Widening the Circle Education Conference
PLEASE NOTE: The 2018 WTC Conference has passed but save the date for our 15th Annual Widening the Circle Conference on Indigenous Education is set for March 8-9, 2019!
Recognizing the incredible parallels between WI/MN Native and Hmong experiences, culture, spirituality and community as Indigenous Peoples, we have created the Widening the Circle Education Conference to acknowledge and address our shared issues with education.
The conference is designed to follow traditional Indigenous values in bringing people together through multiple opportunities to meet with Native and Hmong elders and educators to:
Create an environment, which provides educators and students a culturally responsive model of critical multicultural and Indigenous (specifically Native and Hmong) education;
Build relationships that will provide a solid basis through which to better understand their students and communities;
Develop a critical consciousness to deconstruct their biases and stereotypes to begin to see how their practice, and current educational policies can be problematic for students;
Learn positive strategies and ideas to rethink methodologies and infuse a more meaningful and inclusive curriculum and praxis through a critical framework and using Indigenous educational practices, teaching/learning about Indigenous histories, cultures, contemporary issues, and critical multicultural pedagogy to fight oppression and inspire understanding, acceptance, critique sovereignty and respect for all.
Widening the Circle has its roots with the coming together of Native and Hmong students in La Crosse, bringing together Ho-Chunk, Hmoob and Ojibwe elders to discuss issues of cultural survival and how to implement Wisconsin state statutes on American Indian Studies also known as Act 31.
In 1989, Wisconsin passed Act 31 mandating K-12 educators teach about Native American history,sovereignty and treaty rights in Wisconsin. This legislation originated in response to the racial conflicts over treaty rights that emerged from widespread educational failure and a lack of understanding of Native peoples, sovereignty and culture.
Today Hmoob communities face many of the same issues. In response to the continuing racism and recent violence against Hmong communities, the state has tried to pass another bill; which would mandate teaching about Hmoob history, culture and the role in the Vietnam War.
For a variety of reasons many teachers feel unable or unprepared to meet these needs so Indigenous and non-Indigenous elders, educators and students from across Wisconsin have come together to create this unique cross cultural Conference.
In 2002 the Native American Student Association (NASA) began the Act 31 Teacher Education Conferences, helping teachers to teach about Wisconsin Native history, sovereignty, and treaty rights. This conference ran for approximately four years, growing each year and eventually including Hmong issues on education.
They began to include Hmong issues as our communities began to work together more closely and began to recognize deep parallels in spirituality, community, culture, history, and shared concerns with education and assimilation. The focus of the symposium began to shift to a greater understanding of indigenous educational issues, culture, and policy.
In 2010 we included additional workshops and formally became a broader symposium. In addition, Widening the Circle has moved from simply being a one-time-a-year event to having year-round outreach programs including the Native American and Hmong traditional organic gardens, our wild rice and cultural camps, and youth programs. We also do educational outreach including visiting organizations, schools, and institutions to help develop curriculum and do trainings.