ASSIST is the American Indian Student Special Issues Strategic Team. The team is an ad hoc task force developed primarily to address the achievement scores of Native American students in the Bismarck Public Schools. The ASSIST is made up of school personnel and community individuals who are interested in these issues and is open to anyone. Meetings are held on an as-needed basis but at least quarterly. Meeting dates and minutes will be posted here.
The ASSIST is working to address the various needs of American Indian students, whether it is academic, social/behavioral, cultural or other. There are several initiatives that comprise an overall strategy that include tutoring, parent/community liaisons, essential understandings and others. This website is one such strategy that seeks to accomplish several goals:
To assist teaching professionals in connecting with Native American students in order to increase student motivation and achievement.
To assist teaching professionals in accessing Native American content to incorporate into classroom subject matter and learning outcomes in order to increase Native American student interest, motivation and achievement.
To better connect parents, schools, students and communities in order to strengthen support systems for Native American students, enabling them to achieve scholastically.
To provide a forum for culturally appropriate and accurate information about Native American populations, challenges and resources in the school district.
Some teachers and other educators express concern about teaching about the history and culture of North Dakota's Indian peoples because of their place as cultural "outsiders". It is hoped that the newly developed Essential Understandings will serve as a helpful guide for teachers and other educators in becoming comfortable in teaching about Indian peoples and issues. The Essential Understandings represent the basic knowledge that is helpful for all learners to know in order to be able to critically address issues about and with Native Americans.
- Among the five Tribes and Indian reservations in North Dakota, there is great diversity in language, cultural ways, history, government and approach to the future. This parallels the diversity within the non-Indian population of the state and is an asset for our future.
- Culture is learned and influences behavior. The identity of American Indians is influenced by ideologies, especially race/genetics, culture/socialization, citizenship and psychological development. As American Indian identity is developed, it is influenced by these ideologies as well as the dynamics of human learning and development. There is no generic American Indian.
- Although the tendency is to view American Indians as ‘historic' peoples, Tribes and American Indian people are alive and well today. The American Indian people live in a modern world in a modern way but retain many Tribal values, traditions, language and cultural ways. These Tribal values, traditions, languages and cultural ways influence the modern-day behavior and decisions made by American Indian Tribes and individuals.
- American Indian people, like all peoples, are influenced by the past. Many federal policies were put in place throughout American history that continue to impact American Indian people and shape who they are today. Knowing these federal policies and understanding their impact helps illuminate many modern day issues.
- The concept of tribal sovereignty must be understood in order to appreciate issues related to American Indians and Tribes. Sovereignty is related to the land base and is the foundation for understanding what Indian Tribes and reservations are, why tribal sovereignty is unique (e.g. different from the sovereignty of foreign countries), why we have reservations and the reason for the state-federal-tribal relationship.
- Perspective is an integral part of any story. Native and non-Native people share a history in the development of the United States and North Dakota. Although this shared history contains conflict that is not easy to acknowledge, it is important to learn each groups' perspective of history and understand its current implications.
- Native cultures have influenced many different aspects of modern life. These influences are extended to all areas such as literature, sports and physical activities, math and science, language, astronomy, medicine, government and leadership development, economy and business, technology and art. Including Native influences in curriculum strengthens critical thinking skills, expands knowledge and demonstrates respect for others.