Nez Perce Teaching Boxes

A few years ago I tried to put a batch of books, photos, and maps into a package for local school teachers. It was an effort to get some information on Nez Perce history and culture into the curriculum, and into the minds of local students.

A few teachers used what I began to call “teaching boxes,” but the materials were all over the grade levels, a bit academic, and clunky. As it turns out, in recent years Oregon—and Washington—schools are required to teach Native American history and culture, and in our state it is all directed at fourth grade teachers and students.

Two years ago we brought Vivian Henry, an interpretive ranger for the Nez Perce National Historical Park, to speak to teachers and students before classes began. Shari Warnock, the teacher at the tiny, multi-grade Imnaha School, bit into it. She took the teaching box materials—now supplemented with National Park videos and teaching materials, and made a year of it. She had help from Ginger Graham, a retired teacher who volunteers at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland, and students read, listened, and eventually went to the National Park site and even up the Snake River in a jet boat! And this past year, Olan Fulfur took his Joseph High School American History students to the Park as well.

We’ve updated materials for all of our local schools–photos of dip-netting and a tule mat tipi, maps of pre-Lewis and Clark Northwest and the great Nez Perce fighting retreat, etc, and we have a couple more teaching boxes to go out. One is going to the Education Department at Eastern Oregon University. The goal is to get teachers and students across Nez Perce Country in Oregon familiar with the history, culture, and even the current activities of the Nez Perce people.

The photo above shows a Teaching Box and some of the materials. If you would like to know more, let me know! Maybe we’ll save one box to “check out” to schools and teachers beyond Wallowa County.

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