Season comes to an end for Lady Hawks

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Heritage Lady Hawks volleyball team started off the season with a disappointing (0-3) record, largely due to a whole new cohort of players, including several who had never played organized volleyball before. The coaching staff of Tina Brown, Katia Brown, and Aliya Jones reviewed lots of game film and implemented a series of new practicing techniques to teach their new players the fundamentals of team volleyball. Over the course of the season, the practices paid off as the Lady Hawks found the winning way, taking four of their next six matches.

After a humbling loss to Providence Classical Christian, the girls bounced back in a big way, again finding their rhythm on the court and finishing the regular season with four straight victories. The winning streak moved Heritage into a tie for 4th in the Northwest 1B League with an (8-6) record, and earned them a berth in the postseason tournament.

Over the course of the two-day 1B District playoffs, the Lady Hawks played four competitive matches vs. top quality opponents. First up was against Providence Classical Christian, which for the third time this season got the better of Heritage. In their following match Tulalip made quick work of Cedar Park Christian, beating them 3 games to 1.

Arlington Christian was the next challenge. In a match that was by far the most competitive of the season for the Lady Hawks, with each game coming down to the wire and every single point being consequence, the girls gave a valiant effort and fell just short of victory.

The letdown of the previous match carried over in what would be the final match of the season, a matchup with Shoreline Christian. The match was tightly played, with the Lady Hawks having a lead in every game, but not able to finish strong. Tulalip showed high spirits by continuing to play hard each and every point, even when the outlook was grim.

Following the tournament, Lady Hawk senior captain, Keryn Parks, shared her thoughts as she reflected on the season.

“During our season, we all tried are best and hardest to reach our goals as a team. We improved tremendously, worked better as a team, and built stronger relationships as a family,” said Keryn. “We grew so much. For myself, being a senior and playing on this team since my sophomore year, I knew the game pretty well and was more than willing to help my teammates, and encourage my teammates on just how great each of them are.

“Winning five of our last six regular season games was awesome. We really wanted to go far in the playoffs, but everything happens for a reason. We played so hard every game, and we played with so much heart. It hurts that our season is over, but I’m so blessed to have a team I’ll forever consider my family!”

Bump, Set, Spike… it’s Senior Night

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium was packed full of family and friends as the Tulalip Heritage Lady Hawks (5-6) hosted the Orcas Christian Saints (5-3) on Tuesday, October 17. This game doubled as Senior Night, so the evening’s contest meant a little something extra for the eight seniors on the team.

Prior to the volleyball match, there was a ceremony to honor the Lady Hawks seniors. Kimberly Smoley, Jessica Damita, Nissie Jones, Rosealynne Williams, Keryn Parks, Shaunte Moses, Eddie Reeves, and Deandra Grant were all given a bouquet of roses from Principal Shelly Lacy before greeting their families on the court for a photograph opportunity.

In the match’s 1st game, both teams were playing with lots of energy and communicating effectively. Heritage jumped out to an early 8-4 lead, but the Saints fought back and tied it up at 18-18. The Lady Hawks trailed for the first time at 20-22, but after a timeout they regrouped and earned victory in a hard fought 28-26 opening game.

The 2nd game started out competitive, tied 7-7, before the Lady Hawks found their groove and took a 17-10 lead. Heritage did a great job all match of setting up senior captains, Keryn and Deandra, for point-earning spikes, and won the game 25-16.

The 3rd game ended up being the most lopsided as the Lady Hawks dominated at the net with several key blocks and spikes that took the fight out of the Saints. Seniors on the team got plenty of reps down the stretch and celebrated with a 25-9 win, taking the match W 3 games to 0.

With the win the Lady Hawks record moved to (6-6) and assures them a spot in the upcoming District Tournament that starts on Wednesday, October 25. Time and location to be determined after Heritage wraps up their final two regular season games.

Lady Hawks soar to back-to-back victories

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The (0-3) Tulalip Heritage Lady Hawk volleyball team has had a rough start to the season, with several first time players still adjusting to the high school game. With each additional rep, practice, and game the girls grow more familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, while team chemistry continues to develop.

