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PBS Wisconsin Publishes Video on DPI American Indian Studies Consultant

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

PBS Wisconsin, in coordination with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and the Department of Public Instruction, recently published a new video featuring DPI American Indian Studies Education Consultant, David O’Connor.

In the video, O’Connor emphasizes the importance of stories, promoting the idea for educators to reflect on their own stories, cultures, and histories so they are better equipped to teach about others. He says, “Having an understanding of who you are and where you come from helps you understand how to teach about communities or cultures that may be different from your own.”

As the American Indian Studies Education Consultant, O’Connor routinely travels across the state of Wisconsin for teaching and learning purposes. “One of the main aspects of my role here at the agency is to talk about history, culture, and tribal sovereignty of Wisconsin American Indian Nations and communities in our state.” In order to teach about cultures, he prioritizes the need for educators to understand and define the word culture before teaching. He defines culture as “relationship or relationships plus meaning,” while maintaining the concept that people have multiple cultures.

His focus is on teaching culturally--beyond the foods, festivities, heroes, and holidays. An effective way to teach culturally is for educators to learn along the way with their students. This takes effort and time, moving along a continuum of what O’Connor describes as the “three I’s”:

  • Include: use a resource or two to support instruction, but lack content

  • Integrate: build up your content and information for learning with some resources at certain parts of the year

  • Infuse: take information and include it throughout the year naturally

Teaching and learning about first nations are important for several reasons, including the historic and present ways first nations have shaped the state. “Don’t look at it from a lens of telling someone else’s story, but telling your story--about why you’re interested in this content,” O’Connor says. “Once we have the opportunity to learn about other communities or people across our state, that’s how we truly understand what Wisconsin is all about.”

There are many ways you can build your own knowledge about Wisconsin American Indian Nations and tribal communities. The following resources are available for educators to work toward infusing that information throughout the year: