Tulalip and Stanford partnership strives to cure opioid-based addiction

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Native Americans are hit hardest by opioid addiction. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Native Americans have the highest drug overdose death rates and the largest percentage increase in the number of deaths over time from 1999-2015, compared to all other racial and ethnic groups. Indian Country is all too familiar with the opioid epidemic.

Opioid epidemic, seems like a trendy phrase that’s received national recognition recently. But on reservations across the country, Native families have been dealing with the pain, trauma, and loss associated with opioid use, from drugs like heroin and OxyContin, for a couple generations now.

With an aim to successfully combat a crisis that’s run rampant through the community for years, the Tulalip Tribes partnered with the brightest minds at Stanford University’s School of Medicine to create a one-of-kind medical cannabis research project. The goal: curing opioid-based addiction. 

An eagerly awaited community meeting took place on March 11 led by tribal leadership and Stanford scientists to share the leading edge study’s early indicators.

“Through Stanford’s expertise and reputation, our partnership will scientifically prove cannabis can cure addiction”, said Les Parks, Tulalip Tribes Board of Director.

“This meeting has been a long time coming,” stated Board of Director Les Parks. “We’ve been working on this medical cannabis research project since 2014, and this is the first time membership will be briefed with its details and results to date. Stanford is one of the most renowned universities in the country, if not the world, and happens to have a one-of-a-kind laboratory dedicated to the neurosciences. Through Stanford’s expertise and reputation, our partnership will scientifically prove cannabis can cure addiction.

“Nobody in this country has yet to scientifically prove that cannabis is an actual healer,” continued Les. “In partnering with Stanford University, our goal is to be the first to produce those scientific results. We think the cannabis plant has miraculous properties about it, such as healing the body and potentially curing type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and specific forms of cancer. First and foremost, we think cannabis can cure heroin addiction and all forms of opioid-based addiction.”

A painful, yet illuminating, moment was shared by all eighty community members who attended when Les asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if you have not been personally affected by the opioid crisis? If you have not had it affect your family or loved ones?” Not a single hand went up.

“Here in Tulalip, we’re losing 7 to 8 people a year to overdose,” shared Tulalip Tribes Vice-Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “This study and the implications for creating addiction therapies and remedies would be not only a game changer, but a life saver for our community.”

Tulalip Tribes Vice-Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, speaks on the benefits of using cannabis for healing opioid addictions.

People have used marijuana, also called cannabis, for a variety of health conditions for at least 3,000 years. More recently, individual components of marijuana or similar synthetic substances have also been used for health purposes. These substances are called cannabinoids.

Balancing traditional values with the realities of the 21st century means embracing a changing culture that views marijuana and cannabinoids as natural medicines, especially when compared to prescription pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals with countless side-effects and man-made chemicals that receive FDA approval, only to come out later those same chemicals cause a litany of damaging health concerns with sometimes fatal consequences.

The changing tide in not only popular opinion, but science-based evidence as well with regards to medicinal properties of cannabis is rapidly gaining momentum. Since 2014, when retail marijuana became legal in Washington State, consumers have spent $2.95 billion on various forms of cannabis, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Control Board.

Remedy, the Tulalip-owned retail cannabis store and one of the first legalized marijuana dispensaries in Indian Country, opened its doors in August 2018. Tulalip was originally seen as embracing cannabis for business purposes only, but now with the Stanford partnership and the study’s implications for saving lives that narrative is changing. 

  “The intellectual property, any and all results found in this study, whether it be related to diabetes, Alzheimer’s or whatever it may be, will be owned by Tulalip,” added Vice-Chairwoman Gobin. “The medical applications of cannabis are really exciting because not too long ago we declared a state of emergency for opioid addiction and if this research project can save just one life then it’s worth it.”

Dr. Annelise Barron, Stanford Associate Professor and bioengineer, was on hand to share early results of the study and to answer any questions concerned community members may have had.  

“It’s important for people to know this research we’re doing with whole cannabis oil, meaning it came from the whole plant, the leaves and the flowers, and its effect on addiction has never been studied before,” explained Dr. Barron. “This is the first time a study of this kind has been done, and it’s only possible because Tulalip invested in our ability to do the research.

