Lushootseed Language Camp, Week One

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Over sixty future Tulalip leaders participated in the first week of the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp. The kids learned the traditional Coast Salish language and Tulalip culture during the week of July 17-21. Hosted by the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department, the summertime camp is held twice during the month of July and is open to Tulalip youth age five to twelve.

The kids are treated to five fun days of culture in which they learn the traditional language, teachings and stories of Tulalip. The camp utilizes several interactive activity stations to teach about Tulalip’s traditional way of life. Campers become familiar with the words while playing games and using modern technology. In addition to studying Lushootseed, campers also learn traditional Tulalip dances and songs.

“One of the songs we sang was the Welcome Song and it was Harriet Shelton Dover’s song,” stated Language Camp Instructor, Cary Michael Williams. “We also sang the Killer Whale Song, which was Ray Fryberg and Tony Hatch’s song they put together and brought forward to the Lushootseed Department.”

Each year, the Lushootseed Department honors a Tulalip member by teaching the youth about their work within the Tulalip culture. Last year the camp was dedicated to Harriett Shelton-Dover, this year the camp is dedicated to her son and Tulalip Elder, Wayne Williams.

“We always think of somebody to honor and dedicate the camp to and this year Wayne Williams came to mind,” explains Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natosha Gobin. “We know that he’s done so much for our community with preserving our teachings as well as everything he’s donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center. We felt it’s very important to acknowledge him while he’s here because a lot of times people don’t get acknowledged until they’re gone, and he’s still here with us so we want to honor him.”

Throughout the week, the youth rehearse a play based on a traditional Tulalip story. The play is performed for the community during the closing ceremony on the last day of camp. In honor of Wayne Williams, the Language Campers reenacted Wayne’s story Killer Whale and Two Boys.

Language Camp continues to grow; previously the department would anticipate about fifty participants each summer. However, due to increasing interest, the camp has seen an increase of fourteen participants each week in the past two years.

Young Tulalip tribal members and siblings, Natalie and Carsten Nordahl, travel from Boston every summer to attend Language Camp. According to their father, Natalie excitedly awaited the year her younger brother was old enough to enroll, in order to experience the cultural camp together.  The kids have returned each summer, making this their third trip to Tulalip.

“I love that we get to learn about our culture and the language of our Tribe. My favorite part is learning the language and just being a part of this experience,” Natalie expressed. Carsten added, “My favorite part about camp was playing the games!”

Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles gathered at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Gym on July 21, for the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp closing ceremony. The youth showcased their teachings to the community by performing the songs and the play in Lushootseed.

“As a parent it’s important for my son to attend language camp because it was something I was able to do as a child and it’s important to carry on the songs and the teachings from our ancestors,” states Lushootseed Camp parent and Tulalip tribal member Samantha Chavez.

After performing Killer Whale and Two Boys, the youth gave handmade gifts, such as weavings and necklaces, to every guest in attendance.  Over the span of twenty-two years, the camp has inspired numerous Tulalip youth to learn more about their culture. Many current Lushootseed Language Instructors, attended Language Camp when they were younger, including Tulalip tribal member Shelbi Hatch.

“Language Camp started before I was born actually, it was in ‘93 I think,” Shelbi recalls. “It’s a place for the kids to learn their culture and for everybody to get a view of what Tulalip is and how intact our culture and language still is. This gives them the utilities and the tools they need for later on in life. I feel more of a generational importance, I don’t feel like it’s me receiving the teachings, I feel like I’m giving it and these kids will be the ones to speak fluently.”

The Lushootseed department and the language campers displayed two paddles, with traditional artwork depicting the Killer Whale and Two Boys story that will be gifted to Wayne Williams and his sons.

“We keep trying to follow the teachings that Shelly Lacy and Auntie Joy [Lacy] laid out because this was part of their vision twenty-two years ago,” states Natosha while reflecting on a successful first week. “This is always the best time of the year for us. The kids have so much fun, the families are so grateful and it’s just a good time. We’re happy we’re able to keep this alive and keep it going.”

For more information about the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp please contact the Lushootseed Language Department at (360) 716-4499 or visit their website

Monkey Business: Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Visits Zoo

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On a sunny July 14 afternoon, students of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy traveled with their families to Seattle to visit with the animals of the Woodland Park Zoo. Each summer Early Learning provides a free zoo pass to each enrolled student and one accompanying adult. The Academy encourages families to join the students at the annual zoo trip and provides lunch to the students and each family member.

As the kids explored the zoo map alongside their instructors and families, they admired the gorillas of the Tropical Rainforest, the wolves of the Northern Trail and the red pandas of the Temperate Forest. Among the countless creepy crawlers, rattling reptiles, flying feathered-friends and many majestic mammals throughout the zoo, the most popular exhibit was in the African Savanna, home to animals such as lions, monkeys and zebras. The crowd favorite, however, were the giraffes.

This past June, the Woodland Park Zoo announced the birth of a baby girl giraffe and she spent this past weekend bonding with her father, whom she just met days prior to the Academy’s visit. Several students were overwhelmed with excitement upon seeing the yet-to-be-named three-week old giraffe.

“It’s really good to see the kids in a different environment,” states Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Instructor, Stella Moreno. “They see that [the teachers] are excited and that we love the animals, so they get excited too. The zoo trip encourages them to want to learn about the animals and they really enjoy it. I think it’s a great interaction and a lot of fun, its memorable and we will never forget it.”

The value of your community college

By Jeanne Steffener, Higher ED

In a recent study published by the American Association of Community Colleges, college students attending a community college see a significant return on their financial investment.

Among the best attributes of community colleges include an open door policy. Most two-year colleges will accept a student with a high school diploma or GED, regardless of grades or test results. Most even offer GED programs which makes for an easy transition. This is a great opportunity for students who were not that focused on academic progress in high school. Community colleges also provide “developmental studies” courses which are designed to help bring students up to college level course work. This opens up opportunities for students who have had a less than perfect academic history. Due to the “Open Door Policy”, the average age of community college students has hovered in the 20 year old range for the past 30 years.

Another group of 2nd chance students are those who go off to four-year colleges and universities and find themselves in over their head academically, socially or maturity-wise. Now they are back home getting their grades up so they can return to the university setting better equipped.

Running Start and early college programs courses are one of the best values of American higher education. A good majority of these students are ready for college and end up transferring their credits to state universities where they do very well academically. Considering that the state picks up the tuition for these students, this introduction to the college atmosphere is very cost effective for students and their parents. In view of, the vast and growing amount of student debt in this country, this now becomes for students a very good option.

Community colleges offer some important academic advantages beginning with smaller class sizes, accessability to college that larger institutions are not offering and close proximity of the college to home and work for students.

One of the best things that community colleges do for their communities is providing access to higher eduation to populations who would not have the opportunity to advance themselves through education. In most communities, the two-year college is the center for the arts and performing arts, business, science, athletics and fitness.

Many students attending universities began their educational journey at a two-year college. For many, the community college is providing a liberal-arts foundation. The other important services that the community colleges offer are courses, degrees and certificates in high demand technical fields like information technology, health science, construction, manufacturing, trade skills, etc. These skill based trainings offer students a shorter timeframe to job readiness. This give students the opportunity to begin earning dollars while pursuing bigger educational goals.

If you are interested opening up your opportunities, pick up your phone and call 360-716-4888 to contact the Higher Education Department for more information or email us at

An evening of empowerment with 2017 graduates

Tulalip Tribes senior girl and boy student of the year are Myrna Redleaf and Carter Wagner.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Friday, June 16, the Tulalip Resort’s Orca Ballroom was home to the Graduation Banquet held for the Tulalip tribal member graduating class of 2017. In all there were seventy-four high school graduates and sixty higher education graduates who, accompanied by their friends and families, convened for an evening to commemorate the rite of passage. There was entertainment, a catered buffet-style dinner, and plenty of motivational speeches from their peers and elders reminding the graduates this is just the first step on the path to success.

The Marysville Getchell High School band provided good music and lively tunes for the first hour of the celebration, while Board of Director Mel Sheldon controlled the mic as emcee.

