Spotlight: Since Time Immemorial

A closer look at Washington’s curriculum that teaches about tribal sovereignty, government, culture and heritage.

As of July 24, 2015, Washington school districts are required to incorporate lessons about the history, culture and government of the nearest federally recognized Indian tribe or tribes when the district reviews or adopts its social studies curriculum (RCW 28A.320.170). The following quote is an excerpt from that law:

The legislature recognizes the need to reaffirm the state’s commitment to educating the citizens of our state, particularly the youth who are our future leaders, about tribal history, culture, treaty rights, contemporary tribal and state government institutions and relations and the contribution of Indian nations to the state of Washington.

Washington students are asked to answer essential questions within the curriculum that support OSPI’s mission that every student is ready for career, college and life. Crucial cross-subject and critical thinking questions like:

1. How does the physical geography affect Northwest Tribes’ culture, economy, and where they choose to settle and trade?

2. What is the legal status of the Tribes who negotiated or who did not enter into United States treaties?

3. What were the political, economic, and cultural forces that led to the treaties?

4. What are the ways in which Tribes respond to the threats and outside pressure to extinguish their cultures and independence?

5. What do local Tribes do to meet the challenges of reservation life; and, as sovereign nations, do to meet the economic and cultural needs of their Tribal communities?

Through Salmon Eyes” produced in concert with the “One With The Watershed” curriculum, tells the traditional story of Salmon Woman and the promises made to get salmon to return to their rivers of origin. The video, presented by Salmon Homecoming, was produced by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission with a Title II grant through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The use of the free “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State” curriculum will satisfy this requirement. This is an on-line curriculum developed through the OSPI Office of Native Education and Title I Office.

This curriculum, pilot tested for the past five years in 14 schools throughout our state, has a menu of Tribal sovereignty information, short lessons, and even entire units for every U.S. History, Washington State History, and Contemporary World Problems unit.

During the summer of 2011, this curriculum was also aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Within each unit, teachers choose from three levels of instruction based on curricular needs and time constraints.

More about the curriculum:

“The Big Five” — questions for different grade levels

By the time Washington students leave elementary school, they will:

  1. understand that over 500 independent Tribal nations exist within the United States today, and that they interact with the United States, as well as each other, on a government-to-government basis;
  2. understand Tribal sovereignty is “a way that Tribes govern themselves in order to keep and support their ways of life;”
  3. understand that Tribal sovereignty predates treaty times;
  4. understand how the treaties that Tribal nations entered into with the United States government limited their sovereignty; and
  5. identify the names and locations of Tribes in their area.

By the time Washington students leave middle school, they will understand:

  1. that according to the US Constitution, treaties are “the supreme law of the land”; consequently treaty rights supersede most state laws;
  2. that Tribal sovereignty has cultural, political, and economic bases;
  3. that Tribes are subject to federal law and taxes, as well as some state regulations;
  4. that Tribal sovereignty is ever-evolving and therefore levels of sovereignty and status vary from Tribe to Tribe; and
  5. that there were and are frequent and continued threats to Tribal sovereignty that are mostly addressed through the courts.

By the time Washington students leave high school, they will:

  1. recognize landmark court decisions and legislation that affected and continue to affect Tribal sovereignty;
  2. understand that Tribal sovereignty protects Tribes’ ways of life and the development of their nations;
  3. understand that Tribal, state, and federal agencies often work together toward the same goal;
  4. explain the governmental structure of at least one Tribe in their community; and
  5. distinguish between federally and non-federally recognized Tribes.

For resources, videos, publications and more associated with the curriculum, visit:

For more information about the curriculum, contact Joan Banker ( or Michael Vendiola ( at OSPI’s Office of Native Education.