“We’ve undertaken a research project to study the ability of cannabis oil extract to treat heroin addiction. In order to scientifically address this question we are conducting controlled studies at Stanford Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory. We’ve essentially done large-scale experiments that demonstrate cannabis oil suppresses the craving and desire to continue using heroin. This means, I think with high certainty, we would see the same effect on people if we treated them with cannabis oil after they stopped using heroin.”

Striving to cure opioid-based addiction, the Tulalip and Stanford partnership has a lot of work ahead of them including the peer review process and submission to medical journals. Yet, only ten months into a thirty month study, the early indications are most promising. Reiterating an earlier sentiment, if lives can be saved then it’s all worth it.

Moms Group is working to empower all mothers

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Every Tuesday, Tulalip Family Haven hosts a two-hour gathering for expectant, new and experienced moms, as well as grandmothers and aunties who are currently caring for their younger loved ones. Known as Moms Group, the class was created over ten years ago in an effort to build community and empower local women of all ages who are raising children. The program is currently hosted at the old Tulalip elementary and has continued year-round since originally debuting, delivering a positive and powerful experience for its participants throughout the years.

“We are a support group that allows mothers and women raising kids the opportunity to come together,” says Sasha Smith, Family Voices Coordinator and Moms Group moderator. “We wish to provide a sense of belonging, a sense that there’s other women in our community to support each other. This is a place where we can come and just talk about motherhood and ask questions that are hard to ask your doctor or anybody in your family. They’re able to open up and just have a healthy discussion about childbirth, raising your children and adolescents. It gets the moms out of the house and gives them something to look forward to every week.” 

The group enjoys a home cooked meal prepared by Sasha at the beginning of each gathering while catching up with one another. The moms then participate in daily activities such as crafting, working on their baby books or simply taking in wisdom from a variety of guest speakers.

“Lushootseed comes in and teaches the language during the first week of the month,” Sasha stated. “We have nutritionists, Annie Jensen and Brooke Morrison (SNAP-ED), who teach about healthy foods, how to prep and cook food. They guide us through some exercises and talk about the importance of being active. We also do a lot of arts and crafts and just enjoy spending time together.”

Sasha explained that the group members participate in an incentive program in which they create baby books. Moms take the time to recount the events that happened during the week and mark down whenever they performed a positive task, whether it was in the best interest of their family, such as taking their child to their doctor’s appointments, or if they set aside some time to recalibrate, focusing on self-care with a relaxing bath or a refreshing walk outdoors. Their points are then tallied and converted into a credit in which the moms can spend at the Moms Group store, purchasing essential items such as diapers, clothing and car seats. 

Moms group, by extension of Family Haven, is currently in a partnership with Tulalip Community Health and WIC (Women, Infants and Children supplemental program) to help young mothers learn and sign-up for the WIC program, providing rides to those moms in need of transportation to the monthly WIC event in Tulalip. And as an added bonus, those who attend three WIC events receive a gift card incentive.

Kids are welcome to tag along with their moms to the group. One mom notes that it’s an excellent way for her children to interact, meet and have fun with other youth of the community. On special occasions, participants bring in their newborns to meet the ladies of the group whose voices they heard during their mother’s pregnancy while she attended Moms Group.

Family Haven would like to send a shout out to the Tulalip Charitable Fund who continues to support Moms Group by funding a program where moms can learn from each other’s experiences and lend advice, as well as few tips and tricks to other mothers who are bringing up the future generations. 

“I came because I wanted to get connected with other moms,” expresses young mother Alayna Helland. “This is my first child. I don’t know anything about being a mom, so I wanted to learn some basic things and get some advice from other moms. A lot of my questions have been about labor and anticipating that – like what to expect during the actual birthing process. I enjoy learning about other resources like WIC and we do a clothes trade here [at Moms Group] as well. The main thing though is support, you get to talk to other moms and get that support and feedback. It’s nice to have a place where you can go and the people are kind and in the same situation as you are.”

For more information about Moms Group or the monthly WIC event, please contact Family Haven at (360) 716-4402.

