News & Events


August 5, 2013

Palatisha Miyanashma: The Children are Growing

“Palatisha Miyanashma:

The children are growing.”

—Patsy L. Whitefoot

2013_07_12_IWRI_newsletter (3 of 4)Patsy Whitefoot (Yakama) knows hardship and success. As a young girl from the Yakama Indian Reservation (“The Rez”), she and her sisters were enrolled in a reservation mission boarding school when her care-giver grandmother became ill. In high school, she experienced what she called “discrimination toward native students.” Her experience with the struggles that Native American students face in the educational system and personally overcoming them has allowed her to mentor generations of students through school.    Patsy has an amazingly rich and varied set of experiences as a professional educator, from teaching in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation to serving as the Supervisor of Indian Education for Washington State. She has worked at every level of Indian education, from Head Start to guiding university program development, currently serving on the Board of Directors of Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington.

From 1997 to 2002, Patsy served on the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, later serving as Interim Director of the Nation’s Department of Human Services. Since 2004, Patsy has served as the Director of Indian Education for the Toppenish School District on The Rez. Her responsibilities involve increasing the number of preschool Native children who possess literacy readiness skills that prepare them for kindergarten; K–12 supplemental support for Native students; and, increasing the number of Native high school graduates (who) transition to postsecondary education. She successfully manages communitypartnerships with reservation school districts, the Yakama Nation, Heritage University, Yakima County, and the UW in seeking resources to support Native students.

The depth of Patsy Whitefoot’s experience in Indian education is exceptional, having served at different times as superintendent, principal, consultant, counselor, teacher, and visionary founder of many instrumental programs. She has won an array of awards; in 2009, President Obama appointed her as a member of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.
She is the Education Committee Chairperson for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and former President of the National Indian Education Association.

Patsy Whitefoot’s leadership style and capacity is grounded with the indigenous world view nurtured by her grandparents and early childhood experiences in the rural area of Medicine Valley on The Rez. She serves as a traditional food gatherer for the Toppenish Creek Longhouse. She has three children who all graduated from White Swan High School on The Rez and she also has ten grandchildren. In rearing her children and supporting her grandchildren and extended family, she is always amazed in the children’s natural gift for learning. In her role as an educator, she advocates her ancestors’ vision for holistic health, environmental and spiritual well-being originated in the Native languages, values, cultures and histories of the aboriginal landscape.2013_07_12_IWRI_newsletter (4 of 4)

—This article originally appeared in Ecotrust and titled, “2009 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award Finalist:  Patricia L. Whitefoot” and has been reprinted with permission.  She eventually became the recipient of the 2009 Ectotrust award “for her ongoing work and leadership in tribal, regional, and national efforts to improve Indian education at all levels.”  The original article has been updated and edited for length.