Class Spotlight: Native American


The Sioux tribe, shown above, is what most people think of as the typical Native American tribe.

Charles Rabus, Editor

I’ve learned a lot of things that have actually helped me as a person, on a spiritual level, from this class. I’ve started doing research on my own, outside of class, on some of topics we’ve gone over because I find it so interesting. I would recommend more students take this class.

— Ivory Fuax

Native American, a social studies elective taught by Sam Yellis, is an intriguing class that dives much deeper into Native American history than the vast majority of curricula do. Standard high school -level US History classes teach exclusively post-Columbus Native American history. Sam’s class, however, teaches everything from theories on how the first settlers made their ways to the land we now call home, to the modern day affects of technology on Native American culture.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Sam and get some information on how long he’s been teaching this class, why he started teaching it, and what he’s learned from teaching this class.

Have you taught this class before? If so, how long have you been teaching this class?

Sam: “I have taught it before; I have not taught it in a few years but [in the past] I’ve taught it about three or four times”

What inspired you to teach “Native American” and what do you intend for students take away from this class?

Sam: “I’ve always been [intrigued by] native culture and so I’ve learned more and more about different cultures of different tribes. I’d like students to take away an understanding of how rich and diverse that culture was.”

We all know you teach because you love to learn; what are some of the most interesting facts about Native American history you’ve learned over the years?

Sam: “That native tribes formed alliances to fight against white encroachment way more than people think. And that Native trade network was way more extensive than people think. Really, there was trade from Mexico all they way up to Alaska.

Do you plan to continue teaching this class in the future?

Sam: “Yes, I have to recycle [my classes] every few years because of the size of Village, but I look forward to teaching it again in the future. Part of the fun of teaching it every few years is I get to learn more about Native culture in between teaching the class.”

Native American is a very informative and engaging class that teaches more about Native American history that any other high school course offered to most high school students. I would like to extend a big “thank you” to Sam for giving me the opportunity to interview him and for all of the learning opportunities he provides for his students.