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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Consider Proposal To Expand Teaching Of Native American Studies

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Students in Oregon would learn more about the history and culture of the state's Native American tribes under a proposal being considered by state lawmakers.

Valerie Switzler started her day by singing a Native American prayer during opening ceremonies on the House floor. Later, Switzler, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs testified in favor of a measure that would require the state to expand studies about the Native American experience in Oregon.

She said it would help preserve Native American culture.

"Because the general knowledge of who we are as a people isn't there anymore, all of this is getting lost,” Switzler said. “And even with our own children it's getting lost."

The measure would require the Oregon Department of Education to seek input from each of the federally recognized Indian tribes in Oregon.

Under the bill, the new curriculum would be developed for students in K-12. School districts across Oregon would be required to implement it into lesson plans starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

The Oregon Department of Education is seeking $2 million to develop the curriculum. Most of that money would go to Oregon's nine federally recognized tribes for the purpose of developing classroom material specific to their tribe.

The measure has the support of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

"We believe that by incorporating more relevant and culturally responsive curriculum into our existing curriculum, it will make greater strides in making students engaged," Brown testified to the Senate Education Committee. "Native American history is Oregon history, and it is essential curriculum that will benefit all of our students."