Lushootseed returns to Marysville Pilchuck High School

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After nearly a two decade hiatus, the Lushootseed language has finally returned to the classroom as an official program taught at Marysville Pilchuck High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The tireless dedication of longtime Indigenous education employees and Native student supporters Matt Remle and Ricky Belmont, who made it their mission long ago to bring the Coast Salish language to the high school, has brought a swift sense of excitement to the MP campus.

“For years my co-worker Ricky Belmont and I worked to find ways to bring Native language learning opportunities to Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the stars finally aligned when we reached out to our administration about developing a Lushootseed class on campus and they agreed,” explained Matt Remle, lead Indigenous education liaison. “When it came time to register for classes this year, Ricky and I reached out to our current students and incoming freshman and told them they better sign up after all that hustling.

“Because demand was high we now have the amazing Natosha Gobin teaching two classes on campus,” he continued. “Students are already being [heavily] influenced. Yesterday, I was speaking to a senior about her post high school plans and she said she wanted to be a Lushootseed teacher!”

A Tulalip tribal member, Natosha has spent the last 19-years learning, teaching, and helping to revitalize the traditional language of her ancestors. She has come full circle after graduating as an MP high school student 20 years ago to now reentering the MP halls as a certified teacher and Lushootseed instructor.

“Toby Langen and Tony Hatch taught Lushootseed classes at MP in the early 2000’s, which were the classes that I sat in on along with Eliza Davis when we first started in the language department,” recalled Natosha. “It is exciting to be back on the campus as the lead teacher. I hope that I can keep the students engaged and speaking, giving them tools to use the language daily both in and out of the classroom.

“The work that Michelle Myles has done the past two years at Heritage has sparked the interest for high school youth to start learning and speaking our language,” she continued. “We have high hopes that the youth taking these classes will be able to see themselves as the next group of teachers to keep the work moving forward.”

The Lushootseed course was offered to all interested students from all grade levels and quickly filled up. It comes as no surprise that the majority of her students are Tulalip tribal members who jumped at the opportunity to learn  their traditional language and history from an actual Tulalip culture bearer.

“It’s already one of my favorite classes,” shared 10th grader Shylah Zackuse (Tulalip). “After finding out Lushootseed would be offered, I planned my daily schedule perfectly in order to take it. Being taught by a tribal member, there’s a real connection because Natosha is family.” 

Currently offered during 2nd and 3rd period only, 34 out of the 52 enrolled students are either Tulalip tribal members or have lived in the Tulalip community their whole lives. The remainder of the students are a mixture of other Native and non-Native students who are eager to learn about the traditional lifeways of their neighboring Tulalip people. 

“I don’t know a lot about my Native culture, so taking Lushootseed is a new opportunity to learn about my background,” explained 9th grader Jesse Lamoureaux (Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska). “This class teaches me about my past. What we are learning is thanks to our ancestors from way back who documented their teachings on audio tapes. My favorite phrase so far has to be ηαʔɬ δαδατυ (Lushootseed for ‘good morning’) because we can say it every day.”

The Lushootseed coursework will focus on relevant conversation lessons that can be used throughout the day. These include talking about daily routines, weather, describing feelings and states of mind, as well as many more topics to keep students engaged.

The course will also feature a great many references to Tulalip ancestors and elders who laid the foundation for where the Tribes are today, such as Harriet Shelton Dover, Martha Lamont and Lizzie Krise to name but a few. And best of all the MP students won’t be reading about these iconic individuals from colonial textbooks either, instead they will be hearing their powerful words spoken from a combination of archived video and audio resources.

“Some of my greatest inspirations are the speakers who had the foresight to document and record our language, enabling us to speak and teach it today,” said Natosha. “We want to ensure our community is aware of the ancestors who played key roles in preserving the language. Through passing on their stories, some of our youth are able to recognize their connection to the speakers and deepen their desire to participate.”

With both Lushootseed classes at full capacity and a waiting list with students hoping to transfer in if the opportunity arises, Marysville Pilchuck is already looking to build on the early successes of having more culturally relevant classes available for their diverse student population.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to offer Lushootseed to our students,” explained Principal Christine Bromley. “We have Native students, non-Native students and students with disabilities all taking Lushootseed. From all perspectives of this, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships.  

“Partnering with the Tulalip Tribes to bring Lushootseed here to the high school is a critical piece to build upon the relationship between the school district and the Tribes,” she added. “I can’t wait to see us grow Lushootseed into a level 2 and 3 program to get more and more students involved.”

Future plans also include offering a Native art class, such as an introduction to carving taught by a tribal member. The class space is currently available and only requires a willing artist to teach it. Until then, Natosha and her collection of Indigenous wisdom intend to teach and inspire the culturally oriented young minds of Marysville Pilchuck High School. 

April’s Students of the Month

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

In partnership with Tulalip’s own Education department, the Indigenous Education division of Marysville School District (MSD) recognized four praiseworthy youngsters for continued success in the classroom. Hosted during the MSD school board meeting on April 15, Ily Enick, Tessalyn Napeahi, Sebastian Gomez, and Imajine Moses were honored as students of the month in front of their proud families and dedicated educators.

One student was selected from elementary, one from middle school, and one from high school to represent the varying levels of education. An additional student was selected to represent the recently added Pure Heart category.

  “The Pure Heart category is for our students who have exhibited kindness, caring and respect for others and who have worked to overcome various obstacles,” explained Deborah Parker, MSD’s Director of Indigenous Education. “Our Pure Heart students have provided us with inspiration and deserve recognition for their perseverance and willingness to grow as a student.” 

Indigenous Special Education Liaison Amy Sheldon introduced 2nd grader Ily Enick as this month’s Pure Heart student of the month. “I have been blessed to know Ily since he was only 3-years-old,” she said. “We are really proud of how much he has accomplished this year. Ily loves science and is really good at technology. In fact, he regularly helps out his teacher when she is flustered with some new piece of classroom tech.”

His Kellogg Marsh Elementary teacher also shared, “He’s a joy to have in class and everyone is always excited to come work with him. Plus, he makes us smile all the time.”

Elementary student of the month honors went to Tessalyn. The 5th grader was described as a quiet leader who always stays on task. She was also described as being kind and courteous to all her friends and school staff.

Next up, 8th grader Sebastian’s sustained excellence in the classroom was heralded by tribal advocate Courtney Jefferson. “He’s honest, open-minded, and really good at staying focused. He’s just a real pleasure to work with,” she said. “What I really like about him is he’s a respectful self-starter who sets a positive role to all our students.”

The final recognition of the evening went to the 9th grader Imajine Moses. She was introduced by tribal advocate Doug Salinas. “I’ve watched her grow as student from being a kindergartener at Quil Ceda to now being a freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck,” he reflected. “I’m so proud of her and what she has accomplished. As a high school freshman, Imajine has a 3.5 grade point average and balanced school work with playing varsity basketball. She’s a wonderful person who also does volunteer work through her church.”

Going forward, a selection committee will review all student nominations based on their academics and community engagement. Each month the awardees will be recognized as students of the month during the MSD regular board meeting. 

Native Student and Family Disappointed After Meeting With University President Re Native Genocide

Courtesy Cindy La MarrNative American Student Chiitaanibah Johnson (Navajo / Naakaí' Diné and Konkow Maidu) recently met with her University President Robert S. Nelsen. Johnson says she is disappointed Nelsen said his 'hands were tied.'
Courtesy Cindy La Marr
Native American Student Chiitaanibah Johnson (Navajo / Naakaí’ Diné and Konkow Maidu) recently met with her University President Robert S. Nelsen. Johnson says she is disappointed Nelsen said his ‘hands were tied.’


Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today


One week after 19-year-old Native American student Chiitaanibah Johnsonof California State University, Sacramento says she was disenrolled from her U.S. History class for disagreeing with her professor over the existence of Native American genocide, Johnson and her family met with Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen to discuss the matter. Though Johnson and her family say the meeting was cordial and sincere, they feel disappointed and say they fear neither the school nor the president will be taking any action that will satisfactorily address their concerns.

