By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
Once a year during the summertime, Tulalip tribal members celebrate the Annual Spee-Bi-Dah beach potlatch. The gathering allows tribal members the opportunity to socialize with friends and family while enjoying foods that are caught and prepared traditionally such as salmon, shrimp, crab and clams. Tribal members utilize seine nets to capture the seafood and a traditional clambake follows.
“That’s how our ancestors gathered when they fished; they held a potlatch and shared the food,” explains Tulalip tribal member, Mona Ordonia. “Our ancestors actually used to harvest nettles and make nets out of the nettle stems, way back in the day. I harvested nettle myself and made some rope out of it, which was actually a special experience because now I understand how strong the ropes were. They are a lot stronger than some of the rope today, and that’s what our ancestors used before the modern nets.”
The skies were clear, providing beautiful weather for the July 8 beach event as many young tribal members seized the opportunity to splash about the water. Spee-Bi-Dah continues to unite multiple generations while honoring Tulalip’s culture and traditional way of life.
“I look forward to Spee-Bi-Dah every year because it’s such a great gathering,” Mona expresses. “And to also experience [seining]. That’s like bringing history to today’s experience, a way of not forgetting that’s how we did it back in the day. To be able to come together and share that experience, especially with the children, so that they can see that’s how we always did it. And to help; I like helping shuck the crab for everybody and I also like watching Tony [Hatch] cook the clams and shrimp on the pit, that’s so awesome to me.”
Tulalip Events Manager Robert Watson said the event wouldn’t be possible without the Tulalip Charitable Fund. “We’re so grateful that every year the Tulalip Charity fund donates money for us to put on the Spee-Bi-Dah event.”
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
On Thursday, April 13, the auditorium of Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary was home to the artistic expression, vocal talents, and hula-hooping skills provided by the youthful, creative student body.
The 2017 talent show was a great way to showcase the students, build their confidence, and bring the community together. It’s a fun-filled event that appeals to all age groups and gives family and friends the perfect opportunity to capture long-lasting memories.
“Our annual talent show is such a great event. There is a buzz in the school prior to the talent show, with pockets of kids practicing their acts during their recess time. It’s so cute to witness,” marvels cultural specialist Chelsea Craig. “As a staff member it is beautiful to watch the kids blossom. I have seen kids who normally are pretty shy [step up] and sing in front of the whole school. I love how it really showcases such a variety of talent and empowers our kids.”
Several of the young aspiring singers covered the catchy hit song “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s Moana soundtrack, while a couple others utilized popular dance moves of ‘Watch Me’ (Whip/Nae Nae), while Lupita Alvarado stayed true to her cultural roots and shared a traditional Mexican folk dance with her peers. Then there were those who took creativity to the next level by coming up with their own choreography and dance moves.
The students, teachers, and parents were all blown away from the get go as a large ensemble led by Kamaya Craig opened the talent show with their own unique dance routine. Dancing to music by Beyonce, the eleven student girl-group displayed a variety of dance moves and choreographed precision. In creating the routine, Kamaya’s vision was to have a variety of girls from difference grade levels perform a song that really takes pride in who they are as young ladies. The group of 1st – 5th grade ladies met daily during lunch time to practice channeling their inner Beyonce.
Following the amazing performances, Kamaya’s mother Chelsea said, “It felt good to see the arts living in our school, we definitely need more of that!”
The annual elementary talent show set the stage to showcase so many talented kids and the student body came through, act after act. All the young entertainers braved being on center stage and performed admirably.
“Every year the talent show is a big success; 2017 was no exception. It is an event that is anticipated by parents, staff, and students alike,” explains Principal Cory Taylor. “For many years, 1st grade teacher Corina Hansen has put many hours into planning this event. Putting on an activity like this doesn’t just happen without a vision. As a school, we are fortunate to have her leadership in coordinating the talent show.
“All of the performers did such an amazing job. There was a wide variety of talent ranging from comedians to artists. Without question, these students will do amazing things with their lives. As a school, we applaud them for their great work.”
