Native elder makes local history come alive for 4th graders
Libraries are often quiet, but a respectful hush swept through the 4th grade audience at Mountain View’s library recently when special guest Billy Frank Jr. spoke to students about his work as an environmental leader for the Nisqually tribe.
“The Northwest is our home and a wonderful place to live, but we have to be good stewards of the land,” Frank said, speaking softly while holding am impressive talking stick. “We all need to live together as good neighbors.”
A student in Cathy Tarabulski’s 4th grade class, whose mother works with Frank at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission of which Frank is chairman, wrote a letter to Mr. Frank, who then offered to come speak to the class. He talked about the historical, cultural and environmental aspects of the Nisqually tribe and Native people, including their struggle over fishing rights which ultimately led to the famous Boldt Decision.
“We are all just passing through and need to leave our mark in a positive way,” Frank told the students who are studying Washington state history as part of their social studies curriculum. He also encouraged them to maintain strong ties with their families and schools. “Sit down and talk to each other, and listen to your teachers – they are important and care about you.”
Tarabulski said Mr. Frank's visit had a huge impact on them. "We have referenced points Mr. Frank made in our class discussions. The students really enjoyed him and asked good questions. I plan to incorporate some lessons about the salmon, tribal culture and the Nisqually Basin into my social studies teaching in the future."