Tribes in Shasta, Siskiyou teach students about culture, history of 'resiliency and hope'

Jessica Skropanic
Redding Record Searchlight
Participants in the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation's 2022 Culture Camp learn drum making. The reservation is located west of Fort Jones, California.

Indigenous communities are partnering with a network of educators and writers to teach North State students about their culture and history.

Theirs and similar collaborations offer teachers curriculum they can use to give children and youths a holistic history about their geographic region, an area seldom mentioned in state curriculum, according to educators.

The result is a more complete story of the past and present that includes the "richness of our culture" told in Indigenous people's voices, said Kayla Super, spokesperson for the Quartz Valley Reservation, west of Fort Jones. "I also feel it will give our Tribal Member students a sense of identity and (a) better understanding of what it means to be Indigenous" today, "instead of hearing about Native American history (that) seemed to stop in the 1900s."

This winter, the reservation ― which includes Karuk, Klamath and Shasta peoples ― and the Northern California Writing Project will launch an online resource with lesson plans and other curriculum for kindergarten to high school teachers, and college faculty.

'Voices are still here and deserve to be amplified'

It's the first step in a larger project called "Rebuilding the Humanities at the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation." Future plans include annual culture camps at the Siskiyou County reservation, and an educational website open to everyone, said Project Coordinator Jasmine Corona Alcazar and the Northern California Writing Project, a network of teachers, researchers and writers based in Chico.

Planners invited tribal and community members, and high school and community college students to help create “a comprehensive history of the reservation,” Corona Alcazar said. Topics covered include the Land Back Movement that seeks to place seized land under Indigenous and cooperative governance. Activities include an online scavenger hunt and digital storytelling.

Related:‘America’s dark past’: Emotional scars linger from Indian boarding schools

They hope to roll out the project's online components at the end of February on the reservation's website:

“This website is a testament that their (Indigenous people's) voices are still here and deserve to be amplified and heard,” Corona Alcazar said. It’s a “jumping off point for their amazing story of utter human perseverance and resilience to keep tight to the traditions and knowledge of what makes a community ― thrive in the face of a history that has tried to erase (it).”

Plans also include outreach through the reservation's annual Cultural Camp, offered in July.

People gather for the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation's Culture Camp in summer, 2022. The reservation is located west of Fort Jones, California.

"It’s a week long event where cultural knowledge is shared with our youth, families of all ages and surrounding community members," Super said. Attendees learn traditional cooking from salmon to acorns, songs and language; and how to weave baskets and make cultural regalia, drums and cards. Visitors can camp overnight. The reservation serves meals on site.

Tribal history part of Shasta County curriculum

The Quartz Valley Reservation’s is one of several collaborations between North State Tribes and educational institutions, seeking to celebrate Indigenous people’s culture and contributions, and to report historic events accurately.

In 2017, former Shasta Lake mayor and tribal elder Rod Lindsay reached out to the Shasta County Office of Education, according to Director of School and District Support Kelly Rizzi and Learning Community for Native Success Coordinator Cindy Hogue of the Dawnom Wintu Band. The result was the American Indian Advisory, a collaboration of tribal leaders and elders from four local tribes, and representatives from Native American agencies, SCOE and nonprofits.

The consortium works ongoing to give SCOE feedback on curriculum about tribal history for students in grades three, four, five and eight. Each grade level has a team of teachers who work with a cultural consultant from each of the four tribes: Winnemem Wintu, Wintu Tribe of Northern California, Pit River and Redding Rancheria.

Resulting lessons fit state standards, but remain true to tribal culture and history, Hogue and Rizzi said. They're taught in addition ― not as replacements ― to state curriculum already in place, which seldom touches on Shasta County history.

More:Life experiences inspire this North State educator to uplift Native students

Feedback from students, parents and faculty has been positive, Hogue and Rizzi said, because lessons cover local history. Teachers requested local history curriculum for years prior to the introduction of these lessons in their classrooms, they said. Students connect with history when they're learning about the places and communities in which they live.

The North State’s story is one of “resiliency and hope," Rizzi said. "The tribes that are involved in this curriculum have been here since time immemorial and they are still thriving here today.”

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter@RS_JSkropanic and onFacebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work,please subscribe today. Thank you.