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Monarch staff is creating a new Social Studies theme that is tentatively entitled Indigenous People: Here and There, Then and Now. This past weekend five of us attended an Educator Workshop with the Amah Mutsun at the Museum of Natural History.

Below are some of the points that stood out to me as themes that may be central as Monarch staff co-create our new theme using a backwards design plan.

  • PlantsWe learned about four indigenous plants, their characteristics and uses. The indigenous people of this region care for, and cared for, the plants through relationship and stewardship. We can help our students learn State Framework standards as well as the values and perspectives of the people who have co-existed with the plants for thousands of years.

  • Wealth. We learned the Amah Mutsun people’s view of wealth; of the utmost value in the nature of the relationships one has with family, community, the natural world and all living things. Knowledge of how to steward those reationships is the second indicator of one’s wealth, including respect for natural resources and the ceremonies that accompany enriching those relationships. Chairman Valentin Lopez spoke to us of some of the ways that his ancestors cared for the ecosystems of the region, like ‘calling home the salmon’. The people would clear obstacles in the rivers that could impede the fishes’ journey to the spawning areas, and would purposefully not fish the first run so that the next generation could be robust.

  • Mission Period. Chairman described events of the mission period and helped us find language to be able to talk with youth about this dreadful time. We learned about how this region changed as the Mexican period trundled on to the American period. We were struck by the knowledges of survival skills the people were forced to develop. In 2001 the Amah Mutsun elders asked/told Mr. Lopez that he was to run for chairman of the newly recognized tribe; and how he couldn’t refuse. The elders tasked him with telling their truth, and to reclaim and spread the many knowledges that had been hidden or thought to be lost in the preceding 600 years when European influence arrived in the region.

He spoke to us about the relationships the Amah Mutsun tribe has forged with public entities like the National Parks, and the journey that the tribe, supported by the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, is on to restore lost and hidden knowledge to the youth. He told us of relationships with research institutions and a text from 1929 which curated the knowledge of Maria Ascención Solórsano.

Finally, we learned about the activities of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust and its commitment to its four goals:

  • To Protect sacred land and knowledge

  • To Research hidden and lost knowledge

  • To Educate Amah Mutsun and other youth

  • To Facilitate active stewardship of the resources that that are in relationship with all the others

It was quite a day and is the springboard for the staff to develop a thematic unit plan that we hope to be able to bring to the students in the winter trimester. I look forward to previewing the Understanding by Design Plan with you in the next month. The details are working out, and we invite your knowledge, questions, expertise as we finalize the Essential Questions and Understandings (what the students will know and what the students will know how to do).

Thank you for being on this learning journey with us!

Michelle McKinney

Principal, Monarch Community School

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