“What a time to be alive and in education!”

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 


Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.
Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.

Since Time Immemorial (STI) is a curriculum created to educate Washington State elementary through high school students on the history, culture, traditions and sovereignty of the Northwest coastal tribes. The school districts will meet frequently with local tribes so their students can learn first-hand about the resilient people of Native America and the unfortunate journey we have experienced since Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the new world.

In the early 2000’s, Tulalip tribal member and Washington State Senator, John McCoy wrote House Bill 1495 that encouraged Washington school districts to teach students about local tribes. Since the bill was passed less than 30% of the school districts participated in teaching the history of neighboring Native communities. In 2014, Senator McCoy presented a new bill, Senate Bill 5433. House Bill 1495 and Senate Bill 5433 were essentially the same, however, the slight alteration of verbiage changed Native American education from being encouraged to a requirement.

During the time period between the two bills, STI was created and made available for the schools that chose to participate. Since then the creators have been able to fine-tune the curriculum by trial and error of participating school districts. The end result is a free, easy accessible curriculum that includes full lesson plans, videos, reading material, and activities that will potentially put an end to stereotypes and misconceptions of Native People that many non-natives possess.

Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn, recently spoke to educators, administrators, and parents from the nearby school districts of Edmonds, Mukilteo, Monroe and Arlington at the Hibulb Cultural Center to discuss the background, and to present an in-depth view of the curriculum.

“What a time to be alive and in education!” Dr. Lynn exclaimed. “The intent of this meeting is not to shame but to give a clear understanding of the Native communities. By sharing the curriculum with our students, it is going to help them become informed citizens. As our youth step up into leadership roles they will be deeply connected with the community. As educators we aren’t teaching our students so they can leave, but so they can grow. We need to assist them as they perfect their talents and give them the tools they need to enrich our communities.”

Dr. Lynn expressed that the youth need to understand the true history of local tribes. She explained that America often tries to downplay the tragedies that occurred to Natives and make it feel like it took place a long time ago. When in reality the elders of today’s tribes were taken from their families and placed into boarding schools where they were forced to learn the white culture and lose their traditional cultural teachings.

Before STI, the story of the birth of America often leaves out the fact the U.S. Government stole its land by murdering Native Americans. That is only the beginning of the countless atrocities the government committed against the Indigenous community.  Dr. Lynn stated, “We are not fulfilling our duties if we are not being honest about the genocide, the assimilation, and the boarding schools. It is important that you know the history because you can teach a curriculum, but if you don’t understand the spirit and the intent behind it, you will tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly.”

Dr. Lynn quickly went through a lesson plan with the educators titled ‘The 600 Memorial Lesson Plan’ she said, “Since [House Bill 1495] was signed, over 87% of school districts did not participate in teaching the history of Native People. The only native history we have been teaching is in a post 1900 context. Think about it. Close your eyes and envision the image of a Native American tribal member. Because of what is portrayed in our history books, in our minds we are living with a stereotype. The image is usually in a post 1900 context and its usually of a tribal member who is not from this region. The 600 Memorial Lesson Plan addresses the stereotype issue. During this lesson, students will learn about contemporary issues that local tribal communities are facing today. It will give our students a chance to meet with and understand contemporary Native People, giving us a chance to finally dissolve those stereotypes that often lead to racism and barriers.”

The event concluded with a story, exclusively for the educators, by Master Carver/Storyteller Kenny Moses. As more schools are starting to implement the STI curriculum, the hope of a better tomorrow emerges. An opportunity for a future without harmful stereotypes and offensive mascots is presented. Coast Salish tribes will finally get to share our similar yet unique story as Native Peoples.

For more information about STI and for upcoming classes and seminars, visit www.indian-ed.org

Edmonds School District seeks Tulalip input on new Native curriculum

Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership. Photo/Kalvin Valdillez
Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership.
Photo/Kalvin Valdillez


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“He took my sacred place and ripped it in half! I knew it was going to happen, but it still made me sad,” stated a third grade student from Edmonds School District (ESD). The student was referring to an assignment from her teacher where she had to create a ‘Sacred Place’ with all of her favorite things, and with all her favorite people. The student drew her sacred place, which included a rare one-of-a-kind tree that grew sideways at a secluded campsite with her family and friends. As she passionately explained her assignment, it was obvious to see she was extremely excited and attached to her sacred place.

Once the student was finished with her assignment her teacher looked at her drawing, admired it and then tore it in half. “It just made me really sad and a little mad because it was mine.” This emotional scene was a video clip from a presentation to the Tulalip Board of Directors (BOD) on May 18, 2016, one of many exercises that were shown in the presentation provided by the ESD. After the video clip finished, a look around the boardroom showed how emotional the video made everybody feel, the little girl was visibly distraught. Which is when the room was informed that the teacher taped up the drawing for the student.

“That is exactly like where we are now, as sovereign nations, we are trying to tape back together our sacred place,” stated board member Bonnie Juneau. The purpose of the assignment was to show young students how it felt to have their sacred place taken from them and destroyed. With Governor Jay Inslee recently signing Senate Bill 5433 into law, making it mandatory for Washington State Schools to teach the history and governance of the 29 federally recognized tribes of Washington State, ESD is taking a step forward by implementing a curriculum that covers elementary through high school students.

Other clips showed students talking about The Boldt Decision, colonization, and religion. “The book I read stated that the Natives were converted to Christianity,” said a Fifth Grade student, “but then I read that the Natives were forced into Christianity. The first one sounds like they had a choice, the second one sounds like they didn’t have a choice at all.”

Prior to Senate Bill 5433, House Bill 1495 only encouraged schools to teach of the indigenous nations in Washington. Tulalip’s John McCoy, who wrote both Bill 5433 and HB 1495, believes Senate Bill 5433 will be a relationship-builder between different cultures, and will provide a more engaging approach to students who will potentially become our future leaders.

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State, or STI for short, is the curriculum created by The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). STI was pilot tested for the past five years, in fourteen different Washington State schools. Now, it is being implemented by Edmonds Office of Native Education, headed by Program Supervisor Michael Vendiola. Michael explained that STI is a free online curriculum and available to all school districts.

“I think this is great. Growing up I remember checking all of my history text books for Tulalip Tribes, and I never once found anything about our people in those books,” said Chairman Mel Sheldon.  “All of it was Plains Indians, and even then, it wasn’t much. It’s heartbreaking that our youth can’t identify themselves in our schools.”

It is no secret that Indigenous Peoples are misrepresented in U.S. History and the media. On a national level, Coastal Native Americans specifically are nearly non-existent in the history courses being taught in schools. The Chairman continued, “I remember being asked, and I am sure everyone in this room at some point has been asked, if I lived in a Tee-Pee when I told somebody I was a Native American.”

Vendiola pointed out that change won’t happen overnight. “This is like our  ‘Zero Year’ where we are still seeing what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve the curriculum.” One of the ways ESD looks to improve STI is to provide the history of the nearest federally recognized tribe. This is a huge change.

“Partnering with The Tulalip Tribes allows us to involve the community in [the] culture close to home. This is our opportunity to change the future.”

The presentation not only showed how concerned and shocked students were, but also showed that most students reacted positively to learning the history and culture of Native People. One mother was astounded by her son’s enthusiasm, stating that he has never talked about what was going on in school, but could not hold in his excitement when learning about the culture. The mother, who at the time was finishing law school at Gonzaga University, continued stating that she was able to have a full discussion with her fifth-gradestudent about fishing rights.

An ESD instructor gave a teacher’s perspective on STI. “I think at first teachers were hesitant to teach this subject because of how harsh the reality is, and also because we didn’t know where to begin. With STI, I believe teachers are discovering how fun and easy this can be.”

He then stated that his students were disappointed when the lesson was over and were not excited to move on to the usually popular Medieval Times lesson.

Although STI does mainly focus on the history of both local and national tribes, it also touches on where the tribes are today as far as culture and self-governance.Tulalip Board member Marie Zackuse spoke about changing the perception of tribes in today’s world, and why it is important to update what’s being taught about tribal communities in a contemporary point of view.

Marie stated, “Racism is still very alive and well in communities that are nearby reservations. Most of the history taught about our people is in a pre-1900 context.” She believes that the racism stems from the misunderstanding of our treaty rights. For example, many non-native citizens believe Native Americans receive privileges not granted to others, rather than seeing Treaty Rights as the rights that a tribe negotiated to keep while giving up other rights.


“I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” 

– Fourth-grade student from Edmonds


The curriculum itself is extensive, incorporating information of the history, governance and culture of federally recognized tribes in elementary, middle, and high school lesson plans. What an elementary school student can expect to take away from STI is a basic understanding of tribal sovereignty, the history of tribal sovereignty, as well as the ability to identify the names and locations of the tribes in their area. A middle school student will comprehend that tribal sovereignty has cultural, political, and economic basis. And a high school student will be able to explain the governmental structure of at least one tribe in their community.

The Tulalip Board briefly explained to ESD that Tulalip is proactive about teaching Tulalip’s culture, history and language in The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, and Heritage High School. However, the Board also expressed that high school students who choose to go to different high schools in the Tulalip/Marysville area are not exposed to the culture, history and language. This is why both Senate Bill 5433 and STI are vital in today’s society, so both tribal and non-tribal students have a better understanding of Native America.

ESD is looking to Tulalip for consultation to ensure that Tulalip’s perspective is represented appropriately. “Every tribe is different. Look at how different we are compared to tribes on the other side of the mountains,” stated Bonnie Juneau.  “We have so much history and we want to share our story.”

The tribe and ESD are looking to meet once a month to continue to build upon the STI model. Chairman Sheldon closed by stating, “We raise our hands to you. This is something we feel is needed, and it’s great to see your school district implementing this curriculum. It’s a long awaited step in the right direction and it’s very healing to see.”

The impact of just the pilot curriculum is beautiful and promising, as evidenced by the reaction of one fourth-grade student from Edmonds, “I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” she exclaimed.


