Indian Law: Understanding Treaty Fishing Rights

Submitted by Ryan Miller, Environmental Liaison, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources 

ON THE TREATY FRONT: A series on the history and meaning of tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, environmental stewardship and issues that threaten these important rights. This is the second in a recurring series of articles produced by the Tulalip Tribes Treaty Rights Office to help educate and inform the membership. Our Mission is to “Protect, enhance, restore and ensure access to the natural resources necessary for Tulalip Tribal Members’ long-term exercise of our treaty-reserved rights.” 

Indian Law: Understanding Treaty Fishing Rights

In treaties signed with the U.S. Government, our ancestors made great sacrifices by ceding millions of acres of land to the federal government in exchange for certain protections for our traditional and cultural values and ways of life. Article Five of the Treaty of Point Elliott guarantees the signatory tribes the right of taking fish at their usual and accustomed grounds and stations in common with all citizens as well as hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed lands. Despite the federal government’s guarantees to tribes that they would be able to take fish as they always have, throughout the first half of the 20th century Indian fishermen faced fierce opposition to exercising this right from the State of Washington and non-Indian fisherman. These tensions led to battles in court, all of which contributed to the decision made by Judge George Boldt in US v Washington also known as “The Boldt Decision”, the foundational Indian treaty fishing rights case. 

In 1905, the United States Supreme Court handed down the first decision addressing treaty fishing rights in U.S. v. Winans.  In that case, the United States brought suit on behalf of the Yakima Nation against the Winans Brothers who, by attaining a permit for a fish wheel from the State of Washington had not only depleted the Yakimas’ fish supply but had also prevented them from accessing their traditional fishing grounds. The Supreme Court’s decision laid the foundation for the interpretation of treaties in the future and produced what was later called the “cannons of treaty interpretation”. 

We have said we will construe a treaty with the Indians as “that unlettered people” understood it, and “as justice and reason demand, in all cases where the power is exerted by the strong over those to whom they owe care and protection”, and counterpoise the inequality “by the superior justice which looks only to the substance of the right, without regard to technical rules.”

The Supreme Court in US v Winans held that treaties are “not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them and a reservation of those not granted”. The Supreme Court’s ruling states that issues of treaty interpretations must favor Indians as they were at a severe disadvantage during the negotiations which took place in a foreign language and often with the threat of violence. The court also notes that treaties must be interpreted the way the Indians of the time would have understood them. This idea is critical because our ancestors were deeply concerned about having access to all the places that they had always gathered and their concerns were heard by Governor Stevens who reassured them that they would always have access to their traditional places and resources.

I wish to speak my mind as to selling the land. Great chief!  What shall we eat if we do so? Our only food is berries, deer, and salmon. Where then shall we find these? I don’t want to sign away my right to the land…..I am afraid that I shall become destitute and perish for want of food.

Hool-hol-tan, Skokomish leader speaking to Gov. Isaac Stevens at treaty negotiations 1855 (from article in Pacific Northwest Quarterly)

Governor Stevens responded to questions like these at all of the treaty negotiations,

You understand well my purpose, now you want to know what we desire to do for you. We want to give you houses and having homes you will have the means and the opportunity to cultivate the soil to get your potatoes and to go over these waters in your canoes to get your fish. We want more, if you desire to go back to the mountains and get your roots and your berries you can do so and you shall have homes and shall have these rights. 

The courts determined that though the Winans Brothers acted lawfully by the standards of the State of Washington; they had violated the Yakima Nation’s treaty rights by restricting their access to traditional fishing grounds. 

In 1942 Sampson Tulee, a member of the Yakima Nation, was convicted in the Superior Court of Klickitat County for catching salmon with a net without obtaining a license from the State of Washington. Tulee appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Washington State statute violated his treaty right. The court, in Tulee v. Washington, held that while the State of Washington had the right to regulate Treaty fishing outside the reservation for the conservation of species, it could not charge a fee to Indians for the license required. 

