Healing to Wellness Court graduate, Verle Smith, proves recovery is possible

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Police Department issued a recent press release that included a report from the Washington State Department of Health, stating that there were eighty-one deaths linked to fentanyl in the first half of 2018. An increase of nearly seventy percent from the previous year. Last year there were approximately 72,000 deaths nationwide, which was shocking on its own. This latest news unfortunately means that the opioid epidemic is still very much on the rise in America, as families and communities continue to search for solutions to help their loved ones recover. 

At the beginning of 2017, the Tulalip Tribes decided to take different approach to help heal their people struggling with addiction by introducing the Healing to Wellness Court. Similar to a state drug court, Tulalip’s five-stage program also requires addicts convicted on drug-related charges to take random drug tests and attend mandated court appearances. When conjuring up the idea of the wellness court, the tribe put together a team dedicated to reinstilling traditional values that tribal societies hold so dear, community and culture. 

“We take in what’s called high-risk, high-need,” explains Healing to Wellness Court Coordinator, Hilary Sotomish. “High-risk to reoffend criminally and a high-need addiction, meaning they can’t do it by themselves, they need a team to help them through it. Our program is about eighteen to twenty-four months and depending on how well they go through each stage determines how long it takes. For some people it takes eighteen months, but we expect relapse to happen. If they have relapses or have things that they can’t get done, we require them to take life skills classes and have a job or be in schooling. We don’t go over twenty-four months. Research has shown that if you have somebody in a wellness court or drug court for over twenty-four months, it’s not successful.”

Tribal member Verle Smith joined the Healing to Wellness Court a few short months after the program began. For nearly two years, he’s followed the program, rebuilding relationships with his family and within the community, rediscovering who he is.

“At the beginning it was a struggle, I didn’t know which way to go,” he says. “I had to give it to my higher power, listen up and take focus of what it was all about. I had to work on myself. It slowly got brighter.”

Verle mentioned that he relapsed during the course of the program but didn’t let that dark moment deter him from his path to sobriety. He instead used the relapse as a learning experience, a reminder of what was truly important to him. On December 10, Verle’s family, friends and supporters gathered at the Greg Williams Court to proudly cheer him on as he became the first graduate of the Healing to Wellness Court.

“There was one struggle in between but I brightened up and just punched forward,” he states. “Life became so lovely. I now have the opportunity to be around family. I love it. I still struggle today but every morning I have the opportunity for another day, so I’m living it one day at time. I do my mediation prayer and I believe that’s the key, make sure you say your morning prayers. I talk to a lot of people every day, like my best friend. Him and my family are my inspiration to fight harder for other people who need it. I love that people still have my back after everything.”  

Hilary and the Wellness Court team presented Verle with three gifts in recognition of his accomplishment; a blanket, a drum and plaque that showcased the five coins he received when completing each phase of the program. Over the course of an emotional two hours, Verle’s friends and family members offered teary congratulatory speeches as well as many long embracing hugs and a couple traditional songs. All six Tulalip Board of Directors expressed their happiness of Verle’s success, including Les Parks who helped get the Healing to Wellness Court started.

“This was initially a pilot project that is obviously working,” Les expressed. “The wellness court team is tasked with ascertaining who is on highest risk, highest need in our community. Our court identified nineteen high-risk, high-needs and I bet you there are over two hundred members out there who would love to take part in this program, who don’t fall under that category. We need to expand this program and keep working to bring on some of those low-risk, low-need people.”

Every Tuesday, wellness participants attend court at the Tulalip Justice center and speak directly with Judge Ron Whitener about their struggles and successes. Depending on their setbacks or progress, Judge Whitener awards the participants with either a sanction or an incentive. 

“Tulalip, like most communities, are facing a lot of issues with heroin,” says Judge Whitener. “Programs like the wellness court are a more traditional way of doing things. Regular drug court is very hands off, not very supportive and the person’s expected to go and fix themselves. We don’t ask people with cancer to go and heal themselves, you got to work with them, try to get through it with them, knowing it takes a long time. I think that the process is really more appropriate for Tulalip. Just as Board Member Parks said, we’re looking to expand the ideals of this wellness court, which is for our highest risk people, and move those ideals down into the other cases and try to make the whole court look more like the wellness court. I’m really proud of Verle, I’ve known him a long time and he’s a good person. I’m really happy he was our first graduate. We have serval others coming up, so we’re looking to make these celebrations quite regular in the community.”

