Sovereignty curriculum a start, not enough

POULSBO — The North Kitsap School District and the Suquamish Tribe’s Education Department are coming together to discuss the importance of teaching Native American culture and government in schools.

A meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Suquamish Tribe Education Department, 15838 Sandy Hook Road, Poulsbo. The agenda includes a discussion of graduation requirements and the newly established sovereignty curriculum.

While the sovereignty curriculum has been well received and is planned on being picked up by more teachers in the district, some have questioned whether it is enough.

Superintendent of Suquamish education Joe Davalos raised concerns about whether or not the material was suitable for students in the elementary and middle school levels.

“They should get the material when they are ready for it,” Davalos said. “How complex can you really get in the seventh grade?”

The material, provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, is intended as supplement material to current curriculums for history, social studies and contemporary world issue classes in the district. The material focuses on tribal sovereignty, including court cases and treaties and highlights the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes in Kitsap County.

Though OSPI has provided the sovereignty material for elementary, middle school and high school levels, the main focus will be for seventh grade social studies classes.

However, the curriculum — currently available to teachers through the OSPI website — is non-mandated. Non-mandated material has been put into law within the district, but it is not required to teach.

“Unless a principal is going around to the classes how will we know if the material is being taught,” Davalos said.

In terms of non-mandated material, keeping an eye on whether it is being taught is always an issue, said seventh grade social studies teacher Mary Macala.

Macala piloted portions of the material for the past two years in her social studies class.

Once the school year begins, incorporating new material becomes difficult, Macala said. The sovereignty curriculum contains large documents and time to read through those is scarce, she said.

“It’s daunting,” Macala said, referring to reading through documents of new material. “It’s really hard to look around and say ‘I want to teach that.’ (Teachers) just don’t have the time.”

When the curriculum was being created, OSPI Program Supervisor Denny Hurtado discussed bringing the material to the state legislature, Macala said. But she said Hurtado knew it would not be passed.

If the curriculum had

been passed by the legislature, it would be required to teach. Currently, teachers can pick out portions of the curriculum which they already teach.

Instead of offering pieces of tribal history to individual grade levels, Davalos said he would like to see an elective at the high schools.

An elective course would benefit students who wanted to go more in-depth on tribal history, Macala said. However, sovereignty is not the only tribal history taught in social studies and history classrooms and the added OSPI curriculum is an added voice to the material already taught, she said.

For many students at the elementary and middle school levels, governmental issues are new topics. While they may have a basic understanding, most of the material on treaties and court decisions is new.

“The lessons designed for the elementary and middle school levels is like the lower part of scaffolding,” Macala said. “We’re building the students up for the high school.

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