Catholic curricula and the invisibility of Native Americans


Marlene Lang

January 23, 2019

Native American protestors hold hands with parishioner Nathanial Hall, right, during a group prayer outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington on Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Native American protestors hold hands with parishioner Nathanial Hall, right, during a group prayer outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington on Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As social media went wild on Saturday, I wondered: What message had the Covington Catholic High School students been given about Native Americans before their encounter with Nathan Phillips?

More broadly, I wondered about the place of America’s indigenous peoples in secondary education. I teach at a Catholic university across the river from Covington, Ky. Last December I introduced undergraduates to Native America via an episode of MTV’s “Rebel Music” series, and a presentation of my dissertation research. I had spent several years on a mission to listen respectfully to what Native Americans were telling white, Christian America. The act of listening was uncomfortable at best, and a long, stinging rebuke at worst.

My students encountered Native American scholars and activists like Vine Deloria Jr. and Dennis Banks, learned of the American Indian Movement and met a comedy troupe called The 1491s. I explained what happened at Wounded Knee in 1890 and showed the infamous photos of dead Native Americans left frozen and contorted in the snow. I read a grim account of discovering the jawbone of a Native American toddler who had “not yet shed its milk teeth,” left in the aftermath of the 1865 Sand Creek massacre.A handful in any classroom will know any Native American history at all, and others are surprised to find out what they “knew” was inaccurate.Tweet this

Putting Native American peoples and their history before students elicits self-admitted ignorance. A handful in any classroom will know any Native American history at all, and others are surprised to find out what they “knew” was inaccurate. The students have not failed. We educators have failed them. In last semester’s course, I think part of the students’ sadness came with realizing that they understood almost nothing about something important.

My research revealed one statement repeated by almost every indigenous voice I encountered: “No one is listening to us!” Similarly, half a century ago, the Native American writer Vine Deloria Jr. titled a long essay “We Talk, You Listen.” Winona LaDuke offered a 2017 op-ed saying she is tired of being ignored and invisible to “you all,” the “we all” being white Americans. Too often, Native Americans are known to people only as stereotypes—mascots with feathers, frozen in time. We act as if they “vanished” when they are very alive and present.Native Americans are known as stereotypes—mascots with feathers, frozen in time. We act as if they “vanished” when they are very alive and present.Tweet this

It should not be my place to speak about what Native Americans are saying, when what they themselves are saying is so rarely attended to. But that is the point. I am an outsider to tribal communities, yet I seem to be among the few who have listened long enough to feel uneasy as a beneficiary of their loss.

And I am a Catholic educator. I am feeling deeply this week the failure of American education—public, private and religious—to teach young citizens-in-the-making the full, problematic history of their own nation. Our students are too rarely confronted with the inconceivable suffering of African slaves and the unconscionable attempted genocide of the peoples who populated the Americas. The invisibility of Native America in education tells our students that indigenous people do not matter.RELATED STORIES

On Jan. 18, a teenager wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, center left, stands in front of an elderly Native American singing and playing a drum in Washington. (Survival Media Agency via AP)

After initial outrage, claims of racism, clearer details of exchange emergeCarol Zimmermann – Catholic News Service

Residents of an “Indian school,” Regina, Saskatchewan, 1908.

A pilgrimage for indigenous rights mobilizes faith communities in CanadaDean Dettloff

The social doctrine of the Catholic Church, distilled from papal encyclicals that began responding to social injustices during the industrial revolution, calls for every human being to be treated with dignity. It teaches solidarity with our struggling neighbors, the need to see ourselves as one human family. This teaching is part of any Catholic education.

Last weekend’s incident in Washington is a call for a corrective in education. How much did the young men from Covington High know about indigenous people? Probably very little. But we must teach an honest American history, not merely one provided by history’s “winners.”

The absence of indigenous peoples demonstrates that their criticisms are correct. Our unexamined sense of superiority finds them unimportant.

We are guilty to the extent that we dismiss the unpleasant, condemning truth, and fail to turn from it. We are guilty to the extent that we choose to cling to a comfortable place of privilege while the wreckage of conquest lies, barely dusted over, around us. Educators, from administrators to classroom teachers, need to examine the absence of the American Indian in their American schools, and correct it.

