Annual Color Run celebrates life

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Three years ago, Tulalip Youth Services and the Marysville School District teamed up to bring Unity Month to the community during the month of October. Jam-packed with exciting activities like movie nights, field trips to the corn maze and the pumpkin patch, school assemblies and pumpkin carving, Unity Month successfully sparked a lot of community involvement which afforded Youth Services the opportunity to talk about serious issues that are prevalent in many modern day Native communities. 

Youth Services and the school district decided to plan each week of the month with trainings and presentations focused on four issues that the youth of Native America are struggling with in today’s society; suicide, bullying domestic violence and substance abuse. Due to tremendous success, Tulalip Youth Services continues to celebrate Unity Month annually, adding new improvements each year. 

While spreading awareness and providing prevention tools for serious topics, Youth Services also brings a positive outlook to each of these issues by celebrating life, promoting kindness and healthy relationships as well as participating in National Red Ribbon Week, an alcohol, drug and violence prevention campaign. With each week comes a new trendy hashtag for participants to use when posting photos and videos to social media while attending Unity Month events. 

This October began with #LifeisSacred week, kids learned that their lives matter and that they’re needed here by their families and friends. Youth Services partnered once again with the Community Health Department to bring QPR trainings to the community. QPR is an acronym for question, persuade and refer, the three actions you must take if someone is showing suicidal tendencies. Question if they are planning to harm themselves, persuade them to seek help and refer them to the appropriate resource. The class also teaches participants how to recognize the warning signs a person contemplating suicide may be exemplifying. Tulalip leader, Verna Hill, also spoke to the kids at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary about how sacred they are to the future of Tulalip. 

The suicide rate continues to escalate throughout Native communities every year. Eighteen states agreed to participate in a report conducted by the United States Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That report showed that there are 21.5 suicides per every 1,000 Native Americans, over three and a half times higher than the national average. And according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US with 45,965 suicides each year. Suicide is also the eighth leading cause of death in the state of Washington where on average one person dies by suicie every eight hours. Native communities see significantly more lives taken by suicide than any other race in America which is why it’s important to openly discuss this issue, especially with the youth. 

Tulalip Youth Services ended #LifeisSacred week in colorful fashion with the extremely popular annual Say Something Color Run. A little rain didn’t stop the community from showing out and ending their Friday with a mile run from the Tulalip Community Health Department to the Kenny Moses Building on the afternoon of October 5. With stylish, protective eyewear and clothes they didn’t mind getting dirty, the community ran through multiple checkpoints along Marine Drive where they were blasted with colorful chalk, resulting in tie-dyed runners reaching the finish line. 

“It’s a fun time to celebrate living and it’s for a good cause,” says Tulalip Youth Services Executive Assistant, Danielle Fryberg. “The Say Something Color Run is part of the Sandy Hook Promise, which is preventing gun violence, suicide and just bringing awareness. If you know someone whose struggling, we ask that you speak up and say something, even if you’re just reaching out to say hello. We want to help our community, our youth and adults who are struggling and let them know there’s always somewhere they can go and someone they can talk to.”

Youth Services has more fun, educational events planned for the Tulalip community for the remainder of Unity Month, including cultural events each week and Halloween-inspired activities. To view the entire Unity Month events and activities schedule, be sure to check out the Tulalip Youth Services Facebook page.

 

Tulalip Coastal Jam honors Indigenous People

“To me, Indigenous means being proud of who you are and where you come from; remembering your ancestry and all that they’ve done to get us to where we are right now; and to educate our youth to be strong as Native People and to love themselves so our culture and traditions stay alive.” 

– Denise Hatch-Anderson, Tulalip tribal member

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

For the past four years, the greater Seattle area has been celebrating the beautiful culture of the people who lived off of this land since time immemorial. Every second Monday in Octber, communities throughout western Washington host a variety of events to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which officially replaced Columbus Day back in 2014. Indigenous Peoples’ Day aims to provide Washingtonians with accurate information about the series of events that occurred after Columbus reached our lands in 1492. Many communities nationwide have joined Seattle and now celebrate Indigenous culture every year. 

