New project aims to educate Hawaii students about Native American culture and history


November 1 – Growing up on the mainland, Mae Prieto said she wished she had learned more about the history and stories of indigenous peoples during school. So when Prieto, who is Native American and native of Hawaii, took the reins of the Oahu Intertribal Council in 2011, she made education one of her priorities.

Through the work of the board, Prieto, who moved to Hawaii with his family in the 1960s, and his team took their members to schools for cultural demonstrations at the request of teachers. But now, the nonprofit is undertaking a major project to develop a curriculum for schools that they believe better and more accurately reflects Native American histories, history and heritage and its parallels to the Hawaiian native culture.

“(My mother) felt it was important for us to know our two cultures, who we are and where we come from. I try to keep this as her legacy,” said Prieto, whose mother was there. one of the founders. of what would become the, a nonprofit that seeks to share, promote and educate the local community about Native American traditions, cultures and heritage, and hosts the annual Honolulu Intertribal Powwow. “I think the world would be so different if we had learned the real history and history of the indigenous peoples and not the history of the colonizers.”

The curriculum the board is developing is aimed at elementary school students and would include lessons on Native American culture and history, similarities to other Indigenous people, including Native Hawaiians, and hands-

on cultural activities, such as drumming and basketry. Prieto, the board chair, said students could relate to and understand the information better by seeing similarities in Hawaiian and Native American cultures.

In Hawaii, there are approximately 4,400 American Indian and Alaskan Native Americans, an increase of almost 5% from 2010, according to census data. This number reflects census respondents who identified themselves as American Indian and Alaska Native only. Including those who identified as American Indian and Native Alaskan in combination with other ethnicities, that number jumps to over 37,000, an increase of almost 27% from 2010.

Tiana Brennan, who joined the All Volunteer Board in 2017 and leads the project, said she hopes to complete development of the program and start using it next year. She said they were hoping to start working with homeschooled families first to organize sessions in a park, depending on the COVID-19 situation.

The long-term goal is to partner with the state’s education ministry to expand to more students and develop a program for middle and high school students, she said. Brennan, who is Native American and Hispanic, said she wanted to be a resource for schools and have a standard curriculum that accompanies cultural events already conducted by board members.

Brennan, who received a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, is taking education classes at Leeward Community College to help create the program. She said she initially got involved with the project after choosing to teach her son at home last year during the pandemic. Through these experiences, she said, she started creating lesson plans for him and found that she liked him.

The association is asking for grants to help pay stipends for members who run cultural events and the educators they bring from the mainland to Hawaii, Prieto said. She and Brennan said they were excited to see this idea come to life.

“People have these very generalized views about Native Americans. I want people to know that we are not a dying people,” Brennan said. “Our culture is alive. It continues to grow and, like Hawaiian culture, the language is being reborn. When we can understand the culture and history of others, it gives us a different and better worldview. understanding towards others. ”- —- Jayna Omaye covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a member of the corps of Report for America, a national service organization that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover issues and the under-covered communities.

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