We believe that such exaction of fees as a prerequisite to the enjoyment of fishing in the ‘usual and accustomed places’ cannot be reconciled with a fair construction of the treaty. We therefore hold the state statute invalid as applied in this case…It is our responsibility to see that the terms of the treaty are carried out, so far as possible, in accordance with the meaning they were understood to have by the tribal representatives at the council and in a [315 U.S. 681, 685] spirit which generously recognizes the full obligation of this nation to protect the interests of a dependent people. 

While these cases represent “wins” for treaty tribes and their members they are also directly reflected in the decision of Judge Boldt in US v Washington. Over 100 years after the signing of the treaty and years of conflicts over treaty fishing, the U.S. sued the state of Washington in 1970 on behalf of Washington’s treaty tribes.

Stay tuned for our next article which will focus on the landmark Indian Law case US v Washington and other treaty fishing decisions all the way through to the culvert case.

Quil Ceda 3rd graders experience living history at Hibulb

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

School groups visit Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) frequently to receive an educational tour of the 23,000 square foot facility dedicated to collecting and enhancing the traditional cultural values and history of the Tulalip Tribes. These school group tours always start in the HCC longhouse with a brief video presentation that introduces the legacy of the Tulalip people to students with minimal knowledge of Native peoples in general, let alone specific knowledge about the successors in interest to Snohomish, Snoqualmie and other tribes signatory to the Treaty of Point Elliot.

However, once a year when then the 3rd graders from Quil Ceda Tulalip (QCT) Elementary have their school tour the script is a bit different. These particular 3rd graders do have knowledge, an inherent history, and personal experiences galore with what it means to be a Native American citizen and Tulalip culture bearers. For Quil Ceda 3rd graders, their museum tour is less new information acquisition and more reinforcement of a history they breathe life into every day. 

“We have a partnership with Marysville School District and the Indigenous Education Department to bring in every single 3rd grade class within the district and give them a museum a tour,” explains Mary Jane Topash, HCC Group Tour Specialist. “The Quil Ceda tours are unique because for a lot of the students it’s their own family history being exhibited, which means my tours with them are different. I can play off their background knowledge and personal histories they have as tribal members and growing up Tulalip.

“During the Quil Ceda tours we really reinforce key values and history points that make us Tulalip,” continued Mary Jane. “There were several students that went to the family tree section and entered their own tribal IDs to find their family connections within the Hibulb exhibits. That is something unique only they are able to connect with.”

From teachings of the cedar tree to lifeways of salmon, HCC exhibits echo traditional values many of the QCT students have heard and experienced many times over during their young lives. Of course that doesn’t mean they no longer get super excited to showcase their natural skills with a cedar weave, yarn pattern, or fish net…because they certainly do. 

Young tribal members were seen routinely schooling their non-Native counterparts on what certain exhibits were really about. In some exhibits there is an option to hear narration in either English or traditional Lushootseed. Many of the kids didn’t hesitate to choose Lushootseed, making their teachers very proud. 

While learning from the wool exhibit, the kids were hyped when they saw the puppet theater setup. Many took the opportunity to use their imagination and do creative storytelling all on their own with the puppets available. Also in the wool exhibit is a digital touch-screen game that teaches weaving basics in a comfortable setting today’s children are most used to. The interactive nature of such exhibits made learning all the more easier, while still holding the rambunctious groups attention. 

“With many of the Quil Ceda third graders being Tulalip tribal members, we stressed the important and significance of our lifeways while exploring our canoes, cedar collection and life cycle of salmon exhibits,” shared museum assistant Cary Michael Williams. “We got into our 1855 treaty and explaining its importance to our everyday life today, and how our treaty rights allows us to live our culture. 

“It was a very good opportunity to share more insight on what that means to them and their responsibility as tribal members to uphold those rights for future generations. It was an honor to see our young people interact with Hibulb and make connections they can take with them going forward while bringing cultural values into their own lives.”

The foundation of their Quil Ceda education allowed the four 3rd grade classes to use Hibulb educational spaces in an engaged and interactive way. Drawing from their own experiences and family history, students demonstrated traditional skills like fish net tying and cedar weaving, while practicing Lushootseed words to connect with various exhibits. Witnessing them interact with exhibits and cultural items with an innate understanding that required zero explanation is proof the next generation of culture bearers will have much to add to Tulalip’s history of resiliency and self-determination. 

