Samish, Swinomish donate to local school library

ANACORTES, Wash. - The Samish Nation donated 63 books on American Indian history and culture to the Whitney School Library in Anacortes.

The Swinomish Casino answered a librarian and student's request for money for books with a donation of $1,000. This filled the need for non-fiction Native American history books, which the library was lacking.

"It's a tremendous asset," Principal Lance Gibbon said, "an of improvement to what we had. These are beautiful books and will provide our students with all the more meaningful exposure to different cultures."

Titles include "Potlatch: A Tsimshian Celebration," "Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest," "Native American Literature," "Pushing Up the Sky: Seven Native American Plays for Children" and "Traditional Native American Arts and Activities." There are also books about 29 tribes.

Rick Landers, general manager of the Samish Nation, said the donation is part of the Samish people's commitment to cultural education. Besides books, the Samish Nation's library and computers are open to the public.

Cultural education is important to the Samish people, who now number 900. Historically, the Samish had villages on Cypress, Fidalgo, Guemes and San Juan islands; today, their land consists of 80 acres near Fidalgo's Campbell Lake. The tribe regained federal recognition in 1996 but is fighting to regain its fishing rights.

Gibbon said it's important for students to know about the cultures that once thrived in this area. His third-graders have made masks, button blankets and clay sculptures.

These experiences and the books help instill "a deep sense of regional history. This helps students build a better understanding as they interact with Native American students. It gives them a more realistic picture of what (Native American culture) is all about."

Gibbon said the book donation is the largest donation the school has received in his three years as principal.

Correspondent Richard Walker reports from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at (360) 378-6289 or irishmex2000@yahoo.com.