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Native Perspectives: 
Every Day Lessons

Help your students build relationships with the place they live.

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"Native Perspectives - Everyday Lessons" is a fundamental Native studies unit created for use in mainstream educational settings.

Adaptable for grades 3-8

Essential Question:

 

  1. How do we show respect and reciprocity to the land and its local Native communities?

 

Climate change is at the forefront of crises facing the United States and Nations all over the world. Many efforts have been made in recent years to fight environmental degradation through education.

 

Before colonization, Indigenous peoples have stewarded this land we call home since time immemorial, a time so long ago it is uncertain exactly when. Yet, even today, school curricula completely ignores the contributions Native communities have made to the land and the invaluable knowledge Indigenous cultures have to offer our understandings of local ecosystems and climate resilience. 

 

Our planet is in desperate need of the rematriation of land, returning land stewardship to its original caretakers. In congruence with the healing and repair of Native communities through culture revitalization and land rematriation, education also plays a vital role in improving public health outcomes for Native communities.  

Integrating Native perspective into everyday classroom learning challenges: 

 

  1. Oppressive systems of settler colonialism

  2. Western knowledge as superior to all other understandings

  3. The exclusion of student experience

 

Reorienting education from a Native perspective not only creates space for Native students to feel seen, heard, and appreciated, but offers every student a chance to build strong connections to the places in which they live and learn.

 

The lessons included in this unit emphasize three important Indigenous values - respect, reciprocity and relationships. The unit is designed to address the six "Critical Orientations for Indigenous Studies" by Dr. Leilani Sabzalian:

  1. Place

  2. Presence

  3. Power

  4. Perspective

  5. Political Nationhood

  6. Partnerships

 

An emphasis on these overarching values and orientations should give non-Native educators the foundational tools they need to teach respectful and responsible Native curriculum in their classrooms. 

The narrative flow of the unit is as follows:

Introduction: "The 3 R's" - The first lesson aims to introduce three important values to the Indigenous communities of California - respect, reciprocity and relationships. Students will build on their understanding of these values through discussion, a reading by an Indigenous author, and some creative writing. This lesson will create a strong foundation for the lessons that follow on Indigenous place, presence, perspectives, power, political nationhood, and partnerships.

1. "Understanding Where We Live" aims to expand students’ understanding of their local geography  by looking through an Indigenous lens. Students will explore natural geographic features in their local communities, how these features are related to Tribal peoples, and how we can care for and respect our land. Students will learn to recognize the lands as ancestral homelands and acknowledge the land’s importance to local Tribes.

2. "Our Native Neighbors" provides students with a contemporary portrayal of Native Americans connecting their ancestral traditions to modern times. Students should be able to build on their understanding of respect, reciprocity and relationships with Native peoples.

 

3. "Lessons of the Past" shares with students an Indigenous perspective of California history through the personal stories of the Tribal peoples of the coastal and redwood forest regions of Northern California.

 

4. "Traditional Foods and Tribal Sovereignty" gives students a basic understanding of Tribal Sovereignty, why it is important for Native communities, and how Native peoples are using their sovereignty to combat serious health problems. Students will practice empathy through stories, and create their own story that illustrates what they have taken away from the lesson.

 

5. "Our Ecosystems" emphasizes interdependent relationships within ecosystems, with a special focus on Oak Woodlands. Students will collaborate on a final presentation in which they will think about the interconnectedness of the natural world and reflect on our relationship with it and the local Tribes that tended to it since time immemorial.

 

6. Final Project - Students will apply the knowledge they gained from the previous lessons to create a thoroughly-researched Land Acknowledgement for the place they live, as well as create a Shoebox Diorama of a local ecosystem based off of scientific observation and exploration.

 

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. 

About The Lessons: