“My earliest memories of school were full of hope,” says Amy Eveskcige ’13 EDD, the new superintendent of Chief Leschi Schools and the first Puyallup Tribe member to hold the position. She’s eager to instill that same hope to the kids attending her schools. Chief Leschi Schools, operated by the Puyallup Tribe, is one of the largest Bureau of Indian Education schools in the nation. That she even became superintendent took support of her own teachers.
As a child, her hopes were slim. Her dreams, muted. Her father died when she was three. Her mother was an X-ray technician but spent most of her time in preschools, mentoring children. This was in the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma. This wasn’t a neighborhood for a child. There was gang violence, crack dealing, gunfire, and sirens at all hours. “As a teenager,” she recalls, “I didn’t think I’d live to be 20, so ‘growing up to be something’ never entered my thoughts.”
She was surviving. She dropped out of school. She bounced around foster homes. She was lost. “The only thing I knew for sure was that if—and that was a big if—I made it, I would listen and be the voice of the voiceless because I never felt as though I had one.”
But educators saw something in her and heard the voiceless tribal girl from Hilltop. Like Mr. Johnson, a teacher and gymnastics coach who believed in her. Like former Leschi superintendent Linda Rudolph who suggested Eveskcige go to college. Like former Vashon superintendent Monte Bridges who appreciated, as she did, social justice programs and integrated curriculum.
When the superintendent position opened at Chief Leschi and she got the job, Eveskcige couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. “My journey took many twists and turns, but it led me back home. It is my home, the future of my child and her children. My actions today will impact seven generations into the future.” As for making history, being the first tribal member to hold the title of school superintendent, she doesn’t think much of it. “I’m not making history, I am just a part of the historical line that started with all my ancestors that came before me.”
Teachers, school administrators, and her own education—a bachelor’s from the University of Puget Sound and a doctorate in educational leadership from Washington State University Vancouver—all helped shape her, and all of those forces are shaping what she wants to do for the school district, the tribal children, and herself. “I am part of being a dream maker, hope provider, and the future of our children.”
Her work isn’t easy. Textbooks come from publishers that don’t represent the cultural values or experiences of the children using them. There are also standards required nationally to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. She hopes to turn the learning inside out—start with the core cultural values of the students and then place the educational necessities around it.
“I want to provide a place of cultural relevance and identity, where it is okay to be a Native youth while striving to be the best in whatever field they choose,” says Eveskcige.
Perhaps a generation from now, or two, or seven, a child will go into education because of her. “My greatest reward each day is to see the smile that is accompanied with the knowledge that it was a direct result of their awareness of their own accomplishments.”