With NEH funding, Five Colleges, Incorporated, and co-directors Alice Nash of University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Linda Coombs of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head lead a professional development program for K-12 educators titled Teaching Native American Histories. The program takes place on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, the Wampanoag homeland in southeastern Massachusetts. Participants investigate questions about sources and interpretation, engage with the latest scholarship on Indigenous histories, and return to their classrooms with richer accounts of Native American histories and cultures.
During the immersive, three-week program, classroom discussions and guest lectures are paired with visits to historic sites and six Indigenous communities. During a visit to nearby Plimoth Plantation, participants consider the Wampanoag responses to the Pilgrims in the context of the epidemic diseases Europeans brought to their homeland and discuss how to incorporate more accurate representations of the first Thanksgiving into their curricula. And while visiting Indigenous communities, participants learn from tribal leaders, activists, and scholars about a variety of topics, including fights for federal recognition, historical trauma, and women’s and LGBT rights activism in Indigenous communities. Contemporary issues in Native communities and the diversity of Native cultures are emphasized and discussed through their visits. One participant wrote in a survey immediately following the program in 2019, “I want my students to know that Native American history didn’t end with colonization. I want them to see how these issues are relevant today.”
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of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they “gained an active network of colleagues outside of [their] school/district through the NEH summer program.”
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of survey respondents pursued additional educational or professional development opportunities as a result of their participation.
The workshop included a curriculum specialist as a part of its leadership. With their guidance, participants were able to collectively brainstorm about what they had learned, compare curricular requirements in their respective home states, share strategies, and develop materials to implement in their classrooms. One participant wrote, “One of the things I LOVED about the seminar was how well teaching techniques were shared and demonstrated by the facilitators and my fellow teachers.” Altogether, survey results from the program demonstrated how the institute instilled a sense of confidence and responsibility into the participants to incorporate Native histories and cultures into their classrooms. Another respondent wrote: “I am more aware than ever that how we teach information related to Indigenous Peoples needs a serious overhaul in the US. I am more aware that teachers like me are going to have to be involved, partner with Native scholars and educators, and create the change ourselves, rather than wait for state standards to catch up to the best (or at least better) practices that we already know exist for teaching Indigenous histories, culture and civic awareness.”