Tribe, school partnership strengthened in Mashpee 12/29/2017

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Tribe, school partnership strengthened in Mashpee

MASHPEE — Collaboration between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and Mashpee Public Schools promises to increase next year, as the two groups have outlined a number of steps aimed at further integrating Native American and Wampanoag education into the district’s curriculum.

The renewed partnership between the tribe and the Mashpee school committee began with a meeting Oct. 4 at tribal headquarters. The meeting was the first of its kind between the two entities with new business in mind.

“This was a regular School Committee meeting held at the Tribal Government Center with an agenda item of building a positive and productive partnership between the Mashpee Public Schools and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” Mashpee schools Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer wrote in an email.

Since then, the tribe and the School Committee have been patching together a joint agenda that envisions everything from educational tours of the tribal government building to hiring “potentially qualified and licensed Native American candidates for teaching vacancies within the school system.”

Other goals include creating a systemwide Native American peer mentoring program, bringing back Native American history at Mashpee Middle-High School, expanding the Wampanoag language class, holding school assemblies that “inform and celebrate the Mashpee Wampanoag culture” and adding internship opportunities for students at the tribal government center.

“Another of the action steps developed was to meet quarterly to move our partnership forward,” DeBoer said. “We have had two of these quarterly meetings so far,” where “representatives from the Tribe meet with the leadership team of the Mashpee Public Schools.”

Tribal spokeswoman Trish Keli’inui, whose son attended a Mashpee school, said since the inaugural meeting in October the tribe has held two joint faculty and staff sessions at each school, led by Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Jesse “Little Doe” Baird. The tribe also recently hosted the Mashpee High School varsity girls and boys basketball teams at their gymnasium in the government building. Matt Triveri, the district’s athletic director, worked with the tribe to coordinate the games.

“We are very encouraged by the partnership between the tribe and Mashpee Public Schools,” Keli’inui said. “We look forward to building on these tribe and school district initiatives in 2018.”

This year was also the first in a century and a half that children in the Mashpee Public School system could study the Wampanoag language — called Wôpanâak — for credit, according to Baird, who spearheaded the reclamation of the ancient language. Mashpee schools hope to build on the program’s success, DeBoer said.

— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.