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Lessons of Our Land is Standardized!

At the end of 2015 the Foundation worked with a contractor, Josh Isaacson of Saint Paul, Minnesota, to standardize all relevant lessons with the Common Core State Standards and the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards. Emphasis is not only placed on content standards, but also literacy! There are now many ways you can teach about Native history and land in the classroom!

The feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly appreciative and positive. As one teacher wrote, "Putting actual standards to your curriculum actually makes it way easier to use! Thank you for making it easier  to teach about American Indian history in my class!"

Why not take a few minutes now to browse the curriculum? Maybe you will find a new lesson, think of an innovative way to include a lesson in your curriculum, or even create a new lesson idea!

Do you have questions or thoughts? If so, then please do not hesitate to contact Nichlas Emmons. Constructive criticism is always appreciated!

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Professional Development for Teachers

In April 2015, Indian Land Tenure Foundation program staff attended the American Educational Research Association conference in Chicago. During this time, 401 surveys were completed to determine whether there is a need to strengthen teacher training to enhance usability of the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. Of the 401 surveys, 164 were higher education faculty members and 237 were K-12 teacher and school administrators. Members of each of these groups were asked to complete a different survey about teacher preparation for teaching Native American students. Results from the surveys indicate a lack of preparation for pre-service teachers (89%), yet an interest to participate in professional development opportunities aimed at better reaching Native American students by in-service teachers (96%).

Eighty-seven percent of the teachers surveyed reported that they did not take a course that included culturally relevant teaching methodologies for Native American students during their pre-service training. Additionally, approximately 62% indicate they have been unable to participate in professional development opportunities in which they were exposed to Native American education, learning, and teaching. Still, with that in mind, 60% of the teachers surveyed are aware of professional development programming that at least includes teaching strategies aimed at enhancing teaching practice for Native American students. Some of the more interesting results discovered through this survey include teacher desires for more flexibility in professional development programming (41%). Among these responses, 38% indicated an interest in online opportunities to engage in professional development.

The Indian Land Tenure Foundation is in the process of creating an online professional development program for teachers teaching Native American students using the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. This program will provide teachers with learning opportunities to enhance their practice through incorporating and utilizing a culturally-responsive curriculum. The online training will consist of recorded video demonstrations and access to a nation-wide discussion forum where teachers will be able to share their experiences and resources, while also providing opportunities to discuss challenges and successes they are having in the classroom.  

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Education Spotlight: Columbia Heights Public Schools (Minnesota)

This photo is of the 5th Grade Valley View Elementary School teacher, Emily Letourneau, who recently attended the Bdote field trip with the Minnesota Humanities Center and is working with 5th Grade teams across the district to embed Lessons of Our Land into the curriculum maps.


What is the name of your school district?

Columbia Heights Public Schools

What are the unique student demographics of your district?

We have a very diverse student demographic.

American Indian/Alaskan Native: 82 students (2.6%)

Asian/Pacific Islander: 183 students (5.8%)

Hispanic: 966 students (30.6%)

Black, not of Hispanic Origin: 1,155 students (36.5%)

White, not of Hispanic Origin: 775 students (24.5%)

All Students: 3,161 (100.0%)

What is the name and role of your office/department?

The Office of Teaching and Learning supports our schools, programs and classrooms in collaboration with other district departments. Our areas of focus are curriculum, instruction, professional development and assessment. The scope of our department includes early childhood up through graduation and every content area.

Why are you interested in the Lessons of Our Land curriculum?

Our mission is to provide worlds of opportunity for every learner. We really mean every learner. Though our Native student population is small, it is very significant. We feel that all students will benefit from our developing relationship with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Lessons of Our Land curriculum.

What does your school district hope to achieve by using lessons from the curriculum?

In Minnesota there are academic standards that ensure that we incorporate instruction around Native American topics such as history, art, music, and literature. In June of 2015 we hosted a session for teachers called "Inclusive Curriculum and Instruction: Native American Strand." This session was part learning and part curriculum work session. Nick Emmons from the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Neil McKay from the U of MN American Indian Studies Department supported the session by speaking with teachers and then working with teacher teams to create and embed Native American standards into their content area. The teachers found the Lessons of Our to be very useful and aligned to academic standards. Our goal for using the lessons is two-fold. First, we will embed Native American topics into our curriculum across several content areas and grade levels. The second goal is to use culturally relevant teaching strategies that meet the needs of our diverse learners. The lessons and resources from the Foundation provide our district with an authentic Native perspective.

How does the curriculum fit into your school district's education philosophy?

