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NICC students successful in removal of textbook misinformation

The students in the Introduction to Psychology Class at the Nebraska Indian Community College were successful in petitioning the authors of their text book for removal of misinformation about American Indian sweats.  What the NICC students accomplished by their desire and effort to have that misinformation removed addressed the long and grievous tradition in the social science disciplines of writing about tribal cultural practices without first consulting with that tribe.  Nine students and four Native American Studies faculty (Santee and Omaha) also signed the petition.  The textbook used for the class is Psychology: A Journey, 5th edition by Dennis Coon and John O. Mitterer. 

Darla Korol, instructor for the Psychology Class explains, “In reviewing text books for the introductory course, I wanted to select a psychology text that included cultural diversity content.  When I reviewed the promotional information for ‘Psychology - A Journey’ - the text was noted as being widely used by students across the country for its diversity content.   After receiving it, I read a ‘Consciousness and Culture’ box containing misinformation on the Sioux sweat lodge.   I immediately apologized to the class.   We then decided to petition the textbook authors to remove this misinformation.”

The petition was led by students who crafted the exact wording they wanted on their petition stating the information included in the “Consciousness and Culture” box:  1) “is an inaccurate description of our ceremony,” 2)  that “non-tribal students reading this are learning a fictional understanding of the sweat” and 3) “it is disrespectful to our way of life.”

One of the textbook authors, Dr. John Mitterer, from Brock University in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, Canada immediately responded  by thanking  the students for the letter and their accompanying petition.  “In cases like this,” he wrote “when we have gotten something wrong, we strive to adjust our textbooks appropriately.  I am sure we can do exactly that here was well.” 

Dr. Mitterer asked for the opportunity to have continuing dialog to “help find a better way to be more respectful of tribal tradition that may be described in other parts of our books.” NICC Native American Studies faculty for the Omaha Nation, Ms. Wynema Morris will be continuing the dialog with Dr. Mitterer.  Instructor Korol believes this is the first time that a student petition from a tribal college has been, positively received by the authors of one of their textbooks resulting in a culturally corrective action for American Indians.

One of the students in the class, Mercedes Sandoval (Santee Dakota), said, “When you are actually interested in something you look further into it and not just believe the first thing you read about it.  I think it was really a good outcome that he (the textbook author) understood why we wanted it taken out – because it wasn’t the truth.”