And, mostly, we need to hear what the indigenous have to teach us.



The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) has selected Philip C. Chinn to be this year’s recipient of the CARTER GODWIN WOODSON SERVICE AWARD. The award presentation will take place during the 28th Annual International NAME Conference in Memphis from November 27-30, 2018.

The Carter G. Woodson Service Award is named for Dr. Woodson in recognition of his dynamic scholarly leadership in establishing the origins of the multicultural movement by building an institution devoted to correcting the misinterpretations in American History being taught to the children of America when he established The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now African American Life and History (ASALH)) in 1915. When Dr. Woodson began Negro History Week in 1926 that ultimately became Black History Month in 1976, his desire was that other ethnic groups would follow this model to add to the annals of United States history their rich historical contributions as well. In the 1980s, thirty years after his death, his dream was realized when groups throughout the country began to establish month-long celebrations honoring their cultural legacies.

In the tradition of Dr. Woodson, the Woodson Award symbolizes excellence in multicultural writing, scholarship and achievements in multicultural life, history and culture. The Carter Godwin Woodson Service Award is presented to an individual whose career has been highlighted with service to multicultural education that continuously corrects the deficiencies in American history where African American History and the history of other cultures is misinterpreted, distorted, or ignored.

The NAME Woodson Award symbolizes excellence in research, writing, scholarship, service to the community, mentoring and achievement in multicultural life, history and culture. In the Woodson tradition, the recipient’s career is distinguished through at least a decade of work in the field of multiculturalism and must have contributed and/or published in the field of multiculturalism. The person selected must be a servant to the community and must have contributed to the National Association for Multicultural Education. This award will be given annually to a person who possesses the following qualities: A member of NAME; A person who has been an active supporter and contributor to the work of NAME for 10 or more years; A person whose service to NAME has contributed significantly to its mission and can be identified in at least three of six areas, (i.e. branches, executive board, fundraising, multicultural education research or writing, multicultural educational programs; mentoring); and An individual whose career has been highlighted with service to multicultural education, and service to the community


Philip C. Chinn began his professional education career as a special education teacher and then as a special education professor. In 1973, he was asked to make a presentation on Asian Americans at a national conference. Realizing that he knew little about the subject, despite being Chinese American, he began extensive reading on the subject. The effort awakened a realization of how little he understood his own cultural background and the variables that contributed to his own lack of understanding. This experience began his commitment to multicultural issues. He served as the special assistant to the Executive Director for Minority Concerns (now Diversity Affairs) at the Council for Exceptional Children from 1978 to 1984. He was the director of the California State University, Los Angeles Center for Multicultural Education until his retirement. Dr. Chinn served on the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education Board of Examiners and as a Commissioner on the California State Advisory Commission on Special Education.

He later served as a department head and division chair in special education at Texas A&M University–Commerce and California State University–Los Angeles, where he is currently Professor Emeritus. He is a senior adviser for the Monarch Center, a federally funded project providing technical assistance to special education faculty of historically Black colleges and universities and other minority institutions. In this capacity, he produced videos of noted educators such as Leonard Baca, Geneva Gay, Beth Harry, and Sonia Nieto, which was a joint effort between the Monarch Center and the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).

Chinn is the coauthor with Donna Gollnick of Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society, 10th edition (2016). He has also coauthored two texts in special education, and numerous textbook chapters. From 1997 to 2001, he served as coeditor of Multicultural Perspectives, the official journal of NAME, and also served as the vice president of NAME. In 2002, NAME honored him by naming its multicultural book award, the Philip C. Chinn Multicultural Book Award.

Perhaps Dr. Chinn’s single most important contribution has been the writing and publication of the first edition of Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society in 1983 with Donna Gollnick. Until then, multicultural education was essentially the study of the four non-White racial/ethnic groups. While others had mentioned the importance of various microcultures as they related to multicultural education, their publication was the first to attempt to write a multicultural text devoting entire chapters to ethnicity and race, gender, class, language, religion, age, and exceptionality. By the time the second edition was completed, the field of multicultural education had begun to move in that direction.

