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The Termination of the Indian Heritage Program

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The Seattle Public Schools Complete Termination of the Indian Heritage Program

After nearly 40 years of operation, the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced the closure of the American Indian Heritage Middle College High School, a.k.a. Indian Heritage, located at 1330 N. 90th Street, Seattle, WA.

José Banda the Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools presented a public statement in July 2012 expressing commitment to consult with the Native community on ‘next steps’ in consideration of revitalizing the Indian Heritage, the pending BEX Levy, demolition of the Indian Heritage facilities, and the preservation of the murals created by Andrew Morrison.

 After the May rally to save the Indian Heritage program SPS had met with Native community members and said the Native students would be temporarily relocated to Lincoln High School during construction of the new school, that SPS would work with them in revitalizing Indian Heritage, that the murals would be preserved, and Indian Heritage would come back to the new school.

Instead SPS was misleading the Native community and had already terminated the program in July. SPS had not even consulted with the Native community before terminating the program the story was broke by Real Change Editorial Intern Rianna Hidalgo. Later at a meeting with the Native community SPS denied the closure of the program and said the news article was incorrect:

Further underhanded dealings ensued, SPS terminate the Indian Heritage program they claim because there were 'not enough kids', but SPS never contacted the Native students or community about the plan, and made no effort to recruit new students. The Native students have now been forced to relocate and assimilate into an entirely different program at Northgate Mall. There they are being reduced to digital learning, no Native-focused instruction, no Native-infused curriculum, and a new instructor unfamiliar to Native students, parents, and community. Despite the Native community proposals and concerns addressing these drastic changes they have been ignored by SPS. 

It is unconscionable that resources been completely withdrawn from Native programming and services, while SPS acknowledges the statistical facts illustrating disproportionate academic performance, disciplinary action, and highest dropout rates for Native learners. The trajectory for Native learners in SPS is of tremendous concern given the districts decisions to eliminate Indian Heritage and displace current programs functioning at the Indian Heritage facilities.

At this time we will again initiate and voice our opposition with Seattle Public Schools plan to terminate the Indian Heritage program. We as a community will invite SPS to listen to our viable plan that includes our recommendations to revitalize the Indian Heritage program by:

*Revitalizing of the Indian Heritage program at Ingraham H.S. and West Seattle H.S. location.

*As SPS is a recipient of Title VII federal funds for enrolled Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students, we ask that they comply with regulations that include:

(1) meeting the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives;

(2) the education of Indian children and adults;

(3) the training of Indian persons as educators and counselors, and in other professions serving Indian people; and

(4) research, evaluation, data collection, and technical assistance.

Thus as Title VII Part A states, “ensuring that programs that serve Indian children are of the highest quality and provide for not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of these children.” Currently there is absolutely no demonstration of this in SPS relocation program.   

*Address district wide hostile and intolerable school climates for our Native learners. The school environment has a critical role in student success.   

*We want SPS to address why 30% of Native students are in Special Education.

*We want to know why SPS fails to comply with Individualized Education Program (IEP) and 504 Basic Plan, and why Native students are underserved and over represented in this area of education. We demand to know why those with IEP's are they being denied services, and why barriers continue to further disenfranchise Native learners and their families/guardians.

*We want all the murals that were made by artist Andrew Morrison (Apache/Haida) be preserved and incorporated in its original form into the new school (and not be replicated as Mr. Morrison requests). We want this in writing, and to work with SPS in the planning, the completion of these plans, and participation in the celebration at the opening of the new school.

*We want to rename the Wilson-Pacific School 'Robert Eaglestaff School thereby keeping a promise made to the Native community in 1996 by John Stanford and echoed by Norm Rice.

*We want SPS to provide support for new a 'Native Heritage' AS-I school with Native focused instruction/curriculum and culturally responsive services.

*We want SPS to preserve the Sacred Site of the Duwamish Tribe know today as Licton Springs.  

Thank you for making crucial changes that is in the best interests of our Native learners.


A concerned community member


Photo of the Indian Heritage School Idle No More ~ Save the Murals

April 23, 2013. Organized by Idle No More Washington (Sweetwater Nannauck) and the Backbone Campaign because Seattle Public Schools plans to demolish the school and murals painted by artists Andrew Morrison (Apache/Haida).

Photo by Jack Storms (c) 2013

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