Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Comparative Politics | Other Political Science | Political Science
This intent of this paper is to research Native American education in theSyracuseCitySchool District. This paper examines the relationship of the Onondaga Nation and the New York State Department of Education. The Onondaga Nation is a Native American Nation that neighbors the City ofSyracuse. The Nation is one of a Confederacy of Six Native American Nations inNew YorkStatecalled the Haudenosaunee.
Native American students across theUnited Stateshave extremely low graduation rates in city public schools. The Onondaga Nation attributes this to policies of marginalization and insensitive curriculum materials in public school. Many theories have been proposed that minority students often suffer from a lack of self-esteem in the classroom due to culturally insensitive teaching methods and materials. Furthermore, many parents of Native American students feel that the education is inadequate and take their children out of Syracuse City Schools. The Onondaga believe that all students inNew YorkStateshould have knowledge about the history, contributions to society, culture, and contemporary relevance of their Nation.
I originally engaged in this project as part of an internship at Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation. I interviewed localSyracuseCityschool teachers, Education Professors from aroundNew YorkState, members of the Superintendent’s office forSyracuseCityschools, anOnondagaNationSchoolteacher, an Akwesasne Mohawk teacher, a representative from the New York State Department of Education, and the head of the Title VII program inSyracuseCityschools. I read over 50 books and articles detailing the issue to attain a greater understanding. I also took a class titled Haudenosaunee and New York State Relations in the Native American Studies department ofSyracuseUniversity. From this, I was able to piece together the narrative of the issue.
From examining all perspectives of the issue and factors involved I have found that the social studies curriculum is insufficient in its treatment of the Haudenosaunee and Onondaga Nation. The demands of the Onondaga Nation, that culturally relevant materials be better incorporated into the public school curriculum, are not only warranted but are in keeping with the State’s own affirmed goals and mission. Furthermore, the brutal history of assimilation has contributed to a cultural aversion to Western Education.
Hope for the future exists at the local level through outreach workshops, parental involvement, increasing Native American representation on school boards, and possibly forming specialty education efforts that could consistently work with teachers.
Efforts to improve education would be a triumph in relations between the two parties because, in effect, it would affirm that the United States government is invested in the future of the Native American people and that the government will do what its best to aid in their survival.
McWeeney, Margaret Eleni, "Native American Elementary Education in the Syracuse City School District: A Microcosm of the Native American Struggle for Self-Determination and Tribal Sovereignty" (2009). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 494.
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