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
The Tulalip Tribes recently welcomed the Everett Optometry Clinic, this past November, to a new office located at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. For the past forty years, Everett Optometry has provided eye care services to Snohomish county residents. With numerous positive online reviews, the optometry clinic is a favorite among locals of the Everett area. By bringing their friendly customer service and making accountability top priority, Everett Optometry looks forward to a new outlook in eye care for the Tulalip community.
Eye health is often overlooked. In today’s society of constantly switching between phone, tablet, computer and TV screens it is important to take care of your eyes and visit the optometrist for an annual exam. During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can determine if a patient requires prescription glasses or contact lenses as well detect early signs of diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts.
Diabetes and high blood pressure, both major health concerns across Native America, can cause damage to the eye vessels, and if untreated can lead to complete vision loss. Everett Optometry works with the Tulalip Health Clinic’s medical professionals to provide the best possible care under one umbrella to individuals living with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Optometric Physician, Dr. Rachel Spillane spoke of the importance of eye exams, “It’s just so critical at all ages, we are seeing everyone from two year-olds to ninety year-olds. Especially for kids right as they are entering school, we want to make sure they have the proper vision and their eyes are focusing properly so they will be able to learn.”
Children who are nearsighted, vision that causes far away objects to appear blurry, are able to express their visual impairment and therefore can be treated. However, children who see objects in the distance clearly but have trouble seeing closer items, or farsighted, may not communicate that they are having difficulties seeing properly. For this reason, it is important to get children’s eyes checked at a young age, preferably before heading into school. During the eye chart test, when patients read letters out loud from a distance, Dr. Spillane provides fun shapes such as animals for the younger children who may not know their alphabet yet. The optometry clinic also takes the time to discuss proper usage and safety for glasses and contact lenses with children.
In some cases, parents opt to wait to take their children to the optometrist until they are older, preventing the child from unlocking their full potential in school.
“We’ve been finding a lot of kids that are a little further along, I’d say about second grade, they’re really struggling. Their teachers have labeled them as problem children because they’re not able to focus and pay attention. And then I’ll do their exam and find out they can’t see anything. But at that age they don’t say what’s wrong. As an adult we’ll say, I have a headache, or the words are going in and out [of focus]. Kids won’t, they’ll just quit and go do other things,” she stated.
The new office has state of the art technology allowing Dr. Spillane the ability to perform a majority of the procedures at the clinic, with a few exceptions including Lasik Laser eye surgery, which can be performed at the Colby Avenue location. The optometry clinic also sees patients for infections such as pink eye, as well as emergency situations like cuts or eye bleeding.
Dispensing Optician, Dianna Felgar, assists during the process of choosing the perfect pair of frames, lenses, and contact lenses for each patient. The new optometry clinic offers a variety of frames from over thirty brands including Oakley, Ray Ban, Dolce & Gabana, Maui Jim, and the Native American eyewear company Aya.
Qualified patients may receive additional financial assistance through Tulalip’s Patient Assistance program. Gloria Beal, Paraoptometric at the clinic, works with finance and insurance companies to ensure the patient is receiving the funding they are eligible for, therefore allowing them to receive the care they require.
Currently the Everett Optometry Clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. However, through an office cell phone where voicemail and text messages are encouraged, they are available to the Tulalip community at all times. Patients can also be seen Monday-Friday at the Everett location.
For additional information please contact (360) 716-4511, visit www.everettoptometry.com, or call/text their office cell phone (425) 314-1312.
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
Tamara Morden was born and raised in the Tulalip community. Growing up, she was a member of the Tulalip Church of God, also known as the red church by locals. For the past six years Tamara has been assisting families in need by operating the Tulalip Food Bank. Located at the same church she was raised in, the food bank first opened its doors over thirty years ago.
“Marge Williams started it because there was a need and because of the way things were. If you lived on the reservation you were not allowed to go to the Marysville [food bank]. Marge made this happen so people west of I-5 have access to a food bank,” she stated.
Tamara explained that after Marge passed, her mother Francis Morden continued to accept and disperse donations to the community. When Francis reached eighty years young, Tamara decided to take on the responsibility and continued to serve the people of Tulalip.
