State Tribal Education Partnership

Coeur d’Alene Tribe Department of Education STEP Grant

Federal Initiatives

In October 2015, The Coeur d’Alene (CdA) Tribe received a four-year State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) Program grant. The purpose of the STEP Program is to:

  1. Promote increased collaboration among tribal education agencies (TEAs) and the State educational agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) that serve students from the affected tribe; and
  2. Build the capacity of the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe’s Tribal Education Agency to conduct certain administrative functions under certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) formula grant programs for eligible schools, as determined by the TEA, SEA, and LEA

Focus of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s STEP grant

Overarching Goal

To strengthen the cultural identity of students to improve academic success and graduation rates on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, as measured on local and state methods


  • Collaborate with relevant departments in the State Education Agency (SEA) to systemically increase the role of the Tribe in curriculum standards, assessment, and culturally responsive teaching strategies and materials
  • Develop CdA Tribal Social Studies Units for grade 4 Idaho History
  • Align, articulate, and integrate culture, history and language in K-12 Idaho Social Studies standards
  • Provide pre-service and in-service teacher education programs to promote Indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy for all LEA and TS teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals
  • Develop three high school Social Studies dual-credit enrollment or high school credit courses (e.g. Tribal Sovereignty and Policy, Tribal Government, Tribal Geography)
  • Develop a family & community engagement plan that deeply engages families and the broader tribal community in the home, school and in school leadership
  • Share data between all STEP partners including STEP-specific project data to inform programmatic decisions related to teacher engagement and improving achievement for all at-risk student subgroups
  • Enhance operations of federal, state, and local education programs and resources through cross-agency training, information sharing, and collaborative partnerships


The STEP program has put together a Cultural Leadership Team made up of Tribal staff, Plummer/Worley School District and Tribal School representatives and teachers, University of Idaho partners, and Coeur d’ Alene language speakers. This team works together to develop 4th grade Idaho Social Studies curriculum that is rooted in Coeur d’ Alene culture, language and history (objective 2). This curriculum will be shared on a statewide level in order to provide a framework for other Tribes to work with their local school districts in providing culturally relevant curriculum & instruction. The cultural leadership team also does work in meeting some of the objectives above.


Culturally Sustaining/Revitalizing Pedagogy (CSRP)

To guide the development of Social Studies Curriculum rooted in Coeur d’ Alene, we designed a Curriculum Framework to guide this work using a Culturally Sustaining and Revitalizing Pedagogy. CSRP has three main components

  1. Expression of Indigenous sovereignty
    • Attends directly to asymmetrical power relations
  2. Need to reclaim and revitalize what has been disrupted and displaced by colonization
    • Innovative approaches to second language learning
    • Innovation approaches to “teaching culturally”
  3. Need for community-based accountability
    • need for community-based accountabilit
    • “the four Rs” (Brayboy et al., 2012): Respect, Reciprocity, Responsibility, and Relationships
    • Education which serves the needs of communities as defined by communities

Coeur d’ Alene Tribe Essential Understandings

The Essential Understandings lay the foundations of who the Coeur d’ Alene people are, what makes them unique and why it is important to teach children culturally; acknowledging their ways of knowing and creating a safe classroom environment that nurtures, values and strengthens their identity


The peoples who make up the present day tribes of Idaho have existed in this region for time immemorial. Their languages, means of organizing themselves, relationships to aboriginal landscapes, and histories are diverse and distinct. Each tribe asserts its right to tell its own story, whether as history, oral tradition, community practices, or other means of institutional memory. The stories, histories and experiences of Idaho Tribes enrich the diversity of our Idaho community


Though unique and diverse, Idaho tribes share a rich culture rooted in interconnected, inseparable and interweaving relationships with landscape, community, animals and the cosmos. The world is viewed from a relational, reciprocal, respectful and responsible lens, creating a spiritual relationality that extends beyond humanity to include the environment, plants, animals and spiritual realms

Impacts of Federal Indian Policy (historically and today)

The histories of Idaho tribes within the formation of the United States and Idaho statehood were and continue to be impacted by federal policies toward Indian (Tribal) people that were historically intended to assimilate tribal people into dominant society. Educational policies that were once intended to destroy tribal social, spiritual and cultural structure and reeducate them in western culture continue to reverberate in tribal families today and their interactions with the education system. Today, Idaho tribes are striving to create vibrant educational systems and supports that reaffirm and revitalize their languages and cultures, bringing about a strong sense of identity