Contact Kalvin Valdillen, kvaldillen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Third graders present cultural fair highlighting STI curriculum

Second grade to fifth graders attended the cultural fair and learned about the various tribes presented on Thursday, June 11, 2015, at the Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School. Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil
Second grade to fifth graders attended the cultural fair and learned about the various tribes presented on Thursday, June 11, 2015, at the Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School.
Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – In the midst of summer excitement, third graders from Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School presented the last project of the school year to their peers, which incorporated the Since Time Immemorial curriculum. On Thursday, June 11, third graders hosted a mini cultural fair where they presented information on six tribes they had been studying. The cultural fair is an example of the unique learning environment cultivated at the school, which serves a large population of Native students in the Marysville School District.

The school’s cultural specialist Chelsea Craig worked with students on a six-week project in which they chose a tribe to study and present what they learned about the tribe. Chosen for study were the Muckleshoot, Nooksack, Tulalip, Spokane, Suquamish and Yakama Tribes, along with Afognak Village located in Alaska.

As part of the project the students were asked to contact their chosen tribe to learn first-hand about the tribe’s history and culture. Many of the students were provided letters of support for the project containing information about treaty rights, economic development and tribal history. One tribe even provided a DVD for students to watch.

As part of Since Time Immemorial curriculum students learned what role canoes play with Coast Salish tribes. They held a cultural fair on Thursday, June 11, 2015, to present the information they learned. Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil
As part of Since Time Immemorial curriculum students learned what role canoes play with Coast Salish tribes. They held a cultural fair on Thursday, June 11, 2015, to present the information they learned.
Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil

Jimmy Faria chose to study Nooksack. Before the project he knew nothing about the tribe of 2,000 members. “I wrote to them and they actually wrote me back. You will learn a lot about tribes here. I learned the difference between how a coastal tribe builds a house and how a plains tribes build a house,” said Jimmy, who handed out brochures on Nooksack he created using the program Publisher.

The project provides a great example of how STI works in schools. STI helps addresses the need for Native representation in class lessons. It provides a basic framework of Indian history and understanding of sovereignty for grades k-12. Lessons can be adapted to focus on tribal history and culture, such as Mrs. Deveraux’s class which completed a writing assignment that focused on canoes. Students learned how canoes were made, cared for, and their importance to Coast Salish tribes. This is a great example of how STI curriculum can be integrated into lessons. Tribal components can be added to each learning subject, for example math students can learn the dimensions of different Coast Salish canoe styles, or in reading students can read about tribes using canoes for transportation or art assignments can include designing mock canoes, as tribal carvers do. This is how STI works.

Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil
Photo/ Tulalip News, Brandi N. Montreuil

“They were so thrilled to write to the tribes and wait for a response,” said Craig, “A lot of these students are learning about tribes for the first time while others are learning more about their own tribes. This work is about empowering them. It really is amazing to see how passionate they are about learning this stuff.”

For more information about STI please visit the website www.indian-ed.org.

Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com

Native students could see more representation through paraprofessionals

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP – Marysville School District’s recent decision to adopt the Since Time Immemorial curriculum as part of their standard curriculum was a big step in addressing the need for Native representation in their schools. Cultural specialist Chelsea Craig, a Tulalip Tribal member who works at the district’s Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary school says, implementing STI alone will not be enough to address the disconnect schools have with Native students. She is hoping a new change in the district’s paraprofessional requirements will help close that gap.

Paraprofessionals according to the district’s website are “responsible for providing assistance to students under the direct supervision of certificated staff in classrooms or other learning environments as assigned. Although not certified as teachers they act as assistants to teachers and other school staff, making this position great for those who are seeking a career in education. To become a paraprofessional one needed a two-year degree as part of the requirement list that includes background check and ability to pass district training. Now the two-year degree requirement has been dropped and replaced with the requirement to have a high school diploma or equivalent. This change is what Craig is hoping her Native people take advantage of and become involved with their local schools.

“Historically our people have had a mistrust in education, starting from the boarding school era, and then each generation [following] there is still an underlining feeling of mistrust. By having more Native faces in the schools it helps to make schools feel less like an institution to our Native students and more like a family atmosphere,” said Craig.

Four Marysville School District schools are located on the Tulalip Reservation. The schools’ student population adds to the large number of Native students scattered throughout the district. This high concentration of Native students makes a unique partnership between the Tribes and the district. Together both have created initiatives to support students and close the achievement gap, especially in math and literacy.

“Passing STI was huge because we all bring our own wealth of knowledge about who we are and we can share that with our kids,” said Craig.

STI curriculum provides a basic framework of accurate Indian history and understanding of sovereignty that is integrated into standard learning units. Teachers are provided training on tribal history and culture. Quil Ceda has taught this style for some time, gaining national attention for their diverse school culture.

“We are finding that when we teach about culturally relevant topics the engagement is naturally much higher. The kids are motivated to do their work and they are excited about learning about their own culture, and non-Indian students are excited about learning as well. We just need as many Native faces on campus as possible, and if we can’t have them as teachers, having them as paraprofessionals is a great next step,” said Craig. “It makes such a big difference for our kids to see their own people in roles that are inspirational to them.”

If you are interested in becoming a paraprofessional with the Marysville School District visit their website at www.msd25.org or call the district at 360-653-7058.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; bmontreuil@tulalipnews.com