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"Everyday Native" Shares Stories of Native Life With Teachers and Students

Sue Reynolds/Everyday Native

Some states require their public schools to teach a bit of Native American history to their students before they graduate. Sue Reynolds is encouraging teachers to do more than that. Reynolds calls herself a social documentary photographer.

“I went to my first Native American pow wow on the Flathead Reservation in Montana back in 2005," Reynolds said. "When I walked in there, I immediately felt very at home with those people."

"Listening to the drums and watching all the ages, all the families dancing together during an intertribal dance is just something I don’t see here in the San Francisco Bay area or in my travels around the country. It seemed like an invisible, unseen part of America. It was a part of America that I really wanted to know more about," she said.

In the 13 years since, Reynolds says she has worked extensively with American Indian people in the Intermountain West. Earlier this year, she created “Everyday Native,” a new online curriculum for teachers in the fourth through twelfth grades.

Reynolds says Everyday Native isn’t meant to serve as a stand-alone academic unit.

“It helps teachers enhance existing curriculum, whether it’s in language arts or social studies. It could be U.S. history, Native American history and art and it’s really something that teachers will use at any time to enrich those subjects, while encouraging their students to explore and gain a more accurate and respectful of everyday Native American life,” she said.

The Everyday Native website features Reynolds’ photos, taken of Indian people from Montana, Idaho and other states, some in their ceremonial dress. And it features the poetry of Vic Charlo, the chief of the Bitterroot Salish people, who lives in Dixon, Montana.

“I have taught from Head Start to college, so I have a feeling for students through all those ages. I feel pretty good about it. People are using it and they’re liking it," Charlo said.

Everyday Native has received praise from members of the California state House and from Congress for helping to promote cross-cultural collaborations. Charlo recently received a letter from Jon Tester, one of his state’s U.S. senators.

“Dear Victor, Congratulations on earning national recognition for Everyday Native. Thank you for your guidance to educators on creating better understanding among all Montanans. Be well and please know my door is always open. Sincerely, Jon.”

Sue Reynolds hopes Everyday Native will help dispel the myths that all Indian people are alike and that they still live in tipis.

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