To start off the second week of Tulalip Unity Month, #KindnessWeek, Youth Services hosted a cultural gathering at the Greg Williams Court on the evening of Indigenous Peoples Day. The gym was packed and the bleachers were filled as people waited in anticipation for the festivities to begin. The youth proudly led Tulalip to the floor with loud drumbeats and booming chants in a song paying respect to the four directions. It didn’t take long for the spectators to become participants as the bleachers emptied and people joined Tulalip on the floor for a large coastal jam. 

“Today I’m happy to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. That whole Christopher Columbus Day, we don’t recognize that,” says Tulalip tribal member and Tulalip Youth Services Activities Coordinator, Josh Fryberg. “The main thing is we want to honor our ancestors and make them proud and continue to set a cultural path, continue on with our treaty rights for the future generations to come. And we want to encourage the youth to continue to learn your culture each and every day and continue to fight for it so that it’s here for the future generations. Tonight, I believe we have Puyallup, Lummi, Swinomish and some from Canada, just a good mix of many tribes. We’re blessed, it shows the unity within all of our tribes and all of our bands.”

Native families created a circle around the gym and took turns performing their traditional songs and dances. A few songs were known to all of the coastal families in which more dancers hit the floor and the words were sung at a much louder volume by the entire crowd, causing that goosebump sensation during a beautiful moment for the culture. The youth ruled the night. Kids of all ages, infants to teens, sang their hearts out and danced all evening. After performing a song, the Tulalip youth put down their drums and rattles and joined the dancers on the floor until it was their turn to sing again, repeating this cycle for over two hours.

“It makes me feel good, it makes my heart warm because this is something that we needed,” says Tulalip tribal member and Marysville School District Native Liaison, Denise Hatch-Anderson. “October is always hard for our youth, not just because of the change in seasons but because of what happened four years ago. October has been a hard transition for our teens ever since. To see our teens here, knowing they’re going to get the healing they need from the songs tonight warms my heart and it’s going to uplift them as well as our tiny ones and our elders.”

Tulalip Youth Services will continue hosting a variety of activities throughout October for Unity Month including many fun autumn themed events that bring attention to issues such as bullying, domestic violence and substance abuse. For more information, please visit the Tulalip Youth Services Facebook page.

 

Celebrating Indigenous People

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On the second Monday of October 2014, Seattle became the third place in the United States to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The process to end the celebration of a genocidal, slave trading, lost navigator was strenuous, but thanks to tireless work by activists like Matt Remle and many others, the proclamation was voted on by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by Mayor Ed Murray in 2013.

“People ask, ‘Why Indigenous Peoples Day and why not American Indian Day or Native American Day?’ It’s only appropriate that we honor the legacy of the work [that’s been done],” explains Remle. “It’s not only honoring legacy, but when we say ‘Indigenous peoples,’ it’s referring to more than just the tribes of colonized United States. We’re talking about all Indigenous peoples who’ve been impacted by settler colonialism around the world. We want to represent and acknowledge the Taíno, they’re the ones that first faced Columbus.”

Over the past four years, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement has spread to over 70 places in the United States, while locally becoming a day to celebrate global Indigenous cultures. On Monday, October 8, Indigenous people and allies from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at Westlake Park, on ancestral Duwamish land, for a march and rally to celebrate the 5th year Seattle has celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day. More than 200 people marched in heavy rain from Westlake Park to Seattle City Hall, where a rally of celebratory song and dance was held. 

In the evening, the festivities continued at Daybreak Star Cultural Center with an honoring celebration for Native communities in the Puget Sound Region. Sponsored by Tulalip Tribes community impact funds, the Daybreak Star gathering included hundreds of urban Natives, dancers from a variety of tribal nations, and non-Natives who wanted to share in the memorable event.

“When we have an honoring gathering in our community, it is a way for us to show respect, to listen, and to acknowledge the incredible work our people do for one reason and one reason only – the love of Native people,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, emcee for the Daybreak Star celebration. 