Assistant Coaches Katia Brown and Aliya Jones, both Heritage graduates, have been working diligently with their players to build a strong foundation with a back to the basics approach.

“We’ve been focusing on communicating better, passing to the setter and getting our serves over the net,” says Aliya.

“As a team, we’ve been watching videos on passing technique and then critiquing ourselves based on those videos,” adds Katia. “The videos have helped us develop better footwork that leads to better passing.”

Everything the Lady Hawks have been working on was on full display in a home matchup with Cedar Park Christian on September 21. The communication, passing, and getting the ball over the net was all much improved. Heritage won the 1st game 25-15, 2nd game 25-9, and finished strong in the 3rd game 25-17 to earn their first W on the young season.

Just days later the Lady Hawks hosted the Skykomish Rockets on September 26. The momentum from their first victory continued into this game. Aces were aplenty as nearly every Lady Hawk took their turn serving up points. After winning the 1st game 25-13, the Lady Hawks dominated the 2nd game 25-6.

Going into the 3rd game, Coach Tina Brown seized the opportunity to substitute all the back-ups into the game. Having a completely new line-up in provided much needed experience and in-game reps. This Lady Hawk line-up didn’t disappoint either. They passed well and served up Aces, too. At one point they went up 15-1 before clinching the deciding game 25-16, taking the match 3 games to 0.

After back-to-back victories, upping their overall record to (2-3), the coaching staff is delighted to see practice paying off with better communication and a much improved service game.

“We’ve been working so much on serving and passing in practice and it really showed in our last two matches,” says Katia.

The Lady Hawks look to get more Ws and stay in the playoff hunt with 1/3 of the season now played. The next home game is Thursday, October 5 vs. Grace Academy.

Lady Hawks season opener

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After finding unprecedented success on the volleyball court last year, a season that saw Heritage make it all the way to Tri-Districts, the Lady Hawks opened up a brand new season with a home game versus the Providence Classical Christian Highlanders. The game was played on Monday, September 11, at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium.

The foundation of this year’s team include senior captains Keryn Parks and Deandra Grant. The Lady Hawks graduated six seniors from last year’s team, which included three starters. In their place comes a new batch of young, eager to play student-athletes.

“We have lots of new faces to our Lady Hawk program. For some of the girls this will be their first-ever volleyball match,” says Coach Tina Brown. “Fortunately, we have two senior leaders in Keryn and Deandra who can remain positive and help teach their teammates during the games. There’s a learning curve for us as a team, but we’ll only get better as we gain more experience playing together.”

It was a tough opening matchup for the new look Lady Hawks, as the PCC Highlanders only lost one regular season game last season and returned the majority of their players.

In the 1st game, the Lady Hawks struggled to get any momentum going while the Highlanders weren’t missing a beat. The Highlanders took the opening game 25-11.

The Lady Hawks played much better in the 2nd game. After trailing 0-5 to start, the girls got their game going on both sides of the net, going on long rallies and hustling to every ball. The service game got going as well with several Lady Hawks coming up with aces. They battled back to get within four points, 19-23, before the Highlanders called a timeout. Both teams traded points leading to the Lady Hawks dropping a competitive 2nd game 21-25.

The 3rd and final game saw the Lady Hawks go down 3-9 early before once again battling back behind timely aces and solid defense to get within three points, 10-13. The Highlanders were just too good on this day though and won the game 25-19 and the match 3-0.

Following the game, Coach Tina said she was very proud of her players for playing as competitively as they did versus a top tier opponent. She continued, “There were stretches during the final two games where we played them even, nearly point for point. However, the mistakes we made during the match are the same we’ve been making in practice. They are little mistakes, but they add up when they keep happening. So we’ll look to fix them and continue working on getting better at practice.”

Keryn added, “It’s a whole new group of girls compared to last year and we’re still getting used to playing with one another and learning each other’s strengths. In the 2nd and 3rd games the score showed we got really close. I think we’ve gotten way better through practice and it showed today on the court.”

