In the early 2000s, the Chemawa-Willamette Partnership was set in motion by an active class of Native Willamette students. They reestablished the annual pow wow, created a student organization, the Native American Enlightenment Association (NAEA) and reached out to nearby Native communities, including Chemawa Indian School, Grand Ronde and Siletz. At Chemawa, the student leaders established trust and built relationships by regularly tutoring and being involved with the school community.
On Founders Day 2005, Willamette held a Ceremony of Renewal with regional tribes to acknowledge its Indian mission legacy and begin a new chapter in the mutual history of Oregon's tribal communities and the University. An event series, Indian Country Conversations, was initiated, bringing Willamette and Native communities together in dialogue.
At the ceremony, Chemawa administrators invited Willamette to assist in its plan to transition to a college preparatory curriculum. With financial support from the Lilly Project, and later from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund of the Grand Ronde tribes, Chemawa Indian School and Willamette University began an official relationship. In Fall 2005 the Chemawa-Willamette Partnership Program began.
An interdisciplinary course (IDS-205) is offered as part of the Chemawa-Willamette Partnership Program in which Willamette students may enroll for credit or non-credit. IDS-205 is a service-learning course that introduces students to the history of and contemporary challenges in American Indian education. Involved students attend a weekly class and commit to tutoring one evening each week. Students also volunteer time to various academic and social activities between Willamette and Chemawa campuses as well as in the community.
While students serve as tutors and mentors at the Chemawa study hall, they, in turn, learn from the relationships they are building with Chemawa tutors, students and staff, shaping the ongoing collaborative learning cycle. Within the Partnership, the role of relationships is key, significantly influencing and challenging both Chemawa and Willamette participants. Participants are continually teaching and learning from one another, connecting life experiences in many forms--educationally, communally, culturally, as well as spiritually.
In addition, the Partnership Program extends support to the Salem-Keizer Indian Education Program giving tutors the unique dual experience of not only working with Chemawa, but also working with the greater Native community. Tutors may assist with the Indian Education Nights working with Native families and children (K-12) in a community group setting and/or other related opportunities including the Indian Education Graduation Ceremony.