President Nelsen agreed to meet on Thursday with Johnson as well as her mother, Martina Johnson, father Kurt Johnson and Cindy La Marr (Pit River and Paiute), Executive Director of Capitol Area Indian Resources, Sacramento, an organization that advocates for the academic and cultural rights of American Indian students. Nelsen told the family and the University has told ICTMN in an email that the President will also be meeting with Professor Maury Wiseman, the professor involved in the matter, at a later time.

READ MORE: History Professor Denies Native Genocide: Native Student Disagreed, Then Says Professor Expelled Her From Course 

Sac State History Dept Tweets – “Student Not Disenrolled”

Sac State and Native Student Seek ‘Positive Resolution’ on Native Genocide Class Disenrollment Issue

Johnson says she was comforted by the meeting’s informality but fears a viable solution may never happen. “The president was respectful, open and I didn’t expect it to be just him,” she said. “I thought someone would be recording it or there would possibly be a lawyer present, but there wasn’t.

“But when we pressed for a solution,” says Johnson, “the president told me that his hands were basically tied. I thought at least the professor’s class might be monitored or evaluated on some level. But the professor is still teaching and going on with his class.”

Cindy La Marr, who has worked with public schools and universities for many years for the benefit of Indian country, says she was not as impressed by Nelsen’s cordial demeanor. She told ICTMN that some of Nelsen’s proposed solutions were not sufficient. La Marr said Nelsen told them about a proposed University ‘California Native American Day,’ on September 25th that would hold seminars on Native Americans. “I asked if the instructor would be required to attend this, and he said, ‘No.’”

La Marr says that when she and the family asked if there was going to be any disciplinary action against the professor, President Nelsen said Professor Wiseman was protected by his faculty’s labor union. “I asked if there was a vetting process for hiring part-time adjunct faculty and he said he did not know,” Lamar told ICTMN. “He said he was new and there were binders full of policies that protected faculty that he had not reviewed. I asked if part-time adjunct instructors were protected by faculty labor unions. He said, ‘Yes.’”

La Marr says after the Johnson family’s repeated attempts to ask if the professor would be disciplined were deflected, they decided to leave. “I continually asked, ‘What is your plan?’” Martina Johnson said. “The President just told us, ‘It is out of my hands.’”

In addition to speaking to ICTMN, student Chiitaanibah Johnson also issued a written statement addressing her thoughts on the meeting.

The President was fair, open and welcoming in hearing my concerns. I appreciated his candor regarding the bureaucratic and regulatory restrictions his office is subject to with regards to the limited actions he is allowed to take with regards to the issues at hand.

However, I am particularly concerned that while CSU-Sacramento officials are working to transfer me into another course, Professor Wiseman, under protection of the faculty teacher’s union and legal team, is still teaching under no observation or supervision while under investigation and that curriculum changes to actually address GENOCIDE are even less likely. 

Having met with the CSU-Sacramento President, a fair and reasonable resolution to these issues appears unlikely within the current bureaucratic bounds of the university.

There are three very important points we want to make very clear:

·         Genocide is and always has been wrong.

·         Teaching otherwise is wrong.

·         Instructors demonstrating such lack of academic rigor and acting in a manner both aggressive and intimidating manner of stifling student questioning should be held accountable in a manner both fair and timely.


Chiitaanibah Johnson’s father Kurt Johnson added to his daughter’s remarks and told ICTMN, “The professor’s statements were a product of a direct lack of academic rigor. Academic freedom does not preclude academic responsibility.”

ICTMN has reached out to Sacramento State regarding the meeting. University spokesperson Elisa Smith replied in an email with the following statement:

President Nelsen had an extensive, fact-gathering meeting with Ms. Johnson and her family as he attempts to achieve a positive resolution in this matter.  He also is meeting with Prof. Wiseman.

As the fact-finding continues, and because this is an ongoing personnel matter, we cannot comment further at this time.

