«“Before We Teach It, We Have to Learn It”: Wisconsin Act 31 Compliance within Public Teacher Preparation Programs A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ...»
Included within the basic definition of sovereignty is the right to self govern, selfdetermination, independence, and autonomy. Respondents reported that self governance refers to the authority of a tribal nation to create and enforce guidelines, laws and regulations, define membership within the tribe, define boundaries, and enter into treaties and negotiations with other sovereign nations. However, it was also reported that tribal sovereignty and the right to self-govern is limited. Respondents report that the relationship between tribal nations and the federal government limits sovereignty and continues to be further defined by statute and case law. Related to self-determination, respondents report that tribal nations have the right to not only decide for themselves but also have control over representation, cultural practices and beliefs, political status and organization, and economic processes.
One of the main areas to be emphasized in the responses was the idea of limited sovereignty. The aspects of definition that are reported tend to limit the overarching generic term of sovereignty include self-governance within the borders of the United States and the label of “domestic dependent nations”. In essence, tribes are in a special relationship with the federal government that puts them above state law but below federal law. The limitations on sovereignty were produced by United States Supreme Court cases. With regard to autonomy, respondents reported that tribal nations are also limited in autonomy.
Although the majority of respondents tended to have an understanding of the limitations of sovereignty as applied to tribal nations, several had more of the basic understanding of the generic definition of sovereignty. The idea that sovereignty gives tribes the authority to make decisions about people without interference from the federal government was reported although it was also reported that tribes make some decisions jointly with the federal government. Clearly, some respondents were able to more clearly define sovereignty as it applies to tribal nations while others were not as accurate in defining sovereignty.
As with the previous survey question, a couple respondents were more personal about their feelings on defining sovereignty. One respondent emphasized the opinion that American Indians do not have true sovereignty and that the United States has imposed itself on tribes to allow for self-government but not true self-determination. Another respondent expressed that sovereignty is a complicated issue, which in fact it is, however, the same respondent then reported that due to this complexity the respondent was unable to fully 1address in the time provided. Finally, another respondent stated that they had never thought about the definition of sovereignty before but that their understanding of sovereignty was autonomy from government regulation as well as services and support.
The reasoning for this response was that if tribal nations were truly autonomous they would have the resources and support necessary to carry out sovereign decisions.
In analyzing the array of responses from the respondents, there appears to be a great range of definitions of sovereignty as it applies to American Indians. Considering this is a fundamental concept to Wisconsin Act 31, it is disheartening that there is not more cohesion in understanding sovereignty and including this in courses for future teachers. Many respondents seemed to understand sovereignty in the terms of limited sovereignty but there appears to be a need to go more in depth with regard to how sovereignty actually is applied in American Indian country.
Compliance and preparation of future teachers. The final question of the survey was intended to bring the survey full circle and back to the instructor rather than a focus on the specifics of Wisconsin Act 31. Each respondent was asked to address their feeling of preparedness in preparing future teacher to comply with Wisconsin Act 31 within Kclassrooms. Out of the 22 respondents, only 14% (n = 3) did not respond to the final question. Sixty-four percent (n = 14) reported a yes answer, with less than one-quarter (23%, n = 5) reporting no. Each respondent was then asked to explain his or her yes or no answer.
Respondents who reported with a yes identified a variety of aspects when explaining his or her reasoning of preparedness. The most reported response (32%, n = 6) reported consultation and/or involvement with tribal communities and people involved directly with Wisconsin Act 31. Sixteen percent (n = 3) indicated that personal research and personal interest is what has prepared them for teaching future educators to comply with Wisconsin Act 31. Other resources that were reported on a more infrequent level were professional development, background education and continuing experiences, understanding of key concepts, and construction of the course to address the learning goals related to Wisconsin Act 31.
The respondents who reported that they did not feel prepared to teach future teachers to comply with Wisconsin Act 31 fell into two categories, lack of knowledge or education on the content and lack of understanding of Wisconsin Act 31. One respondent conveyed that although having an understanding and commitment to challenging social justice, the respondent does not have experience in truly understanding the “destruction of a way of life”. Beyond this respondent’s devotion to social justice and not having experience, another respondent simply stated “I don’t think I have the necessary knowledge, so I don’t see how I could pass it on to my students”. In expanding this to Wisconsin Act 31, two of the respondents (40%) simply stated that they did not know about Wisconsin Act 31 prior to teaching the course.
Document Analysis A document analysis was conducted on 26 syllabi from instructors at the institutions. Each syllabus was analyzed based on 1) the time spent on American Indian topics, 2) course topics throughout the course, 3) the resources used in the American Indian sections, and 4) the resources used in general throughout the course. Other information was gathered based on relevance to American Indian topics such as specific assignments that were directly related to American Indian sections in the course. One of the main goals of comparing this data to the survey was to see if the background of the individual and the experiences were reflected in the course.
Time devoted to American Indian topics relating to Act 31. In looking at the amount of time spent within each course, 27% (n = 7) of courses spent the entire semester addressing American Indian issues as they relate to American Indian history, culture, sovereignty, and contemporary issues. All of these courses were discipline specific departments and not affiliated education related courses. Departments included were First Nations, Anthropology, English, and History. Table 9 below displays the number of courses that address the class periods that focused on American Indian topics.
