Puyallup Tribal Youth Center Hosts Native Teachings, Keeping Our Traditions Alive

By Kate Manzanares, Puyallup Tribal Member

On Thursday, Jan. 24, about 200 fourth- and fifth-grade students had an opportunity to listen, learn and experience culture during “Native Teachings, Keeping our Traditions Alive” at the Puyallup Tribe’s Youth Center. The annual program is a partnership between the Puyallup Tribe’s Cultural Department and surrounding school districts’ Native Education Programs.

The day started out with traditional narratives from the Puyallup Tribal Language Program, including “Chipmunk and Basket Ogress.” The youth watched attentively as the story was being told and acted out three times.

After the third time, they were asked what they learned from the story. Many said that they need to listen to their elders, not trust everybody and watch who you talk to. The kids who raised their hands to answer were given a t-shirt or special playing cards from the Twulshootseed program.

Crafts, games and songs

Throughout the Youth Center, there were different stations where kids could work on Native crafts, including sanding and decorating small canoes, completing a small cedar project and decorating a reusable tote bag.

The sounds of drums could be heard throughout the building with children and adults both singing along and dancing. Though the kids were from different school district and maybe weren’t even familiar with each other you could really feel as sense of unity and connection to the culture.

“When we sing in our cultural way, it’s a form of prayer. Sometimes words can’t express the things that are in our hearts; so we sing them,” said Clinton McCloud cultural department assistant director. “Sometimes we are happy and sometimes sad, and these songs help take care of us. All of our cultural songs were originated from prayer, they all come from a good place. When you hear our people out there singing it means they are in prayer and they are praying for things good things to happen, it’s a part of who we are.”

One of the other stations was a game area, where the kids played traditional games throughout indigenous lands. The youth were having a blast and you could hear laughter and excitement as they played games such as, “Keeper of the Fire” (Plains, Woodlands, Coastal) and “Hand and Bones” (Blackfeet).