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Community-Centered Education Isn’t New: Lessons Learned From Reviewing a Public Charter School Application for Endazhi-Nitaawiging, Indigenous Education By and For Its Community

This blog post was written by David Greenberg, Director of Leadership Development at NACSA. These are David’s reflections after participating in the new public charter school application process with Osprey Wilds ELC, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Osprey Wilds ELC, other reviewers participating in the process, or the school proposal team. This is the second of two posts on David’s experiences in the new public charter school application process with Osprey Wilds ELC. This particular post underlines David’s experiences reviewing a new charter school application focused on Indigenous education.

My experience in early 2021 as part of the new charter school application review team for Osprey Wilds ELC (OW), the largest public charter school authorizer in Minnesota, was a powerful example of community-centered charter schooling in action.

I deepened my understanding of community — and what public charter schools can be — through this application review process. I also learned about the limits of my own expertise and why it is so critical to have cultural and community experts as part of a new charter school application review team.

One application from northern Minnesota stands out, starting with the school name. Names are powerful, and school names are no exception. Too often, new school applications provide no insight into why founders chose the school’s name. Not in this case.

But before getting into the name, I want to share the deep community and cultural grounding the founders included as a footnote to the fourth sentence of their application.

“Throughout this application we will refer to our Tribe as the Red Lake Nation. The Tribe’s Federally recognized name is the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. We will refer to our people as Ojibwe and our language as Ojibwemowin. We will refer to our culture and values as Ojibwe and, when referring to our broader cultural roots as Indigenous people, as Anishinaabe. Our understanding of our language and culture is informed as much or more by oral culture shared among families, elders, and other knowledge keepers. It is also informed by three books. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer teaches about broader Anishinaabe cultural knowledge by looking closely at the environment and plant life. Rez Life by David Treuer teaches about contemporary Native American culture in Minnesota and Wisconsin through a series of six portraits. It offers insight into life on the Red Lake Reservation, as well as other tribal lands in the two states. Warrior Nation by Anton Treuer is a history of the Red Lake Nation.”

When I read that footnote, I knew I was about to learn a whole lot more about how this community was central to the development of this school and how it values Indigenous education.

Read the complete #WithCommunities blog post and learn more about community-centered charter schooling on the NACSA website.

We’re NACSA and we believe that we can create the best education systems for our students by collaborating #WithCommunities. Join us: http://withcommunities.org

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