New Trail Opens Along Qwuloolt Estuary

The 12-foot wide waterfront trail is ideal for pedestrians, bicyclists and pets

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Marie Zackuse cuts the ribbon at the Ebey trail celebration

Article and photos by Kalvin Valdillez

Children on scooters, adventurists in kayaks, dog lovers with their best pal on a leash and joggers in their favorite running shoes were among the many members of the Tulalip and Marysville community who gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Ebey Waterfront Trail on April 22, a brisk Saturday morning.

A traditional song, performed by Tulalip tribal members, blessed the trail prior to the official ribbon cutting. The 1.3-mile trail is located east of the SR-529 bridge, however, the city of Marysville plans to extend the trail over the next year and a half to create a five-mile loop with entry points throughout Marysville, including the Sunnyside area and the Ebey Waterfront Park.

The trail extends along the Qwuloolt Estuary; an area the tribe has been restoring back to its natural habitat for the past seventeen years. Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse explained the history and importance of the Qwuloolt Estuary.

“Our people used these estuary lands for fishing, hunting and harvesting, especially duck hunting. Our wild fish runs were healthy and productive until recent times and with the Qwuloolt restoration, our salmon have been given the opportunity to survive. The Tribes are restoring and renewing sites in the estuary and in the Snohomish River that provide benefits to not only to the tribe but the public as well.

One of the points we have emphasized over the years is the fact that the large scale restoration projects can make communities more livable, offer more recreational activities, more educational opportunities and the opportunity to see more habitat including many bird species. We hope that future signage will allow visitors to learn about the history of the tribe and how they used and interacted with this estuary in traditional times,” said Zackuse.

With the first of three phases complete, the City of Marysville and the Tulalip Tribes have provided their community members an opportunity to experience beautiful scenery and admire wildlife while enjoying outdoor recreation.

Tulalip sovereignty & environmental recovery efforts recognized by UW

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tribal sovereignty, the inherent authority of indigenous tribes to govern themselves within the borders of the United States, is an all too understood and often used concept in Native America, yet remains relatively foreign to outside communities. In the Digital Age, characterized by a highly diverse free flow of information on every topic imaginable and an endless supply of avenues for acquiring knowledge, recognition of tribal sovereignty and awareness of treaty rights remain hidden from the mainstream and absent from the United States’ public consciousness.

That’s not to say there aren’t very socially aware individuals and communities who have made it their mission to bring understanding of tribal sovereignty to the mainstream. One such individual is Professor Patrick Christie of University of Washington’s heralded Jackson School of International Studies. Professor Christie recently taught an undergraduate class showcasing Tulalip’s tribal sovereignty and treaty rights. The class specifically emphasized the Tulalip Tribe’s environmental recovery efforts, such as the Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project and salmon recovery initiatives.

A unique feature of the International Studies Program is the Task Force capstone course that Professor Christie taught. This Task Force requires students to team together to research a specific policy issue and offer a set of recommendations. Many students cite this course as the highlight of their undergraduate education. For the first time in program history, a Native American tribe was selected as the subject of international study.

“This is the very first international studies Task Force had ever done within the continental United States. The idea is to say ‘international study’ doesn’t just mean Russian foreign policy or Chinese foreign policy, it’s whenever the United States government and society interacts with sovereign nations. This idea raises awareness and changes the political landscape as it relates to tribal policy,” explains Professor Christie. This simple yet well-expressed notion can completely change attitudes and mindsets as they relate to tribal relations within U.S. borders. Recognizing tribes as independent, sovereign governments as we would a foreign country is where the awareness begins.

The Task Force was composed of fifteen International Studies undergraduates from various cultures and backgrounds. During their course study and research, these students read a mass amount of literature relating to treaty rights in order to build a foundation for understanding. This literature included the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot, the Boldt Decision and Rafeedie Decision court cases, and Where the Salmon Run: The Life and Legacy of Billy Frank Jr. Taking their learning a step further, the Task Force students visited the Tulalip Reservation and diligently acquired knowledge and further context from Tulalip government employees Inez Bill, Rediscovery Coordinator for the Hibulb Cultural Center, Todd Zackey, Marine Program Manager, and Francesca Hillery, Public Affairs Manager.

“It was really significant to me hearing Inez Bill talk about their land. Tribal members and their ancestors have lived on the land for far, far longer than we have,” shares student Kris Thompson, a member of the International Studies Task Force, on his experience visiting the Hibulb Cultural Center. “People move in and out of Seattle on a monthly basis. The Tulalip people have been here forever, they are here now, and they will stay here. They have a connection to the environment that I don’t think any of us can really understand.”

Concluding the three-month course focusing on Tulalip treaty rights and environmental recovery efforts was a gathering to celebrate and present the thought provoking work the student Task Force had developed. Among attendees were Tulalip tribal members Inez Bill and Maria Martin, Lushootseed language teacher. Maria provided a traditional prayer to begin the occasion, while Inez shared her eloquent words to end the evening.

“I raise my hands to the students who had the open minds to take the time to do the necessary research and background work. I raise my hands to them for having an open heart to learn who we are as a people during their visits to our tribe and reservation,” announced Inez to all those in attendance. “I hope we can continue to bridge communication and share an open understanding of how our world is today. I thank you all for opening your heart and your minds to the needs of our people and seeing who we are.”

Elder’s luncheon emphasizes triumph over addiction

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Tribes Problem Gambling Program continued their month-long Lifting Our Community Through Recovery concept, in recognition of March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month, by hosting a special elder’s luncheon on Friday, March 24.

Held at the Senior Center, close to 50 elders were in attendance as the program celebrated the wisdom and strength our elders share in the Tulalip community, while acknowledging problem gambling as a disease that can be defeated. A delicious buffet style meal was catered by Ryan Gobin’s Rezipes for the elders to enjoy while listening to members of the gamblers anonymous community share their personal experiences with problem gambling and their victories over it.

In the mainstream, compulsive gambling can often be portrayed as an issue of morality, creed and lack of willpower; something that is a personal choice. However, science has proven compulsive gambling is much more than a decision made from lack of willpower. It is in fact a disease.

“Gambling addiction is a real disease, and impacts communities at the individual, family, extended family, community and society level,” explains Sarah Sense-Wilson, Problem Gambling Coordinator. “Older adults have a number of additional vulnerabilities and risk factors, such as medical conditions and health problems. These issues can render some older adults less active, thereby limiting their social and recreational activities. Isolation, grief and loss, boredom, and having more time (in retirement) can all be additional factors that contribute to older adults being more vulnerable to a gambling disorder.

“The impact of gambling addiction on the extended family and partners is stressful, painful and often leads to crisis (financial, health, mental/emotional, relational and spiritual). Treatment and the 12-step program can help restore wellness and health.”

Gambling addiction has been recognized by the mental health and medical community for nearly 40 years now. There are brain changes that explain why people can’t stop gambling and feel a need to be in a casino sitting at a slot machine or playing a table game. Like asthma or diabetes, there’s no permanent cure for compulsive gambling, but it can be controlled to the point that you are not worrying about it every day.

Tulalip tribal member and elder, Toni Sheldon, understands this all too well from her own battle and triumph over the addiction.

“Recently, over the past few years I started to gamble. It started with going to the [Quil Ceda Creek Casino] for lunch to socialize with friends and former co-workers. While socializing, I’d make my way over to a slot machine and play forty-cent bets,” recalls Toni. The betting amounts began to increase little by little, while her trips to the casino became more frequent. Eventually, the losses were adding up and becoming noticeable to those closest to her. The tipping point came when Toni’s caregiver reviewed a copy of her win-loss statement with her just to show how much money she was putting back into the casino.

“Seeing the financial damage it was bringing to my life, my caregiver suggested doing a self perm bar. I didn’t even know you could do that,” says Toni. A self perm bar is the process by which an individual goes to casino security and has themselves permanently barred from the gaming properties. After being voluntarily barred, if you are caught on the gaming property you will be escorted out and can be cited and/or arrested for trespassing. “With the support of those closest to me, I perm barred myself. It’s now been a full year since I’ve last gambled. My life is much happier, and I have money to spend on life’s necessities once again.”

Following the shared stories and experiences with gambling addiction, the atmosphere continued to be uplifted by the Grammy-winning musical talents of Star Nayea. Tribal elders danced in their chairs and sang along as Star performed their favorite songs to end the luncheon.

For those who may be wondering what the options are for someone with a gambling problem, Sarah Sense-Wilson and Problem Gambling Program is here to help in any way they can.