Tribal Sovereignty

The federal and state governments of Idaho recognize Idaho tribes’ inherent sovereignty. Idaho tribes through self-determination and self-governance are sovereign nations, whose members have the right to self-representation. Those sovereign rights are enumerated on a case-by-case, tribe-by-tribe, historical basis
Self-government by Indian tribes includes the determination of what role customs, traditions, and heritage languages play in community life. Each tribe defines those elements uniquely, reflecting a diversity of cultural practices between tribes and within tribes
Tribal members maintain their inherent sovereignty rights both on and off the reservation, whether traveling, working or living off reservation, just as all non-Indian people maintain their citizenship when on a reservation

Coeur d’Alene

Tribal members have dynamic cultural and linguistic practices. These dynamic practices are constantly being adapted to meet the needs of contemporary demands. The cultural and linguistic practices of the Coeur d’ Alene people are intellectual, linguistic, cultural and spiritual assets necessary to maintain individual and community well-being

Idaho Tribes Today

Today, Idaho Tribes collaborate directly with the Idaho State Board of Education through the Idaho Indian Education Committee. The Idaho Indian Education Committee has two goals:

  • American Indian Academic Excellence: Ensure Idaho’s American Indian students are afforded educational opportunities on an equitable basis, and provide resources that promote and support an increase in the educational attainment of AI students
  • Culturally relevant pedagogy: Ensure Idaho K-20 educational institutions provide all educators with an understanding of the distinct knowledge and heritage of Idaho’s American Indians. For a full version of the Idaho Indian Education Committees’ Strategic Plan, go to

4 Pillars

Coeur d’ Alene Tribe STEP Program
The four pillars represent the heart of Coeur d’ Alene people. It is our hope that these pillars are so deeply rooted in our children’s heart that we will see them carried out in a relational, reciprocal, respectful and responsible way for generations immemorial

t’u’lschint: Membership

Capable, decent, moral, ‘a good person’, a good citizen in your family, tribal, local and world community. A responsible, accountable and informed citizen in all spheres of relationship

snmiypnqwiln: Scholarship

Life-long, holistic learning with ideas rooted in tribal values, self-determination, self-government and sovereignty that produces deep knowledge to understand the world and meaningful application within the community

‘ats’ qhnt’ wesh: Stewardship

To care for all things with integrity, responsibility, accountability and social awareness in all spheres of life, human, animals, natural resources, and the cosmos, looking at each other from the heart

hngwa’ yqn; hnshat’ qn: Guardianship

To protect our tribal ways of knowing and being through the protection, care and responsibility for our people, natural resources, culture, history, traditions, language and spirituality

4 R’s Indigenous Principals

These four principles are representative of a worldview commonly found amongst most Indigenous peoples’ throughout the world. They are interweaving, interconnected and inseparable, all working together to achieve balance, wisdom and a sense of purpose. When the four R’s are actively demonstrated, the outcome is achievement of the four pillars


Relational education acknowledges and supports the interweaving relationships that exist between people, animals, places and ideas; enabling students to be who they are through active engagement in a place/community-based education that both revitalizes and sustains their cultural ways of knowing and being


Respect emerges from the process of building & engaging relationships. Through respect, the place of everyone and everything in the universe is kept in balance & harmony. Respect is reciprocal, shared, constantly interchanging principle, which is expressed through all aspects of social conduct


Through interweaving relationships, we are bound to care for those things around us. There is a clear sense of relatedness and that whatever is received makes its way back around to others. Genuine reciprocity includes the community as part of the whole process rather than passive recipients of a system designed outside themselves


We are necessarily responsible to that which we are in relationship with. As people, we learn from, rely on, and survive and thrive because of that which surrounds us. Educating children necessitates careful thought, consultation and collaboration to care for both ideas, and the knowledge it generates, and the living being those ideas influence

Pedagogical Strategies

Coeur d’Alene Culture, Language, and History

The following teaching methods & strategies can be used to build students’ self-esteem, and strengthen understanding, tolerance, respect and trust between Indigenous students, the community and the school system.

  • To move beyond the four walls of the classroom
  • To utilize the Coeur d’Alene essential understanding as a resource to inform teaching and learning
  • To draw upon student’s prior knowledge, both academically and socially/culturally
  • To consider education as a bigger community effort, using community and family as curriculum/lesson co-constructors and knoweldge keepers
  • To encourge teachers to actively engage and participate in the local community to build relationships and an understanding of the community
  • To share with teachers the research on American Indian education and the resources available to them outside the classroom
  • To ask teachers “How are you drawing on the community to align with the curriculum?”
  • To support teachers in seeking out appropriate, multi-dimensional resources and know they are the right resources
  • To create a relational environment to which to plan, engage and interact using the four R’s as your guiding principles. Relationship, Respect, Reciprocity, Responsibility
  • To create a space for teaching, modeling, and designing classroom environments that build students understanding of the four Coeur d’Alene pillars of Membership, Scholarship, Stewardship and Guardianship