Rep. Maurice West’s Statement on Enactment of Laws to Require Instruction of Native American History and Experience, Prohibit Restrictions on Culturally Significant Graduation Attire
Chief Sponsor Rep. Maurice West: “Native American history is Illinois’ history.”
ROCKFORD, Ill. – Today, Gov. JB Pritzker signed HB1633 and SB1446, both sponsored by State Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford). HB1633 will require the experience and history of Native Americans to be taught to all Illinois elementary and high school students. SB 1466 prohibits K-12 schools from restricting students from wearing or accessorizing graduation attire that reflects their cultural, ethnic, or religious identity.
“Native American history is Illinois’ history, from the awe-inspiring Cahokia mounds to the Illiniwek tribes encountered by French colonists to the tens of thousands of people of Native American ancestry who live in Illinois today,” said Chief House Sponsor State Rep. Maurice West. “We must understand the history and experience of Native Americans if we want to truly understand our home state, but too many students miss out on this important aspect of our nation’s past and present. This law will help preserve and promote the rich history of Native Americans in Illinois while helping our young people understand the important contributions Native Americans make to Illinois in the present day.”
“Furthermore, graduation ceremonies should be a time for students and their families to celebrate their educational journey and their personal identity,” said West. “Now, students can freely honor and recognize their cultural, ethnic, or religious identity through their attire during their graduation ceremonies. I am deeply grateful to the amazing advocates from Illinois’ Native American community as well as the Illinois State Board of Education for their multi-year collaborative effort to make these pieces of legislation a reality, and I thank Gov. Pritzker for signing these bills into law.”
HB1633 requires certain history courses to include teaching about Native American nations' sovereignty and self-determination with a focus on urban Native Americans, as well as information about the Native American genocide in North America. The legislation also includes requirements for the State Board of Education to provide curriculum materials developed in consultation with the Native American community that school districts can choose to use regarding Native American history. Instruction will be required as of the 2024-2025 school year.
The bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives by a vote of 81 in favor to 31 opposed and the Illinois Senate by a vote of 44 to 8. More information can be found HERE.
SB1446 arose from an incident when a student was prohibited from wearing graduation clothing that reflected their Native American heritage during a graduation ceremony at an Evanston, Ill. high school. The bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives by a vote of 104 to 7 and the Illinois Senate by a vote of 49 to 4. More information can be found HERE.