“Steps a person can take is to call Tulalip Family Services for an appointment or contact me directly for consultation at 360-716-4304. All services are free, confidential and supported by licensed and certified professional staff,” states Sarah. “We provide an array of services including interventions, couples counseling, Family Therapy, group and individual counseling. We believe in a holistic client-centered, culturally responsive approach for supporting the healing and recovery process. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact us. We are here to serve the Tulalip Tribes community.”


Medicine Wheel Garden Celebrates the Spring Equinox

By Michael Greene, Tulalip News

On a crisp morning in March, people gathered at the Karen I. Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic to honor the Spring Equinox of 2017, with a blessing of the Medicine Wheel Garden by Father Pat Twohy, longtime friend of the Tulalip Tribes. Song, drumming, and thoughtful stories were shared by families, friends, youth, and elders.

Misty Napeahi, Tulalip Tribes General Manager, opened the ceremony and offered kind words about Father Twohy. “Father Pat, it is always a blessing when you are here,” she said. “I want to let you know that the Tulalip Tribes love you”.

Father Patrick J. Twohy, an honorary Tulalip Tribes member and former priest of St. Anne’s Catholic Church, has been a friend of the tribe for the past forty years. Whether it be blessings, funerals, or personal visits to tribal members, he has been an important part of the Tulalip community.

As a show of appreciation and respect from the Tulalip Tribes, Dale Jones officiated over the formal gifting of a pair of moccasins to Father Twohy. An Elders Advocate for the Diabetes Care and Prevention Program, and long-time friend, Jones honored Father Pat with a “footwashing ceremony.” This was done as an example of serving one another by “building each other up in humility and love.” A true demonstration of a servant heart.

The Wisdom Warriors, a group of elders, made the moccasins over several weeks. They were taught the traditional art of moccasin-making by Shirley Jones, member of the Yakima Nation.

The Medicine Wheel Garden is the latest effort by the Tulalip Tribes to build an integrative medicine practice. The new garden is in the shape of the well-known medicine wheel of Native American cultures. It mirrors the Four Directions, or cyclical patterns of life: the four changing seasons, the life cycle from birth to youth, adult to death, as well as the mental, physical, developmental, and spiritual states of our own bodies.

Students at the Tulalip Vocational Training Center (TVTC) created the garden boxes for the Medicine Wheel Garden. Several students worked outside in the rain, heavy winds, and mucky conditions to help configure the garden beds.  Jennie Fryberg, Health Information Manager for the Tulalip Health Clinic, stated, “All the students from TERO, we would like to thank you very much for all the work that you have done for our beautiful gardens. We thank you so much for your hard work constructing these garden beds!”

Fryberg spoke about the Tulalip Tribes Diabetes Care and Prevention Program and gave recognition to those that helped, “I want to give honor to the Diabetes Program and let everyone know that they [recently] won the Portland Area Indian Health Services Directors Recognition of Excellence Award.” She thanked each staff member of the team: Monica Hauser, Veronica Leahy, Dale Jones, Layla Fryberg, Natasha LeVee, Rose James, and Susan Adams. “Our hands are up to you for all that you have accomplished,” said Fryberg.

Jennie continued, “When Roni started the garden, she wanted to start with the Medicine Wheel Garden, so that we can take care of our people as a whole.” With the collaboration of the Behavior Health, Diabetes, and Pharmacy Clinic team, combined with the Health Clinic, these departments represent the four sections of the medicine wheel. For the tribes to take care of patients as a whole the Tulalip Health Clinic implemented its model of integrative medicine on the Medicine Wheel, a longtime vision of Karen Fryberg.

Marie Zackuse, newly elected Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes, concluded the ceremony, “We are on a good path to become healthy, starting with the young ones, helping our members learn about nutrition and diabetes prevention,” she said. “I want to thank all the elders, youth, students from Heritage High School, the construction training students, and clinic staff who helped make this garden a reality for our people.”

For more information about the Karen I. Tulalip Health Clinic and the Medicine Wheel Garden, please contact Veronica Leahy at (360) 716-5642 or

Lifting Our Community Through Recovery

Leah Crider (center) was wrapped in a special Louie Gong made blanket by Coordinator Sarah Sense-Wilson and MC Jobey Williams.



