many children from Native homes was a strong incentive to Tribal leadership to strengthen social services benefiting PGST families. This included building a robust courts system to handle child welfare cases internally. In 2006 an intergovernmental agreement with the State of Washington was signed to do IV-E passthrough and learn more about Title IV-E programming. In 2009, they created the Indian Child Welfare Practices Manual to guide child welfare workers in their interactions with Tribal families. The manual provides a historical and cultural perspective on managing child welfare and represents the beginning of a significant shift in how PGST handles these cases. In 2012, PGST became the first tribe in the United States to operate its own direct Title IV-E program (for guardianship assistance, adoption, and foster care). Over the last several decades, the Port Gamble S’Klallams have begun to reclaim their culture and language. This has included utilizing the practice of storytelling as a teaching tool. Listening to the stories and experiences of those in the system has played a huge role in informing and shaping the Tribe’s child welfare program. Stories like those of Shelaya Jones provide a clear picture of how community- based solutions have impacted S’Klallam youth in foster care. Shelaya’s Story To look at Shelaya Jones today, you wouldn’t be able to tell that her early years were punctuated by instability, confusion, and anger. Shelaya is a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. A mother of three children and a co-lead infant/ toddler teacher for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Early Learning Education program, Shelaya is also the child of parents who struggled with addiction. Some of her earliest memories, even before ICW became involved in her case, were of people judging her family. “People would often look at me different just because they knew what family I come from,” said Shelaya. At 13, her family was houseless. They would sometimes find a roof and bed at the home of a friend or a relative, but these were very temporary solutions to larger problems.
nature, culture of sharing, and practices around songs and storytelling. Many Tribal members practice their treaty rights with harvested fish and shellfish used to feed the community during celebrations. The Port Gamble S’Klallams have always had an expansive definition of family, one that encompasses aunts, uncles, friends, cherished neighbors, Elders, and more. Found and extended “family” is as valid as one’s biological connections; many define “family” as anyone who lives within the PGST community. Generations of people identifying as family will often live under the same roof or in very close proximity to one another. The Lasting Impact Of Indian Boarding Schools The Port Gamble S’Klallam has always valued their children as their most immediately important resource. Beginning in the late 19th century, many S’Klallam families were devastated by the federal government’s efforts to assimilate Indigenous people into mainstream culture. This resulted in generations of Indigenous children being pulled from their homes and placed in boarding schools where they were prohibited from practicing their cultural traditions or speaking their Native language. Few tribes in North America were spared from this horrendous practice as white social workers—with little to no knowledge of Indigenous culture—judged the fitness of tribal families based on Eurocentric values. The result was often children ripped away from loving homes as this system did not allow for or recognize extended family and the network of relatives in tribal communities. This misguided policy ended in the 1970s with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. In his role serving on the Bureau of Indian Affairs Education Committee under U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, Port Gamble S’Klallam member Ted George was a leading voice to Congress advocating for the closure of the Indian boarding school system. The pain felt as a result of the removal of so
82 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022
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