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Washington state schools to teach Samish tribal history

Posted October 7, 2020 10:11 a.m. EDT

— A school district in northwest Washington state has started to make plans with the Samish Indian Nation to fulfill a statewide initiative to integrate tribal history and culture into various subjects taught throughout grade levels in the district.

The Since Time Immemorial curriculum, which was developed in 2015, has been integrated in districts throughout the state and tailored to the nearest tribes, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. For the Anacortes School District, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Seattle, the closest tribe is Samish.

For other local school districts, the closest tribes are the Upper Skagit for Sedro-Woolley, the Sauk-Suiattle for Concrete, the Swinomish for Mount Vernon, and the Samish and Swinomish for Burlington-Edison, officials said.

Anacortes School District Assistant Superintendent Becky Clifford said the district wanted to bring in local, place-based education into the curriculum, which could include building relationships with natural resources such as salmon and the learning about the legal standing of tribal treaty rights.

Native Education Director Denny Sparr Hurtado said the program will better develop understanding of the sovereign nations for all children and give Native children a source of pride, adding that the goal is to build better relationships and trust between the tribes and state and local communities.

Samish Education Program Manager Denise Crowe said the state has acknowledged the benefits in the program, saying that exposing students to the long histories of the state’s tribes and perseverance today is critical to their well-rounded understanding of their communities.

“This is very important to Samish, I know it’s very important to the school district, and we are just kind of starting a fresh relationship ... bridging between schools and tribes,” Crowe said, adding that the program could take years before it is fully in place.

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