By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Emotion and energy filled the fourth annual Chief Sealth International High School assembly for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
The assembly this morning spotlighted the crisis of missing/murdered Indigenous women in a very personal way: A student spoke about her cousin, missing since June 2017.
Lailani had to pause a few times as she told the wrenching story, but the students who filled the auditorium this morning called out in support, “You got this!” Her family has searched “nationwide” for her cousin, Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, but “is not giving up.” Ashley is one of ~6,000 missing/murdered Indigenous women, she noted. “They are important, they are sacred.”
The “strength and beauty” of women was celebrated at other points in the assembly, including its close, when šəqačib teacher Boo Balkan Foster brought the 30+ participants back on stage, holding slips of paper naming and honoring women who inspire them, and inviting the other students to do the same, for display at Chief Sealth.
The school’s namesake also was at the heart of another memorable moment, toward the assembly’s start, when educator Nancy Jo Bob gave a pronunciation lesson:
Nancy Jo Bob teaching Chief Sealth IHS students how to properly say their school's name pic.twitter.com/USJ6oUzLYt
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) October 18, 2019
Chief Sealth also is the city’s namesake. Art displaying his likeness hangs over the auditorium where this morning’s assembly was held.
Adjacent to CSIHS is Denny International Middle School, from which two 7th graders read a poem one wrote:
Solen, the poet, presented “Native” with Jayla. The poem dismissed stereotypes, reminding everyone that Native people are “doctors, artists, scientists,” and much more. “Indigenous people have voices!” they shouted in conclusion. Another duo, Daniela and Julisa from the Folklorico and Quinceañera Afterschool Program, presented the dance “Aguila Blanca”:
A group of boys with Island heritage – from Samoa to Ireland – performed a Mäori Haka:
From Island girls, a Samoan Siva:
From Joel, a Native Hoop Dance that carried extra meaning for the students on hand:
The hoop, he explained, represented eternity, and symbolized the many tests they’ll face throughout their lives.
Teacher Balkan Foster observed that the assembly “shared some intense things, while also talking about strength and beauty.” And she offered hope: “When we think about things that are good, our brains change.”