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Highline Indigenous Voices Celebration Features Art, Education, Stories

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by Patheresa Wells


Highline Public Schools Native Education Program will host an Indigenous Voices Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 27, 1–7 p.m., highlighting and honoring the work completed by Indigenous earth/water protectors and First Nations meals sovereignty leaders. The occasion will embrace viewings of two movies, AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock and GATHER, in addition to dialogue about problems with significance to Indigenous communities — together with the sacred work of water and land protectors — and sharings from Highline Native Education. 

Highline’s Native Education Program is a legacy program established in 1974 with the passing of the Indian Education Act. The program was began as a option to tackle the culturally associated wants of American Indian and Alaska Native college students. Since its inception, this system has had its personal historical past of progress, however in 2013 it was relaunched with, as program supervisor Sara Ortiz says, a need to be “visionary in our approach to native or Indian education … to include as many artists, as many culture keepers, scholars, elders, media makers, [and] language teachers [as possible].”

Students who’re served by this system come from many tribal nations positioned right here in Washington State and throughout the nation, together with Indigenous college students from Canada. Ortiz says this enables them to profit from “gathering lots of thought, different practices, [and] different cultural traditions” into their choices whether or not they’re a studying area, a celebration just like the occasion deliberate for Saturday, or “a Family Forum — a meeting where we bring our families and students and educators together.” 

Because schooling is so key to this system’s mission, facilitators say all are welcome, however with a purpose to deal with supporting their group, this system facilities enrolled college students and any Indigenous college students who would possibly need to take part, together with taking part college students’ households.

The partnership between the Native Education Program and Highline Heritage Museum works to heart Indigenous voices whereas bringing their tales to the group. Ortiz says with the passage of Senate Bill 5433 there was a change within the language concerning the Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State curriculum; as a substitute of merely encouraging that the curriculum be taught in Washington State frequent colleges, it’s now required. 

“That was a huge change …” Ortiz stated. “[D]istricts got more serious about teaching about tribal histories, tribal sovereignty, tribal peoples, and we started looking around to … multiple partners who might be able to help us with the implementation process, internally and also externally, and Highline [Heritage Museum] was a perfect fit.” She says the museum has “worked so hard to tell the stories of our community,” a course of and partnership that entailed reaching out “to our tribal partners, reaching out to tribal historians, elders, culture keepers who would come and be a part of the curation of the tribal peoples portion of the museum.”

The tradition, historical past, and traditions of tribal peoples is assorted, though there are frequent threads. One of those is the work completed by Indigenous earth/water protectors. This work, Ortiz observes, has been a part of “the traditions of many, many tribes where we — since time immemorial, pre-contact, pre-settler arrival — we were the stewards, the caretakers of all of our natural resources because that was our life way.” And the connection to land and water is one that’s taken actively, with nice regard. For occasion within the movie Awake, media makers like Myron Dewey incorporate their stewardship as earth/water protectors via their artwork. The movie, which captures the story of Native-led defiance at Standing Rock, brings mild to these Ortiz says some folks would possibly check with as protesters however her group refers to as protectors. She says that they’re “tending to that relationship with our ecology, with one another, our culture, and our community. And it is about protection. It’s about protecting our life ways, protecting our relatives, and ensuring that the gifts that we have from the earth and from the water — that they continue and that our children or grandchildren, great grandchildren, continue to live in that reciprocal and responsible way as relatives with our land and with our water.” 

This duty extends to the methods by which the land and water present sustenance, as effectively. GATHER, the second movie that might be proven, is concentrated on the rising motion amongst Indigenous peoples to reclaim their non secular, political, and cultural identities via meals sovereignty, which based on the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance is “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” The connections to meals sovereignty for Indigenous peoples have diminished whereas folks have struggled with the trauma of centuries of genocide. Ortiz says that with a purpose to reconnect, Native cooks, growers, and academics all through the nation and world “are cultivating both the Indigenous plants and medicines for survival purposes but also cultivating understandings around the cultural meanings of … our traditional plants and ways of gathering, hunting, harvesting, and being on the land.”

Centering and celebrating Indigenous voices is the aim of the occasion being held Saturday, Nov. 27. While these doing the work to teach, shield, and protect these traditions and methods of life open area for all in the neighborhood to study, it is very important acknowledge methods allyship can heart these voices. 

Ortiz invitations readers to return to the occasion (extra info beneath) however notes that there are different methods to assist attain the targets of this system, together with searching for out schooling and supporting Native artists. 

“Every citizen in Washington State can really invest and dig deeply into their own development [to] learn things that most people weren’t taught in K–12, or college, or grad studies,” Ortiz stated. “But this information is widely available now.” 

Ortiz supplied quite a lot of assets (listed on the finish of this text) that she encourages readers to discover with a purpose to hear from “a confluence of voices and perspectives of everything from tribal leaders and historians to state education leaders — those who … their whole world is making sure that the stories, the cultural memory, the traditional practices of the tribes of this land, that they carry forward, that they’re protected and acknowledged.” She cautions those that search to be allies to not simply open their wallets however to search out different methods to offer assist. Donating funds is useful, however “there’s so much other work …” she says, “… acting and doing that protection work that is in relationship with the community, with tribal leaders, with tribal people, and staying accountable to one another, keeping each other accountable when it comes to honoring … our relationship with one another.” 

Ortiz says an effective way to honor that connection is to assist Native artists by constructing relationship with the artwork they create. “It’s not just a means of making income. It is how we feed our families, often, but it’s also a way of carrying our culture and our traditional knowledge and traditional practices forward into the coming generations.” 

Educational Resources:

Native Artists:

More details about the occasion being held Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, will be discovered on the Highline Native Education Facebook Page. The occasion could have restricted capability, and proof of vaccination is required. To RSVP e-mail sara.ortiz@highlineschools.org.


Patheresa Wells is a poet, author, and storyteller who lives in SeaTac, Washington. Born to a Black mom and Persian father, her experiences as a multicultural baby formed her need to advocate for and amplify her group. She at the moment attends Highline College in Des Moines. Follow her on Twitter @PatheresaWells.

📸 Featured Image: Ixtli Salinas-White Hawk performs the one ceremony the Aztec tradition is allowed to share with these exterior the tradition, through the fifth annual celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Seattle, Washington, on Oct. 8, 2018. She belongs to Tloke Nahuake-tlayolohtli, a standard Aztec Dance household group. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

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