After a strong 17-year Head Start relationship between Michigan Inter-Tribal Council and the Pokagon Band, Tribal Council has decided the Pokagon government is ready to establish its own early childhood development center for the 2018-19 school year beginning September 4th.
This transition, effective May 17th, will bring with it several positive changes. First and most importantly, this change strengthens the tribe’s sovereignty and allows Pokagon people to create our own learning standards and curriculum for the youngest among us. Because the Pokagon Band will be fully funding this still-to-be-named center, we will not be subject to the guidelines and requirements that come with federally-funded programs like Head Start. Our team will have the freedom to develop a curriculum based on Potawatomi culture and language and incorporate appropriate experiences like outdoor education and indigenous ways of learning. The center can accept children from any family without income restrictions.
Research shows that children who had such early childhood education experiences succeed at higher rates than children who don’t have similar exposure to literacy and culture-based education. We will maintain many of the beneficial features of the Head Start model: our program will be a place for 3, 4 and 5-year olds to learn, have fun, and prepare for kindergarten. The center will keep small class sizes and low teacher-student ratio.
The Pokagon Department of Education will be working with the Curriculum Committee, the Department of Language & Culture, and other tribal departments to develop the program. Under the leadership of Tribal Council, this team will hire and train teachers, create learning objectives and a curriculum, and plan for daily lessons and a long-range calendar. We appreciate the current staff who are serving our children, and we hope they apply for future positions.
There is much to do before the program starts in the fall, but this ambitious step is another in our tribe’s realization of self-determination and sovereignty. If you are interested in enrolling your child in this program, or have any questions, please contact the Department of Education at the Head Start information line (269) 783-2469.