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Back to School: Nurturing Community through Native Perspectives

By Trelasa Baratta, Education Specialist, Redbud Resource Group



“[Community] is the place of sharing life through everyday acts as well as through songs, dance, story, and celebration. It is the place of teaching, learning, making art, and sharing thoughts, feelings, joy, and grief. It is the place for feeling and being connected, for belonging. The community is the place where each person can, metaphorically speaking, become complete and express the fullness of his or her life.”



For Indigenous people, community and education are one and the same. Teachers also understand that building community is an essential part of building trust within a classroom. When students trust, they're more open to trying new things and listening to new ideas.


Students’ personal experiences deeply shape their ability to empathize with others and engage with difficult content. Taking time to help them experience perspectives other than their own is a crucial step in a nurturing community of learners who trust one another and are willing to take risks.


For teachers who want to integrate Native Studies into their classrooms, it is essential that you start to shift students’ perspectives away from a settler experience towards an Indigenous one. The earlier you start doing this, the better! So why not start at the very beginning of the school year?



Here are some ways that you can help build community while also preparing students to engage with Indigenous perspectives and histories in future lessons:

  1. Weave respect, reciprocity and relationship building into your classroom norms at the beginning of the school year using Native-curated lesson plans and materials from Redbud’s elementary-middle school unit, Native Perspectives, Everyday Lessons.

  2. Try this perspective shifting exercise to challenge biased narratives using maps.

  3. How are you connected to the Native land that you live on? This reflection exercise is fun for children and adults alike!

  4. Consider using Redbud's Wellness Model as a guide to help students understand how health and well-being are largely dependent on the quality of our relationships.



How can you as an educator prepare yourself to teach these perspective-shifting exercises in a culturally sustaining way?

  1. Learn more about Native students' experiences with historical trauma in schools.

    1. Access the entire video series here!

  2. Read our free, downloadable Educator’s Guide - Seeing Our Native Students.

  3. Explore previous blogs on Indigenizing curricula and pedagogy.

  4. Consider using our monthly guide to weave Native Studies into your classroom throughout the school year.



How else can you integrate Native perspectives into the classroom? Check out these resources:

  1. History Through a Native Lens: A chronological timeline containing historically traumatic events, settler colonial policies, and Native resistance movements.

  2. Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Science & Management and Advocacy & Water Protection Native California curriculum by Save California Salmon

  3. Recently updated! Run4Salmon Curriculum by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe

As you prepare for the new school year, I invite you to explore these resources and consider how they might help you start off on the right foot. The insights and tools offered can guide you in creating an environment where every student feels a sense of belonging and connection.


To explore more free education resources, head to our Educational Resources page!


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