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Indigenous history is one of the newest requirements in Minnesota classrooms

A classroom filled with desks and a wall lined with chalkboards and a map.

Some important wording tucked into a section of a bill, passed last spring by Minnesota legislature, describes a new requirement for classrooms across the state in one simple sentence:

”Indigenous education for all students.”

The new requirement includes that Minnesota teachers renewing their K-12 license must receive “professional development in the cultural heritage and contemporary contributions of American Indians, with particular emphasis on Minnesota Tribal Nations.”

Tanis Henderson, Grand Rapids High School counselor and descendant of White Earth Nation, has said that being an educator means always wanting to learn more.

“We want to be educated, we want to know more about things,” she said. “But part of my love for Indigenous education for all is it not only focuses on history, but current contributions and experiences of Indigenous peoples in our area.”

Under the education bill passed this spring, all teachers will need the training starting January first. The goal is to better serve Native American students in every school across the state, and to right past wrongs where their ancestors were left out of history books.

“That’s one of the nice things about the the added licensure requirements is that teachers, by having a better understanding, are going to be able to be in relationship better with Indigenous students.” Tanis said, “And that’s really the goal because if students are feeling connected, they’re going to do better in school.”

Henderson said after the Licensing Board and Minnesota Department of Education has updated their standards it’ll be up to districts and teachers to find the training through proper channels and fill the list of requirements needed to renew.

“It’s really about being seen. I think about the experience that my children will have compared to the experience that I have,” She said. “They will know in school what it means to be Indigenous and that will be part of the conversation,”

Henderson spoke with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer about this new requirement. The conversation can be found above.