Up next for the Lady Hawks is another home game versus Arlington Christian before hitting the road to play at Shoreline Christians. Heritage then returns home to play rival Cedar Park on Thursday, September 21.

JR Hawks youth football soars in Tulalip

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

It’s been nearly fourteen years since Tulalip had a youth tackle football program. During that time frame any young athlete with a desire to showcase skills on the gridiron has had to play under the Marysville or Everett banner, but not anymore. Only a matter of weeks ago Tulalip received the necessary funding and resources to put together its own youth tackle football program. With the careful guidance of Lonnie Enick and Josh Fryberg at the helm, the JR Hawks football team has officially taken flight.

“I was coaching youth football here in Snohomish County back in 2002 with the Marysville Red Raiders. When I became an employee of Youth Services I knew a football program would really help the youth here on the Rez,” says Lonnie Enick about his longtime desire to bring youth football back to Tulalip. “Josh and I have been trying for the past four years to get it going. We wanted to have a team with all tribal members, and once we got the field built I knew it was only a matter of time before we had a team.”

Like the Field of Dreams mantra says, ‘If you build it, they will come’. With a brand new football field installed at the Youth Center, all the staff needed was to spread the word about the return of youth tackle football. There was no shortage of eager, young tribal members turning out for a series of practices held in early summer. When it was all said and done the latest iteration of the JR Hawks football team consists of 27 players, 25 of them being Tulalip and two other Native (Alaskan and Klamath). Ages range from 9 to 12-years-old.

Worth noting is two girls are on the team. Tieriana McLean aka ‘Peanut’ and Jayne Jones aka ‘Icebox’, as their teammates call them, are proving females can thrive in the contact driven sport as well.

“Tieriana and Jayne earned their spots on the team, just like the boys did,” explains Lonnie. “The boys took to them well, and in fact they found out pretty quick that these two can hold their own. They’re both aggressive and fast learners. In practice when either of them makes a big play it really gets the boys fired up and ready to play.”

The head coach is Jeff Rice, longtime President of the Marysville Red Raiders Youth Association. Coach Rice is a big asset to the team not only because he knows a lot about the program, but because he’s very familiar with the traditions and culture of the Tulalip Tribes. His assistant coaches are Willy Wolftail, Izzy Wolftail and Deyamonte Diaz. Each of them are tribal members, former high school football standouts, and well-known personalities within the Tulalip community. Together they form a coaching staff that is knowledgeable and committed to the next generation of athletes.

After a series of scrimmages with local teams, the JR Hawks hit the road and journeyed to Judkins Park in Seattle for their first taste of real game action. Their opponent was the JR CD Panthers who ranked number one the last three years in Seattle’s youth premier league.

Prior to kick-off, Lonnie shared his thoughts seeing the JR Hawks prepare to take the field for their first official game. “This has been such a long-time dream for me to run a football program like this for our youth. The smiles and joy it brings as I look around at all our players and their parents who came out to watch, it makes all the work well worth it. I love that sports brings the families and community together in a good way.”

Although the game ended up being lopsided in the JR Panthers favor, it was a good learning experience for the JR Hawks and provided the coaching staff with a list of things to work on going forward. The team plays another away game at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma on September 16 before playing a home game on September 23 versus the JR Puyallup Warriors.

“It feels great to see a Tulalip Tribes youth football team again,” says Josh Fryberg. “I remember wearing that Tulalip Tribes football jersey when I was a kid. The youth will learn so much about discipline, work ethic, and teamwork from playing football, things that will help them mature into responsible adults. We are proud of all of the players for striving to be successful on and off the field. We look forward to creating great relationship with all organizations for youth football as we support unity and teamwork.