By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. To increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availability of prevention, treatment and recovery services here at Tulalip a free community-wide celebration was held at Hibulb Cultural Center on Friday, March 3.

“The Tulalip Tribes is a trailblazer in Indian Country for acknowledging Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Our efforts to illuminate and shine a spotlight on problem gambling and recovery contributes to the wellness movement in Tulalip,” states Sarah Sense-Wilson, Problem Gambling Coordinator. “Events like this provide us a platform and an opportunity to address gambling disorders as a real public health concern, negatively impacting individuals, families, and communities. Our goal is to invite people to learn about gambling addiction and to destigmatize the illness by seeking recovery through a wide range of treatment services offered through Tulalip Family Service’s Problem Gambling program.”


Comedian and motivation speaker Kasey Nicholson (left center) brought lots of laughs and smiles to his fellow Natives.


The celebration event consisted of a large gathering of local residents, members of the gambler’s anonymous community, and friends to the cause who offered guidance and support. Master of Ceremony was Jobey Williams, drumming and singing was provided by the talented Terrance Sabbas, and the keynote speaker was Native comedian Kasey Nicholson.

Kid, elder, and family friendly, the atmosphere was shared by all as attendees enjoyed a bountiful salmon dinner with lots of entertainment and encouraging words.

Many of us have been personally affected by friends or family members who are problem gamblers. We’ve witnessed the devastating effects of financial, emotional, spiritual and physical toll on our families and community. Gambling addiction has a rip tide impact on our people and we want to encourage them to seek help and have the courage to make change.

Heartfelt, personal life stories of gambling and alcohol addiction and their road to recovery were shared by Jobey and Leah Crider. Their words were truly inspiring as audience members absorbed the emotions invoked in journeys from co-occurring addictions to recovery and healing.

“I am overwhelmed with adulation for Jobey and Leah’s willingness to share their triumphant victories over the powerful, life-taking addictions,” marvels Sarah. “The gamblers anonymous community is growing in our region, as more and more folks seek help and begin to reconnect with their community. It is important we continue to provide spaces and opportunities for folks in recovery. Fellowship is a core principle of every 12-step program and we want to honor our gamblers anonymous community by celebrating their recovery.”

Lifting our community through recovery is vitally important for building a network of support for both the inflicted and their friends and family members.



Among the celebrations attendees was twenty-five year old tribal member Brando Jones. Brando grew up in Tacoma and when he was a teenager fell into the vicious grips of alcohol and drug addiction. Now 22 months clean and sober, Brando has recently moved to Tulalip and has been attending Tulalip cultural events to help him remain spiritually strong on his road to recovery.

“The reason I attended this event is because it’s important for people in recovery, like me, to hear words of wisdom and advice from people that have been where I’ve been, people who’ve battled the beast of addiction and came out on top,” says Brando. “It’s truly inspiring to see Natives from different tribes helping each other out and showing their concern and offering support for our people. We may be from different tribes, but that doesn’t stop us from coming together to help each other in our addictions and recovery.”

During Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Tulalip Family Services and the Problem Gambling Program will be hosting and co-sponsoring several upcoming special events throughout the month of March. These events include the ‘Community Fun Run/Walk’ at Tulalip Heritage H.S. campus on Saturday, March 11th from 1:00pm – 3:00pm and the Youth Dance that night from 6:00pm – 9:00pm. There will be an Elders Luncheon March 24th from 11:30am – 1:00pm at the Elders Center with guest performer Star Nayea. Concluding the month, there will be a Movie Night for the youth on March 31st at 5:00pm, where the youth will share a special educational presentation on problem gambling awareness.

ABC Curriculum promotes healing at Tulalip schools


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

During a recent visit from the Washington State Board of Education, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) provided an inside look at their ABC curriculum, an acronym for the new approach to the education system within the Tulalip community. ABC stands for the Academic instruction, Behavioral and social-emotional support and Culture based curriculum that the Marysville School District and the Tulalip Tribes have recently began implementing at the elementary.

QCT is one of few schools in Washington State that is integrating traditional Native teachings into school subjects such as music, art, language, math and history. The school often invites tribal members to help teach the children about the Tulalip culture. Each morning the school holds a fifteen-minute assembly where students perform traditional song and dance. QCT holds an annual cultural fair where tribal members are invited to share traditional foods as well as tribal history with the students. The elementary school also observes Tulalip Day every November and holds a fifth-grade potlatch at the end of each year. Most recently the school held a Billy Frank Jr. themed spirit week, honoring the man who dedicated his life to fighting for Native American fishing rights.

