April 23, 2024

Yvonne Dupuis Peterson (Chehalis) invites us all to “sit beside” each other and learn – the way her mother showed her to live a caring life. Growing up rich in salmon, berries, and much natural bounty, Yvonne was taught to work hard for family, community and self in the prairie and river lands of her people. Her ancestors are woven into her consciousness and actions, she breathes their same breath and walks the paths they created for her generations ago. It is weaving, in fact, that founds the basis of her culture understandings. Weaving baskets connects her to the Chehalis’s cultured natural world, strands of plants and memories coming together in a beautiful, contained wholeness to carry into the next generation. Expressing her prayers as poems, Yvonne seeks to “transform the past into the future through a prism of caring.” Yvonne is a political scientist, educator, and intergenerational cultural awakener who weaves together traditional and academic methods at home and at The Evergreen State College. As Yvonne says, “You don’t teach everyone the same weave because then they won’t need each other.” Yvonne assures those around her to trust their own thinking, persevere, and show their faces to the ancestors.

Chehalis Elder, sixth generation weaver since treaty-making time in Washington Territory, and professor of Indigenous Studies at The Evergreen State College, Yvonne Peterson received bachelor’s degrees in Elementary Education and Ethnic Studies from Western Washington University, and a master’s in political science from the University of Arizona.  She is an Ed.D Candidate – Doctor of Education Leadership UW-Tacoma, Muckleshoot Tribal College Ed.D Cohort.  Professor Peterson is a founding member of the Indigenous Studies program at The Evergreen State College where she has taught for the past 40 years. With her husband and teaching partner, Gary Peterson, Professor Peterson has collaboratively designed and taught interdisciplinary courses that center Native arts, culture, education, political science and advocacy to shape the next generation of indigenous leaders, creators and agents of change.

In recognition of her decades of service to Native students and communities, Ms. Peterson was awarded the Peace and Friendship Award from the Washington State Historical Society, the Enduring Spirit Award from the Native Action Network, and was a Kettering Scholar from 2005 to 2008.  She continues her Legacy Leader work for Rockefeller Spirit Aligned from 2018 to the present.  Yvonne has been quoted “Because mainstream teachers aren’t given tools for working with cultural differences, Native American students are often expected to change.  Indian youth maintain their differences are their greatest strength.  How can one culture’s teachers educate another culture’s children, without obliterating a precious heritage?”

More info, including an interview, on the Spirit Aligned website