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Colville Tribe partners with colleges

COULEE DAM, Wash. - The Colville Tribe invited speakers from a variety of
colleges and universities, along with military recruiters and tribal
members associated with various programs, to meet with middle school
students at its first reservation-wide College Fair & Awareness event in
late May. Career day events in the past have focused on high school
students but this effort was directed at encouraging younger students to
begin planning for the future and looking at the opportunities offered on
the Colville Reservation and elsewhere.

Joe Pakootas, chairman of the Colville Business Council commented, "We
wanted to introduce our young people to local careers and to look into
education. Introducing them to multiple career opportunities at the middle
school level would also help them in high school so when they entered
college they could jump right into their areas of interest."

Lynn Palmanteer-Holder, Colville, is director for tribal partnerships for
the University of Washington. She explained there are nine schools on the
Colville Reservation and three more off the reservation which serve Indian
students and this effort was aimed at all students in that mid-school
level. Students gathered at Nespelem and Omak schools for career day events
and at the Paschal Sherman School, the only tribal school, on the third day
for a traditional Sunflower Festival. The event was a spin-off from a 2002
Colville summit which recommended more attention be given to students at
the middle-school level regarding future educational opportunities.

The tribe took the lead in bringing speakers to the schools. School
officials were enthused with plans for the event and especially that the
tribe was taking the leadership role and they responded with offers of
help. The success was such that they are not encouraging other reservations
to try similar functions. Pakootas added, "We plan to make this an annual
event. If we do this annually, it should continue to grow."

Representatives were present from several schools of the University of
Washington plus Heritage College of Omak, Wenatchee Valley Community
College, Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University,
Washington State University and the Santa Fe Arts Institute. Others
represented vocational rehabilitation work and the Red Cross. Colville
tribal services and programs included such things as emergency, enterprise,
telecommunication, children and family and forestry. Students also learned
about career opportunities in such fields as professional art,
construction, tribal government, law enforcement and business.

Approximately 200 mid-school students gathered at Nespelem from three
school districts and another 340 met in Omak from three other school
districts. Later in the year a career day will be conducted for high school
students.

"We're planning to set up the fall event pretty much like the one held in
May. We're hoping in time the colleges will see the particular needs of our
students and begin tailoring some courses toward them," Chairman Pakootas
said."

The third day of this event brought 1,500 students and staff together from
eight school districts and the Paschal Sherman Indian School for the
traditional and annual Sunflower Festival. Students from kindergarten
through high school participated, some from as far as 80 miles away. This
is an ancient festival, predating the first school on the reservation.
Tribal elders gathered traditional foods in advance and prepared them for
all to sample at the festival. Oral history was shared, stick games were
held, a basketball tournament was included and other events took place to
keep everyone of every age busy throughout the day.