Building a better future with Tulalip’s construction career program

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Educators, parents and others often place emphasis on college preparation and earning an Associate or Bachelor’s degree by traditional means. But some students see a more hands-on future for themselves. For those unafraid of getting their hands dirty and learning the true meaning behind a hard day’s work there are ample opportunities available within the construction industry. 

In fact, look around the Seattle area and you’ll see more cranes than you can count. While other career pathways may be oversaturated and hard to come by, the construction trades are booming. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, open construction positions are expected to increase by more than 745,000 jobs nationally through 2026, a faster growth than any other occupation. In Washington State alone, there are already more than 3,200 unfilled construction jobs, of which many pay more than the average state wage of $54,000 a year. 

Whether it be laborer, carpenter, ironworker or heavy equipment operator, there are countless openings for work and advancement within construction trades, especially for sought after minorities, like Native Americans and women. A major access point for entry into the construction trades for tribal citizens and their families continues to be Tulalip’s own TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC).

On Wednesday, May 30, eighteen TVTC students were honored with a graduation banquet for their commitment to building a better future. Over 200 guests attended, including several Board of Directors, trade union representatives, and many cheerful friends and family members of the graduates. 

Of this latest graduating cohort, nine students are Tulalip tribal members, two are children of tribal members, and seven are other Native. Three hardworking ladies were among the graduates; Sela Kalama (Quinault), Verla Wapato (Yakama) and Pamela Dick (Colville). The desire to build a new skillset while creating new career pathways was the main motivator, as each of these three women left their home and children in order to reside within the Tulalip area for the duration of the intensive, sixteen-week pre-apprenticeship construction trades program 

As far as we know, the TVTC program, which is managed by the Tulalip TERO, is the first and only state and nationally recognized Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the country. The program is accredited through South Seattle Community College and Renton Technical College, while all the in-class, hands-on curriculum has been formally approved by the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council. 

The sixteen-week program provides 501-hours of hands on instruction, strength building exercise, and construction skills that can last a lifetime. In addition, students are trained and awarded certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, and OSHA 10-hour safety training. Also, students receive certification in the scissor lift, boom lift, industrial fork lift, and powder-actuated tools. Upon completion, each graduate’s diligent training is rewarded with a wide-range of new employment opportunities as they navigate the construction trades career path. 

  “I took this class to better my work experience, gain new skills, and become more comfortable with interviews,” said Tulalip tribal member and now TVTC graduate, Izzy Wolftail. “My favorite part of the TVTC experience was making new friends from different tribes and working side-by-side with them to complete our tiny home project. I plan on bettering my future and the Tribe with my new skills.”

TVTC pre-apprenticeship is a unique, nationally known model that supports tribal members from sovereign nations across the United States. The program is not dependent on tribal hard dollars. In fact, zero hard dollars are used to fund it. Instead, due to the dedication and commitment of so many individuals the TVTC program continues to grow and gain more recognition while being funded by the graciousness of the Tulalip Charitable Fund and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“This particular group of students was just tremendous,” described instructor Mark Newland during the graduation ceremony. “They came prepared and ready to work every single day. Each student was eager to learn and they worked really well with one another. It was a pleasure being their instructor.”

Under the supervision of Mark and co-instructor Billy Burchett, spring quarter students constructed four tiny homes as their final class project. These houses, which are approximately 120-square-feet in size, are the first batch of tiny homes that will be staying on the reservation, with plans for them to provide shelter for homeless tribal members. The insulated houses will be a major upgrade for their soon-to-be residents as they offer electricity, heat, and, most importantly, a measure of stability.

“Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors requested this TVTC cohort build the first four tiny houses for the Tribe. The Board provided the materials and the class built the houses,” explained Lynne Bansemer, TERO Coordinator. “According to instructor Mark Newland these were the best home that have been built to date by our students. We feel the reason is because they were built with love. Bringing this home has meant so much for the TERO and TVTC staff, but our students knew they were building for potential family and friends. What a difference this made!”

