News Release: CTH Uses NEH Award for Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Mohegan Tribe, and National History Program

In a collaborative effort, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Mohegan Tribe, the Connecticut Democracy Center, and CT Humanities have joined together to foster greater engagement among Indigenous students in the Connecticut History Day academic program.

CT Humanities chose to use $20,000 in National Endowment for the Humanities History Day funding to engage and connect the Tribes. This pilot effort will encourage and support more Tribal student participation in the program with the goal of leading to student research and projects that tell a more complete and diverse history of Connecticut.

An affiliate program of National History Day, CT History Day is managed by the Connecticut Democracy Center and annually engages thousands of middle- and high-school students in historical research, interpretation, and creative expression through project-based learning.

Led by educational coordinators from both tribes, this new Tribal history project will extend outreach to educators and students in underserved and hard-to-reach communities.

“Indigenous history IS Connecticut history, and we are thrilled that CT Humanities is working to accomplish a very important two-pronged goal: to encourage Tribal students to participate as scholars in CT History Day and to compel all students to engage in original research on Indigenous cultures and histories,” said Rebecca Lord Gomez, Director of Education, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. “We believe this endeavor will help to create a better understanding of Indigenous contributions to American culture, both in the past and presently, and we look forward to celebrating the scholarship Connecticut students uncover through this project.”

“We fully support joining the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in this year’s CT History Day sponsored by CT Humanities,” said the Mohegan Tribe’s Council of Elders. “This is one more way that our two sovereign Tribal nations are collaborating in educational and cultural endeavors. We are so proud of our Mohegan students participating and look forward to seeing their success on this project.”

“As representatives of the Indigenous people of this land, the Mohegan Tribe is thankful for the opportunity to participate in CT History Day,” said Samantha Tondreau, Director of Curriculum & Instruction for the Mohegan Tribe. “Seeing first-hand the curiosity and excitement of our Mohegan students as they prepare these complex projects while balancing academics, sports, and personal lives, has been not only rewarding but encouraging.”

CT Humanities and the Connecticut Democracy Center have a successful collaborative funding relationship dating back more than a decade. The two organizations have worked together to expand the History Day program into new areas of the state, strategize on recruiting judges, and to create Connecticut-based content guides using resources created by CT Humanities.

“We are so pleased to receive this funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the outreach partnership with CT Humanities and the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes,” said Rebecca Taber, Head of Connecticut History Day and Public Programs at the Connecticut Democracy Center. “This project will deepen our existing relationships and give Tribal students an opportunity to explore historical topics of their own choice and use their research to create projects to share with a wider audience.”

The Tribal communities will play an integral role in determining the method of outreach efforts to achieve the goals set out in this grant. Initial ideas include creating after-school activities for students working on History Day projects and having participating students visit all five tribal communities around the state. The group will also design and host a gathering for Indigenous youth, work to recruit a more diverse pool of History Day judges from these communities for the 2024 and 2025 competitions, as well as offer financial support for students participating in the 2025 competition. This pilot will produce a model of outreach and activities that can be used by other History Day affiliates around the country to include more Indigenous students and communities in their programs.

“Expanding CT History Day to tribal students shifts the power back to the tribes and allows students to create connections with elders and leaders in the community and decide, together, what stories are important to them,” said Dr. Jason R. Mancini, Executive Director of Connecticut Humanities. “Most importantly, it gives the tribes ownership of content that will tell a fuller historical story to broader audiences. We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for providing the funding for this important work.”

This collaborative initiative furthers the exciting developments in the social studies in Connecticut. These include incorporating state mandated Indigenous studies into the classroom that started in the fall of 2023, the release of a CT model curriculum in 2024, and the release of the new state Social Studies Standards, a collaborative effort among state agencies and organizations including the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies, which received partnership funding from CT Humanities.

The new funded project aligns with a special NEH initiative called A More Perfect Union, which seeks to prepare the American people for the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026 by supporting projects that enhance understanding of the country’s founding period. As part of the initiative, NEH encourages projects that will make documents and the historical record from this period more accessible, that promote a deeper understanding of early American history, and that advance knowledge of our core principles of government. The initiative will help students, teachers, and the public better understand America’s constitutional democracy and how Americans have realized the country’s founding ideals over time.

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