How to Teach STI

 Teaching With “Not About” Indians

STI Curriculum is the first of its kind in that it does not ask you to replace your already existing curriculum with ours.  Instead, STI gives you the flexibility and opportunity to begin where they are most comfortable.  As your confidence increases, so will the depth of your teaching, and STI moves along with you each step of the way.

With Level 1 lessons you can choose to read an introductory article as background knowledge for themselves and use the reference points as they teach their own lessons, or you can use the article and accompanying activity as a lesson for one class period.

Level 2 lessons build upon Level 1 so that even if you decide midstream that you would like to include more lessons, you can.  Level 2 lessons ask you to integrate STI content for a couple of days within the scope and sequence of your unit.  Level 2 begins to include local tribal perspectives on history and encourages you to work with your tribal education or title education directors to help you include local tribal people and perspectives in your lessons.

If you wish to make tribal perspectives the heart of your unit, Level 3 lessons become the focus of any unit of study you teach.  The step by step lessons guide you and  your students through the impact of an historical event or era on tribal people.  Level 3 lessons lead up to the successful completion of a Classroom Based Assessment (CBA) required by Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction—assessments that can be used by any district, state or region.  Level 3 lessons involve greater planning in getting local tribal people to work with you on your lessons, so we encourage you to start early.

Curriculum Flow Chart
I Can Do That! Help

I Can Do That! – Help Doc

“I Can Do That!”

Integrating Washington State’s tribal sovereignty curriculum “Since Time Immemorial”
Q: Once I find my STI unit, what next? Can I really integrate this stuff without sacrificing any of my content?
A: If you can find about an hour introducing issues of sovereignty and about 5 minutes here and there throughout your unit, then you can say, “I can do that.”
Once you have accessed and located the unit or materials, follow these easy guidelines to integrating and teaching tribal sovereignty with confidence and ease…
1. Read the unit overview and determine how much time you can spend on issues of tribal sovereignty in your own unit.

a. If it’s about an hour, that’s great! You are ready to integrate Level 1 materials.
b. If it’s a few hours (average 4 – 10), you are interested in integrating Level 2 materials.
This unit will prepare you for…
c. Level 3, the whole enchilada. Tribal history and issues of sovereignty will permeate your unit, and you will build toward the successful completion of Washington State’s social studies assessment tool: The Content Based Assessment, or CBA.

2. Read the one-page Level 1 article associated with that unit. This article will prepare you (and your students, if you choose) with background information, vocabulary, and the basic understanding of the concepts you will teach to and explore with your students.

3. Determine how you will introduce the content of this article in your lesson. Consider:

a. When? (It doesn’t have to be at the very beginning of your unit)
b. How? Will your students read the article as a class? Homework? Jigsaw?

4. Determine what activity/ies you will associate with the Level 1 article. Options:

a. Complete the Level 1 activity associated with this article, typically Q&A, crossword puzzles, word finds (Cognitive Level: Understanding)
b. Throughout your unit, ask questions like,

i. “How do you think this affected the tribes in this area?”
ii. “What do you think tribes in this area were doing?”
iii. “If you were a tribal person in this area, what would you do?”
iv. “Did they include the tribal people in their decision to do X? Why? Why not?”

c. Post the guiding questions associated with each unit in your classroom, on your website, or as a handout and refer to them as you teach.

d. Offer credit to students who explore and attempt to answer any of the guiding questions. They can present their findings to class. They can take on roles of popular TV crime programs, such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigators,” “Cold Case,” to further investigate.

5. If after completion of Level 1, you decide to move onto Level 2, feel free. Each level builds on the
last so there is no danger of having to start over and re-teach what you have already taught.

6. If you get stuck, don’t worry. You can…

a. Join our “OSPI Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum Network” on Facebook and pose a question. While we cannot guarantee instant feedback, the rapidity of a response increases with the size of our network. Please consider joining!
b. Check out the websites we’ve bookmarked on a social bookmarking site called “Delicious.”
Our url: If you wish to be a part of our network here, you will also need to register and create a Yahoo account if you don’t already have one. Once you have registered, you can add us to your own network and share with others the sites you have found useful.

7. You are on your way! We have scripted most of our lessons so that we provide guidance throughout each day of instruction.


