Building Cultural Connections
Fun, Learning at Native American Camp
Posted on 06/23/2016

Camp goers get surprised by water squirting from a maskAbout 40 students were invited to imagine a world before cell phones and Spongebob Squarepants. They thought about life centuries ago in Northwest coastal villages and into Alaska.

Native American students from grades 1 to 6 and teen helpers heard stories, danced and played games as part of an annual Native American cultural summer camp.

The camp was organized by the district’s Native American Education program. Donations from the Muckleshoot and Suquamish tribes helped fund it.

“We want to expose these kids to Native American culture and let them be with a group of kids who share similar backgrounds,” said Gaynel Holt, Native American Education coordinator.

Having a strong sense of culture and belonging can positively influence how students do in school, she said.

Students touch a maskHistorian Ronn Wilson presented a two-day educational program. It is rooted in his family’s Kwaguilth traditions from upper Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

A third day of camp focused on games that helped Alaskan native peoples learn survival skills. Students practiced in the morning and competed in an Native Youth Olympics Thursday afternoon.

Wilson told ancient stories. He filled tables with artifacts from a variety of Northwest Coast tribes.

Students colored crafts as they hummed songs Wilson had sung. They learned dances and performed them for parents on Wednesday.

 “I learned a lot about how different each one of the tribes are,” said Madisyn Diabo, one of the camp’s teen helpers.

She’s attended the camps for several years, once as a camp-goer and twice as a helper. She wore a serious expression as she learned her parts in the dances.

“It’s not something to joke around for fun,” she said. “It’s showing off what we learned.”

But it wasn’t all serious. The performance included humor and water-squirting fun for the little ones.

As Wednesday’s camp came to a close, Wilson spoke to students and parents. He encouraged them to seek out their elders and families to learn more about their own backgrounds.

“You’ve learned a little about others today, and hopefully a little about yourselves.”

Read More

See photos and read more about the Native Youth Olympics portion of the camp in the Kitsap Sun.