Nutrition and safety emphasized at TELA mini health fair

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

As parents picked up their kids from the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) on the afternoon of Friday March 22, they were welcomed by the TELA administration staff as well as local programs and businesses who were stationed throughout the lobby and the conference room of the early learning academy. Twenty-six informational booths provided useful tips, ranging from nutrition to safety, in an effort to promote better overall health and wellness within the community. Parents hurried to retrieve their kids from their classrooms so they could return and participate in TELA’s seventh annual Mini Health Fair.

A popular event that has continued to grow over the years, the mini health fair is a fun experience for TELA students. Each booth offers hands-on interaction from the likes of the Tulalip Police and Tulalip Bay Fire departments, as well as plenty of prizes like books, toys and even animal washcloths that promote the practice of healthy habits such as reading and good hygiene.

Perhaps the biggest highlight for the kids is sampling all the snacks. AnneCherise Jensen and the SNAP-Ed team created fruit kabobs with orange slices, pineapple, grapes, kiwi and strawberries, showing the families a new, fast and easy snack that is both delicious and nutritious. The fruit kabobs were such a smash that the SNAP-Ed booth had a line nearly the entire duration of the health fair. The TELA kitchen crew also handed out healthy snacks to the students including fruit and veggie cups as well as smoothies. 

Upon checking into the mini health fair, the families received a passport. As they visited each booth, the vendors signed their passports, indicating that the families learned either a new health tip or were provided with new resources from programs such as WIC, Healthy Homes and the Snohomish County Music Project. Once their passports were filled out, the families turned them in for a chance to win a variety of prizes including gift baskets, blankets and an inflatable swimming pool – just in time for the upcoming summer season.

“We like to partner with Children’s Hospital, Red Cross, WIC, the Child Strive program and the police and fire departments as well as Disaster [Tulalip Office of Emergency Management] for those families that are in need of extra services,” explains Katrina Lane, TELA Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. “It’s been a good event to provide for the families over the years. It’s really heartwarming to see the families here with their kids, and for the kids to actually be excited about healthy things; the smoothies, the veggies, the fruit kabobs – they are just excited. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re starting them out young and that they’re getting a good idea of what health is.”

By creating a fun learning experience catered to our future leaders, the academy puts an exciting and entertaining twist on educating the community about the many benefits and the importance of good physical, mental and spiritual health.

Interwoven Oral History Project Symposium

Submitted by Lena Jones, MaOM, Education Curator, Tulalip Tribes Hibulb Cultural Center

One ancestral teaching is that ‘everyone comes from a great people.’  In a recent symposium hosted at the Hibulb Cultural Center on March 2, entitled Interwoven Oral History Project: The Blended Heritage of Nordics and Native Peoples, guests heard stories, memories, experiences, and shared values from a panel of individuals who are descended from Nordic and Native American ancestry. Panel member Odin Lonning, an award winning Tlingit artist with Norwegian ancestry, said it is another way to remember our ancestry and be proud of the lands we come from. 

Moderated by Fred Poyner IV, the collections manager of the Nordic Museum, this was the second symposium in the series. The first was held at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle on September 15, 2018. Tessa Campbell, lead curator for the Hibulb Cultural Center, participated as a panelist for that symposium. The Nordic Museum is the largest museum in the United States to honor the legacy of immigrants from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. 

The Interwoven Oral History project began in 2016 when the Nordic Museum expanded an oral history program to record the stories of individuals who share Nordic and Native American ancestry in the Pacific Northwest. It is an active outreach program to multicultural audiences, as well as an archive for recording blended-heritage histories. Several practicing artists were interviewed, including Tulalip carver Steven Madison who also has Swedish ancestry.

Panelist Gwen Whiting, lead curator of the Washington State Historical Society with White Mountain Apache and Swedish ancestry, said programs like this can help folks find their identity and knowledge about their culture. Fellow panelist Richard Hanks, a retired professor of American Indian History at the University of California Riverside and president of the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center in Stanwood compared culture to the ripples of a rock dropped in water, the first ripples being your family, and then a wider community, and then a society. As folks grow, they understand their identity through culture, geography, and choice.