The Healing to Wellness Court is on track to present seventeen more plaques to recovering addicts, who are slated to graduate from the program throughout 2019. The wellness court participants developed their own community of support and often encourage each other to stay focused on their journey. Each participant was in attendance of Verle’s graduation and a few even spoke, stating that Verle serves as an inspiration to his fellow participants. This was something that Verle was pleased to hear and reassured the community that he’s willing to help others and hopes that his story shows that recovery is possible through hard work and determination.

“My son is here with me today, you have no idea what that means to me,” Verle emotionally expressed. “My daughter was by my side all day today, like she wasn’t going to let me go again. If it wasn’t for the wellness court, I don’t know where I’d be – if I’d even still be here.  They gave me the opportunity to experience something that works for my life. I didn’t know which way to turn, so I figured I’d try something different and I’m grateful for it. When I first went to treatment, I told my wife that I’m in the place that I need to be. I had to work on myself and show who I really was on the inside; I had to find myself again. I want to thank the wellness court for it all. I now plan to go through the rest of my life bringing the next person closer to where they’re supposed to be, to where they’re needed.”

For more information about the Healing to Wellness Court, please contact (360) 716-4773.

Illicit fentanyl linked to increasing number of overdose deaths in the state

Press Release, Tulalip Police Department

The Washington State Department of Health reports that illicit fentanyl is being detected in new forms and is causing an increasing number of overdose deaths in the state.

In the first half of 2018, there have been 81 deaths linked to fentanyl, versus 48 deaths recorded during the same time last year. This represents an almost 70 percent increase.

Public health officials urge people who use opioids to take these actions to help protect themselves from an overdose:

  • Seek treatment.
  • Carry naloxone.
  • If you witness an overdose, call 911, give naloxone and do rescue breathing. Fentanyl may require multiple doses of naloxone to restore breathing.
  • Never use drugs alone.
  • Be careful about using too fast. Fentanyl is fast acting and deadly. Many experienced opioid users have overdosed or died by using too much, too quickly.

Tulalip has adopted the Lois Luella Jones Law, if you have a friend who is overdosing; you can and should call 911.The law says neither the victim nor persons assisting with an overdose will be prosecuted for drug possession.

Naloxone is a lifesaving medication used to counteract opioid overdose. Naloxone kits are now available FREE for Tulalip Tribal members at Family Services 360-716-4400. Kits are also available at the Tulalip Pharmacy through your insurance company. In addition, visit StopOverdose.org for additional locations that provide Naloxone.

Tulalip Family Services can also help tribal members detox and get treatment, 360-716-4400 or https://www.tulaliphealthsystem.com/BehavioralHealth/ChemicalDependency

Non-natives can seek help by visiting, http://www.warecoveryhelpline.org/or calling, 1-866-789-1511.

Robert K. Swanson (1926 – 2018)

On Monday, November 26, 2018, Bob passed away at home surrounded by his loved ones. He was 92. Bob was born September 28, 1926, the first child of Nickolia and Bessie Swanson of Cicero, WA. Bob attended Arlington High School and joined the Navy in the summer of 1942. He served aboard the LST 808 that took part in the Iwo Jima landing, and the Okinawa landing. On May 14, 1945, the LST 808 was torpedoed by a Japanese aircraft off Ille Shima. Bob achieved the rank of Quarter Master 3(QM3). He was given an honorable discharge, including many awards and medals on July 16, 1946. After Bob’s years of service he went to work in the woods as a logger and did this off and on for years. He also worked in the shingle mills and while learning the saw shingles gave up the ends of several of his fingers. Later Bob became a commercial fisherman and rebuilt two old wrecked boats to make them his fishing vessels. Bob is survived by the love of his life, wife, Sandra. Together they lived an adventurous life for 50 years. They fished in Kodiak, Alaska for 12 years, as well as the Tulalip waters upon their return home. His survivors also include his son, Dale Swanson (Janice); daughter Cindy Swanson (Richard); grand-daughters, Emily Madden (Jarrod) and Phoebe Madden; grandson, Ben Ellis Swanson; and great-granddaughters, Rosemary Carey and Jaidan Anderson; and his youngest brother, Stephen Swanson (Judith). He was preceded in death by his mother and father; two sisters, Wanda and Rosemary; and his brother, Nick. A Memorial Service will be held at Schaefer-Shipman Funeral Home on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. A dinner will follow at the Tulalip Tribal Center.

Why study of criminal justice?

Submitted by Jeanne Steffener, Tulalip Tribes Higher Ed

The study of criminal justice covers all areas of the justice system. This includes detection of crime through the arrest phase, trial, sentencing and treatment and eventual release of the offender. Other goals include rehabilitation of offenders, prevention of other crimes and moral support for victims. The primary institutions of the criminal justice system include the police, prosecution and defense lawyers, the courts and prisons. The criminal justice field covers a large variety of career and interest options for potential students to explore. 

A four-year degree in Criminal Justice should emphasize a focus on social justice, diversity, community partnerships, systems thinking and skill development. A social justice lens should be adopted with more focus on harm reduction and rehabilitative and restorative approaches to crime and justice. This shift in focus can lead to a reduced rate of recidivism in previous offenders. 

Many occupations today require college educated applicants having these skills: strong communication, ability to problem solve, critical thinking, leadership, and ethical decision-making. The (BLS) Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth in employment in crime investigation and 12% increase in private security jobs in the future. This increased growth and the increasing numbers of baby boomers reaching retirement age ensures that law enforcement agencies will continue to hire qualified criminal justice professionals. The graphic of criminal justice careers to the left lists 32 different careers that are involved in the criminal justice field. Many positions in this field are both physically and mentally demanding, so a student is more likely to succeed if they have a genuine interest in both the law and the justice system. The criminal justice field rewards specialization and persistence and can also lead to fulfilling and well-paid careers. 

In a 4- year criminal justice program, you will learn to write reports, take fingerprints and document crime scenes. Your course work will cover a broad range of criminal justice topics including learning effective communication skills and professional ethics. Many organizations such as federal agencies (DEA, FBI and CIA), normally require at least a bachelor’s degree. More advanced education will help you to stand out with potential employers while increasing your ability to advance to a supervisory or administrative position. 

There is always a demand for knowledgeable professionals to protect our country and its citizens, due to the risks to the public’s safety. If you have perseverance and determination, you will more than likely enjoy a long and fruitful career in an area that is relatively immune to the ebb and flow of the private sector job market. 

The most compelling reason to pursue a degree in criminal justice is the opportunity it gives you to help other people. So if you are interested in investigating this field of study, please call the Higher ED staff at 360-716-4888 or email us at highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov for assistance with this educational path. 

Holiday season kicks off with Festival of Trees

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

 Extravagantly festive Christmas trees and wreaths, each decorated with its own unique theme and style, brightened the Orca Ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino during the 33rd annual Festival of Trees. 

The week-long celebration kicked off November 27 with Opening Night festivities, continued with the excitement-filled Gala Dinner and Live Auction on November 30, and concluded December 1 with the family friendly Teddy Bear Breakfast.

Each year, thousands of community members take part in the Festival of Trees – including volunteers, sponsors, and attendees – to raise funds for Children’s Services at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. For more than three decades, Providence Children’s Center has been providing comprehensive, family-oriented care and highly specialized therapies – such as physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy – for children with a wide variety of special needs.

“Knowing this is one of the largest charitable events for Snohomish County, it is appropriate for us to host and participate with goodwill and sharing the opportunity to help all children in need,” explained Marilyn Sheldon, manager of Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, on the importance of hosting the Festival and being the title sponsor. “We recognize that over 50% of Tulalip’s population is 0-24 years of age and Providence is our local hospital for care most tribal members use for emergency situations and other needs. Also, this event brings many people to our facilities for the week and encourages them to come back and host their own business/charity event at our venue.”

A highlight of the holiday season, the Festival of Trees provides entertainment for countless families and children. Whether it’s a black-tie evening with a three-course dinner or a free afternoon with cookies and Santa, the Festival’s variety of events offer holiday cheer for all kinds of crowds. The stunningly decorated Christmas trees won’t soon be forgotten as their specialized themes like ‘Tiding of Comfort’ and ‘Christmas with Rudolph’ to ‘Escape with Alaskan Wildlife’ and ‘Holiday at Hogwarts’ capture the imagination.

During the elegant Gala Dinner and Live Auction, the dazzling Christmas trees and wreaths were sold to the highest bidders, with proceeds going to Providence Children’s Services. Several of the trees were reserved to be put on display throughout the Children’s Center as a special treat for the kids this holiday season.

“We continue an annual tradition that has raised more than $11 million over the past 33 years for children and families who come to Providence for care,” stated Festival Chairs, Sean and Lisa Kelly. “Funds raised will not only provide critical support for pre-term and at-risk infants, but will also touch the lives of thousands of children in our community, from birth through age 18.”

The generosity of the donors and Festival attendees support Providence in growing and expanding the specialized therapies, equipment and educational classes that do so much to change young lives. All funds raised will support Providence programs and services such as Pediatrics, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, the Children’s Center, the Autism Center, and Camp Prov, a summer camp for children with special needs. 