The American Indian Movement (AIM) honor song kicked off the evening, followed by Taíno dancers, and then a riveting performance by Indigenous Sisters Resistance. After a short intermission, a truly captivating fire ritual was performed by the Traditional Aztec Fire Dancers. The overflowing crowd was treated to performances by Haida Heritage and a powwow squad as the evening’s finale. 

“It’s been a beautiful day to see so many Indigenous people come together and be filled with so much joy,” shared 19-year-old Ayanna Fuentes, a member of Indigenous Sisters Resistance. “Our younger generation is growing up not knowing what Columbus Day is, and that’s an amazing thing.”

“It’s also a celebration of the amazing resiliency of Indigenous peoples, period,” added educator and activist Matt Remle. “Despite the Euro colonizers greatest efforts at mass genocide, disposition, slavery, and assimilation, we as Native peoples are still here. Native communities continue to fight to protect the land, air, and waters. We continue to live traditional roles and responsibilities, which have been passed down from our origins as a peoples since the beginning of creation. We continue to sing our songs, relearn our languages and express ourselves through our dances and cultures.”

A variety of States, cities, towns, counties, community groups, schools, and other institutions observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 8th. They all did so with activities that raised awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. 

Jr. Hawks make list for best teams in WA State

Junior Hawks 89ers

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

We’re midway through the North Sound Junior Football season, and two Tulalip Junior Hawks teams are garnering state-wide attention. The latest update to the Western Washington Junior Football power rankings have the fourth-grade level 89ers (4-1) ranked 8th in state, while the seventh-grade level Bantams (5-0) are all the way up to 4th. 

Both teams excellent play on the field and growing hype, as far as championship expectations go, has led to extra attention from opposing coaching staffs. It’s often the case lately that coaching staffs of soon-to-be opponents are coming out to video record the Junior Hawks’ games in order to scout formations and particular players. It’s respect of the highest honor really; youth football teams playing so well that extra time and attention is being given to them like a high school or college program. 

On Saturday, October 6, the Tulalip 89ers hosted Oak Harbor in a week six matchup. Coming into this game, the 89ers defense has been tremendous. In fact, they’ve only allowed one team to score all season. That level of defensive play would continue and overwhelm Oak Harbor.

The 89er defense was relentless, putting a lock on Oak Harbor’s offense in every way. Meanwhile the 89er offense was focused on using their ground game to move the ball up and down the field. In the red zone, running back Jesse Voss ran in a touchdown to give his team their first lead at 6-0. Later in the game, once again in the red zone, quarterback J.J. Gray scrambled for a touchdown of his own to push their lead to 13-0.

The defensive would hold it down from there. Once again holding their opponent to zero points, the Junior Hawks’ record moved to (5-1) with the 13-0 victory. Bryson Fryberg, one the leaders on defense, had several QB pressures and several key tackles during the game. Bryson shared it felt good to hold Oak Harbor scoreless, but that his favorite moments were the hard tackles he dealt out. 

Following the victory Coach Omar Gray said, “Our kids stepped up big against a quality opponent. Offensively and defensively our players are really focusing on playing as a team and that allows us to play great football.”

 

JR Hawks Bantam

Later that Saturday, the undefeated Junior Hawks Bantam squad took the field in a matchup with Arlington at Arlington High School. The Bantams are led by a high-octane offense that averages nearly 45 points per game, while their opponents only average a single touchdown.

“The most important thing for us as a coaching staff is to make sure our boys play for each other and as a family,” shared Coach James Madison prior to kick-off. “We’ve had several key players go down with injury, but it’s up to our players to step up and show the quality of our depth.”

Tulalip took it to Arlington early and often. At halftime they led 26-0 and piled on several more offensive highlights in route to a 34-0 victory. Wide receiver Jayden Madison led the Junior Hawks with three touchdowns. After the win he said, “I thought it would be a closer game, but our passing attack was just too good. My favorite play was when Gaylan threw me a perfect pass in the corner of the end zone and I caught it over two defenders.” 

With two more regular season games before playoffs start, both the Junior Hawks Bantam and 89ers teams are playing great football and keeping their eyes on the prize: a Junior Football League Championship.

