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Cultures collaborate in Suquamish

Students from North Kitsap High School share a clam lunch with students from the College Pierre Giradot in Sainte-Tulle, France, Thursday at the Suquamish House of Awakened Culture. - Brian J. Olson/Staff photo
Students from North Kitsap High School share a clam lunch with students from the College Pierre Giradot in Sainte-Tulle, France, Thursday at the Suquamish House of Awakened Culture.
— image credit: Brian J. Olson/Staff photo

SUQUAMISH — It’s a simple meal of geoduck, bread, soup and salad. But add a dash of history and a desire to learn something new and lunch at the Suquamish House of Awakened Culture becomes more meaningful for students from the College Pierre Giradot in France.

A group of students from the town of Sainte-Tulle, in southern France, visited the longhouse with students from North Kitsap High Thursday for lunch and a lesson in culture. The visit is part of an exchange program that North Kitsap teacher Keith Johnson has led for the past decade. The teachers at Giradot have developed an instructional unit that focuses on the Suquamish tribe.

“They focus on the tribe because of the connection with North Kitsap,” Johnson said. “The teacher from Sainte-Tulle has been to Poulsbo twice. (Studying the Suquamish tribe) just evolved from the visits and the fact that when they study the United States they study Native Americans.”

The French students were welcomed to the longhouse by a group of tribal members singing and playing drums. The experience highlighted Julien Trenel’s reason for traveling thousands of miles to visit North Kitsap.

“It’s a different world,” Trenel said. “I wanted to learn a new language and a new culture.”

After tribal members blessed the meal, the students sat down to eat and mingle with their hosts. In addition to the Suquamish lunch, the French students took in a meal at the Sons of Norway on Wednesday with their host families. They will also tour the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton and attend a Mariner’s game in Seattle next week.

Two years ago, the French students had a first-hand encounter with Suquamish culture when two Suquamish students, Sierra Bakken and Danielle Morisette, visited Sainte-Tulle and shared a piece of their culture through weaving and dancing demonstrations.

“The goal is, wherever we go in the world, we’re one people,” Johnson said. “Through understanding culture and languages, I think that helps, and that’s what drives these students.”

The trip is also about having fun.

“I learned something about school,” Trenel said. “In France it’s very strict. It’s more cool here.”

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