Puyallup Tribe grant supports family gatherings

This February you would have found the desk of TPS Indian Education Director David Syth behind a wall of pasta boxes and jars of spaghetti sauce. 

In December 2020, Tacoma Public Schools' Indian Education program received a $10,000 grant from the Puyallup Tribe to provide food to students and families in the program. Syth and his team purchased groceries with these funds.

“Since the pandemic started, we saw food insecurity amplified,” said David Bean, Puyallup Tribe Council Chairman. 

Syth and his team reached out to all families in the program to offer groceries. Each month since December, they have purchased and distributed groceries to around 100 families. Groceries include all the ingredients for a family dinner, along with pantry basics and snacks. March 31 will be the final distribution event with a theme of a ham dinner. 

Family gatherings in the pandemic
“Family gatherings and meals are such a huge part of our community,” said parent volunteer Taralee Ellis. “I am so grateful to the Puyallup Tribe for this gift.”

Before the pandemic, families in the program met regularly for meals. Still, Ellis and other volunteers have worked hard to keep that tradition going with monthly virtual gatherings. 

"Last month, we had about 20 families," said Ellis. "We definitely miss gathering in person, but it wonderful to still 'see' each other and share a meal."

Ellis, the president of a volunteer group called the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Team, explains that the events are more than a chance to share a meal. Gatherings include lessons or crafts related to American Indian and Alaskan Native culture. One month’s virtual gathering included a lesson on weaving; in another, families received supplies to make corn husk dolls.

Puyallup Tribe partnership
The TPS Indian Education program is a federally funded program that serves American Indian or Alaskan Natives students. The program connects students and their families with culture, community and educational support.  

For the past 13 years, Tacoma Public Schools has partnered with the Puyallup Tribe. The tribe has provided numerous grants, supplies and resources, and teamed up on events such as story times and family nights.

"It is important to have a strong Indian Education program to ensure our kids don't forget who they are," said Bean. "We appreciate and want to support the program's strong efforts to make sure kids know their true history and the history of tribes in this area and region. That includes songs, dance and language." 

TPS currently serves 719 students in the program, but Syth believes more students may be eligible. 

“Sometimes students don’t think they qualify because they lack tribal affiliation,” said Syth. “But students are eligible if their parent or grandparent has a tribal affiliation. We want to serve as many students as possible." 

Students or families interested in the program can find more information on the district website or by emailing David Syth.

Media Contact

Dan Voelpel, Executive Director of Communications | 253-571-1015 | dvoelpe@tacoma.k12.wa.us

About Tacoma Schools

Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...


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