“I really want to thank the volunteer coaches from back in the day; Delmer Jones, Steve Henry, Dana Posey, Jay Napeahi, Jon Moses and Eddy Pablo Sr. for building a foundation for us to build upon today. Thank you for everything that our current coaching staff and parent volunteers do for the youth, you all are truly difference makers. We are looking forward to a great season and many more future generations of Tulalip Tribes youth football to come. Special thank you to Play It Again Sports located in Marysville for all their support. As a community member, if you want to purchase any team spirit wear it is available there and part of your purchase will go towards supporting the football team. Let’s continue to bring our Tribes and community together in a good way.”

Bringing home the Gold!

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Team Washington’s 19U men’s basketball team (led by Tulalip tribal members Bryce Juneau, Robert Miles and Darion Joseph) participated in a highly competitive, week long tournament at the 2017 Native American Indigenous Games hosted in Toronto, Canada. Dubbed “the Native Olympics”, Team Washington represented their tribal communities proudly while coming up clutch game after game on their quest for Gold.

After dropping their opening game in pool play, a 69-73 loss to Wisconsin, the team had little doubt they would bounce back. In fact, talking to the players immediately after they were eager to get back on the court and prove they were much better than the first game showed. Their coach echoed that sentiment.

“They needed those first few quarters together versus quality competition to figure how to play as a team,” reflected Coach Harold Joseph after the opening game loss. “In that second half they got comfortable and everything started to click both offensively and defensively. That momentum will carry over to our remaining games of pool play for sure. These boys still expect to rally and make the gold medal round.”

They were right. The momentum and confidence showed big time the very next game when Washington played Ontario, the host team, in a jam-packed gym of Ontario fans. The loud and cheerful fans fell silent as they watched Washington execute its offense easily over and over against Ontario’s defense. Leading by double-digits most of the game, Washington won 71-55. They were led by Darion Joseph’s game high 18 points.

Only hours later Washington was back in action, this time with a matchup with Northwest Territories out of Canada. It was a complete and utter smackdown served up by Team Washington. With a blazing pace of play and all-go attitude, they boys were scorching hot on offense. They led a whopping 47-9 at halftime on route to a 90-28 victory. This time it was Bryce Juneau scoring a game high 19 points, followed by 17 points from Robert Miles.

Coming off back-to-back wins that showcased the style of play Team Washington (2-1) expected to play, they would have their medal tested versus Team Manitoba (3-0). Playing another team from Canada meant another gym completely full of fans rooting against them, but Washington relished it.

In order to win their pool, make it to the semi-final round, and keep hopes alive of playing for a gold medal, Washington had to beat undefeated Manitoba. The game was a true back and forth battle. Both teams were bringing it on both ends. At halftime Washington trailed 37-39. The teams continued to trade buckets and answer each other’s scoring run with an equalizing string of points. It was only fitting that at the end of regulation the score was 73-73, forcing overtime.

Washington connected on back-to-back 3-pointers by Robert Miles and Tre Williams to open the overtime period. Manitoba again answered back to tie the game at 79-79. Darion and Bryce then took over with a series of pick and roll plays that gave their team the winning advantage, while silencing the gym of ruckus Manitoba fans. The 87-83 win put Washington on a three-game winning streak, but most importantly it meant they won their pool and would play in the semi-final round.

On Friday, July 21 Team Washington (3-1) played an early morning, semi-final game versus fellow west coast team Vancouver B.C. (3-1). A berth to the gold medal game was on the line.

In the first half, each team played to its strength. Washington looked to get the ball down low to its bigger, stronger forwards while B.C. looked to push the ball in transition at every opportunity and beat Washington down court. The Tulalip led team were down 36-38 at halftime and watched the deficit grow to 9 points when they trailed 48-57 near the end of the 3rd quarter.

It was in the game’s crucial moments that Robert Miles was at his best. He was a monster on defense, getting his hands on every loose ball and deflected any pass that came his way. Then on offense he got red hot when his team needed it most. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and several free-throws that gave Washington a 67-65 lead with five-minutes to play. From there are Bryce and Darion again ran their two man game to perfection. Darion scored on series of pick and rolls that sealed the W for Team Washington, 82-76. Incredibly, the three Tulalip boys combined to score 21 of the teams 23 points scored in the deciding 4th quarter.

