COOS BAY — November is Native American Heritage Month and the Coos Bay School District celebrated by teaching about local tribes.
Earlier this month, Indian Education Coordinator Nancy Caffey and Attendance Advocate Breana Landrum helped coordinate with the Boys and Girls Club to host after-school activities to “have our native kids share their culture,” Caffey said.
“They learned about deer-nosed canoes, beading, how to make bracelets and earrings, and we had several guest speakers from our local tribes,” Caffey said.
According to Landrum, the district brought in a member from the Coquille Indian Tribe to teach about different drum beats and songs, while a member from the Confederate Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw taught about traditional tools and how they were made.
“Another day, he also taught about native plants and what’s indigenous to the area,” Landrum said. “He brought examples with him and treats for the kids to try.”
Nearly 100 students participated in Tribal Bingo, where they expanded their vocabulary and also had a history lesson.
“It was using language like ‘termination,’ what does it mean and what happened when the tribes were terminated and ‘restoration’ for when the tribes were restored,” Landrum said. “It gave them information. Some people live their entire lives and don’t know the culture that was here before.”
In addition to spreading Native American Heritage Month education throughout a whole week, both Landrum and Caffey started the school year with the goal to meet with every Native student as a way to get to know them and see how they can be better helped.
“There’s roughly 300 identified Native students in our district,” Landrum said. “We’ve come across people who slipped through the cracks who are Native, but didn’t have their paperwork in or the necessary forms. To meet with everyone without having them miss class, we’re giving the option to meet over lunch and do a cultural craft.”
This month, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, Landrum and Caffey have had the students make posters about their tribes that go over where they are located, what is important to them, and then display them through the schools.
“Of the 300 tribal kids in the district, only about 150 are Oregon tribes and local kids,” Caffey said. “The others are from across the country, mainly from Alaska, so this has been a nice way to get to know each other and learn about their tribes because some of them are registered tribal members but don’t know much about their tribe.”
During these lunch sessions, language has been a large focus as well. Senate Bill 13 is coming to local school districts, bringing with it more accurate information about tribes.
“The tribes were given an opportunity to create curriculum to go into the schools that is historically accurate and culturally accurate as well,” Landrum said. “So we’ve been teaching them words from the Native language here, along with friends they bring who might not be from a tribe.”