Synapses & Stories: Coyote, Grizzly & their Brains!

NW Noggin is thrilled and honored to receive a grant from the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, a sovereign Native American nation in north-central Oregon, for our art and neuroscience outreach proposal “Synapses & Stories:  Coyote, Grizzly and their Brains!”

LEARN MORE: The remarkable, yet not extraordinary, human brain

With support from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, and in collaboration with the Oregon Pacific Area Health Education Center (OPAHEC)…

…we plan to bring twelve Noggin undergraduates and graduates studying neuroscience and art to the Lincoln County School District this spring for three, day long visits aimed at making connections between figures in Grande Ronde and Siletz tribal stories (including Coyote, Crow and Grizzly) and their relevant neuroanatomy…

Corvus Callosum by Sienna Morris

We partnered last spring with the Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center to introduce brain research and art to students from six counties in the community of La Grande…

LEARN MORE: Blue Mountain Brains

This week we headed to the Grande Ronde Tribal campus for a grant presentation ceremony with the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Board of Trustees and members of the Tribal Council!

Two accomplished NW Noggin Resource Council members, Sulema Rodriguez (an NIH BUILD EXITO scholar) and Joey Seuferling, just back from DC, joined Neuroscience Coordinator Bill Griesar on a drive through the lush Willamette Valley…

We stopped for lunch at Spirit Mountain Casino, the primary source of support for grants and other tribal community programs. Six percent of casino profits goes to the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which generously donates to organizations (including Noggin!) in western Oregon…

Smell the dopamine:  surrounded by stimuli predicting reward 🙂

LEARN MORE: What motivates gambling behavior?

We received a warm welcome at the Governance Building in Grande Ronde, where the event began with a prayer in Chinuk Wawa, a creole language that many diverse Northwest area tribes used for trading  –  followed by a welcome song on a drum.

LEARN MORE: Chinuk Wawa

LEARN MORE: Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa)

LEARN MORE: Modeling the Emergence of Contact Languages

Our popular and vividly green 3D printed brain, based on MRI data from the YES! Program at OHSU and created thanks to the Portland 3D Printing Lab, immediately settled in at the podium, as Board of Trustees Chairman Sho Dozono introduced a short film about the history of Grande Ronde.

There are upwards of 27 historic tribes represented in the Confederated Tribes, including the Umpqua, Molalla, Rogue River, Kalapuya and Shasta. These separate tribes were forcibly removed from their own lands near Medford, Oregon by the U.S. government in 1856, and marched north. Eight people died  –  and eight babies were born  –  during a grueling journey to the new Grande Ronde Indian Reservation, 61,440 acres legally established by President James Buchanan in 1857.

In subsequent decades, we learned, the federal government broke multiple treaties and stole land, impoverishing tribal members and selling their valuable property for $1.10/acre to non-Native buyers. In 1954, Congress voted to “terminate” the Grande Ronde tribe, without their consent, and the Stimson Lumber Company gained access to Spirit Mountain, profiting at the tribe’s expense.

The Grande Ronde lacked federal recognition for 27 years, until President Ronald Reagan signed the Grande Ronde Restoration Act in 1983. Spirit Mountain Casino opened in 1995, and since then the Community Fund has donated more than $75 million dollars to Oregon nonprofits!

Spirit Mountain Community Fund’s Winter Grant Presentation held in the Governance Center atrium on Wednesday, Dec. 13.

LEARN MORE: Community Fund surpasses $76 million mark in giving

LEARN MORE: Termination and Restoration in Oregon

LEARN MORE: Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

Sho tested us on our Grande Ronde knowledge after the video presentation, and then Mychal Cherry, Julia Willis and Angela Sears of the Spirit Mountain Community Fund presented the awards!

The Grande Ronde seal, representing 27 confederated tribes, reminded us of a neuron’s cell body (or soma), with vivid feather dendrites embodying a shared human drive to synapse and connect.

So we crafted a neuron in the seal’s colors, with 27 soma-anchored dendrites…

And presented it to SMCF as a gift and thank you for their support!

Synapses & Stories:
More on our Noggin project

Many K-12 students struggle with academic achievement, and become disenchanted with school. The dropout rate for Native Americans is particularly high.

LEARN MORE: American Indian/Alaska Native Students in Oregon: A Review of Key Indicators

LEARN MORE: Oregon’s Native American students face obstacles to stay in, complete school

There is tremendous regional and national need to develop academic programs and approaches that successfully engage “academic priority” students, and offer access to the social and economic benefits of further education. Our efforts to bring together “near peers,” including undergraduates in science and art, to collaborate with graduate students on creating novel, innovative, multidisciplinary methods of explaining complex ideas in neuroscience, exposes these students to scientists and artists at various stages of their careers…

Our volunteers come from multiple Portland area institutions. Several, including Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University, actively support innovative community engagement and outreach…

LEARN MORE: NW Noggin collaborators

Noggin participants will bring real brains, both animal and human, into the classroom, and ask students what they already know. We’ll hear from them as experts on tribal stories, and consider how various skills and characteristics of important figures in Grande Ronde tales relate to specific networks of neurons. We’ll enjoy multiple art projects, including neuron building and brain maps, to allow students to explore these ideas further…

LEARN MORE: Grande Ronde Lesson Plan on Stories & Myths

We have done this before, successfully  –   see Noggin Bloggin for details. Students will learn structure/function relationships, discover educational and career options in neuroscience and art, and get engaged in big questions about how our brains work and make us who we are.

Thank you Spirit Mountain Community Fund for supporting this work!

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