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UMN, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community create free online course

The Indigenous Education for All online course will use a $1.1 million grant to increase awareness and knowledge of tribal nations in Minnesota.
Image by Noah Liebl
The course will educate about history, traditions and contemporary tribal life and governance.

The University of Minnesota will offer a free Indigenous Education For All course open to the public in collaboration with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) in 2025.

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) received a $1.1 million grant from SMSC’s Understand Native Minnesota campaign to improve the Native American narrative within the state.

George Veletsianos, a professor of learning technologies who is helping lead the development of the course, said it will include current and historical issues related to Indigenous Minnesotans and myths that need to be dispelled. It will also increase awareness and knowledge of tribal nations in Minnesota. 

In an email statement to the Minnesota Daily, SMSC Chairman Cole Miller said “Our tribe’s goal is to improve the narrative taught in classrooms about Native peoples, which is too often incomplete or inaccurate.” 

Miller said SMSC is happy to provide a grant for the University to develop this online course to offer Minnesota students a reliable introduction to the history, cultures and modern experiences of Native Americans in Minnesota. 

Cassie Scharber, the assistant dean of online professional education and professor of learning technologies, said there are many components to the collaborative process with SMSC.

“The Community Advisory Council will be a large part of this project, and SMSC has one representative on that council at this moment in time,” Scharber said.

Veletsianos said the council will consist of people who have lived experience with Indigenous issues.

“We want this course to be active, and we want it to connect to people’s daily experiences and realities,” Veletsianos said. “We want it to be authentic to the Indigenous ways of knowing, living and learning.”

The target audience of this course is not only students, administrators and educators but also the general public, Scharber said.

“We are making sure the text and videos we might be using are relatable and readable by not making assumptions about what people know or don’t know,” Veletsianos said.

According to Scharber, the team intends to have the course available in multiple languages to accommodate the diverse range of people within Minnesota.

Scharber said the project was inspired by an Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta, which had a lot of success. 

Veletsianos said the course will be flexible and fluid to be used in different ways and settings, whether in the classroom or at home. He added he wants the course to be interactive so people can engage in ways other than reading or listening. 

One of the challenges the team is looking into is how to promote the course, Veletsianos said. 

“Online courses that are geared for the broader public are oftentimes completed by people who are already really interested and want to learn about a topic, ” Veletsianos said. “We want to figure out how we can expand the number of people we might be able to reach with this course.” 

The course is expected to launch in mid-2025.

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