Native American Heritage Month (November) was celebrated in Fife Schools this year with a week of activities that all Native American students and their families were invited to take part in.
This was the first time that Fife’s Indian Education Coordinator Martha Sherman organized a full week to honor this special month to celebrate Native arts, culture and history. She gave a special thank-you to the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, who funded this wonderful week of learning and family time.
“I would not have been able to do this if I had not received a grant from the Tribe,” she said.
Throughout the week Sherman made presentations to Fife schools around the district, and invited storyteller Toby Joseph to teacher Peter Miles’s music class at Surprise Lake Middle School. Joseph and his daughter Aloma taught the students a birthday song and warrior song and Joseph told a story of the butterfly – how she once had a beautiful voice but she did not have permission to sing a certain song and so now she flies around silently. Miles is now using the songs the students learned as warm-up songs for his class.
In addition, special Native American Heritage Month facts were read to students over the P.A. system during morning announcements at Surprise Lake Middle School, Columbia Junior High and Fife High School. For example, “Did you know that there are 29 federally recognized tribes right here in the state of Washington? That doesn’t include the Duwamish tribe, who continue to fight for federal recognition, even though the city of Seattle was named after the Duwamish Chief Sealth. The name Duwamish translates to “The People of the Inside” and Duwamish lands include what we now know as Seattle, Renton, Kent, and Tukwila. Renton High School was built on Duwamish land. Although the Duwamish are not federally recognized by the U.S. Government, we still recognize them as the first people of the City of Seattle and their significant contributions to the area we all now call home.”
Each evening from Monday, Nov. 14 to Thursday, Nov. 17 was “Family Culture Night” dedicated to making art projects – dream catchers, painting wooden bear and salmon carvings, making leather bracelets and more. This week was also international “Rock Your Mocs” week, when indigenous people wear moccasins to stand together worldwide while recognizing Tribal individuality, so lots of folks wore moccasins to the Fife events on Nov. 15.
On the final night, Nov. 17, students, friends and family gathered in the district’s administration offices to enjoy tacos, fried chicken and finish up any projects they may have started. Table tents peppered the room describing each of the 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington State, which gave everyone of all ages a nice lesson in the variety of tribes our state is blessed with.