“It is a privilege and an honor to be here with you all tonight on this special night where we come together and celebrate the academic achievement of our young ones,” stated Mel in his opening speech. “We are so proud of each and every one of our graduates for their commitment to education. We thank the parents, grandparents, extended family, and all the school faculty who were always there for the students and made it possible for them to be here today.”

Graduating seniors Keely Bogin-McGhie and Lukas Reyes, Jr. both took stage and offered encouraging words to fellow graduates. They each told a favorite high school experience, thanked their families for always supporting them, and shared their excitement for great things yet to come in their bright futures.

Educator, poet, higher education administrator, and voice for his generation, Christian Paige provided a truly memorable keynote speech that left many in the crowd feeling inspired. He is a first generation college graduate who has committed himself to empowering others to reach for goals larger than themselves.

“The individuals in this space are making room on their shoulders for the next generation. It is powerful to know that you are setting the example and paving the way for the people to come after you, for they will know where it is to go by witnessing what you have achieved,” said HOPE initiative founder Christian Page. “We come from cultures with a long, rich lineage of beauty and strength based upon overcoming adversity. The generations before us weren’t given access to traditional literacy, so they had to tell stories in order to keep our traditions and histories alive.

“It is so important to understand where you come from, the history of your ancestors, and the legacy you want to leave. Think of your life as a story and yourself as the main character. As the main character it is up to you to take the narrative of the trajectory and make it into what you believe it should be. This may sound difficult but really it’s not. Changing your world starts with the three-feet around you. If you are constantly changing yourself and constantly speaking life into the individuals around you, then it will be a short time before you actually get to see changes in your world. That is the power you have as the main character in your story.”

Following the keynote speech a special recognition ceremony was held to honor the Tulalip Tribes senior boy and girl student of the year.

Myrna Redleaf, a graduate of Tulalip Heritage High School, received the female student of the year honors. Myrna was very active during her high school years; participating in many student activities while being an ASB officer and playing varsity basketball and volleyball. Her teachers said she was “an exceptional individual and student in every way and it was a privilege to know her. She’ll be successful in any career field she chooses. Her ability to multi-task while maintaining priorities is exemplary, as evidence by her balancing a 3.9 GPA while being a two-sport athlete.” Myrna plans on attending Everett Community College in the fall to get her Associated Degree before moving on to a University.

“I’m so honored to be selected as a student of the year!” said Myrna as she acknowledged the crowd of community members. “Thank you to my community, my family, and all the teachers and staff who helped me make it here.”

Carter Wagner, a graduate of Lakewood High School, received the male student of the year honors. Carter was on the honor roll for his junior and senior years, was a member of his school’s drama program, and is an avid snowboarder. His teachers say “we wish we had more students like him. He’s a very thoughtful and intelligent young man who participated in class discussions and always did well on his tests.” Carter has received an academic scholarship to attend Pacific Lutheran University in the fall where he plans to get a degree in Business Administration.

“A huge thank you to the Tulalip Tribes and the community for giving me this award and allowing me to move on to attend University,” remarked Carter. “I’d also like to thank my awesome family who has loved and supported me every step of the way.”

Higher education graduates

Congratulations to all those Tulalip Tribal students who put in the hard work and dedication to earn their graduate status. Chasing a dream requires your efforts and passion. The hard work isn’t over now that you have graduated, it’s only the beginning as you now prepare for the new challenges waiting in the next chapter of life. Good luck and congratulations!

Student Potlatch Promotes Learning, Healing, Culture

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A potlatch is a ceremony held by Pacific Northwest Native Americans. Potlatches, typically hosted by families within a tribe, are held to commemorate major life events such as birth, traditional namings, coming of age, weddings and the celebration of life. During the event, hosts often share their traditional family-owned songs, dances and stories with the community. Items are gifted to guests including money, blankets, baskets, paddles and canoes to show the families’ social status as well as their appreciation of support. By accepting the gifts, the community can confirm that the event took place. Official witnesses are appointed to remember what occurred during the event. Potlatch ceremonies have been practiced by the Coast Salish people for centuries.

Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) hosted their Annual 5th Grade Potlatch at the Francis J. Sheldon Gym on June 5, 2017. The event is held to congratulate the students on the successful completion of elementary school while honoring Native American heritage.

“Our people, long ago, used to have potlatches. Often times at a rite of passage – the first deer a young man might get or when a little girl turns into a young lady. So it’s a perfect time to hold a potlatch and honor them during the transition of life,” states QCT Cultural Specialist, Chelsea Craig.

During the potlatch, the fifth graders performed traditional songs and dances. Elected student speakers reflected on their time at QCT, thanked their favorite teachers and offered words of encouragement to their fellow students. The students also appointed official witnesses, Tulalip Board Member Jared Parks and Lushootseed Language Teacher Michelle Myles.  The fifth grade class offered advice to the fourth grade class during the passing of the paddle, a tradition that signifies the transferal of leadership.

“We’ve been doing [the passing of the paddle] since Tulalip elementary, it’s safe to say for at least the last ten years. We’ve revived it from Harriet Shelton Dover, she did the passing of the totem, which was a ceremony that she started when working in education many, many years ago,” explains Chelsea. “We wanted to bring back the work that she started. She would always have the same little totem they would pass, while passing on words of advice and the idea of passing on leadership.”

The fifth graders were presented with certificates as well as beaded necklaces that featured a small cedar-carved paddle as the medallion to commemorate the QCT potlatch commencement ceremony. The students made a variety of items including handmade cedar-woven baskets to gift to everybody in attendance.

“This year, every single month we took a Friday and made gifts the whole day with the fifth graders. The Lushootseed department sent two of their workers and liaisons throughout the [Marysville School District] sent their workers. It really felt like how school should be – our own community members teaching our kids,” states Chelsea. “When I say teaching, I mean working alongside them, kind of like how an auntie teaches someone. The kids really enjoyed it and got into it. Every single student made a cedar basket, that was our goal, we made ninety-five baskets this year.”

QCT is making strong efforts in changing the education system to work in favor of the future generations of Tulalip. During the assimilation era, Native American children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to boarding schools, where they were punished for speaking their native language and practicing cultural traditions, in an attempt to ‘kill the Indian, save the man’. Traditional ceremonies such as potlatches were also nationally banned during this time period. The school aims to begin the healing process of generational trauma, caused by assimilation, through cultural and community-based teachings.

“In everything that we do, we think about what our ancestors tried to get going in a time when it wasn’t comfortable or safe to be Indian, especially in a school setting,” Chelsea explains. “With the work we do, we think about healing for our ancestors. What our ancestors weren’t allowed to do, we try to do now in a school setting.”

“Our potlatch event is an example of what the classroom and the whole school should be. It should be community-based learning, obviously teaching reading and writing within that setting,” continued Chelsea. “That’s my dream – that the feeling of what happens at a potlatch transitions to the classrooms as well as everything we do here at this school. Our school does not have to look like mainstream America schools; we know based on the last hundred years, that doesn’t work for our people. So now we’re trying to heal by finding something that works for our kids.”

Keryn Parks: Turning Resiliency Into Success

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News. Photos by Micheal Rios and courtesy of Keryn Parks

Resilience is a term used to describe a set of qualities that foster a process of successful adaptation and transformation despite risk and adversity. Individuals who are resilient have the capacity to withstand, overcome, and recover from threatening conditions. Simply put, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity.

As it relates to Native youth, resilience is exemplified by certain qualities possessed by those who are subjected to undue stress and adversity, yet do not give way to school failure or juvenile delinquency. By those standards 16-year-old Tulalip tribal member Keryn Parks is resiliency personified.

The Tulalip Heritage High School junior has experienced things many couldn’t even begin to comprehend, but she didn’t surrender to the adversity. Instead, she conquered it with success.

“With everything that’s happened over the last few years, I just feel way more comfortable in a smaller setting. That’s why I loved Heritage from the first day I transferred during my sophomore year,” says Keryn on her changing of high schools. A former student at Marysville Pilchuck, she first transferred to Lakewood before finding her academic home at Heritage. “I feel way more comfortable in a setting where I know every single person in the room. It’s a friendlier setting that’s both family and culture oriented.”

The change of scenery not only provided Keryn with a much more comfortable learning environment, but it also gave her the opportunity to engage with her cultural roots, excel in the classroom as a student, and flourish on the hardwood as an athlete.

At Heritage, she received traditional teachings like fundamental beadwork from Bubba Fryberg and learning some of the ancestral language of her people under the guidance of Lushootseed language teacher Michelle Myles.

“I’ve learned that I really enjoy beadwork. It’s something I’ve gotten good with and look forward to getting better and learning new techniques. I actually love doing it,” admits Keryn. “Lushootseed was really cool to learn and hear about, especially from Michelle because she’s such an awesome teacher. Hearing her tell us the importance of passing our language down to younger generations so it doesn’t vanish motivated me to learn more.”

Keryn also seized the opportunity to take classes at Marysville’s Arts & Technology High School to bolster her student profile for future college applications. Though the course load was challenging at times, she excelled as a student of both Heritage and Arts & Tech. Using the student tracker application Skyward, Keryn was able to stay on top of all her assignments from both schools to ensure she remained ahead of the curve.

“She’s one of our star students. Her dedication to getting her classwork done and commitment to helping her classmates definitely stands out,” beams Principal Shelly Lacy. “For example, when she sees students in her class who might be having trouble with an assignment she’s always willing to help them. She has such a warm smile and friendly demeanor, so her classmates are open to her assistance. Also, her attendance is great. She’s always here at school and attends all her classes.”

Keryn’s commitment to her education yielded amazing results. In fact, she was recognized for being the only Heritage student with a 4.0 GPA at the end of the 1st semester grading term.

Excelling in academics and athletics can be a daunting task for most, but Keryn found a way to successfully balance the two. Her success in the classroom was also being echoed with athletic achievement. During this past volleyball and basketball seasons she grew into her team’s go-to playmaker. She admits that basketball is her true passion and volleyball was more for fun, yet she reluctantly accepted a leadership role in both.

“She was chosen as a team leader by [her teammates] on and off the court. It took her time to adjust to that role because she didn’t want it at first,” points out Tina Brown, Athletic Director and volleyball coach at Heritage. “It was obvious to us that Keryn’s energy was contagious. When she was in the zone and encouraging her teammates, the whole team’s play would go to a new level. Eventually, she embraced the leadership role and accepted the responsibility to encourage her teammates at the right moments to keep the momentum going. The whole team benefited because of it.”

With Keryn embracing the leadership role, the Lady Hawks volleyball team found unprecedented success. They started off the year (5-0) and made their first ever appearance in the Tri-District Tournament. The Lady Hawks’ success carried over to the basketball season, where Keryn continued to develop as a key playmaker and clutch shot maker. She averaged career highs in nearly every statistical category, while shining in the biggest moments. The team finished with an astonishing (20-6) record including a deep postseason run that ended at Regionals. Recognizing her efforts, Keryn was named to the All-League 1st Team.

The end of basketball season marked the end of the athletic year for Heritage sports. Refocusing all her efforts towards her education, Keryn understands the significance of making the most out of opportunity while still in high school. For her upcoming senior year she intends to enroll in Running Start, a program that allows high school students to take college courses at community colleges. She’ll be earning both high school and college credit for courses taken at Everett Community College.

Keryn and family.

“I’m more excited than anything. I know it’s going to be challenging and a lot of hard work, but I’m ready for it,” says Keryn a few days after testing into the Running Start program. “I want to make the most out of my senior year by earning college credits. It’ll be really beneficial in the long run. Educationally, I want something more for myself and I hope to show my friends and family what’s possible.”

Of Keryn’s decision to do Running Start during her senior year Principal Lacy adds, “I’m really excited for her. Our goal is to get our students to see what they are capable of and to promote the pathways to college the best we can. The first year of college is always the hardest, there’s so much the students have to adjust to, but through Running Start we get to support them through the process. It’s been wonderful to witness Keryn grow into the person she is. I’m confident that with her dedication she’ll succeed with Running Start.”

