Letters to Obama- Recognize the Duwamish Tribe!

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4th, 5th, and 6th grade have been flexing their civic duty muscles here this week with some very powerful letters to president Obama concerning the Duwamish Tribe. When I suggested that maybe we write some letters to advocate the tribe being federally recognized, students were very enthusiastic. If the tribe was recognized on a federal level, they could get the land, fishing, healthcare, and education rights that they deserve- and were promised! They signed the Point Elliot treaty in 1855 guaranteeing them rights they never received. They were eventually reimbursed $1.56 for all their land and hardships.

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This activity has not been without it’s challenges. This might be a smaller microcosm of the challenges in education in general. Is it our job as teachers to make kids care about something? Should we be inspiring kids to care? Do we take our own feelings about what we care about and share them with kids and hope that they care? We all know that it is a challenge to care. I guess I feel that it is a necessity to care. So my focus with this letter is to take the experience of two weeks of studying Duwamish history and culture (through the Burke Museum boxes) and bring it into the present. The story of the Duwamish is a story that is continuing now! I felt that they needed our help and the actions of a few hundred students may actually have an impact.

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Plus at least students get to learn the lost art of letter writing! They take facts they have learned and share them with our President. This is an inadvertent assessment of what students have learned the last few weeks too. It’s writing, reading, Native History, Washington State History, civic action, and social justice. A truly cross curricular activity that I hope reached the kids (and eventually the government!) on some level.

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These letters have been thoughtful, inspiring, and absolutely amazing. Stay tuned for updates! These are just the rough drafts!

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Anonymous said,

    I think this is a wonderful project. Helping kids (anyone) realize that they are able to participate in huge systems is planting the seeds of empowerment. Thank you.

  2. 3

    Anonymous said,

    Great project! The Duwamish deserve federal recognition. Really they, and all Native peoples, deserve so much more than just that, but it’s a start!


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