Sitting across from Smak i’ ya, it is impossible to miss the passion he feels for his work. Over the years, he has been recognized several times for leadership in teaching native language in Washington State. Most recently - Smak i’ ya’ was nominated and chosen for the WE Organization’s Indigenous Programming Champion Award for demonstrating a substantial commitment to weaving Native American perspectives into school culture. He was also chosen to open the entire conference with a ceremony which will include flute playing and the story of the flood. Other WE Day Conference speakers include Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and Ann Curry.
Jill Iwasaki praises the work Smak i’ ya’ does in Ferndale Schools, “I cannot fully describe the impact Smak i’ ya’ has on our staff and students. It is not enough to say that we appreciate him or that we see the fire he lights in the hearts of his students. Smak i’ ya’ inspires love of culture for his students. That is lifelong impact and a big part of each student’s story.”
Story reminds us we are all in this together. Story is memory, a good guide and a path to connection. For Lummi language students it is also signals the beginning of each class day.
Lummi language teacher, Smak i’ ya’ (Matt Warbus) talks about his passion for seeing his students grow and develop confidence, “I want my students to learn to tell their stories fluently. I want them to develop pride and confidence in themselves. Our Lummi language class is a safe place for students to begin the journey to self-discovery.”
It is also a place where students begin building on pieces of a language that some began learning in middle school.
Smak i’ ya’ says that is important, “I began teaching Lummi language at Horizon Middle School in 2015. Our students from Ferndale High School asked that Lummi language be taught before high school and we really took that seriously.”
Horizon Middle School Principal Faye Britt says that Lummi language classes have energized her students and made an impact on her staff. “Smak i’ ya’ comes to Horizon Middle School to teach Lummi Language to our 7th graders. He brings a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm. Smak i’ ya’ has a genuine connection with our students and a love for the Lummi culture and language. We are grateful for the work he does with our kids at Horizon.”
Superintendent Linda Quinn agrees, “We have long committed to making Lummi Language available to our students. We are proud that the Ferndale School District is among a handful of School Districts to teach Native American language as part of the regular curriculum.”
Quinn goes on to say, “It is such a joy that Smak i’ ya was chosen for the WE Indigenous Programming Champion award for 2018. We couldn’t be more proud and I personally look forward to attending the ceremony to honor Smak i’ ya as he opens the conference and receives this important award.”
Smak i’ ya is a good guide to Ferndale School District Lummi language students as they navigate a time of learning and self-discovery. Students leave his program with tools for their future and their story firmly planted in their memories. As Smak i’ ya says at the beginning of every class, “My name is Smak i’ ya. I am from Lummi. I would like to thank everyone for coming here today. I do not know the Lummi Language and I am still learning how to speak it.”