MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) announced a $5 million campaign, called Understand Native Minnesota, which seeks to improve the Native American narrative in Minnesota schools.

SMSC Secretary/treasurer Rebecca Crooks-Stratton announced the campaign Thursday at the 50th annual convention of the National Indian Education Association in Minneapolis.

“Most education about Native Americans does not acknowledge the existence and vitality of modern Native communities. We have been mostly invisible,” said Crooks-Stratton. “We believe that by promoting Native narrative change in Minnesota schools through a dedicated campaign, we can improve younger generations’ understanding of tribes, Native peoples and their contributions to the state.”

According to SMSC, Understand Native Minnesota’s mission is to improve public attitudes toward Native Americans by sharing accurate information about native people’s history, culture and tribal governments into Minnesota’s K-12 education system.

“Understand Native Minnesota creates a new opportunity to reframe kids’ and ultimately adults’ thinking about Indigenous people in our state,” Ramona Stately (Santee), board chair of the Minnesota Indian Education Association and Indian education program coordinator for the Osseo Area Schools, said. “We in the education profession, Native and non-Native alike, who teach about Native Americans can be grateful for the possibilities which this new initiative now gives our work.”

SMSC says national polling found that 72% of Americans agree it’s necessary to make significant changes to school curricula about Native American history and culture.

“Efforts to improve the public’s knowledge about contemporary Native Americans is spreading nationally,” said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), CEO of IllumiNative, a national organization focused on increasing the visibility of and challenging the negative narrative about Native Nations and peoples in American society, and co-director of the Reclaiming Native Truth project. “Shakopee is known as an extraordinarily generous and visionary philanthropic leader in Indian Country. With its focus on Minnesota’s K-12 system, the tribe’s new campaign gives fresh inspiration to everyone working in the narrative change field across the United States.”

For more information on Understand Native Minnesota, visit the website.