‘There’s a lack of trust’: Native American education in Spokane Public Schools


During a latest class at Grant Elementary School, a number of Native American college students held up figuring out indicators that strengthened a level that the overall inhabitants has seldom understood.

Not one of the indicators learn “Native American.” Instead, they recognized the kids as members of the Spokane, Colville, Assiniboine and different tribes.

For Tamika LaMere, the director of the Native Education program at Spokane Public Schools, this was a teachable second for the scholars and their visitors.

“That’s one of the goals of our program, that we are educating internally and externally, and not perpetuating stereotypes,” LeMere stated.

“We talk about equity and diversity that lies in our people as distinct tribal nations: our language, our style of dress, the food we eat – all the things that make us feel distinct – so that we don’t perpetuate those stereotypes.”

Of the 547 federally acknowledged tribes, 130 are represented by nearly 2,000 college students in Spokane Public Schools.

Based on the statistics collected by the state superintendent of public instruction, Native American Students need assistance – in the classroom and out. To that finish, LaMere and her assistants give attention to the latter – offering cultural enrichment by way of conventional actions resembling drumming, singing and cooking.

Raised in Great Falls, Montana, LaMere is a member of the Little Shell Chippewas, which, like so many tribes, not has land to name its personal.

While it’s necessary to acknowledge that the college district and town sit on the unceded lands of the Spokane Tribe, she additionally understands the wants of urban-dwelling Native Americans “with no knowledge of who they are as Native people.”

“Some kids, you ask them what tribe they belong to, and they won’t know,” LaMere stated.

At the identical time, Native American college students in Spokane and elsewhere wrestle inside and out of doors of the classroom.

In the spring 2020, about 78% of the district’s Native American and Alaska Natives graduated on time in comparison with 89% of the general inhabitants.

In that very same yr 59% of Native American ninth-graders handed all their lessons, in comparison with 74% for all college students. One out of eight dropped out earlier than their senior yr.

Those numbers are higher than nationwide averages and corresponding to these in different districts across the state – with one evident exception: Spokane has one of the bottom kindergarten-readiness charges in the state at 32%; but for Native American kids, it’s solely 18%.

Some of those self same kids have grandparents who have been compelled into boarding colleges that tried to strip away their cultural identities.

“There’s a lack of trust,” stated LaMere, a former counselor at Glover Middle School who has led the Native Education program because the summer time of 2020.

That’s the problem: to construct belief amongst Native American households that the tutorial system will assist them assimilate the data and experiences that may assist them succeed whereas not being assimilated themselves.

Focusing on areas of biggest want, the Native Education employees works primarily at 5 elementary colleges: Stevens, Grant, Logan, Regal and Bemiss.

The work contains intervention with college students who’re struggling behaviorally and socially – “to keep them engaged, to have someone they can go to,” LaMere stated.

That activity was difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many households retreated to their properties; LaMere and her employees responded with in-home visits.

While serving as a liaison with academics and employees, this system additionally makes an attempt to supply constant help to Native American college students.

In line with the indicators held by LaMere’s college students, different college students are getting an education.

In March 2018, the Legislature handed Senate Bill 5028, which requires instructor preparation packages to combine the “Since Time Immemorial” tribal sovereignty curriculum into present Pacific Northwest historical past and authorities necessities.

For non-Native college students, the curriculum adjustments are meant to create larger consciousness and compassion. For native college students, it could possibly train power and resiliency, foster constructive id improvement and assist uphold tribal sovereignty.

“To help them feel visible,” LaMere stated.