Continuing to raise the bar with her education and succeeding at every step helps to change a culture and breaks the stereotypes of Native youth in the academic realm. The stats show that overwhelmingly Native students have difficulty succeeding at college. However, as with basketball in the biggest moments, Keryn has a knack for delivering in the clutch. And thus far, her ability to turn adversity into success through sheer force of will is what makes her so unique.

“I’m proud to be Native American, I’m proud to be Tulalip. In everything that I do and achieve I’m representing my family. Parks, Fryberg, Gobin, and Joseph, all those family names I represent. That’s the weight I hold on my back, that’s who I am,” proclaims Keryn. “While growing up my dad would tell me, ‘Don’t drag our name through the mud, Keryn.’ Now that I’m older I understand what he was getting at. Holding myself accountable, being successful, and focusing on what’s best for me is totally within my control. When people see me doing well and achieving, I want them to think of my parents and grandparents because they are the support system that makes me who I am.”

Lastly, to her peers and fellow Tulalip community members Keryn has this advice, “Know your worth. Know how much your success helps everyone around you. If you’re bettering yourself, then you’re bettering your siblings and little cousins. In this community, you are always going to be a role model know matter what. There are people looking up to you and you don’t even know it. So try to set the best example you can and be that positive role model for the younger ones because it matters to them. It matters to us all.”

Promoting overall wellness for our youth

Article by Micheal Rios; photos by Micheal Rios and courtesy of Sarah Sense-Wilson

Promoting the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of today’s youth, especially teenagers, is largely a labor of love. It’s difficult enough getting them to give their social media accounts a break, put their cellphones away, and actually focus on educational activities, let alone holding their attention long enough to get them to interact in a group setting. Yet, it is in the commitment to our youth, to their well-being and personal growth that brings about positive changes in lifestyle, relationships, and overall wellness.

Enter the Tulalip Tribes 5th Annual Wellness Conference and its dedicated day, May 16, to promoting overall wellness to our community’s youth.

“Our youth flourish when provided guidance, tools, resources, and encouragement. They thrive when we set good examples of self-care, and live by example. Our individual and collective actions are always far more meaningful and impactful when we are embracing challenges, and having an open mind for learning and taking the time to nurture healthy relationships,” eloquently states Sarah Sense-Wilson, Wellness Conference Coordinator. “I believe our conference really embodies these values and the presenters and workshop leaders exemplify traditional and cultural values we want our children and youth to follow.”

Approximately 90 students from Heritage High School, Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Totem Middle School, and Marysville Middle School were shuttled to the event hosted within the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca ballroom. The adolescent youth were treated to a large and healthy buffet-style breakfast after filling out their registration cards and putting on a name tag. As they settled in keynote speaker Layha Spoonhunter (Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho, Oglala Lakota) took center stage.

Layha is a youth consultant, motivational speaker, Two Spirit Native citizen, and vocal advocate for Two Spirit people. He provided honest, open and engaging discussion on LGBTQI (a common abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed community), Two Spirit, and Allyship advocacy.

Layha describes Two Spirit as a “person who has both masculine and feminine identities.” He says it is a spiritual term that encompasses Native culture, language and history. His expertise and experience as a youth spokesperson and advocate for Native youth empowerment bridges differences and strengthens relationships among groups of community members. Layha offered his story as an example for other young LGBTQI and Two Spirit individuals to express themselves and embrace their identities.

“Build an environment of fairness and openness within your community. Stand up against stereotypes and racism. Stand up against bigotry and discrimination,” resounded Layha to his largely youth audience. “Take pride in your identity and use it to make positive change.”

Following the keynote address, the youth were given the choice of three interactive and experiential based workshops to attend. The three diverse workshop presenters were specifically chosen for their ability to reach our Native youth in a variety of ways.

Credentialed Native American mental health specialist and award-winning artist LisaNa Red Bear offered her workshop attendees the opportunity to create a mural art project. Participants engaged in three experiential learning art exercises that support a better understanding of complications associated with smoking. The hands-on creative art project was a hit, as the Native youth’s artistic abilities shined.