Since then, she has transformed the typical food bank pantry by creating an efficient and organized shopping experience. The food bank offers a variety of items including macaroni and cheese, fresh vegetables as well as frozen protein such as chicken. Tamara takes the time to cook dinners such as Indian tacos, chili dogs and casseroles for the community members after the food bank closes for the day.
“We are available to everybody in need of food. I’m here to feed everybody, I don’t care if you’re from Everett, we don’t turn people away. We serve about one hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty people every two weeks. If I feed one person, I’m good. If I feed a bunch of people, I’m better. I love what I do,” states Morden.
The Tulalip Food Bank is open bi-weekly on Tuesdays between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Volunteers and donations are always welcome. For more information, please contact Tamara at (425) 760-6241.
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
There’s no doubt about tensions between minority youth and law enforcement being highly publicized. In the digital age, where there’s an emphasis on social media as surrogate news sources, seems we hear about or see a video depicting that tension on a weekly basis.
Factor in the growth of unrestrained, anti-police rhetoric that is common place in public discourse and it’s a wonder why anyone would want to be a police officer today. They are normal citizens doing a hero’s job; willingly putting their life at risk on a daily basis to protect and serve their communities.
Police officers should be positive role models for all of us, especially the youth. In a different day and age, children were taught to recognize police as a socially accepted authority. Along with that came a respect for the law. Unfortunately, there appears to be a widening gap between younger members of the community and the police officers sworn to protect them.
Recognizing that gap and determined to bridge it, Tulalip Youth Services Director, Teri Nelson, and Tulalip Police Chief, Carlos Echevarria, designed a new program aimed at the younger crowd that allows them to become familiar with officer training, equipment, and services provided. The program, entitled ‘Pop with a Cop’, debuted Thursday, March 2.
“Chief Echevarria and I discussed the idea on how to connect youth members in a meaningful way. The goal is to meet in a casual setting and build positive relationships with our Tribal Law enforcement officers,” explains Teri Nelson.
Also, by having tribal citizens interact with officers in a non-adversarial environment, each side has the opportunity to get to know the other as an individual. This alone breaks down stereotypes and barriers.
“Our goal is to create positive interactions with the youth and build upon the experiences to show police officers are people as well,” states Chief Echevarria. “Our youth are respectful, happy, talented, and I am proud of them all. We made good use of an environment that was created for ‘all’ of us to run, laugh, and play games. There was some healthy ball field ‘trash talk’ as well and all in good fun.
“Quote of the day from one of the youth, ‘I had a lot of fun playing with you…breaking your ankles!’ He laughed, then I laughed and gave him a high-five. We all had a great time, if even for a brief moment. This is just the beginning.”
Youth using this designated time to build relationships with authority figures is an important part of maturing and becoming good citizens. Some children do not have the fortune of being surrounded by positive role models. Even those who have loving guardians can benefit from respectful, responsible adults in the community. Police officers are in a unique position to model healthy traits, such as self-esteem, physical wellness, safety and respect.
“The program will run every Thursday from 3:30pm to 4:30pm at the Donald “Penoke” Hatch Youth Center,” says Teri. “Youth will have the opportunity to ask questions about experiences as a police officer and play some games. This will bring great interactions, connections, and possibly generate interest for young people to look at careers in Law Enforcement.”
For more information about Tulalip Youth Services activities and events, please visit tulalipyouthservices.com or call the Youth Center main line at (360) 716-4909.
By Sherry Guydelkon, Tulalip News, May 23, 2007
According to tribal elder Ray Moses, before 1957 there were no Memorial Day services at Tulalip cemeteries.
Many families did, however, observe the day by walking to one or both of the reservation cemeteries – Priest Point and Mission Beach – where they would pull weeds and lay flowers on their loved ones’ graves.
They would pack lunches and walk along the Tulalip road, said Ray, gathering wild flowers and greens for wreaths as they walked. People who lived along the road would often offer flowers from their yards. And everyone was careful to leave the cemeteries by three o’clock in the afternoon, because after that time spirits might come out.
