Youth Spirit Program


Updated: 12/08/2022

The Youth Spirit Program (YSP) was developed as part of a Healing of the Canoe Project (HOC) by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The adaptation is based on the original HOC Curriculum. The Youth Spirit life skills curriculum was developed out of a commitment to serve the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC) youth, families and community. This curriculum has been tailored to address needs determined by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The SITC determined that preventing youth substance abuse was very important. Equally important, the SITC felt that the best way to support healthy youth was through cultural revitalization and an increased sense of belonging to the Tribe and community.

This curriculum is designed to teach life skills to teenagers in a group setting. However, the curriculum can be modified slightly for teaching adolescents individually, either in virtual or physical spaces. A facilitator and co-facilitator should teach the skills if they are presented in a group. If the chapters are presented individually, a co-facilitator is not necessary.

  • Age Group Designed For:

    Middle School, High School
  • LGBT Inclusive:

  • Trauma Informed:

  • Program Setting:

    In-School, After-School, Community-Based, Flexible
  • Health Topics Covered:

    Alcohol and Drug Prevention, Mental Health, Other Healthy Life-Skills, Suicide Prevention
  • Duration:

    14 Chapters @ 30-50 minutes/lesson
  • Cost to purchase:

  • Teacher Training or Certification Required:

  • Student to Teacher Ratio:

  • Endorsements:

    N/A, Healing of the Canoe

Program Contact Information


Downloadable Training Materials:

Teacher Training or Certification Requirements:

No training is needed to deliver the Youth Spirit curriculum. The curriculum can be delivered in a variety of settings (e.g. summer program, semester/trimester, youth camp).

Supporting Materials

Marketing and Recruitment Materials:

Miscellaneous Materials:

You may find yourself making adjustments to the curriculum lesson plans over time – keep track of what works and what you want to build on. You can use the Lesson Feedback Form to plan for the next go-round.

Lesson Feedback Form: Youth Spirit Curriculum

Cultural Relevance

The intent of this culturally grounded life skills curriculum is to provide Swinomish youth with the opportunity to develop skills to help them make choices that motivate positive actions, while avoiding the hazards of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. These skills are taught in this curriculum using SITC approved traditions, practices, beliefs, values, stories and teachings, and utilize the Tribe’s most valuable resources: Elders, youth, leaders, and other Tribal members.


In 2017, the Swinomish Indian Tribe received a grant from the Office of Minority Health to address historical trauma and promote youth resilience. The 5-year grant funded the Youth Spirit Program (YSP), which serves Swinomish youth and their families.

The primary goals of the project are:

Goal 1: Improve the physical, social, emotional, and cultural well-being of Swinomish youth, using the Healing of the Canoe (HOC) curriculum, delivered at the La Conner School and during a 6-week summer camp. The Youth Spirit Program trains participants in culturally sensitive, evidence-based self-healing techniques, and provides therapy services to participants and their families.

Goal 2: Offer academic enrichment at the Youth Spirit Program Center to improve school connectedness and academic success. The Youth Spirit Program offers year-round academic enrichment activities and training to strengthen cultural competency among Swinomish, school district, and YSP staff.

Goal 3: Empower American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth to realize their full potential for health and development, by providing them with the resources they need to take an active role in their own health and well-being, building skills for healthy self-expression, and promoting healthy social norms.


The Youth Spirit Program administered paper pre and post surveys to measure the impact of the Youth Spirit Program. The surveys were first developed collaboratively by the NPAIHB, University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), NPC Research, Suquamish Tribe, and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe for the Healing of the Canoe (HOC) curriculum. The surveys draw from questions used by ADAI in its evaluation of the HOC curriculum, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the Oregon Native Youth Survey (Mackin, Perkins, Tarte, & Dent, 2010), and the Healthy & Empowered Youth (H.E.Y.) Project survey created by Oregon Health and Science University to evaluate the Native STAND curriculum (which addresses STI, HIV, and teen pregnancy, as well as drug and alcohol use and dating violence). A resilience scale and Adverse Childhood Experience questions were also added to the YSP surveys in addition to some questions developed by the NPAIHB and NPC Research. We thank our friends at American Indian Health & Family Services (Detroit, Michigan) for sharing some open-ended question ideas inspired by youth at their site to create a positive feeling after some of the more sensitive topics. YSP survey questions were designed to correspond with the social-ecological model, and ask about peers, family, school, and community.

Evaluation Tools: