Danville Express

Perspective - February 16, 2007

More than just a history lesson

See a need and fill it. This is heralded as a good motto for those who want to invent something to make money. Think Post-Its.

It is also a dictum followed by those who want to make a difference for other reasons. Think two Rancho Romero Elementary teachers who found the curriculum on American Indians woefully lacking. Although the rest of California history was covered extensively, only a few pages were in the students' history books about the California Indians.

The teachers, Gail Faber and Michele Lasagna, started by writing a booklet for students in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. But they knew there was more to the subject and ended up undertaking a huge project: thoroughly telling the true history and present-day story of the California Indians. Their mission led them not only to books, museums and local history experts. They also went to Indian gatherings to do firsthand research and to homes to talk to California Indians and learn directly from them about their way of life as well as their beliefs.

Now, more than 20 years later, Faber and Lasagna have developed a curriculum that is not only used by the fourth-graders in our school district but by many students throughout the state. The two women have jointly written five books, a series on California history for children to learn from and enjoy.

Faber and Lasagna should be proud of the difference they have made. History has so many errors and holes, due to erroneous records, no records, and, yes, even newspaper mistakes. The longer anyone waited to set the record straight on California Indians, the more time was passing and the further history was receding.

Rather than say, "Someone should write a history of the California Indians," Faber and Lasagna said, "We will write a history of the California Indians." Thank you to them for seeing a need and filling it.


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