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Saturday, September 23, 2023

A case study about Native Americans school children Wyoming

By Judith Miller

 Special to CSMS MagazineI am originally from Wyoming, and I have chosen to write about Native Americans of that part of the United States. Wyoming has a total population of 509,294, out of that 509,294, 94.8% of the population is white.  After that, the next largest group is Native Americans, making up just 2.4% of the total population.  Wyoming has a rich history of Native Americans residing here.  For example, back in the 1800s Wyoming was home to several tribes, which included the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, and the Shoshone.     Today Wyoming has two main tribes: the Arapaho and the Shoshone.  Both of these tribes share a large reservation.  The name of the reservation where these tribes reside is the Wind River Reservation, which is located in the heart of Wyoming.  The reservation covers over 2.5 million acres of land across the state of Wyoming, which includes hundreds of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.  The reservation is also home to numerous different species, such as deer, antelope, elk, and black bears.  The total population of the reservation is 21,915.  Both tribes the Arapaho and the Shoshone make up the total population.       In Wyoming as a teacher, one would have a difficult task, educating the Native American youth.  The reservation is like a foreign country with a totally different culture. There are numerous problems that a teacher trying to connect with their students could face. Since the Native American children are raised on the reservation, the children grew up with different personal views of the outside world, unlike the majority of the other children in the teacher’s classroom.       The first problem the teacher could encounter while teaching a Native American student is the relationship between the student’s parents and himself. The student’s parents could possibly be strict about their children learning the traditional values of Native Americans, causing a friction between the parents and teacher.  Most likely the teacher will not be familiar with the Shoshone or the Arapaho culture and will not be able to adequately educate the children in the tribe’s traditional ways and beliefs.  The student’s parents might believe that the teacher could possibly want to change their child’s life in a negative matter.  The parents might feel that their child’s tribal life is being threatened, not only by subject matters being taught, but also by the teacher’s opinions on different areas of life.  This major concern could cause the parent/teacher relationship to sour and would ultimately stunt the child’s educational growth.     Another conflict the teacher could have is the teacher/student relationship.  This could be a problem for numerous reasons.  First, the students might not want to listen to their teacher and the lesson plan the teacher has provided due to the children’s experience on the reservation.  The children might not find the information they learn in the classroom being beneficial to them due to what they go through daily on the reservation.  On the Wind River Reservation, the children’s first educational experience is taught from their parents and grandparents point of view, which might be biased towards a formal education that is not within their traditional learning methods, causing the children to become biased towards the formal education.       The statistics on the Wind River Reservation are staggering. Only 62.8% of children graduate form high school while only 6.2 % receive a bachelor degree or higher.  This illustrates to the children that a formal education will not help them succeed to a higher social status in the reservation.  By living on the reservation, the Native American children could lose their ambition and cause a conflict between their relationships with their teachers.  The children could become unmotivated towards their schoolwork, frustrating their teachers.       Another area where the student/teacher relationship could become a problem is the drastically different cultures between life on the reservation and life in the classroom.  The teacher most likely will not be able to relate with their Native American students, and this could alter their education. The best teachers can relate to every student that steps in their classroom, creating a safe and friendly environment for their students, conducive to learning.  Since the cultures are so drastically different between the teacher and the Native American, students there would not feel that sense of security in the classroom, which could ultimately lead to the Native American students not succeeding in the classroom.  Teachers and students need a sense of trust in order to secure a successful school year, which might not be fulfilled with the cultural differences between the Native American students and their teachers.       If a teacher has the unique opportunity to educate a Native American student, the teacher should be well educated in the student’ s culture and history.  In order to make the school year a successful one, the teacher should educate himself about the Native American culture.  The Native American student will already feel out of place, probably being the only one in the classroom of Native American heritage, so it is the teacher’s duty to make the student feel as comfortable as possible.  The teacher can make the student feel like he is in a safe environment by learning about the student’s background, such as family history, tribal history, and tribal culture.      This would allow the Native American students to feel comfortable inside the classroom, and it would also benefit the other students in the class.  It would benefit the other non-Native American students because they would learn first hand about a different culture that exists in their community.  It would be extremely beneficial for all the students in the class. It would help Native American students become familiar with the culture outside of the reservation while it would help the other students gain significant information about a different culture that is present in their community.  Ultimately the teacher needs to be aware of what is at stake and be prepared to be proactive in educating himself about his or her students’ backgrounds to ensure a successful educational experience for every student. NoteJudith Miller is a writer. She lives in Palo Alto, California. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine. Also see Native Americans must be respected: https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20061012I297

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