Incorporating Indigenous Education Into Schools
by Meighan Strout
When I first heard of the Wabanaki REACH Map Activity I was beyond intrigued. I had always been interested in learning about Indigenous history and attempting to decolonize my education, so this activity sounded like a perfect way to do both.
I have always had the privilege of attending these educational activities and I felt as though other students should have the opportunity to experience decolonizing exercises as well. I was extremely excited to bring this activity to my high school (Baxter Academy) and give my peers a glimpse at Native American history.
I decided the best way to approach this event was to have a teacher email the administration about the activity and how it is beneficial for learning and supports the history curriculum taught at my school. However, when I approached the administration about bringing this information and important activity to my high school, I was told a firm No. They attributed their negative answer to financial reasons because of the $1,000 suggested donation. Though this revenue helps to support REACH's work in tribal communities, they did not consider it to be important enough to cut funding from elsewhere. This was concerning to me since I knew other programs my high school offered and funded were receiving tens of thousands of dollars and had a lot of monetary support.
After discussing this negative outcome with a teacher and a few of my peers, I decided that I would not take No for an answer and that I should pursue this passion. I again asked the heads of my school to allow the Wabanaki REACH Map Activity to take place in the spring, and this time, I inquired about raising funds from donors so the school did not need to spend a dime. I was again met with a No, this time with barely any reasoning or clarification as to why.
Knowing that my administration was in such opposition to this activity just fueled my desire to bring it to my high school, and I continued to pursue it, regardless of their wishes. After their second negative answer, I reached out to a donor who I knew had previously expressed interest in Indigenous education and asked if they would be willing to donate $1,000 to the school for this activity. After the donor agreed, I again approached the administration about the event and I knew I had backed them into a corner, when they finally agreed.
While this activity has been postponed at my high school for now due to the pandemic, I am incredibly grateful for the donor who was willing to help out my cause and I am glad I pursued this interest of mine, even against my school's wishes. I think in the long run this has brought to light the true interests my school had in education and has hopefully taught them to include diverse learning activities in their curriculum.
My name is Meighan Strout and I am a senior at Baxter Academy in Portland, Maine. I am an adoptee from China, although I have lived in Lisbon Falls, a small town in central Maine, my entire life. I was fortunate enough to attend a private school for my elementary and middle school education even though it was extremely conservative and limited my ability to grow. As a product of my environment, I am now extremely progressive and I have always been a part of an independent and liberal family.
I started attending Baxter Academy as a freshmen because my middle school was too restrictive for my taste. Although my interests have shifted throughout the years, I have always been focused on education and work. Right now, my favorite courses have focused on history and sociology since I am extremely interested and passionate about social justice, activism, and human rights. Outside of school, I work part time at a boutique clothing store in Lisbon and spend time with my sister. While I am usually always busy with school and work, I also take time to walk my dog and attend events like the Wabanaki REACH Map activity! After high school I plan on pursuing a degree that puts me into the political sphere so I can work on ensuring equitable education for everyone.