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Xaa-wan’-k’wvt (Howonquet) Early Learning Program


Listening Responsively

Encouraging Compassionately

Acknowledging Strengths

Demonstrating Excellence


Working in Rhythm

Individually and Collectively

Strengthening Supportive Connections

Engaging in Diverse Learning Communities

Resulting in Trusting Relations

Goal: Increase Parent Participation

Overview: The Xaa-wan’-k’wvt (Howonquet) Early Learning Program (H.E.L.P.) has two components, Part-day Tribal Head Start and Full-day Early Learning Center. The Smith River Rancheria, now the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation, received the Federal Head Start grant in 2007. The primary purpose of H.E.L.P. is to ensure our preschool aged Tribal children are learning the Tolowa language and culture while preparing them for school. H.E.L.P. has a comprehensive program that serves the whole family.


Programs: (or Services, Functions, and/or Activities)

  • Head Start Preschool
  • Full day Early Learning Center
  • Parent Education Classes
  • Support Services for the family with referrals and follow up




  • Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation H.E.L.P. received a $500 grant to complete the Taa-laa-wa Story Book on "How the Sun Rises" from First 5 Del Norte. We are working closely with the Waa-tr’vslh-‘a~ (Culture) Department and H.E.L.P. Parent Committee on this project. Children in our program will draw the animals illustrated in the book.  We will create flannel board materials to help tell the story to the children.  Then upon completion, each child will receive this book at Head Start graduation.
  • Brochure
  • Pre-Enrollment Application

Previous Year’s Achievements:

  • Federal Head Start Review of Fiscal and ERSEA (Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment and Attendance) found Howonquet Head Start in Compliance with no findings.
  • Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation (formally Smith River Rancheria) received a duration grant to fund the Howonquet Head Start program to go full day/5 days a week in 2017-18
  • Xaa-wan’-k’wvt Chee-ne’ Tetlh-tvm’ (Howonquet Tree Garden) design has started to take shape and will be open to the community soon.
  • Piloted and hired the Head Start Family Lifeway Coordinator whose responsibility is to serve and support the families in our program

HELP Staff

Doreen Wells


Phone: 707-487-9255 ext. 1505
Phone: 707-487-1113 (direct line)
Fax: 707-487-0267

Mai Soua Vang

Education Coordinator

Phone: 707-487-9255 ext. 1501
Phone: 707-487-1113 (direct line)
Fax: 707-487-0267

Patricia Haney

Head Start Housekeeper

Mieng Yang

Administrative Analyst

Phone: 707-487-9255 ext. 1500
Phone: 707-487-1113 (direct line)
Fax: 707-487-0267

Cara Brustol

Family Lifeway Coordinator

Phone: 707-487-9255 ext. 1502
Phone: 707-487-1113 (direct line)
Fax: 707-487-0267

Dan`-dee-ni` (Spring Salmon) Class

Nicol Aubrey – Teacher
DeVen Lafazio – Teacher Asst.
Classroom 707-487-9255 ext. 1507

Ta'-kw'is-chu (Pelican) Class

Jene Abad – Nutrition Specialist
Email Valerie Wenning - Asst. Cook
707-487-9255 ext. 1520

Ch'vs-k'I (Butterfly) Class

Danielle Gonzalez –Child Care Provider
Itzell Salazar -Child Care Provider (AM)
Classroom – 707-487-9255 ext. 1521

K’wee-lhin’-chu (Frog) Class

Mendy Hinshaw – Teacher
Maria Cruz – Teacher Asst.
Classroom 707-487-9255 ext. 1506

Office Location

12840 Mouth of Smith River Rd.
Smith River, Ca. 95567
Phone: 707-487-1113

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