We The Peoples Before
January 29, 2023

We The Peoples Before

In The Classroom

From expanding our staff to reintroducing and expanding our community outreach through programming, events, and grant-making initiatives - 2022 was been a big year for First Peoples Fund. To add, our capstone 25th anniversary We the Peoples Before (WTPB) celebrated at the historic John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., provided an opportunity to amplify the critical work our network of Indigenous artists and culture bearers perform nationally. The 3-day event provided a platform to engage with a larger audience and build relationships through workshops, films, and performances designed to know, honor, and share the cultural fabric of Indigenous peoples. To add to the momentum of this remarkable year, First Peoples Fund expanded its reach by introducing the We the Peoples Before Education and Impact Initiative.

Through a partnership with the Kennedy Center’s premier digital and arts education programs, the WTPB Education and Impact Initiative is creating a high school curriculum centered on Indigenous cultures, history, art, and stories from first contact through the present day. Six of the nation’s leading educators were selected to lead the initiative, alongside First Peoples Fund Program Manager of Special Initiatives, Emmy Her Many Horses (Sicangu/Oglala Lakota), through the inaugural We the Peoples Before Education Fellowship. They include Leona Antoine (Sicangu Lakota), Brigitte Russo (Kanaka ‘Oiwi, Siciliana), Benjamin Grignon (Menominee), Sandy Packo (Inupiaq), Lynette Stant (Dine), and Nicole Butler-Hooton (Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians - Chetco Band, San Carlos Apache Tribe). Each fellow brings intersecting backgrounds in education and art and is actively working to develop a curriculum that helps educators across the country respectfully and effectively learn and share Indigenous culture and history.

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1. (L-R) Brigitte Russo, Leona Antoine, Lynette Stant, Benjamin Grignon 2. (L-R) Leona Antoine, W. Richard West, Jr., Sherry Salway Black 3. (L-R) Emmy Her Many Horses, Leona Antoine, Nicole Butler Hooton, Lynette Stant

“We have come together to explore these content areas and tribal histories, and to develop materials not only for students but also for educators so they can rethink their understanding and perpetuation of how they've learned about Native peoples and in turn have taught about Native peoples,” says Emmy Her Many Horses. “Also, in understanding how stretched educators are, we have realized how many resources the classroom teachers need, not only to access the content but to access it respectfully - in a way that honors the stories we share.”

The resulting curriculum will center its framework on six principles: resilience, dispossession, reclamation, adaptation, sharing, honoring and knowing. “Through this curriculum and the development process, we're utilizing a framework born out of First Peoples Fund’s beliefs and understanding of the world, and how we connect with communities,” Her Many Horses continues. Since the launch of the WTPB Education and Impact initiative, the fellows and Her Many Horses have presented their work at national education conferences like the recent National Indian Education Association Conference to increase visibility and to garner additional support needed to move this project forward and into the classroom.

As the first round of the curriculum nears the implementation phase, Her Many Horses reflects on the potential this project has to provide Native and non-Native students, teachers, and families nationwide. “We want to help them connect art and cultural history - to see how all these things come together,” Her Many Horses said. “The idea is to take a holistic approach by helping students and educators understand the art and work in front of them and where it came from.”

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