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Prairie Island Hosts Culturally Relevant New Teacher Training for 2022/2023 Red Wing School District Staff

On Tuesday, August 23rd 2022, a group of nearly 60 staff members from the Red Wing School district participated in new teacher training on Prairie Island. The teachers spent the day learning from the Prairie Island Education staff, including tours of both the Buffalo Project and Culture Camp.

“Probably for the first time ever, Red Wing staff and teachers were in our classroom, where are students feel comfortable and successful.” Explained Paul Dressen, Education Director for Prairie Island Indian Community, “They were in the student’s home, and in the student’s element.”

The outing was the first post-pandemic visit for the school district. For many new employees, this was the first opportunity they’ve had to learn how to do their work from an indigenous perspective.

“Only one staff member had any previous indigenous education training” said Paul, “so showing our history and who we are as Dakota People,

The new Red Wing staff members met Prairie Island’s education liaisons and spent time with Dakota Language Instructor, Barry Hand.

The mid-day portion of the visit included a tour of the Edwin Buck Jr. Memorial Buffalo Project where all district staff members were able to experience being amongst the buffalo herd and learn the parallel paths of the buffalo’s history and our history.

“Before European contact in the late 1800s, conservative estimates say that there were between 30 to 60 million buffalo that roamed North America and 25 million Native Americans. By turn of the century, there were only 500 buffalo remaining and fewer than 250,000 indigenous people. The buffalo were placed on parks and reserves, and the indigenous people were placed on reservations, given enrollment numbers and forced to rely on the federal government for nearly everything to survive,” shared Paul.

Visiting Prairie Island and learning about our history and culture offers an invaluable lesson in discussing the absentee narrative that exists in our school system. It is crucial that the staff teaching our students understand who we are as Dakota people and have an accurate understanding of our story.

After the Buffalo Project tour, the staff were invited to immerse themselves in the Culture Camp with some of our youth. Many students were introducing themselves to staff members and meeting upcoming instructors for the first time, while showing them what they were currently learning at Culture Camp. This stop was intended to be short but turned into a longer visit because of the strong engagement between students and teachers. “A five-minute stop turned into a 45 minute one, said Paul. “As the day ended, I was having to pull teachers away -- they were enjoying themselves so much. Teachers really got a glimpse of our strong value of education and how that isn’t always accomplished in a classroom setting.”

We value the relationship we have built with the Red Wing School District, and we are honored to partner with new staff members. We all have a responsibility to serve our students well, and while this is only a start, we are excited that nearly 60 staff members know Prairie Island better now.

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