Lubbock community leaders, tribal members urge inclusion of American Indian/Native Studies course on SBOE agenda

LUBBOCK Lubbock-based community leaders and tribal members hosted a news conference live and over Zoom Monday to urge the inclusion of an American Indian/Native Studies course on the upcoming State Board of Education agenda.

Speakers urged State Board of Education Chair Aaron Kinsey of Midland to include it on the board’s June meeting agenda.

A news release said failure to do so would mark the third consecutive meeting in which he has restricted the opportunity for the public to provide feedback on and advance the course offering. Kinsey could not be reached for comment.

Ector County ISD offers Native American studies as a special topic and it will be offered next year, Chief Communications Officer Mike Adkins said. 

“The repeated stonewalling of the AI/NS course, without significant dialogue, ignores the voices of more than 1,000 Texans, 3 tribal governments, 6 Texas-based native organizations, including 3 native university student groups, 46 Texas organizations, and dozens of Lubbock residents that have called on the SBOE to move the TEKS-based course review process forward,” the release said.

The course can currently be offered as an Innovative course in Texas schools, but this expires in 2025 with no guarantee of renewal. When the Mexican American and African American Studies “Innovative” or temporary pilot courses became TEKS-approved Social Studies course electives, student enrollment soared.

The release said Kinsey did not meet with course advocates prior to finalizing the January and April SBOE agendas. He is expected to finalize the agenda on June 14.

In-Person speakers included Dr. Janis Henderson (enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Dr. Miguel Levario (Associate Professor of History at Texas Tech University), Chuck Colbert (Owner of Colbert’s General Store and Metro Tower Lofts and Condos, enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation), and Morgan Kirkpatrick (former Lubbock ISD Teacher and Community Leader).

Speakers for the multi-city Zoom component were Dr. Emilio Zamora (Professor of History at UT Austin), Nalleli Hidalgo (Education Liaison, T.E.J.A.S Barrios, Houston), Dr. Valerie Martinez (Associate Professor of History and First-Second Year Experience Coordinator at OLLU and NACCS Tejas Foco Pre–K-12 Committee Chair, San Antonio), Sergio Treviño (UT-RGV College Student Parent and Organizer, Weslaco), and Mia Street (Executive Director, Black History 365 Education Foundation, Dallas).

Speakers talked about the importance of learning about other cultures.

Zamora said the course emerged at Grand Prairie ISD.

“Native American studies, the study of the history of Native American studies in particular, is that all of us share origin stories. Native American Studies is fundamental. We should all on Earth recognize the equal worth of others and act accordingly. That is the underlying motivation behind the effort to make the state’s curriculum more inclusive and more respectful of everyone that shares this Earth with us. I think that we do need to communicate with the youth in our schools’ content material, obviously, but we’re also suggesting that we do not forget that when we are in the classroom we also teach values. I think the most important value is the one I just shared with you that is we’re on this Earth for a very sacred purpose — to recognize the equal worth of others and then to act accordingly,” Zamora said.

Hidalgo said the course is very important for young adults and students “to be able to participate and learn about different histories across different places in the U.S. and to learn from different professors and teachers through ethnic studies courses because it’s not something that is frequently taught in general education, particularly public education.”

She added that everyone’s experience, journey and identity is completely different, but at its core “we’re all connected some way.”

“We’re all growing in Texas and sharing similar experiences when it comes to changes in our own ecosystem or even in our own communities so it’s something that always unites us that’s important to continue to carry this conversation in classrooms with the proper guidance of different professors, leaders, educators and community members. … It’s needed and it’s highly valued,” Hidalgo said.

Martinez said the course prompts self-esteem, pride and learning.

“It’s something that anyone can learn. It’s not just for students with an ethnic background, but anyone can appreciate this content and learn. It is very encouraging to see how this multicultural education, education equity, is a critical step and this is quoted in a report she cited toward active and engaging citizenship and preserving this democracy within the U.S., so it is something that everyone can appreciate in learning this holistic history,” Martinez said.

She added that she has many friends and family in Lubbock.

The Ethnic Studies Network of Texas livestreamed the event on Facebook for the public.

Additional background information on the American Indian/Native Studies course is available through the community petition that has received more than 1,300 signatures since March 22.

The press event was supported by the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas, a community of Texas-based educators, students, parents, and organizers who have come together to expand and advocate for Ethnic Studies in Texas schools from Pre-K-16.