In October, a video of a Riverside teacher mimicking native American culture while teaching her geometry class went viral.
The video sparked protests at the time. Riverside Unified School District placed the teacher on leave.
Assemblymember James Ramos, the first California Native American to be elected to the California State Assembly, worked with the district following the incident.
“We had presentations from local Indian people and
the board did move to make some changes to the policies and curriculum that are there,” said Ramos.
On Friday, Ramos lead a conversation at UCR Palm Desert. He’s now calling for academic change up and down the state.
“People have never really understood who we are as Indian people,” Ramos told the auditorium filled with dozens of participants.
Ramos says incidents like the one in that video are still far too common.
“I was emotionally charged,” said Celeste Townsend, President & CEO California Indian Nations College. Townsend recalled her own experiences with prejudice. She says she’ll never forget the first time a boy mocked her for wearing a t-shirt with a Native American design: “There was a peer when I was in the third grade and I vividly remember him going ‘woo woo woo’ [...] I was proud to wear it but that’s what he made fun of me for.”
Ramos is working on a bill that would require California students to learn about the Native American history in their specific area.
Our three local school districts say they’re in agreement.
PSUSD and DSUSD currently offer courses with part of the curriculum created by local tribe members.
“We really wanted to bring local history into the conversation,” said Wendel Morden, Teacher & Project Facilitator, DSUSD.
CVUSD says they offer a Native American conference for students, families, and community members annually.