By Nicole Werner, Contributor
As Augsburg moves to evaluate its core curriculum, I propose a bold new change: teach the history of those from whom Augsburg’s land was taken. Augsburg should both offer a Dakota language course at Augsburg and make Native American history a required course for all students. I understand this may seem like a tall order, but doing so aligns not only with our mission of inclusivity but also with our mission as an educational institute.
To Augsburg’s credit, it does have an option to learn the Ojibwa language. This is a great stride in the right direction. However, this very institution is built on the Dakota people’s stolen lands. According to Prof. Buffalohead, chair of Augsburg’s American Indian Studies Department, around 2010 there was talk of offering Dakota in conjunction with MCTC, with whom we share the Ojibwa class, but it never came to fruition. Apparently, the individual Augsburg was working with at MCTC left, and no one else picked up the cause. Because of enrollment numbers, Augsburg could not offer it without MCTC, so it was forgotten. I was actually happy hearing this because if tracks have already been laid, even though abandoned, it may not be as hard as I originally thought to get it back on the table.
Consider the languages Augsburg currently offers and how they pertain to Native Americans. Spanish speakers tortured Natives for their riches. French speakers slaughtered them for their furs. English speakers pushed Natives to the brink of extinction. By giving these languages priority, we acknowledge their superiority and sit by while native languages slowly die. I’m not asking to remove those languages, but we should do our part keep languages threatened with extinction alive.
In terms of making Native American history a required course here at Augsburg, consider the current structure of our Religion 100 requirement. When I first looked at this college, I was concerned about this particular course due to my potential discomfort with hearing about different beliefs or values I did not share. I am not a Christian, but my admissions counselor assured me this class was for the awareness of other religions and cultures. The course description states that it is a “search for meaning through the narratives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” That means it is through the perspective of the people of these religions. This is a huge difference compared to learning it from the Christians’ point of view. I know this because I was raised by a devout Lutheran woman who sent me to a strict Lutheran school through tenth grade. Learning about these religions from the point of view of the religions’ followers puts an entirely new perspective on it, and it really does open up our eyes and minds to accepting people for who they are not what they are and what they believe.
In that same vein, we should share the stories of those who pre-date our ancestors. I am currently taking Introduction to American Indian Studies, and this class is from the native narrative. American history is something we all learn about in grade school, but from whose perspective? Certainly no one could argue it places Native Americans in the forefront. By requiring this course, we follow our inclusive calling to tell the whole story, not just the white parts. Let’s do our part not to change the narrative, but to include all voices and all languages in the discussion.
This article first appeared in the Friday, December 15, 2017, Edition of The Echo.