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Bozeman parents disagree over teaching 'The Marrow Thieves' to Gallatin High ninth-graders

Parents take stand at school board meeting to share opinions on required reading
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Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-01 08:55:18-05

At the Bozeman School Board meeting on Monday night, parents took the stand to share their opinions on the book, "The Marrow Thieves", being taught in the 9th-grade curriculum at Gallatin High School.

One parent shared how she felt about the book being taught,

“Keeping this book in the curriculum fosters religious bias towards the church and the Catholic students who attend district schools. By keeping this book in the curriculum, you're willing to tolerate the presence of poison," said the Gallatin High mom. "You're willing for students' minds to be poisoned by the sophistry of Canadian history. A characterization of religious as murderers, depictions of Catholics as henchmen for Indian genocide, linguistic rot, the sexualization of minors.”

According to a York University summary, "The Marrow Thieves" is a fictional survival story set in Canada where so-called "Recruiters" who can no longer dream harvest bone marrow from Indigenous people to give themselves that ability again. From a summary on Lit Charts, the deeper meaning of this novel is the world in which Indigenous people are seen to be nothing other than a commodity through the eyes of the white government.

While some parents think this novel is unnecessary, other parents believe it's important for kids in 9th grade to be exposed to such literature.

“I think this book encourages critical thinking by students," said another parent who says she thinks the book is appropriate for the age group.

"I think it's well-written and it has historical and literary value,” she added.

One parent even took the stand to suggest that banning this book would lead to other issues over books in the future.

“If we begin to ban books because a narrative doesn't align with one family's beliefs, where do we draw that line on banning books?,” says Gallatin High mother.

Superintendent Casey Bertram believes this book offers a lot of learning opportunities about Indigenous people through storytelling.

“[This book includes] some historical components of Native Americans in Montana. The family component of Indigenous population and storytelling and protecting those stories," said Superintendent Bertram. "Also, there's a native language component in there that is important in Montana public schools.”

Bertram also emphasizes that there is always the option of opting your child out of reading this book and others.

“We have parents that opt their children out of books for whatever reason and whatever that course of study is, then the teacher looks for an alternative title that can meet some of the same learning goals,” said Superintendent Bertram.