Beyond construction skills, several students, who are also tribal members, reached major milestones during the pre-apprenticeship program. Quinton Hill retrieved his driver’s license, while Carter Paul and Hayden Cepa both put in the work necessary to be awarded their high school diploma. 

“For persons on the path to recovery, we have seen them find success during their time as TVTC students and beyond,” added Lynne. “This program introduces them to so many new experiences, shows them their unique individual strengths, and builds their confidence to new heights. We have had families reunited and people find the success they have hoped for because they are able to see daily how strong and capable they are.”

For more information on Tulalip TERO’s TVTC program or to inquire about admission into the next pre-apprenticeship opportunity, please contact Lynne Bansemer, TERO Coordinator, at 360-716-4746 or visit TVTC.TulalipTERO.com 

MSD traditionally honors 5th grade native students

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Marysville School District (MSD) Indian Education Department held a ceremony at the Hibulb Cultural Center Longhouse on the evening of May 31, to honor their fifth-grade students who will be making the transition from elementary to junior high next fall. Native students from the Allen Creek, Cascade Grove, Liberty, Marshall, Kellogg Marsh, Marysville Co-Op, Shoultes and Sunnyside elementary schools were recognized for successfully completing grade school and beginning the next phase of their educational journey. 

The traditional graduation ceremony was inspired by the Quil Ceda Tulalip fifth grade potlatch that is held at the end of every school year. MSD native liaisons were motivated to create a similar ceremony to honor the native students who attended other elementary schools throughout the district. During the ceremony, the students are gifted necklaces with cedar-carved salmon pendants and are offered words of support and encouragement from Tulalip tribal leaders. 

“Students, you hit a milestone on going into a new school,” expressed Tulalip Vice-Chair Woman, Teri Gobin. “You’ve taken a step into a new direction and it’s going to be a wonderful. Next thing you know you’ll be going into high school and then graduating. We look forward to doing anything we can to assist you. I want to encourage you to take advantage of the native liaisons to help you through every step. We’re proud of each and every one of you.” 

The ceremony also serves as a means of introduction between students who will be attending the same middle school but attended different elementary schools; as well as between students and the native liaisons of their new school. 

“We came together as a team to honor the fifth graders as they go to middle school,” said Native Liaison, Zee Jimicum. “It’s a tough transition. Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary has a fifth-grade transition weekly course to help their students prepare for middle school. So for those kids who don’t have that connection like Quil Ceda Tulalip students, it’s super important that they see our faces so when they get to middle school next year they have that connection.”

MSD native liaisons Terrance Sabbas and Matt Remle performed an honor song for the students on the traditional round drum and presented them with cedar necklaces. Each liaison also introduced themselves and shared their excitement with the future middle schoolers. 

“As a district we wanted to honor, encourage and support these students culturally here in the longhouse,” said Terrance. “We wanted to sing our traditional songs so they can feel at home. We wanted to tie it all together with culture and honor all the work they’ve accomplished.”

The MSD Indian Education Department also thanked Cascade Elementary Principal, Teresa Iyall Williams, for her years of dedication to the youth as she’ll be enjoying the retired life after this school year. Teresa was blanketed by the Indian Education Department and referred to as an ‘inspiration to all the young native girls’ and ‘a great example of how to conduct yourself’ by Tribal member, Denise Hatch-Anderson.

The students received journals from the MSD Indian Education Department so they can document the next three years of their middle school experience. 

“The excitement you have, I hope it continues all the way until you graduate from high school and from college. Whatever you choose to do in this world, we ask you to dream big,” said Deborah Parker, MSD Director of Equity, Diversity and Indian Education.

Dreaming big is exactly what the students plan to do, including Tulalip tribal member Conner Juvinel, who plans to continue pursuing his passion during his middle school years. 

“I dream to become a scientist,” he states. “I enjoy science a lot, like earth studies. It feels terrifying but still pretty awesome to go into middle school. I don’t know what I’m most excited about but I know I’m excited.”

