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Libby schools receive Indian education grant

| September 8, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Doreen Gruber would like to keep the Native American culture alive.

The state is helping Libby Public Schools teachers like Gruber with the money to do so.

Libby schools received $22,500 from the Montana Office of Public Instruction to teach Indian education. The school district is one of the first in the state that's not located within an Indian reservation to get the funding. Older Native Americans also will come to Libby to talk to students.

"The Native American culture is such an oral culture," said Gruber, who is part Chippewa-Cree. "A lot of things aren't written down. If you don't talk about it, it eventually will be lost. We need to make sure it lives on."

The Indian education program came about when Libby teachers Wayne Baker, Terrie Noser, Ann Simpson and Gruber; library media specialist Marlene Kelsch; and curriculum director Jael Prezeau in June attended a conference in Missoula.

At the conference, participants got an essential understanding of Montana Indians.

"It was based on a book called "Lies My Teacher Told Me," Prezeau said. "It was how we had misunderstandings in teaching about Indians not just in Montana, but across the country."

The teachers and staff also participated in workshops with tribal members.

"We made sure we went to workshops that would apply to the tribes in our area," Prezeau said. "That's when we really started getting excited."

They also applied for the grant.

Students in kindergarten through second grade this year will be included in the curriculum. Baker, who teaches history at Libby High School, is offering an elective this semester in Native American studies. Seventeen students - mostly juniors and seniors - have signed up for the class, which meets daily.

"Montana history is richer in native Indian culture than any other state," Baker said. "We have such a rich tradition of history. The grant money will allow us to bring some Native American historians here. They will have a chance to tell some of their oral history."

A kindergarten teacher at Asa Wood Elementary, Gruber plans to focus on American Indians by reading stories to students.

"I don't want to include just Native Americans from Montana, but from around the nation," she said. "We'll touch on their culture, homes and traditions."