Culturally Responsive Curriculum for Secondary Schools


As a Public Service Center of the Evergreen State College, the Northwest Indian Applied Research Institute, the Evergreen Center for Educational Improvement, and OSPI's Office of Indian Education presents our work into the research and development of culturally-responsive and culturally-appropriate curriculum representing Northwest Native American tribes for use in Washington state secondary public schools.

The curriculum was developed by Cheree Potts, an MIT graduate and a Research Associate at NIARI. You may contact her directly with comments or questions.

We believe that most information about Native Americans in the public school system in this state is not accurate, fair, or equitable. "Negative stereotypes coupled with inadequate and inaccurate information about this Nation's Indigenous peoples, particularly in social studies curricula, damages the self-concepts and subsequent behavior of our youth." (Swisher & Tippeconnic, "99) In discussing the impact of America's ignorance on the lives of American Indians, the Editor of the Tribal College Journal, Marjane Ambler, states, "I have yet to meet anyone who was taught about treaties or tribal sovereignty in a high school civics class when they learned about federal, state, or local governments. When conflicts arise is not a time for education. As states and tribes battle over taxation, water rights, or gaming compacts, citizens tend to be polarized, not informed by the debate. Native Americans should be given a stronger place in the curriculum of America's schools. The goal should be more than increased 'sensitivity' or awareness of 'diversity'."(Skinner, "99)

"A culturally-appropriate curriculum is the building block to achieving a challenging, relevant, thought-provoking and, most importantly, responsive education for all children in America's schools." (Yazzie, "99) A culturally-responsive curriculum uses materials and resources that link traditional or cultural knowledge originating in Native American home life and community to the curriculum. "If gaining in-depth and comprehensive knowledge is the goal of education, the learning about tribal cultures only as they relate to the history and priories of White American culture underrepresents the parallel but separate knowledge systems of Indian peoples and the many unacknowledged contributions tribal cultures have made and continue to make to the whole society." (Yazzie, "99)

In a recent report on Native American colleges, Paul Boyer stated the need for education about Indians and proposed that "all students leave high school have learned three "pieces of essential knowledge': understanding the richness of Native American heritage, that Indians are contemporary people, and that Indians hold a unique place in the nation's body of law." (Skinner, '99) We feel a close examination of negative stereotypes and the history of mis-information should also be undertaken to assist students in gaining a positive, more equitable view of Native peoples. These are the four organizing concepts behind our lesson plans. (See accompanying rubric)

It is time to meld our collective learning experiences and rise to the great challenge of creating effective classrooms that reflect respect for our children and create a stronger and more just future for all children.


  1. Pre-Assessment/Stereotypes
    • Native American Stereotypes and Realities
    • Stereotypes in Art
    • Movie Stereotypes
    • Dos & Don'ts for Teachers & Parents
    • Guidelines for Researchers
    • Outline for Sample Survey Course
    • The Language of Indian Derision
  2. Bering Strait Migration Theory
  3. Columbus: The Truth Behind the Myth
  4. Washington State Diversity: Three Geographical & Cultural Regions
    • Language Family Map
    • Indian Trade Network Map
  5. Archeological Heritage Introduction:
    Archeological Sites in Washington State
    • Glossary of Terms
    • Ch.27.44 RCW - Indian Graves and Records
    • Articles on Archeological Finds in Washington State
  6. Timeline Perspective
    • Timeline Poster
  7. Stevens' Treaties
    • Introducing Primary Documents
    • Ch.7 - A People's History of the United States
    • Ch.3 - Indians in the Making - "Treaties and War"
  8. Importance of Saving Salmon From Extinction
    • How Much Time Do We Have?
    • Salmon, the Lifegiving Gift
  9. Colonization Effects From First Encounter Through Us Federal Policy
  10. Native American Economics: Economic Contributions of Native Americans to Washington State
    • Tribal Lands and Reservations in Washington
    • Population by Race, & other tables, statistics, etc.
  11. Boarding Schools
    • Assimilation through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest
    • Ch. 1 & Conclusion - Education for Extinction
  12. Native Viewpoints: In Their Own Words
    • Native American Testimony stories - "Farming and Futility", "The New Indian Wars." & "Confronting Columbus Again"
  13. Contemporary Issues - Makah Whaling
    • Ozette: A Makah Village in 1497
    • The Makah Tribe: People of the Sea and Forest
    • Makah Whaling: Questions and Answers
    • articles -"Makah Pride Continues to Grow" & "It's Finishing What We Started"
  14. Contemporary Issues - Leonard Peltier
    • FBI opens Web page in case against Peltier
    • Protestor call for Leonard Peltier's release
    • Native American Testimony - "Birth of AIM" & "Confrontation or Negotiation"
  15. Contemporary People - Joe DeLaCruz
    • Centennial Accord
    • "Passages: Joe DeLaCruz"
  16. Contemporary People - Bernie Whitebear
    • "Walking On: Bernie Whitebear"
  17. Contemporary People - Sherman Alexie
    • "The many lives of Sherman Alexie"
    • Chapter from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  18. Ecological Viewpoints: Connecting with Nature
    • Communicating a Sense of the Sacred
    • Indigenous People - Caretakers of All Life
  19. Survival of Native American Spirituality
  20. Native American Literature
    • Book Lists
  21. Native American Literature: A Paradigm Shift
  22. Native American Learning Stories
    • foreword from Who Speaks for Wolf?

How To Use This Curriculum Guide

The information and lesson plans in this guide will increase the studentĖs interest and appreciation of the cultural and natural heritage of Native Americans in Washington state and the United States. This project provides current, as well as historically correct, information that can be easily adapted or integrated into the Social Studies units of all public schools. These curriculum materials and lesson plans are designed to, (1) be user-friendly to high school teachers who do not have a background in Northwest tribal or Native American issues, and (2) be in alignment and in fulfillment of the relevant EALRĖs pertaining to each lesson.

We have provided at least a minimum set of reference materials, so the teacher will have at their fingertips a place to start in providing accurate and concrete information to their students, and any lesson plan can be use individually without having to adopt a whole curriculum package or textbook,

Because there is no cost for these materials, and their availability over the Internet, with accompanying resources or links to resources, it is a winning situation for teachers, students, school districts, administrators, and all taxpayers. We also plan to offer professional teacher training workshops, and seminars for small groups of teacher beginning in the summer of 2001.

For each lesson, the activities are guided by the EALRĖs in Reading, Writing, Communication, Science, and Social Studies (History, Geography, Civics, & Economics). They are not only addressed at the beginning of each lesson, but also under the individual headings, Knowledge and Values.

The best use of this curriculum guide is the one that meets the teacherĖs needs. Teachers should feel free to creatively use, adapt, review, modify and apply the resource materials and lesson plans in this guide. You may already be using many of these resources or have others you can apply to a specific lesson. We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience and knowledge. Please submit sample ideas or suggestions to us to aid us in furthering this work.