In their native language the Puyallup Tribe have been known as S’Puyalupubsh which means “generous and welcoming behavior to all people (friends and strangers) who enter our lands.” That name depicts the charitable nature from the Puyallup Tribe with the largest grant they have given to date for UWT in the amount of $275,000. This grant was given to aid the incorporation of the Native ways of knowing through innovative curriculum, engagement with the community which values cultural heritage and research.
Since the grant was awarded in November, the university has taken some of the first steps toward its goals with the recent additions to UWT faculty, new Assistant Professors of Native American Studies in IAS, Danica Miller (Puyallup) and Michelle Montgomery (Eastern Band Cherokee; Haliwa Saponi). The Office of Equity and Diversity welcomed Native American educator Michael Tulee (Yakama). Through these new additions, UWT has a new pool of knowledge and opportunities to immerse academically in culture knowledge not previously available.
When discussing the grant, UWT’s new Chancellor Mark A. Pagano told The Suburban Times, “The heart of the collaboration between UW Tacoma and the Puyallup Tribe will be the interaction between the tribal communities and the campus community. We hope all our faculty, staff and students will gain a wider perspective on ways of interacting with the world, and we are incredibly grateful to the Puyallup Tribe for supporting this transformational vision.”
Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud told The Suburban Times, “With an immense amount of pride, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has committed to spearheading this program as it is essential to educate students about indigenous ways of knowing, modernity of tribal business, and tribal government. We hope that the impact of our funding will cultivate additional support from our fellow Tribes to ensure a sustainable program that will enrich the lives of many students.” In Washington state there are 29 federally recognized tribes and Tulee has been working to make connections for the campus with other tribes.
Assistant Chancellor for Equity and Diversity Sharon Parker discussed the future of the grant saying, “It’s a four year grant but in our minds it’s a forever project, a permanent part of UWT… [it is the] core of something very big for our campus and the south Puget Sound…this is a two way initiative to educate University of Washington Tacoma and develop to meet the needs of the Tribe.”
Parker explained how understanding different types of plants and their medicinal purposes, understanding tribal structures or constrictions, and opening opportunities for delving into other “non-western knowledge base[s]” are some of the examples of native ways of knowing. Parker explains that understanding tribal constrictions and learning how to work with tribes are key. A primary goal is to, “Educate students to be prepared to work with tribes.” The UWT campus lies on Puyallup land and the grant helps foster a deeper connection, and strengthen the relationship between the two.
This grant opens a door to a wealth of knowledge not previously afforded to students and continues to build an environment of diversity and community which are two of UWT’s four pillars. Parker says it best saying, “this is an important step in how we are shaping this campus…so we can be more culturally competent.”