Call Denny Hurtado’s personal cell phone at 360.555.5555. In the event he doesn’t answer, email Joan Banker at, Shana Brown, or Jerry Price You can also call the Indian Ed office at 360.725.6160.

Making Initial Tribal Contacts

Making Initial Tribal Contacts

Things to Consider for Partnering With Local Tribes in Teaching about Tribal Sovereignty

We are excited you are embarking or continuing your journey on including tribal perspectives in your social studies classes.  We honor you for the work you are already doing.  Know that our curriculum doesn’t replace what you’re already doing; it only enhances it.

The best way to ensure successful implementation of your curriculum is to build a long-term relationship between your school and local tribes.  Be patient with yourself, your school, district, school boards, and local tribes.  This is a lengthy, gradual, and complex endeavor and cannot happen overnight.  We realize that while you are ready to embark on including tribal perspectives into your social studies program, you may not be quite ready to take on the lead in building a school-tribal partnership.  This is okay; we have faith that it will happen in time. If all you can do right now is use bits and pieces of our curriculum throughout the year, which is okay, too.  But with a little lead time, the ways that local tribes can support you are varied and exciting.  Tribal partners can…

  1. Assist in planning your lessons and/or units
  2. Help adapt your lessons to reflect local tribal history, traditions, and perspectives.
  3. Arrange for guest speakers to come into your classroom
  4. Arrange for tribal presentations to your department, grade level, or staff
  5. Arrange for classroom visits to your local tribe’s fishery, cultural center, museum, or other appropriate destination
  6. Invite your class to tribal cultural events
  7. Act as a sounding board for your ideas or questions
  8. Suggest sources and materials particular to their tribe(s)

When you decide to initiate your involvement in building a school-tribe partnership, there are some things to consider.  Historically, tribes have an inherent distrust of non-tribal educational institutions.  They have experienced time and time again most of the following:

  • Tribal children forced to attend government or religious boarding schools designed to eradicate tribal culture and tradition altogether (cultural genocide);
  • An assumption that non-tribal education is superior to tribal educational objectives, methods, and initiatives;
  • Inaccurate histories written about tribes and tribal people by those who have neither consulted nor visited the tribes;
  • Tribal people often being viewed as relics or spectacles;
  • An assumption that tribes have nothing of value to offer non-Indian communities;
  • Ulterior motives or hidden agendas; and
  • A lack of long-term commitment to partnering with local tribes in the educational success of their children

IMPORTANT NOTE: The most efficient or consistent way to successfully build this relationship is to have at least two contact people from the [include district positions] tribe that you regularly interact and communicate with.  Tribal leadership changes, just like district and other governmental officials.  With new heads of tribal governments, you may find that the commitment to the process changes as well.  When you have a few people familiar with you and the earnestness of your goals, these people can act as your liaisons to arrange for other tribal members to contribute to your teaching as well, and you don’t have to start over if you sole contact is unavailable.

To get the ball rolling, here is what we suggest:

  1. Start w-a-y ahead of time.  Dealing with governments and governmental bureaucracy takes time.  It’s not the same as just arranging for a guest speaker.
  2. Contact your district’s Indian Education or Title Programs Director.  Chances are they already know about our curriculum and may already have contacts and relationships with your neighboring tribes.  This is the person who should make initial inquiries and arrange meetings with tribal members.  Failing that, have your building administrator make initial contacts on your behalf.  Your aim is to regularly communicate and work with your tribal partners.  While the success of this approach varies from tribe to tribe and district to district, it has been our experience that when a school district official makes contact, the tribes better understand that there is “buy-in” at the district level.
  3. Prepare for the journey:
    1. Visit the tribal website(s).
    2. Visit tribal museum, library, or cultural center websites.
    3. Know the names of the people and department(s) who you will likely work with.
    4. All 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington State have supported this curriculum.  Nearly all tribes know about it.
    5. If your district does not have a person to assist you in obtaining a connection with your local tribe(s), identify the local tribe(s) education department, director, or liaison through the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs Tribal Directory:
    6. Phone calls are more effective than emails.
    7. Consider offering to visit and meet at the tribe’s offices.
    8. Be flexible about timing meetings and communication with your local tribe(s). Be aware that for most tribal people, it is more important that everyone be present at the meeting than starting and ending on time.
    9. Emphasize that your goal is to teach with the tribes, not just about them.
    10. Be persistent.
    11. Be prepared for difficult conversations.