The discussion of tribal identity with Nordic identity served as a common thread for all the interviews and panelist review. Fred Poyner said a goal of the project was to build relationships among the communities. Panelist Aaron Jones explained that his traditional introduction let folks know his ancestral ties within the Coast Salish community by giving his grandparents’ names, and giving his Indian names which would help folks recognize he has Snoqualmie and First Nations ancestry, but that much of his Norwegian ancestry stories and memories were lost. Audience members were helpful in giving him information about where to find leads in his Nordic ancestry and culture. He said he felt grateful and honored for the opportunity to learn more about that part of his family in the symposium.

Tessa Campbell, who set up the symposium at the Hibulb Cultural Center, said the Oral History Project is now going national, beginning with oral history interviews in the Midwest. The interviews can be found on the Nordic Museum site.

Health Service Division Highlights: Health Advisory Committee

Submitted by Francesca Hillery

Last June the Board of Directors created a Health Advisory Committee to provide oversight on the policies, procedures and programs administered by the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. The committee members must be Tulalip tribal members and are appointed by the Board of Directors.

“The vision was to appoint two tribal members with substantial experience in the healthcare field, and two other members currently working within our healthcare system,” said Teri Gobin, who chaired the Services Committee this past year.

They are Karen Fryberg, Johanna Moses, Verna Hill, and Jennie Fryberg who all work in close coordination with Norma Razote, Managing Director of Health Services. The committee meets once a month.

Over a long career with the tribe Norma Razote recently assumed the position of Managing Director over Health Services, one of four new divisions of tribal government, following a reorganization of tribal government in 2018. One of the drivers for the restructure was to improve services to membership.

Norma sees the creation of the Health Advisory Committee as fundamental to improving health services for membership. The integration of services under the umbrella of the Health Services division is helping to improve the delivery of healthcare at the Tulalip clinic.

“One of the goals the tribe has been working towards is providing wrap-around services,” said Norma. “These things take time to build but the vision is to have case workers from various programs and providers all working on the caseload of particular clients in order to improve outcomes.”

This is especially needed in the area of chemical dependency where clients can have several intersecting issues that need close and consistent coordination. “Clients may have physical and mental health concerns, housing, and court requirements,” said Norma.  “We can work together as a team to ensure nothing is slipping through the cracks.”

The clinic recently created Patient Services, a new department that includes a caregiver coordinator, retirement home administrator, special needs and elder disability, transportation, and the hospital liaison. “The fact that the hospital liaison can do outreach with tribal members and their providers at the hospital, and then communicate their needs to our team, means we have the opportunity to provide better aftercare services,” said Norma.

Another policy change addresses the wage scale of medical professionals.  “One of the most important improvements we can make to health delivery is to attract and retain medical professionals. Currently, we do not pay our providers on a competitive scale,” said Norma.

Developing a relationship with providers that is based on consistency over time improves health outcomes.

Of the many areas of government Norma has served in over the years, she remarks on how far the clinic has come from its humble beginnings. “When I started working for them they were working in a little modular,” she laughed. “We now have a truly great facility that delivers a wide array of health services to our people,” she concluded.

When retired Health Care Administrator Karen Fryberg began working at the clinic the tribe offered few services. She recalls a time when healthcare was only available off the reservation and specialty care meant a trip to Seattle to the public health hospital.

Leveraging monies through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act, Tulalip launched its first health clinic in a tiny building and trailer across from the old Administration building.

The first clinic had two exam rooms, a small lab and a temporary nurse practitioner who was there to pay off her government-funded student debt. A second nurse practitioner was added to expand maternal and prenatal care for members.

As demand for services grew, the clinic expanded with the purchase of a surplus mobile building from the Everett Clinic which allowed for the addition of a doctor and nurse as well as expanded exam and waiting space.

An analysis of prescription drug costs in town quickly made the case for a tribal-managed on-site pharmacy. Substantial savings on prescription drug costs helped purchase much needed equipment and resources for the clinic.

