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Lawsuit Alleges Montana Failed To Ensure ‘Indian Education For All’

A lawsuit filed by five tribal nations and 18 individuals alleges the state of Montana has failed to ensure that K-12 public schools are teaching Indigenous history and culture.

The complaint was filed by the ACLU of Montana and Native American Rights Fund. The filing in Cascade County District Court argues that the state Office of Public Instruction, Superintendent Elsie Arntzen, the Board of Public Education and chairperson Darlene Schottle failed to carry out duties required by state law.

Artzen declined to comment on ongoing litigation.Schottle did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

State law requires funding and resources go toward ensuring all public school students are taught about the first peoples of Montana. The suit claims the education agencies are not doing enough to fulfill those requirements.

The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Community, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Little Shell Tribe, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation (CSKT) are all plaintiffs in the suit.

CSKT chairperson Shelly Fyant says school administrators need to “create a system of accountability to ensure every educator teaches this subject in a way that preserves American Indians’ cultural integrity.”

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.