“We see an amazing level of creativity expressed by youth who engage in artistic activities. When they allow themselves to imagine and sit still long enough to allow that creativity to flow through them, the results can be awe-inspiring,” reflects LisaNa on the impact of her art mural workshop. “Young people have creativity inside them, innately, and it just depends on whether or not it’s nurtured or repressed.”

Grammy award-winning artist Star Nayea led a Project R.I.S.E Up workshop. She empowered the youth to create video vision statements that involved creating handheld signage decorated with personalized cultural artwork. Participants then took turns filming their own P.S.A. style videos. Star’s unique ability to reach youth and engage them in expressing their ideas, thoughts and feelings led to some amazing video production both individually and collectively. The youth offered messages of hope, vision and inspiration for believing in yourself and living a drug free life.

“Kids just want to know that we, as adults and teachers, are legit. They want to know that we are there for all the right reasons, that we care about them, and that they can thrive from the knowledge and experience we offer,” says Star. “It’s so important for their voices to be heard and for their faces to be seen as they speak the words. It’s one thing to have thoughts and a whole other thing to rise up and share those thoughts, to inspire. In making the P.S.A. videos they help to inspire one another and their community.”

The third workshop option was called In the Spirit of the Story. The tradition of storytelling is a way of passing down, teaching vital lessons, and of course entertainment with a purpose. Gene Tagaban (Tlingit) is an incredibly skillful, knowledgeable and talented storyteller who led this workshop. Using story as a medium for empowerment and self-expression, Gene connected with participants in a deep and meaningful way which transcends all generational differences. The power of storytelling was illuminated through his interactive workshop as a tool for teaching, healing and growing.

“Offering our youth a range of different interactive workshops was intentional and purposeful. We are always wanting to reach our youth for supporting their interests and appeal to their generational issues,” explains Sarah on the importance of workshop variety when working with youth. “Community wellness requires positive action, not passive existence. Some have to work harder because we are up against more barriers, walls, and obstacles. Nonetheless, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our youth, and our community to strive to do better and be better.”

Concluding the youth wellness day was a very special Native Hoop Dance

performance by Tulalip tribal member Terry Goedell. Several youth were brave enough to join Terry on stage and receive a tutorial on hoop dancing basics.

There’s a popular saying in Native communities, “be careful in the decisions we make today as they will impact the 7th generation – our grandchildren’s grandchildren, grandchildren.” Respect for this wisdom continues to guide events like the annual Wellness Conference, where a commitment to preparing Native youth for a brighter future is on full display.

ELA students honor moms, with muffins!

I am like a flower that is raised

with love by you,

like a flower that is watered each day.

You help me grow, stand tall

You nurture and shape me until

I am big and strong.

One day, I will be grown and 

my hand will

be as big as yours

thank you for all you do,

I sure love you.


By Kalvin Valdillez

Students of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (ELA) celebrated their moms, aunties and grandmas this year with a special afternoon to kick-off Mother’s Day Weekend. Moms and Muffins is an annual event that provides an opportunity for children of the academy to honor their mothers while enjoying delicious snacks.


The May 11 event, held at the former Tulalip elementary gym, had a springtime theme. Mothers and students were treated to their choice of blueberry, double chocolate or red velvet muffins as well as a variety of fruit-infused waters. Numerous mothers were honored during the two-hour event.

Laughter, accompanied by chocolate-filled smiles, were shared amongst students and mothers alike. After enjoying baked goods with their mothers and the last muffin top crumb was consumed, the students visited the photo booth to capture a memory with their favorite ladies.

The event also included an arts and crafts project in which both mothers and kids participated. ELA provided a poem (see right) in which the growth of a flower is used as a metaphor to describe the bond between a mother and child. The poem also contained a photo of two flower stems, one large and one small, yet empty spaces stood on top of the flower stems. Mothers and students stamped their hands and these handprints served as the flowers from the poem.

Moms and Muffins continues to provide a fun (and tasty) opportunity for kids to spend quality time with the most important and influential women of their young lives.