Festival of the Steh-Chass Celebrates Salmon Protection and Restoration

Native American rapper Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas headlined the Festival.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Pre-colonization, the Port of Olympia was once a plentiful estuary that was occupied by the Steh-Chass people on Squaxin Island territory. Salmon swam in abundance through the inlet and there was no shortage of wildlife in the estuary, providing food for the Steh-Chass community comprised of a number of tribal members from Squaxin Island, Nisqually, Chehalis and Suquamish. The Salish Sea waters freely flowed from the Puget Sound through the estuary along the Deshutes River, ensuring nourishment for the people. 

As time passed, the area eventually became the home to Washington State’s capital and in the 1950’s, the state built a dam on 5th Ave. The dam separated the lake from the Puget Sound, creating a reservoir used to reflect the Washington State capital building on its surface. The once bountiful estuary is now a decorative body of water known as Capital Lake where currently no native wildlife reside. Not to mention that nearly every spawning season since its construction, the dam has been home to a number of seals who pick off salmon attempting to swim upstream. 

Billy Frank Jr. was a strong advocate for the removal of the dam. Salmon Defense, a non-profit established by the twenty Northwest Washington tribes, continues his vision today, years after his passing. And for nearly three decades, the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT) has been fighting the same fight, actively working to reconnect the reservoir back to Puget Sound and restore the estuary. 

Over Labor Day weekend, Salmon Defense and DERT teamed up, along with the Tulalip, Puyallup, Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribes, to host a festival celebrating Indigenous culture while honoring local tribes and the water in the name of salmon recovery and estuary restoration. 

The first annual Festival of the Steh-Chass was held September 1, at Heritage Park in Olympia overlooking Capital Lake. The weather was sunny and clear and a stage was setup at the center of the park where the Washington State Capital was visible in its background. The start of the festival, however, began at the 5th Ave dam as tribal members and Olympia community members welcomed the canoe families of Squaxin Island, who pulled into the Port in traditional cedar canoes. The crowd then followed the canoe family as they sang the traditional songs of their people while walking through Heritage Park.  

“What we wanted to do with this festival is create a space for Indian people to gather, talk, sing and celebrate Indian people and reawaken the Indigenous spirit of this area,” says Salmon Defense Director and Willie Frank III’s wife, Peggen Frank. “The Salmon Defense has been wanting to do something to raise awareness for the salmon, for the crucial state we’re in. The salmon are collapsing and it’s really scary. For me, as a tribal person, the reason why I’m fighting for the salmon is not only because of what [Billy Frank Jr.] taught me – and that’s when salmon are healthy, we’re healthy and without clean water we won’t survive – but the coastal people have a beautiful culture and the salmon are a vital piece of that culture. 

“The tribes are so powerful here because of their treaty rights,” she continues. “That’s how Salmon Defense was created from the Northwest Washington treaty tribes to litigate, advocate and educate on behalf of Pacific Northwest salmon. When they put the dam in and created this pond, they destroyed two-hundred and fifty acres of salmon habitat. If we remove the dam and are able to start the restoration process, we’ll have both Coho and Chinook salmon. Those are the two main species that our resident orcas eat. If we’re not able to create, protect and enforce policies that save salmon, that enhance salmon restoration, that support tribal treaty rights, we’re not going to be able to save the orca.”

Information booths were stationed along the park’s walkway from organizations such as Northwest Treaty Tribes, Salmon Defense and DERT. Children got to enter the belly of a giant salmon, named Finn the Fish, and learn about the watershed habitat through traditional art that was painted on the inside of the fish. 

“We came out today because anytime there’s an opportunity to join forces in protecting our water, I think it is absolutely our responsibility,” says Tulalip Tribal member, Theresa Sheldon. “I think it’s amazing to bring our young people together; we have to get our youth more involved because our youth’s voices are so powerful. When they’re fighting and protecting the Mother Earth and doing this justice for the environment, that will transcend boundaries and crosses over any politics and gets to the root core of who we are as Indigenous People.”