RaeQuan named Youth of the Year

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

RaeQuan Battle’s inspirational journey from rez ball rookie to Marysville Pilchuck legend to University of Washington commit continues to demonstrate a seemingly limitless potential on the basketball court. Even with a bright future ahead of him and dreams of making the NBA, the 6-foot-5 human highlight real has never forgotten his roots. Those roots keep him grounded with a rare humility and silent strength that don’t go unnoticed by adults and youth alike.

That is just one of the many reasons RaeQuan was named by the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club as Youth of the Year. The 18-year-old high school senior was honored with a custom plaque and given some fancy gadgetry, a 2-in-1 Notebook/Tablet, in front of a crowd of his adoring young fans on March 12. 

For years, the Youth of the Year program has honored and celebrated the Club’s most inspiring teens and their incredible journeys. Stories of outstanding leadership, service, academic excellence and dedication to living a healthy lifestyle have made Youth of the Year a premier leadership and recognition program for teens. These amazing young people represent the voice and spirit of hope for children everywhere, inspiring kids to lead, to succeed, and to inspire.

“RaeQuan has been coming to our Boys & Girls Club since he was 5-years-old,” said Club Director Mark Hatch. “We see his greatness with basketball, but more importantly we see how he’s become a true inspiration for our young ones who look up to him as an example of what’s possible through hard work and dedication.”

“He was chosen for his volunteering and mentoring with the youth, and for his community service, sportsmanship and demeanor,” added Office Manager Diane Prouty.

Each year, one exceptional Club member is selected to be Youth of the Year, serving as an ambassador for Boys & Girls Club youth. Over the years, these individuals have exemplified the Boys & Girls Club mission and are proof to the impact Clubs make in creating life changing opportunities that transform the lives of countless Club kids.

“The first time I ever played basketball was here. I fell in love with basketball right here,” reflected RaeQuan as he stood in the Club’s gym with a horde of basketball fledglings around him, each eager to witness one of his gravity defying dunks. “I want all the kids to know they can turn out just like me or be even better. All they have to do is take advantage of their opportunities.” 

Following the ceremony, RaeQuan’s mother Jacquie Williams shared, “Having the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club for my kids to attend and grow up at has been a true blessing. RaeQuan wouldn’t be who he is today if not for all the experiences and lessons learned by being a Club kid.”

beda?chelh extends support and resources to local families

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Parenting is an on-going learning experience. In your relationship with your child there are many dynamics that are constantly changing as you each grow. And although your kids provide you with a lifetime of cherished memories, there are also trying times and intense moments where kids will naturally rebel and forgo your instruction and advice. In extreme matters, parents may feel like they are losing control and as misbehavior continues, they may feel fed up and not know where to turn for help. 

Did you know that there are a handful of Children’s Administration evidence-based programs available to parents and caretakers of the community by referral through beda?chelh? By requesting assistance from a beda?chelh social worker, Tulalip families can participate in programs that address their specific needs and are geared toward improving and restoring family relationships. There are seven programs in total that range in public classroom-style settings to private in-home sessions; and each program specializes in certain age groups, varying from birth to eighteen.  

Tulalip tribal member and Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Manager Jade Carela is currently working on attaining her master’s degree. In doing so, Jade has taken up a 12-hour a week internship with beda?chelh, on top of her very busy schedule. She explained that as a part of her training, she wants to educate the community about these resources and inform local parents about how beda?chelh can assist their family without removing the child from the home. 

“You can call beda?chelh and talk to a social worker like, hey I’m having these issues, what programs can I benefit from?,” she explains. “beda?chelh would have to make a referral for the family to these services. If you have an open case or a referral comes in about you, and beda?chelh goes out to talk to you, then they can refer you to these services without opening a dependency on your child. The CPS workers would set-up a safety plan with you so they can keep in contact to make sure that program’s working for you.

“Another way is parents can actually call the CPS intake line, which is 1(866) END-HARM, and request services for their family. The state will then open a family volunteer service case (FVS), but it’s just to monitor and assist the family while they’re choosing which program would be best for them to utilize.”

For years, beda?chelh social workers have dedicated their careers to ensuring Tulalip children are safe, first and foremost, and continue living within their families and community, which allows the kids to engage in their culture and learn about their heritage if removed from their homes. The tribal-based child protective services program has seen a number of reunifications over the years, guiding parents in the right direction who are actively pursuing custody of their children. beda?chelh is involved with both the child and parent from the moment a concern is reported, throughout the placement process as well as post-reunification. When a parent reaches out to beda?chelh for additional support, the social workers will not only refer them to the appropriate program, they will also attend all of the sessions to observe and help moderate.  

After a family is reunified, they may experience difficulties getting reacclimated and conflict may arise. At this point in time, a social worker can discuss the issues happening in the home with the family and refer them to one of the evidence-based programs.

A brief summary of each of the seven programs are listed as follows; Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) an in-home 10 to 14-week program for children ages 2 to 16 years old that focuses on increasing safety, improving the parent’s ability to deal with the child’s behavior in different situations and decrease emotional and developmental problems in the child’s behavior; Project Safe Care, for ages birth to 5, is an in-home service for 18 to 22 weekly visits. The program aims to increase home safety and child supervision, improve parent and child relationships and learn the appropriate use of regular and emergency care; 

The Incredible Years (IY) which offers three classes – baby class (birth to 8 months), toddler class (9 months to 2 years old) and preschool class (2 to 8 years old). Expected outcomes from IY include the child understanding their feelings, improving problem solving and coping skills and also decreasing the amount hitting and yelling at home or at school; Parent-Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) is intended for ages 2 to 7 where therapists will place an earpiece in the parent’s ear and coach them through an interaction with their child behind a one-way mirror; 

Family Functional Therapy (FFT) is for the older kids between 11 and 18 and is in-home for 10 to 15 weekly sessions. This program discusses appropriate discipline, increasing communication between the family, reducing teen substance abuse and stabilizing youth’s behavior and academics at school; Promoting First Relationships (PFR) is a 10 to 14-week program that is in-home where therapists teach new parenting skills through live coaching; and Intensive Family Preservation Services (Homebuilders) specializes in birth to 18. This 4 to 6-week intensive intervention program requires face-to-face family time and is focused on connecting families with natural support within their community while also teaching crisis intervention, life skills and cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

“I just don’t think the community knows that these different services can be offered to people and families,” says Jade. “I think that it’s so important to let the community know that beda?chelh is not just here as social workers, but they can actually refer you out to these different services that you can utilize through different parts of your life with your family. Or if you’re a parent who has a troubled teen, it’s not that you want CPS or beda?chelh to come get your kid, but you need some help, some structure, some skills and they can refer you to a program that can come into your home and work with you and your kiddo.”

For additional details, please contact beda?chelh at (360) 716-3284.

Like A Hammer

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

At the intersection of 1st Avenue and University Street in downtown Seattle is a large sculpture of a craftsman utilizing a hammer outside of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). For decades, the museum has been the home to a collection of diverse artwork celebrating the many cultures from around the world, including several installations and exhibits that highlight traditional Indigenous artwork such as carvings and paintings.  This spring, the SAM decided to host a major exhibit that was first curated and featured at the Denver Art Museum and showcases the works of Choctaw and Cherokee Artist Jeffrey Gibson who, much like the craftsman sculpture, used a hammer to attract the masses and break into the art world, albeit metaphorically. 

“Like A Hammer as a title has always been conceptually and philosophically the idea of a hammer being used as a tool of deconstruction and reconstruction,” Jeffrey stated in a video displayed within the exhibit.  “In particular, like a DIY ethic. It’s this simple tool that a single person can alter something with.”

Located on the top floor showroom of SAM, the Like A Hammer exhibit invites visitors to explore Jeffery’s mind and vivid imagination as his creations serve as a reflection of who he is, all while paying tribute to the history of the art, material and words that inspire his artwork, drawing ideas from his culture, modern music and personal life.

