Crossposted from Seattle Public Schools.
“I am Princess. I am Crow, and I am Seattle Public Schools.” This is the self-introduction from high school student Princess, one of the featured students in the short film, “I Am Native.”
At the Sept. 5 Seattle School Board meeting, Gail Morris, Native American Education program manager and Stacia Hawkinson, Native Education consulting teacher, debuted the short film, which showcases Native Seattle Public School high school students and staff sharing their stories, hopes, and dreams for their future.
“This film was made to affirm and honor Native American students in SPS, and to create identity safety, as many Native students feel invisible in their schools, here and across the nation,” shares Morris.
Football captains, academic scholars, accomplished pianists, basketball players, track athletes – “I Am Native” shines a light on SPS Native students balancing their academics, extracurriculars, and cultures. Seattle Public Schools recognizes that students bring their whole selves into the classroom and is committed to creating spaces that value students’ stories.
Within Seattle Public Schools, approximately 1,600 students identify as Native American with at least 200 Tribes represented by students throughout the district.
“We have many Native students that are doing exceptionally well in SPS, and we want to share the pride we have in them with a broader audience, through this beautiful film,” Morris says.
Chief Sealth High School offers the Šǝqačib* (meaning raising of hands) class led by Native Education teacher, Boo Balkan Foster. Through the Title VI Huchoosedah Indian Education Program, the class provides a welcoming environment, fostering identity safety and promoting academic achievement. Šǝqačib offers cultural enrichment activities, academic tutoring, and access to resources provided through community partners.
“Everything that we do in this classroom, in Šǝqačib, is to lift up our students,” Foster says in the film.
In addition to supporting students and their families, Seattle Public Schools’ Native Education Department provides opportunities for educators to increase their understanding of authentic Native history; past and present, through “Since Time Immemorial Opens a New Window. ” curriculum, professional development sessions, co-teach lessons, and consulting services. The Since Time Immemorial curriculum, mandated by the state of Washington SB 5433, integrates history and perspectives of Native people into existing curriculum.
Superintendent Denise Juneau, featured in the “I Am Native” film, spoke to the personal stories and cultural wealth Native students shared in the piece, “They are the next leaders of Seattle and for our future.”
Seattle Public Schools strives to provide a positive academic and cultural K-12 experience for all students. To further eliminate opportunity gaps, the district has increased efforts to expand and improve ethnic studies for all students in Seattle Public Schools.
Learn more about Huchoosedah Indian Education: SPS Native Education Department