5635 - "Why is that town called Stockbridge?" - Teaching Mohican culture, language and history in schools - A curriculum project.

The curriculum project “The Mohican People, Their Lives and Their Lands” was designed for the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin, U.S.A. It is intended to help teachers, especially of fourth and fifth grade levels, to integrate information about the Mohican people into their regular Social Studies curriculum.

The Mohicans inhabited the valley of the mighty Mahicannituck long before Henry Hudson sailed up that very same river in 1609. Many New Yorkers, as well as the people in surrounding states, know little if anything about them, their history, or their culture—often they think they were a people who disappeared. In spite of James Fenimore Cooper’s mistaking them for the Mohegan and, in so many words, pronouncing them “a vanishing people,” the Mohicans are indeed alive and well and living in Wisconsin. The curriculum project is one small effort to bridge the gap of learning for young people who should know that this Native nation was once a power to be reckoned with in what we now call the northeastern United States.

The curriculum is based on several principles of progressive educational practice. In terms of its content, it values issues of social justice, multicultural perspectives, translation of dry facts into stories about the people who created the facts, and anti-racist curriculum. Regarding its process or classroom strategies, it is geared toward learning what is relevant to the children’s own lives, group work and experiential activities, peer teaching, analytical reading and thinking, respect for varied intelligence and talents of children, democratic classroom and so on.

In this talk I will introduce this project and give examples of teaching Native culture, language, and history in schools in an effort to preserve but also revive it. My findings are based on the firsthand experiences of teachers who have integrated the curriculum in their classroom activities in the past years as well as accompanying literature. My research for this project was and will be conducted on the Stockbridge Munsee Reservation.

Keywords: Education, Curriculum, Stockbridge Munsee

Author: Moertl, Heidrun (University of Graz / University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, Austria / Österreich)


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