Sacred Little Ones program event brings tribal educators to Lummi

By Shelley Macy, NWIC Early Childhood Education Director

On June 7, Lummi elders and community leaders, along with the Northwest Indian College Early Childhood Wakanyeja Sacred Little Ones (WSLO) program, welcomed WSLO teams from the College of the Menominee Nation (CMN-Wisconsin), Ilisagvik College (IC-Alaska), and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI-New Mexico) to the annual WSLO convening at the Silver Reef Casino.

All four colleges receive support funds from the American Indian College Fund’s “Wakanyeja ‘Sacred Little Ones’ –Tribal College Readiness and Success by Third Grade Initiative.”  The Wakanyeja project is generously funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The purpose of the project is to create innovative, tribally-based activities and solutions that improve early childhood education and empower families and communities to create better education for their children.

We were honored to have Mary Helen Cagey and her family offer a welcome song and blessing. Chief Bill James and Lummi leaders Juanita Jefferson and Al Scott Johnnie gifted all assembled with words of encouragement and appreciation for their work on behalf of young children.

During the two days of the convening, the NWIC team showed off partner sites to the guests: NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start, Lummi Nation School kindergartens, and Eagleridge Elementary kindergartens.

The other participating colleges also offered a workshop. CMN’s workshop focused on literacy and adapting familiar tales into teacher-made books that include a several words of their tribal language (The Gingerbread Man became Frybread Man, for example).

IC’s workshop focused on the various ways they are developing their Inupiat preschool language immersion program and creating Inupiat books, posters of language sounds, and using their language with the children in care.

SIPI gave us a taste of their PhotoVoice project involving parents in photographing activities, locations and people that show what they value in their daily lives as Native people, using that to guide cultural curriculum development.

Our NWIC team included myself (Shelley Macy, NWIC Early Childhood Education Director), Ashia Smock (NWIC Early Learning Center manager), Joy Miller (Head Start Education Manager, Jason Small (Lummi Nation School Curriculum Director), Julie Mauermann (Ferndale ECE Coordinator), Sunshine Bob (Lummi language teacher and parent), and Mischa Burnett (incoming Eagleridge Principal). Team members participated in full or in part in the convening sessions.

We were also honored to have Head Start and Early Head Start staff attended the Friday workshop with SIPI.

The visiting teams appreciated hearing from NWIC’s WSLO Coordinating Team Member Bernie Thomas (Lummi Education Director) when they visited the Head Start buildings, old and new, and getting to meet Sharon Kinley and Lexie Tom, two other Coordinating Team Members, at Friday’s dinner.

Sacred Little One is at the midpoint of its four-year funding.