Nestled between the Lummi Bay and Bellingham Bay in Northwest Washington State, four tribal college early childhood education programs brought their knowledge together among the thicket of tradition and scenery on the Lummi Indian reservation. The Wakanyeja Early Childhood Education Initiative tribal college grantees of Northwest Indian College, College of Menominee Nation, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and Ilisagvik College gathered last week for their annual Sacred Little Ones convening on the Lummi reservation.
Alisha Sellars, Shuswap/Secwepemc from British Columbia, is 21 years old, a mother of a 2-year-old son, works full time, and is a full-time Northwest Indian College (NWIC) student working toward becoming an elementary or early-education teacher.
“I’m hoping to teach in Native communities because, growing up, I only saw one Native teacher,” Sellars said. “I think it’s important for Native teachers to teach Native children because they share a sense of culture and have an extra connection to the kids and I think that extra connection helps the kids.”
Four tribal colleges who are grantees in the Kellogg Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” Early Childhood Education Initiative met last week in Boulder, Colorado.
The teams came from across North America, including Ilisagvik College, Barrow, Alaska; College of Menominee Nation (CMN), Keshena, Wisconsin, Northwest Indian College (NWIC), Bellingham, Washington; and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), Albuquerque, New, Mexico. Team members shared and reflected on the first year of accomplishments establishing early childhood initiatives. In addition, the meeting provided new opportunities for team learning and inquiry. This year’s theme focused the teams on ways to share project stories, drawing upon a systematic collection of information to demonstrate impact.
Northwest Indian College’s Early Childhood Education Program was selected as a recipient of the Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” grant funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and distributed by the American Indian College Fund. $800,000 has been awarded over a period of four years in order to make improvements to the ECE degree program at NWIC and at the NWIC Early Learning Center, Lummi Head Start, Lummi Nation School K-3rd grade and Ferndale Eagleridge Elementary, K-3rd grade. We are honored to receive and be a part of this project.
The Wakanyeja “Sacred Little Ones” early childhood education initiative is for and by the Lummi Community’s children and families. Four cohorts will be formed—children at the participating schools, their parents, and their teachers as well as Lummi campus students in the ECE degree program.