Washington now (4-1) got a few hours to rest and rehydrate for an impending matchup with Team Minnesota (5-0) in the Indigenous Games basketball finals. Minnesota led the entire competition with an astounding 105 points per game average, while Washington boasted a stifling defense that only allowed 63 points per game to their opponents. It would be a battle of contrasting styles with the gold medal on the line.

As basketball fans and players from various team across North America filled the stands to watch the gold medal game, Team Washington put on a defensive clinic. They had played zone defense for nearly the entire competition to this point, but against Minnesota’s shooting arsenal Washington switched to an aggressive man-to-man defense. The strategy paid off huge as the quicker and taller Washington defenders contested every single shot and cut off every passing lane. At halftime Washington led 48-36.

There is a classic saying “the best offense is a good defense”. Team Washington proved that saying true. In the 3rd quarter, with center Mike Leslie in the game coming up with big time blocks and guards Bryce and Rob getting steals, Washington turned several Minnesota turnovers into easy scoring opportunities. Up 20 points, 75-55, the game was out of reach for a Minnesota team that couldn’t solve Washington’s lockdown defense. When the final game buzzer sounded Washington had won convincingly, 93-77, to claim the title as best Indigenous basketball team in North America.

Following the medal ceremonies, where the boys and their coaches were beaming with pride and excitement as they were each presented with a gold medal, the Tulalip tribal member athletes reflected on their North American Indigenous Games experience.

“I feel great having been given the opportunity to represent Team Washington and my tribe,” said Bryce Juneau. “Losing our opening game got us going, it was a punch in the mouth that we needed to regroup and focus in on playing at our best. Seemed like every game we played we had a gym full of fans rooting on the other team. We used that as extra motivation to play well and silence those fans. We came a long way from Tulalip to play at these Toronto Games and to win the gold is an amazing feeling.”

“To win the gold with this group of teammates for Team Washington is great. Just thinking of all the basketball I’ve played with Bryce and Darion since we were kids and now we’re here as champions,” reflected Robert Miles, who is now a two-time gold medalist after winning gold at the last edition of NAIG. “I’ll never forget being here in Toronto the past week and getting to experience the city and culture with my team. From all the sites, food, and art in downtown Toronto to going to Niagara Falls, we made a lot of memories.”

“As a team, being in Toronto, we were all in a new place, exploring together and having fun. After that opening game loss we kept together, we knew we could fight back because we were here to win the gold medal. And we did!” declared Darion Joseph. “Participating in the Indigenous Games and to represent your tribe is an amazing experience. To all the young kids back home in Tulalip my advice is to keep working hard to craft your skills and never give up, you can be at the next Indigenous Games representing Team Washington.”

Seattle Mariners Celebrate NW Native American Culture

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On a beautiful warm summer evening, hundreds of tribal members from across Washington State traveled to Safeco Field to watch the Seattle Mariners take on the New York Yankees. Every summer the Mariners partner with the Emerald Queen Casino to present Salute to Native American Night, in which the baseball clubs celebrates Pacific Northwest Native American culture.

 The Mariners often present gifts on game nights, such as t-shirts and bobble heads, to fans that arrive early to the stadium. In honor of Native American Night, the baseball club gave away fedora hats designed with salmon, in traditional Coast Salish art, to the first 10,000 fans to enter Safeco. Several tribes received tickets to the game to disperse amongst their members. The majority of the Tulalip community sat together in section 149, near left field, creating a fun atmosphere with friends and family while enjoying America’s favorite pastime.

The sold-out stadium contained a playoff-type energy as the fans were treated to a close and intense ball game. Mariner’s Second Baseman, Robinson Cano, hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the eighth that gave Seattle a 5-4 advantage. However, the Yankees came back to tie the game in the ninth inning. The game extended into extra innings, where the M’s we’re able to score a walk-off run to win the game, providing a thrilling victory for the fans of Seattle.

