blog header image

Integrating Native American traditions in one Montana classroom

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2012.

Cecil Crawford (l) and Nancy Larum (r) co-teach at Hellgate High School in Montana.

StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Missoula, Montana, to record stories for our National Teachers Initiative. We were hosted by the Graduation Matters Missoula program, and during our stay, we met Cecil Crawford, a Blackfeet Native American teacher at Hellgate High School, and his co-teacher, Nancy Larum.

According to Cecil, he does not teach by giving directions but by telling stories, and in discussing his life’s work, he did just that. Cecil speaks with a calming cadence in his voice, and after our conversation I felt relaxed and overtaken by his infectious serenity. He shared a story of how one night, he dreamt of himself teaching a classroom full of Native American children. He took the dream as a sign and left his reservation to become the first teacher to implement a Native American studies curriculum in a high school outside the Indian reservation. This later became a model for other schools across Montana and other states.

Throughout the interview, Cecil described his teaching style and a typical day in the classroom: He starts by shaking each student’s hand. He engages them in Blackfeet traditions — like smudging, burning sweetgrass, and beading — as a meditation practice, and designates time for storytelling and community-centered announcements.

Cecil is seen as a role model in the community, Nancy says, empowering Native American students to succeed at Hellgate High through their own culture and classroom rituals.

To read more about our trip to Missoula, click here.

One Response to “Integrating Native American traditions in one Montana classroom”

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • I am often to running a blog and i really appreciate your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your web site and keep checking for brand spanking new information.

    Comment from Darian Cairns on August 4, 2012 at 12:57 am - Reply to this Comment

Leave a Reply

  • Major Funding Provided By

    CPB Logo
  • National Broadcast Sponsors

    CTCA Logo
  • National Partners

    NPR American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
  • Charity Navigator Logo