Worlds Apart but not Strangers: Holocaust Education and Indian Education for All

Date: June 10-16, 2018
Location: Billings, Montana


What lessons can be drawn from learning about the Holocaust and Native American experience? That is what 35 educators considered during a week-long seminar that began on June 10 in Billings, Montana.

Worlds Apart But Not Strangers is the title of the program, sponsored by The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI). Now in its eighth year, the seminar has trained over 150 teachers, including many Native Americans, who apply their experience in the classroom under the state-mandated Indian Education for All law.

“The seminar takes a unique approach in facilitating discussions amongst teachers, connecting Holocaust literature and pedagogy with the Native American plight, specifically that of the Crow and Northern Cheyenne tribes,” says Wendy Warren, Satellite Program Director for TOLI throughout the US and a native of Billings.

“In collaboration with local synagogue leaders, Crow and Northern Cheyenne historians, teachers get to experience first-hand Native American perspectives of the events leading up to the Battle of Little Bighorn,” says Warren one of the co-facilitators of the program along with Brenda Johnston and Marcia Billedeaux Beaumont.

The seminar provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for educators to reflect and process what they’re experiencing through writing, a vital component of TOLI’s educational philosophy. The roles of the perpetrator, target, bystander and ally are tools teachers then use to shed light on contemporary injustices, exposing students to a human rights-based education format.

Educators spent many intensive hours reflecting on intolerances and injustices, both old and new. They mapped out new strategies to bring these issues to light in the classroom amidst visits from prominent speakers from Montana’s Jewish and Native peoples communities.

Warren describes the Billings seminar as an emotionally and mentally taxing journey. “We all know the most transformative learning happens when your brain and your heart are engaged.”

The professional development continues after the seminars, when teachers can access mini-grants of amounts up to $1,000 to support projects that bring Holocaust and social justice education to wider audiences. TOLI’s impact on teachers is palpable well after they have returned to the classroom.

The Olga Lengyel Institute is a New York-based organization, named after a survivor of Auschwitz who dedicated her legacy to education, The mission of the Olga Lengyel Institute is to educate students in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world about human rights and social justice through the lens of the Holocaust and other genocides so that such atrocities may never again take place.

To accomplish its mission, TOLI provides professional development seminars for educators in the US and abroad that link the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to current world events, thereby working with teachers to promote a human rights and social justice agenda in their classrooms.


This seminar has concluded. Please check back in the fall for more information on 2019’s seminar!

Worlds Apart But Not Strangers: Holocaust Education and Indian Education for All is designed for individuals and teams currently teaching or interested in teaching the Holocaust and/or the Montana-mandated Indian Education for All. Participating educators will have the opportunity to discover ways to make connections between these two topics. Sponsored by The Olga Lengyel Institute (TOLI), the seminar will explore the past, including the history of the Holocaust and the impact of U.S. policies on Native peoples in this country. The lens will also focus on the present, as participants consider the roles – perpetrator, ally, bystander – individuals choose for themselves in their daily interactions with one another, as well as the stereotypes and prejudices that continue to affect local schools and communities today. Educators will be asked to imagine the world they would like to live in and design an action plan to help their classroom, school and/or community move toward that ideal. Program highlights include guest speakers from Missoula’s Jewish community and the Native peoples of Montana.



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  • Wendy Warren, Marcia Billedeaux Beaumont, and Brenda Johnston

    Brenda Johnston grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation and has taught there for over 20 years. She credits the Montana Writing Project with bringing new life to her teaching and paving the way to Holocaust Education. She has co-facilitated a TOLI seminar in Montana for the past seven years. Brenda currently teaches English at Browning High School in Browning, Montana. Her teaching career has included work with elementary students in the small town of White Sulphur Springs, Montana, with intermediate and middle school grades at a Hutterite Colony, and now on the Blackfeet Reservation where her students are 99.9% Native American. This range of experience has taught her that kids are kids, no matter the color of their skin. In 2013, Brenda received the Montana Indian Education for All Advocacy Award.
    Marcia Billedeaux Beaumont is a Holocaust Educator and has served as an Indian Educator for over 30 years. A member of the Blackfeet tribe, she commutes to school from her home in Pryor, Montana, on the Crow Reservation. She is employed with the Billings Public Schools as a Middle School Counselor.  She is on the leadership team of the Elk River Writing Project at Montana State University-Billings. Marcia specializes in Indian Education for All and Social Justice teaching.  She first attended a satellite seminar in 2011 and then trained at Olga’s table in New York for the summer seminar in 2013 and the leadership institute in 2016.  In 2008, Marcia was named Montana Indian Education Association’s Elementary Educator of the Year. In 2017, she received Montan’s Indian Education for All Advocacy Award.
    Wendy Zagray Warren has been an interdisciplinary educator for over thirty years, working with kindergartners through graduate students. For the past seven years, she has co-facilitated the Montana regional seminar “Worlds Apart But Not Strangers: Holocaust Education and Indian Education for All” with Brenda Johnston, Marcia Beaumont. As a writer and educator for social justice, she has published articles and book chapters and is currently working on a book. She holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and currently serves as TOLI’s regional seminar coordinator and as director of the Forest Outreach Center at Berea College. This dual focus on human diversity and biodiversity is a continual reminder that the world operate as an interconnected whole.


For more information about The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), please contact

TOLI is located at 58 East 79th Street in Manhattan. (get directions)