There are 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin. Teacher education and preparation programs have strategies that are in place to help educators with specific issues related to these tribes and teaching about them accurately.
It is hoped that this Road Map is one of several different types of professional development opportunities using Statute “ACT 31” models that are appropriate are readily available. The intent of Act 31 is being realized.
The vision, of course, is not reality at this juncture. But it can come to be through building bridges between Tribal nations and surrounding non-tribal communities, and tribal stories are an important tool in doing that.
Origin stories, personal stories, clan stories, histories of early Waaswaaganing and stories from treaty struggles are all a way to pass on understanding in tribal and non-tribal communities, and resilience and a bright future for tribal nations.
How was ACT 31 born?
The Wisconsin legal system failed completely to uphold the treaty rights between the Federal Government and Native people in Wisconsin, in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s.
In 1974, the Tribble brothers learned while taking a law course at college that through the treaties, Native people “had retained the rights to hunt, fish and trap off ceded territories”.
They tested the treaty by getting cited by Wisconsin game wardens for fishing off their reservation. About a week later they went to court in Hayward and pleaded not guilty. The judge found them guilty.
After this, tribal attorneys took over, and in 1983 they learned they had won their appeal with the 9th Circuit Federal Court in Chicago, challenging Wisconsin’s blatant failure to uphold the law.
As a result, there has been an explosion of Native people hunting, fishing and harvesting off their reservation—“maintaining their way of life.”
In the 1980s, Indian people who exercised their rights were treated by White people with overt racial harassment at, for example, boat landings.
The conflict that escalated while Indian people were pursuing their now validated legal rights concerned Wisconsin law makers. They passed ACT 31 to educate the public on these treaty rights.
American Indian Studies Curriculum: ACT 31
ACT 31 requires the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction to oversee:
- Updating the social studies curriculum to include the study of Native American tribal bands located in Wisconsin at least twice in grades 4-8 and at least once in high school.
- Providing a curriculum for grades 4-12 to educate students on Wisconsin tribes’ off-reservation harvesting rights.
- Developing instructional programs targeted toward understanding differing cultures, value systems and human relations, with particular emphasis on Native American, Black American and Hispanic cultures.
- Allocating funds to update more culturally diverse resource materials.
- Requiring any K-12 teacher granted a license to teach in Wisconsin to receive training on both minority group relations as well as on the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the Native American tribal bands located in Wisconsin. (About Act 31, 2009.)