The legacy lives on: celebrating Native American Heritage Month

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November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans and to acknowledge their valued contributions.

In his National Native American Heritage Month proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group. They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward.”

This month, and all year long, take the time to educate, advocate, and raise greater awareness for the rich traditions and histories of Indigenous communities.

The history of Native American Heritage Month

The journey to recognition was not an easy one. It started with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a descendent of the Seneca tribe and the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who was one of the first proponents of an American Indian Day back in 1915. His efforts, combined with the relentless work of Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, led to the declaration of the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day by the governor of New York.

Years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Since then, this commemoration has evolved into what we now know as Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to educate the public about tribes, raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and honor the vital role they play in enriching our nation.

From the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the U.S. Constitution to the Navajo Code Talkers’ contribution during World War II, the impact of Native Americans is deeply woven into the fabric of American history.

Honoring the vital role of Native Americans

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month can come in many forms. One of the most meaningful ways is through education. Take the time to learn about the different tribes, their histories, and their contributions. Many museums, libraries, and educational institutions like ASU offer exhibits, discussions, and resources during this month.

Participating in cultural activities is another great way to honor this month. Many communities host powwows, dance exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events. These gatherings are not only fun but also provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural diversity of Native Americans.

Consider supporting Native American businesses and artists to show respect and appreciation. By purchasing Native American art, jewelry, food, and other goods, you’re helping to sustain their traditions and support their communities.

Learn about the important contributions of barrier-breaking Native Americans who continue to shape our society, lead their communities, and impact our culture today. Research Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first female Native American to travel to space or Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who became the first Indigenous Cabinet member in U.S. history, among countless others.

Lastly, advocacy is a powerful way to celebrate. Stand with Native communities in their fight for recognition, rights, and respect. Advocate for policies that protect their lands, cultures, and identities. Arizona State University has taken steps to increase awareness & appreciation, as well as motivate advocacy, through the ASU Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, recognizing its campuses are situated on the homelands of many indigenous communities, many of whom continue to live in the area.

Continue to celebrate, learn, and honor

Native American Heritage Month is a reminder of the enduring and resilient spirit of Native people. The richness of their cultures, the depth of their wisdom, and the strength of their spirit continue to inspire us all. In honoring their heritage, we enrich our own understanding and become more compassionate and informed citizens.

This November, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate, learn, and honor the first people of this land. Let’s remember that every day is a good day to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures and contributions of Native Americans.

Designing the New American High School

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“How can we design a national research and development center and amass evidence on innovations, best practices, and policies to support schools and states that want to retool or restart their high schools?” This is the question Sean Leahy of “The Learning Futures” podcast recently asked to a panel of educational leaders to discuss.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Fowler, Deputy Head of Schools at ASU Preparatory Academy and Executive Director of Special Projects, was among the panelists. She was joined by Chelsea Waite, Principal and senior researcher at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at ASU; Erin Whalen, Executive Director and School Principal of Da Vinci RISE High; and Nate McClennen, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Getting Smart. 

Here are some ASU highlights from the podcast: 

  • Accelerated Change. We’re seeing massive growth and accelerations of disruptions, technological and otherwise. Changes are occurring faster and faster. The role of a K-12 school is to prepare people to be a contributing and functional member of society. Maybe the system has to change to help prioritize what’s coming next. The new “superpowers” are the ability to pivot and learn. 
  • Supportive, Developmental Environments. The teen years are a critical development period and schools need to prioritize providing supportive relationships. Waite said, “Yes, they’re places of learning, but you don’t learn unless you have trusting supportive relationships with peers and adults and have spaces to learn about yourself and who you are in relation to the world around you.”
  • Exposure to Higher Education. Fowler shared that at ASU Prep Academy, it is their goal to have all students take at least 15 university credits while in high school. “We really want them to have a positive experience with higher education while they’re here with us and want them to believe they have that choice when they leave us—all students, no matter their background, no matter their parents’ story and what they’ve maybe been exposed to,” she said. “We see our obligation as that all learners believe they have that support.”
  • Authentic Learning. Courses are not the only way to learn. Authentic learning starts as an observer. Helping out and pitching in. Building skills and being mentored. Given more complex tasks. Working on something together and skill building. Ask someone, “How do you want to learn?” Taking a course is generally not the answer received. “We don’t always get it right. We iterate. We try to figure it out. We ask what are kids feeling about the different things we’re designing with them? It’s really exciting to be doing the work in this space,” said Fowler.
  • AI, Access & the Future. Panelists agree that AI will play a bigger and bigger role for every learner, and that access to an AI tool will be important for knowledge building. “How do we get the students who’ve never had access to AI, and how do we make sure our schools are equitable?” are among the questions asked. Fowler said they’ve been pondering what high school looks like with AI technology increasing in play and talked about the partnership with Sal Khan and Khan World School and the unique learning it provides.

Undoubtedly, designing the new American High School is a systems challenge. It’s not just how to design new models or how to replicate and spread models, or the policies needed to be in place. It’s all things together and a lot more.

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