In the meantime, President Nelsen’s message to the campus earlier this week speaks for itself:

We at the University believe in academic freedom, and we also believe in civility and rigorous academic research. Our standards must be high, and we must follow the processes that we have put in place to ensure that the rights of students and faculty are protected.

Johnson says when she first returned to the school after the incident, she felt as if people were looking her way but not overtly staring or being intrusive. Though she says she is disappointed in the outcome thus far, she is encouraged by the outpouring of support from Indian country.

“It is what it is. I had no idea what to expect based on what happened but I told myself not to be not to set on the idea that the professor would be reprimanded,” she says. “I thought they might make him apologize or something else. The president basically said his hands were tied and there was only so much he could do.

“I feel unresolved about the issue.  But my mom says, ‘There are Indian people all over the country that are supporting you because they know the truth and they know you stood up for them.’

“There is a conversation now,” says Johnson. “And people are talking about whether genocide has happened. My father said something that really affected me. He said, ‘Even if nothing else happens, the circulation of this story and the effects on conversations across the country are more than my own grandfather could have done.’ If I had done something like this back then, it could have gotten me killed. But here I am.

“I didn’t realize how good having the blessing of so many Indian people would feel. I’ve only known the natives of the outer rings of my family or in college, but I’ve never felt so connected to Indian country.”




Oglala Sioux Tribe Endorses Teach For America

Tribal Council Passes Resolution in Support of Organization’s Efforts to Expand Educational Opportunity for Native Students in South Dakota

Source: Teach For America

PINE RIDGE, S.D., September 3, 2013—The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council passed a resolution announcing its formal support of Teach For America-South Dakota corps members and alumni in their efforts to advance Native student achievement in the state.

Teach For America recruits, trains, and develops recent graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural public schools, including some that are tribally operated under grant or contract with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and some that are BIE-operated. During the 2012-13 school year, 510 Teach For America corps members taught in Nativecommunities in South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council resolution states in part:

Oglala Sioux Tribal Council supports Teach For America corps members and alumni in their efforts to build a truly effective movement through building local partnerships with students, families, local educators and with other organizations to eliminate educational inequity thus bridging the opportunity gap.

The resolution cites rigorous research studies that demonstrate Teach For America corps members have a positive impact on student achievement. Additionally, it recognizes the organization’s effort to strengthen its culturally responsive teaching training to better fit the needs of Native students.

The resolution also encourages other tribal governments and school districts serving American Indian students to strengthen their partnership with Teach For America.

“We are proud to support Teach For America as an ally in the critical effort to help Native students realize their full potential through excellent educational opportunities,” said council representative Kevin Yellow Bird-Steel. “The students in Pine Ridge classrooms right now will be the future tribal, state, and national leaders.”

Teach For America−South Dakota has been partnering with schools on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations since 2004. This year, more than 40 new Teach For America teachers will be teaching in reservation schools on Pine Ridge, Rosebud and for the first time Standing Rock and Lower Brule.

“We want the work of our corps members to be directly aligned with the visions and goals of the tribes, communities and families with whom we partner,” said Jim Curran, Teach For America− South Dakota executive director. “It means a lot to have formal support from the Oglala Nation.”

In 2010, Teach For America launched its Native Alliance Initiative to provide an additional source of effective teachers in Native communities and advance student achievement in Native schools.

“Education in Native schools is about the community. Teach For America is incredibly grateful for this support from the Oglala Sioux Tribal Government,” said Robert Cook, managing director of the Native Alliance Initiative and enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. “This partnership will allow our corps members and alumni to have a more meaningful impact with students.  It is a symbol of the alliance needed to help all students reach their full potential.”

About Oglala Sioux Tribe

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Sioux Native American reservation located in South Dakota. Originally included within the territory of the Great Sioux Reservation, Pine Ridge was established in 1889 in the southwest corner of South Dakota on the Nebraska border. Today it consists of 3,468.86 sq mi (8,984.306 km2) of land area and is the eighth-largest reservation in the United States, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

About Teach For America

Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding individuals of all academic disciplines to commit two years to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity. This fall, 11,000 corps members will teach in 48 urban and rural regions across the country, while 32,000 alumni will work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter.