As momentum builds in opposition to the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance’s September 26 conference in Kalispell, five American Indian educators and professionals have offered a powerful call for Native and non-Native alliances and a commitment to deeper education and understanding of Native history and culture. In a public statement, the scholars take CERA to task for creating “an environment for ill feelings between non-Indians and Indians to surface.” Raising concerns about ongoing discrimination faced by indigenous peoples, they write, “As educators, we must work to actively combat the silence and ignorance. We need allies to help in the fight for an inclusive, multi-culturally rich curriculum in our schools and to support greater understanding particularly regarding Native cultures and perspectives in Montana.”
Read these Native scholars’ call for better education, understanding and cooperation between our communities:
Native Scholars Oppose CERA, Support Multi-Cultural Education.
Kathryn Shanley, Luana Ross, Gyda Swaney, Billie Jo Kipp, and Annie Belcourt
We would like to thank the Missoulian for highlighting the most recently active anti-Indian group present in the state of Montana. As a group of educators and American Indian professionals, we find it impossible to ignore the racial tensions within our state and country. Unfortunately, we live in a time of significant racial tensions and accompanying acts of violence. We feel it is imperative that all citizens of Montana be aware of groups that promote hatred, division, ignorance, and racial discrimination.
The disturbing truth is that many communities are uninformed regarding Indian cultures, histories, and legal rights – an ignorance that is in many ways as destructive as the presence of active anti-Indian groups, such as Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA). CERA is holding a conference in Kalispell on September 26th. As educators, we must work to actively combat the silence and ignorance. We need allies to help in the fight for an inclusive, multi-culturally rich curriculum in our schools and to support greater understanding particularly regarding Native cultures and perspectives in Montana.
CERA is one of the most prominent anti-sovereignty and anti-treaty organizations in the US and is represented in 15 states. Hatred, fear, and malice appear to drive CERA and similar groups. Their activities certainly create an environment for ill feelings between non-Indians and Indians to surface. As educators, we face these fears in the classroom daily and work diligently to promote egalitarian discourse regarding the current disparate health, educational, and economic realities within Montana and our nation.
American Indians are the largest minority group in the state, yet our stories and histories often go unrecognized, untold, marginalized, misrepresented, and are even in some instances ridiculed. As a result, American Indians in Montana are living shorter and more challenging lives. Discrimination has an insidious impact on the health of all citizens and communities in Montana. We urge the citizens of Montana to embrace an attitude of inclusion and respect, and to do so with an affirmation of the importance of the history of these lands and its original inhabitants.
Dr. Kathryn Shanley is an enrolled Nakoda tribal member at Ft. Peck.
Dr. Luana Ross is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Dr. Gyda Swaney is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Dr. Billie Jo Kipp is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe.
Dr. Annie Belcourt is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikira Nation and descendent of the Blackfeet and Chippewa Cree Nations