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Sovereignty curriculum gains momentum; grant money helps expand tribal history in middle schools

KINGSTON – In a time of decisive budget cuts, one new program has continued to grow and develop in the North Kitsap School District.

The district recently received a $10,000 grant for its Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum, enabling Kingston Middle School to continue piloting the material.

“Mary-Lou (Macala), we basically had to peel her off the ceiling because she was so excited,” KMS Principal Susan Wistrand said of the seventh-grade teacher.

The money was donated by the Gates Foundation and will provide enough funding to continue the curriculum through 2011. As a condition of the grant, KMS hired Toby Kemper as fourth teacher to begin incorporating the material into his history classroom.

The curriculum is provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction online. The material focuses on sovereignty, tying in the history of the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes. The material includes historical territory disputes, treaty development and effects of reservations. Because the curriculum is online, it does not add an additional cost to classrooms.

Though the grant pushes the material a step forward, it remains non-mandated — not required to teach in the classroom. Because course curricula are designed to fit in the semester, the material requires the teachers to figure out how to best fit it into their classes without additional funding from the school district.

Though the material does not cost extra, the grant will provide funding for additional costs not covered by the district. During a recent meeting, Macala met with Kingston social studies teachers to discuss how to use the grant money. The ideas — still preliminary — included additional teacher release time to plan out the curriculum, and field trips to enhance a unit.

Macala was the first teacher to begin incorporating the sovereignty curriculum into her history classes last year and has helped train more teachers in the material.

In an email, Macala noted she would like to bring the Le La La Dancers, a Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation group from Alert Bay, B.C., to the school to provide a workshop.

However, the grant money is limited and needs to stretch as far as it can, which means not all ideas will come to fruition.

There are four teachers using the material: Lorie Ellison, Michelle Jones, Toby Kemper, and Macala.

Kemper, the newest recruit for the curriculum, said it was too early for him to discuss the material he would teach, but looks forward to learning more himself.

“I was surprised it wasn’t as incorporated here as it was on the East Coast,” Wistrand said of Native American history in the schools.

Wistrand moved from the East Coast. While she lived there, she observed the Cherokee Nation's school system based in North Carolina and Oklahoma. In Kitsap, the majority of two tribes share one middle school.

Because the area is home to two tribes, the school needs ensure both histories are balanced fairly in the curriculum, Wistrand said.

“We need to make sure to respect both histories,” Wistrand said.

Other school districts working with the curriculum include Seattle and Puyallup schools.

“We are definitely becoming a leader in this,” Wistrand said.

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