Kwiyagat Community Academy mixes Ute culture and language with academics
A large gathering of families, educators and tribal leaders attended an open-air dedication ceremony for the new Ute Mountain Kwiyagat Community Academy in Towaoc.
Traditional prayers and blessings were offered for the school. The Rocky Mountain Mustang Drum Group performed Ute Mountain Ute Honor Songs.
Kwiyagat students gathered in front of the audience to sing several songs in the Ute language and wished the crowd a Happy Thanksgiving.
The state-funded charter school is accredited by the Colorado Department of Education and the Charter School Institute.
In its first year, the school enrolled 28 kindergarten and first grade students and plans to add more classes. It is the first public charter school on an Indian reservation in Colorado.
The program will combine Ute history, art, culture and language with basic pedagogical education including science, technology, engineering, math, reading and writing.
Tina King-Washington, K-12 education director for the tribe, spoke about the collaborative effort to make the school a reality.
“We worked together, overcame many obstacles and succeeded. This school is so important to the community, ”she said. “Our goal is to continue until we end up with an educational quadrant with K-12 grades and college. “
Towaoc’s mother, Candida Ketchum, spoke about the importance of school to her family. She enrolled her son in kindergarten.
“I chose Kwiyagat because it’s my home,” she said. “I like that the school is a few minutes from my house.”
She praised the smaller class sizes, the one-on-one instruction and the opportunity for her son to learn the Ute language and culture at a school on his own reserve.
“My son is gifted with educational and cultural skills. He loves coming home and sharing Indigenous stories he has heard throughout the day, ”Ketchum said.
Several tribal councilors spoke about the values and the sense of pride in the school.
Kwiyagat students are the future of the tribe, Vice President Archie House said.
“Our vision for the future is that graduates of this school will have a solid foundation in Ute culture and language while incorporating modern perspectives as contributing members of the Ute Mountain Ute community,” House said. “A new generation of graduates will revitalize the culture of the tribe and use this knowledge to build community bonds based on mutual respect, academic achievement and focused career goals.”
After a ribbon cut, members of the public were treated to a tour of the newly renovated school facilities.