“We all had heroes growing up. I remember going to the library and spending all day reading about Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Jim Thorpe. You know growing up as Indian People, we don’t have a lot of Native heroes we can look up to, but Billy Frank Jr. is a true Coast Salish hero. He is someone we all look up to because of the amazing work he did for fisheries. Thank you for honoring him, he definitely deserves to be celebrated,” stated Tulalip Chairman Mel Sheldon.

The ABC curriculum puts emphasis on family and community, connections that are often strong in Native America. QCT makes an effort to communicate regularly with their student’s family members. The school also ensures the students stay up to par with the utilization of modern technology, both for research and to create documents. During a classroom walk-through the State Board of Education observed the curriculum in action during an art class as well as a writing class.



Representatives from the Tulalip Board of Directors, Marysville School District and QCT faculty spoke about cultural assimilation and the affect it left on Native communities. Each explaining to the Board of Educators that assimilation caused trauma that is still affecting the descendants of boarding school victims today, although the events occurred several generations prior. Families were broken and cultures were stripped during the ‘kill the Indian, save the man’ era.

“Our people were [originally] taught in a traditional way at the foot of our grandmothers, not in classrooms but out in nature. When the education system was forcibly put on us, it was done in way that stripped everything away from our children. It was done purposely to take away who we are as Indian People in a very painful way. That was our introduction to education. Since then we’ve had elders try to get this work, our voice and our story, into the public schools to try to heal. I believe we are continuing the work of our ancestors,” states Tulalip tribal member and QCT Instructor, Chelsea Craig.

The tribe, school district and Board of Educators are well aware and prepared for the hard work that will be required, and they started the healing process through the ABC curriculum.

A Gathering of Coast Salish peoples


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Western Washington Tribes and British Columbia First Nations of the Salish Sea came together to speak with one voice at the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom on February 27.

As one voice, the tribal leaders, activists, and caretakers of the environment spoke for the continued protection of the land and waters of our aboriginal homeland and the preservation of our culture. As brothers and sisters, they shared their culture and concerns for the endangered eco-region, and continued their dialogue on the need for strengthened environmental policies and practices in our ancestral homelands.

These Coast Salish ancestral homelands, the Salish Sea and its people continue to face detrimental damages to the environment and resources based on the pollution based economy, and they will continue to move on co-management and co-decision making on the Salish Sea. The agenda for the 2017 gathering was to discuss:

  • Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Risk
  • Resource and Environmental Challenges
  • Laws, Policy and Regulation
  • Coast Salish 21st Century Nations and Tribes
  • Federal, State and Tribal Dispute Resolution
  • Decision making, uniform consent

Following the day’s seminars and presentations, attendees were treated to an evening filled with traditional song and dance. The next generation of Tulalip drummers, singers, and dancers opened, led by cultural specialist Chelsea Craig.


Tulalip drummers and singers


Succeeding the young and spirited Tulalip group was one of the top Native dance groups on the west coast, Git-Hoan.

“We are Git-Hoan, the People of the Salmon. We are a makeup of Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit people from southeast Alaska and are proud to be in your territory to sing and dance for you,” stated group creator David Boxley, a renowned Tsimshian artist and carver. “What a beautiful place to dance. Thank you for allowing us to be here.

“This dance group has been in existence since 1996. We use a lot of masks to tell our stories. All of our tribes, including [Tulalip], at one time danced with masks and this form of expression is coming back strong over the last decade. The songs and dances you are about to see are old in their origins, but relatively new in their make-up. Missionaries were very successful with our people. We are trying to change that by [revitalizing our culture] like how it was before the missionaries. We are proud of the fact we try really, really hard to look like the old days, with the masks and telling the stories like our people once did.”



Git-Hoan performed for nearly an hour to the marvel of gathering attendees. Included in their selection of dances was a brand new song debuted for the Coast Salish occasion.

“We are the People of the Salmon, and so are you. We are all People of the Salmon,” explained Boxley. “Historically, our ancestors’ lives depended on the salmon. The next song we are going to show is a brand new song that shows our pride in being People of the Salmon .We dedicate this song to all of you.”