Annual Stick Game Tournament unites Northwest tribes in friendly competition

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Players of the traditional Coast Salish gambling game, known by a few names including slahal, lahal, bone games and stick games, gathered at the Tulalip Amphitheater during the weekend of June 1-3. Many players arrived an entire day early, equipped with their bones, drums and lawn chairs in anticipation of the 9th Annual Tulalip Tribes Stick Game Tournament. This year’s tournament attracted a record-breaking one-hundred and forty-two teams who competed for a chance to win cash prizes, including the grand prize of $50,000. 

Native families journeyed across Washington and Canada to play in the tournament. The total payout this year was $63,000 which was distributed throughout the weekend during a number of rounds including the kid’s tournament, which drew a large crowd of spectators. 

The game was said to be invented centuries ago in order to settle a number of disputes between tribes of the Northwest, including the rights to fishing, gathering and hunting territories. As legend has it, the game was gifted to the people by the animals in order to unite the tribes and prevent war. 

During gameplay, two teams consisting of three to five players face each other. The game pieces, which include a set of bones and sticks, are discreetly distributed amongst the players on one team. The opposing team has to correctly guess where the bones are and how many pieces the player has in their hands. The sticks are used to keep score and the team with their bones in play, sing traditional family songs in an attempt to distract the other team from seeing where the bones end up. The team who has the correct amount of guesses wins the game and gets to advance to the next round.

 “I came out to play for the Northwest Indian College team,” says NWIC student, Mikaela ‘Miki’ Ponca-Montoya of the Osage Nation. “We held a fundraiser last week so we could register and play in the games. We’ve been practicing, we have a stick game club at the college and a bunch of people participate and came out to play. I enjoy the medicine from the games because when people are playing their songs, some of us don’t know what they mean but we proudly sing those words as they’ve been upheld for generations and generations. You can feel it when your team starts to put their medicine in the music and when they’re playing the game you can feel the energy. That, and if you win, that’s the best part!”

Smiles are shared throughout the entire weekend, even when a team is knocked out of the competition, as most people are delighted to visit with other Native people and practice the traditional game of our ancestors. 

Annual Veteran’s Pow Wow

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The first weekend of June marked the 27th Annual Tulalip Veterans Powwow. The extremely popular event welcomed hundreds of traditional dancers and singers to the Greg Williams Court to honor our veterans and celebrate Indigenous culture. The event kicked-off on June 1 and ended on the evening of June 3, as Natives of all ages and from across the Nation journeyed to Tulalip to participate in the powwow. 

“I came from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and am Blackfeet and Colville,” said Dave Madera. “I came to dance and sing.  It’s really positive, it feels good to get out on the floor and dance it’s really a celebration of our lives and uplifting our people through song and dance.”

The powwow featured a number of grand entries throughout the weekend, but the most popular was perhaps on the evening of June 2, as the entire gym was rocking to the beats provided by the many drum groups and the jingle of traditional regalia. 

“It’s about visiting with your family and friends and at the same time you’re sharing the culture,” said Russell McCloud (Puyallup/Yakima) “Song and dance brings everyone together. For the powwow it’s that drum, the drum brings everybody here. When they’re drumming and singing, everybody’s on the same beat and that unites all of us together.”

Ruben Littlehead served as Master of Ceremonies during the powwow and Northern Cree provided loud, rhythmic drumbeats throughout the event as the host drum circle. This year featured a playground for the kids that overlooked Tulalip Bay as well as numerous vendors. 

The annual powwow continues to inspire a new generation of dancers as kids of all ages took to the floor to honor our vets and ancestors by showcasing their traditional dance skills. Adults and elders also joined in on the fun by dancing their hearts out and getting lost in the culture.

“I love everything about this powwow,” expressed young Tulalip tribal member, Jordan Power. “I come to dance for the people, share our culture and continue practicing our traditions.”

TPD carries the Torch to raise funds for Special Olympics

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the afternoon of May 31, the Tulalip Police Department (TPD) joined other Washington State police departments in the Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. Police departments from across the Nation participate in the yearly run in an effort to raise funds for the Special Olympics USA Games. Law enforcement officials carry the Flame of Hope to their respective state’s Special Olympics Spring Games to help kick off the competition. 

Washington’s Spring Games took place at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma during the first weekend of June. Several police departments that joined in runs across the state met at the University. TPD participated with a group that began at the Washington State-British Columbia border, joining the team in Stanwood and also running through Quil Ceda Village, Tulalip and Marysville. 

“It was awesome to participate,” says TPD Officer and Torch Runner, David Taylor. “To see the other departments link up together and do something positive for the community is great. Not a lot of people know about the Torch Run, so being able to be a part of it and raise funds and awareness was pretty cool, it meant a lot that they asked us to do it. We ran about twelve miles.”

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games takes place in Seattle this year at the UW Husky Stadium from July 1-6. Over 4,000 athletes will participate in variety of sports including track, basketball, bowling, golf, gymnastics and softball. For donation information and further details, please visit www.SpecialOlympics.org

Measuring the Value of Education

Submitted by Jeanne Steffener, Higher ED

Everyone wants to make sure that their time and money are well spent. This is also true of dollars spent in pursuit of higher education. Today students attend college for a variety of reasons. Students enroll in degree or certificate programs while others strive to obtain vocational skills. Whatever your reason for attending school, you want to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth.

But how do we measure the value of education? The value lies in the purpose of education which is … to make it possible for individuals to realize their potential as human beings and as citizens of their society and their world. G.K. Chesterton once said that: “Education is simply the soul of society as it passes from one generation to another.”

Education is really an investment in your life and your community’s life and the more time you invest in it, eventually it will translate into a greater return. Like stocks, you cannot judge the rate of return in the short term. It is over the long-haul that we can accurately determine how our education has opened up opportunities for us that would have been impossible without that degree. A college degree gives a person the opportunity to enjoy knowledge, better job opportunities, increased health benefits, tax benefits, life changing friendships and satisfaction with life.

Generally speaking, a college degree promises a certain level of knowledge gained. It implies that a college educated person has completed all the required coursework for a particular field of study. Employers, therefore, have confidence that a future degreed employee has the working knowledge of business and the ability to cope in a competitive work environment.  The skill set developed by such a person is also greater than someone without a college education. Some of the key aspects of education gained are problem solving, creative thinking, social skills, evaluation, empathy, communication and reasoning skills to meet the challenges of life. If you think of education as preparation, you will have an incredible resource for life.

With the advantage of attending college/university, students open up their chances of expanding their minds. In the process of meeting and befriending people of all walks of life and cultures, students begin to accept and appreciate people for who they really are. Eventually, stereotypes and discrimination fade from of their lives. This is why a college education is so important and how it plays a huge part in opening up a person’s mind.

We see the significance of friendships and how these relationships are developed in a large network of acquaintances. Some of these people will share a strong bond with you for the rest of your life. These friendships may open up career opportunities in the future. Friendships become a significant benefit of college life.

Earning a college degree opens up doors to greater opportunities and possibilities. This is rite of passage which helps individuals to develop self-confidence and grow as human beings. Most people believe that the more education you receive helps you to develop your mind and in the process opens up the potential to change your life.

In the backlash against college, surveys have been taken that show that an overwhelming number of participants felt that a post-secondary education is more than just a paycheck. Education does many things but more importantly it empowers a person to think, question, and see beyond the obvious. Education broadens our horizons and gives us a better understanding of the world around us and how it works. Education will help you to realize your potential and allow you to reach for the sky.

Are you are interested in a life changing opportunity? Higher ED can help discover what it takes go to college. You can contact Higher ED staff at 360-716-4888 or email us at highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

HCC Flute Circle encourages self-expression and creativity

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Soothing, peaceful music resonated throughout the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the night of Thursday, May 24. Around thirty community members gathered in the museum’s longhouse to listen and take part in HCC’s bi-monthly flute circle. The circle is led by Tulalip tribal member and HCC Museum Assistant, Cary Williams, and is a recent addition to the museum’s Culture Series workshops.

