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Pacific cultures share at Suquamish

Students from Tahiti demonstrate a warrior dance during their visit to the Suquamish House of Awakening Culture.  - Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo
Students from Tahiti demonstrate a warrior dance during their visit to the Suquamish House of Awakening Culture.
— image credit: Kipp Robertson/ Staff photo

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish House of Awakened Culture was filled with traditional dance and songs from both sides of the Pacific on Wednesday, as Suquamish, Port Gamble S’Klallam and Tahitian visitors came together to share their cultures.

The Tahitian students  are touring Washington state and included Suquamish on their itinerary of indigenous nations to visit.

"At least half of the students have never left Tahiti before," English teacher Noelani Taeae of Tahiti said. "Our goal was to show them life on the other side of the Pacific."

Taeae, who accompanied the students on the U.S. trip, said she tried to pack as much as she could into the trip.

The Tahitian students currently study at the middle school level. Many of the students had never flown in an airplane. Adding to the list of firsts, most of the students saw snow for the first time, while driving through Snoqualmie Pass.

In order to be eligible for the trip, the students needed good grades. Many ended up sacrificing lunches and time after school just to ensure they could join, Taeae said.

She hopes that along with cultural sharing, the students pick up English skills they can take home.

"It will open their minds to see things outside the island," she said. "It will also help them mature and appreciate their own history and culture."

Though the events at the community house lasted about four hours, those four hours were packed with cultural sharing. Besides sharing Tahitian cultural songs and dance, the students  were taken out for rides in two Suquamish canoes.

The planning for the trip to Suquamish began in October. Coordinator Tim Olson had continued to discuss plans via email with Taeae.

"It kind of seemed like a day that would never come," Olson said. "Now that it's here, it's really cool."

Hosting other tribes and cultures is not a new concept for the Suquamish tribal members. The tribe is contacted on a regular basis for cultural gatherings, Suquamish Education Director Kari DeCoteau said. She said visitors are often drawn to the Native American culture present in the North Kitsap area.

"This was a dream come true," Taeae said.

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