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After Nearly Three Decades, NATIVES Program Director Stepping Down

Brian Bull

The long-time director of the 4J School District’s NATIVES Program is officially retiring this month. 


Brenda Brainard has headed the cultural and educational activities for its Native American students for 29 years.

In that time, she’s seen Oregon pass laws regulating the use of Indian mascots, allowing feathers to be worn at graduation ceremonies, and create a curriculum of Indigenous history and culture for public schools. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Brainard recalls early struggles to get such issues addressed by the community. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Brenda Brainard arranges gourds ahead of an educational project.


“So as I sit and reflect, it’s very emotional for me," Brainard told KLCC.

"It’s very moving that we started out with so much difficulty and so much resistance, and now as I’m moving on, these things are all coming to happen.  And it’s been very rewarding and very heart touching for me.” 

Cultural instruction for program participants included drumming, dancing, and totem pole carving.  Many 4J schools feature totem poles on their campuses, carved by NATIVES staff and students.


The 4J District honored Brainard this week (6/3) with its ACE CHAMPION Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Brainard says she originally planned to direct the 4J NATIVES program for just a couple years, but stayed because she fell in love with the program and kids.  Her last day is June 18th.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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