Quil Ceda 3rd graders experience living history at Hibulb

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

School groups visit Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) frequently to receive an educational tour of the 23,000 square foot facility dedicated to collecting and enhancing the traditional cultural values and history of the Tulalip Tribes. These school group tours always start in the HCC longhouse with a brief video presentation that introduces the legacy of the Tulalip people to students with minimal knowledge of Native peoples in general, let alone specific knowledge about the successors in interest to Snohomish, Snoqualmie and other tribes signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliot.

However, once a year when then the 3rd graders from Quil Ceda Tulalip (QCT) Elementary have their school tour the script is a bit different. These particular 3rd graders do have knowledge, an inherent history, and personal experiences galore with what it means to be a Native American citizen and Tulalip culture bearers. For Quil Ceda 3rd graders, their museum tour is less new information acquisition and more reinforcement of a history they breathe life into every day. 

“We have a partnership with Marysville School District and the Indigenous Education Department to bring in every single 3rd grade class within the district and give them a museum a tour,” explains Mary Jane Topash, HCC Group Tour Specialist. “The Quil Ceda tours are unique because for a lot of the students it’s their own family history being exhibited, which means my tours with them are different. I can play off their background knowledge and personal histories they have as tribal members and growing up Tulalip.

“During the Quil Ceda tours we really reinforce key values and history points that make us Tulalip,” continued Mary Jane. “There were several students that went to the family tree section and entered their own tribal IDs to find their family connections within the Hibulb exhibits. That is something unique only they are able to connect with.”

From teachings of the cedar tree to lifeways of salmon, HCC exhibits echo traditional values many of the QCT students have heard and experienced many times over during their young lives. Of course that doesn’t mean they no longer get super excited to showcase their natural skills with a cedar weave, yarn pattern, or fish net…because they certainly do. 

Young tribal members were seen routinely schooling their non-Native counterparts on what certain exhibits were really about. In some exhibits there is an option to hear narration in either English or traditional Lushootseed. Many of the kids didn’t hesitate to choose Lushootseed, making their teachers very proud. 

While learning from the wool exhibit, the kids were hyped when they saw the puppet theater setup. Many took the opportunity to use their imagination and do creative storytelling all on their own with the puppets available. Also in the wool exhibit is a digital touch-screen game that teaches weaving basics in a comfortable setting today’s children are most used to. The interactive nature of such exhibits made learning all the more easier, while still holding the rambunctious groups attention. 

“With many of the Quil Ceda third graders being Tulalip tribal members, we stressed the important and significance of our lifeways while exploring our canoes, cedar collection and life cycle of salmon exhibits,” shared museum assistant Cary Michael Williams. “We got into our 1855 treaty and explaining its importance to our everyday life today, and how our treaty rights allows us to live our culture. 

“It was a very good opportunity to share more insight on what that means to them and their responsibility as tribal members to uphold those rights for future generations. It was an honor to see our young people interact with Hibulb and make connections they can take with them going forward while bringing cultural values into their own lives.”

The foundation of their Quil Ceda education allowed the four 3rd grade classes to use Hibulb educational spaces in an engaged and interactive way. Drawing from their own experiences and family history, students demonstrated traditional skills like fish net tying and cedar weaving, while practicing Lushootseed words to connect with various exhibits. Witnessing them interact with exhibits and cultural items with an innate understanding that required zero explanation is proof the next generation of culture bearers will have much to add to Tulalip’s history of resiliency and self-determination. 

Nutrition and safety emphasized at TELA mini health fair

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

As parents picked up their kids from the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) on the afternoon of Friday March 22, they were welcomed by the TELA administration staff as well as local programs and businesses who were stationed throughout the lobby and the conference room of the early learning academy. Twenty-six informational booths provided useful tips, ranging from nutrition to safety, in an effort to promote better overall health and wellness within the community. Parents hurried to retrieve their kids from their classrooms so they could return and participate in TELA’s seventh annual Mini Health Fair.

A popular event that has continued to grow over the years, the mini health fair is a fun experience for TELA students. Each booth offers hands-on interaction from the likes of the Tulalip Police and Tulalip Bay Fire departments, as well as plenty of prizes like books, toys and even animal washcloths that promote the practice of healthy habits such as reading and good hygiene.

Perhaps the biggest highlight for the kids is sampling all the snacks. AnneCherise Jensen and the SNAP-Ed team created fruit kabobs with orange slices, pineapple, grapes, kiwi and strawberries, showing the families a new, fast and easy snack that is both delicious and nutritious. The fruit kabobs were such a smash that the SNAP-Ed booth had a line nearly the entire duration of the health fair. The TELA kitchen crew also handed out healthy snacks to the students including fruit and veggie cups as well as smoothies. 

Upon checking into the mini health fair, the families received a passport. As they visited each booth, the vendors signed their passports, indicating that the families learned either a new health tip or were provided with new resources from programs such as WIC, Healthy Homes and the Snohomish County Music Project. Once their passports were filled out, the families turned them in for a chance to win a variety of prizes including gift baskets, blankets and an inflatable swimming pool – just in time for the upcoming summer season.

“We like to partner with Children’s Hospital, Red Cross, WIC, the Child Strive program and the police and fire departments as well as Disaster [Tulalip Office of Emergency Management] for those families that are in need of extra services,” explains Katrina Lane, TELA Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. “It’s been a good event to provide for the families over the years. It’s really heartwarming to see the families here with their kids, and for the kids to actually be excited about healthy things; the smoothies, the veggies, the fruit kabobs – they are just excited. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re starting them out young and that they’re getting a good idea of what health is.”

By creating a fun learning experience catered to our future leaders, the academy puts an exciting and entertaining twist on educating the community about the many benefits and the importance of good physical, mental and spiritual health.

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.

Students celebrate diversity at Cultural Fair

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Students of Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, along with their families and friends, were captivated by the richness of Latin American song and dance during the annual Cultural Fair held on February 28th. In collaboration with Marysville School District’s (MSD) Indigenous Education and a truly dedicated school staff, it was an amazing evening to celebrate the diverse community that is Tulalip/Marysville. 

Over two hundred participants filled the elementary’s multi-purpose room where a variety of family-friendly activities and information stations were both available to engage in while broadening cultural understanding. Additional incentives to tour each station came in the form of edible worldly snacks that sparked curiosity in the mind and to the palette. 

Interactive booths represented cultures from around the world, including Tulalip, Mexico, Guam, Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Traditional powwow music was broadcast through the school’s speakers, while a Spanish guitarist also shared his soothing tones with children and parents alike. 

“It’s always nice to learn about other cultures because it creates a better understanding between people,” shared QCT teacher Ms. Sablan. Along with her daughter, the duo were presenters of the Guam station. “I taught on Guam for six years and during that time I loved learning about the culture. While there I married and had a daughter who is Pacific Islander. My passion for embracing vibrant culture was the reason I become an educator at Tulalip after attending a Salmon Ceremony years ago.”

As fair goers made their way around the culturally informative stations they gained insights into cultures and traditions different than their own. Lushootseed language warrior Maria Martin shared a board game she created. It teaches Lushootseed, traditional Coast Salish culture, and some history via the laid back atmosphere of a children’s game. When the users finished the game their prize was smoked venison and, hopefully, having learned a Lushootseed word or two.

Quil Ceda Tulalip newcomer, 4th grade teacher Gina Bluebird worked tirelessly to make enough mini frybreads for everyone to enjoy. “This is my first year working for the elementary. I really like they recognize the culture of the community, the culture of the students, and whose land we’re on,” she shared. “I appreciate how open the school staff is to learning about Tulalip culture and the emphasis put on learning about historical figures, like Billy Frank, Jr.”

An arts and craft station demonstrated how cultures indigenous to Australia paint vibrant colored stones and rock formations. Children summoned their inner artist to create animal figures, like the kangaroo, sea turtle or sand viper, on the smooth stones using toothpicks and their choice of paint.

The evening’s featured entertainment was Los Solecitos Del Valle, a Latin youth dance troop out of Skagit Valley. Their performance captivated the attention of everyone young and old during the riveting display of tradition and heritage.  

“All the dances we shared today are from the state of Jalisco in Mexico, which is really known for colorful dresses with ribbon, colorful embroidered sombreros, and fast, stomping steps” explained dance instructor Andrea Alaniz. “All the dancers are between 5th and 8th grade now, but have been together since Kindergarten. We’re about community and preserving culture, while learning the history behind the music and dance.”

Los Solecitos Del Valle, a Latin youth dance troop out of Skagit Valley, was the Cultural Fair’s featured entertainment.

“It’s so exciting every time we perform at a new event,” added 13-year-old and lead-dancer Natalia Lopez. “We really enjoy being able to share our culture with people through song and dance.”

The annual Cultural Fair was a tremendous success in putting a spotlight on the richness of a diverse community, as traditional knowledge was gained and shared. For those with a strong understanding of historical context, the fact that people of all backgrounds participated and enjoyed the cross-cultural exchange on a Native American reservation featuring Latin youth performing their dances is a testament to the power of progress. 

“Putting on the Cultural Fair takes coordination and cooperation from so many individuals,” reflected QCT Principal Douglas Shook. “Our assistant Principal Kelly Parsons rallied our staff and coordinated outside groups to be a part of this special night. It means so much for our students to not only know their own local culture, but to also know the culture of their friends, neighbors and teachers.

“It’s important for us to embrace the differences we have and to celebrate our own stories. An event like the Cultural Fair helps to promote not only tolerance, but acceptance. That acceptance makes us more relatable and more human.” 

Steven Madison is teaching traditional carving, and it’s cultural importance

Steven Madison (left) helps a student learn carving techniques.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The pleasant smell of freshly cut cedar floated out of classroom 2 of the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the afternoon of January 19, as a group of ten local citizens gathered for the center’s first Intro to Carving class. The museum enlisted longtime HCC collaborator and Tulalip Master Carver, Steven Madison, to teach the two-part culture series. Wood shavings fell to the floor while the group worked, constructing small projects and exchanging stories and laughter. 

Each participant was challenged to learn the art of carving in an expedited fashion, picking up new tips and tricks throughout the two, three-hour courses. As Steven bounced about the room, personally assisting each student with their carvings, he introduced them to an assortment of tools such as the drawknife, a two-handed blade used to shape wood, and emphasized technique for safety reasons, constantly reminding the class to pay attention when sculpting their pieces. During the class, Steven carefully used a bandsaw to cut a whale design out of a block of cedar for one of his students.

One young lady needed assistance with an adze, a large axe-like tool with a sharp blade used for cutting and smoothing out large pieces of wood. He took a seat next to the student and placed a large slab of cedar on his knee, picked up the tool before advising with a chuckle, ‘don’t do this on your leg’ and began hacking with the adze as strands of wood flew all around him. All eyes appeared to be fixated on the master carver as he gave them a step-by-step tutorial on using the traditional tool. 

“This all started with me simply wanting to teach people how to use the adze,” Steven recalls. “I did a carving demonstration here last year at the [HCC annual Salmon Bake Fundraiser]. During that demonstration, a lot of people were interested and asked their questions about my technique and the history, so I end up teaching them a lot about carving that day. After that, we decided we might as well do the carving class.

“This actually had a pretty good turnout. I really didn’t know how I was going to approach this series,” he admits. “Two, three-hour classes aren’t really enough time to get into depth with carving. So what I did with this class is I told them to go online and find a project they wanted to make, and let them know that we’re going to go all in, hands-on. Each of them chose a design; a salmon, the Tulalip whale, one girl is creating a carving with mountains and tress, like you’d see on a cedar basket. We just start carving wood and they’ve been learning as we go.”

The traditional art of carving has been passed down generation after generation. Amongst Coast Salish tribal communities, carving was important to the cultural lifeways of our people. The ancestors carved items for both ceremonial purposes and everyday use, sculpting canoes, paddles, rattles, masks, totem poles and even longhouses out of the spiritual cedar tree. 

“I’ve always been interested in carving,” expressed young tribal member Khianna Calica. “With that being said, I had no idea where to start or how to get involved. I’ve come to other [HCC] events and when I saw this workshop on the events list, it was perfect timing. Prior to this, I have never touched any carving tools and with the two classes I feel more comfortable with the execution. I came to the workshop today because I think that events at the cultural center are a phenomenal way to preserve the old medicine and the traditional arts and craft. We have to participate. If the knowledge keepers are willing to be here, people need to show up. I found it really important for me to show up and invite these traditions in my life, it’s so healing.”

Steven believes this series is an ideal way for beginning carvers to get familiar with the tools and technique. His partnership with the museum extends throughout the course of this year, hosting another Intro to Carving class before starting an in-depth six-week course in the late summer where students will craft paddles and spindle whorls. 

“The reason we’re doing this is really because we want to keep this alive forever,” states Steven. “That’s why it’s always so good to see the younger generations learning. A lot of kids want to learn but don’t necessarily have the patience for it. I’m one of few people who learned from my grandfather [Frank Madison] and Bernie Gobin. There’s a lot of great carvers, but those are the ones I learned from. There are so few of us left who know the technique of the old ways and the reason why we carve. You can go to anybody to learn how to carve a totem pole, it’s not rocket science, but the reason we do it is because each carving has a point and there’s a story to each one. 

“Carving is so important to our people. It was almost gone before [William] Shelton carved his story poles at a time when they were prosecuting people for carving and practicing traditions. Carving was passed down from my grandfather to my uncle to me and now I’m teaching that to the upcoming generations who want to learn.”

For further details about the Intro to Carving classes, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.