Chxi San Playgroup Provides Connection to Culture and Community

Chxi San Playgroup Provides Connection to Culture and Community

NAYA’s culturally specific early childhood programs are intended to wrap around whole families. From our WIC clinic that provides pre-natal supports to pregnant women to our Positive Indian Parenting classes, NAYA knows that whole families need to be engaged in order build the best foundation for our youth.

One such program, the Chxi San Playgroup, for children through age five and their families, picks up where the Positive Indian Parenting course ends. Once a week, children gather at NAYA or other sites in Portland for culturally focused, child-centered, and developmentally appropriate play in a structured environment. NAYA recently spoke with one parent, Jalynee Geddes (Beardy’s & Okemasis Willow Cree Nation) about her experience with son Desmond, age 3, at Chxi San.

What compelled you to come to your first Chxi San playgroup?
I looked into NAYA because I knew they were a great resource for First Nations families. Being Canadian, I’m far from my own reservation so I wanted to make sure Desmond had access to children who had the same cultural values as we have.

How does Desmond respond to connecting to his culture? What are Desmond’s favorite parts of playgroup?
They incorporate smudging on occasion, as well as creating an atmosphere of comfort. It’s a great space where Desmond never has to worry about explaining his long hair. He connects well and is very responsive. He is always very respectful during smudging and opening and closing circle. It’s an environment he simply loves! He loves the trips to Zenger Farm and he loves the many activities. He also really loves the NAYA staff. It’s just a great place for him to play and get to know other children in his age group.

Can you share any examples of insights or tips you’ve learned as a result of your participation in Chxi San?
I’ve learned so much about letting Desmond grow at his own pace and—this is a big one—taking safe risks. I especially love how they encourage that part of growing up. It teaches both me and Desmond bravery! The staff really build great relationships with us as parents and I can see how they care both about our children and our growth in parenting.

What would you say to a parent who is considering participating but feels that they are too busy and tired?
The playgroup is actually a great place to recharge your batteries! There are always activities and ways to keep your child busy, as well as opportunities to engage with other parents or NAYA staff and gain advice or even grown up conversation. And since the location rotates, the emphasis is naturally on community and engagement. Making those connections with other parents can sometimes be the most vital part about staying active in our cultural community.

What dreams do you have for Desmond? How do you think the foundation you two are building in the community will impact that?
I want him to grow up and be confident in who he is. I want him to be strong, but to have the ability to manifest his strength in a way that is always considerate, kind, and thoughtful of others. I’m hoping that from the way we try to nurture and balance each aspect of who he is—spiritual, educational, emotional, and cultural—he will be develop his own sense of balance. For us, it means keeping him as engaged as we can in who he is at his core—not only receiving cultural nourishment, but learning how to give it as well.

NAYA’s Chxi San Playgroup is offered most Thursdays at 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. We welcome and encourage community, elders, and kin to join parents and their children in the playgroup. We also provide healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate snacks during playgroup. There is no charge to participate.

For more information and a current schedule of locations, please check NAYA’s website