A few years ago, I put together a few books, laminated some maps and photos, called it a “Nez Perce Teaching Box,” and offered it to local teachers. A few teachers—Jennifer Gibbs in Wallowa most prominently—used the materials in their classrooms, but there was no wave of support for my project.
But times are changing. Tamkaliks grows, tribal root gatherers come to the Wallowa, Nez Perce Fisheries returns Coho to the Lostine, and Native Deb Haaland takes the Department of the Interior where no one has taken it before.
Last year, Shari Warnock and a retired teacher turned volunteer named Ginger Gramm took the students at the Imnaha school on a year-long journey with the Nez Perce. Shari took her kids to the Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding, Idaho, put them on Stacia Morfin’s “Nez Perce Tourism” boat up the Snake River to see the pictographs, and remodeled my teaching box. They focused on books that would grab middle schoolers—Kenneth Thomasma’s Soun Tetoken; Scott O’Dell’s Thunder Rolling in the Mountains, and the Kaya books, which were produced in cooperation with the Nez Perce Tribe. And Ginger contributed student activities she’d used with her Northern California students as they explored the Native culture where they lived.
Shari says that it just made sense that her students should know the history and culture of the people who lived here for 15,000 years before their own parents and grandparents arrived.
With a revised teaching box inventory in hand, I called the Nez Perce Park and arranged for Park Ranger Vivian Henry to meet local educators. A dozen showed up to listen to Vivian, who is Nez Perce, talk about her culture, the Park, and the educational help they can provide. There were teachers from Wallowa, Enterprise, and Joseph districts, a school principle and people from other local educational organizations.
School is starting, and the schools and teachers have their boxes, which now include the latest video from the National Park. Boxes will soon be going to Wallowology, Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland and Maxville Heritage.
In the words of Bob Dylan’s song, “Times they are’a changing…”
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