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  • Justine Jam, Indian Education for All Implementation Specialist, 406.444.7490

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Please contact the OPI Help Desk at or 406.444.0087


IEFA Early Childhood

Welcome to the OPI Indian Education for All (IEFA) early childhood website! Montana Constitution, Article X It is the goal of the people to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person. Equality of educational opportunity is guaranteed to each person of the state.

Early Childhood Education, as it implies has a very important place within the realm of educators teaching children to be aware of not just differences amongst people, but more importantly, similarities amongst themselves, their communities, and the peoples of Montana. Within our state, Montana Indians are recognized by individual tribes, and early learning experiences and activities can provide respectful inclusion and accurate portrayals of Native Americans.

This site provides culturally appropriate resources for literature (often written and illustrated by Native Americans), research and professional development. Please contact Justine Jam if you have any questions

Lessons From Turtle Island: Chapter 1

Chapter one from Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms by Guy W. Jones and Sally Moomaw. Copyright 2002 by Guy W. Jones and Sally Moomaw. Reprinted with permission of Redleaf Press, St. Paul, MN;

CHAPTER ONE: Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms (Download entire chapter here)

Why a Book About Native American Issues?

Problems in Today’s Classrooms

Omission from Curriculum

Inaccurate Curriculum


Skin Color and Appearance





Living in the Past




Feathers and Headdresses

Peace Pipe

Sun Dance Skull

Totem Poles

Fancy Dance Bustle

Indian Tom-toms

Fetish Necklaces

Dream Catchers

Magic Power Shields

Sand Paintings


Face Painting



Brown Bag Vests

Our goals for educators reflect a deep conviction that learning environments for all children will improve as teachers become more informed about specific issues in diversity. In order to help future generations, we must first inform and guide teachers. Changing the way we teach is never easy. Patterns of teaching and favored curriculum activities and materials can become deeply ingrained. Thoughtful educators, though, never stop learning and improving. Our goals, then, are directed at changing outcomes for children as well as educating and empowering teachers to make appropriate choices of curriculum materials and teaching strategies. The following chapters expand upon these objectives.

Outcomes for Children

Outcomes for Teachers


Culturally Responsive Teaching Resources

Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009.

This resource provides early childhood educators a means of confronting and eliminating barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity; most importantly, find tips for helping staff and children to respect each other, themselves, and all people. Individual chapters focus on culture and language, racial identity, family structures, gender identity, economic class, different abilities, holidays, and more.


Research Articles

Teaching Young Children about Native Americans | ERIC Digest
Much remains to be done to counter stereotypes of Native Americans learned by young children in our society. Teachers must provide accurate instruction not only about history but also about the contemporary lives of Native Americans. A number of positive strategies can be used in classrooms, regardless of whether Native American children are members of the class. By Debbie Reese

Encouraging Acceptance and Compassion Through Play |
Developing kindness and compassion for others is a critical part of young children's development. The ability to accept others - even if they are different - and feel compassion for them is an essential component of social competency. This is just as important as any academic training. Socially competent children are more successful in life. The ability to relate to and accept people who are different is not just a desired trait - it's a necessity for living in today's diverse society.

Engaging Native American Learners With Rigor And Cultural Relevance |The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
This Issue Brief identifies strategies that foster Native American student engagement and improved academic achievement. Three areas that are identified in the literature as promising strategies for improving educational outcomes for Native students: Instructional practices, curriculum content, and school climate. Educators need not choose between high levels of achievement and culturally relevant practices; in fact, such practices, when interwoven, are supportive of teaching and learning.

Culture and Early Childhood Learning, University of Calif, University of Oulu, Finland
It is a routine finding in research across many content domains that when children are asked to learn or solve problems based upon materials with which they are familiar, or in ways that make “human sense” they learn more rapidly. These relations between culture and learning do not fade away, but become even more pronounced as children move from early into middle childhood and adolescence.

An Investigation of How Culture Shapes Curriculum in Early Care and Education Programs on a Native American Indian Reservation: "The Drum Is Considered the Heartbeat of the Community”
This article investigates how culture shapes instruction in three early care and education programs on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The investigation is framed by the following research question: How does the culture of the family and community shape curriculum? Data analysis suggests that ongoing communication with parents and community about teaching within a culturally relevant context, building a sense of belongingness and community through ritual, and respecting children, families, and community are essential to defining the Native American Indian culture within these early learning programs.

Professional Development

Also, please check OPI Early Childhood