For nearly two decades, Tulalip Tribes has been an important partner to Providence in the Northwest Washington Region, by helping provide the funding and support needs to care for the health of our growing community. Contributions made by Tulalip to Providence General Foundation since 2002 have totaled more than $700,000. For their dedication to the Festival of Trees, the Tulalip Tribes were honored with the third annual Spirit of Festival Award.

“The lives of thousands of children, that includes Tulalip tribal children, will be helped thanks to the generosity received from the Festival of Trees fundraising efforts,” said Board of Director Mel Sheldon, thirteen-year member of the Providence General Foundation. “We are very fortunate to have a relationship with Providence Medical Center and to support such an amazing opportunity that really looks at the bigger the picture. We all want to do our part to create a sustainable and healthy community.”

One of Snohomish County’s largest and most well attended holiday events, the Festival of Trees has been a beloved community tradition for 33 years. The magical setting and community spirit at the Festival is a wonderful kick-off to the holiday season. 

Tulalip Hawks win NW Regional title, next up World Championships in Ohio



By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

“On offense and defense, this team is simply amazing!” boasts James Madison, head coach of the 12-U Tulalip Hawks youth football team. “It’s been an honor to coach this team. From the coaches and players, to the parents and extended families, there is a strong sense of pride we all have representing our tribe. We’ve stuck together all season as one big family, and the results really show that.”

The results have been impressive, to say the least. A brand new team playing in the competitive North Sound Junior Football League for the first time, the Tulalip Hawks ‘Bantams’ received high praise as they dominated their competition during their (8-0) regular season. Then in the postseason they made quick work of their first two playoff foes, posting back-to-back 50-0 and 40-0 shutouts. 

It wasn’t until the league championship game vs. Lynnwood that the soaring Hawks finally played in a competitive game. But even then, after being tied 19-19 early in the 2nd half, they would close out the game with two impressive touchdown drives to seal their first-ever North Sound league championship.

Led by a core of talented Tulalip youngsters, the Hawks to this point were undefeated and scoring on average a whopping 40.7 points per game while only giving up a paltry 5.5 points to their opponents. Those impressive numbers on both sides of the ball, plus the league title qualified them to participate in a Northwest Regional tournament with a chance to play in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s World Championships, hosted at Canton, Ohio in mid-December.

“The vision of the Hall of Fame was to create the little league world series of football, a postseason tournament that stacks up the best programs in the country to crown a true national champion ,” explained Gary Howard, Pro Football Hall of Fame’s national scouting director. Each winner of the fourteen regional tournaments automatically qualifies for the national tournament.

The Northwest Regional tournament kicked-off for the Hawks on November 24, when they hosted the Bellingham Knights at the Tulalip Youth Complex. In front of a raucous home crowd, the Hawks continued to showcase their skyrocketing potential on both sides of the ball with a 39-6 dismantling of Bellingham. The win catapulted the young Hawks into the Regional championship game played at Archbishop Murphy High School. Their opponent was the Sedro Woolley Cubs, a team who hadn’t lost a game in two years.

  With two undefeated teams set to matchup for a regional title, the game was expected to a barnburner. However, as they’ve done all year, Tulalip made quick work of previously unbeaten Sedro Woolley with a series of game breaking athletic plays and timely defensive stops. The Hawks won the highly anticipated matchup 34-12. With the victory they were crowned Northwest Regional champs and earned the opportunity to play in Canton, Ohio for a national title. 

If the team success wasn’t enough, individual accolades were achieved by five stand-out Hawks players. 00 Ignacio Vega-Hillaire, 3 Gaylan Gray, 7 Ryelon Zackuse, 13 Jayden Madison, and 48 Gio Vega-Hernandez each received a hand delivered invitation to participate in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s elite three-day training camp. This invitation-only training camp features the best of the best in their age division, while offering a once in the lifetime opportunity to develop and train under the guidance of former NFL coaches and players. 

7 Ryelon Zackuse, 3 Gaylan Gray, 48 Gio Vega-Hernandez, 00 Ignacio Vega-Hillaire, and 13 Jayden Madison all received hand delivered invitations to participate in an elite three-day training camp sponsored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“This year is the first of many yet to come. We strive to get the most exposure at the National level for all youth in the Northwest,” said Board of Director Marlin Fryberg, Jr., who also serves as a Pro Football Hall of Fame regional scout. “Having teams and players represent us in Canton, Ohio will be a great thing for our youth football programs. It’ll be a once in a lifetime experience for the kids and their parents.”

