Truth In Education
The writer is the author of Black Hawk's Mission of Peace Phillip B Gottfredson
Utah's school curriculum lacks genuine First Nations history, resulting in only a tiny percentage of the state's population being aware of the Timpanogos Nation and their viewpoint on the Black Hawk War. As a result, the upcoming generations will have no option but to rely solely on headstones and historical markers to acquire their education.
"Consider the immense human suffering that resulted in the loss of seventy thousand Timpanogos lives due to violence, starvation, and disease. It is important to reflect on the profound consequences of Mormon colonists seizing their lands, which triggered a devastating upheaval that reverberated throughout their culture and environment for over a century. Despite these historical truths, they often remain shrouded in silence and are rarely acknowledged or discussed."
Let us not forget the atrocities perpetrated within the walls of boarding schools, where Native American children were forcibly stripped of their heritage and subjected to cultural erasure. Boarding schools severely abused Native children, stripping them of their sacred teachings, customs, and spiritual beliefs,
These are not mere inconsequential details but vital topics that demand open and ongoing discussion until they are acknowledged and truly understood. Only through a deliberate effort to shine a light on these hidden narratives and confront our past's uncomfortable truths can we forge a path toward a more honest and comprehensive understanding of history.
Hiding or distorting the truth is deceitful, mocking what it means to be honest and respectful of others' lives and history—leading to racism and bigotry. It sets an awful example for our children, who are the future of our nation.
For over two decades, I have advocated the importance of teaching the truth about the Utah Black Hawk War and the Timpanogos people of Utah. We can't just ignore Utah's indigenous history. They have been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in Utah's mainstream history. How do I know this? I lived with them. I learned the truth. And this is why I collaborated with the Timpanogos Nation and wrote the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace. Barely Ablemann, Washington DC wrote, "As many have said, this book should be a part of every American high school student's study of American history, for if we could be willing to acknowledge our whole history and see the truth, the truth will set us free. Bravo, Sir !"
Throughout my research into the history of First Nations in Utah, I have repeatedly encountered disheartening narratives shared by members of the LDS church, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and placing blame on Native communities. The refrain echoes, "We have given the Indians every opportunity to succeed, yet they choose a life of dependency on government support, succumbing to addiction, poverty, and despair. It's their own fault." This assertion couldn't be further from the truth.
This confusion and distorted perception are rooted in a profound lack of education. Stereotypes thrive in the absence of truth, and the perpetuation of such harmful beliefs is a direct consequence of a failed educational system. Racism is not inherent; we learn about racism in school and the attitudes that are prevalent in our communities.
Throughout history, it has been an undeniable fact that white settlers have forced Native Americans to choose between giving up their culture and assimilating into the dominant white culture. The consequences of such assimilation efforts have caused irreversible damage. When educators exclude Native American history from the curriculum, Native American students are left feeling marginalized, overlooked, and alienated within their communities. This leads to a disproportionately high dropout rate among Native American students, which is a reflection of the systemic neglect they face.
the Salt Lake Tribune article by Lisa Shencker November 25, 2009: For many people of color, education - far from being a tool
for uplift -
was a bludgeon, designed to strip culture, difference,
non-white children and to "civilize" them with the master
U.S. history. For Native people, this calculated cultural
done with force, as Native children were taken from their
sent to government boarding schools designed to "Kill the
"These kids are living in Utah, and they need to know the whole story," said Elizabeth Player, curriculum coordinator for the Utah Indian Curriculum Project at the American Advertisement West Center at the University of Utah. "If we miss out on the first people in our state and their current status, we're missing a huge piece of that puzzle as to who we are as Utahns."
"Too often, museums and other institutions portray Indians as they do the dinosaurs, like we're dead and gone," said Forrest Cuch, former director of the state Division of Indian Affairs. "But we're not."
"I feel like I can finally do it justice," said Quinn Rollins, a seventh-grade teacher at Bennion Junior High in Taylorsville."
Tiana Tollestrup, an eighth-grader at Crescent View Middle School in Sandy, said she's eager to learn more about her own heritage and American Indian historical figures.
Utah failing to educate Indian kids, report says
"Indian people are still suffering from and have not healed from the North American conquest, nor the violent struggle to settle Utah, predominantly by members of the LDS Mormon faith." In order to educate Utah's American Indian children, it's important for those youths to understand their past, "begin to heal" and start believing in themselves, according to the report.
Another finding is that Utah's tribal communities continue to blame failed economic and educational systems on or near reservations for many problems within tribes. But the plan says the blame game between schools, American Indian parents and their children needs to stop.
"We have learned that for American Indians in the state of Utah," the plan says, "social dysfunctions are real and have a major impact on education and what happens in schools." Among possible solutions, it says some tribes, which have their own sovereign rights, are willing to enter into agreements with the government to clarify expectations between the state, tribes and school districts.
The report goes on to say a lack of "accurate and culturally relevant curriculum" perpetuates stereotypes and contributes to low self-esteem among Indian students. Administrators, counselors and teachers, the group said, should have to demonstrate cultural competency related to American Indians as a graduation requirement.
Native Education - By Naomi Isshisaka
"The only chance of saving any of this race, will be by
children, at a very early age, and educating them in our
habits, in a
situation removed from the contagion of Indian pursuits."
- William Tudor in Letters on the Eastern States, 1821
Educators should avoid manipulative phases and wording such as "massacre," "victory," and "conquest" which distort facts and history.
See: Native American Protocols We have added this page to help educators and people who are beginning relationships with Native American people.