During October, Eric Eberhard, a member of the Explorer West Board of Trustees, visited the 7th and 8th grade history classes to talk with the students about the history of American Indian tribes in Washington State. Eric is a lawyer who has practiced American Indian law for over 40 years, most recently at the law school at Seattle University (since 2009).
His talk came at a time when 7th and 8th graders were writing essays on the cultural sustainability of chosen Native American tribes in Washington State. Eric took the students back to the era when the Hudson Bay Company established a fort on the banks of the Nisqually River and developed a thriving trade in animal pelts, fish and other items with the coastal tribes and proceeded through the treaty era of the 1850′s to modern times.
He emphasized the enormous hardships and hurdles that Native Americans have had to endure to get to where they are today. His talk stirred emotions when students learned that children their age were forced to go to government boarding schools that attempted to eliminate their native culture. Students learned that Eric even represented 3 Navajo brothers who were about their age who escaped from a boarding school only to get stuck in a blizzard, killing one and rendering the other two victims of severe frostbite (limbs were amputated). Students also learned that the current reservation system in Washington State was forced on tribes, and many tribes were forced to live together with other tribes (some of which they tended to not get along with). Additionally, after the reservation system was in place, the US government allowed white settlers to move onto reservation land that was unclaimed, resulting in reservations (like the Tulalip) that are only partially owned by the tribe or tribe members.
There were a lot of questions from the students and a lively discussion in each class. Eric has been visiting the history classes at Explorer West for a number of years and is always warmly received.