The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) will use a $1,155,000 grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) to develop and offer an Indigenous Education for All online course free to the public.

The funding came from the SMSC’s Understand Native Minnesota campaign to improve the Native American narrative in the state. The university said that when SMSC initially reached out to CEHD to support the community’s efforts, CEHD was quick to offer their assistance. CEHD said its work on this project aligns with the recommendations of the 2023 Towards Recognition and University-Tribal Healing (TRUTH) report, which advised steps for the University of Minnesota community to be in better relations with Indigenous peoples.

“We are honored to partner with Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to increase Minnesota’s understanding of Native life and practices across the region,” said CEHD Dean Michael Rodriguez. “This project is supported by CEHD’s mission to contribute to a just and sustainable future through engagement with local and global communities to enhance human learning and development across the lifespan.”

School leaders said the new course is intended to increase awareness and knowledge of Tribal Nations in Minnesota, their history and traditions, as well as contemporary Tribal life and governance. The primary target audiences are K-12 educators, school administrators, high school students, and student families. The online course is expected to launch by mid-2025.

The development of the course is being spearheaded by Cassie Scharber, assistant dean of online and professional education and associate professor of learning technologies, and George Veletsianos, professor of learning technologies. CEHD said the two professors will be guided and supported by a community advisory council and a curriculum committee that consists of Indigenous education experts and leaders, knowledge keepers and content experts, curriculum designers, learning technologists, and others.

“Our tribe’s goal is to improve the narrative taught in classrooms about Native peoples, which is too often incomplete or inaccurate,” said SMSC Chairman Cole Miller. “We are glad to provide this grant to the University of Minnesota to develop this online course to offer all Minnesotans – and students especially – a reliable, accurate introduction to the history, cultures and modern experiences of Native Americans here in Minnesota.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs