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Native American students honor FHS staff with blanketing ceremony

During Native American Heritage Month in November, the commons of Ferndale High School was filled with items and art from local tribes. These included blankets from the Lummi Nation, wrapped around poles.  

When the month ended, and the cultural items that were on display were put away, Lummi language teacher Smak i’ ya and Native American student liaison Mia Owings had an idea for the Lummi blankets. They gave the blankets to students from their two Lummi student groups – the Oksale leadership class and the Ches Kwin cultural club – to gift to a staff member of their choosing. 

For members of the Lummi Nation, wrapping someone in one of their blankets is a way of honoring someone, said Smak i’ ya. 

“By showing this appreciation, it’s like we’re accepting this person as one of our close friends,” he said. 

On Dec. 6, during sixth period, eight staff members were given blankets by students from the Oksale class and the Ches Kwin club. After wrapping the staffer in a blanket, the student gave them some words of appreciation. 

“We didn’t write a script or anything for the students, they all spoke from their hearts,” said Owings. 

The staff members who received blankets included FHS Principal Ravinder Dhillon, paraeducator Brenda Winters, school security officer/paraeducator Trish Brown and teachers Lisa Acevedo, Stephen Carlson, Boone Carlson, Victoria Caswell and Sharon Dyches. 

Jerry Cooper-Phair, a junior at FHS, said he gave Trish Brown a blanket because she challenged him to succeed in school. 

“She was always on my butt, telling me to go to class, asking me to do my work,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Ms. Brown, I probably wouldn’t be here.” 

This blanketing ceremony isn’t an annual tradition at Ferndale High School yet, but Owings said she hopes it becomes one. 

“I think it would be good for us to keep it going,” she said.