When the decision was made to borrow money to build the Tulalip Resort Casino, tribal leaders agreed to include additional funds for a new healthcare facility to better serve tribal membership and the dream of a comprehensive clinic began to take shape.

Opened in August of 2003, the new building would carry the name: Karen I. Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic.

A long term dream of Karen’s has been to achieve accreditation for the clinic.

While her retirement is filled with family time, sewing and craft fairs, Karen continues to worry about the health of her community, especially the young people struggling with drug addiction, the ongoing risk of overdose, and the crippling devastation caused by suicide.

Karen is a living record of the history of the tribe providing health services. Her perseverance has helped to make the Tulalip Health Clinic one of the most comprehensive among tribal clinics in the state of Washington.

When Johnna Moses was asked to join the Health Advisory Committee, she was hesitant.

The mother of six had retired after a thirty-four year career as a Licensed Practical Nurse, and had her hands full helping raise her grandchildren, along with her daughter Annie Moses, but she soon found herself appointed to the committee by the Board of Directors.

When it comes to understanding the complexities of the clinic and the policies related to the delivery of care, she admits she’s in the midst of a learning curve. But, her background as a licensed caregiver and her extraordinary compassion for others makes her a perfect advocate for patients and their families.

She believes in the clinic’s holistic approach to integrated care and is optimistic that the clinic is moving in the right direction.

Johanna spent ten years at the old Everett General Hospital and 24 years at the Providence campus on Pacific Avenue in Everett bringing a slow and tender touch to the work she loved. She really enjoyed the spiritual elements of the Providence hospital environment.

She sees several challenges including the need for quality patient transportation, home checks, and a better understanding of how the insurance process works. Johnna cares about everyone, and jokingly says she sometimes prays to care less.

Verna Hill has been in training for her current seat on the Health Advisory Committee since childhood.

From a very young age, she was exposed to this field of work. Growing up, her grandmother was a social worker within the Tulalip community — working with a range of members from young children through patients in hospice. Her mother served as Director of Family Services.

Verna worked at the high school for ten years when the first casino came into operation. With parents working odd hours, older children were often left to care for their younger siblings, needing assistance and support to navigate their new roles, especially when it came to understanding the complexity of the healthcare system.

She left the high school and moved to health clinic for twelve years, starting out in the diabetes program and moving to a role in patient care coordination.

Next came three years working at beda?chelh before her return to the clinic.

Verna is thankful to be appointed to this committee, “as our tribe is growing leaps and bounds.” She sees her role as building bridges between healthcare providers and their patients. “We need to support the staff. This partnership is important,” she said.

She firmly believes that patients are ninety percent responsible for their own care and her role serves as an educational component to help doctors communicate in terms that their patients can understand.

She wants members to realize that the healthcare clinic is a great place. “We need to believe in our doctors,” she said. “Our people need to know that they can get quality care right here.” Although Verna has great insurance, and could go anywhere, she has always received care here at Tulalip.

Early on the revolving door of practitioners led to patient distrust, and created an attitude that tribal health is somehow inferior, Verna works to change perceptions and help turn that energy around. “It’s everyone’s job to help spread the word,” she said.

Verna spent nearly nine years as a board member of the Providence Hospital and it helped to inform her understanding of health care delivery in a large institution, and also how many issues, regarding tribal patients and families, they simply did not understand.

“It’s about communication on both sides,’ she said. “We can’t stop talking to each other, the partnership is too important.”

Advocating for the healthcare needs of her community is much more than Jennie Fryberg’s job description, it is in her DNA.  She brings a love for her community and compassion to the work she performs everyday in a beautiful building that carries her mother’s name.

As the Clinic Records Director, Jennie has served in a variety of roles at the clinic for the past twenty-one years including reception, front desk supervisor and Health Information Manager. She has worked under thirteen different administrators during her tenure.

In 2017 she assumed oversight for Patient In-Take, the Child, Youth, and Family Wellness Office, the Tulalip Family Service Office, Special Programs, Referral Specialists, Outreach Worker, and Medical Records.

The clinic is introducing the concept of wrap-around care utilizing the Medicine Wheel approach to encompass the four aspects of native health: body, mind, spirit and emotion.

