Henden steadfast against the definition of tribal sovereignty

POULSBO – An interagency agreement regarding the Suquamish Tribe’s Chief Kitsap Academy, a school that offers the district’s Native students culturally based classes for which they can earn college credit, was approved by the North Kitsap School District on Dec. 6.

The agreement is between the Tribe, which operates the school; the school district, which shares students and resources with the academy; and Olympic College, which awards credit for classes taken.

The agreement sets a cooperative framework to offer college-level classes to Suquamish and North Kitsap High School students; in particular, the Early College for Native Youth program. The program allows students "culturally relevant course offerings and educational experiences," with consideration of academic needs. Students enrolled in the program have the chance to earn high school and college credit.

Students and faculty members from Chief Kitsap Academy spoke in favor of the agreement. Four of five board members voted for the agreement. Scott Henden, board vice president, abstained.

Commenting on a Nov. 8 board discussion regarding tribal sovereignty, Henden said he still does not agree with the federal definition of tribal nations as being sovereign, or self-governing, entities.

"If I have to agree that a tribal nation is sovereign, independent, I'm not going to do that," Henden said.

However, Henden said he promises children "whatever their race or nation, that I will support the best education possible."

Henden said he did not want to delve further into "the politics" of sovereignty, and said people will know his opinions if they read the newspaper.

Joe Davalos, superintendent of the Suquamish Tribe’s Education Department, said the Suquamish Tribe and the school district have worked together in mutual respect. He didn’t want to comment on another person's definition of sovereignty. It's "a perspective thing I guess. I don't know," he said.

Prior to the board's vote on the agreement, board director Bill Webb quoted a definition of tribal sovereignty.

"Both tribes have been extremely involved in our community," Webb said. "Straight up -- it's time to move forward."  

The Port Gamble S’Klallam reservation and Port Madison, or Suquamish, reservation are located within the North Kitsap School District. Some 6.7 percent of students in the district are Native American, according to the district's website.


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