Debra Posey hands over the reigns of tribal government

By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News 

At 3:30p.m. on her last Friday, Interim CEO Debra Posey is still hard at work sending emails, taking phone calls and squeezing in a little time for an interview about her efforts over past several months. 

“I came here out of retirement and I’ll go back to retirement,” said Deb. “I received a call from the tribal council asking if I would help them out and come in on an interim basis, they were doing a re-org. I was absolutely thrilled. 

“I’m so grateful to have had that opportunity. I’ve spent every day since I’ve been here trying to find ways to improve the lives of our people. We are a community that has a lot of needs. People make assumptions that we are doing fine, there are a lot of our people who aren’t doing fine.”

Deb served her tribe off and on in many capacities throughout her life, both as an employee and as a Board of Director. Regardless of her capacity, she explained that she always leads from a strong foundation of cultural teachings and a sense of community. Work ethic and compassion, she disclosed, were instilled in her from a young age.

“I remember when I first started work at the tribe, I was 17,” reminisced Deb. “I was a horrible employee, habitually late. My auntie D called me in and said, ‘You are so fortunate to have this job, so many of our people don’t have jobs. But I need you to be to work on time and work hard when you are here. Can I count on you Debbie?’ I wanted so hard to please her and I had so much love in my heart for her. I said ‘Yes, Auntie, I’ll try harder.’ 

“To remember starting the tribe at 17,” she continued, “and to be leaving as an interim in the CEO office, wow! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

Although she didn’t set down formal goals when she accepted the position of Interim CEO, Debra knew she wanted to make change.

“First and foremost, we are here to serve our people,” sad Deb. “That is the message I got my whole life. We [indigenous people] are unique in this way. That’s how we got this far and that’s how we will continue on. We are here to help each other. 

“There are punitive policies that have adversely affected the lives of our people,” explained Deb. “We need to change that. I don’t know how they came to be, but they are not who we are culturally or traditionally. I’ve worked really hard with Helen Gobin Henson and other staff to create policies that are more sensitive to who we are as native people. We need to embrace our people. We need to bring love back into this community. We need to understand that everybody has value.”

Deb shared a story of a member affected by homelessness. Despite the circumstance, she pointed out that he made an effort to take care of the reservation in a small way, by cleaning up the litter around his homeless encampment. She pointed out another scenario in which a young mother, unable to pay her PUD bill, was facing the onset of the cold season without electricity. 

“When we [Tulalip Tribes] were poor, our people still had houses,” she pointed out. “We didn’t have this homelessness problem. We’ve always been able to take care of our people. For me to sit across the table from someone and be able to use the resources of the tribe to help them share in this great life is an amazing privilege.”

She worries that the way the tribe’s policies are written is a symptom of the widening disconnect in our community. 

“When you look at someone in need and can say that they made their choices and created this problem, they can live with it. When you can look at a homeless member, or someone who is affected by addiction, or a young mom with kids who aren’t going to have food or heat and you’re not moved to help them, that is not who we are. When you don’t have a heart for our people is when you’ve truly assimilated.”

Debra praised the tribal employees who come to work every day with a mindset of service.

“We need people who come into these positions to have a heart for our membership. The thing that makes me someone who can make a difference here is the teachings I have and the tenderness I have for our members. We have got to be here for each other and we have got to be supportive of each other. It got us this far and it will sustain us if we understand that.”

For incoming leadership, Debra’s advice is to be the kind of person who sees individuals instead of numbers. 

“I would like them to listen to the people when they come in. Hear their voices. Look them in the eye and see what their needs are and what we can do to help. Create more opportunity and help our people share in the prosperity that this tribe is experiencing.”

By 4:00 p.m., Debra excused herself and walked briskly to the finance department. 

“I have until 5:00p.m,” she said, “and I’m going to help some people.”

Tulalip Pride Walk celebrates LGBTQ community

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Youth Council hosted the very first Pride Walk in the Tulalip-Marysville community on September 29. Over one-hundred citizens gathered at the Francis J. Sheldon Gymnasium to celebrate and show love and support to the LGBTQ community. As people began to arrive, a group of youngsters raised a rainbow colored flag on the pole located outside the gym. Meanwhile on the inside, participants constructed a number of signs that read messages such as Love Wins and Love is Love.  

Participants began their two-mile trek from the gym to the four-way intersection located in front of the Tulalip Bingo Hall and Quil Ceda Village administration. With miniature pride flags and their posters proudly displayed overhead, the community members were met with an overwhelming response from local drivers on their daily commute, who emphatically honked their horns as they passed the crowd. Tribal members and local leaders showcased large smiles during the walk, happy to support their two-spirited loved ones. 

“This is important and it’s been a long time coming,” says Tulalip Youth Services Education Coordinator, Jessica Bustad. “September is back to school time and a lot of students who identify as LGBTQ feel uncomfortable and wonder if people are going to judge them. So the Youth Council wanted to show their support to their peers in the school system and show that they should feel safe and respected. I feel like there are a lot of people who are still stuck with their judgments against the LGTBQ community, so we want to show our support for those students and community members. It’s needed to prevent depression, suicide, bullying. If the community and everyone sees we’re in support of it, hopefully more people will start to show support too.”

Jessica explained that the Youth Council was inspired to begin the Pride Walk back in June during national pride month. Thanks to a few months of planning and organizing, the walk was a great success. A large turnout of youth showed that this is an important issue amongst the future generations as they continue to build each other up and encourage their friends to be who they are.

The Seattle Clear Sky Native Youth Council of the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) traveled north to show solidarity with the Tulalip Youth Council and the LGBTQ community. The Clear Sky Youth Council previously wrote a resolution in support of two-spirited individuals and wants to continue offering that support at marches and rallies. 

“We just wanted to come and show our support,” says Clear Sky Youth Council member, Asia Gellein. “I really like seeing everyone come together to support the LGBTQ Natives, it’s heartwarming seeing all this love for our two-spirited brothers and sisters.”

After the walk, the community met once again in the gym. This time, however, the walkers enjoyed pizza and good conversation before participating in a jam session to close out what may go down as a historic day for the Tulalip and Marysville community.

“What inspired me to do this was my own personal experience, being two-spirited, and how I was treated not only by strangers but my own family,” says Tulalip Youth Council member, Elizabeth Edelman. “It’s important to bring the community together and raise awareness because I know a lot of two-spirited people out here who struggle in school and fitting in with society, so I think raising awareness is the thing to do for our youth. I thought it was a successful day and I’m really thankful people showed up on their own time to help raise awareness. Bringing the young ones together, teaching them what this is all about is important. There were a lot of cool people here today, it was very inspiring and I’m so thankful for it.”

The Tulalip Youth Council looks to continue the Pride Walk annually, but wishes to make the event coincide with national pride month in June. For further details, please contact Tulalip Youth Services at (360) 716-4909.

TERO grads join forces with Snohomish County Public Works to benefit salmon recovery

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Salmon habitat restoration, honoring treaty rights, and tribal members showcasing successful employment within the construction trades are themes currently in action at an on-reservation construction project. Heavy construction equipment has owned Marine Drive between 19th Ave NE and 23rd Ave NE since September 10, while Snohomish County Public Works replaces a poorly conditioned culvert with one that is fish-friendly by design.

A culvert is basically an underground pipe that allows water to pass beneath roads and other obstructions. The Marine Drive culvert carries water flow from Hibulb Creek to the Snohomish River estuary, which is a fish bearing stream. 

According to Snohomish County officials, the existing 24-inch corrugated metal culvert under Marine Drive is in poor condition and undersized. The current culvert is a fish barrier, while the new larger box culvert will meet fish passage requirements.

“Originally engineers designed road crossing culverts to maximize the capacity to carry water with the smallest possible pipe size. This was efficient and economical,” stated Snohomish County representatives. “A fish-friendly design approach is a culvert wide enough and sloped properly to allow the stream channel to act naturally.”

On June 11 of this year, the Supreme Court split a decision resulting in the enforcement of a lower court order requiring Washington State to pay for the removal of over 900 culverts that have become clogged or degraded to the point of blocking salmon migration. 

It was a decision that had been passing through the courts for 17 years. The U.S. government sued Washington back in 2001, on behalf of 21 Northwest tribes, to force the state to replace culverts blocking fish passage with structures that allow fish to pass through. Because the pipe-like culverts block salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, they deprive the tribes of fishing rights guaranteed by treaty.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the treaties promised tribes there would always be salmon to harvest, and that the State has a duty to protect those fish and their habitat,” said Lorraine Loomis (Swinomish), chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The ruling will open hundreds of miles of high quality salmon habitat that will produce hundreds of thousands more salmon annually for harvest by everyone.”

Snohomish County officials also point out, “The ability of salmon and steelhead to swim upstream to their traditional spawning grounds, while allowing juvenile salmon to move upstream and downstream unimpeded for rearing is vital to their recovery across Washington.”

This specific culvert replacement is vital to salmon recovery and habitat restoration on the Tulalip Reservation, and it’s of particular significance to three TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) graduates who are part of the construction team.

Jay Davis, Jess Fryberg and Brando Jones graduated from TVTC before starting their construction careers.

Jess Fryberg (Tulalip), Brando Jones (Tulalip) and Jay Davis (Sioux/Turtle Mountain Chippewa) all trained in the construction trades at TVTC and graduated with hopes of pursuing a career pathway that was previously unavailable. Now, each is earning prevailing wages and gaining lifelong skills while working on a project beneficial to protecting treaty rights and salmon recovery.

“Construction has opened up a variety of work for me and each site I’ve worked on teaches me something new,” shared Jess, a 24-year-old tribal member. “Working on this culvert project on the Rez has been a great opportunity. Plus, a long time down the road I’ll be able to tell my kids I helped build it.”

For 27-year-old, single father Brando Jones, he moved from Tacoma to Tulalip two years ago just to have an opportunity to change his future by attending TVTC classes. It was a big move that is now paying off huge dividends as he won sole custody of his son, Dakota, and is building a solid foundation for a career in the construction trades.

“Being able to work on my own reservation while building a future for me and my son is such a good feeling,” shared Brando. “The fact that this replacement culvert will help salmon and protects our treaty rights is a bonus all on its own.”

The Marine Drive culvert construction is expected to complete in the next few weeks, while its positive impact to local salmon habitat restoration is expected to last generations.

House Bill 2951 to increase resources for finding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

During the final months of 2017, Washington State Republican Representative, Gina Mosbrucker, of the 14th Legislative District chose a DVD rental from Redbox one evening for a relaxing movie night. Had she picked a comedy or romance she may have missed her calling, but she decided on a film titled Wind River and was taken on an emotional journey into the world that is unfortunately a haunting reality for many Indigenous families across the country, and even a bigger issue in Canada. 

The powerful movie follows a professional tracker and an FBI agent throughout the Wind River reservation in Wyoming as they try to uncover a crime when a young, missing Indigenous girl’s body is found dead on the reservation. The film gives insight to the epidemic that is taking away our mothers, sisters, aunties and cousins and how jurisdiction, lack of resources and underreporting causes many missing and murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) cases to go unresolved. 

The end of Wind River concluded with a message that shook Rep. Mosbrucker to her core. It read, ‘While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.’ With that statistic on her mind, she began to conduct her own research and found that was indeed true and felt the strong urge to help. A short time after watching the movie and learning about MMIW, Gina was at her office at the Washington State Capital on the morning of January 20, when hundreds of Indigenous activists marched on the Capital to bring awareness to the epidemic. 

“There are things in life that keep coming back to your mind over and over and you know you need to work on it,” says Representative Mosbrucker. “For me, this is my calling. There were repeated messages to me from the movie Wind River and the message at the end of the movie is not acceptable. After further research I found that was true and I also had a tribal girlfriend from high school call me up and she told me I have to fix this. I think the final straw was the large group of Native Americans who were in full tribal dress with drums in the middle of the Capital. Afterwards, I was in my office working late and I couldn’t get it out of my head and I said, I’m called to do this work. Senator McCoy’s staff was nice enough to introduce me to a tribal member who happened to be in his office that night. She came to my office and shared her story. We spent an hour discussing the challenges, how she’s been trying for a decade to get help.”

