Health & Education

Education Summit discusses Tribal curriculum

06.28.2018 Danielle Frost Education, Events, State Government

By Danielle Frost

Approximately 110 educators from two different states filled the Tribal gym for the second annual Grand Ronde Education Summit held on Wednesday, June 27.

Teachers from all grade levels came to learn more about the Grand Ronde Tribe, how to create meaningful Native American curriculum and Oregon’s Senate Bill 13.

Gifts were given to those who traveled more than 250 miles for the one-day conference, which opened with an invocation from Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George who expressed thanks for teachers and the stabilizing influence they provide youth.

Also in attendance were Tribal Council members Brenda Tuomi and Denise Harvey.

Education Department Manager Leslie Riggs, Cultural Resources Department Manager David Harrelson, Recreation Specialist Harris Reibach and George led the singing and drumming.

Curriculum Specialist and Academic Adviser Mercedes Jones said she was happy to see high attendance for a summer conference.

“We have educators here today from all over Oregon and even Washington,” she said. “Last year it was 90 people, and this year 130 registered and it looks like all of you made it.”

Harrelson gave an overview of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s history.

“There was no Grand Ronde Tribe until (the government) put more than 30 Tribes and bands here,” he said. “The amount of diversity that existed around here is often missed. When I went to school, we were taught that there were Plains Indians and Coastal Indians. That didn’t fit with my people. All Tribes are very unique.”

Harrelson said that Tribal people have been in Oregon since “time immemorial.”

“We have oral histories about the floods that came through here 18,000 years ago,” he said. “Our ancestors have been here for 500 generations.”

Harrelson also talked to educators about how they could incorporate Tribal history into different lesson plans by using the example of the Willamette Meteorite, known to Tribal members as Tomanowos. It is currently housed at the American Museum of History in New York City, and has cultural and religious ties to the Tribe.

“It was in West Linn for thousands of years,” he said. “People wonder how there is not a gigantic crater in that area, but it’s because the meteorite didn’t land there initially. It was brought down by the floods. That is something you could work into your lesson plans in more than one context.”

Harrelson also discussed the different Tribes and bands that comprise the Grand Ronde confederation, the Termination of the Tribe in 1954 and subsequent Restoration in 1983.

Education Northwest Indian Education and Special Projects Leader Shandiin Garcia and University of Oregon Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies in Education Leilani Sabzalian discussed Senate Bill 13.

Senate Bill 13 calls upon the Oregon Department of Education to develop curriculum relating to the Native American experience in Oregon. This includes Tribal history, sovereignty, culture, treaty rights, government, socioeconomic experiences and current events. Curriculum will be implemented in school districts for required teaching in the 2019-20 school year.

There is a committee in place to support implementation of Senate Bill 13, and it includes 18 representatives from Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes and is led by Portland-based Education Northwest Consultants, a nonprofit organization working with the Department of Education to support implementation of Senate Bill 13.

“As teachers, you will have students with varying histories and some of what you teach is very personal to us,” Sabzalian said.

“While Senate Bill 13 has specific deliverables, it is so much more,” Garcia said. “It gives a full, honest complete story of Oregon. It is a huge movement in education.”

Garcia and Sabzalian discussed phase I, which is essential understanding that Oregon is Indian Country and how that curriculum can be implemented in various lessons.

“It is important that you see yourselves invested in this implementation,” Sabzalian said. “Otherwise the most beautiful curriculum in the world means nothing.”

After lunch, participants received a guided tour of Chachalu Museum & Cultural Center, discussed meaningful Native American curriculum and learned about the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians as well.