Our school district is committed to providing quality education to our Native American students and ensuring that voices that have been absent in our curriculum are thoughtfully woven back in. We believe that a well-rounded curriculum, where students can see themselves and connect to the content, will benefit all of our students. This summer our superintendent, management team and all principals participated in an excursion to the Mounds and Caves in St. Paul. We were led by Dakota specialist, Jim Rock. In addition, the district leadership is currently reading Anton Treuer's book "Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask." As you can see, from teachers, to our leadership, and staff across the district, we are committed to providing worlds of opportunity to EVERY learner.


The Indian Land Tenure Foundation thanks Columbia Heights Public Schools for using and encouraging their teachers to weave the Lessons of Our Land curriculum within their core plans of study. Teaching Native culture, history, and values through a land-based approach builds a stronger foundation that empowers Native communities and their allies while also protecting Native lands. Keep up the outstanding work, Columbia Heights!

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Education Spotlight: Margo Robbins

What school and grades do you teach?

K-12 Indian Education Director at Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District

What are some of your hobbies outside of the classroom?

Beading, Basketry, Regalia Making, Herbal Remedies

How many lessons from Lessons of Our Land have you used in your classroom?


How has your experience been with using the curriculum?

The students are very excited to use the workbooks and lessons about the history and culture of our local tribes. They want to talk and talk about the different topics in the lessons. It is hard to allocate enough time for the lessons.

Tell us about your favorite classroom experience using Lessons of Our Land:

I was making acorn soup with the 1st graders. The students had cracked and ground the acorns. They acorns had been leached and I took a portable stove into the classroom to cook the soup with the students. Each student got to come up to the table in front of the class and help stir the soup. They were eagerly anticipating eating it, and asked me if it was going to be really good. Knowing that acorns are more of an acquired taste I didn't want to mislead them and told them that they would have to wait and see, that some people like it and others don't. After the soup was ready I put it into cups for them to try. One of the students tasted it and said, "It tastes like candy!" I was so happy that this little kid loved the soup so much, I was just beaming. As I reached in the bag to get another cup, I noticed that the cups had something kind of gritty on them. It was then that I realized that some sugar had spilled onto the cups, and that what gave the acorns a "taste like candy".

What are some of the challenges and rewards you have encountered while using Lessons of Our Land?

Challenges: One of the challenges is to get every teacher in the district to implement the curriculum in its entirety. Some of them are resistant to change, and don't feel comfortable teaching topics they are unfamiliar with. They may be fearful that there are people in the community that will criticize them for teaching something wrong.

Rewards: It has been very rewarding going with busloads of students to go gather acorns, and helping to teaching them the process of making acorn soup from beginning to end.

The students are really excited about it, and it makes my heart feel good to know that we are reviving a tradition of our ancestors. The students love gathering medicinal herbs and making them into herbal salves and teas. Watching students prepare basket materials, and learn about the art of basketry has also been very rewarding. We are helping to raise a generation of students that are reclaiming the ways of our ancestors, and that is something I am very proud of.

We want to thank Margo for her continuing engagement with the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. Keep up the great work, Margo! We are proud of you and the work you are doing at Klamath-Trinity!

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Teacher Experience Questionnaire

Happy summer!

While I hope you’re having a great summer vacation, the school year creeps closer every day. With students returning to their desks this fall, we hope to see more Lessons of Our Land curriculum around the country. In order to make the curriculum the best we can, we want to hear your feedback! We’ve put together a small questionnaire asking about your experiences using Lessons of Our Land, and we would appreciate your responses. The questions should only take a few minutes to answer, but your input will be invaluable to us and to the curriculum.

The questionnaire can be found here.

Thank you for your support and your responses!


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The Creative Juices are Flowing into Lessons of Our Land

There are some exciting things happen with Lessons of Our Land! We’re moving into new and innovative directions, and I’m here to tell you all about them!

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Josh and I am the education intern with the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in the fall of 2014. I’ve been spending a lot of the time with the Lessons of Our Land curriculum, assisting Dr. Emmons with all new and interesting products and opportunities.

The biggest thing we have to unveil is the Lessons of Our Land mobile app! This app features all of the lessons, and all of the information and resources for the entire curriculum. You will now be able to access every single lesson of the curriculum from your smartphone and tablet. The lessons are sorted by subject area and then by grade level, with specific state-appropriate lessons designated in the title. Each lesson page has active, working links to all of the resources and materials used for the lesson. All of the links and resources you have access to through the Lessons of Our Land website, are available through the mobile app. We hope that this new product helps with the implementation and utilization of the curriculum into each classroom. Now you never have to worry about forgetting a part of a student activity, or how to evaluate student work or participation: all of the information is contained in one simple to use location, and doesn’t require an internet connection to use. The Lessons of Our Land app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

Another big announcement we have is the creation of the “Curriculum Creation Challenge for College Students” opportunity. The 4CS provides college students, both undergraduate and graduate, with the opportunity to contribute a new, unique lesson to the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. Working with a faculty member at their college or university, students will create their own complete lesson idea, submit it to us, and have it reviewed for publication to the LOOL website and app. There is no deadline and no fancy requirement to participate. Faculty and K-12 teachers are also welcome to participate if they desire. We just want to grow the curriculum, making it more fully balanced and well-rounded for teachers of all subjects.

