Nooksack Youth Carry On Traditions

“We hope to see our youth become engaged in cultural activities that will become a life-long pursuit for them. We want to offer them traditions that will help them reconnect to their Nooksack heritage. Our youth, in particular, need another avenue to step away from unhealthy behaviors and addictions. We need to mentor tomorrow’s leaders and we need to equip them in our ways so that they can lead future generations.” ~ George Swanaset, Jr. — Director/Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Nooksack Indian Tribe

During 2012, the Nooksack Indian Tribe based in Deming, Washington, was awarded a $20,000 grant under First Nations’ Native Youth and Culture Fund, which is part of our effort to strengthen Native American nonprofit organizations. In particular, the fund looks for projects that focus on youth and incorporate culture and tradition. They can include efforts to preserve, strengthen or renew cultural and spiritual practices, beliefs, values and languages, or which engage both youth and elders in activities designed to share or document traditional knowledge, or increasing the leadership capacity of tribal youth.

The funds support the renewal of Nooksack traditions through intergenerational activities with youth. Through the grant, numerous tribal youth ages 14 to 19 are engaging in three workshops that are intended to fuse Native traditions with the community. The workshops are canoe building, net making, and cultural awareness. The cultural awareness workshop also involves intergenerational Nooksack members, and includes activities such as traditional games, drumming, singing, talking circles and healing events.

“The canoe-building and net-making workshops are specific to our youth, as these skills need to be passed down to this generation in order for them to be sustained for future Nooksacks.” George noted. “Traditional Native war canoes and salmon-netting are a part of our cultural identity and build leadership. Today, many tribes in the Pacific Northwest race against each other in these canoes in annual races, and we join them for this important reconnection to the past. We see much value in performing this series of workshops for the extension of cultural preservation and awareness within the Nooksack tribal community.”

And while the youngsters learned – and are learning – much from the workshops and from construction of two canoes, there was a lot more going on in the background. The effort bolstered the future success and well-being of the Nooksack people and their community by preserving traditions and providing mentoring and leadership skills to the youth group.

The Nooksack Indian Tribe is a federally recognized tribe of 2,000.  Its culture is preserved through multiple disciplines including language instruction, canoe journeys, elder programs and a variety of cultural events.

By Montoya Whiteman, Senior Program Officer