Celebrating North American First Peoples’ Day

This past summer, I attended a teacher institute at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. While there, I learned the importance of teaching American Indian history and culture in ways that are accurate and culturally specific, as well as explaining to students that native people are part of our present, not just our past.

The importance of this is underscored in a recent study at the Penn State University, which found that 87 percent of content taught about Native Americans includes only pre-1900 context.

When one looks at the larger picture painted by the quantitative data, it is easy to argue that the narrative of U.S. history is painfully one-sided in its telling of the American narrative, especially with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ experiences.

~ Penn State University Study, 2015

As educators, it is our responsibility to teach a more complete story of the American experience as we work to prepare students to be citizens. As citizens, students must be to be able to critically engage and reflect in a discourse around the public celebration and honoring of historical events and figures. 

I’m thrilled to share that next Monday, Oct. 7, Old Trail will join other schools and institutions across the region to celebrate Akron’s 2nd Annual North American First Peoples’ Day. This celebration is the culmination of activities planned to raise awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of indigenous people locally and across our country.

On this day, OTS students will engage in a number of aligned lessons and activities called a “Teach-In” with a goal of learning about Indigenous People’s history and life today.

Grade 1 teacher Martha Loar will lead a special presentation with Primary School students to share her experiences of living with the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe (Chippewa). Students in our Intermediate and Middle School divisions will have the opportunity to welcome peers from the Northern Cheyenne Nation to learn about their respective communities.

Please take a moment to watch the brief video below, which was made by my students, to learn more about the importance of this day.

Many thanks to the students who helped us produce the above video including (front row, L to R): Shaashwatiyaa ’24, Ben ’24, Annabel ’25, Eli ’23, (back row L to R) Audrey ’23, Max ’25, Olivia ’24, and Maggie ’24,

Clare McGowan has taught Grade 3 students at Old Trail School for 20 years. She also serves as the Instructional Leader for the Social Studies Department at OTS. Her passions and interests in education include place-based learning, local history, entrepreneurship and economics, a growth mindset, and a steadfast belief in the value and worth of all students. She welcomes your thoughts and feedback at cmcgowan@oldtrail.org.

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