As the day progressed a number of talented Native American singers and artists took the stage, including Suquamish singer and WaterIsLife activist, Calina Lawrence, as well as singing trio, Thunderbirds Raised Her, who are a group of young sisters from Lummi. The crowd was moved by both acts as they sang about important issues in Native America like protecting the water and growing up on a reservation. The songs were in contemporary R&B fashion while incorporating elements such as hand drums and their traditional language into the music. Several other Native performers kept the crowd entertained throughout the day including Seattle hip hop artist Momentum X and the Indigenous Sisters Resistance group, as well as a fashion show by Indigenous Designer Abriel Johnny.

The festival’s headliner did not disappoint. Event goers rushed the stage as Native American rapper and advocate, Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, began to perform an array of the hip hop group’s hits that had the crowd dancing. 

About halfway through his set, Taboo asked the sound crew to cut the music so he could talk to the people about protecting our natural resources. He explained that he was so moved by the NODAPL movement that he postponed recording a new project and tour dates with the Black Eyed Peas to ‘go to Standing Rock to be with my people’, after receiving full support from bandmates. Taboo also spoke about the resiliency of Indigenous people before performing his MTV Video Music Award Nominee song, Stand Up/Stand N Rock.

Following Taboo, Willie Frank III took to the stage to close out the Festival of the Steh-Chass. 

“As we talked about all day today, the message is to make this lake flow into our Puget sound, make it an estuary again and bring the salmon back to Capital Lake,” he passionately expressed. “It’s so good to see all these youth out here taking part in this, they are truly our next generation, they are our future. Our elders are the most important piece of our culture and now we have the youth coming up, and we’re going to educate them. We’re going to do what we need to do to protect our salmon, to protect our natural resources.

“The salmon defense was an idea from my late father, Billy Frank Jr., and it’s been four years since he’s passed. I know he’s looking down on us with a big smile shouting, ‘get rid of the damn dam!’ My hands go up to everybody who help put this together, it’s been a great day. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere.” 

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 Tribes purchases new fire truck for Fire District 15

Tulalip Bay Fire Department receives a much needed addition to its fleet 

TULALIP, Wash. – September 4, 2018–The Tulalip Tribes recently purchased and financed a new fire truck for Snohomish County Fire District 15, also known as Tulalip Bay Fire Station. Thanks to a strong partnership between Tulalip Bay Fire and Tulalip Tribes, the District has been able to purchase a new truck that will help to support the work and mission of the fire department. 

“The partnership between the Tulalip Tribes and the Fire District is very important for our community and firefighters,” says Fire Chief Ryan Shaughnessy. “When we went to the Tulalip Tribes, in need of help because our funding was limited, they were quick to provide a vital addition for our Fire Department, one that will benefit the entire community.” 

Snohomish County Fire District 15 contracts with the Tulalip Tribes for fire and emergency medical sservices across a large portion of the Tulalip reservation. The Fire District receives their budget from property taxes, the Tulalip Tribes, and EMS transports.

The new truck is a demonstration unit with only 7,000 miles on the odometer. The new engine has a larger capacity fire pump, which is a great improvement over other trucks previously owned by Fire District 15. The engine is physically larger than trucks in their current fleet. It has the ability to carry more equipment and includes more safety features that protect fire fighters. 

Chairwoman for the Tulalip Tribes, Marie Zackuse, understands the importance that this partnership provides to the reservation, “Working together as community partners to identify the needs of all those who live within the boundaries of the Tulalip Reservation is critical. The partnership between Snohomish County Fire District 15 and the Tulalip Tribes will help us to achieve our goals of safety and protecting our reservation.” 

Tulalip Tribes Board of Director and Fire Commissioner, Marlin Fryberg, says both entities “have helped supported each other now for decades, and will continue to build on this relationship, he said. “The services the fire district provides to the community is beneficial for the fire fighters, the taxpayers, and for tribal members.” 

The fire engine is now in daily use for emergency calls.