Team Washington almost pulls off incredible comeback in opening game

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The 19U Team Washington men’s basketball team competing at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) features Robert Miles, Bryce Juneau, and Darion Joseph in the starting lineup. That’s three Tulalip tribal members who have been playing basketball since they were able to dribble a basketball. They were perfect for the team as they are all too familiar with the up-tempo, high intensity flow of rez ball. Their natural chemistry that comes from playing with one another since club teams in their Elementary school days is an added benefit as well.

Joining the three Tulalip boys on the team are four highly talented ballers from the Native tournament circuit. The complete roster is as follows:

Team Washington 19U Men’s basketball

  • #2 Isiah Strom (Yakama)
  • #3 Bryce Juneau (Tulalip)
  • #10 Robert Miles (Tulalip)
  • #15 Xavier Littlehead (Northern Cheyenne)
  • #20 Mike Leslie (Muckleshoot)
  • #21 Tre Williams (Nez Pierce)
  • #34 Darion Joseph (Tulalip)

On Monday, July 17 Team Washington squared off with Team Wisconsin in the opening game of pool play. Wisconsin featured several players who took Gold at the previous edition of NAIG in 2014, so the game was expected to be highly competitive with Washington having their own expectation of making it to the medal round. The game was played at Humber College in Toronto, Canada.

Washington opened up the game playing 2-3 zone defense, while Wisconsin employed man-to-man defense. Wisconsin came out firing from 3-point territory against the zone and quickly took a 7-0 lead. However, Washington eventually settled in and forced several Wisconsin turnovers that led to transition buckets. The good guys ended the 1st quarter on an impressive 14-3 run, including 4 points each by Robert and Darion, to take a 14-10 game lead.

In the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the gold medal experience of Wisconsin showed. They continued to execute against the zone defense by hitting long-range shots and making running floaters in the lane. During the same time frame, Washington struggled to keep up with its own offense. Washington trailed 31-54 with 1:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the 23 point deficit was the largest of the game.

Down by 20+ points with one quarter to go usually leaves the trailing team defeated and without fight. But this wouldn’t be the case for a team with Robert, Bryce, and Darion. They’ve come back from large margins before and knowing it could be done they’d try to do it again.

Coming out with a sense of urgency in the 4th quarter, the three Tulalip boys led the charge with a frantic offense pace – all go, no hesitation. They combined to score 20 points while playing aggressive, lockdown defense in an amazing display of resiliency and teamwork. The no quit attitude had Wisconsin on their heels, as Washington cut the once 23 point deficit to only 6 points, 66-72 with just under two-minutes remaining.

Washington’s comeback fell just short though. There just wasn’t enough time left as Wisconsin held the ball as much as they could to eat up the game clock. Washington lost 69-73, and left the gym thinking they gave the W away. Following the game Bryce, Robert and Darion all shared the same sentiment: how well they played as a team down the stretch was how they’d play going forward and they were determined to still make the medal round.

“I think we’re still going to do real well at these Games. They needed those first few quarters together versus quality competition to figure how to play as a team,” reflected Coach Harold Joseph after the opening game loss. “In that second half they got comfortable and everything started to click both offensively and defensively. That momentum will carry over to our remaining games of pool play for sure. These boys still expect to rally and make the gold medal round.”

Over 5,000 Indigenous athletes compete in NAIG 2017

Let the Games begin!

NAIG opened with a surprise musical appearance from Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, flanked by traditional hoop dancers putting on a mesmerizing cultural performance.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On the spectacular evening of Sunday, July 16 an estimated 5,250 Indigenous athletes, coaches and support staff proudly marched into the Aviva Center, located just outside of Canada’s largest city Toronto, for the opening ceremony of the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) 2017.

The over 5,000 athletes represent 26 regions across North America, consisting of 13 provinces and territories in Canada and 13 regions in the United States. Since 1990, Indigenous competitors between the ages of 13 and 19-years-old have taken part in the showcase that celebrates their athleticism and heritage. This year’s Indigenous Games marks the 9th edition of the multi-sport, multi-disciplinary event dedicated to Indigenous youth from the United States and Canada. The Games offer 14 sport competitions in addition to a vibrant cultural program.

