Resolution to go before Annual Conference
By Jessica Brodie
If you listen to state social studies education standards, Native Americans are a “dead” people, their history centering on the distant past and entirely ignoring contemporary issues facing tribes today, say Native American South Carolina United Methodists. But The United Methodist Church could play a role in changing that if the South Carolina Conference passes a new resolution brought by the Native American Committee.
The Native American Committee has submitted a Resolution on Changing South Carolina Department of Education Social Study Standards Regarding Native Americans, which will be voted on at this year’s Annual Conference, June 5-8 in Florence. The resolution is the only one received to date, said Conference Secretary Ken Nelson.
The Advocacy area of Conference Connectional Ministries has endorsed the resolution, said the Rev. Amiri Hooker, Advocacy chair. Hooker said strengthening the standards has been at the fore of Native American trainings he and the committee have participated in for about two years.
“The social studies standards are really lacking and need to be strengthened to really appeal to the concerns of Native Americans across the state,” Hooker said. “Our committee continues to deal with issues of inclusion, and we just overwhelmingly felt it was our responsibility to continue to support the work the Native American Committee has been doing
Tracy Pender, NAC chair, said the resolution is necessary because South Carolina children are growing up believing mistruths about Native Americans.
“Teachers base their instruction on South Carolina standards and not textbooks,” Pender said. “We want teachers trained on how to teach Indian culture so they know myths and stereotypes from the truth and how to select appropriate materials. Too often, fictional books are used to teach as non-fiction and fact.”
The next revision for the South Carolina social studies standards is in 2017. Current education standards of the South Carolina Department of Education require that students are educated about only three Native American tribes: the Catawba, Cherokee and Yemassee. Of these tribes, the Catawba are the only South Carolina tribe that is still extant and has federal recognition (the Cherokee are located in North Carolina and the Yemassee are no longer an organized tribe). The NAC would like education standards to also include the nine state recognized tribes, as well as the fact that the Catawba were terminated by the federal government and they had to work hard to regain their federal recognition. Additionally, the standards teach Indian history from the past, with no mention of modern issues. They also leave out mention of Lady Cofitachequi, an important Native American female leader, as well as the three school systems during South Carolina’s “separate but equal” period—not only black and white but also red—further illuminating what the NAC calls the invisibility of Native people.
“We are essentially ‘dead’ people,” Pender said. “Social studies standards have current, modern issues for whites, blacks, Hispanics, women and Asians. Yet Native Americans are not brought from past to present and there are no requirements for modern, contemporary Indian issues.
“We would like that changed.”
The resolution calls for the South Carolina Conference to support the NAC in demanding changes in the South Carolina Department of Education Social Studies Standards in 2017 to reflect true and accurate information and education about the nation’s Native American people and the federal- and state-recognized tribes of South Carolina, as well as proper education in bringing American Indians from the past to the present.
It also calls for the conference to reaffirm its pledge to recognize the indigenous people of this nation and South Carolina as citizens and neighbors, accepting them for whom God made them to be.
“As part of that support, we encourage the elimination of continued myths, stereotypes and misinformation in order to support removal of the historical grief and trauma experience by Native Americans,” the resolution states. “Further, we seek to enhance their pride and self-esteem and afford them the ability to overcome the obstacles faced in today’s society.”
Lee Anne Lamar, Native American representative for Chapin UMC, Chapin, said she supports the resolution.
“Myths are never good and misinformation is never good, and having taught in the schools, I find they seem to teach the same things over and over again when there’s so much to be known about Native Americans in general,” Lamar said, noting many people do not realize that most rivers in South Carolina are named after tribes, and expanded, accurate knowledge can help us all become a people of inclusion and not exclusion and fear. “Any time you can bring knowledge it helps to dispel myths and increases appreciation.”
Lamar said that, in Scripture, Paul talked about how we should not throw stones in people’s path, and changing state social studies standards will move rocks of ignorance out of the way.
Resolution on Changing South Carolina Department of Education Social Study Standards Regarding Native Americans
Whereas, the current South Carolina Department of Education Social Studies Standards do not recognize, acknowledge or require education on all of the South Carolina federal and state recognized tribes; and
Whereas there are no requirements to move American Indian people from past to present teaching not only about the past but modern and contemporary issues for both South Carolina and the nation; and
Whereas there is a need for support for teacher professional development to prepare educators to instruct about historically and current, accurate, factual information about American Indian; and
Whereas, the impact of these deficiencies perpetuates the promulgation and reinforcement of stereotypes and myths about American Indian people resulting in them continuing to be “invisible” people within our state and society; this contributes to the historical grief and trauma of the American Indian people reflected by low self-esteem. Native Americans have some of the most grim, negative statistics faced by any racial group in America including poor health, high substance abuse, high teen pregnancy, high teen dropout, and the highest suicide and accidental death among the youth; and
Whereas, true multiculturalism and diversity require an increase in personal and societal awareness, the learning of new behaviors, and removal of bias and barriers, changes in policies and practices, and structure, and creation of new rules and procedures; and
Whereas, page 162 of the Book of Discipline states, “We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances and physical protection…Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons lead us to call for recognition, protection and implementation of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable right;” and
Therefore be it resolved, that the following resolution is adopted by the 2016 South Carolina Annual Conference:
The South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church pledges its support, assistance and advocacy to the United Methodist Native American Committee for demanding changes in the South Carolina Department of Education Social Studies Standards in 2017 to reflect true and accurate information and education about this nation’s Native American people and the federal and state recognized tribes of South Carolina, and the proper education bringing American Indians from the past to the present.
The conference continues to reaffirm its pledge to recognize the indigenous people of this nation and South Carolina as citizens and neighbors accepting them for whom God made them to be. As part of that support, we encourage the elimination of continued myths, stereotypes and misinformation in order to support removal of the historical grief and trauma experience by Native Americans. Further we seek to enhance their pride and self-esteem and afford them the ability to overcome the obstacles faced in today’s society.