For the Reporter
A drum begins to beat faintly in the Kent classroom, quieting the chatty Lake Youngs Elementary School students in their seats.
Collectively, everyone’s attention focuses on Sondra Segundo, who begins to sing softly in her Native Haida language. The room, students and staff alike, are now captivated as Segundo ends the song with a final beat of her drum.
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Lake Youngs Elementary hosted 27 Native students on a recent November day from Lake Youngs, Scenic Hill and East Hill elementary schools, treating them to a field trip meant to expose them to their culture through music and storytelling.
Richard Summers, the Kent School District’s Native American Student & Family Liaison, described the impact of Kent students building relationships and learning more about their cultures through these events.
“It’s immeasurable,” Summers said. “For the most part, Native history and culture have been non-existent in public schools for decades, besides a page or two on the Trail of Tears, Chief Sitting Bull, Geronimo, or Chief Joseph. Cultural erasure gets mentioned a lot, but I would argue it has hit Native Americans hardest. So, when we can offer in-person, three-dimensional cultural offerings for our Native students, I think these events will stick with them for a long time and positively affect their identity development as Native people.”
The field trip’s special guest was Segundo, a multi-faceted Seattle artist and Haida Language Warrior. She was invited to present her new book, “Kúndlaan,” to the students. She also incorporated songs throughout the book’s presentation, adding a dimension that made the story come alive.
Segundo is a cultural educator, published author, and illustrator of three Haida children’s books.
“I have had Sondra present to our students and families two other times at our Native Program culture night events,” Summers said. “Her family and my family come from the same Alaska Native village, Hydaburg, Alaska, so I’ve known her family for some time.”
After the book presentation, the students bonded with each other while eating pizza and participating in an art project.
Kent School District hosts many Native cultural events throughout the school year and summer.
“Many Native students might not get too involved with their Native cultures at home or in the community as part of being ‘urbanized,’ so the influence of cultural offerings in their school lives has a giant impact,” Summers said.
Lake Youngs Elementary School is at 19660 142nd Ave. SE.
Kent School District acknowledges its district rests upon the ancestral lands of the descendants of the Duwamish and Upper Puyallup people who came to be known as the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, who historically lived throughout the area between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound.