Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

New Montana history text makes signficant contribution to education
     Highlights of Montana Indian Education Conference, April 25-26 2008

Significant progress is being made in Indian Education in Montana. Many of the sessions at the latest Montana Indian Education Association Conference featured high quality content ready for classroom use. To be sure, the important people with important offices were there as well—doing what political leaders often do: speaking in abstractions calculated to affect power and control—but the real work is also moving forward.

Two projects are especially noteworthy: The Montana Tribal History Project and the Montana Historical Society’s textbook project, which will result in the publication of a new Montana history textbook this August.

I attended the session presented by Julie Cajune and Michelle Mitchell on the Salish Kootenai College Tribal History Project. So far this project has published three units in a serial history of the Salish Tribes. They’ve also completed a book about the Lower Flathead River. These are gorgeous productions rich in historical and cultural materials for the classroom.

I also attended the Montana Historical Society’s session on their new textbook, Montana: Stories of the Land. Krys Holmes, the author of the book, and Martha Kohl, Project Director, provided an overview of the publication, emphasizing the extensive presentation of the Native point of view. Having this publication ready at last is an important landmark for Montana’s education system. We have long lacked a high-quality presentation of our history. I think it would be very hard to overestimate how important this project should be to education in Montana.

This book was long a dream of historian Dave Walter, who was the driving force behind the project. He died unexpectedly in the summer of 2006 before the project was completed but not before he had endowed it with the momentum needed for it to reach completion. That momentum came from Dave’s infectious love of Montana and his desire to understand it deeply and truly.

It really is a fine piece of work—well-suited to provide inspiration and direction to teachers who understand the critical importance to young people of knowing the place where they live.

The 500+ page book is loaded with photographs, time lines, maps and other tools to supplement the excellent text. The content has been vetted by a stellar cast of historians and tribal experts, as well as by classroom teachers. Unlike earlier Montana history text, this is designed for teaching. I’ve been delighted by reading through the uncorrected proofs, and I look forward to delving into it in more detail when I get a finished book. The book uses extensive quotes and presents events from many perspectives in language that is evocative and clear.

I’ve been working with high school students on the history of the Flathead Reservation around 1910, when much of the land was transferred to homesteaders, so I focused on the materials included for telling that story. The two maps below tell that story in a vividly graphic way. They are a tiny sample of the sort of treasures the text contains on nearly every page.

Flathead Reservation Land Ownership, 1907

Flathead Reservation Land Ownership, 1922-1935

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
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2008 Michael L. Umphrey

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