Celebrating Indigenous People

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulalip Pride Walk celebrates LGBTQ community

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulalip welcomes new police chief

On September 24, Police Chief Chris Sutter was formally introduced to lead the Tulalip Police Department.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After longtime Police Chief Carlos Echevarria resigned back on December 4, 2017, the Board of Directors named Commander Sherman Pruitt interim chief. Since that time, the process to fill the post permanently was ongoing, but it has finally come to a close. On September 24, Police Chief Chris Sutter was formally introduced to lead the Tulalip Police Department.

“The Tulalip Tribes is pleased to announce that Chris Sutter is joining the Tulalip Police Department as our new Chief of Police. Following a comprehensive search for the right candidate, Chief Sutter’s experience and background quickly rose to the top of our candidate pool. We welcome Chief Sutter and his family to our community,” stated Chairwoman Marie Zackuse.

Chief Sutter met with syəcəb staff for an interview detailing his past experience as a law enforcement officer and what his immediate vision is for leading the tribal police department. What follows is an unedited transcript of that interview.

Q: The first thing many are wondering is what is your law enforcement background?

A: I come to Tulalip with 32-years of law enforcement experience. The last 26 years has been with the City of Vancouver in southwest Washington, where I served as assistant chief of police the past 10 years.

Q: Please describe your experience working with Native communities?

A: My experience working with Native communities is more on the personal family side. I’m married to an enrolled tribal member of the Navajo nation. For 38-years, we’ve enjoyed a very happy family and close relations with our tribal family. Also, in my previous role as assistant chief, I held a monthly diversity advisory meeting with representatives of the diverse Vancouver community which included Native American representation. 

Q: Uprooting from Vancouver, will you be living in Tulalip now?

A: Yes, I found a rental home here in the community and am very much looking forward to being part of the community. As the school year completes, my wife and daughter will joining me here in Tulalip.

Q: What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve over the next couple years with the Tulalip Police Department?

A: I have many goals and a high-level vision for moving the department forward. Number one is to make sure Tulalip is a safe and secure place for families, children and the elders. We’re going to start by eradicating the drug problem in the neighborhoods. We’ll also be working on community outreach to make sure people know that their police department is here to serve them. In addition, we’ll be looking into ways we can best serve the fish and wildlife branch of the department to ensure tribal sovereignty and treaty rights are always respected and upheld.

Q: Our last few police chiefs have tried to tackle the opioid epidemic. What are some ideas you bring to the table on this issue?

A: Number one is we can’t allow people to be selling drugs to our tribal members and anyone else in the community. We have to crack down on those who are profiting on this horrible trade that causes such devastating impacts to individuals and families. We’ll be implementing a very robust narcotics taskforce that’s going to take down the dealers. In my opinion, the first step is to go after those people who are bringing the drugs into our community. 

Q: How do you see the Tulalip Police Department engaging with the community going forward?

A: Community engagement is as simple as directing all the officers to make sure they are taking the time to get out of their cars in order to walk and talk with people we serve. Making face-to-face, personal connections is the first step to building a better relationship. We are also going to find opportunities to sit with tribal elders and receive their guidance and wisdom, ensuring we have good open lines of communication. Additional outreach will involve our youth. I strongly believe the youth are our future and the more we outreach, mentor, and guide them to make good life choices the better the outcomes.

Q: Describe your experience working with tribal police?

A: During my time in Vancouver, I acquired experience working with the Cowlitz Reservation and their newly created police department under former Tulalip police chief Goss. Through that connection we built a quality working relationship and provided assistance to each other when needed.

Q: What’s your message to the Tulalip community?
A: I feel blessed to be here to serve the people. My message is we are here to serve you. We want to make sure you always feel welcome and comfortable to make contact with our dedicated staff of officers and civilians. My commitment to the community is we are going to do our very best to make your neighborhoods secure and to make Tulalip Reservation a place residents are very proud to live. 

Protecting our Salish Sea, the salmon and the southern resident orcas

Jessica Janes helps clean up the coast.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip news

The traditional Tulalip story, the Seal Hunting Brothers told by Martha Lamont, is the story of two young Tulalip men who lived at Priest Point. The brothers would travel the Salish Sea hunting for seals, salmon and shellfish for the entire community. The brothers prepared and delivered plates of fresh seafood to the elders as well as to their sister and her family, informing their sister to save some food for her husband, who was a carver and often away from home. The sister, however, disregarded her brother’s advice and distributed her husband’s share amongst herself and her children.

