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Bringing Native Students Together Is Goal of Charter School Slated to Open in 2020


After Terri Bissonette visited the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, NM, she said she knew Denver needed its own Indigenous-focused charter school with a curriculum that brings Native students together. “Our focus is on indigenous kids,” the Denver-based educator said. “One of the reasons why we need the school, why we created the school, is so that our families could start to become more connected to their culture.”

The Denver Publics Schools Board approved the charter for the American Indian Academy of Denver for 6th-8th graders, with an anticipated opening of fall 2020. For now, the focus is on building community, with AIAD holding several events for Native families this summer. 

In August, the I Am Denver team tagged along for a campout at Tall Bull Memorial Grounds in Daniel’s Park, where we spoke to Terri and campers about the school, what it means to identify as Native American and why getting the community to come together is so important.

LISTEN: Why there's a need for the American Indian Academy of Denver

I actually did a site visit to the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They are a highly successful public charter school. Their curriculum, their approach is through the Lens, through the indigenous lens. And when I went down to see that school in 2015 - I am a certified teacher, I'm an educator - I was just blown away with the things that I was seeing there. And so, I came back here to Denver and had a lot of conversations with community members, with parents, with elders, with kids, asking them, ‘do you think that we need a native charter school or a native school here in Denver?’ And the answer was resoundingly ‘yes.’ And so we started the process. 

We are a community driven school, so we are constantly going to our community to get feedback and to ask for guidance with what things should be present in the school. I am a fellow now with the Native American Community Academy, so I frequently go down to Albuquerque to receive professional development training in indigenous leadership and also indigenous education.

Outreach for our school is extremely important ... 

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