By 1957, Ray had returned from the Korean War and was doing his best to stay a little drunk. Jobs for Indian men were hard to come by, and he had plenty of painful wartime memories to blot out.
Finally, his mother Marya Moses let him know that she was concerned that he would drink himself into an early grave. ‘You served your country well,” she said. “You’re a good person when you’re not drinking, but when you drink, you’re no dang good.”
Marya, who had been very supportive of the Tulalip soldiers who fought in Korea and had faithfully written to Tom Gobin, David and Butch Spencer, and others who served there, suggested that he do something useful for the vets.
Then Tom Gobin, who played several instruments, gave him a direction. He said, “If you can get a firing squad, I’ll blow the bugle.”
So Ray talked to Stan Schaefer, who, besides being Marysville’s funeral director, was a member of the VFW, about borrowing rifles one day a year. Stan said that Ray could borrow the Marysville VFW’s rifles, but that they would have to be returned by 11 a.m. for the town’s Memorial Day service.
So Tulalip’s observance was set for 10 a.m., and Ray began gathering his squad together. With a few veterans who became regulars and others that he recruited from the taverns, Ray had his first squad. “They were all willing,” said Ray, “but some of them were weaving a little.”
“I used to tease them,” he said, “and call them the F-Troup after the old comedy TV show. I called Kenny Williams “Dog Tag” and Larry Charley “Crazy Cat” after one of the Indians on the show. And I’d say, ‘Chests in, stomachs out” – the opposite of what they say in the Army. I’d get the guys laughing, sort of lighten things up.’
The only problem was that the rifles were left over from World War I and were defective. Sometimes the ammunition would go off and sometimes it wouldn’t.
“One of the guys asked me, what if my rifle doesn’t fire, what do I do?” Ray recalled. “I said, say bang.”
Regardless of the rifle problems, people were pleased with the bugle and the squad. “The old timers thanked us for honoring our warriors,” said Ray. “And they were warriors. They went off to fight, and they were starting to die at home – Doc Jones, Jack George, Steve Williams, Reuben Shelton, Elliott Brown…
“When our last World War I veteran, Ed Williams, died , I felt bad that there was no bugle there. So we started going to veterans’ funerals, too.”
Encouraged by the responses of the Tulalip families, the squad began traveling to veterans’ funerals at off-reservation communities that had no firing squads of their own – Arlington, Granite Falls, even Tacoma and Olympia. “We had no money and neither did the Tribe,” said Ray, “but George Reeves had a van and people would give us a little money for gas.”
When Clarence Hatch became the Tribes’ business manager in the early 1960s, he and Stan Jones, Sr., agreed that the firing squad should have new rifles, and they were purchased by the Tribes. By then, Tom Gobin had passed the bugle on to Bee Bop Moses, who played in the Marysville High School band. And Clarence even found a little money to pay him.
There was still the problem of buying ammunition, but that was resolved through negotiations with the Marysville VFW. The VFW promised to supply Tulalip’s firing squad with ammo if Ray would march with them in the Strawberry Festival parade. So, for several years, Ray marched for ammo.
Since the new rifles did not have to be returned by eleven o’clock, Memorial Day services could be scheduled for both reservation cemeteries – one at 10 a.m. and one at 11 a.m.
“When I started helping at funerals, I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Ray admits. “I had to change as I went along. I had to become more compassionate.
“I’m glad David Fryberg is continuing that work, and I’m glad the Tribe has the veterans’ program. I hope it will continue on.
“In the beginning, we were encouraged by the old timers and the Shaker people, and later on by the families. They’ve appreciated that we are honoring our warriors for their sacrifices.”
In addition to those who did not return from the wars, said Ray, there were those who were physically and emotionally injured and were never the same again – like Steve Williams who was shot in the leg and P.O.W. Jack George. Ray believes it is only right that the Tribes show our past vets the gratitude that they have earned.
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
The Snohomish County Music Project is using music as a tool to strengthen the Tulalip and Marysville community. With over fifteen programs, the Music Project has dedicated their time to improving the mental well being of Snohomish County community members through music therapy. The Marysville School District originally reached out to the Snohomish County Music project when looking for alternative therapy for children who have experienced trauma in their young lives. Music Therapy is now offered to many schools in the Marysville School District including, Marysville-Pilchuck, Quil Ceda Elementary, and Marysville Arts and Technology.
Quil Ceda Elementary student, Oliver walked into a spare room of his school’s library wearing a visibly huge smile. As he took his seat, Music Therapist Victoria Fansler handed him a stack of cards. Each card displayed a cartoon making facial expressions with the corresponding emotion (i.e. happy or sad) written in text beneath the cartoon face. As his instructor retrieved her guitar from its case, Oliver examined the cards. Once he picked two cards out of the deck, Victoria began strumming her guitar to an interactive welcoming song between teacher and student, pausing only for Oliver to respond to questions within Victoria’s lyrics. When her song reached the question ‘how are you feeling today?’ he revealed the cards he had chosen, excited, because he was in Music Therapy class and upset because his aunt postponed her visit with him until the weekend.
This warm-up exercise allows the student to express their emotions and presents them with the opportunity to explain why they are feeling those emotions. Victoria begins each of her sessions with this exercise as the majority of her students from the Marysville and Tulalip community happily sing along. At the end of each session she remixes the welcome song to recap the session and say ‘goodbye until next week’.
Tulalip Cares Charitable Contributions recently funded Victoria’s music therapy program through the Snohomish County Music Project. She is currently working full time in the Tulalip-Marysville community helping students work through traumatic life events by using music as an instrument of healing.
Countless studies have shown that music therapy has assisted many victims of trauma. While focusing on music individuals are able to relax, therefore reducing stress and anxiety levels. Music therapy provides an outlet for individuals to express their emotions creatively.
Victoria also provides services to the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy once a week and works primarily with students who are currently, or have previously been, involved with Child Protective Services or beda?chelh. In cases of neglect, children are sometimes unaware of social cues, such as facial expressions and vocal tones. For this reason, Victoria incorporates mirroring into her lesson plans, to help the children at the academy recognize emotions that others display.
In elementary schools, Victoria teaches the children how to express their emotions through music. Oliver, for example, is a huge Eminem fan. In his individual session Oliver wrote down and illustrated everything that makes him feel safe as well as his fears. While working on the assignment a Bluetooth speaker played a cover, performed by kid YouTube sensation Sparsh Shah, of Eminem’s ‘Not Afraid’. Oliver is familiar with the Eminem song and because of the tools music therapy has provided him, he was able to write his own lyrics to the track. Oliver said that those particular lyrics that he wrote are in memory of his little brother who passed away when they were both at a young age.
Aside from her acoustic guitar, Victoria uses a variety of instruments in her sessions including a melodica. The free-reed instrument is essentially a keyboard that requires users to blow air into it for sound output, much like a wind instrument.
“A lot of people suggest meditation and focused breathing for children with trauma, but I found that sometimes it can be hard trying to convince kids that sitting still and breathing quietly will help them feel better. The Melodica is really engaging, if you hold a long exhale breath it makes a really pleasant sound that lets you explore the keys and get creative while playing it. This helps build self-awareness so the kids can feel comfortable self-expressing musically and recognizing what tools they already have within themselves,” Victoria states.
Another instrument that assists with trauma recovery is the drum. Victoria explains, “We use a lot of rhythm because we know, neurologically, what trauma does to the brain. For example, when we have a flashback and trauma is overtaking the mind and body, the part of the brain that tells you what time and place you’re in, basically shuts off. With rhythm and drumbeats it forces us to engage in the present moment, our brains can’t help but track how fast the beat is going. We call that entrainment. It keeps us from being stuck in the past with our traumatic memories and how they might make us feel. Through entrainment we help our clients realize that although a traumatic event occurred, it is in the past and it is not going to hijack their brain at any given moment anymore.”
The Snohomish Music Project offers a variety of programs countywide including music therapy services for infants, children, teens, Veterans suffering with posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as senior citizens suffering with memory-related illnesses. The non-profit’s headquarters is located at the Everett Mall and hosts live music performances weekly. Since 2010 the Snohomish County Project, previously known as the Everett Symphony, has refocused their time and energy to help heal and strengthen communities.
