The second year of Share Our Voices, Hear Our Stories kicked off on November 17. The quarterly online forums began in November 2020 to inform the direction of Native education in Washington State and our region. The series brings together Native parents, families, students, and elders as an opportunity to connect, hear from respected leaders and elders, and provide guidance on the direction of Native education. Once again, Dr. Iris PrettyPaint of Kauffmann and Associates, Inc. facilitated the evening.
Region 16 Comprehensive Center hosts the events in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office of Native Education,the Washington State Native Education Advisory Committee, and with support from Tribal Leaders Congress on Education and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. The R16CC Washington Director, Beth Geiger, works with the R16CC WA Tribal Advisory Committee to develop the agenda for all sessions.
The R16CC WA Tribal Advisory Committee:
- Cindy Kelly (Delaware Nation)
- Anthony Craig (Yakama Nation)
- Mary Wilber (Osoyoos Indian Band)
- Patsy Whitefoot (Yakama Nation)
- Jon Claymore (Cheyenne River Sioux)
The committee supports R16CC in guiding project goals and actions and has prioritized parent involvement.
Share Our Voices, Hear Our Stories November 17th gathering followed this agenda:
- Opening Prayer
- “Weaving Our Traditional and Contemporary Stories” – Roger Fernandes
- Small-Group Discussion
The theme for the evening was “Working Together” and opened with a prayer from Mary Wilber (Osoyoos Indian Band), director of the Eastside Native American Education Program.
Following this, Jon Claymore, (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) Executive Director of the Office of Native Education for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, went over the meeting agenda and the ground rules for the session.
He then introduced the night’s speaker, Roger Fernandes. Fernandes is a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe member and a renowned storyteller.
Fernandes told the Coast Salish story, Snow Brothers, about how the winter weather came to be so light in the Pacific Northwest to the attendees and connected the tale to our current situation in the COVID pandemic. A similar version of the story can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpO2-dJ1ZMk.
Participants then broke away into small groups to discuss the following questions:
- What did you learn from the story?
- How do these teachings help us?
- How can we connect this story to our situation in 2020 and 2021?
After the small group discussions concluded, various participants shared their perspectives on how the story connected to their own lives. Themes included Compromise, Awareness Among Decision Makers, Identity, Collaborative Strengths, and Inequality.
One participant was in an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meeting with two friends and their son earlier that day. She has often felt that the administrators and teachers were like the Snow Brothers, and she was a mouse. She saw a connection between her experience and the story through the compromises within the story and her IEP meeting.
Awareness among Decision-Makers
Another participant shared that she made a connection to her children. She stated that the giants are the decision-makers, and they have no idea what is happening to the children on the ground. Her children have always been the “other,” and the teachers have not been educated about treaties, Native excellence, or other Indian Country issues. Her children had to instruct their teachers, which gave them trauma. She would like the giants to hear from the people, and she would like a significant shift in the education system.
One of the witnesses shared that their group discussed the absence of gender in the story and how it allowed everyone to potentially relate to the characters.
One parent shared their journey with having a transgender child. In her journey with her child, she realized the diversity of communities and people and that different identities have specific roles.
Another participant stated that one lesson from the story was that everyone has a place and role and that strength comes from joining together. She said that the story related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well.
Another participant stated that inequality and structural forces were present in the story, which correlate to the current, frequently overlooked struggles of smaller communities that are commonly overlooked.
Future Forum Schedule
The 2022 Share Our Voices, Hear Our Stories events are scheduled for 6 – 7:15 p.m. on the following dates:
- February 2
- April 6
- May 3
- Share Our Stories, Hear Our Voices: Beth Geiger ([email protected])
- OSPI and the Office of Native Education: https://www.k12.wa.us
- R16CC: https://www.r16cc.org
Region 16 Comprehensive Center engages State, regional, tribal, school, and community partners to improve the quality and equity of education for each student by providing evidence-based services and supports. It is a network of 29 educational service districts in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and seeks to be a responsive and innovative partner guided by the needs of educators and communities to improve educational outcomes.