When Oregon established the first Early Learning Hubs in 2013, 16 geographic regions across the state were defined as the Hub service areas. However, these service areas did not appropriately consider the sovereignty of tribal nations and included tribal lands in the geographic regions. The goal of the hub system was to coordinate all of the sectors that touch early childhood education – health care, early childhood educators, human and social services, K-12 school districts, and the private sector. Hubs serve families in their community by offering a common place to focus their efforts, resources, and strategies with a shared purpose: Preparing all of Oregon’s children for kindergarten.
Now, eight years after the 16 hubs were established, Oregon is creating the first Tribal Early Learning Hub, coordinating all of those sectors with respect to a shared history, culture, and values of the nine sovereign tribal nations in the state.
“I just keep singing the same song and banging the same drum,” said Valerie Switzler, chair of the Early Learning Division’s (ELD) Tribal Advisory Committee, longtime educator, and member of the Warm Springs Tribe. “I love working with our little ones and helping them learn our native languages and culture. I’ve taught in one way or another for almost my entire adult life.”
Switzler is currently working with appointed Tribal Advisory Committee members to establish Oregon’s first Tribal Early Learning Hub. The 25-member Committee is getting ready for a year of designing the new hub. They meet monthly to listen and learn about best practices and center tribal considerations, while developing a plan for decision making, building, and implementing the hub.
“I’m so excited by this work,” she said. “The new hub will help us build community that will honor our histories, languages, and cultures. It will help us bring our tribal families back to the center of early learning and care.”
The Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2055, adding the Tribal Early Learning Hub to ensure coordination of tribal participation within the current statewide early learning hub system. Tribal consultation will be critical for centering tribal sovereignty to ensure alignment at the state, regional and community levels.
“We are enabling tribal communities to do what they know best, caring for their members. It’s time to deliver on our promise for all of Oregon’s children.”-Valeria Atanacio
“We are taking a thoughtful, collaborative approach to building the new hub,” said Valeria Atanacio, Tribal Affairs Manager for the ELD and Grand Ronde Tribal member. “We plan to do a lot of listening throughout the process. We will be building this hub at the speed of trust.”
A thoughtful and deliberate design process will strive to be culturally inclusive and share their learnings across other hubs in the state, she said.
“This project is close to my heart, it’s one of the strongest passions in my career,” Atanacio said. “We are enabling tribal communities to do what they know best, caring for their members. It’s time to deliver on our promise for all of Oregon’s children.”