I am driven to improve educational opportunities for Native Americans
American Indian youth have the highest rate of suicide in Minnesota and the nation. It’s a serious symptom of a wider problem: Native youth don’t feel connected to their school or the larger community.
Heather Peters is on a mission to change this.
“It’s not enough to just tolerate others. We really need to start valuing others, so that they can be the best that they can be and contribute to the society that we all want to live in.” Heather Peters, associate professor
Peters found in talking to Dakota youth that they weren’t feeling like they were part of their school, because they weren’t seeing themselves represented in its curriculum.
“That absent narrative sends them the message that their history and culture are not important,” says Peters.
American Indian youth have the highest rate of suicide in Minnesota and the nation.
Leading cause of death
Suicide is the second leading cause of death nationwide among American Indian youth ages 10-24.
American Indian youth report experiencing the highest levels of mental distress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse when compared to other ethnic groups.
In partnership with the Dakota Wicohan community, Peters assisted in developing the MniSota Makoce curriculum. This culturally based curriculum is more inclusive, instilling in Dakota youth a sense of belonging.
The initial project has met with such success that Peters is currently working with Dakota Wicohan on evaluating the revised curriculum with sixth grade teachers and students across the state.