For years, Jackie Fraedrich led her team of American Indian educators to Minnesota reservations, where they consulted for days at a time with Indian elders about what should be taught in schools.
Her work led to reforms in how Minnesota schools teach Indian history and culture.
Long a civil rights activist, Fraedrich died in her Coon Rapids home March 19. She was 71.
“She was an amazing advocate, a strong advocate, for Indian children,” said Elaine Salinas, head of a Minneapolis nonprofit who met Fraedrich when she was assistant director of Indian education for the state of Minnesota. “She devoted her whole life to Indian education.”
Fraedrich was a proud member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. She kept close ties to family and the reservation in Odanah, Wis., where she grew up and now is buried.
Fraedrich worked nearly 30 years for Robbinsdale area schools in student services and as coordinator of Indian and multicultural education.
“She saw the potential in Indian kids and thought we could create the kind of education system that would really help them to succeed,” Salinas said.
Working with money provided by the state and tribes, Fraedrich helped develop high academic standards for all Minnesota students across a wide range of content areas, skills and strategies.
“She was the team leader for the development of the American Indian Curriculum Framework that became part of the Profiles of Learning many years ago, and that’s been used as a resource by Indian educators and educators of Indian students across the state for 15 years,” Salinas said.
In 1992, after Marion Helland retired from teaching in Robbinsdale, Fraedrich invited her to serve as a writer for the team that created a curriculum guide for Minnesota K-12 teachers. The two were among a dozen educators who met for the first time in Duluth, amid a blizzard.
For the next three years, they trekked to the state’s 11 reservations, “with Fraedrich encouraging, cajoling and guiding the discussions” to develop a statewide curriculum approved by Ojibwe and Dakota elders, Helland said.
“She had the kind of personality that brought out the best in people. She had a logical mind and was able to see a large picture, beyond what many of us were able to see,” Helland said. “Her vision expanded all of us in our thinking.”
In 1995, the American Indian History, Culture and Language Curriculum Framework was published. The state Education Department will be updating those guidelines as part of new academic standards — and that shows the enduring value of Fraedrich’s work, Salinas said.
“She was all for justice and truth,” Helland said. “The American Indians have suffered such stereotyping on top of everything else, and she wanted that to be corrected and have people understand that culture.”
Back in 1965, when Fraedrich graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she met a North Dakota serviceman, Ted Fraedrich, on a California-bound plane. They were married for nearly 49 years and had two children.
Jackie Fraedrich found time to serve on two local human rights commissions, and on boards of Emily Grey Charter School in Minneapolis and Migizi Communications, a local nonprofit that gives educational support to American Indians. After retiring from Robbinsdale schools in 2008, she earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“Over those years, she did a significant amount of teacher professional development — not just in Robbinsdale but in many other districts, particularly reservation and inner-ring suburban districts,” said Salinas, president of Migizi. “And always her goal was to educate educators about Indian culture, about Indian people, so that they could be better prepared to work with Indian students.”
Fraedrich’s honors include a 2007 award from Minnesota Minority Education Partnership for increasing success of students of color in schools, colleges and universities.