Implementing Act 31 in Wisconsin. An Exploration of the History, the Act, and the Educators Who Make it Happen
AuthorReis, Kendyl Michaela
Wisconsin Act 31, also known as Act 31, was signed into law in 1991 and requires Wisconsin schools to teach Indigenous studies in their classrooms. Act 31 was passed in response to a turbulent time in Northern Wisconsin when Ojibwe, who were exercising their treaty rights to spearfish, were confronted with white Wisconsinites, who protested against those rights. This time period was dubbed The Treaty Wars or The Walleye Wars (the protests were specifically against spear fishing a type of fish known as a walleye) and it was a dangerous time for Ojibwe in Northern Wisconsin. These protests often turned violent and required police and military presence to prevent serious harm to Ojibwe spear fishers. Wisconsin gained national attention for these protests because they showed a very ugly -- and very real -- side of the state. Something needed to be done, and it needed to be done quickly, thus Act 31 came into legislation. When Indigenous Studies becomes a legal requirement in the curriculum, how do we ensure that it is properly implemented? This is the question that many educators who champion Act 31 -- Native and non-Native alike -- have asked themselves. This question is the motivation for writing this thesis, and no doubt, one that will continue to be asked after this thesis is completed. To add to the discussion on the implementation of Act 31, this thesis analyses new interviews with Wisconsin educators who are associated with the Act, then compares the interviews with an analysis of two surveys that were previously conducted on Act 31 in 2000 and 2014. But first, this thesis delves deeper into the history that led to Act 31, Wisconsin’s education policy history, the passage of Act 31, and then onto a short analysis of the Act itself. The conclusion of this thesis is that insufficient knowledge of the subject and lack of awareness of available resources and course materials by the teachers combined with school administrators’ knowledge of what is required by Act 31 all contribute to low levels of implementation. In addition, strengthening the rhetoric of the act itself will help guide teachers and administrators to implement Act 31 more fully, which will benefit their students and the greater Wisconsin society.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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