History & Social Studies Race & Racism

SFUSD Makes Plans to De-Colonize Indigenous History

I am so excited about the work going on in SFUSD’s Curriculum and Instruction Department! Last week, staff made a presentation to the Curriculum Committee to address curriculum and celebrations of Indigenous history in our district.

Systemic problems need systemic answers.

Over the past several years, many educators have worked to de-colonize social-studies instruction in SFUSD. That said this work has never been done at a systemic, district-wide level.

This year we have seen a lot of positive changes in district leadership: including our district’s new Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Enikia Ford-Morthel, to our new Chief Academic Officer, Nicole Priestly, to the composition of the Board of Education itself. My colleagues and I are among a new cadre of Commissioners committed to cultural visibility for all communities. As a parent, I feel our district is finally moving “beyond the talk” to take on the work of removing harmful narratives about Native American and Indigenous people from textbooks, classroom walls, and school celebrations.

For far too long, our district has talked “equity” yet failed to take action to address systemic aspects of white supremacy culture in our curriculum. This is finally changing.

When I first I began teaching over twenty years ago, there were other AMAZING educators leading the way. Teachers 4 Social Justice is an organization that has been “doing the work” for decades. Over the past several years, #EthnicStudies educators have also been supporting this work with interested middle and high teachers.

While we have seen strides in increasing culturally competent instruction, many of the folks who have championed this work have been doing it on their own initiative. And the lessons they’ve learned haven’t been shared in any coherent systemic way.

The Humanities Team is interested in bringing Land Acknowledgments to SFUSD as a way to affirm the original residents of the land we live on and re-center narratives of our history beginning with Indigenous nations.

This is where policy comes in. It matters who is on the Board of Education.

I am so grateful for folks championing this work!

Thank you to community members who helped elect me and other educators (Gabriela Lopez and Mark Sanchez) the Board of Education so we can hold central office staff accountable for removing harmful stereotypes and narratives from our schools. Thank you to top-level leadership for taking on this challenge. Thank you Commissioner Jenny Lam and Mark Sanchez for supporting me and other parent and community leaders (American Indian PAC, AAPAC, Coleman Advocates… I see you!). Your consistent advocacy and support helped make the Equity Studies Resolution a reality. Thank you to the full Board for your unanimous vote to approve it!

AND ALSO A HUGE THANK YOU TO INDIGENOUS PARENT AND COMMUNITY LEADERS WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO EDUCATE ME ABOUT THE LIES AND STEREOTYPES I’VE BEEN TAUGHT. Thank you for your empathy, patience, and courage.

I’ve taken the liberty of creating a video out of the presentation and audio recording from the meeting. (Here’s a link to the full presentation in PDF. You can also listen to it in audio format. )

As resources are created and shared, I will post them on this blog and on social media. I invite you all as community members to support SFUSD educators in this important work. Lend your voice during public comment, reach out to us via social media and email. Share resources, insight, and ideas.

All children deserve to feel valued and visible in our curriculum, especially Indigenous students! And children of all backgrounds deserve to learn our TRUE collective history so we can fight in solidarity for the liberation of all peoples.

Have any resources to share in the teaching of Indigenous history and culture? Do you have any recommendations or handouts SFUSD educators should be sharing with families to ensure our children don’t learn harmful stereotypes? Please post them in the comments below!

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