Nearly 70 K-12 educators from across the country were in attendance for two weeklong professional development workshops at EWU, exploring how different social groups experience history.
The collaborative effort between EWU and faculty from University of Arizona, Washington State University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands was initiated after receiving a $179,713 landmarks grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) last spring.
The program, Grand Coulee Dam: The Intersection of Modernity and Indigenous Cultures, aimed to provide instructional frameworks for teachers to engage their students in conversations centered on how social groups experience and interpret transformative changes of the landscape.
The workshops were focused on the contested narratives of the Grand Coulee Dam. With one side telling the story of celebrating the social, economic and cultural power of modernity, while the other sees the loss of indigenous cultural identities and practices.
Dorothy Zeisler-Vralsted, EWU political science and international affairs professor, and David Pietz, UNESCO chair of environmental history at the University of Arizona, directed the program.
Faculty from several universities taught lectures about subjects ranging from indigenous cultures and salmon populations to technology and modernity.
“What really set the workshop apart is that we had visiting faculty,” Zeisler-Vralsted said.
Among the visiting faculty was Allen Pinkham, a well-known elder from the Nez Perce reservation, and Steven Ross Evans, who together authored the book Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce: Strangers in the Land of the Nimiipuu. Additionally, Rory Arnold, a Colville Tribe member and the director of Native American Studies at Gonzaga University, taught a lecture.
Site visits were also mixed into the weeklong workshops. Teachers went on a day trip to Kettle Falls to see where traditional fishing grounds were before Lake Roosevelt was dammed. An overnight field trip to the Grand Coulee Dam was also planned, where they had a 2.5 hour dam tour, which was followed the next day by a trip to the Colville Tribal Museum with Colville tribal member Jennifer Ferguson sharing a historical indigenous perspective of the dam.
After the weeklong workshops were over, many different types of lesson plans were created with a whole host of applications.
“One teacher in particular was from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and he was going to compare Colville stories about the coyotes with the Lakota stories and other Colville tribal legends compared to Lakota legends,” Zeisler-Vralsted said.
One teacher created a lesson plan outlining how fish farms were affected by the Grand Coulee Dam, with another teacher from New York bringing back a lesson about the geography of the Northwest. Also, a video game was created with salmon going up river that one teacher is going to use in her class.
For the attending teachers ranging from Hawaii to New York, EWU and the Inland Northwest seem to have made an impression through their experiences with the program.
“They loved Cheney,” said Zeisler-Vralsted. “They loved the eating establishments downtown, people commented on how beautiful our campus is. So it really did raise the visibility of Eastern. The last slate of teachers went into Spokane and some even talked about retiring in this area because they thought it was so beautiful. I think we really impressed the teachers.”
As teachers continue to prepare through the summer months for the start of the upcoming school year, the EWU workshops have better equipped them to engage students in classroom learning activities.