American Indian Advisory
SHASTA COUNTY AMERICAN INDIAN ADVISORY
An exciting project has been developing here at SCOE and it continues to spread across our community and the state. Rod Lindsay, long time Executive Director of the Local Indians for Education (LIFE) Center made an appointment to meet with Judy Flores on her first day as superintendent and shared his concerns about our native students. Chronic absenteeism and student/family disconnect from schools were the focus. By February 2019, the Shasta County American Indian Advisory was formed. Local tribal members, community organizations, educators, and SCOE employees make up the Advisory. This Advisory meets on a monthly basis.
Two of the highlights from the 2021-22 school year were the passing of legislation that had been introduced by Assemblywoman Megan Dahle (AB 516) that extended excused absences to also include a cultural ceremony or event. This bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom on Friday, September 24, 2021. This change in law was a great celebration that positively impacts our native community as well as other ethnic groups. On October 27, 2021, Superintendent of Schools Judy Flores had the honor of presenting as part of the State’s Joint Hearing of the Assembly Education Committee & Assembly Select Committee on Native American Affairs. Judy was able to share about the work underway with our American Indian Advisory in seeking to help native students feel a sense of belonging in school. Chairman Jack Potter of the Redding Rancheria was able to share about the impact this work is having on the local native community. Committee Chair Assemblyman James C. Ramos (Select Committee on Native American Affairs), shared at the end of the hearing that what is happening is “resourceful, educational and could warrant further discussion for expansion.” He also was impressed with what is happening in Shasta County with the involvement with the local tribes. Chairman Patrick O’Donnell (Assembly Education Committee) closed by stating that this hearing was “very valuable, very informative, very historic.” No where else in the state is a similar structure in place to help native students succeed - a true model for the state that other county offices of education are considering.
In working with our local tribes we are learning about the history of Shasta County, both the beauty and the tremendous loss. The genocide that took place here against indigenous peoples is knowledge that few community members hold. Looking at the past can be painful, yet in so doing, we can begin to heal the pain and the trauma that our native tribal members have endured for generations. We are taking an active role in this healing process in two ways. The first is by forming Lesson Study teams of teachers who are creating History Social Science lessons, in collaboration with tribal culture consultants to tell the stories of their people. Until now, their voices have not been heard. During the 2021-22 school year, we made slow, yet steady progress due to the pandemic. Lessons in classrooms were piloted in the spring and will be available in the 2022-23 school year. Special thanks to Kelly Rizzi and Rebecca Lewis for their role in facilitating this work.
The second way we are involved is by providing educational opportunities for our educators and community members around issues like current realities of American Indian youth and families, healing in ceremony, student voice panels, Native film viewings, and Fireside Chats to discuss current issues. We are grateful to April Carmelo (Indian Education Coordinator) and Kelly Rizzi for their willingness to facilitate and organize the learning opportunities that have been provided.
This work began because of the data which showed our Native American students were chronically absent at very high rates, with almost one in four missing more than ten percent of the school year. One of the realities uncovered is that our Native students do not see themselves within history as portrayed by textbooks. With support from the Shasta County Board of Education, the Lumina Foundation, United Way of Northern California, and the McConnell Foundation, we are working to correct this. This project holds great promise for improving the background and understanding of our educators, which we hope in turn will improve attendance and outcomes of our Native American students.
This is exciting, life giving work and it continues to grow. If you would like to be involved, please contact Kelly Rizzi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In May 2022, many from the Shasta County American Indian Advisory joined in the walk with our Native community as part of the Boomtown Parade in City of Shasta Lake for Missing & Murdered Indigenous People. It was a walk in honor and remembrance.
Several opportunities have been provided this year to share this work: California School Leadership Academy, County Superintendents, League of Women Voters, and American Association of University Women were some of the groups who asked to learn more.