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Caucus Supports Indian Education For All

After Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen issued an opinion last week against critical race theory, members of the state’s American Indian Caucus has expressed concerns that Indian Education for All could be impacted.

Knudsen issued an Attorney General’s Opinion, holding the use of “Critical Race Theory” and socalled “anti-racism” programming in many instances is discriminatory and violates federal and state law. The AGO, which carries the weight of law in Montana, was issued after a May 12 request from Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

“Committing racial discrimination in the name of ending racial discrimination is both illogical and illegal. It goes against the exceptional principles on which our nation was founded and has no place in our state,” Knudsen said. “Montana law does not tolerate schools, other government entities, or employers implementing CRT and anti-racist programming in a way that treats individuals differently on the basis of race or that creates a racially hostile environment.”

The Montana Legislature passed the Indian Education For All Act in 1999.

The statement from the Montana American Indian Caucus states that Montana is a national leader with its Indian Education For All law. “We are a unique state that does not fit into the box that the discourse on national politics want us to fit into,” the letter notes. “Providing a relevant and historically accurate education is what the state of Montana has been doing with IEFA for over two decades.”

The caucus features nine legislators including Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder and Sen. Mike Fox of Hays.

The caucus raises questions that if critical race theory is banned how lessons can be delivered on some topics including broken treaties; The Allotment Act; When the Declaration of Independence called Native Americans “merciless Indian Savages,” The Trail of Tears; The establishment of reservations; the Native Americans’ view of Thanksgiving and Christopher Columbus; Boarding school era; and Missing and murdered indigenous people.

The letter states, “The inability to cover these topics by utilizing a critical lens of academic inquiry would have the same effect as historical erasure; where Native Americans identify, culture, perspectives and history are not included.”

Poplar Superintendent of Schools Dan Schmidt is confident that instruction won’t change. He sees critical race theory and Indian Education For All as entirely different topics.

“Indian Education For All is embedded in all of our curriculum,” Schmidt said. “From an education standpoint, it shouldn’t change what we have embedded for our students. Indian Education For All should be in every part of our curriculum.”

In fact, the Poplar School District is in the process of hiring a coordinator for Indian Education For All.

“Because we know there are some things we can do better,” Schmidt said.

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