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A hand-colored lithograph of Fort Vancouver, based on a sketch drawn by Henry James Warre in 1845 or 1846. The Indians shown here might have been drawn to fit English assumptions about Native Americans. The Pacific Northwest region has long been an area of linguistic diversity. Outside the fort a multicultural settlement, called Kanaka Village, included a community of Hawaiians.


Reproduced with permission from the Oregon Historical Society.

OrHi 83437

Overview of the Project

Residents of the Pacific Northwest live in a language hot spot, and this new curriculum brings students to a better appreciation of the incredible linguistic diversity of the region through a series of inquiry-based problem sets and primary source artifacts. 


Goals of this curriculum

  1. To develop an understanding and appreciation for the linguistic patterning of all languages and, in particular, the diversity of languages in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian West Coast.

  2. To establish the link between historical events and language change.

  3. To address misconceptions and identify changing views about language over time.

  4. To promote linguistics literacy by engaging students in scientific inquiry about language.


Students in the Pacific Northwest are required to know how to read their language, how to write in their language, but are not required to know about their language. They should. Language awareness has an important place in the social studies, where the topics of cultural identity, class differences, geographic placenames, sovereignty, and civil rights are naturally intertwined with more specific topics of linguistics.  Central to all of the featured languages are the people of the Salish Sea who have made important contributions to language awareness. We have designed the lessons to be taught by someone with little or no formal training in linguistics. It is our hope that by using the resources contained in the curriculum, teachers will be able to extend their learning and model the curiosity that should be central to any education.


In 2015, the Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5433 requiring the inclusion of tribal sovereignty curriculum in all schools. The use of the curriculum has been endorsed by all 29 federally recognized tribes.

This inquiry-based approach offers five essential questions:

  1.  How does physical geography affect the distribution, culture, and economic life of local tribes?

  2.  What is the legal status of tribes who negotiated or who did not negotiate settlement for compensation for the loss of their sovereign homelands?

  3. What were the political, economic, and cultural forces consequential to the treaties that led to the movement of tribes from long established homelands to reservations?

  4. What are ways in which Tribes respond to the threats and outside pressure to extinguish their cultures and independence?

  5. What do local Tribes do to meet the challenges of reservation life; and as sovereign nations, what do local Tribes do to meet the economic and cultural needs of their Tribal communities?

We hope to integrate and more closely align our work with the Since Time Immemorial curriculum, and we encourage others to modify the materials here as they see fit to better align with each local community's history and goals.


Currently this is a curriculum about the language and history of the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. It is our hope that soon it will a curriculum created in partnership with Native people of the region. The authors reside in the Salish Sea and have made connections with members of our local tribe, the Lummi Nation. It is our hope that conversation here and with people that we have talked with in the Lower Columbia will result in a review by tribal cultural committees.

Dave and Kristin


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