AIAD in the News

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From left, American Indian Academy of Denver students Araya Torres, Sarah Delacerda and Isabela Arteaga note observations of a habitat in a burn area from the Hayman Fire near Deckers. | Eli Imadali for CPR News

‘Reclaiming The Genius Of Our Ancestors’: For These Students, Helping Solve The Future Of Colorado Wildfires Means Studying Indigenous Traditions

Jenny Brundin, Colorado Public Radio | May 18, 2021

Eighth-grader Meadow Yellowhawk gently moved the controls, maneuvering her drone over fire-ravaged land.

“It looks dry,” she said.

The land is yellow, orange, and red. There are no green ponderosa pines or Douglas firs like there were 19 years ago here before the Hayman fire charred the land Yellowhawk stands on. This spot an hour and a half southwest of Denver is where one of the worst fires in Colorado history burned 138,000 acres in four counties, devastating wildlife, changing the landscape and leading to severe floods that washed out roads and bridges.

I AM DENVER: Terri Bissonette and the American Indian Academy of Denver

City and County of Denver | Aug 26, 2019

After Terri Bissonette visited the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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. “The Native American students in [Denver Public Schools] do not do very well. The graduation rate hovers around 50 percent, and the Latino population hovers around 67 percent. And those are our target populations.”


Terri, along with a number of Native American community members and organizations, teamed up to form the American Indian Academy of Denver for 6th-8th graders. The Denver School Board approved the charter, and AIAD anticipates opening in the fall of 2020. For now, the focus is on community outreach, with AIAD holding several events for Native families this summer.

Student Antonio Garcia speaks in favor of the American Indian Academy of Denver at a school board meeting in May 2018. | Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat


Chalkbeat Colorado | April 26, 2019

A Denver charter school with plans to teach its curriculum through an indigenous lens will delay its opening because it did not attract enough students. The school’s founder hopes to boost recruitment by focusing not on parents but on students.

“We’re scattered all over the city,” said Terri Bissonette, who applied to open the American Indian Academy of Denver. Bissonette is a member of the Gnoozhekaaning Anishinaabe tribe of the Midwest and a Denver educator who specializes in working with Native American students. “We have a lot of kids who may not know another Indian kid outside their family.”

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Chalkbeat Colorado | May 21, 2018

The Denver school district is not serving Native American students well. Fewer than one in four Native American sixth-graders were reading and writing on grade-level last year, according to state tests, and the high school graduation rate was just 48 percent.

Bissonette aims to change that by opening a charter school called the American Indian Academy of Denver.

Bissonette aims to change that by opening a charter school called the American Indian Academy of Denver. The plan is to start in fall 2019 with 120 students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and then expand into high school one grade at a time. Any interested student will be able to enroll, no matter their racial or ethnic background.