Update on MMSD’s Title VII Programming
Connecting Native Students
|Tara Tindall and with her Native American Heritage Month display at the
MMSD Doyle Administration Building
recognized American Indian tribes and bands located in this state at least twice in the elementary grades and at least once in the high school grades.
Wisconsin is home to eleven federally-recognized American Indian nations and tribal communities. Included are: Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Forest
County Potawatomi, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin,
Oneida Nation, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Mole Lake (Sokaogon Chippewa Community) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Saint Croix Chippewa
Indians of Wisconsin, Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians and the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Unlike most nations or tribes, the Ho-Chunk were forced from their land, which is why we see their presence scattered across Wisconsin in the Dells, Black River
Falls, Wittenburg, Tomah, Nekoosa and here in Madison. The result is Native people, who have no connection to a particular tribe or land. This is why the work of
Tindall is so important to the Urban Native students who attend MMSD schools.
In addition to placing students with tutors, Tindall also coordinates “Culture Class” twice a year. Held once a week for six weeks at Goodman Community Center, the
class teaches traditional Native art with instruction from Native Wisconsin instructors. Students can learn to make pouches with leather, beadwork and find a safe
space to explore their history.
Tindall shared her future goal to create a Summer Institute for all MMSD teachers. “We received a grant from Madison Community Foundation. I am planning to create
a summer institute where we train the teachers on Act 31. We will spend two days doing that. We will also focus on the Ho-Chunk Nation and do a tour of Ho-Chunk
Nation land. The focus will be 9th grade social studies. We will also incorporate art. We have fantastic Ho-Chunk artists in the area who could help. With the districts
help, we will have the teachers develop a curriculum for their students.”
Tindall works closely with UW-Madison’s Aaron Bird Bear, assistant dean for Student Diversity Programs, who is a tremendous resource and helps to cover the broad
territory and need for American Indian instruction on an annual basis.
Another program that Native Students can access is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), which provides access to STEM programming.
The group meets once a month for a presentation on a STEM Field, with the goal to get Native students into STEM careers.
Each high school also has a Native American Student Association, which can be difficult to keep active with the small numbers of students in the district. Last year,
two schools were active and this year only East High School’s association remained active.
Speaking to this Tindall noted, “Urban Native kids are spread out thin across the district. There are a lot of families who do not have the cultural connection to their
tribes. That is one of the characteristics of Urban Natives. They have a hard time seeing themselves as Native. That is one of the reasons for the culture class; it
helps to foster their cultural identity. They don’t have the cultural connection to their tribe. They are far away from their homes.”
By Hedi Rudd
The approximately 165 Native American students enrolled in the Madison Metropolitan
School District may not realize it, but there is a woman sitting at a desk on Dayton Street
who is thinking about each one of them. She is analyzing their grades and talking to their
teachers and counselors and identifying tutors who might be able to help them improve
their academic performance. She is planning programs to ensure that they have a cultural
connection to their Native ancestors or tribes. She is reviewing the Native American
books they may read to ensure that they are culturally appropriate.
This woman is Tara Tindall and last year in August, her journey led her back to Madison
or Ho-Chunk land. Originally from Black River Falls, Tara is a member of the Ho-Chunk
Nation. After attending UW Madison from 2009-2013, she received a master’s in
Curriculum Instruction and returned to Black River Falls.
Madison, however, kept calling her back and last year she became the First Nations
instructional resource teacher for Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD.) In her
role, she is a conduit to culture for Native students and a resource to all students. State
Statutes, under Act 31, require that all students as part of the social studies curriculum
include instruction in the history, culture and tribal sovereignty of the federally
To that end, Tindall spends a lot of her time making connections to parents and teachers
on behalf of Native students in the district. Understanding that each household has its
challenges with single parent households, health problems or working multiple jobs,
she takes it upon herself to reach out and find ways to connect the families to resources
to support their education and to help them find the cultural support that they may not
realize they need.
Tindall references a recent training on Native Historical Trauma, which she will share
with staff, teachers and principals in an upcoming newsletter. The premise is that today’
s Native people may be affected by the historical losses and trauma suffered as they
were displaced by the larger population. The lack of acknowledgement of the history of
how this was perpetuated is a focus of recent studies and is just beginning to be
Fortunately, Tindall’s found her way home to help our Native students find their voice
and cultural connection and to begin the journey toward healing that trauma.