With the conclusion of the day’s events, Board of Director Theresa Sheldon shared her amazement in watching the performances by several Coast Salish tribes.

“It’s always a blessing to see our young students singing our ancestors songs, especially for this Coast Salish Gathering. A gathering that’s all about our Mother Earth and how we can work together on protecting our waterways. It was truly a delight to witness the Alaskan group perform their traditional mask dances. They had the most amazing raven dance, with the mosquito ancestor dance, and the supernatural eagle dance. It’s truly an honor when our relatives bring out their masks to share with us. Sharing our songs and dances together is the way of our people. I’m so thankful to the parents and teachers who help our young ones embrace this.”

Former Pro Wrestler Marc Mero Lays the Smackdown on Bullying


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Prizewinning posters created by students of the Marysville School District (MSD) were on display in the Orca Ballroom of the Tulalip Resort and Casino. The posters promoted anti-bullying messages such as make bullying extinct, stop cyberbullying, and you don’t have to touch someone to hurt them.

The recent Anti-Bullying Community Campaign Event drew large amounts of families from the Tulalip-Marysville community as many were excited to see special guest speaker, former professional wrestler Marc Mero.

Last year MSD School Resource Officers, law officials assigned to the school district, attended an anti-bullying conference in Florida because the cyberbullying epidemic reached the school district and quickly became an issue among many students.

During the conference, the School Resource Officers heard Mero share his inspirational life story, told to assist with bullying prevention and encourage the youth of America to make smarter life decisions. Following Mero’s speech, the officers made it their top priority to bring the WWE Champion to Washington State to talk to students in school district about bullying. Marc presented his message at middle and high school assemblies throughout MSD before concluding with the Tulalip Resort and Casino event.



“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” stated Mero as he urged the youth in attendance to be mindful of the company they keep. Mero, professionally known as Wildman Marc Mero, created a wish list at a young age that contained both his dreams and future dream purchases. Among the various items on the purchase list, stand-outs included a black Cadillac and a house for his mother.

“I was bullied very badly as a kid. My mother worked two jobs to support my siblings and I. We didn’t have a lot of money so we got a lot of our clothes from garage sales,” he remembers. Marc explained that because his classmates discovered he wore articles of clothing they once owned, they nicknamed him ‘bum’, likening his used attire to a homeless person. However, young Mero was able to channel those emotions, triggered by his bullies, into sports. Excelling in a variety of sports, he found his true passion in boxing and fought his way to a New York amateur championship match. Due to an accident that resulted in a broken nose, he was unable to fight for the championship title.

Although he had intentions of returning to the boxing ring, he was restricted from fighting for a year per doctor’s orders. Marc used that time to rekindle old friendships and quickly spiraled into drug and alcohol addiction. He watched ten years of his life pass by, along with any boxing comeback dreams. It was while flipping through television channels that he first watched, and decided to pursue a career in, professional wrestling.

After months of hard work and determination, Mero began to quickly climb to the top of the wrestling world, facing opponents such as The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H. He was meeting celebrities, making upwards of millions of dollars and married professional model and female wrestler Sable. Most importantly he was finally able to purchase a brand new house for his mother as well as the car of his dreams, the black Cadillac.

Association with the wrong crowd once again led to Mero’s downfall. This time his addiction led to three overdoses, neglected relationships, and a divorce. During his rise to fame Marc would sometimes avoid returning phone calls and letters to his mother and siblings. He would often skip family events such as his brother’s baseball games and his sister’s high school graduation. Marc revealed that at the height of his professional career, he lost his mother due to lung cancer, his younger brother to a head trauma accident and his younger sister to cancer.

“When it all comes down to it, life is about the choices you make. I missed out on the greatest years of my sister’s life, of my brother’s life, and for what? To go and get high?” He continued, “I was a bully too. I bullied my family. All they wanted to do was play catch with me or sit next to me. I was so mean to them and I regret it every day. I would tell them to quit bugging me or I would tell them to go away. What I would give to go back in time and throw one ball to my brother or hold my sister tightly while she sat next to me. Make sure the people that you surround yourself with will build you up and not tear you down,” he urged.

