by Faith Price, Director of Native American Student Services


Shouts of “Go Cougs!” echoed across Lake Coeur d’Alene as seventeen students on stand-up paddle boards glided across the water during the first annual Native Student Retreat September 14th and 15th.

“It was a lot of fun!” said sophomore Kamapolani Garcia (Tohono O’odham/White Mountain Apache). “It was a good bonding experience, too.”

Students paddle “the Beast” around Lake Coeur d’Alene during the WSU Native Student Retreat.

Native Programs partnered with the WSU Outdoor Rec Center to offer a weekend of hiking, paddle boarding and camping. The group of hardcore outdoor enthusiasts gathered at 7am on Saturday to board vans and drive up to the lake.

First on the agenda was a hike up the three-mile picturesque Indian Cliffs trail with fabulous views of Lake Coeur d’Alene. After a picnic lunch and getting warmed up from the hike, a dip in the lake was in order. Outdoor Rec staff did a quick demo of how to use a stand-up paddle board and away the group went! One group of nine adventurous paddlers jumped on the biggest paddle board you’ve ever seen, aptly named “the Beast.”

“It involved a lot of teamwork,” said Garcia. “I thought we did really good because we didn’t fall in once. It was a roller coaster of emotions. You were a little worried you would fall but then all together, we were like ‘No!’”

After an hour or so out on the water on paddleboards, Cheffrey Sailto from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s language department joined the group with traditional watercraft for the students to try. He brought four of the Tribe’s Salishan Sturgeon-Nose canoes and one racing canoe.

“I loved how we got to go out on canoes and also hear about the history of them,” said senior Kyra Antone (Coeur d’Alene/Tohono O’odham). “That’s super important. It wasn’t just fun, it was a learning experience.”

Students and staff spent the rest of the afternoon paddling and playing games before heading to the campground to set up their tents. The evening found the group roasting hot dogs and s’mores on the campfire and playing stickgame by the light of headlamps.

“It was great for all of us to get good medicine away from everything,” said junior Dominick Joseph (Tulalip). “Especially being out on the water.”

Seventeen students, pictured here with staff from Native Programs and Outdoor Rec, attended the first annual retreat.