Historical society members fill a void

February 2, 2009 / Comments (0)


Feb. 09 – For many years, Montana teachers had to wing it when it came to teaching Montana history. They didn’t have any age-appropriate textbooks to use. That changed this school year, when Stories of the Land hit classroom shelves.


The project began a decade ago when the late Dave Walter, a much-loved Montana Historical Society historian and MEA-MFT member, responded to the pleas of teachers looking for resources to teach Montana history.


Initiated by Walter and aided by educators, tribal leaders, and Historical Society historians, Montana—Stories of the Land has earned rave reviews, both in Montana and nationally.


“There has been an empty void about teaching Montana history,” said Stevensville High School history teacher and MEA-MFT member Jeff Waniata. “The Historical Society has filled the void.”


The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) featured the project in the December 2008 issue of Public Employee Advocate.


Martha Kohl, an MEA-MFT member and Historical Society historian, has been project manager of the new textbook since 2006.


Kohl said Stories of the Land tells Montana’s story more fully by reflecting the realities of the state’s history, including the complicated story of homesteading and dispossession.


“We are changing the way people teach Montana history because we have integrated American Indian history so it is not an afterthought or a separate chapter,” Kohl said.


“Including tribal perspectives on Montana’s complex history—while recognizing that the tribes’ histories did not begin in 1804 or end in 1877—makes this textbook a radical departure from earlier teaching tools.”


Beautifully written by Montana author Krys Holmes, Stories of the Land was published by the Historical Society and distributed free to schools across the state.


Copies are also available in bookstores across the state. Proceeds from sales will help print additional free copies for Montana schools.

(Portions of this article reprinted with permission of AFT Public Employee Advocate.)

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