Marc spoke about the emotional harm bullying causes, stating that suicide is currently the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers in the United States. And the majority of suicide deaths are bully related. Mero invited mother and schoolteacher Amy Briggs on stage to share a story about her son Daniel. At the young age of sixteen, he had been ruthlessly bullied for years from his peers in school. Daniel was often told to ‘kill himself’, verbiage that is unfortunately seen quite often among high school students nationwide across various social media platforms.

One night Daniel received a text from a classmate asking him to save the world from misery by ending his life. He replied stating the world would not have to worry much longer because he was planning to take his life soon. The classmate responded ‘put up or shut up’. The next day Daniel told other classmates of his intentions and was met with similar reactions. And that afternoon, while his parents were at his brother’s basketball game, Daniel died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As tears streamed down many faces of event attendees, Amy urged parents who have children that are constantly harassed online or at school, to join forces with other parents to put a stop to bullying. “There truly are some teachers and administrators who don’t believe bullying is really a problem. My voice was only heard once or twice but you can’t ignore three hundred voices in a board room at the same time,” she stated.

Mero explained that sometimes when kids bully other kids, it is because they are victims of bullying themselves. He advises that a one-on-one conversation between a bully and an adult can lead to both the revelation of the issue causing the harassment as well as a solution to the issue.

Before thanking the crowd for their attention to this serious issue, Marc gave a possible explanation as to why some kids attempt suicide. “Maybe their parents are going through a divorce, maybe they had a death in the family, maybe they lost their pet, maybe they have a medical condition [their bullies] know nothing about. And it’s that one text, that one message that pushes them over the edge. Behind every text are real people with real feelings,” he stressed to the youth.

For more details about the life and career of Wildman Marc Mero, including information about his organization Champion of Choices, please visit

Wellness Court is now in session

Tulalip Police Officer Joe Dyer poses with participant Robin Hood during a Wellness Court session, displaying the new relationship between TPD and recovering addicts in the Healing to Wellness Court program.


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 


The heroin and opioid epidemic has hit America hard in recent years. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, thirty-one percent of deaths statewide can be credited to drug overdose. The epidemic has unfortunately claimed the lives of many loved ones nationwide. Previously, addicts who wanted to become clean would often fail because they were not provided with the proper resources and tools while attempting to become sober. In many cases, addicts are eventually caught with possession of drugs, and sometimes turn to thievery for the intent of supplying their high, and are reported to the authorities. The traditional court is a flawed system when it comes to dealing with individuals who committed a non-violent crime fueled by their addiction. For this reason, drug courts were invented. Drug courts can be found nationwide and are utilized by individuals who are battling addiction and were convicted on drug-related charges.

The state of Washington sees approximately three thousand deaths annually due to drug abuse, according to the Washington State Department of Health. In Snohomish County there are around six to seven hundred drug related casualties per year, with the largest amount of overdoses occurring in Everett, Marysville and Tulalip.  Tulalip has made an enormous effort to help heal their people in the form of the Healing to Wellness Court. There are many similarities between drug court and Tulalip’s Wellness Court, such as random drug tests, required court appearances, and numerous resources. Tulalip has modified the drug court model to fit the needs of addicted tribal members, ensuring that there’s an emphasis on culture and community with the new Wellness Court.

“The difference from drug court is mostly the integration of the cultural programs and the community the program is in. In Wellness Court we ask our participants to be in the community,” states Wellness Court judge, Ron Whitener. “A lot of the participants have to rebuild their relationships with the community because a lot of them have burned some bridges on their way into Wellness Court.  It is something positive they can work on while they are also working on their treatment and education. We want to help reintegrate them back into this community.”

Wellness Court is held once a week on Tuesdays, and participants are required to stay for the entire duration of court. The court sessions, typically an hour long, display a new twist to the traditional courtroom scene. Participants approach the podium to speak to Judge Whitener directly about their struggles and successes each week. Wellness Court uses a system of sanctions and incentives to help keep their clients on track. Sanctions include increased court appearances, community service hours and writing assignments. While incentives include gift cards, movie passes, decreased court appearances and later curfews.

“Our goal is to heal the individual completely, not just the addiction,“ states Wellness Court Coordinator Hilary Sotomish.  The Wellness Court team works as a cohesive unit, meeting weekly to review each participant’s progress, ensuring that everybody is on the same page as communication is key amongst the Wellness Court team.  The team is comprised of members from several departments including Behavioral Health and Recovery, the Healing Lodge, Housing Hope, Tulalip Housing, the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic, University of Washington Tribal Public Defense Clinic, and the Tulalip Police Department.