“I’ve been playing since 2007, so eleven years now, wow,” Cary reflects. “Growing up, I went to church at St. Anne’s and they would do an intermission with flute and from that I was inspired to pick the instrument up myself. My first flute was actually a Chinese flute that was made from maple. It was very thin and actually broke when I was climbing up a hillside where I was playing as a kid. After that, I purchased more flutes up until I met my uncle Paul Nyenhuis and he gifts me handmade flutes that he makes from his heart. I’ve been playing those since and been sharing my music with my community since I started playing. I pack them with me wherever I go and share with anyone who is interested in listening.”

Cary enlisted his uncle Paul to help encourage a new generation of flute players to join in on the fun. Paul is local flutist who constructs and plays his own collection of handmade instruments, all of which are carved from various trees such as cedar, maple and cherry and also contain their very own stories. Paul shares the story behind each flute with the community and lets them get an up-close, detailed look at each of his designs before performing a melody for the circle. Cary also performs a number of songs throughout the event, which was originally inspired by his love and passion for the Indigenous instrument.  

“Being a flutist myself, I wanted a space where other flutists could share a connection with each other and also share their songs with the community, the young people and the elders of the tribe,” he explains. “And to help inspire an artform that was once lost as well as encourage self-expression through music, because physically, spiritually and emotionally the flute helps out a lot. 

“Personally, it helps me in my day-to-day life. If I’m overwhelmed I can play the flute and calm myself and come back to a great state of being or if I’m happy I can play a song and share that happiness as well. Just honoring our surroundings and our ancestors by playing the songs of them, speaking about the area that surrounds us, the Pacific Northwest, and talking about our salmon and that cedar tree. The music speaks on behalf of the unspoken, our ancestors and our Tribe. That’s what these songs feel like to me.”

During the circles, participants are invited to share stories and songs of the traditional instrument with one another. Everett community member, Ray Mutchler, was delighted when he heard of the flute circle through a Facebook post and attended to showcase his music. Ray and his girlfriend Carlita have been playing the instrument over the past couple years and are a part of a local Native American flute community. 

“I think it’s important for people to learn how to express themselves, especially through music,” says Ray. “Creativity is an important part of life. I learned how to play clarinet in public school and it’s a hard instrument to play for improvisation. The Native American flute is almost all improvisation and that’s great for creativity and self-expression and those are great qualities to learn and possess. I’m grateful for the opportunity to come here to listen and play today.”

The flute circle inspired all ages, as youth and elders awed during the performances inquired about the history of the flute. Research has proven that the Native American flute has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest instruments in history, created shortly after drums and rattles. The flute is more prominently used by tribes to the south, such as Arizona and New Mexico, as well as by many Indigenous nations of the great plains, but is also an integral part of the Coast Salish culture and is used during a number of important ceremonies. 

Once the hour-long flute circles have ended, a handful of youngsters are often gifted beginner flutes from Cary. However, like many instruments, the flutes choose their owners, who often have an immediate connection when first exposed to the instrument.

“The teachings of the flute live within you,” Cary says. “My uncle made some give away flutes for me to hold on to and when I feel that feeling to give away, I gift them to the kids. I always ask if they’re inspired to learn and the majority of the time, being a part of this event, they are very inspired to learn. So I hand them over to them like they were handed to me, with no intentions and no expectations, just to know that they have that tool now and can learn from the flute and learn from themselves by playing the notes that they like that come from the flute.” 

Paul has already gifted Cary’s newborn son a small flute so he can play alongside his dad while growing up. Cary’s goal is to have his son playing by the age of three and participating in future flute circles at the museum.

The next flute circle will be held on the last Thursday of July as HCC alternates hosting the flute circles and the coastal jams each month. For further details, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.