Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The First Best Place

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The First Best Place

Article excerpt

IT IS an exciting time for education in Montana as we "recognize the distinct and unique cultural heritage" of the Indian Nations that called our state the "First Best Place." In 1972, with the redrafting of its state constitution, Montana committed itself to preserving the cultural integrity of American Indians through its education system. In the face of diverse challenges, many educators worked diligently over the past 34 years to ensure this promise was met. We owe much of our current place in history to these relentless advocates. As the state's education leader, my goal is to realize this constitutional promise and to ensure that tribal stories will reverberate throughout our state's classrooms.

Today, with Indian education included in the legislature's statutory definition of a quality education and with the 2005 legislative appropriation, we may begin to see many of these past efforts realized. We enter into this era of Indian Education for All with optimism and confidence that all of our state's citizens will come to understand and value the tribal histories, stories, and philosophies that have helped shape Montana.

Twelve tribal nations are located in Montana. Eleven of these nations reside within homelands reserved either through treaties or by executive order. One, the Little Shell Band of Chippewa, is "landless," but the tribe is currently seeking federal recognition to establish its own land base. …

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