Mohawk to add instruction on Native American history, issues

  • Randy Smith, right, speaks during the Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee meeting Wednesday night at the school in Buckland. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2019 7:45:20 PM

BUCKLAND — Mohawk Trail Regional School District is planning to incorporate more Native American instruction in its history and social studies courses.

There are two main reasons for this renewed push: a new state social studies framework was released last June and the school recently proposed to remove final images of its Native American mascot.

“I think this conversation in terms of our imagery or our mascot and this mural, leads us back to, who are we are and where we are sitting, and wanting to kind of recommit ourselves to ensure that all of our groups are represented,” Co-Principal Marisa Mendonsa said at an Education Subcommittee meeting Tuesday. “If the name of our school is Mohawk Trail, whether the history is accurate or not speaks volumes to why you should teach it and for kids to be connected to it.”

Mendonsa said she is especially interested in adding more instruction on Native American issues before the country was settled by the English as well as contemporary indigenous matters. She also plans to expand the schools’ Native American instruction as it currently focused on cultural traditions.

“This is historically a group who has been left out of our history,” Mendonsa said. “When they’ve been in it, they haven’t always been portrayed accurately.”

School Committee Chair Martha Thurber supported efforts to improve Native American instruction, saying this area has some misinformation about its Native American history, Thurber said. These inaccuracies relate to “who was here, and who wasn’t here, whether there were peacemakers or if they were war makers,” she said. 

Thurber also suggested the school host a speaker to discuss Native American issues once or twice a year. 

Also in agreement was the retired Sanderson Academy Principal Budge Litchfield, who serves on the Mohawk Trail School District Committee. He said schools lack pre-Colonial history. 

“The traditional social studies curricula, yes, does deal with post-Colonial history, and does not deal with the Native American experience in any type of accurate, or even full way,” Litchfield said. “Particularly given where we live, any ability we have to access a rich description of pre-Colonial experiences, which is like 10,000 years worth of experience, that to me would be very, very valuable.”

Reach Grace Bird at 413-772-0261, ext. 280. 


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