“Rather than using music as tool to provide performances, we have transformed and provide a way to use music as a tool to help community members thrive and to help make impactful changes in the community. We are able to help individuals better themselves and they in turn become positive contributors to our community,” states Snohomish County Music Project Director, Vasheti Quiros.
Victoria is making a positive impact in the community through music therapy and because of its popularity and high demand, (she has over twenty kids on a waiting list at the early learning academy) Victoria hopes to expand her program and open services to the entire Tulalip community. She currently is in talks with Youth Services about hiring youth of the community, with hopes of training them to become music therapists.
For additional information about the Snohomish County Music Project please visit their website www.scmusicproject.org
Article by Micheal Rios; photos courtesy of Rachel Steve
Armed with litter pickers, garbage bags, and protective gloves, twenty-eight dedicated Tulalip youth committed a sunny Friday afternoon to beautifying the Youth Center and its surrounding area.
The community cleanup event was organized by Youth Services Activities Specialist, Rachel Steeve, and took place on February 17.
“Youth Services was very pleased with the turn out,” explains Rachel. “The kids were pretty optimistic about cleaning up their most popular hangout spot, and there wasn’t one complaint. Going into it we all thought it was going to rain, but instead the sun came out for us and made it a beautiful day. We are blessed to have such an amazing building and even more blessed the kids take ownership and care for their building.”
Community cleanup is a great way to improve the environment while working alongside fellow community members on a hands-on, high-visibility service project. When you love your community, you want to make sure it looks its best.
“The kids cleaned for 1.5 hours then we took them to Altitude Trampoline Park for two hours as a reward,” continues Rachel. “Work hard, play hard! The reward was well worth it. The kids had a blast jumping. It took all the hard working staff to carry out such a successful event.”
Over the duration of the cleanup the environmentally conscious group removed bags and bags of litter and debris from the roadways, parking lots, nature trails, and ball fields surrounding the Youth Center.
Cleaning up your neighborhood park is a rewarding project for all community members, regardless of age or occupation. In fact, it really helps to have plenty of young workers. Cleaning up your neighborhood park is one of the few neighborhood activities where youthful stamina is more critical than good judgment. It’s visual, we can see the results, and you’re only asking volunteers for a few hours on one occasion.
“Tulalip Youth Services would like to thank the twenty-eight youth who showed up to help pick up garbage in the community,” states Josh Fryberg, Youth Services Activities Coordinator. “We will be planning more days like this in the future and hope to see the same or more participants. Let’s continue to make a difference together.”
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
Cool, calm and collected is the demeanor of Tulalip hip-hop artist, Nathan Kix. Still in his early twenties he has his mind set on the future, looking to be the first Native artist to crossover to music mainstream. Many Indigenous rappers such as Litefoot and Red Cloud have seen success and have spread their voices throughout reservations nationwide. However, their fan base has been limited to the Native American community.
Nathan and his team have created a unique modern sound that emphasizes his clever wordplay. Until recently Nathan was releasing singles on Soundcloud, which revealed glimpses of his musical direction. He released his debut project this past December, on his birthday, in the form of a six-track EP titled Autumn which has received positive reviews across social media. And he is only beginning, stating his future projects will each contain a unique sound as he plans to build a strong catalog during the course of his music career.
With a fan base that continues to grow by the day, I have no doubt in my mind that Kix could be the first Native rapper to break down genre barriers. I personally met Nathan a few years back while we were both working as concierge’ for the T Spa at the Tulalip Resort and Casino. As an avid hip-hop enthusiast myself, I would often talk music, recite Jay Z lyrics and even drop the occasional freestyle with Nate during downtime at the spa (when no guests were around, of course). Which is why I was excited to sit down and talk with the young emcee about his new release, culture, and of course the genre of music that captivated us both at a young age: hip-hop.
Let’s start off by talking about your background. Has growing up on the reservation affected your writing?
