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Big Check to Help Preserve Indigenous History

Wonking Class Hero wins grant to continue work on preserving Montana's evaporating indigenous culture.
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Miller-McCune's May 2009 "Wonking Class Hero" Julie Cajune has reason to celebrate.

Cajune was profiled in a Miller-McCune story for the work she is doing to incorporate Indian history and culture in mainstream K-12 classes in Montana through the state's Indian Education for All program. She joined with Hal Schmid, another Indian educator, to write a proposal for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to pay for a project to develop Indian tribal history materials aimed at a national audience.

Last week, she received a phone call from Kellogg program officer Huilan Kren, who told her the foundation's board had unanimously approved her grant proposal. She would receive $1.4 million over three years from the 80-year-old foundation established by the breakfast cereal magnate.

The project includes making a film focusing on cultural sovereignty of Indian peoples as well as each tribe's political sovereignty. "I think a film on sovereignty can provide a background to a lot of things that are in the news about Indian people today," she said.

Another major piece of the work would be what she describes as a parallel history, which will discuss American-Indian historical events and contributions on a parallel timeline of events commonly taught in U.S. history classes.

Both the film and the book will be designed so they "can be used in any kind of a school or public education setting where they have relevance," Cajune said. The grant also includes funds for development of educational materials relevant to the Salish-Kootenai tribes and the Flathead Reservation in western Montana, where Cajune lives.

"I feel very blessed and fortunate that I have the opportunity to do this," Cajune said. "I'm going to meet some remarkable Indian historians through this work, so I am delighted."

Cajune credits her success partially to the timely reading by Kren of both the Miller-McCune story and Howard Zinn'sA People's History of the United States. Kren saw the article after reading Zinn's book and approached Cajune, suggesting she submit a proposal.

The grant will be administered through Salish-Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont.

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