September 27, 2012
CSKT Education Department host PIR Day
By Lailani Upham
Michael Beers, stand up comedian and disability activist was this year’s keynote CSKT Tribal PIR Day speaker. Beers kept the teachers and school officials laughing while delivering an insightful perspective on disabilities with children. (Lailani Upham photo)
POLSON — Over 500 educators in the valley attended the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Education Pupil Instruction Related Day earlier this month at Polson High School.
CSKT Education Department hosts one of the seven PIR Days a school year for the past 15 years.
PIR days are mandated by the Montana public school system for educators to receive instruction and management content to implement in their classrooms.
The Tribal Education Department assures that all tribal programs and departments get a chance at an opportunity to share information and provided understanding in the classrooms across the Flathead Reservation schools on this day.
The tribal education department staff has always thrived to offer the best sessions for teachers and inspirational and highly effective speakers each year.
One comment came from a participant stating, “I love how a focus has been put on making training day entertaining and educational.”
Every year, raves that it has been the “best year” are received into the office. One comment left by a participant stated, “This is my fifteenth year, and it is the best.” A new participant stated, “ This is my second year and it was better than the last. I loved connecting with all the other teachers and getting new ideas. It was amazing.”
This year, Michael Beers was the highlight of the day.
Beers, a local standup comedian and motivational speaker, grew up in Missoula and experienced the preconceptions that go along with those with disabilities. However, Beers has a whole different perspective on his condition that brings others along to see him and those with disabilities in a whole new light of being like everyone else.
His lighthearted and endearing personality kept the teachers laughing their educated hind ends off.
Beers act is based on his own life growing up in Montana with his mother and three sisters and their dogs and a disability that didn’t stop him at being who is – a really funny, cool guy.
Much of the comments that came into the Tribal Education Department surrounded the impact Beers left. “Totally excellent. He needs to go on Letterman or Leno and educate the world!”
“Great insight, painfully accurate and very funny. It’s great seeing the education system from this perspective.”
One new session and presenter was Dr. Chris Dawson, a Greek gentleman who grew up in Alabama, who spoke on “Perspectives in Understanding Cultures and Behaviors.”
Dawson, who graduated with a law degree from Loyola University and a master’s degree in Education from Montana State University – Bozeman, stated he began studying history and found Native American studies a deep interest.
Growing up in the Greek culture in an area where it was not understood, Dawson gave a clear understanding of misconception of not only from outsiders of his culture but his perspective he was trained to have toward other certain cultures.
Dawson’s breakout session brought an interesting perspective of history of Native American peoples in which he compared to other atrocities in world history.
“Relations between Native Americans are filled with factual myths and truths also which are not widely known or understood by most of those involved. The Bataan death March in WWII was widely described as savage, barbaric, and inhuman by most Americans and in our history books as well. But, the Trail of Tears endured by the Cherokee and others is described as a difficult passage filled with pain and some loss of life,” Dawson stated.
Dawson mentioned the Bataan Death March was a 92-mile stretch to move POW’s who were young soldier men that took over two days to cover the distance. Many died and were killed brutally and barbarically. While in the history books the Trail of Tears and other tribal atrocities included infants, woman and elderly people who died by the thousands on a 900-mile track in bitter freezing weather. “Why do we expect Natives to accept our sweetened version of their history as accurate?”
Dawson gave an example on how a perspective can change by telling a story of a patrolman stopping a speeding car with thoughts of drunk driver, or someone with a loaded gun or a mere reckless driver. When the officer approaches the vehicle there is a woman screaming and he reaches for his firearm when he looks in – a woman is in labor. Dawson asks the question, “Will he modify his response because of a new perspective? We would certainly expect so,” he stated.
In regards to Native history and culture perspectives Dawson added, “These facts and many others that should be brought into the light of the truth are often not accurately portrayed in public schools or the media. Much like the policeman, when we the dominant culture understands the facts from a different perspective, our actions and responses change.”
The tribal PIR Day offered by the CSKT Tribal Education Department is funded by the tribal education program and is the only known program to offer an event of such to their educators on any reservation in Montana.