In this model, each patient will have a single primary care doctor to help establish a continuity of care. This means that they will see the same provider each time whenever possible.

“We are taking care of you as a whole person,” she said. “If your continuity provider will know you as a person, you will have a more trusting relationship, and will find it easier to express your needs and preferences in health care.”

An added benefit to this model is a reduction in the wait time for the acute walk-in department which is now staffed with two doctors.

“We are working to align standard operating procedures and policies to best serve our members,” said Jennie. “The Board of Directors has asked leadership to focus on the Contract Health Services policy, and they are working to integrate the recommendations made by the Services Committee and the Health Advisory Committee,” she said.

“Recruitment is a huge challenge right now as the clinic continues to seek experienced providers who can help us build trust with our patients,” said Jennie. Fighting the perception that nurse practitioners are somehow less capable than doctors, she says, is especially challenging. “They are educated and trained to provide a high level of care,” said Jennie. “Patients do not realize it takes six to eight years of post secondary education to become a nurse practitioner.”

The entire medical team is under the direction of Senior Medical Office Dr. Cleven who works closely with his staff and is available for consultation whenever necessary.

Working in an environment filled with high priorities, Jennie feels the pressing need to rebuild a strong crisis team to quickly offer wrap-around care, understanding and support to vulnerable members and their families the moment they reach out for help.

“Given the complex nature of healthcare ranging from eligibility and prevention to chronic disease and claims management, the need for education, health fairs and clear communication becomes essential,” she continued, “patients need to understand both their rights and their responsibilities.”

Jennie sums up her role at the clinic, “I am here trying to keep my mom’s dream alive. Her name is on this health clinic, and all I am doing is trying to keep the dream alive, which is to take care of our people, to make sure prevention gets out there to the people.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Submitted by Sydney Gilbert

Here is how you can get involved with the effort to end child abuse and sexual assault: 


iEmpathize is a training centered on the topic of human trafficking and is for kids 12 and up. This training teaches youth how to recognize negative pulls and pushes as well as positive pulls in their lives. It also teaches youth who is safe and who is wearing a mask. This training is 1 hour long over a 4 day period and will be held at Youth Services from 10:00-11:00am April 2nd-5th. The training is free and food will be provided. For more information contact Megan Boyer at

Stewards of Children training 

During our award-winning Stewards of Children® prevention training, you’ll meet survivors who lived through child sexual abuse, experienced its immediate and long-term effects, and ultimately were able to find healing. You’ll meet experts who work with children and families and confront abuse on a daily basis. Lastly, you’ll find concrete steps that you can take to protect the children in your life. This Free training will be offered Monday April 8th and Thursday April 25th at the administration building, room 162 from 5:00-7:00pm, Food provided. For questions or to reserve a spot contact Sydney Gilbert at 

Women’s Self Defense Class 

Come learn how to keep yourself safe through detection and deterrence of danger, how to defuse and de-escalate danger, and how to physically defend yourself in an encounter. The class is taught through presentations, discussions, real world situations and their outcomes, role playing scenarios, and physical confrontations with the staff in protective suits. Topics are serious so all participants must be 14 or older. Wear comfortable active clothing. Clothing may become stretched or damaged. This training is Free and will be held on Saturday, April 27th in Administration room 162 from 10:45am-3:15pm. Lunch provided. Class size limited to 16 people. Contact Elizabeth Plowman at with questions and to sign up. 

Mandatory Reporter Training 

Learn about what it means to be a mandated reporter, and learn how to identify child abuse and neglect. This free training will be offered Tuesday April 9th and Wednesday April 24th from 10:00-11:30 in Administration room 162. 

Child Abuse Panel

Have you ever wondered why child abuse investigations take so long? Or why it seems like there are so many hoops to jump through? Every Monday during the month of April from 11:00-1:00 we will be hosting an informal panel made up of CPS investigators, law enforcement, Child Advocacy and Legacy of healing staff, and representatives of our legal team. Come meet our team and ask any question you may have about child abuse investigations. Monday April 1st-beda?chelh conference room 

Monday April 8th-TELA, Monday April 15th-Administration building room 264, Monday-Tribal Court room 3