For the most part I’ve kept my culture modest, up until this point. Solely for the fact I feel I don’t want to expose too much too early. I want to appeal to as many people as possible, strictly through human experience, without playing the culture card. I don’t want to use that to gain popularity. I want to build my skill level. So, at this point it hasn’t [affected the writing] but it does inspire why I want to do this.
What is your writing process?
When I first started, I used to write without a beat, which was a burden when it came time to record because I couldn’t stay on beat. But I stuck with it and kept writing. Once I figured out what bars were, it was a field day. With the writing process now, I am very punch line oriented. I studied Lil’ Wayne’s delivery and wittiness, and took those components and made it my own. When writing today, I will loop the beat and figure out the exact flow first, like how many syllables I can fit into particular verse or line and once I figure that out, I’ll pause the beat and keep flowing in my head, until I get it down, and then plop the words in.
Was there a defining moment when you knew this is what you’re supposed to do?
I started writing raps around seven or eight, but they were trash and I was one of those people who want to be good at something right away. I realized [at that time] I wasn’t good, so I held off until I was about sixteen, and then I gave it another shot.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, there was this one girl who I was trying to, you know, holler at. She actually asked me to have a rap battle on paper. I was like ‘oh okay,’ you know whatever it takes to keep the conversation going. Ever since then I’ve enjoyed the process [of writing], so that was the defining moment for me. Whenever I get the chance to talk to her, I still let her know she was the one who got the ball rolling.
What’s the story behind the name Nathan Kix?
Roughly around that same time [in high school], I started getting into personal style. The one thing I enjoyed the most about an outfit were the shoes, that’s switched up now, but I was known in high school for having all the Jordan’s and all the fly shoes. People identified me as the dude who had forty different pairs of shoes. Every day, for at least a month and a half, I wore a different pair. That’s basically where the name came from.
How important is originality?
Originality is everything. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you want to progress a genre and make your stamp, originality is going to take you there. There are artists out there who cut and paste styles from already established artists and [by doing so] they make it well known that they aren’t on their own wave. Originality should be the focal point when becoming an artist.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
It’s a toss-up between two or three people. I really fell in love with Kanye West’s music when he came out with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I liked Kanye [before] but that album really sparked my interest and made me want to become a better artist. Drake always had a huge impact on the way I approach the phycology of writing. And, Jim Morrison for the creativity and the depth he brings to writing music.
If you could collaborate with one artist who would it be? Producer?
A$AP Rocky. For producer, I have to go with ’Ye (Kanye West).
How do you feel about the local hip-hop scene?
I don’t feel like there really is one, but we definitely need it. I feel like it would create a lot of creative ventures for people. If you have all these creative minds such as videographers, photographers, and graphic designers coming together, who can contribute to improve the image of an artist, the scene can essentially build everybody up.
Where do you see your art taking you?
Representing all the First Nations people. Like, the Shoni Schimmel of music. Basically what I am trying to do is bring Natives into the mainstream. Shoni Schimmel dipped her finger in the water; I want to be the person to create the biggest wave out of [the water]. When I do, I want to look back at my people and help them find a way to creatively express themselves, because there are passionate Natives out here and I want to help create a market for them.
What separates you from your competition?
The awareness of how to be different; I like to incorporate the modern sound with my own textures. I have a producer who I work with, Paul Koshak. He produced Autumn, well ninety-eight percent of it. Mason Gobin, who is also a tribal member, produced half of [the song] 100 Thousand.
I think a lot of rappers aren’t giving it their all, as far as song content. I feel like that is my sole focus and I am able to deliver that in a very witty way.
Why did you decide to go with the Moon, in traditional Native artwork, for your album cover?
The moon is representing that something new is about to happen. The moon comes every night and provides you with a new day. So in a way, it is the same concept of Autumn. You see the leaves falling every autumn, signifying new change.
Most people go with a summer vibe with their music because everyone likes to feel good. My favorite season is autumn because the gloominess it has. When the leaves fall, there is a gap of time where it feels like nothing is happening. That’s the overall vibe: transition.
I feel like I made a huge change in my life, within this last year, mentally. It felt like I was dropping as many leaves as possible, I still feel like I’m in that phase, but I know they are going to grow back and blossom as beautiful as ever. That’s the metaphor behind [the artwork and concept].