The exhibit features over sixty-five unique pieces from Jeffery’s collection, all of which were created after 2011 following a huge revelation that found him deconstructing and reconstructing many areas of his life. In a lecture at the New York Studio School, Jeffery explained that he nearly gave up his passion after his material was rejected by several art museums and studios. He was so upset that one day he took all of his paintings to his local laundromat and put them through three back-to-back wash cycles. 

After hearing this news, Jeffery’s friend recommended him to a counselor for anger management. The counselor in turn suggested physical activity as a way to take out his aggression, so he joined a nearby gym and it was here where he had his first breakthrough.

“I sat down [with my counselor] for my first session and all these issues around race, class, gender and homophobia came out very easily,” he said. “What we began talking about was this disjoint between the mind and the body. Ultimately, he recommended that I worked with a physical trainer and the physical trainer is the first one who introduced me to the bag. When working out aggression on the punching bag, my trainer would ask me to name what I was punching – to name who I was angry at, what were my obstacles. And somehow this naming and projecting, and then literal hitting, was meant to unify what was happening up here [in my head] with what was happening in the body.”

The beaded Everlast punching bag is perhaps Jeffery’s most notable work to date. Approximately fifteen colorful bags are displayed throughout the exhibit, all featuring traditional beadwork with contemporary designs. On several punching bags, Jeffery incorporates the lyrics of his favorite songs into his beadwork such as ‘If I Ruled the World’ by Nas and Lauryn Hill as well as ‘I Put a Spell On You’ by Nina Simone. In addition to lyrics and beadwork, Jeffrey also included various elements of ceremonial regalia like jingles, sinew and fringe.

“The punching bag was a lifesaver for me in the sense that it was able to, as a format and materials, encompass the narrative for the first time. This idea of adornment and regalia defused the violence of a punching bag. Where it coincided is that these traditional people were wearing garments that they made, that identified them as different from the mainstream. They felt very proud, they carried their history with them and they had happiness and sadness. There was something about it that I thought was different from fashion, it is a garment that really signifies your identity and it’s a garment that indicates that you are working and moving through the world differently. It also commanded respect. Ultimately this all melded together into the bags. Once the bags started, I started looking at all sorts of different tribal aesthetics. The powwow is an intertribal event. It’s an event where the dancers, although they are relative to tradition, they are encouraged to innovate, they are encouraged to individuate themselves and there are lots of different modern innovations that happen.”

The lyrics and wordplay aren’t limited to the punching bags. In fact, Jeffery repurposed a number of traditional wool blankets into contemporary art that hang on the wall of the museum and garner a lot of attention from local art enthusiasts. Memorable lines from ‘Time (Clock of the Heart)’ by the Culture Club, ‘Fight the Power’ by Public Enemy as well as a quote by writer James A. Baldwin are spelled out in glass beads on the blankets. SAM also displayed a number of Jeffrey’s geometrical paintings which he constructed on rawhide as well as sculpted figurines that don traditional regalia, such as jingle dresses and shawls.

The exhibit ends in a room with rainbow curtains covered with bold letters that read ‘Don’t Make Me Over’ and ‘Accept Me for What I Am’. Projected on the wall is a video presentation by Jeffrey in which he is dressed in customized ceremonial garb and performing spoken word and song on a traditional hand drum. 

Although, the Like A Hammer exhibit displays artwork that explores the identity of Jeffery Gibson as a proud queer Indigenous creative, his intention behind his work is the hope that others can identify with the art, whether through triumph or struggle, and find a sense of community as well as inspire the next generations to come to simply be themselves. 

“Indigenous history and crafts provides this incredible infinite use of materials and content that I really feel privileged to have access to. When I decided to start making again, I was determined to make what I wanted to see. I started to use the word maker because it allowed me to go into everything from garments, to video, to sculptures; embrace textiles, and adornment and the decorative without feeling the boundary of what art is perceived to be. I look for words that I imagine a viewer can actually place themselves in. I move forward as an artist on the trust that we all share a similar experience. Ultimately everyone is at an intersection of multiple cultures, times, histories. The world is shifting and changing and if you’re engaged in the world, you are also shifting and changing.”  

Like A Hammer is a must-see-in-person exhibit and is currently on display until May 12. For tickets and more info, please contact the Seattle Art Museum at (206) 625-8900 or visit www.SeattleArtMuseum.org. 

