By Dr. Becky Berg, Marysville School District Superintendent
Recently, a conversation was overheard at the Hibulb Cultural Center. A young woman was talking about her tribal history. Her grandmother was a student during the boarding school era and the young woman said that while growing up she rarely learned about her tribal history and culture. She added that her grandmother often hid her cultural affiliation, as well as her ability to speak Lushootseed. In turn, her father never learned the language or embraced his native heritage. This was difficult for the young woman to understand, as at a young age, she chose to dedicate her career to educating herself and her community about her region’s rich cultural history, and her own tribal identity.
As a community, we are lucky to have tribal members and others who have had the strength to stand up and ensure tribal history and culture is recognized, shared and preserved. Our community, our school district, and our local leaders must also take on this charge and do what is necessary for our entire community to understand where we have been, where we are today, and where we are going.
In November of 2014, The Marysville School Board of Directors took the historic action of officially adopting the “Since Time Immemorial” (STI) Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum so that all students learn about the history, culture, government, and experiences of their Native American peers and neighbors. Partners who were instrumental in this effort included Denny Hurtado, former OSPI Office of Indian Education staff member, and State Senator John McCoy.
This curriculum was adopted in advance of Washington State Senate Bill 5433, which passed in 2015 and mandated that Washington’s Tribal history, culture and governance be taught in all Washington schools by 2016-17.
The adoption of the STI curriculum seeks to remedy a grave omission by our educational system. American history begins with the story of indigenous peoples in all parts of the land. Yet for decades our curriculum has made this rich and important heritage and culture virtually invisible. The lack of awareness of the Tribal legacy in our Marysville-Tulalip community is especially glaring given the presence of the Tulalip Tribes within our district boundaries. Teaching the STI curriculum to all students in our schools is a matter of basic justice for all, especially for those who were made to feel ashamed of their identity and culture for far too long.
The “Since Time Immemorial” provides engaging lessons. The lessons are thought provoking and are meant to help students understand multiple perspectives. During the 2015-16 school year, the curriculum was implemented in grades Kindergarten through 5, and this year it has expanded to all secondary schools district-wide.
Every day I feel deeply honored to be a member of this community and to be welcomed by tribal leaders, elders, parents and students. And every day, the Marysville School District will work to ensure our community’s tribal heritage and culture is visible, shared and preserved.
To learn more about the Since Time Immemorial curriculum, please visit www.indian-ed.org.