NICC Students Succeed in Removing Textbook MisinformationMay 2nd, 2015 | By tcj | Category: 26-4: Tribal College Governance, Tribal College News
The students in an introductory psychology class at Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) successfully petitioned the authors of their textbook to remove misinformation about American Indian sweats. Their accomplishment is all the more noteworthy and significant given the long and grievous tradition of social scientists writing about tribal cultural practices without first consulting with the tribe. Nine students and four Native American studies faculty from both the Santee and Omaha tribes signed the petition to Dennis Coon and John O. Mitterer, authors of the textbook, Psychology: A Journey.
Darla Korol, the psychology instructor at NICC, explained why she initially requisitioned the book: “In reviewing textbooks 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.” But when Korol began reading depictions of the Sioux sweat lodge, she knew something was amiss. “I immediately apologized to the class. We then decided to petition the textbook authors to remove this misinformation.”
NICC students led the petition process, crafting a letter to the authors outlining why the book was disrespectful, misinformative, and even fictional. Author Mitterer, who teaches at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, immediately responded, 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.”
Mitterer hopes to have a continuing dialogue to “help find a better way to be more respectful of tribal traditions that may be described in other parts of our books.” NICC Native American studies faculty member Wynema Morris (Omaha) will spearhead the dialogue with Mitterer. As for the NICC students, Korol believes this may be the first time that tribal college students have successfully petitioned a textbook’s authors to change erroneous content.