For the first time in over 25 years NAIG returned to eastern Canada, notably allowing the province of Ontario to host its first ever Indigenous Games. For many of the young tribal competitors who reside on reservations in the United States, their athletic expertise allowed them their first ever entrance into Canada, to sightsee the City of Toronto, and, most importantly, to experience and connect with Indigenous cultures from around the continent.

Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation elder Gary Sioux lit the ceremonial smudge and offered a blessing, while his granddaughter fanned the flames of competition for NAIG 2017.

During the opening ceremony of NAIG 2017, which was delayed approximately 90-minutes due to a thunderstorm, the capacity crowd of over 9,000 was rightfully energized by a surprise musical performance from Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, flanked by traditional hoop dancers putting on a mesmerizing cultural performance.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be here. I represent the Shoshone and Hopi Nation,” said Taboo before performing his musical medley. “I am very proud to be Native American representing here with you all in Toronto. We represent the future. Natives, Indigenous, First Nations, and Aboriginals all coming together as one people, one nation, one tribe to make dreams come true.”

Spanning the week of July 17-22, more than 5,000 athletes from across the continent will compete in 14 sporting categories on the traditional lands and homelands of the Huron-Wendat Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Mississauga of the New Credit First Nation, Mississauga of Scugog Island First Nation, and Six Nations of the Grand River.

Government and Indigenous leadership from various regions took to stage to deliver rallying messages of encouragement, strength, and unity through sport.

“On behalf of the Six Nations, we are the Haudenosaunee and we welcome you. We are so excited and proud to be one of the community partners hosting these Games,” exclaimed Chief Ava Hill, representing the Six Nations of the Grand River. “To the athletes, these are your Games! It is so emotional to me as a leader to witness all you young people here today because each and every one of you is a dream come true. You are role models for the younger ones who are watching you. You are ambassadors for your families and for your communities. You are all winners! You are all winners just by being here and being a participant in the North American Indigenous Games.”

Following a rocking performance by A Tribe Called Red, fireworks filled the night sky at the Aviva Center to signal the beginning of the Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games.

Sport can be a launching pad for many great things yet to come for youth. Through participation in NAIG 2017, youth are given many opportunities to travel, make new Indigenous friends, and form life-long connections. As athletes participating in NAIG 2017, Indigenous youth learn many character building skills, such as team building, courage, determination, and goal-setting in a familiar setting located at the intersection of culture and sport. These are all skills that will help greatly as the youth move on to the next chapters in their lives.

Representing the Pacific Northwest region of the United States is Team Washington and its 19U men’s basketball team which includes three Tulalip tribal members: Robert Miles, Darion Joseph, and Bryce Juneau. They are joined by Michael Leslie (Muckleshoot), who played basketball for Tulalip Heritage during his sophomore year, Tre Williams (Nez Pierce), Xavier Littlehead (Northern Cheyenne), and Isiah Strom (Yakama). They are coached by Tulalip tribal member Harold Joseph, who participated in the first four editions of NAIG as a competitor and has coached in every NAIG since.

“Having three Tulalip tribal members on the team is special because they get to share this experience with the younger youth back home,” says Coach Harold. “All three of them are positive role models in our community. They each played high school sports; Robert at Heritage, Bryce at Marysville-Pilchuck and Darion at Archbishop Murphy, so the younger kids see that and it pushes them in the right way. I want to thank the Tulalip Tribe for supporting us and giving us the opportunity to represent all our people back home in our quest for a gold medal.”

Play Ball! Tulalip Community Steps Up to the Plate For Future Generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News. Photos by Kalvin Valdillez and courtesy of Josh Fryberg

“I remember playing in a championship baseball game on this field. We were playing against Lummi and the game went into extra innings. We end up winning by one. When you’re young, I was about thirteen or fourteen, that feeling is awesome. Baseball was strong back then,” recalled Josh Fryberg about the importance of baseball to the community. Josh serves as Vice President and Softball Coach for the newly established Tulalip Little League program. “We want to continue to bring our youth and our community together in the best way possible. If it’s through sports, that’s what it is. Now that this [Little League program] is going, it’s going to create a strong baseball, softball and t-ball program for the future generations of Tulalip.”

