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Nationally-known doctor gets a dose of culture

Shrieking children ranging in ages from infancy to 10 years old, running around the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Gym Thursday were the most appropriate environment for the tribe’s special guest that evening.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a pediatrician known for his research and work with young children, visited the Suquamish Tribe on Feb. 5 and the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe on Feb. 6 to help the groups improve their wellness programs.

Dr. Brazelton and his colleagues were conducting on-site visits for his Touchpoint Program which the tribes will be implementing into their child development offerings — including Headstart and community health services.

Touchpoint incorporates holistic ways of developing relationships between children and their families, “which fits beautifully in Indian country,” said Port Gamble S’Klallam Early Childhood Education Program Director Jacki Haight.

“It’s a system of understanding how children develop through the perspective of the family,” she added.

“Touchpoints” are predictable periods in a child’s development that can disrupt family relations, but also provide an opportunity for practitioners to connect with the parents, according to the program website Touchpoints.org.

Some of those periods include walking and self-feeding, Haight said.

Both tribes recently received grant money to use the program and will be sending three people each to Boston where they will join seven other tribes for training next week. The group will come back and train others in the community, Haight explained.

Brazelton has been visiting various cultures around the world, Haight added, noting that he has been learning about the native peoples and teaching them how his program can be helpful.

“In tribal communities, they have the strength because of the extended families,” Haight said.

Brazelton had a full two days with both tribes.

The Suquamish Tribe visit included a tour of the Port Madison Indian Reservation and a short canoe ride from downtown Suquamish to the Clearwater Casino via Agate Pass.

A community dinner held for Brazelton and his staff at the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal gym on Thursday included a performance from the S’Klallam Dancers, a group of pre-school and elementary-age children who perform native dances. Brazelton looked on in delight, adorned with a woven-cedar headband the tribe gave him earlier that morning. He even took part in the friendship dance with the dancers.

“We’ve had a wonderful day here,” he said as he addressed the crowd of parents and children after the performance. “We feel so fortunate to participate in your beautiful show.”

Brazelton praised the children of the tribe, who he said walk straight and are gentle, while their curiosity for life is very apparent.

“These kids are taking in everything,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”

Kelly Baze, a community health employee who will be going to Boston next week, said Brazelton seemed to enjoy himself during his visit.

“He just appreciated everything we did for him,” Baze said. “He’s so excited — he wants to learn more about the tribe and tribal people.”

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