The Tulalip Police Department assigned three officers to the Wellness Court team. The officers take on a new role, at least from the participant’s perspective, as they interact in a positive, supportive manner while encouraging participants during their road to recovery. Current participants are happy to see the officers in the community and often converse with the officers about their weekly progress.

Tulalip Police Chief Carlos Echevarria states, “Wellness Court allows my law enforcement officers to have greater interactions with the participants. Often the officers will stop by and say hello and ask them how they are doing. We ensure we are providing positive feedback and often the officers will take the time to listen to what the participants have to say. They are building great relationships with each other.”

The five-stage program has no fee with the exception of a fifty-dollar GPS ankle device, which is used to monitor the location of the participant as well to ensure that curfews are met. Cultural activities such as sweat lodge, red road to sobriety and other local events are encouraged.

“Our goal is to keep people involved and to work to help them. As long as the individual is showing they are committed to working and trying, we are going to keep working and trying,” states Hilary.

Tulalip tribal member Robin Hood approached the judge on his twenty-fifth day sober -an accomplishment met with tremendous applaud from the judge and the courtroom, to talk about his past week. Robin is currently staying at the Healing Lodge and attended two more than the required group therapy sessions. However, he missed one of his daily call-ins and received a write-up from the Healing Lodge, which resulted in sanctions of two hours of community service and a one-page written essay on why he missed his daily call in.

“Wellness court can be an easy process, you just got to show up every day and do what is required. It’s only hard if you make it hard, that’s my motto. My experience is going fine. I’m doing this because I know that other people will follow so I’m trying to be a leader. I think this is a positive thing for myself and for my community, and it’s working,” Hood states. “Like my dad always says, ‘it works, if you work it’. Another quote I like is, ‘chase your sobriety like you chase the dope man.’ That’s exactly how sobriety works; you got to want it. If you ain’t wanting it, you ain’t getting it. I’m really glad I’m here. The wellness team has been there to support me one hundred percent. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be clean and sober.”

For more information about the Healing to Wellness Court please contact (360) 716-4773.

Tulalip Child Advocacy Center receives accreditation

Jade Carela, Legacy of Healing Child Advocacy Center Manager proudly shows the departments accreditation award from the National Children’s Alliance.


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The National Children’s Alliance (NCA) is the accrediting body for Child Advocacy Centers nationwide. Child Advocacy Centers, often referred to as CACs, conduct forensic interviews as well as provide therapy and assistance to the victims of child sexual abuse and their non-offending family members. In order for a CAC to earn accreditation, the center must pass an extensive application process as well as an on-site review process.

“There was a grandma whose grandchild had been sexually abused. She told the prosecutor that her granddaughter had been repeatedly traumatized by all the questioning she had to go through in order to get to the actual case in court. The prosecutor on the case thought, oh my God, that’s probably true. He started the first CAC ever with a team comprised of law enforcement, CPS [child protective services] and criminal justice members, ensuring everyone was on the same page and the child would not have to retell their horrific stories over and over,” states Jade Carela, Legacy of Healing Child Advocacy Center Manager.

The Tulalip CAC has a multi-disciplinary team that includes members of the Tulalip Police Detectives, CPS, beda?chelh, the Tulalip domestic violence and sexual assault prosecutor, and FBI detectives as well as the child advocate.

The NCA regularly updates their policies and procedures and requires a re-accreditation process every five years for each CAC. The accreditation holds centers to a higher standard and indicates exceptional service and a quality center.

The accreditation process often requires over a year’s worth of preparation. However, under the direction of Jade, Tulalip now has the only accredited CAC on a reservation, in Washington State. The enormous task was accomplished in an impressive three short months. When a CAC receives accreditation, they have achieved the highest level of recognition with the NCA.

The Tulalip CAC offers innocent children victims of sexual abuse a chance to heal. The recent accreditation shows the strong effort the Tribe is making to ensure that the victims receive the best possible care, as well as justice and assistance through the entire court process.

For additional information on the accreditation of the Tulalip Legacy of Healing Child Advocacy Center please contact (360) 716-5437.