Students in Oakland Elementary School’s fourth grade classrooms are part of a Native American tribe during their social science studies, with their teacher as the chief.

Starting in the 2019-20 school year there will be a statewide curriculum on Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes as part of tribal history/shared history.

On Tuesday, groups of about eight students formed bands, named a spokesperson and created a symbol.

The spokespeople then got to participate in tribal meetings where they discussed important issues, such as the lunch menu and extra recess.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians created curriculum, with the help of Education Northwest, which was piloted at three school districts in Douglas County this year — South Umpqua, Oakland and Roseburg.

As part of the curriculum, the students learned about how native governments work in a hands-on way.

Oakland teachers Sarah Henry-Patt and Rose Abbey were both excited to receive the instructional materials.

“No textbook from a national source is going to tell you about Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes,” Henry-Patt said. “I’ve always had to piece together my curriculum, but I’ve always taught Native American history because it’s so important to teach students about the rich history in our area.”

Cow Creek Tribe Education Support Specialist Sandy Henry said state and local materials will complement each other.

Senate Bill 13 was signed into law during the 2017 legislative session. It called upon the Oregon Department of Education to develop a curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon, including tribal history, tribal sovereignty, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences, and current events.

In May 2018, Education Northwest signed a contract with the state to assist in creating curriculum and assessment tools for Essential Understanding of Oregon’s American Indians which will be taught to fourth, eighth and tenth graders. The curriculum will align with state standards in English, arts, science, math, social science and physical education and health.

An advisory committee was formed with representatives from each of the nine tribes and began drafting the essential understandings.

“There is a very focused thought process with Indian tribes that this is an opportunity to tell an accurate story of indigenous people,” Henry said.

While the statewide curriculum will focus on all nine confederated tribes, Cow Creek also developed its own curriculum to expand on the statewide curriculum.

“It makes sense to me. You wouldn’t live in Rome and never bother to study Romans,” said Juliana Marez, who is in charge of American Indian Education at Roseburg Public Schools. “Oregon history didn’t start a few hundred years ago, it’s thousands of years old. That rich history, those cultures that have been here from time immemorial, those are cultures that are stepping forward and saying, ‘This is what we know and this is what we’ve learned by living in this space for thousands of years.’

“They have the opportunity to share that knowledge and help craft that curriculum so that all the kids get to know what was the name of that mountain over there before it was relabeled after some Army general or whatever,” Marez said. “What was the original name of it and what does it mean for the people who have lived here for thousands of years?”

Curriculum for fourth graders will focus on an overview, first contact and an introduction to the Cow Creek tribe. Eighth graders will focus heavily on treaties while tenth graders will learn about tribal sovereignty, the constitution and elected officials by the tribe.

Sarah Thompson-Moore, who is a member of the tribe, created three illustrations that are included in the curriculum. The images show a plank house, a camas root gathering and a village scene.

Henry said the local tribe plans to facilitate and problem solve as the curriculum is implemented. They also plan to make the Cow Creek educational material available in Douglas County and beyond.

Teachers will have the opportunity to get trained through professional learning opportunities on the new curriculum, prior to the start of the next school year.

As of Oct. 1, 2018, there were 14,408 total students enrolled in Douglas County public schools of which 248 were reported as American Indian/Alaskan Native, according to Chelsea Duncan, a district spokeswoman. As of April 16, Roseburg Public Schools had 74 students who checked only Native American on their registration forms, but Marez said those students represent 23 different tribes. School registration forms with more than one box checked were not counted in either tally.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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