Students learn cultural history of islands first inhabitants

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde provide a cultural presentation to Sauvie Island Academy students, families, and area residents. The event featured tribal drumming and singing, traditional foods, paint making, cordage making and more. Sauvie Island Academy hosted a Tribal Cultural Heritage Education Night with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Thurdsay, Dec. 12.

The school’s third-graders, as well as their families, crammed into the Sauvie Island Academy gymnasium to learn about the cultural history of the island’s first inhabitants.

The event featured tribal drumming and singing, traditional foods and other cultural demonstration stations for all ages, including traditional paint-making, cordage-making, Native American languages, necklace-making and tribal history.

The event was organized through a collaboration between Greg Archuleta, a Grand Ronde tribal member, cultural consultant and educator, and Asa Gervich, a third-grade teacher at Sauvie Island Academy.

“It went very, very well,” Gervich said. “Almost the entire third-grade class showed up, as well as island residents.”

“It’s a really great educational experience for students and family,” Gervich said. “It’s critical for students to understand that so much of pop culture still has a tendency to perpetuate stereotypes about Native Americans. We need to learn from and interact with tribal members to understand that tribal cultures are still vital and there are a lot of efforts to continue and pass on the knowledge and traditions.”

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Third-Grade Students in Asa Gervich's class at Sauvie Island Academy have constructed diorama of traditional Chinook villages, which they add to as they continue to learn about Native American Culture. Gervich said his third-graders have been studying Native American culture for some time now.

“The students are just reaching the end of an in-depth unit studying first peoples,” he said. “We’re focusing specifically on the Multnomah band of the Chinook.”

Gervich said he kicked the unit off by providing his students with a number of Native American artifacts and tasking them with figuring out the artifacts’ origins. Students then used geography, mapping and language skills to conclude that the artifacts came from a Chinook village in Washington.

Students also built diorama of a Chinook village which, Gervich said, works as a constant learning piece.

“They add more to the diorama as they learn,” he said. “It’s really a great way for students to express their learning.”

Gervich’s students have also been working in concert with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program to raise and release Chinook salmon into the wild. “

They supply the eggs and we maintain a classroom aquarium until they’re fry,” Gervich said. “Students learn first-hand about the salmon cycle.”

Gervich said once the salmon are large enough to be released, his class will bring them to their designated release site on the Multnomah Channel in Wapato Park.

“As they learn the importance of First Nations, they also learn the science,” he said.

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