Skip to main content

This is how you create a curriculum the Tulalip way

caption: Students head to class in the Marysville School District which neighbors the Tulalip Tribes.
Enlarge Icon
Students head to class in the Marysville School District which neighbors the Tulalip Tribes.

A curriculum created with tribes not just about them. Keep the interests of Tulalip in mind.

That’s what Marjorie James remembers Senator John McCoy telling her when she took her new role.

James is the Curriculum and Engagement Manager for Tulalip Tribes. The job spans across ages, in the Kindergarten through lifetime education division.

In May 2015, Sen. McCoy authored Washington State Senate Bill 5433, Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State. It passed.

Before McCoy's bill, there was another version passed in 2005 that encouraged, not required, schools to implement the curriculum. The 2015 legislation is a departure from its predecessor and requires schools to teach Washington’s tribal history, culture, and government. The curriculum is tribally-developed.

That's where people like James come in — developing educational curriculum that schools can use to teach about the history and life of the Tulalip Tribes. She wants to coordinate it in a much more Tulalip way. And for her, collaboration is key, “that itself is a more native or indigenous approach."

But, there’s no one model.

"Every tribe has a completely unique way of approaching this work,” James said.

RELATED: Voices of youth keep Lushootseed language alive

Washington state’s curriculum requirement connects school districts to tribes. But the legislation did not come with a lot of resources or funding for different schools to take this on.

OSPI offers “ready-to-go” lesson plans to educators. These lessons for the Since Time Immemorial curriculum include coloring books, presentations, videos and quizzes.

Even so, there’s a lot to be learned.

“It is an opportunity to introduce people to the basics of how we exist as a society, and a government and a people,” James said. “That they were never exposed to, even at a college or graduate level.”

It’s not just the history of tribes

Marjorie draws from the present, connecting ideas to what survived pre-contact.

"There was a lot of advanced thinking that we've continued to develop," she said. “An ability to innovate was not given to us.”

Collecting salmon, intertribal communication, and casinos.

Each innovation built on itself, out of curiosity and sometimes necessity. Gambling for instance, she says, is able to benefit an entire tribal community. Many of these innovations often counter the intentions of Federal Indian policies.

Federal Indian policies intended to break up tribal ownership of land and destroy tribal governments. Some policies even sought to assimilate indigenous people and others advocated for extermination.

A time of remembrance

Tribal sovereignty is a huge motivation in this work: self governance, freedom to practice culture and religion, and steward land.

The inherent part would be bringing it back to a time of remembrance, pre-contact. James wants education to have a positive impact in her community.

A curriculum that can show how Tulalip Tribes survived and thrived in this area for millennia, “to help everyone do better by our surroundings and one another.”

Why you can trust KUOW