Last, but certainly not least, we are also excited to share that we are developing a fully-online, nationwide professional development program to accompany the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. The professional development program will deliver an interactive experience centered on providing opportunities to learn about culturally relevant teaching methodologies for reaching and engaging your Native students in the classroom. This nationwide network of educators will provide ample opportunities to converse with each other about teaching issues and concerns, lesson implementation, and discussions about thoughts and suggestions for enhancing teaching practices through a discussion forum and video posting/viewing. We want to ensure that teachers using the curriculum feel comfortable and supported while they integrate Lessons of Our Land into the classroom. Indian Land Tenure Foundation program staff will also be available to answer questions regarding the lessons and curriculum.

We hope you’re just as excited about our new projects and opportunities as we are! We look forward to sharing these things, and more, in the future.


Comments? Suggestions? Concerns? Feel free to email me at

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Teacher Spotlight: Cheryl Tuttle

 What school and grades do you teach?

 Grades K-7 at Round Valley Elementary School

 What are some of your hobbies outside of the classroom?

 I quilt, bead, make regalia, garden, and can vegetables from my garden. I also  help my daughter create curriculum for my grandkids; they are homeschooled in  an immersion environment, in Tolowa Dee-ni. My favorite thing to do outside of  school is attend ceremonies  where I am able to visit friends and family, get  back to my center and renew myself.

 How many lessons from Lessons of Our Land have you used in your classroom?


How has your experience been with using the curriculum?

My experience in using the ILT curriculum is gratifying. I find the four standards to be encompassing; I am able to fit a lot of concepts and important information under their umbrella. I have tried to “localize” the curriculum for the Round Valley community, which satisfies student requests for “But, what about our tribe – what did we do….” We have a 75-80% Native student population and the students really love learning about Native American issues, beliefs, and practices.

Tell us about your favorite classroom experience using Lessons of Our Land:

I have had many special experiences with lessons in our Round Valley Lessons of Our Land curriculum. I actually don’t have one favorite experience as each lesson is well received and students are always engaged. This last year I was able to share a Wailaki Creation story with the students, after finding it amongst old linguist material from U.C. Berkeley. Round Valley Indian Tribes has six member tribes and our goal is to be able to include stories from all the different tribes into our Round Valley Lessons of Our Land curriculum. The students were very engaged in the story, which was put on a PowerPoint, with pictures that illustrated the story. The story was able to talk about foods, hunting practices and other topics important to the culture and the land. The creation story lent itself to rich discussion afterwards.

What are some of the challenges and rewards you have encountered while using Lessons of Our Land?

Challenges: The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been to get the classroom teachers to teach the curriculum. I have modeled teaching the curriculum in the classroom and provided easy access to the curriculum with online access. One year, when I was teaching 6th grade, I found that without constant monitoring, the curriculum was not being taught. I approached our Superintendent and he allowed me one day a week to teach the curriculum and next year we will even have more time dedicated to the curriculum’s implementation.

Rewards: With our student body being 75-80% Native American, teaching about Native American Traditional Values, Land Tenure History, Contemporary Land Issues, and Creating Positive Leaders for our community is huge! Next year, we are starting a Native American Studies class at the high school. The students thrive and are eager to learn about their history and about their culture. I am excited that the Indian Land Tenure Curriculum has provided support and the opportunity to bring this curriculum to our school district! Of course, the biggest rewards are the smiling faces, excitement, and interest of the students.


We want to thank Cheryl for her continuing engagement with the Lessons of Our Land curriculum. Keep up the great work, Cheryl! We are proud of you and the work you are doing at Round Valley!


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November is Native American Heritage Month

View these teacher resources compiled by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

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Teaching Tolerance Blog Post

Teaching Tolerance blog post Native Culture Should Be Taught Year Round mentions the ILTF Lessons of Our Land curriculum. (September 2, 2013)

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Minnesota approves new Social Studies Academic Standards
This interdisciplinary Indian land curriculum was designed to align with existing state standards and is adaptable to include the history and culture of a region’s Indian nations. While Lessons of Our Land positions Native American tribal issues and values at the forefront, the curriculum emphasizes the fundamental relationship between land and people in general, not just Native Americans.
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