The Native Action Network has presented its Enduring Spirit Award to Boo Balkan Foster, the šəqačib teacher at Chief Sealth International High School and Denny International Middle School. From the announcement on the Seattle Public Schools website:
… Award recipients are honored for their lifetime commitment to building strong, healthy Native communities and intergenerational connection.
Leaders like Boo have advocated powerfully for environmental protections, access to quality education, holistic health and wellness, cultural preservation, traditional knowledge, tribal sovereignty, strengthening of treaty rights, tribal economic development, and beyond.
Boo is the šəqačib teacher at Chief Sealth International High School and Denny International Middle School. Boo designed the framework of šəqačib, a class promoting school engagement and academic progress in a culturally sensitive environment for Native youth, to empower her students by centering student voice. The success of Boo’s first course paved the way for more offerings in SPS.
She also piloted curriculum for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, resulting in shifts to align learning levels for high school students. A fierce advocate, Boo is steadfast in demanding Native students have a voice in decision-making.
“It is humbling to be recognized with the current and past leaders of the Enduring Spirit Award,” Boo said. “I am an awe of their dedication, strength, and brilliance. I am honored to be called teacher by students whose wisdom and perseverance inspire me every day. It is a privilege to continue the work of those upon whose shoulders I stand.”
As part of her recognition, Boo was presented with the Inheritance Blanket created by Native artist Sarah Agaton Howes, which pays homage to an Anishinaabe tradition, where the Bear Clan are known as carriers of medicine.
Boo was nominated by fellow SPS staff member Amy Markishtum.
“I have had the privilege of watching Boo from the beginning of her teaching career where we worked together until now, 26 years later, and the impact she has had on her students and families.,” Amy said. “She not only sees them as individuals, but she also sees their potential and helps them to be the best they can be. She inspires them. She has a high bar of expectations for them, and her students rise to her expectations. She is not only their biggest fan, but she will also advocate for them as they navigate middle and high school.”
Native Action Network is a nonprofit organized to promote Native women’s full representation, participation, and leadership in local, state, tribal, and national affairs.
(Photo by Melissa Ponder for Native Action Network)