The Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program was originally formed by a group of Indigenous Willamette students who reached out to nearby Indigenous communities to engage in service learning. They started the annual Social Pow wow at Willamette, founded the Native American Enlightenment Association and worked as tutors at the Chemawa Indian School, building relationships with high school students there. In the fall of 2005, the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program officially began, allowing WU students to participate in an interdisciplinary course, through which they attend a weekly class and tutor at the Chemawa Indian School.
This past Monday, Nov. 4, WU students were invited to attend the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program info session, where they learned about becoming tutors at the Chemawa Indian School and the associated class, IDS 205. 20 spots are available in the course, and according to Vellena Howard, the director of the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program, applications will be open until Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 5:00 p.m. Decisions concerning enrollment in the class will be made by Monday, Nov. 11. To submit an application for the program, email Vellena Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Howard, student mentors work with Chemawa Indian School students in a variety of ways other than coursework: “Student mentors will aid Chemawa School students with college applications, especially college letters. Also, a big takeaway for these students is simply being able to see a role model consistently and getting to know them. It’s also common for student mentors to get a lot out of this relationship as well. Many of them report their relationships with the high school students as being a symbiotic.”
Howard also outlined the process by which student mentors are screened before entering the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program. “The partnership program is run by the BIE, the Bureau of Indian Education. Before participating, student mentors must fill out federal paperwork forms and produce a copy of a fingerprint for officials at the Chemawa School. The physical copies of these fingerprints are then sent to an office in Albuquerque where they are documented by the BIE. Students then travel to Albany to create an electronic copy of their fingerprints, which are sent to the BIE as well. The process is completed when a student mentor engages in a federal background check.”
According to the Willamette University website, the Chemawa Indian School Partnership Program is also connected to the Salem-Keizer school district. “The Partnership Program extends support to the Salem-Keizer Indian Education Program, giving tutors the unique dual experience of not only working with Chemawa, but also working with the greater Native community. Tutors may assist with the Indian Education Nights working with Native families and children (K-12) in a community group setting and/or other related opportunities, including the Indian Education Graduation Ceremony.”
Howard also spoke to the content of the partnership program’s associated class, IDS 205: “Through IDS 205 we equip tutors with teaching skills and discuss topics that affect Native education. We discuss Native American history as well, anything that can be used to better inform a student mentor of Native affairs and how they can better connect to students.”