Bill seeks cooperation in teaching tribal story
For too many kids, Indian Country is a place of cowboys and savages living in tepees. State Rep. John McCoy wants to change that. "Misinformation causes mistrust," said...
Seattle Times staff reporter
"Misinformation causes mistrust," said McCoy, D-Marysville, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, who has introduced legislation to encourage school districts to work with local tribes to include curriculum about the tribes' history, government and culture.
"This bill is a beginning, to start building relationships between tribes and their local school districts in delivering the appropriate history, and culture, and not Hollywood's version," McCoy said.
The bill, SHB1495, would give the state Board of Education the authority to consider requiring such instruction for graduation.
The bill also encourages the state School Directors' Association to convene meetings of school boards and tribal councils to form better government-to-government relationships, and work on narrowing the gap between Indian and non-Indian students' success in school.
"School districts have had 150 years to get this into the curriculum, and they haven't done it," McCoy said. "This will get the tribal leadership and the school boards to start getting together and building relationships."
The bill imposes no instructional mandates — a concession McCoy had to make to get the bill moving.
It has passed the House and is expected to be considered on the Senate floor soon.
A provision has been dropped that would have excluded tribes that are not federally recognized or do not have reservations, such as Seattle's Duwamish.
The bill does include one mandate, requiring the School Directors' Association to submit a report to the Legislature on school districts' progress.
"We will give them a chance to do it voluntarily," McCoy said. "And if they don't, the Legislature will see that."
The work some tribes already are doing with local school districts shows the innovative teaching — and learning — that's possible, for Indian and non-Indian students.
When she teaches seventh- and eighth-grade social studies at Hood Canal School near Shelton, Mason County, Sally Brownfield, a Squaxin Island tribal member, offers for study not only the Constitution of the United States, but also the constitutions of the state of Washington and the neighboring Skokomish Tribe.
Elementary-school students in the district are offered a supplemental Native American reading curriculum, based on storybooks and lesson plans that use the themes of the canoe, the drum, and hunting and gathering.
The curriculum, created with content donated by tribal artists, writers and elders, has been popular with native and non-native students and is helping turn reading scores around.
At Chinook Elementary in Auburn, kids from 31 tribes make up one of the highest percentages of Indian kids in any public school in King County.
More than 65 percent of the fourth-graders are reading at state-standard levels — up from 43 percent the year before. The school features the supplemental Native American reading curriculum in an intensive after-school reading program for native students.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Port Angeles is a pioneer in partnering with the local school district. The collaboration was born of necessity.
Frances Charles, chairwoman of the tribe, said racial tensions among kids at school sparked tribal youth to work with their Tribal Council to reach out to the school district, inviting teachers, principals and community leaders to a potlatch with tribal schoolchildren.
"We had it here at our tribal facility, and we turned the floor over to our youth," Charles said.
A tradition was born: The tribe convened its ninth annual potlatch last month, with teachers, principals, school administrators, Tribal Council and City Council members and the mayor sharing the same tables to celebrate the responsibility they share for the kids in the public-school system.
Lower Elwa tribal member Jamie Valadez — named Teacher of the Year this week by the Washington State Indian Education Association — began teaching Klallam language at Port Angeles High in 1999. Klallam is just one of several languages public-school students can take to fulfill their world-language requirement to graduate.
Over the next three years, the tribe also is creating for the local public-school system nine units with 10 lessons each for third- and eighth-graders on local tribal cultural and history.
While not a cure-all for social ills, bringing solid, accurate instruction about local tribal history and culture into the schools is working, Valadez said.
Statewide, Indian student performance on standardized tests is improving.
The number of students achieving the state standard on math went up from 14 percent to 42 percent between 1997-98 and 2003-04.
The percentage of fourth-grade Indian students meeting the state standard in reading rose from 33 percent to 59 percent during the same period.
"Things still happen, kids still get lost in the cracks, there are still problems. But we have in place more of an infrastructure to help kids be successful," Valadez said. "I believe it is making a difference."
Building a relationship between the tribe and the school district is the key, Charles said. "Working together is the first step."
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(Courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum) New LeMay exhibit to look at NASCAR LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma will look at the wil...
Post a comment