Prior to the release of Autumn, you dropped a documentary that showed you in the studio as well as in the community. Shortly after the EP came out, you released a music video for your song Gravity. How important were those videos to your overall presentation?
They were very crucial, especially the documentary because it gave people a taste of what exactly I am about. A lot of people may perceive me as bashful; when in reality I’m just introverted. The documentary allowed me to show what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, without having to spoon-feed it to you.
The [music] video was not a calculated move. We shot it back in the summertime and we didn’t actually have anything planned for it. People were responding and saying they really appreciated Autumn so director Luis Perez – a phenomenal photographer/videographer – sent me a text and wanted to release the video. We picked the date and dropped it on Christmas Eve.
The EP has received a lot of love – what has been the best feedback you received?
I enjoy any type of feedback I get, but the best feedback has been from people I didn’t even expect to give it a listen. Sometimes when walking around, people will stop me and tell me they’ve been listening to my songs. When they tell me they like my music in person, that’s what I appreciate the most.
You’ve talked about your collective a lot, the group of creative minds that you work with. How important is it to have your group with you, as you gain more exposure going forward?
I feel like it’s necessary to have a team because you’re not going to always be the one with the right idea. There are decisions that have to be made, that have nothing to do with the craft itself. Having a team behind you to take things on, such as business ventures, that is something that an artist can benefit from.
Having your own team is basically like having your own label. I feel like I would rather give a percentage [of profits] to the people I know. I think most artists are taking this route because they realized that record labels will rip your soul apart. When it’s with people you know, you feel a more genuine connection.
Do you plan on staying on the independent grind or would you sign the right deal?
If they had my agenda in mind, and allowed me to operate at the speed that I’m comfortable working at, I might consider it. Even then, I don’t believe I would fully commit to a label. If anything, I would like to do a publishing deal to handle all the business ventures such as marketing.
What is one record label you would consider?
I’m not sure if I would necessarily fit at any of the labels. But I would maybe consider [signing a deal with] G.O.O.D. Music (Kanye’s record label) because they have a lot of diversity going on over there. I love OVO (Drake’s record label) and what they are doing; they have a certain aesthetic they are keeping. I don’t feel like I sound anything like them, so I don’t think I would mesh well, in that aspect, same with T.D.E. (Top Dawg Entertainment, record label associated with Kendrick Lamar)
A top to bottom Autumn performance would be lit! Do you plan on performing in the near future?
Yeah, like I mentioned before, the [local hip hop] scene needs to be more prominent. I would like to work with the right promoters to make sure that our shows are the best they can be for us, and for the people as well. I also have a lot more songs than the six-track EP, so we’re looking at possible set lists and looking at other local acts as well. There’s a lot of talent around here and we want to do multiple shows. There are definitely plans for live performances; we’re just ironing out the details.
Who are you currently listening to and who is on your top-three emcee list?
Most of the time what I like to listen to is the polar opposite of what I make. Right now it’s a lot of Lil Uzi Vert, this artist named 6lack he made that song PRBLMS, I love that joint. I’ve also been bumping a lot of Frank Ocean. Syd, from [the music group] The Internet, just dropped a solo project that is amazing. I also go back in time too; I love The Doors.
And for top three, these are not in order and they all have reasons for being on here: Kanye West, Drake, and Travis Scott. I would say they are the most influential to me.
If you could change a common misconception about the hip-hop culture what would it be?
I want people to respect how artistic and influential this genre is. Because, agree with it or not, rap is the new rock and roll.
How about in Native culture?
The stereotypes. Also, that we are unexposed to the world outside of the reservation.
What do you want tribal members to take away from your music?
That there is somebody out here looking to expose our culture to the world.
And my advice for young aspiring Native artists is to go with your gut instinct on what exactly you want to portray yourself as, and make sure that everything you’re doing stays true to yourself and is original as well.
Autumn is currently available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and Soundcloud with plans of a physical release in the near future. To view the documentary, the music video for Gravity, and for additional information visit the Nathan Kix Facebook page.