Minnesota senator introduces “Native Histories and Cultures Education Act” legislation
WTIP file photo of Sen. Tina Smith (left) with Duluth Mayor Emily Larson

Minnesota senator introduces “Native Histories and Cultures Education Act” legislation

There’s a lot of news coming from the nation’s capital in late October.

Mike Johnson being named speaker of the house, funding for overseas wars and conflicts, border security, and the 2024 presidential election tend to dominate national headlines.

However, as is often the case, there’s more happening in Washington than what makes the headlines. For example, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith from Minnesota introduced a bill earlier this month that aims to improve public education and understanding about Native American peoples and their histories.

Smith’s legislation, the Native Histories and Cultures Education Act, would help states across the U.S. improve primary and secondary education about Native histories and cultures in North America, according to the senator’s office.

Accurate, thorough education about Native peoples benefits all students, Native and non-Native alike, Smith said. Unfortunately, the education most students receive regarding Native histories and cultures is woefully inadequate, she added. For example, nearly half of Americans say that what they were taught in schools about Native Americans was inaccurate and in most K-12 classrooms, students are not taught about Native peoples at all post-1900. Furthermore, teachers rate “history of Native American peoples” and “pre-Columbian American history and culture” as two of the worst subjects in terms of coverage and accuracy, according to Smith.

“It is unacceptable that so many Americans are under (informed) and misinformed about Native peoples and their history,” she said. “Teachers and Native groups around the country have been sounding the alarm and pushing for action on this issue for years, and it’s time we listened. This legislation would help develop accurate and thorough curriculum for our schools so that harmful misconceptions and stereotypes do not persist.”

In addition to this recent legislation, there is news this week about federal funding that could help families and seniors in Cook County pay for energy costs this winter. There’s also the possibility of a government shutdown in November that could impact families and Forest Service employees across Superior National Forest.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Sen. Smith about these topics during a live interview Oct. 26 that aired on Daybreak. Listen to the full interview in the audio below.