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Cree F. Whelshula, B.A.

Cree Whelshula (enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe; raised Colville) is the Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Director for the Native Language Community Coordination (NLCC) Center. She serves as in-house expert on native language revitalization efforts, second language acquisition, and best teaching practices. Cree utilizes her diverse experience in mentor- apprentice, immersion, early childhood development, and administrative partnerships to support the needs of the NLCC cohort in various capacities.

Language Story

Cree Whelshula has been around language her whole life.  At the age of seven, she began learning in a formal capacity with Elder Fluent Speakers of nslxcin (Okanogan Salish). These Elder Fluent Speakers traveled to her school in Inchelium WA, on the Colville Indian Reservation, to deliver language lessons to her class.  Her parents were second language learners who worked at the school during that time.  Eventually, her parents took over teaching the language classes so the Elders would not have to undergo the three-hour round-trip drive over three summits to teach the classes.  Cree even became part of the lesson plans to teach things like body parts, modeling actions, etc.

As Cree got older, she became more disengaged with the public school system.  It did not engage her on a cultural or emotional level.  At the age of 13, she began skipping school to go to the Omak Language Preservation Program with her mother, who was employed there at the time.  She was able to learn right along side with the Language Interns under the guidance of Fluent Okanogan Speakers.  Cree remembers her mother telling her at the time, “You should go to school to be a Linguist,” and Cree laughed thinking about how boring “paper work” would be.  At the time, Cree did not realize how blessed she was to be with so many Fluent Elders who would break down the morphology of the language and explain what things meant on a cultural level.

Cree’s first job was working as a summer youth employee with her tribe.  She chose to work at the Head Start program in Inchelium making Okanogan labels for the classrooms.  She spent her summer finding clip art of classroom items, such as: pencils, desk, scissors, markers, door, window, etc.  She would write it in the Okanogan phonetic alphabet, and then decorate it with borders.

At the age of 15, Cree officially dropped out of High School and went to get her GED at the age of 16.  After she was able to obtain her GED, Cree attended the Spokane Tribal College.  Always knowing language would be a passion, Cree did not think it would ever be a career.  She obtained her AA Degree then went to school for Wildlife Resources, but wound up switching majors and schools.  She decided to get a degree from Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Interdisciplinary Studies because they did not have majors in the fields that she wanted.  Her Interdisciplinary Studies included Anthropology, Linguistics, and Economics.

While at EWU, Cree realized there was no Salish classes being offered and inquired about it.  The Indian Studies Director, Dr. Deidra Almeida said that there was not enough student interest for the university to fund it.  Cree offered to teach the classes for free if she could get credit toward her Linguistics minor.  Dr. Almeida was able to set that up, and Cree taught Salish Language and Culture at EWU for two academic years.

After graduating with her Bachelor of Arts Degree from EWU, Cree got a job with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in their Language Program.  This job was a teacher trainee position that required Cree to learn language and to receive training in Early Childhood Development, Classroom Management, Lesson Planning, and more.

From there, Cree got a job working at the Salish School of Spokane working as an Okanogan immersion teacher for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten age children.  This is where Cree was able to put her training to the test and work with children in her language.  Most importantly, the opportunity allowed Cree to do her own research in how to work with young children in a way that was grounded in tribal values and culture.  In addition, it was required that teaching staff also kept lesson plans in alignment with Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EARLs) and other state requirements.

From there Cree spent a few months working for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Language Program as a Curriculum Expert.  This was to develop curriculum for their upcoming immersion school.  The curriculum developed was for kindergarten to second grade in the subjects of science, math, and literacy. While she was there, Cree was expecting her fourth child and needed to move home to Inchelium.

Cree got a job working at the Inchelium Head Start as a Lead Early Childhood Education  Teacher.  There she provided modified immersion instruction to children ages 3-5.  This included songs, commands, and daily routines in the language.  Here, Cree got familiar with Head Start standards such as Creative Curriculum, Teaching Strategies Gold, and the more formal aspect of early childhood education, assessments, and child development.

Cree’s most recent position was Language Program Manager for the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State.  In this position, Cree was able to explore a different aspect of language revitalization, which is developing partnerships, and how to not only provide language services, but how to reach out to the community and local organizations/entities to help one another in achieving mutual goals.

Education

Cree earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Salish Kootenai College in 2009, and then moved on to earn her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies- Anthropology, Linguistics, and Economics from Eastern Washington University in 2011.

Sister Sky, Inc.

Cree is the Training and Technical Assistance Director at Sister Sky, Inc. and he started in September 2018. She is Sister Sky, Inc.’s in-house expert on Native Language. Cree builds relationships with grantees, community members, and others interested in Native languages. She focuses her work in language revitalization and works to identify best practices for language knowledge transfer that effects change in fluency levels in different communities. She provides TTA through several modes such as email, phone, or in-person technical assistance and virtual or on-site training. If she doesn’t know the topic, she will find the answer and refer.

Areas of Expertise

  • Salish Languages
  • Grammar
  • Language Acquisition in The Brain
  • Second Language Acquisition
  • Brain Based Teaching Techniques
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Outside The Box Strategies
  • Lesson Planning
  • Curriculum
  • Community Outreach
  • Strategic Planning