Recognizing Heritage, Culture: Enumclaw School District

Sui-Lan Ho’okano is the Cultural Program Manager for the Enumclaw School District. She is Native Hawaiian, Taino Indian, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Africana. She has worked with Native American/Alaska Native/Pacific Islander youth across Washington State for the past 4 years; Green River College, University of Hilo Hawaii & Hawaii Community College.

The following is a guest column from Sui-Lan!

Implementing Cultural Core Classes and Identity

Those of us who are in this work understand how to build educational support with our students and families, but we also know that building confident, resilient scholars encompass culture and relationships, we must value the cultural wealth that our Indigenous students and communities bring, along with recognition of our cultural capital and ancestral connections, we move forward by honoring our past. As Indigenous educators, community leaders, and parents we are fully aware of how important education is, but we are equally aware of the importance in cultivating culturally strong spirits, you cannot teach a broken spirit, healing must come first, then the rest will follow.

Cultural pedagogy must be a part of our scholars’ academic journey, we are not separate from our cultures, language, and traditions and this is a piece that has been historically broken and displaced in education institutions but be reestablished. Through these new cultural educational support programs our scholars will not only thrive but build their confidence and authentic identities inclusive to their cultural connections and academics.

Homecoming Parade

Left to right, Cultural Support Team Members: Lukas Daniels, Leslie Quezada, Sui-Lan Ho’okano, Jennifer Latham.

Current movements that the Enumclaw Cultural Program has been able to accomplish in recognizing the importance in culture and Native American Heritage school year include the Muckleshoot/Native students leading the Homecoming Parade acknowledging and representing the Indigenous first peoples of this land that was not historically represented.

This was a prideful moment for our Muckleshoot/Native students and especially for Lukas Daniels who was instrumental in taking the lead for Indigenous/Native students on this journey; to walk the town of their ancestors’ lands alongside the canoe family gives cultural confidence, reestablishes community ties, and pride for the students. The Muckleshoot Canoe Family provided the Canoe for the parade coordinated with Will Bill Jr., and Mike Edwards for the event. We are grateful for these moments that make larger differences in our continued journey reestablishing our history and rights as Indigenous people.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Enumclaw School District will officially adopt Indigenous Peoples Day in place of Columbus Day. I proposed the resolution to Jill Burns our Director of Teaching and Learning and collectively along with Mike Nelson and the District Board Members, in late September and the resolution passed with a unanimous vote in late October. Enumclaw School District is only the third district to officially adopt Indigenous Peoples Day, following after Kent school district being second proposed by Theresa Lockerm, and Seattle setting precedence as the first district. It is only in our collaborative efforts that we can accomplish the healing, and I for one am thankful for the continued support that I receive from the Muckleshoot Tribe, Enumclaw School District and community members, it takes a village.

It is my hope that other school districts will follow in recognizing the first peoples of the lands and nations that they reside on. This is not only the responsibility of a few, to build upon reestablishing indigenous/Native authentic rightful place in history and education, it is the responsibility of all those who work with our scholars and alongside our indigenous communities and reside on the lands of our ancestors.

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Sui-Lan Ho’okano

Ho’omoe wai kahi ke kao’o (Let all travel together like water flowing in one direction…)

He aupuni palapala ko’u (Mine is of an educated Kingdom)

Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III

Enumclaw’s Indigenous Peoples Day invite and the school district resolution.