She began working immediately and wrote HB2951, getting the bill approved days after the MMIW March on the Capital and pulling in tribal citizens at the last minute to share their testimonies of lost loved ones. The bill went through the long process of becoming law, reaching the senate floor where it was nearly passed unanimously and shortly after, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed the document, making the bill law back in June. HB2951 is essentially a study that requires Washington State Patrol to work with local tribes and tribal law enforcement to increase resources for reporting and identifying MMIW. 

The first phase of this study was initiated on September 27 at the Tulalip Administration building during the Washington State Patrol Tribal Community Outreach Tour. State Patrol officers, Washington State legislators and the Indigenous community of Tulalip met to discuss HB2951 and determine ways to help find MMIW and put an end to the heart wrenching epidemic.

“I am a Tulalip member so this is an important subject for us and we need to get to some resolution,” said Washington State Senator John McCoy. “Under the federal law VAWA (Violence Against Women Act), Tulalip are one of the three tribes that are part of that pilot project so we have the resources to help make this happen. It’s time to gather information and get something done.”

For three hours the committee spoke to the community about MMIW and HB2951 as well as ongoing cases that are happening now in Indian Country. Citizens learned that nearly 90% of Indigenous women have experienced some sort of abuse in their lifetime, whether it was verbal, mental or physical. Another shocking statistic conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that over half of the Native American population of women have been sexually abused, and out of those cases, over 70% claimed the offense was committed by a non-tribal member. On many reservations, the chances of a women experiencing abuse are significantly higher, around 10%, than the national average. 

The group also brainstormed ideas on how to get all tribes on board to help find these missing cases around Washington. A problem the committee has run into is tribal cooperation from family members, board members and law enforcement. Due to a variety of cultural reasons and perhaps lack of trust, tribes are opting to handle missing cases on their own, unless the case is ruled a homicide in which the FBI takes over. The groups current goal is to present an estimated number of Washington MMIW to the state by June 2019.

Tribes are also limited in resources as well as access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the FBI’s database, which includes records of missing persons. Many times a missing person case will not be entered into NCIC due to limited access and the fact the person is over eighteen. Many people aren’t flagged as missing because adults often take solo journeys to escape the everyday grind and there is no evidence of foul play. 

“I wanted to share some current information about NCIC in Washington State,” says Washington State Patrol Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit Manager, Carri Gordon. “Right now we have 1,841 missing person records active records in Washington. Of those 1,841 about 90% of those missing persons are runaway youth who run and return. Of those 1,841, 98 of those records were coded ethnicity-wise as being Native American. That’s assuming that the ethnicity was reported correctly and entered correctly.”

Carri went on to explain that investigators are not required to indicate the victims race and more than not investigators confuse Indian Americans for Native Americans, so the number of missing Indigenous women in Washington maybe a lot higher than the 98 reported in the NCIC. If this is true in the State of Washington, thousands of cases could be very well underreported nationwide. 

In 2015, Canada conducted a similar study and were able to close many cases but hundreds of women are still missing and hundreds of murders are still unsolved. Canada believes that their true number of MMIW cases are over 4,000 and experts believe the United States is close behind, ranging between 1,000-4,000 cases nationwide. 

“This series is the first step to make sure we’re reaching out to each tribe individually or whichever way is most respectful,” says Mosbrucker. “Whether it’s a group convening or individually, we’re willing to do whatever that work is to report back a number to Washington State. I can’t fix congress, I can’t fix this issue nationally, but I can get us a number in Washington State that will serve as a model to fix it across congress and throughout the nation.”

The Washington State Patrol Tribal Community Outreach Tour will continue over the course of the next few months with the next meetings at the Snoqualmie Casino on October 15, Yakama Convention Center on October 29, and Little Creek Casino on November 8. For more information and to view HB2951 please visit www.leg.wa.gov