This blog post was written by Westside's 5th Grade Humanities Teacher, Sigrid Brunet, about the 5th-grade Duwamish Greeting Card Project, which aims to help students reflect on our relationship to our home, build student awareness of the Duwamish people, and raise money for the efforts of the Duwamish tribe.
We invite our community to buy some of our cards; all proceeds will go to Real Rent Duwamish, an organization that passes contributions “directly to Duwamish Tribal Services (DTS) to support the revival of Duwamish culture and the vitality of the Duwamish Tribe.” This drive will run from March 15, 2022, to March 31, 2022.
Please get in touch with Sigrid at email@example.com if you have any questions!
Connecting to the Duwamish People
Westside is located on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish people in a glorious region rife with natural resources from our gorgeous sound, tall-reaching trees, and (at least recently) the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. This is a land that has been settled and home to people for thousands of years longer than our country has been around. Our nation does not have a proud history with its treatment of indigenous people, as evidenced by numerous broken treaties and unfulfilled promises. While we cannot turn back the clock and promote a better past, we can do what we can to improve the future. Including children in this work not only empowers them to make positive change but helps them see themselves as shapers of a more just society.
During one of our in-service days this fall, the Westside staff was lucky enough to have Salish activist, Pamela CƏLALÁKƏM Bond, speak with us. Before sharing stories and songs from her people and gifted to her by people of other indigenous tribes, she talked with us about Westside's land acknowledgment. She spoke about how deeply the Duwamish value the water, earth, air, and spirit of our shared area; those elements hit me deeply. They are the building blocks of all life, and we share them, the elements of our beautiful home, with the current and future members of the Duwamish people. This sparked an idea in me; I could see my students working artistically to represent the elements from their perspective to enliven Westside’s land acknowledgment in their minds.
Striving for Meaningful Action
I wanted to involve students in concrete action that stretched beyond our classroom. 5th graders have some of the biggest hearts around, and those hearts yearn for meaningful action. The goal became to design a fundraising project that would help students reflect on our relationship to our home, build student awareness of the Duwamish people, and raise money for the efforts of the Duwamish tribe. But what to make? Normally I would say bake sale, but COVID takes that off the table (pun always intended). Luckily, I overheard someone asking if Westside had any thank you cards, and a project idea was born: we would make tissue paper “stained glass” art pieces inspired by the elements and turn them into greeting cards.
The first stage of our project was to use Westside’s land acknowledgment as the root of a class discussion where we could share ideas and build questions. Following that, students were given an element (water, earth, air, spirit) to focus on. They shared where/how they connect with their element, what food or drink best represents the element, and how the element feels. From there they made drafts of their design; a rectangle work of tissue paper representing their element. I chose tissue paper because it can be simple to work with or challenging. Students can go for single colors or layers, or add complexity with blending, layering, and texture. This allowed everyone to choose their level of artistic challenge while keeping some visual cohesion, important to my concept of the final result.
Capturing the Pacific Northwest
The choices these artists made blew me away. Some made hidden layers only visible with light shining through their work. You can see salmon or turtles hiding in the depths of water. Some used meticulous scissor work to craft work that looks printed, while others tore the paper for a collage effect. No two pieces look the same, but they all capture the Pacific Northwest, and they are all coming from a wish to capture the artists’ experience with the world and a desire to be on the side of justice. Throughout their work, students have complemented each other, helped find the right shade of tissue paper, and come up with strong ideas to accomplish our fundraising.
Spirit is an element less obvious than the others on our list. But Spirit is what I have felt the most as we worked on this project. Shared goals and collaboration bond us as people. Not only will we be able to be proud of our fundraising efforts, but we will also be proud of the strengthened community within the 5th grade.
The Westside School Community acknowledges that we are on the ancestral lands of the Duwamish People. We make this acknowledgment with gratitude and a commitment to justice for the land itself, and the Duwamish People, past, present, and future. We endeavor to join them in honoring and protecting the Water, Earth, Air, and Spirit of our shared home.