Restorative Justice returning to Tulalip courthouse

Tribal Court logo


By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News 

What’s the surefire way to stop a behavior? Punish it, right? From schools, to workplaces, animal training to penitentiaries we see examples everywhere. Obviously, punishment works or we wouldn’t keep doing it. Except, in some cases, common wisdom is entirely wrong. Punishment doesn’t work, as evidenced by the number of repeat offenders in jails and prisons across the country.

First, we have to look at why people commit crime. Picture this individual: 30-something, active drug user since the eighth grade. This person began using drugs to escape from abuse that was never disclosed to the immediate family. This person has no job, is couch surfing most nights but occasionally living in a tent. This person has severe tooth decay from a combination of drug use, malnutrition and lack of dental care. Stealing and selling stolen items has become a form of income to fund a continuous supply of drugs. By the time this person is arrested and in court, the person’s family, having been lied to and stolen from when they assisted in the past, is unwilling to help the person any longer.

“The traditional Judeo Christian justice system is about stigmatization,” said Tulalip Prosecutor Brian Kilgore. “When all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. Traditionally, you do something bad and we punish you and you don’t do it again. In most places a lot of criminality is driven by drug or alcohol addiction. At the end of the day, no one wants to be an addict and nobody wants to be a criminal. Relying on a traditional justice system is not the right way to do it and not the effective way to do it.”

The solution has been around for thousands of years in Native America, it’s called restorative justice. In a self-governance class taught through Northwest Indian College, tribal Judge Mark Pouley told a story.

“August 5th 1881, a member of the Sioux tribe named Crow Dog, shot and killed the chief of the tribe, Spotted Tail,” described Pouley. “The murder was dealt with internally by the tribe, by having Crow Dog pay $600, 8 horses and one blanket. The justification for that kind of tradition is an emphasis on healing the wound to the community and the accountability for the wrongdoing is reparation to the community, to the surviving victims, that is the more important thing, the idea of reparation and healing.”

The sentiment in the nearby non-Indian community was that requiring only restitution was the opposite of justice, that the man should be hanged to ‘punish’ him for his crime. The tribe involved, however, knew that the tribal community and Crow Dog would both be better served by reintegrating Crow Dog into the community.

Unlike many small communities, tribal citizens are uniquely tied to their geographic community. Many tribes require residency or physical proximity to a reservation to be enrolled, access services and participate in governance. This means that regardless of criminal history, tribal citizens are less likely to leave the Reservation permanently. Brian explained that true justice is served by setting people up to succeed, not just punishing them when they fail. Enter the idea of a specialty courts and alternative sentencing.

“Nationally there’s a movement across the country to provide wrap-around services to people with drug addiction,” Brian described. “Specialty courts are diversion programs that focus on specific groups of people and specific causes of crime. Veterans courts have popped up, drug courts, family courts. They all allow you to keep crimes off your record.”

Instead of receiving jail or prison time for crimes, specialty courts try to find and treat root causes of crimes. Instead looking at sentencing as a way to punish a person for being bad, the court works to heal the person so they don’t behave badly.

“Overwhelming data shows that specialty courts are effective, humane and save money,” declared Brian. “They are more intensive up front, but you have less recidivism (recidivism = the tendency of a criminal to re-offend) and people are living their lives instead of coming back through the system.”

Tulalip is currently building a Healing to Wellness Court. Recall our imaginary 30-something criminal? That person is the ideal candidate for this type of court.

“It will be a uniquely Tulalip court that gives people the support they need to be successful and get to the root causes of what drives the criminal behavior,” said Brian. “A wellness court coordinator establishes linkages with other services. Users have serious medical needs. One of the things that might bring them back to substance abuse is chronic pain, mental health, trauma or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

“The current system feels a lot like a game of whack-a-mole,” described Brian. “We fix one thing then another pops up. . If all you offer an addict is housing, then in a couple years you have drug houses. If you only offer counseling, then individuals with addictions to meth move onto opiates to treat pain because they have raw exposed nerves in their teeth from tooth decay. You have to address all the issues at the same time if you want people to change. That’s not happening in our current system.

“In a lot of ways specialty courts are less punitive and more closely supervised,” Brian continued. “We’ll have someone from Behavioral Health working with us on every case, every day. A community member will make linages with cultural and community activities. There is a drug culture and you have to reintegrate them [an addict] into non-drug culture, otherwise they’ll slip back into it [addiction]. The difference is that we’re trying to put the re-integrative part back in. We’re going to help people build bridges.”

Many may recall Tulalip’s previous efforts to provide restorative justice, including the Elders’ Panel. Those efforts heaped additional duties on already strained staff, and relied heavily on unpaid staff.

“Structurally it wasn’t very robust,” said Brian. “You had a lot of people who were volunteers, there was some staff turnover and that was the end of it. What we’re doing differently is this will be part of people’s jobs and there is also funding behind it. It’s not going to be something that can fade away. We’ll be working with more departments and gathering more metrics so we can show how we’re being successful.”

Brian estimates that 25% of the court’s current caseload would be good candidates for the Healing to Wellness program.

“At the end of the day, this is a court program for anyone who is ready to make a change in their life and wants to address the reasons they’re sitting in that orange jumper. If they’re not ready to make a change, this program is not for them.

Prosecutors often have a reputation for power tripping or being just plain mean, so it may seem strange that the Prosecutor’s Office is help spearhead a less punitive and more compassionate court system.

“Long before I was in law enforcement as a lawyer I did a ride along with a Walla Walla police officer. He said, ‘every time I have an interaction with the public, I want them to say thank you.’ He was absolutely right. Police are here to serve and protect, and so are prosecutors. People should feel they were treated fairly, not that they won, but that they were treated fairly.

“It’s a great privilege to be a prosecutor. Prosecuting someone is an intervention point.  A bad prosecutor can ruin people’s lives. A good prosecutor has the power to transform the lives of people, both those that they prosecuted and those who were victims of crimes. Justice is a powerful ideal, and that’s what we’re about. A prosecutor’s job is to see justice done.”

The Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court is slated to begin January 2017. Keep your eye on the syəcəb for updates and information about the Healing to Wellness Court.

Make Today Great: Community Members Empower Our Future




by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On the crisp spring morning of Friday, March 25, the students of Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary were greeted by some unexpected visitors. Parents, grandparents, siblings, community members, and volunteers lined the student drop-off sidewalk holding rally signs and giving waves of encouragement.

Prior to the commencement of the school day, the sign wielding rallyteers joined the students at their morning assembly. The goal? To show our youth that we do care about their education and support all their efforts.

During the assembly Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher and coordinator of the rally, asked several students, “How did it feel when you saw your friends and family welcoming you to school, holding these signs?”

These were a few of the students’ responses: “I felt happy.” “Awesome!” “Made me feel good.” “It made me feel welcome.”

Following the assembly, See-Yaht-Sub staff discussed the meaning and impact of the morning’s event with Natosha.




What was the reasoning behind the Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary rally? 

“During campaign season, with all the signs that go up and the roller coaster of feelings within the community, some positive vibes needed to be put out there. Not to attach to anyone’s name, not for a campaign, but to uplift, empower and encourage others. After seeing a post where my friend and fellow Tulalip tribes employee, Trisha Montero-Higgonbotham, spent an afternoon holding up positive messages, I knew this would be a great opportunity to spread blessings in our community.”


Why is it important to uplift our young ones? And what did meant to you and our community to hear the students say it made them feel good and welcome to school seeing the signs?

“Our youth are surrounded by chaos at times, no matter how much we try to protect them from it. Some of the simple things like going to school every day can be exhausting. I have five kids and four of them attend Quil Ceda Tulalip. They love their school and are proud to be a part of a cultural rich environment. Everyone is going into Spring Fever mode, so we wanted to show the kids some support and try to start their day off with some positive vibes. Hopefully it would stay with them the whole day as they interacted with others. Everyone says education is important, but how can we really help make sure our students feel supported? This was a success in making them feel loved, supported, encouraged, and welcome.”
Do you plan to hold more rallies like this one?

“We would like to spread these blessings on a regular basis, reaching out to other local schools, reaching out to the various tribal business buildings, our seniors and elders, to show that we all love and care for one another and that simple reminder can change someone’s day for the better, and carry those blessings with them wherever they go.”


How would you like to see them grow and become a common occurrence? 

“We also want to create positive signs for our addicts, including weatherproof flyers giving them direction to resources to get clean. We all know where the drug houses are and we can post signs around there. We all know and love an addict, and want to save them. Tough love works sometimes but a silent reminder that someone is loved and has a choice is worth the attempt if it saves someone from walking up to the door of a dealer or down a road to use.”




Was this part of Natural Leaders?

“This was not a part of Natural Leaders, but I knew that the parents involved in Natural Leaders would be more than happy to help. When I shared Trisha’s post and mentioned I wanted to create signs for our community, I had some community members who wanted to be a part of it. Yvonne Williams, Eliza Davis and I spent a Friday night making the first set of signs. I made the remaining signs and put out a call to anyone who was interested to join us at the school.”


Looked like there were three Heritage students taking part in the rally.

“Yes, Yvonne Williams brought her two oldest kids, Roselynne Jablonksi and Nate Williams along with another Heritage student. Our young ones look up to our older high school students. It means a lot to have them participate and support the younger generation.”



Tulalip feels the Bern


Photo/ Nicole Willis


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; photos courtesy Nicole Willis

Native Americans are the first Americans, yet they have for far too long been treated as third class citizens.  It is unconscionable that today, in 2016, Native Americans still do not always have the right to decide on important issues that affect their communities.  The United States must not just honor Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, it must also move away from a relationship of paternalism and control and toward one of deference and support.  The United States has a duty to ensure equal opportunities and justice for all of its citizens, including the 2.5 million Native Americans that share this land.  It is no secret that this isn’t the case today.*

“Time and time again, our Native American brothers and sisters have seen the federal government break solemn promises, and huge corporations put profits ahead of the sovereign rights of Native communities.  As President, I will stand with Native Americans in the struggle to protect their treaty and sovereign rights, advance traditional ways of life, and improve the quality of life for Native communities,” states Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has repeatedly acknowledged the need to correct the U.S. history books and openly apologized for the wrongs done to Native people. It’s easy to understand why Natives from all across Indian Country are choosing to ‘feel the Bern’ and rally behind a candidate who honors us in such an honest and sincere manner.

Sanders continues to gain support and more momentum towards his bid for the White House, evident in his holding the largest political rally Seattle has seen since Obama in 2008. An estimated 18,000 people showed up at KeyArena on Sunday, March 20 to show their support for the Vermont senator.

Amongst his horde of supporters were many respected leaders and representatives of Coast Salish tribes, including Tulalip’s own Chairman Mel Sheldon and recently re-elected Board of Directors Theresa Sheldon and Bonnie Juneau.

“For the first time in my life a U.S. Presidential candidate spoke on Native American issues during his national platform. Elevating tribes to the national platform is a big deal,” says Theresa Sheldon. “It’s so important for tribes to be engaged and visible during this Presidential election. Our relationship is with the federal government, therefore we need to be present and participate in the civic process.”


Photo/Nicole Willis

Photo/Nicole Willis


During the rally, five Tulalip tribal members (Theresa, Bonnie, Deborah Parker, Monie Ordania and Justice Napeahi) took center stage to perform the Women’s Warrior song.

“We are thankful the creator gave us an opportunity to sing the Women’s Warrior song from our First Nations relatives at the Bernie Sanders rally,” adds Theresa. “The Women’s Warrior song honors and acknowledges the missing and murdered indigenous women who have been taken from us way before their time.”

In a more private setting, Sanders met with a tribal delegation including NCAI President Brian Cladoosby, VAWA champion Deborah Parker and Yakama leaders including Asa Washines.

It was during this setting that the Coast Salish leaders honored Bernie Sanders with a Lushootseed name.

“Native American leaders named Bernie Sanders ‘δΞσηυδιϖυp’ (pronounced dooh-s-who-dee-choop),” Deborah wrote on Facebook. “This name is now bestowed upon Bernie Sanders and will be known among the Coast Salish people and beyond. The Lushootseed language meaning is ‘the one lighting the fires for change and unity.’ Thanking our Tulalip language teacher Natosha Gobin for helping us with Bernie Sanders Lushootseed name.”




According to Theresa, Sanders’ rally was historical for many reasons. Sanders has not only been a huge supporter of native issues, but he continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with tribes on such important issues as Violence Against Women and Oak Flats. He is an absolute protector of Mother Earth and he gives tribes total credit for the conservation and protection of the Earth that we do. If push comes to shove and the U.S. President has to make the call to either support treaty rights or to support corporate America and Army Corp of Engineers in the permit to build the coal terminal at Cherry Point, then you can guarantee that Sanders will go with treaty rights and support the tribes.

This is a huge shift that is happening nationally. Tribes are finally elevating themselves to the appropriate level, forcing mainstream media and corporate America to pay attention to us. When we are seen and heard by candidates, we can and will make a difference.



Partners in education, building community

 “I heard three different kids say, ‘man those guys were fun’ when talking about the police officers. They didn’t come here to be scary, they came here to be community members supporting our kids and our students took notice of that.”- Chrissy Dulik Dalos, Manager, Marysville School District Indian Education Department

“I heard three different kids say, ‘man those guys were fun’ when talking about the police officers. They didn’t come here to be scary, they came here to be community members supporting our kids and our students took notice of that.”
– Chrissy Dulik Dalos, Manager, Marysville School District Indian Education Department


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

There is a saying at Totem Middle School, PRIDE in our Learning and POWER in our Actions. Normally a saying applied to only the students and faculty, it took a much larger scale on Thursday, March 17, as it was applied to a sense of community.

During the normal scheduled 6th, 7th, and 8th grade lunch times, Totem Middle School welcomed all family and community members of Native students to enjoy a complimentary lunch while visiting with the middle-schoolers. It provided a perfect opportunity to stay connected with students, faculty, and friends while building something much larger – student success and identity safety.

“Part of identity safety is looking around the school and seeing people who look like you, knowing those around you, and feeling comfortable in a familiar setting,” says Chrissy Dulik Dalos, manager of the Indian Education Department for Marysville School District. “Our Native students go from being 80 percent of the population at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary to 20 percent here at Totem Middle School. We have to be vigilant that our Native students feel they are in an identity safe environment and one way of doing that is to ensure they recognize how important they are to our school’s community.”




Fostering a sense of community while also helping to bolster identity safety was particularly achieved by way of a simple open invite to have lunch. In order to get community members who Native students are comfortable with at their school and responsive to the invite, school officials went with the lunch hour. Understanding that a lot of folks are preoccupied in the late afternoon and evening hours, and not to pry into hours that may already be reserved, the time slot of 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. was chosen.

“We chose the lunch strategy to see if we could get more people involved,” continued Chrissy. “I think it paid off. We ended up with about 65 people that joined our students for lunch. That’s pretty phenomenal.”

That’s 65 Tulalip community members made up of family, friends, staff, Board of Directors, and law enforcements officers who took time out of their busy day to connect with the students. Spanning the lunch time, community members could be seen sharing a meal with the students, playing pool and foosball with them, simply chit-chatting, and even sharing in the craze that is March Madness. Students are allowed to use their Chomebooks for entertainment during their lunch. A few of the students managed to stream March Madness games and found themselves sharing their computer screens with several very attentive adults.

“For me, as an administrator, I have a strong belief that school is the center of the community, and this school has a unique location serving unique populations from Marysville and Tulalip,” explains Tarra Patrick, Principal of Totem. “So how do we create a situation where it is reconnected to the community? There is a power in breaking bread together. If you are a student here and you see your family come in and you see the principal and teachers deferring to your family, then you realize your family can come and advocate for you. This is an opportunity for the kids to also see the bridge between the school faculty, the students and their families, that’s what makes us a community.”

It really does all add up. Whether openly acknowledged or not, the Native students of Totem saw how many of their family and community members took the opportunity to spend time with them. And isn’t that what kids need the most? To feel valued by the adults around them, to know that they are important and that they matter. It’s not the sound of our words, but the POWER in our Actions that determines this.

We are all partners in education. From the teachers, secretaries, food preparers, maintenance workers, to family and friends we all have one common goal and that’s to see our students succeed. When we work together, every child can succeed in school.

Principal Tarra upholds that we all play a vital role in the success of our children and students as she stated, “It’s going to take the entire community together to support all of our students in order to help them be successful. That’s what today was about. It was just community, in this building, and it was absolutely beautiful.”



Contact Micheal Rios:

Next Generation Biddy Ball



By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Tulalip hosted its quarterly biddy ball tournament on Sunday, March 20 at the Greg Williams court located within the Don Hatch Youth Center. The event was open to all kids ages 3-5 and 6-7 years old.

The Tulalip biddy ball program caters to the youngest generation of aspiring hoopers. It features lower nets, a shortened court, and is for young children who are just learning to play the game of basketball.

“It’s a popular sport in our community,” Deyamonta Diaz, Youth Activity Specialist, said following the day’s event. “We’re getting more and more people bringing their children out to learn and play biddy ball. There’s no previous experience necessary. We give them a fundamental style 5-on-5 game so they can learn how to play on a team .”

Biddy ball is really an instructional program setup for children of all level of experience to enjoy. There’s a lot of running around, basic skill sets, and learning the fundamentals of dribbling and shooting a set shot. During one session, the kids practiced drippling back and forth with then their dominant hand, then switched to dribbling with their other hand. While during another session they worked almost entirely on footwork.

The program at one point drew an estimated 50-60 kids. All the kids received a free t-shirt with ‘Next Generation Biddy Ball’ written across it.




Josh Fryberg, Youth Services Activities Coordinator, concluded the basketball-filled event by commenting, “Tulalip biddy basketball turned out great. Thank you everyone that showed up, especially the kids. All of us at Youth Services would like to continue to bring our community together in a good way. Because our biddy ball participation continues to grow we will expand our program so we are having biddy basketball once a month, the 3rd Sunday of each month from 12:00-3:00 p.m.”

Be on the lookout for more information on Tulalip’s biddy ball program in future issues of the syəcəb newspaper and on our Tulalip News Facebook page. If you have any questions or concerns call Tulalip Youth Services at (360) 716-4909.