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Lawsuit Filed Against State Of Montana To Require Documentation Of Indian Education For All

Taylar Dawn Stagner
Yellowstone Public Radio
The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation are one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Montana’s American Civil Liberties Union and the Native American Rights Fund filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana on behalf of Montana tribes last week. The lawsuit alleges that requirements to teach Native American history in Montana public schools are not being met.

Montana is the only state that is constitutionally mandated to provide Indigenous education in K through twelve public schools. Since 2007, the state has provided 3.5 million dollars per year to support the Indian Education for All Act. This lawsuit says there's not enough oversight on curriculum outcomes or how districts are managing funds.

Melody McCoy is a Native American Rights Fund attorney on this case. She says public schools are supposed to use the money to integrate Indigenous education into the whole curriculum.

“It might well be that some of this is happening. What we're not seeing is that it's being reported and we're not seeing that the state is requiring it to be reported,” McCoy says.

McCoy also says that funds might be being spent on inappropriate material, but without proper documentation it's hard to know.

“We did find that one school district had purchased a book about Squanto and the miracle of Thanksgiving, uh, and reported that as an Indian education for all expenditure.”

The lawsuit is seeking that state officials and agencies meet reporting and compliance standards in consultation with the tribes.

There are eighteen individual plaintiffs as well as the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Little Shell Tribe, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and lastly the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

Taylar Stagner is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America Indigenous Affairs reporter.

Taylar Stagner covers tribal affairs for Yellowstone Public Radio.