Celebrating peace, respect with culture

KINGSTON — After six years of using its teepee primarily for conflict resolution, the students and staff at Spectrum Community School finally decided it was time to properly honor it Thursday morning.

And they did it the best way they knew how —  expressing themselves through their own unique ways.

Musicians shared their music and poets their words while students expressed their gratitude for their teachers and peers and teachers commended students on their growth as young adults. In addition, the S’Klallam Dancers from Wolfle Elementary School performed songs and dances with Spectrum’s Native American Club.

“We want to make it a school function,” said student government member Anika Auld.

The teepee, built in the Nez Perce tribal style, is used for conflict mediation and other events on campus, but was highly spoken of in regards to helping maintain the peace.

One of the school’s annual goals is to make it through the year without a fight, explained teacher Phil Davis. And the school has accomplished that in the past, going two years without a fight, Davis added, and last year, there was just one.

Many students attribute such success to the canvas and timber structure located behind the school. If there are disagreements or arguments on campus, the involved parties go to the teepee to talk it out. Sage is burned afterwards if they come to a resolution.

The idea for the teepee started about six years ago, when students constructed one within a grove of alder trees near the school, Davis said. The school’s human rights club decided to expand on the idea and have a teepee constructed on campus. Students learned about the Nez Perce style of teepee and had help in creating the canvas cover and handpicking the timber to construct it. While there was never really a celebration each year when putting it up, it was always up and available for students and staff to use.

“To make sure that if there is an issue, it can be resolved without violence,” Auld said about how they used it. “Everyone can be included.”

In addition to the teepee, the school also started two pride boards, where students can write about what they are proud of, such as their heritage or lifestyle choice. One is a white erase board is that will be erased every week while the other is a table top that will be permanent. Davis said kids were writing such items on table tops at school, so they took an old table and let them do just that Thursday and will display it for everyone to see.

Students and teachers had a chance to speak about how they have grown during their time at Spectrum, just before the teepee was ceremoniously raised.

Freshman Mitchell Cartmel asked his fellow students to help try and break down existing cliques and be respectful of each other.

“Respect and friendliness will make the year go by faster,” he said.

Super senior Blake Absher said he’s spoken at celebrations like this when he first came to the school, and at the time, felt he sounded very confident and sure of himself. However, it wasn’t until a few years later he came to know who that self-assured person really was.

“Learn who you are — it’s a great place to do it,” he said.

Dustin Richards, a student on the school’s human rights board, believes Spectrum stands out because of these type of activities.

“It’s great that we’re the only school in Kitsap County that does stuff like this,” he said.

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