The Tulalip Little League recently finished their first season, which was filled with smiles and cheers from the Tulalip community during both home and away games. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were treated to a beautiful spring as they enjoyed watching the young players learn about the fundamentals of baseball.

With over sixty kids in participation this year, the Little League is off to a great start and will only continue to grow. Five teams proudly wore the trendy Tulalip uniforms this season and in commemoration of a great season, the kids were able to keep their uniforms. The teams consist of two t-ball teams, a girls’ softball rookie team, a boys’ hardball rookie team and a Farm AA boys’ hardball team. The League plans to offer new teams next season, including a Challenger team for children with special needs.

“What we’ve done is historical. It hasn’t been done in the whole state of Washington. There’s maybe two other Native American little leagues [in the country],” explained Tulalip Little League President, Marlin Fryberg Jr.

Marlin was contacted by Toby Briggs, then President of the Marysville Little League, and asked if there was any interest in bringing a little league to Tulalip. Marlin capitalized on the opportunity to bring Little League to Tulalip to benefit the community, as the program has been highly desired by parents, coaches and tribal leaders for a long period of time.

“The mentors I had growing up always dreamed of a little league. They’ve always wanted that for our kids,” said Marlin. “Don [“Penoke”] Hatch, Hank Williams, those folks coached little league back in their day and they were told they had to separate the Native American kids, they couldn’t have them on one team. So they had four teams with Native kids on each team. Hank had a team, Penoke had a team and the late Bob Moses had a team. Now here we are today. These kids are going to look back in twenty to thirty years and say, woah we were the first ones ever to play in the Tulalip Little League.”

The Little League is sponsored by Play It Again Sports in Marysville, The Tulalip Police Department, The Tulalip Tribes and Marlin, who was the initial sponsor, donating his savings to the program. The Tulalip Little League Board consists of Marlin and Josh along with Malorie Simpson, Mytyl Hernandez, Dale Sanchey, Ray Sheldon Jr. and Shawn Sanchey.

“Little league is creating lifetime relationships for the kids,” exclaimed Shawn, who is also a coach for the softball team. “After every game, my girls are always asking their parents ‘can we go to her [teammate’s] house? Can we go to her house?’ It’s pretty awesome. When we play uptown teams, they know them too, ‘I know her she goes to my school’. It’s just so awesome to see the relationships they’re creating just from playing softball or baseball. It’ll stick with them forever.”

Due to the program’s success, other tribal nations are now looking into how to begin little leagues within their districts. Lummi reached out to Tulalip in hopes for guidance during the strenuous process as well as a request for a tribal match in the near future. The Little League coaches and board members are all volunteers who share the same goal of bringing joy and excitement to the community through America’s favorite past time.

“We love to work with the youth of the community and benefit our youth as much as possible. To be a part of coaching these girls, seeing them from their first practice up until their last game, is amazing. We’re so proud of them because they came a long way,” states Josh.

Beginning next season, any youth who wishes to play softball, t-ball or baseball and lives within the Tulalip boundaries will be able to suit up for Tulalip and throw on the popular T embroidered cap.  Children between the ages of four and six can participate in t-ball, ages seven and eight can play for the softball and hardball rookie teams, and boys between the ages of eight and nine are able to compete on the Farm AA team.

“We’ve sparked something now,” states Marlin. “For example, on my team, of the eight and nine year olds, there are only three boys who normally went to town to play ball – out of twelve. That’s nine new kids introduced to baseball from our rez. So it’s brand new to a lot of them and they love it.

“I got to watch my dad play here when I was a kid. This whole parking lot was jammed packed, cars were parked up the hill. That’s how important baseball was to our people back then,” Marlin continued. “Growing up watching that, I became a baseball player. I played on the local teams in town, but not only that, baseball helped me stay out of trouble. It helped me stay focused on positive stuff and that’s why we’re doing this for our kids.”