In courses that were affiliated with education departments (69%, n = 18) including crosslisted courses with education, the time spent on American Indian topics ranged from no content (11%, n = 2) to six class periods. One syllabus indicated that American Indian topics were worked on throughout the course although the topics tended to address diversity, history, and spirituality rather than specifics related to Wisconsin Act 31. Two other education-related courses were summer courses that varied in length for the class.
One was specifically designed for teacher requirements and was a two-day course while the other was one class period that is equivalent to a regular classroom week. Overall, courses that were affiliated with education tended to cover less American Indian topics compared to specific departments that focused the entire semester on American Indian topics.
Course topics. Considering that majority of the courses had little time devoted to addressing the components of Act 31, the topics covered in the courses reveal a significant difference once again between education-related courses and those that are discipline specific departments. The education courses had an array of course topics ranging from the foundations of education including branches of philosophy, the progression of education in the United States and general history of education to theories in education to critical pedagogy and construction of identity. Many courses also included a generous amount of class time to race, racism, stereotypes, and inequality in education as well as culturally responsive teaching. Although the bulk of the education courses tended to focus more on these topics, others addressed other areas dealing with critical thinking and standards. Understanding the purpose of certain topics in the classroom, culturally relevant pedagogy, teaching culture, as well as understanding the idea of multiple perspectives of history and issues were among those most significant to the understanding of culture in the classroom in general. Minority group relations were often reflected in the courses through topics such as multicultural education, language diversity, student diversity and specific cultural groups, primarily American Indian and Asian American education issues.
In looking specifically at the American Indian content that was present in the education-related courses, Wisconsin Act 31 was addressed in a variety of manners.
Primarily, the law itself was addressed as requirement for future educators to understand they would have to comply with. In other words, the history of Wisconsin Act 31 itself was the focus and not necessarily everything that Wisconsin Act 31 is to cover within the classroom with the exception of minority and human relations. The American Indian history, culture and sovereignty issues were either briefly touched on in the courses or were missing in parts. Specific parts of history seemed to be covered dealing with treaty rights as part of explaining why there was a need for Wisconsin Act 31 in the historical context of education within the state of Wisconsin. Culture was covered less frequently and primarily consisted of a couple courses touching on the spiritual connections of American Indians with the land while only two (11%) addressed the boarding school segment of American history. Out of the 18 courses within education departments, one course (6%) addressed the history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin American Indian tribes. The course also addressed contemporary cultural issues including language, religion, and powwows. The education course was specifically geared toward the American Indian requirements for educators and was offered as a two-day summer course, essentially a crash course in content that addressed the components of Act 31.
Among non-education-related courses, the time spent throughout the courses correlate with the content covered in the courses with the exception of one course that was more in line with the education courses touching on indigenous voices and spending two weeks to do so. The courses in the departments of First Nations Studies, Anthropology, History, and English tended to go more in depth with tribal history, culture, sovereignty and contemporary issues. Although each dealt differently with the topics and some went more in depth with certain areas than others, this was more of a reflection of the discipline itself rather than addressing the components of Wisconsin Act
31. First Nations Studies tended to cover all aspects of Wisconsin Act 31 and rightfully so considering the primary emphasis of the courses is on First Nations people. These courses tended to be the most balanced between the four categories (history, culture, sovereignty, and contemporary issues). Not surprisingly these courses addressed Wisconsin Act 31 the best in their courses due to their program in place with the education department at UW-Green Bay. In addition, the location of UW-Green Bay has access to more tribal nations in the area than other universities in the University of Wisconsin System.
Anthropology tended to look at the physical context of Wisconsin tribal nations and more of the history and adaptation of native people throughout the state utilizing historical and anthropological resources. Current issues were also mentioned in the syllabus but based on the readings assigned during that week, the content would appear to be more dated rather than 21st century issues that tribal nations are facing. English tended to have a more historical context as well and covered a great deal of policies and treaty issues, particularly hunting and fishing rights as well as trust responsibility and selfgovernment. English tended to focus more on the historical elements although culture was also present with the incorporation of moundbuilder information and creation stories.
Unlike anthropology, more specific current topics were also incorporated including policies such as the Indian Child Welfare Act and American Indian mascot issues.
Not surprisingly History courses focused primarily on the history of American Indians focusing primarily on policies throughout American history. One course included not only extensive history on federal American Indian policies but also sovereignty and contemporary issues including a range from activism to issues in indigenous education to gaming and repatriation policies. The other course was more brief and looked primarily at accommodation to the “new” world and treaties to reservation policies including the issues that led to Wisconsin Act 31. The primary difference between the content in the two history courses correlate with the time spent in class as one was a semester long course and the other was a four week summer course.
Resources revisited. In addition to the survey asking about resources being utilized in respondents’ courses, the document analysis also looked at specific resources in utilized particularly for the American Indian sections. Similar to time spent and topics covered, there was only a slight distinction between education related courses and department specific courses. Overall, based on the analysis, books and films tended to be the most represented in syllabi. However, unlike the survey data the roles between the two were reversed. For films, 35% (n = 9) were represented in syllabi compared to 57% reported by respondents in the survey data. Though, the syllabi cite the same videos mentioned in the survey. Yet based on the syllabi some courses use videos more extensively than others especially compared to books.