ACT 31 ended up being a tepid effort to address the ignorance and denial of largely White Wisconsinites to recognize the treaty rights of First Nations people in the state.
ACT 31 has been poorly implemented in WI. Few pre-service teachers have learned about the relevant history, culture, sovereignty and treaty rights of Indigenous people in WI. ACT 31 passed in 1989.
In the last 10 years, I have surveyed all of the largely White pre-service teachers who take my Multiculturalism class that grew out of ACT 31 to see how many of them were taught about Native Wisconsin people’s treaty rights and sovereignty rights, and the history that surrounded these rights.
On average about 2 students out of 25 acknowledged have learned about the treaty rights and sovereignty rights of Native people in Wisconsin at least once in middle or high school. In other words, only about 8 % of my undergraduate pre-service teachers have received the above critical education. Since all went to school after the passage of ACT 31, this is an atrocious record.
Few to none of the teachers into whose ethnically diverse classrooms my pre-service teachers are placed during their critical multiculturalism course address ACT 31 .
Minnesota has a similar provision to ACT 31 but most teachers in Minneapolis schools also fail to address their equivalent of ACT 31.
There are amazing resources on line. However, this guide advocates placing pre-service teachers in real life contexts where it is possible to learn about First Nations history as many pre-service teachers do not like to read; nor do they often develop positive, real world connections with content represented by the written word.
The above led to the decision, in conjunction with Ojibwe educational leaders, Brian Jackson and Brandon Thoms, to find a grant to take some of my students to Lac du Flambeau to learn from Ojibwe teachers and leaders about the history, culture, sovereignty and treaty rights, and current tribal affairs, including off-reservation hunting and fishing rights, gaming and other significant contemporary issues.
Proposed Updates to ACT 31
ACT 31 required the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop model academic standards for local school districts to include historical and contemporary information. The proposed update:
- increases the required instruction to 3 times in elementary grades and once in each high school grade
- requires School districts to distribute informational materials about ACT 31 to new school board members and new administrators
- requires Wisconsin teachers to learn about current tribal affairs, including off-reservation hunting and fishing rights, gaming and other significant contemporary issues, as well as what ACT 31 receiving instruction in minority group relations, including the history, culture and tribal sovereignty
- requires Charter schools or Choice programs to provide instruction in the history, culture and tribal sovereignty