is recommended that teachers watch/listen to all sources before teaching the unit. Teachers may find comparable additional sources to add to the unit, to supplement lessons. 

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