The Meaning Behind 5 of the Most Popular Rosh Hashanah Traditions


8:03 AM EDT

Rosh Hashanah ushers in the beginning of the Jewish year and is a holiday that celebrates the creation of the world, something that’s reflected in its name, which means “head of the year” in Hebrew.

Rosh Hashanah 2018 will begin at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 9, and will continue through nightfall on Tuesday, Sept. 11, marking the start of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of reflection and repentance that concludes with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah starts on the first days of Tishrei (the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar), which usually places it in September or October, and many choose to celebrate the holiday on just one day.

READ MORE >>>>>>>>>>>>>

Love Has No Labels | Diversity & Inclusion | Ad Council

Published on Mar 3, 2015

While the vast majority of Americans consider themselves unprejudiced, many of us unintentionally make snap judgments about people based on what we see—whether it’s race, age, gender, religion, sexuality, or disability. The Love Has No Labels campaign challenges us to open our eyes to our bias and prejudice and work to stop it in ourselves, our friends, our families, and our colleagues. Rethink your bias at

Christine Sleeter addresses problems in ethnic studies curriculum


Christine Sleeter addresses problems in ethnic studies curriculum

Dr. Christine Sleeter speaks at the Diversity Symposium
Author, teacher and activist Dr. Christine Sleeter speaks about multicultural awareness in education at the 17th Annual Diversity Symposium in the LSC. The speech featured the changing analytics among ethnicities in the classroom and stressed engaging in multicultural historical viewpoints. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

Activist Christine Sleeter is white, from a community with very little diversity, and admitted she knew almost nothing about her student’s background when she began teaching in Seattle.

Sleeter, an author and a teacher in addition to activist, spoke about how the teaching of ethnic studies, or the lack thereof, can be improved. Sleeter spoke in the Lory Student Center Thursday night as part of Colorado State University’s week-long Diversity Symposium.

Sleeter emphasized the importance of having multicultural education and an ability to think critically about what other groups have to go through. She said in doing so, people will start to become agents of social change.

“I mean, we have a president who can’t even figure out how to get resources to Puerto Rico,” Sleeter said.

Sleeter said changes in teaching styles and curriculum can be an effective way to get students to think more critically about their culture and the cultures of others.

School textbooks that are heavily focused on white perspectives are just one problem, according to Sleeter. Of those who teach K-12, 84 percent are white, Sleeter said; the combination can lead to classes that leave out important topics regarding multiple ethnic groups.

“The fragmented inclusion of people of color in the dominant curriculum leaves students of color feeling like, as Caroline Turner put it, guests in someone else’s house,” Sleeter said.

She said ethnic studies can give people the ability to address social problems. Sleeter said she wants to implement several strategies to create positive change in classrooms. Teachers need to treat students as intellectuals and develop strong relationships with them, according to Sleeter.

“Teaching involves collaboration with students, co-construction with students,” Sleeter said. “It isn’t just sage on the stage giving knowledge to students.”

Sleeter said classroom curriculum should focus on examining real social problems in student communities. Students should examine the roots of these problems, collect data and ultimately propose solutions to offer to their community.

Freshman biochemistry student Matthew Funk said he could relate to a lot about what Sleeter talked about, as he went to an elementary school where the majority of students were Latino. He said these topics should be articulated more at CSU where the demographic is dominantly white.

“These are issues that are important to understand and to be able to talk to each other about,” Funk said.

Funk said he agreed with a lot of the strategies Sleeter suggested regarding curriculum changes in K-12 schools, but thinks the logistics of implementing these changes could prove challenging.

Sleeter ended the evening with the idea that ethnic studies is not limited to one subject within a curriculum. She told a story of a former colleague, who wanted to infuse ethnic studies with his biology course. Her colleague wanted to examine how different world views influenced health and an understanding of science.

“It takes somebody looking at their discipline through an ethnic studies lens,” Sleeter said. “If you can make biology and ethnic studies go together, you can make everything go together.”

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at or on Twitter @TyBetts9