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Durango School District 9-R to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day with events

District launches new diversity program dedicated to cultural awareness
Park Elementary School will have an Honoring Indigenous Ingredients event on Oct. 10, where students will learn recipes and receive a cookbook. (Durango Herald file)

Durango School District 9-R schools will celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day with a week of activities in mid-October. It is part of the district’s new initiative dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Orlando Griego, district Title VI coordinator, said the school district has students from 30 different Native American tribes and is trying to advocate for cultural awareness with its Indigenous population.

“What’s so unique about our area is that we have several tribal nations represented,” he said.

On Oct. 7, Native American drummers will perform at Durango High School’s homecoming football game. The district has been coordinating with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to provide drummers for the event.

Griego said it is important to the district to be inclusive of all tribes and not emphasize one over the other.

“Every student, every family deserves the right to feel included, to feel like they belong in our school system – every single day,” said Superintendent Karen Cheser. “We’re working very hard to make sure no matter where a child lives, no matter the languages that a family speaks, that we are committed to making sure they feel valued as part of our school district.”

On Oct. 10, Park Elementary School will have an Honoring Indigenous Ingredients event with Chelsie Begoody, the author of “Hózhó Meals: A Resource to Promote Indigenous Flavors.” The event will feature a cooking demo and tasting. Students will receive a cookbook and blue corn mush ingredients will be sent home with students.

This will lead up to the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 11, where students will learn about different Native American cultures.

“They will either be presenting an honor song or saying the Pledge of Allegiance in that native dialect,” Griego said. “The other piece is just providing awareness and the opportunity within our school community to really engage.”

It is part of the school district’s larger plan dedicated to inclusion and diversity. Griego said having cultural events is something the district has wanted to do in the past but COVID-19 restrictions created barriers because of social distancing.

“Durango School District has the incredible opportunity to serve each student so that learners can find success in our school system and in our community,” said Vanessa Giddings, executive director of student services, in a news release.

She said the schools’ DEIB plan is a way to give each student what he or she needs to succeed. The goals of the program are to increase cultural awareness and diversity and inclusion understanding, implement a unified multitiered student support system and increase engagement with students, families and the community.

The Red Sky Drum Group will also perform at the DHS girls volleyball game on Oct. 18, which Griego said will segue well into Native American heritage month in November.


An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for when Native American drummers will perform at Durango High School’s homecoming football game. The game will be on Friday, Oct. 7. Incorrect information was given to the Herald.

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