Last week I had the privilege of giving a presentation to a Haddam-Killingworth 6th grade class focusing on Native American culture and the importance of primary source projects such as the Yale Indian Papers Project. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and I would like to thank the teacher, Ms. Monroe, and the rest of the H-K middle school faculty that helped out. The students and I had a fascinating discussion on how to approach Native American history as well as the importance of considering the challenges native peoples overcome today to keep their culture alive. I talked about some of the experiences I’ve had working with YIPP, what I’ve learned from my internship, and how it ties into my ultimate goal of one day teaching my own history classroom.
For part of the presentation the class split up into small groups and brainstormed what they’ve learned in school about Native American culture, and what they are interested to learn more. I was admittedly taken aback at the high level of consideration they put into their responses:
“How do Native Americans practice their culture today? Do they grow their own food and still hunt to survive?”
“Are tribe chiefs elected democratically? Has the process for choosing a leader changed over time?”
“What do Native Americans want to be called? Is it bad to say Indian?”
“How did Native Americans cook their food or take showers without technology?”
The students were attentive throughout the presentation and showed a real fascination with Native American culture. They also showed interest in the Yale Indian Papers Project and how they could use the YIPP database as they continued their education. Considering my focus at CCSU is secondary education I didn’t quite know what to expect from a 6th grade classroom, and I was pleasantly surprised. Their passion for learning was truly inspiring.
As the semester at CCSU is winding down and my internship is nearing completion I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Grant-Costa and the rest of the YIPP staff. The ability to hone my writing and editing skills was so beneficial to me its hard to find the right words to express my gratitude. Most of all, the new outlook on how to approach Native American culture is something I will take with me to my future classrooms. I hope to inspire my future students with the same passion that working for YIPP has given me. This has truly been an eye opening experience for me, and I hope that you, the reader, have enjoyed my posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Thank you all for a great semester.
— Kyle Armstrong