Subaru Shares the Love with the Tulalip Foundation

Robb McCalmon, Roy Robinson Subaru General Sales Manager, with the Tulalip Foundation display.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

You may recall a heartwarming TV commercial from last year’s holiday season where several families and individuals sang a cover of the popular song, Put a Little Love in Your Heart. Towards the end of the commercial it was revealed to be an advertisement for Subaru, with a message of spreading love throughout the local communities of America. The company stated that for every new Subaru sold or leased during the holidays, they would donate $250 to the purchaser’s choice of charity, for a campaign known as the annual Subaru Share the Love event.

Their latest television spotlight showcases that over the past ten years, Subaru donated approximately $140 million through Share the Love, claiming the money raised help protect over one hundred National Parks, rescue over 50,000 animals, deliver over 2 million meals to elders across America and grant 1,800 wishes for youth living with life-threatening illnesses; donating the funds to the National Park Foundation, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Meals on Wheels America and Make-A-Wish Foundation respectively. 

In 2013, Subaru afforded each dealership the opportunity to choose a local charity or non-profit as a fifth option for their customers to choose from each year. Out of six hundred and thirty dealerships nationwide, six hundred and twenty-eight participate in the Share the Love event annually, including the friendly crew at Marysville Roy Robinson Subaru.

“We used to do Make-A-Wish, the Washington and Alaska chapter, but this year wanted to do something more local,” says Robb McCalmon, Roy Robinson Subaru General Sales Manager. “The Subaru Share the Love event is a campaign that Subaru does with their retailers starting each November and running through the new year. They allow us to partner with a hometown charity and it hit us last year that the community does so much for us, we want to return that love and show our appreciation. We reached out to some of the elders of the tribe and we discussed where the donation would best benefit the community, and with their guidance, we selected the Tulalip Foundation.”

The Tulalip Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s been dedicated to empowering the wellbeing of the Tulalip reservation and surrounding communities since 2007. The Foundation works with a number of programs to create a brighter future for the tribe; programs that are based on three important values to many tribal families: education, culture and justice. 

The organization originally began as a way to raise the remaining million dollars needed to open the Hibulb Cultural Center. Since the museum’s opening, the Foundation has raised money, accepted donations and applied for a number of grants to provide several programs and departments with money for events, incentives and services including the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Parent Committee, Tulalip Office of Civil Legal Aid, Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center and the Tulalip Veteran’s Quilt Project. Additionally, the Foundation also hosts a number of fundraisers throughout the year such as the Hibulb Cultural Center Salmon Bake and the Foundation’s annual Giving Tuesday event.  

“It was a huge surprise that we were selected for the Subaru Share the Love Event,” says Tulalip Foundation Executive Director, Nicole Sieminski. “We have to give credit to Gus Taylor. He’s a friend of one of the upper management team members at Roy Robinson. They mentioned to him that they were looking for a local charity for the event this year, Gus shared that information with Marjorie James, one of our trustees, and together they got the ball rolling.”

In recent years, the Share the Love event has generated upwards of $40,000 each year at the Marysville dealership, a number that Robb is hoping to match but Nicole and the Foundation isn’t necessarily anticipating, stating she’s happily thankful for whatever amount is raised. Because the final donation remains to be unknown until the end of the event, the Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustees will determine how the donation is distributed once the total is revealed. Robb ensures that his crew is dedicated to working hard this holiday season, with a goal of delivering a ‘big check’ to the foundation. Roy Robinson also created an information kiosk located inside the dealership so people buying or leasing a new car can learn more about the Tulalip Foundation when determining which of the five charities they can select. 

“Anybody who wants to buy or lease a new Subaru, we’ll give them the opportunity to donate that $250 towards the Tulalip Foundation,” he says. “It’s an awesome event during the holidays and we’re hoping for a successful season like we’ve seen over the past few years.”

The Tulalip Foundation is assisting with the upcoming Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Christmas Concert & Silent Auction and is also raising funds for the Tulalip Veteran’s Quilt Project by selling hand painted stone pendants, created by Tulalip Artist David Spencer Sr., at the Hibulb Cultural Center gift shop.

“We are so thankful to be selected as the hometown charity for Roy Robinson’s Subaru Share the Love event,” expresses Nicole. “We have a pretty broad umbrella and we now have the opportunity to support even more programs and help a lot of people. We’re excited to partner with a company that has such a large presence in the greater Marysville area and hopefully this will help get our name out there too, because right now we’re still pretty small in terms of a non-profit.”

 For more information, please visit Marysville Roy Robinson Subaru or contact the Tulalip Foundation at (360) 716-5400.