Extending Indigenous Cultures Throughout The American Waldorf Curriculum

I wrote posts some time ago about multiculturalism in the Waldorf School curriculum, about extending African studies through the curriculum, and about extending Latin America, particularly the study of the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec tribes, throughout the curriculum.

I  am not sure how many Waldorf homeschooling families subscribe to “Renewal:  A Journal for Waldorf Education”.  It really is a wonderful journal, and brings up many interesting ways of keeping the curriculum open, up to date, and inclusive.  I was very pleased to see the most recent Fall/Winter 2017 issue of “Renewal:  A Journal for Waldorf Education” had an article entitled, “Indigenous Cultures and the Waldorf Curriculum:  Suggestions for Grades One Through Eight” by Adam Jacobs and Ronald Koetzsch.  This article grew out of the 2016 Rudolf Steiner College’s conference on the “California Indian Curriculum and Stories.”  There were suggestions in this article how different pieces of the indigenous cultures fits into every grade of the Waldorf curriculum, and where it views might  be discongruent.  This is especially important as Waldorf Education is now established both on the Pine Ridge Reservation (Lakota; United States) and on the Six Nations of the Grand River Reservation (all six Iroquois nations living together; Canada), and I imagine will continue to expand over the coming years.

Suggestions included:

Grade 1 – Native American tales.  Of course the expectation is to find Native authors who have told these tales, not European versions of these tales.  One book recommended included “A Broken Flute:  The Native Experience in Books for Children” and the website American Indians in Children’s Literature.

Grade 2 – Possibilities for the Saints blocks included Deganawida (Iroqouis), Black Elk (Oglala Lakota), and Wovoka (Northern Plains).  Animal stories are always used in second grade, and this article talked about the disparity between the western view of animals as less developed and the Native view of animals as “models of behavior to be observed and integrated.”  This is important to know as we teach.

Grade 3 – Creation stories (Although important for the teacher to note that  in a Native American framework, creation is always present and occurring). Many North American homeschoolers combine Native American studies with the shelter and fiber  blocks of Third Grade, which was not mentioned in this article.

Grade  4 – Trickster tales where the trickster is crossing the boundaries between good and evil, heaven and earth are often found in Native American tales and appropriate for those in fourth grade and past the nine year change.  (And yes, we often hear about trickster tales in second grade. The first time I heard about trickster tales in fourth grade was in the Math By Hand curriculum, which is also out of California.  I found this interesting!) According to the article, another place to consider integrating Native Americans includes the biographies of great Native leaders in local geography.  There were suggestions for dealing with colonial encounters with the book, “American Indian Myths and Legends” and Thomas King’s “A Coyote Columbus Story.”  I have not personally seen these books, so I have no recommendation. I tend to tread lightly on colonialism and its horrors in fourth grade and really delve into depth with these topics in middle school and high school, so I think every homeschooling family will decide what is right for them.

I find it interesting there is no mention of Native American views integrated with the Man and Animal block.

Grade  5 – It was acknowledged that there are “at least three cradles of civilization that are not usually emphasized in Waldorf schools – the North China Valley, the Andean area, and Mesoamerica.”    This article suggests including the Classic Mayan civilization for certain, and talks about how many Waldorf schools are already including China.  You can see the link to the back post I linked above regarding Latin America as to how I have integrated the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations into our homeschooling.

Grade 6 –  The article mentioned the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederation could be an intersting political model in addition to the Roman Empire.

Grade  7 – Noted that “The Age of Discovery” and  such terms are very Eurocentric (and, in my view, no longer needed). Do bring in stories of Ibn Battutu ( see my back posts on Africa to delve deeper into this), Zheng He, and the Polynesian people. I think most Waldorf homeschoolers I know have been doing this for years, but glad to see it mentioned here.

One lovely thing mentioned here is that the “spiritual destiny” of the Americas was not to have indigenous people subjugated and their lands taken away and their resources exploited. I also was very glad to see this in print and hope all Waldorf schools and teachers take note of this.  This is an Age of Colonialism, and the bad things that went along with this and also the contributions of the Native Peoples (farming, navigation, diplomacy, etc) to the very survival of the colonists can be noted. Such a duality!

Grade 8 – One other duality  mentioned in this article to bring in during block  regarding the Industrial Revolution and Westward Expansion is the duality that while the genocide of Native Americans was occurring on American soil,  the ideas of the  Haudenosaunee Confederacy were helping to shape governmental structure.

Over all of the intermeshing of the ideals of both some Native American tribes and Waldorf Education is ethical individualism,  where every act of the individual is  seen as one of spirituality and one of responsibility.  This is embodied in the Great Law of Peace and as an ideal  in Waldorf Education as the pinnacle of the developing human being.

Many Blessings,
Carrie

 

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