When the carver returned home, there was no food in sight. He asked his wife if her brothers dropped off any food for the family while he was away, to which she replied no. Upset at this news, the carver constructed a lifelike seal carved from cedar and enchanted the structure with magic to trick the brothers. They took the bait. The brothers harpooned the cedar seal statue while on a hunt and were pulled deep into the ocean only to wash ashore days later, miles away from home. Realizing what their brother-in-law did, they began their long journey home where they were presumed to be dead.

Upon their return to Tulalip, the brothers shared their story with their family and decided because of the complexities of the situation, they should live away from the tribe. They chose to begin a new life upon the waters that long provided food for their community, the Salish Sea, and became killer whales. Their descendants are said to be the southern resident orcas that still frequent the Salish Sea waters searching for Chinook salmon.

Similar stories of the brothers are shared within Indigenous communities all along the waterways of the Salish Sea, comprised of the waters now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. As the story goes, the brothers chose to stay close to home and often provided seafood to the Coast Salish peoples in times of famine.  The story teaches many important values of the Northwest tribes as well as explains our strong connection with the orca, who is often honored within the culture through stories and artwork.

The southern resident orcas are intelligent, sociable mammals who share a lot of the same values and traditions of the Coast Salish people. For instance, the southern resident orcas are known to perform ceremonial practices during social gatherings when all three pods, J, K and L, meet up, which is known as a superpod. The most recent superpod was held last week in the waters near Vancouver Island where footage of the gathering was caught by the locals and tourists of Victoria, British Columbia. The orcas also travel with the same pod for their entire life, relying on each other’s strengths within a multi-generational family, much like many Native communities.

Another similar interest we share with the orcas is our love for salmon. The importance of salmon to Coast Salish people has been well documented over the years and is integral to each tribe’s way of life. The tribes of Washington State were guaranteed fishing rights when signing the treaties with the United States Government in exchange for land. Since the Fish Wars, the Boldt Decision, and even up until today, tribes exercising that right have been met with a number of challenges.

Over recent years, the salmon population has seen a dramatic decline. A number of manmade dams and blocked culverts are preventing salmon from swimming upstream during spawning season and less salmon are returning each year. In fact, many tribes opted not to fish this season in hopes more salmon will spawn and increase salmon population. Pollution remains another constant concern for aquatic life in the Salish Sea with chemicals and waste pouring into the waters from storm water runoff and local ferries traveling the straits. The lack of salmon has caused tribes to stray from their traditional diets and therefore more tribal members are faced with health concerns.

The same can be said about the southern resident orcas. The lack of salmon and polluted waterways caused some serious health concerns for the whales including reproduction. The orcas are crying out for help. This past summer’s heartbreaking story about southern resident orca, Tahlequah (J35), carrying her dead newborn calf for seventeen days on a ‘tour of grief’ caused tears across the entire nation. And the recent proclamation of Scarlet’s (J50) death is further evidence that we need to take immediate action.

In the sixties and seventies, a third of the southern resident population were hunted at a young age and held captive at marine life amusement parks like SeaWorld. Orcas often live well past their eighties, but unfortunately all but one of the orcas captured have died at a young age. Tokitae, the last remaining poached orca, resides at the Miami Seaquarium and the Lummi tribe has been fighting for years to return the whale to the Salish Sea.

As a result of starvation, theme park poachings and pollution, the southern resident orcas were placed on the endangered species list in 2005 after a significant drop in population of nearly twenty orcas over the course of a decade. Since then, the number of orcas has been steadily declining. With the passing of Scarlet, only seventy-four orcas remain.

Because of the recent news, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee established a southern resident orca task force whose main focus is orca protection and recovery. Members of the task force include representatives from Washington state, a handful of tribes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The passing of both J35’s calf and J50 is opening up an important conversation about respecting Mother Earth and taking care of the environment. More and more citizens are participating at rallies in support of the salmon and orca such as the Festival of the Steh-Chass in Olympia and the Salmon Celebration in Seattle. The most recent effort united over thirty communities throughout Washington state and British Columbia.

September 15 marked International Coastal Cleanup day, where seaside communities participated in clearing their local beaches of any trash or harmful products. Communities of the Salish Sea, along with a number of non-profits like 350 and the Orca Network, banned together to tailor International Coastal Cleanup day to the Pacific Northwest communities by organizing Salish Sea Day of Action, which provides information and resources about the state of the Salish Sea, the southern resident orcas and the salmon habitat at the cleanup events.

Citizens of Tacoma, Port Townsend, Edmonds, Shoreline, Bellingham, Lopez Island and Mount Vernon, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, gathered in their respective hometowns to clean the beaches, offer prayer, honor and thank the water for its plentiful resources on the rainy Saturday morning.

“Today is a day of action for the Salish Sea and we wanted to join in,” says Amanda Colbert of the Orca Network at the Action for Orcas event in Mount Vernon. “It’s also International Costal Cleanup so there are quite a few events all up and down the coast with multiple organizations. Orca Network decided we wanted to be a part of this because, as you know, any trash, pesticides and chemicals that wind up in any of our rivers eventually leads to the ocean. I’ve run a beach cleanup once out here before and I just thought that this would be another wonderful opportunity to jump in and get the community on board.”

The Orca Network event attracted many participants and the sands of the Bayview State Park in Mount Vernon were trash free in no time. During the cleanup, attendees passionately spoke of protecting the environment and the southern resident orcas.

Ryan Rickerts, volunteer.

“The oceans are definitely in trouble,” says Ryan Rickerts of Bellingham. “Most of the planet is covered by water, it’s our source of everything. Coming here today is a way for me to connect and give back a little bit. The orcas are in real big trouble, so I wanted to be around likeminded people that care about the ocean, the orcas and wanted to do something to help. Hopefully we keep this up; good energy is building. With the orcas that have been dying, hopefully that creates a sense of urgency for people to get together. The Swinomish hosted the orca task force meeting a couple weeks ago and I think it’s good for people to come together to keep talking about it and try to find solutions. We have to take action and it helps to have conversations and get everybody at the same table because it’s going to take everyone.”

Tulalip tribal member and Water Protector, Kayah George, hosted a prayer service the day following Salish Sea Day of Action where she shared spiritual and cultural teachings about the water during Sunday worship at the Woodland Park Presbyterian Church.

“What concerns me about what’s happening in the Coast Salish Sea is the same thing that has been concerning my people for hundreds of years,” Kayah passionately expressed in a video leading up to Salish Sea Day of Action and her prayer service. “It is the disrespect. The utter and complete lack of respect for our brothers and sisters in the sea and for the sea itself. It’s not seen as a living thing; they see it as something that’s disposable.”

The number of supporters at the Salish Sea Day of Action events shows that people are beginning to listen to the calls for help by the beautiful coastal killer whales. And through a combined effort, we can all make a difference in protecting the orcas by restoring the salmon habitat, and that begins with the removal of dams, culvert repairs and environmental awareness.

“There are plenty of ways that people can start,” shares Amanda. “A lot of it is being focused on what you buy at the grocery stores. There are cleaner, greener products out there that are biodegradable. We have to move away from single use products. A lot of what was picked up here today was plastic wrappers, straws and cups that are only used once. So it’s helpful anytime anybody can pick up a water bottle or a green bag. If you don’t want to give up straws, there are companies making reusable metal or BPA-free plastic straws. What we treat our lawns with also has a huge impact. We get a lot of rain here so a lot of things end up in the storm drains. I’m thankful for all the volunteers that came out today and for the opportunity to reach and talk to people about our southern residents and what they’re going through.”

To stay up to date on the southern resident orcas, please visit www.OrcaNetwork.org or check out the Department of Ecology at www.ecology.wa.gov to find out more about the Orca Task Force, Salish Sea spills and cleanups, salmon recovery and upcoming meetings and events.

Blazing a trail for community inclusion

Tulalip tribal members Kelsey Sheldon (center) and Tyler Fryberg (far right) have been selected as students during the Learning Center’s inaugural year.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 11, the repurposed Damascus Road Annex in Marysville was home to a warm gathering of inclusive-minded citizens and their families. The occasion? To celebrate the grand opening of the Marysville Tulalip Integrated Learning Center.

The Integrated Learning Center is a post- secondary education center for adults with developmental disabilities who have graduated from Marysville School District. At the Center, students will learn how to ride public transportation, take art classes, and learn the fundamentals of cooking, nutrition, and adaptive fitness. They will have the opportunity to raise their own vegetables and flowers. Also, students will practice reading to animals and develop employable skills at Sky Haven Farm. 

Mayor Jon Nehring and several Eagle Wings disAbility Ministries staff members were on-hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony, marking the official kick-off to a program nearly two years in the making. 

“The Integrated Learning Center has the potential to be a transformative program for the young adults of our community with special needs,” announced Mayor Nehring. “Where they previously had limited opportunities for continued growth, there is not a substantial option right here in Marysville.

“This is the culmination of a lot of dedicated hard work by so many people who have a heart and passion to help these individuals reach their full potential.”

Tulalip tribal members Kelsey Sheldon and Tyler Fryberg were selected as students for the inaugural year of the Integrated Learning Center. 

Kelsey and Tyler will be among the first group of select students to forge lasting connections with the community that will help them establish relationships and increase employment opportunities, while developing health and safety skills. Together they will help establish the foundation for other tribal youth with special needs to develop skills that further their independence and enhance their lives.

An inclusive community with concerned parents, school teachers, key leaders from Tulalip, job coaches and citizens, it is the Integrated Learning Center’s goal to see everyone in our community live a full, independent life.

“A program for individuals with disabilities who have aged out of school, I’m so thankful for everyone who has made this possible,” stated Kelsey’s mother, Amy Sheldon. “It really is a dream come true.”

RaeQuan Battle is living out his ‘Hoop Dreams’

RaeQuan Battle, photo courtesy of UW Athletics

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Seventeen-year-old RaeQuan Battle’s basketball journey is filled with tales of amazing athleticism, skyrocketing potential, and a relentless determination to get buckets. The teenage Tulalip tribal member has gone from rez ball regular to Marysville-Pilchuck stand out to a four-star prospect committed to play at the University of Washington.  

“Basketball is in my blood. Without it I don’t know where I’d be,” explains RaeQuan of the sport that has come to define his past, present and future. “Everyone in my family has played. Basketball has given me the opportunity to travel the country and, hopefully in the future, it’ll allow me to travel the world.”

In his junior year at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, RaeQuan dazzled opposing coaches and college scouts everywhere as he averaged 21.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He was instrumental in guiding the Tomahawks to a 19-5 record, their first District title in over two decades, and a memorable trip to the Class 3A state regionals last winter.

Following his career year at M.P., the University of Washington’s recruiting team was again at his door with scholarship in hand. They convinced the 6-foot-5, 200 pound RaeQuan he’d be a perfect fit in the up-tempo style that features outstanding guard play. Plus, the idea of staying in state to remain close to his family and reservation was a huge perk.

“Being able to play the game I love at my dream school is amazing,” says the future Husky. “I was super excited to receive the offer, especially since the University of Washington had been with me since my sophomore year. They never switched up, they believed in me the whole way, and I really appreciate the coaching staff for that.”

Over the last several seasons, RaeQuan has continued to work on his basketball skills while playing on the national AAU circuit. He’s traveled the country playing for Seattle Rotary, a high-profiled team that competes as part of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. With his height advantage and skill set both growing, so has his profile. Per ESPN’s composite rankings, he is listed as a four-star prospect and the No. 4 overall player in the state of Washington. 

The national attention has garnered him invite after invite to national tournaments and high profile basketball camps, where he can showcase his talents against the best high schoolers around. Such was the case during Labor Day weekend, when RaeQuan was invited by Jamal Crawford, NBA player and Seattle hoops legend, to participate in his Top 30 camp held at Rainier Beach High School.

“This camp means everything to me because it’s all about these kids and giving them perspective that’ll come in handy at the collegiate and pro levels,” admits eighteen-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford. “I understand that basketball is everything for these kids. The player development coaches we have assisting are here to further develop skills and give knowledge. We want these kids to keep dreaming and to never cheat the game because I promise them if they truly love the game and give their all to it, the game will be good to them.”

During Top 30, RaeQuan not only hooped against some of the best basketball players in the state, but received important advice and training tips from several current NBA players who’ve come out of the greater Seattle area, such as Jamal, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, and Zach LaVine. 

“The group of high school players I competed against here, everyone had the mentality to just compete and play their best every scrimmage, every drill,” reflects the high-flying RaeQuan, who had a number of acrobatic dunks during the three-day camp. “I learned a lot from Jamal and Isaiah, too. They both emphasized just how hard you have to work, how you have to separate yourself all the time because you can be replaced at any moment. I will take these lessons and apply them to my own game for the remainder of high school, college, and the rest of my life.”

The combination of height, athleticism and scoring touch that has come to define RaeQuan’s game stood out, even in a gym full of Washington’s Top 30 high schoolers. Lead trainer and former men’s basketball coach at Evergreen State College, Arvin Mosley, points out “RaeQuan’s obviously explosive, but his ability to shoot the ball is what separates him. Yeah, he’s athletic and can dunk, but at the next level his shooting touch and range will prove even more valuable.”

Now, the high school senior looks forward to wrapping up his career at Marysville-Pilchuck and dreams of graduating with a state championship. With his Division 1 collegiate playing days only months away, RaeQuan will continue to sharpen his skills on and off the court in order to be a foundational player for the Dawgs of U.W. In his own words, “It’s all up from here.”

Tulalip community members trained in overdose awareness

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A trail of signs was posted along Totem Beach Road leading to the Tulalip Dining Hall on Friday, August 31. Each sign displayed a single person silhouetted in purple, with the main Dining Hall sign saying, “Each nameless, faceless person represents a life lost to overdose.” Inside, the community gathered on International Overdose Awareness Day to remember lost loved ones, share personal stories and learn more about the opioid epidemic that has claimed more lives than the Vietnam War, in 2017 alone.  

In their second year hosting the annual International Overdose Awareness event, the Tulalip Community Health department united the people of Tulalip while shining light on a serious topic. The theme for this year’s event was Time to Pull Together and participants were invited to write personal messages to any friends or family members who lost their life due to an overdose, on large posters displaying traditional cedar paddles.  

“There was over 72,000 drug overdoses in the United States last year,” said Tulalip Interim Police Chief Sherman Pruitt to the group of attendees. “That’s almost two hundred people dying every day from overdose. In Snohomish county, the percentage of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-two percent in 2017; in the state of Washington, the number of drug related deaths was approximately thirty-three percent. The Tulalip tribal reservation drug related deaths is at two hundred and twenty-three percent.”

Gasps were heard from around the Dining Hall as the Chief shared this statistic. Event participants were shocked and shared a look of disbelief.

“It’s a serious problem,” he continued. “Our officers carry two Narcan kits on them and we are constantly using them. The Board of Directors wanted us to implement a Drug Task Force, so I started that in March. I’ve assigned officers to the task force so we can start addressing some of these issues with the individuals who are supplying drugs to our family members and community, and make sure we hold them accountable as well as provide services to get them the help that they need.”

Chief Pruitt also explained the Good Samaritan Law to the participants. The Tribe adopted the law back in 2014 after Lois Luella Jones died from an overdose. Authorities believe her life could have been saved, but in fear of arrest, her peers failed to contact emergency responders. 

“It’s okay to call,” he reassured. “Because of the Good Samaritan Law, you’re not going to get in trouble. Our priority as law enforcement officers is the preservation of life, so give us a call so we can provide assistance.”

Community members shared stories of addiction, heartbreak and loss from substance abuse. The Health Department also held a Narcan training for the community so they know how to quickly revive someone who has overdosed. The training was led by Gina Skinner and Jane Jacobson who explained in detail how the Narcan nasal spray works.

“In an overdose situation, the opiate has hit receptors in the body that cause respiratory depression and your pupils to get small. The Narcan comes in and kicks the opiate out of the receptors and takes its space,” explains Jane. “That makes the patient go into a withdrawal and it allows their respiratory rate to improve, making it easier to breathe and they start to come out of that overdose situation. But they have to get treatment within about thirty to ninety minutes otherwise the opiate could come back and kick the Narcan out of the receptor and cause an overdose situation again.”

The Tulalip Bay Fire Department joined the trainers to give insight on their procedure during overdose emergencies and how they utilize Narcan. Each participant who attended the training received a free Narcan kit. Tulalip community members are encouraged to pick up a kit of their own, free to Tulalip tribal members at Tulalip Family Services and available to community members through their insurance at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic pharmacy.

“This was our second annual International Overdose Awareness Day event,” states Tulalip Community Health Director, Jenna Bowman. “It’s important that we let people know we’re here and we’re creating awareness about things they can do to help prevent overdose and also a space just to be around other family members who may be suffering. As a community, we’re all connected, we’re all suffering. There’s always been a stigma behind talking about overdose and addiction and I think it’s important we move passed that and support each other, whether we’re going through it and lost someone or maybe we’re struggling to find the answers ourselves. It’s important that we support each other.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Community Health Department at (360) 716-5622.

Tulalip Bay firefighters join strike team, help control eastern Washington wildland fires

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Tulalip Bay Fire Department 

It’s been a long hazy month for Washingtonians as wildfire smoke contaminated our air for the majority of August. At one point, Seattle even made national headlines for having worse air quality than Beijing, which is usually covered by a thick cloud of smog throughout most of the year. Smoke from both the Oregon and B.C. wildfires continues to circulate through the state, causing dangerous conditions for people with respiratory issues as well as pregnant women, elders, children and pets. Thousands of firefighters, covering a myriad of forest fires from all areas of the state, were called upon in an effort to control the flames during peak wildland fire season. 

Among the strike teams deployed across the state was the Northwest 3 Strike Team, comprised of firefighters from Bothell, East Jefferson, Skagit, Shoreline, Arlington and Tulalip Bay Fire Departments. Tulalip Bay’s own Collin Chavez, Patrick Dineen, James Shockley, Lindsay Muller, Shawn Carlson and Jacob Shoresman were on the strike team and bravely fought three large fires in eastern Washington to protect nearby residents and businesses and help bring an end to all of the haze.

“Tulalip Bay Fire is now a part of state mobilizations,” says Tulalip Bay Firefighter, Collin Chavez. “The way that works is when there’s a big incident, a big fire that warrants the need of statewide resources, the state will send over strike teams. The team we were on was the Northwest Strike Team, they’re comprised of departments from all over, typically bigger departments. Now Tulalip’s a part of that strike team, led by Chief Hots of Getchell, and we’re pretty excited to be a part of it.”

The strike team was on duty for seventeen days, serving sixteen hours on the frontline and getting minimal sleep each night. The team setup camp at local schools, sometimes in tents on ball fields and other times inside the school’s gymnasium. 

“It’s a constant rotation but being out there is fun. You work with a lot of different departments so you get to make friendships with people,” says Firefighter Patrick Dineen. “On the Cheney fire we got to work with an inmate crew, it was crazy but really cool. These guys are actually in prison and this is a job that they get to do.”

The crew visited three sites to help suppress the fires at Silver Lake, Grand Coulee and Boyds (Kettle Falls). The reason for the fires is still under investigation but it’s safe to say that the extreme heat and dry air were among the factors.

“The first fire was in Cheney, Washington at Silver Lake. We were the initial attack team.  As initial attack you arrive and you’re the first ones to attack the fire for structure protection of homes and buildings in the vicinity of the fire,” says Chavez. “From Silver Lake we went to Grand Coulee. That was a grass valley fire, it started out very small in acreage around five hundred to one thousand and within two days it jumped all the way to 78,000 acres. It spread very quickly, there were some high winds.

“The third fire we ended up on was the Boyds fire by Kettle Falls in Colville, Washington near the Canadian border. That was a bigger incident because there were a lot more residential and commercial structures nearby. Anytime there’s more threat to homes or towns, the incident usually increases in scale. The first two fires were type three, which is a smaller incident and this one was type two. It can be a little tiring and you get very dirty but there’s a sense of satisfaction. It was really cool to have our Tulalip rigs out there on the strike team. The citizens are a big part of it, there were a lot of evacuations, but there was still a lot of people in the town making signs, stopping by to say hi and just excited to see firefighters there to protect their towns and homes.”

The strike team members returned to their respective departments now that nearly all three of the fires are under containment. The crew still remains cautious, however, ready to return to battle at any given moment. 

“The seasons not over,” warns Dineen. “It’s calmed down a little but one lightning storm or one person throwing a cigarette butt out the window, we could have a whole ‘nother one pop up. Wildland season goes until October.”

“Stay current on the burn bans,” Chavez adds. “Adhere to the burn bans, that’s a huge way to prevent any type of grass or brush fire. Don’t go shooting any fireworks off, especially where there’s dry fuels. And protect your house, it’s always a good idea to have defensible space between your residence and any debris, wood or anything that could burn. And having sprinklers set-up will definitely be helpful. Just be aware and remember how dry it is and that fires can spread quickly.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Bay Fire Department at (360) 659-2416.