Minnesota implements new Native American history requirement for K-12 teachers

Three Native American House members in Minnesota, Rep. Heather Keeler, DFL-Moorhead, (right), Rep. Alicia Kozlowski, DFL-Duluth, and Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, spoke on the Minnesota House floor on Thursday, March 9 after the state legislature codified ICWA measures. (Photo by Michelle Griffith / Minnesota Reformer)

Minnesota teachers renewing their license must now undergo training about Native American history and culture.

The Legislature passed a law this year requiring training for K-12 teachers about the “cultural heritage and contemporary contributions of American Indians, with particular emphasis on Minnesota Tribal Nations,” in order to renew their license.

The requirement goes into effect for less-experienced teachers Tuesday and the remainder of the teaching corps Jan. 1.

Teachers already must fulfill multiple requirements to renew their licenses, including training on suicide prevention and reading preparation.

In addition, they are required to undergo cultural competency training — which includes instruction on how to best serve Native American students — to renew their licenses, but Native American-specific training will eventually be its own requirement.

The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board is working on the Native American history rollout and exactly what the training will include. Until then, teachers can fulfill the new requirement under the existing cultural competency training.

In his education budget, Gov. Tim Walz recommended Native American history renewal requirement for teachers and argued the current cultural competency requirements for teachers didn’t dedicate enough time specifically to Native American history.

“Given the rich history of American Indians and their contemporary contributions, more time and resources should be provided to Minnesota educators,” Walz’s budget proposal stated.

Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union, said in a statement that it supports the new training requirement, but noted it adds an additional burden for teachers.

“Minnesota’s Indigenous history is complex, rich and long, and it has been far too often ignored in both U.S. and Minnesota history lessons,” said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. “At the same time, we have to be aware of the extra time and effort each new requirement adds to the plates of educators, and give them the adequate time and training they need to address these important pieces of delivering a well-rounded education.”

The state licensing board said it will release more information about the requirement’s specifics in the coming weeks.

Minnesota’s academic standards for students include material about the cultural heritage and contributions of Native Americans and the tribal nations with which Minnesota shares borders. The Legislature this past session also mandated school districts offer curriculum on the Holocaust, the genocide of Indigenous people and the removal of Native Americans from Minnesota.

This article was first published by Minnesota Reformer. It is republished here with permission.

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Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer
Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.

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