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Indian Heritage Closes

posted Jun 26, 2012, 9:49 PM by Sarah Kelly   [ updated Jun 28, 2012, 9:35 AM ]
Sadly, after nearly 40 years of operation, Seattle Public Schools announced the closure of Indian Heritage Middle College a.k.a. Indian Heritage High School. Indian Heritage was Seattle's only public school which, at its inception, was dedicated to the support of the native learner. Though the letter announcing this change was dated June 14, 2012, we were just hearing of this the first time yesterday, June 25.

Indian Heritage was seeded and started in 1974 as a result of the Indian Education Act of 1972 and with the efforts of community members including Jeanne Raymond. It started slowly and grew to a small yet respectable number of students within ten years. 

By 1992, the success of Indian Heritage could not be denied. Not only did Indian Heritage graduate every student, but graduates also enrolled in post-secondary or vocational school. Plans were being made to expand the program from a 6-12 grade to K-12. All this changed after the death of Bob Eaglestaff in 1996 and the school was never the same. Indian Heritage High School became Indian Heritage Middle College in 2000. In 2009, Indian Heritage graduated one Native student from its graduating class of approximately 20 students.

It was three years ago in 2009 that UAIANEA was brought into existence as Indian Heritage eliminated a culture class. Community members took this to be a hallmark of the program's closure. Parents and students simultaneously lamented its performance while demanding its existence. Indian Heritage never did get its culture class back, but it did manage to stay open on site for another three years. 

Our focus on the issue of the culture class fell away and we ended up focusing on halting the interview process for the Native Education Program Manager. Everything since then has been about keeping Huchoosedah alive and reviving youth programs in whatever capacity we could. This includes keeping the Rites of Passage Graduation ceremony on the Indian Heritage site. 

We continued to press for change with the school. For example, the interview and intake process for Heritage was returned to the school site. It seemed that without this process at the site, Indian Heritage became a "plank school" or a last stop before a push-out student left Seattle Public Schools. 

Another example of intense work was the close partnership Indian Heritage had with our flagship program, Seattle Clear Sky Native Youth Council. Indian Heritage gave us the use the site for weekly tutoring and the three-day conference over spring break. We give much credit to Principal Cindy Nash and to Teacher Robin Wilson for collaborating with Clear Sky the use of the site while we had it. 

As a part of this partnership, UAIANEA and Clear Sky has been involved with Indian Heritage for the last three years. Including Indian Heritage in weekly meetings, tutoring, field trips, and community events has made Clear Sky a consistent presence and resource for cultural knowledge. Clear Sky has allowed access to peer models, mentors and to the Native community that no other organization in the city has been able to offer for many years.

It is at this time we will engage with Seattle Public Schools to assess the changes beyond the impact of losing the Wilson Pacific site. We need to understand the district's level of commitment to re-establishing Indian Heritage back at the Wilson Pacific site. We have plans to testify before the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors on July 3, 2012 to make our intentions known. We ask that the community attend to make a show of support for collaboration that will ultimately benefit all students.

Sarah Kelly,
Jun 26, 2012, 9:49 PM