Illinois House passes legislation to require Illinois students to learn Native American history

Rockford state representative Maurice West sponsored the bill.

ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Illinois House of Representatives passed HB1633, on a bipartisan vote of 75 to 32 with one member voting present. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Maurice West (D-Rockford.)

The legislation requires certain courses of American history or government taught in Illinois elementary and high schools to include the experience and history of Native Americans.

“You cannot truly understand our state or our country without learning about the experience of Native Americans,” said State Representative Maurice West.

West says this bill started with a local movement at Hononegah High School a few years ago, when a group tried to get the school to change its Indians mascot. That movement fizzled out, but that sparked some interest in the topic of Native American history.

“Hononegah had that protest of students about their mascot and then I filed a mascot bill which sparked the federally-recognized tribal members throughout the state to reach out and say let’s put that on ice,” Rep. West explains. “Let’s focus on our history. I’m really thankful for the students of Hononegah. They started this conversation.”

Hononegah has taken steps like toning down its Princess Hononegah routine, in which a cheerleader performs a pregame tumbling routine. The Native American history in Illinois is something that needs to be passed down, according to Rep. West.

“We must preserve the history of Native Americans in Illinois, and it is absolutely critical for our young people to understand the Native American experience as they grow into the next leaders of our state,” he said. “I am proud to have worked with several leaders in Illinois’ Native American community to craft this legislation, and I appreciate the engagement of the Illinois State Board of Education on this important issue.”

“This is a win-win-win for Illinois,” said Andrew Johnson, Executive Director of the Native American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois. “The students will enhance their knowledge of Native Americans, educators will be empowered with resources to present our contributions both past and present, and the current American Indian population will be recognized.”

The bill also requires some history courses to include information about Native American nations’ sovereignty and the genocide in North America.

The bill now moves to the State Senate, where it must pass before going to the governor for approval.

If it passes, instruction would be required as soon as the 2024-2025 school year.

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March 24, 2023 at 06:30PM

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