Healing of the Canoe: Community Pulling Together
The Suquamish are a Lushootseed (Puget Salish) speaking people that traditionally lived along the Kitsap Peninsula, including Bainbridge and Blake Islands, across Puget Sound from present Seattle. Many of the present Suquamish live on the Port Madison Indian Reservation in the reservation towns of Suquamish and Indianola. The Suquamish Tribe has 950 enrolled members of which half live on the reservation. The Suquamish presently are experiencing a cultural resurgence and recently built a new community house and is building a new Suquamish museum. The Tribe currently has 240 employees in a variety of government programs.
During Phase I of the Healing of the Canoe Project, the Suquamish Tribe identified substance abuse and need for cultural identity among youth as the top priorities in the community. A focus was placed on developing a culturally relevant youth intervention to address these related concerns. A prevention program developed by members of the UW research team and the Seattle Indian Health Board and based on the traditional Coastal Salish canoe journey, was identified as the backbone of the intervention. Members of the ADAI and Suquamish research teams met weekly over 5 months with a curriculum development team composed of Suquamish Elders and community members. This process resulted in a cognitive-behavioral life skills curriculum, Holding Up Our Youth, based on the metaphor of the canoe journey, and that includes Suquamish beliefs, stories and history.
Two intervention sessions with youth were held during Phase I. The first was during the summer of 2007, during the regular Suquamish summer school session. The second ran from March – June 2008, as a bi-weekly after school program. Participating youth attended Kingston Middle School and were in 6th – 8th grade. During Phase II the Suquamish Tribal Education Department has implemented the Holding Up Our Youth intervention as part of their regular school curriculum – first with the summer school program for middle school aged students, and later with high school students during the entire 2010-2011 school year. A series of shorter weekend workshops with two new groups of high school students was implemented beginning of 2012. Click here to view an article in the North Kitsap Herald about the Healing of the Canoe project in Suquamish.
The Suquamish Cultural Co-operative Committee serves as the advisory board for the Suquamish HOC project.
Suquamish HOC Team
Ms. Sigo is a Suquamish tribal member, a graduate of the MSW program in the School of Social Work, University of Washington, and former administrator of the Suquamish Tribe Wellness Program. She has lived on the Port Madison Indian Reservation almost her entire life. She left the reservation to get her undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology and then began working for her Tribe. She began her six year tenure with the Suquamish Tribe by working as a domestic violence women’s advocate but soon realized that it and many other social service programs were vastly under-funded, leading her to become one of the Tribe’s first grant writers. As a grant writer, she utilized community participation in developing programs to ensure the grants pursued by the Tribe would best meet the needs of the tribal members. Ms. Sigo assisted in the development of many programs including language preservation, shellfish enhancement, youth prevention activities, Safe Havens, tobacco prevention, diabetes prevention and management, elder care support, and Drug Court. She has also been an active member of the community serving on two education boards, participating in the annual canoe journey, assisting other community organizations in accessing funding sources and has been a tribal foster parent for nearly four years. She resumed her employment with the Tribe after receiving her MSW. She served as the PI on the Suquamish Tribe’s subcontract in Phase I of the HOC project and has contributed substantively to all components of the projects evolution and implementation.
Nigel Lawrence is a member of the Suquamish Tribe and has been active in his community from a young age. As a teenager he was on Suquamish Youth Council and United Natives of North Kitsap High School Youth Council. At 14 he paddled to Bella Bella and back, a 2 month Canoe Journey. It was on this Journey that Nigel saw the positive impact culture had on himself and other young people. Now he is a Skipper, bringing youth on Tribal Journeys to share those teachings. Nigel attended Haskell Indian Nations University, The Evergreen State College’s Reservation-Based/Community-Determined program, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Business Administration majoring in Management. A Tribal Council member, Nigel also served on the Board of Directors of Port Madison Enterprises, the business arm of the Suquamish Tribe that oversees the Clearwater casino as well as many other ventures. Working for Healing of the Canoe since 2010, Nigel implemented the Holding up Our Youth Curriculum in the tribal Chief Kitsap Academy in Suquamish. Most importantly, Nigel has been married to Albie Lawrence since 1998 and is a proud father of two daughters and a son.