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Klamath Tribes release video series to teach tribal history in schools

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Screenshot from the second video produced by Klamath Tribes titled, "We're Still Here, The Termination and Restoration of the Klamath Tribes."

The video will add to Oregon’s public school curriculum about tribal history. They are prompted by a state law passed in 2017 aimed at developing curricula that are culturally relevant to individual tribes.

The videos cover subjects like the history of boarding schools in Oregon, tribal forest management and the relationship between the Klamath Tribes and the U.S. government. Many tribal elders were interviewed for the videos, says Julie Bettles, who works for the Klamath Tribes.

“They simply gave an interview and told us about their lifeways or lifestyles and some of them really hit on, that's what they wanted to talk about, they wanted to share their story and their experience with, for example, the boarding schools,” Bettles says.

She says first-hand accounts are important for the tribes, in part because they rely on oral history.

“That oral history comes from generations passed down and some is from the first-hand perspective, such as the boarding schools,” Bettles says. “We have many of the elders that have either been through boarding schools and or we are all closely related to somebody who has had that boarding school experience.”

School districts can choose between a more general curriculum created by the Oregon Department of Education or a curriculum created by one of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon.

The videos are a part of SB 13, a state law passed in 2017 to teach tribal history in schools.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.