Finding Your Way with Diabetes

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On the evening of March 7, the Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention program hosted their first Finding Your Way with Diabetes gathering of the year in the newly constructed conference room at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. After great success last summer, the interactive course was brought back to help local diabetics get a better understanding of how to manage their diabetes.

Finding Your Way with Diabetes is led by Diabetes Educators, Miguel Arteaga (RN) and Natasha LeVee (PharmD) who guide the participants through an hour and a half long class that includes games, snacks and plenty of laughter. Participants are encouraged to share their stories with their fellow diabetics to give insight into the disease and how it can affect others in both similar and different ways. 

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Native Americans are still at great risk and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, but because of programs like Diabetes Care and Prevention, Indigenous Peoples living with diabetes are learning how to responsibly manage their blood glucose levels, eat healthy nutritious foods, and participate in physical activity as well as gain more general knowledge about diabetes. 

“The inspiration behind the class is we we’re trying to figure out a way to provide something for [diabetics] that was kind of like the Wisdom Warriors,” says Miguel. “The Wisdom Warriors is a self-help group where people learn skills and get together like a family, have a meal and share with one another. We wanted somethingthat lets us facilitate discussion between all the people, where they’re all learning from one another and they see that they’re not by themselves. They end up teaching each other, and we just provide some friendly expertise along the way.”

At the start of each class, Miguel and Natasha ask the participants if there are any topics they would like to discuss, compiling a list of subjects to touch upon as the class progresses. The students then use a road map, which looks like a giant board game, for the remainder of the class. The road map provides several games like ‘Fact or Myth’ as well as a variety of discussion topics allowing the participants to engage in healthy conversation regarding nutrition, insulin, medication, types of diabetes as well as their daily successes and struggles as they work their way through the map. 

“The reason why this is in a real colorful format is to give people some talking points,” Miguel explains. “We’re talking about living your life better and we treat it like a road map. That’s why it has the road and multiple stops where we talk about certain topics, later on when we get into nutrition, we’ll talk about places where you can eat, getting fast food and where to find more nutritious foods. We talk about things that happen in real life and the decision process of how to keep ourselves safe. We’re trying to get good information out to people so they’re more empowered and they can make better decisions about how they’re going to live their lives.”

The Finding Your Way with Diabetes class provides an opportunity for local diabetics and their families to find a sense of community. The first class was an intimate gathering where three individuals became acquainted and shared their personal journey. Community member Jim Dunham and Tulalip tribal member Marvin Jones, who both have type 2 diabetes, welcomed newcomer Daniel Charlie to the group. Daniel shared his history, explaining how he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few short years ago. He nearly lost his life due to a rough bout of pancreatitis that put him into a hospital for ten months, in which he was in a coma for over four of those months. Jim and Marvin were both flabbergasted as he described his story. They commended him for fighting for his life and also encouraged him to keep pushing forward, advising him to take it one day at time while also extending their support as he continues living with diabetes. By the end of the class Daniel was embraced with hugs and personal discussion from both the participants and the instructors.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Miguel states. “To provide something that’s more like a self-help group than just telling them information and giving them papers, saying here read this. We want to let people know that they’re welcome, that they have something to share. This is not something that anybody needs to feel bad about, ashamed or guilty about. It’s something that happens and there are certain ways we need to act or skills we need to develop to take care of it. I hope people will read this article and want to be a part of this or if they know someone with diabetes and want to learn more about it, to get their family member here so we can help them have a better life.”

Finding Your Way with Diabetes is hosted at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic every Thursday in March from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The Diabetes Care and Prevention program has an eventful year planned for the community, including several garden days at the clinic and cooking classes with Britt Reed, as well as a new class, Seven Skills to Live with Diabetes, where they will go into further detail about diabetes management. 

If you or a loved one is living with diabetes, Miguel and Natasha encourage you to drop by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program at the clinic so they can answer any questions, provide you with resources and set you up with a personalized plan to help manage your diabetes. For further information, please contact the Diabetes program at (360) 716-5642.