Student art by Jaden Downing
American Indian students account for a more sizeable portion of the U.S. public school system than you might think. According to the National Indian Education Association, American Indian students totaled 378,000 in 2010-2011. However, this number only accounts for students who are 100% American Indian; leaving out thousands upon thousands of other students who can trace their heritage back to one or more recognized tribes. These students are in every state across the U.S., with higher concentrations in California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and New York. In 2000-2010, the American Indian population rose by 27%, compared to the overall U.S. rise in population of 10%.
The American Indian culture has always been, but is being recognized more and more in our schools every day. With growing populations and prevalence in the public school systems, the ways we think, teach, and learn about the American Indian culture is still evolving. There are over 500 different American Indian tribes in the U.S. today. The beliefs and practices vary from tribe to tribe. What remains consistent is the rich cultural heritage of our nation’s American Indian students.
Student art by Michelle Hartvigsen
Many tribes use a variety of artistic mediums to teach lessons and pass their heritage down through the generations. American Indians come from an oral tradition, so storytelling is a universal method of teaching and keeping culture alive. Almost every tribe holds the arts close to the core of their existence, with mediums such as song, dance, basket-weaving, or decorative arts playing an integral part in their identity. By passing down these art forms, American Indians tell future generations the story of where they come from and who they are. This is what PTA Reflections is all about; providing children an opportunity to tell a story through a painting or piece of music. The arts can communicate the history of a people, the magic of a moment, or dreams of the future. Humans have used the arts to communicate with and connect to one another for centuries. National PTA Reflections opens doors for students of all cultural backgrounds to tell the world who they are and who they want to be; to communicate with and connect to the world around them.