Native Spirit art exhibit showcases Tulalip culture

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Thirty years ago, you couldn’t find a map using the term “Salish Sea” for the Puget Sound region. There were Seattle galleries and souvenir shops aplenty selling Native art, but the masks, totem poles and sinuous formline animal prints were designs from hundreds of miles away, not from here. 

Thirty years ago, no major art museum in Washington had mounted an exhibit highlighting Native created works of our own lands and waters. Salish artists were indeed honing their skills and creating beautiful works of art, but the critical interest and most gallery attention was focused on art from Alaska and the Canadian coast.

In 1989, the balance started to tip. Washington’s Centennial exhibit of Native arts opened, managed by Patricia Cosgrove and Kenneth Watson. Both art historians were on a mission to convince Washingtonians that totem poles are not indigenous to this area and that Salish art is. The exhibit was incredibly successful, and soon many influences aligned to literally change the landscape of the Northwest Native art market.

Ever since, the diligence and commitment of so many artists and their allies has led to the word ‘Salish’ entering mainstream vocabulary. This insured the characteristic sweeping lines and subtle patterns of Salish arts remains recognizable and emblematic of the greater Seattle area.

Through the effort of many, this vision has come true. High quality galleries like Seattle’s Stonington Gallery and Steinbrueck Native Gallery feature experienced and rising artists from across the Salish Sea region. Generations of new artists have risen in skill and popularity. Today, Salish art is an explosion of innovation and creativity that still has a firm foundation in our region’s heritage.

That innovation and creativity of Coast Salish artistry is currently on full display at the Mobius Art Gallery, located in Bothell on the Cascadia Community College campus. Inside the gallery mounts an unprecedented five-week long exhibition titled Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures.

“The artists and artwork in this exhibition embody a wide range of spirit and narratives that live within their Native cultures,” stated exhibit curator Chris Gildow. “Their skills, creativity, and passions are equaled only by their commitment to breathe life into artwork they create. Their artwork tells us about the connection between human and animal worlds, about salvation and transformation, and about our relationship with the Earth. This exhibition lets us share these stories and traditions with the entire community.”

On Tuesday, October 9, the auditorium adjacent to Mobius Art Gallery was filled with excited art enthusiasts and college students who heard there would be a traditional Native American welcome ceremony to mark Native Spirit’s grand opening. Led by Ray Fryberg, the Tulalip Canoe Family filled the auditorium with traditional song and dance to commemorate the special occasion. 

Eight artists were selected to be showcased in the Coast Salish themed exhibit, which includes handcrafted submissions by five talented Tulalip tribal members: Mike Gobin, Tillie Jones, Ty Juvinel, James Madison, and the artist known as Cedar.

Lower Elwha artist Alfred Charles, Jr. and Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel. 

“It shows there’s a lot of talent in Tulalip,” said art gallery contributor Ty Juvinel. “We’ve grown a lot as artists. Seeing all the different artwork and local artists represented here is awesome.”

“I met the curator of this exhibit, Chris Gildow, about a year ago when he asked me about a Salish exhibit that he wanted to put on here at Cascadia College,” added Lower Elwha artist Alfred Charles, Jr. “As artists, he gave us free reign to create whatever we wanted. I’m excited that so many people came out and shared their art with the community. This exhibit turned out great.”

Coast Salish art is rich in its diversity of forms. Masks, weavings, wood carvings, jewelry, and intricate bead work are but a few of the common mediums often associated with the Coast Salish style. Subject matter includes, but is not limited to, human and animal forms, spiritual themes and mythic figures. A diverse selection of artwork was chosen to be on display. 

Native Spirit: Art from Indigenous Cultures will be on display until November 15. Mobius Art Gallery is open and free to the public Monday – Thursday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information please visit www.cascadia.edu/nativespirit

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

Jessica Janes helps clean up the coast.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Rickerts, volunteer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lushootseed Camp, week two: more youth, more culture

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos by Micheal Rios & Natosha Gobin

During week one of the 23rd Annual Lushootseed Day Camp, there were 58 youth participants. Engagement and overall involvement increased significantly during week two, as 72 Children of the Salmon contributed to the cultural sharing and commitment to Lushootseed.

“It makes my heart happy seeing so many of our young ones learning our traditional language,” boasts Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager. “It is amazing to witness the amount of participation and community involvement we receive each year.”

From Monday July 16 to Friday July 20, the Kenny Moses Building was home to the children learning traditional teachings, listening to storytelling by elders, and using their creative minds to create and paint an assortment of giveaway items. It’s a time that Tulalip children, families and community look forward to as it provides them an opportunity to immerse themselves in Lushootseed and the rich culture of the Coast Salish people.

Open to children age five to twelve who want to learn about their culture and the language of their ancestors, Lushootseed Camp provides invaluable traditional teachings through art, songs, technology, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with Cultural Resources, along with a select number of vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week day camps in the summer. 

“So proud of my fellow Language Warriors for putting together some amazing lessons, proud of our volunteers for stepping up to help us along the way, and proud of our community who supported our efforts by allowing their kids to participate,” said Language Warrior Natosha Gobin. “Most importantly, we are so proud of our youth, about 130 total, who rised up over the past two weeks. They learned so many traditional teachings and are eager to keep them alive.”

With a high turnout in camp participation came an equally impressive turnout in community volunteers who assisted Lushootseed staff to coordinate daily camp activities. There were 15 volunteers readily available on a daily basis to help camp run smoothly.

Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily stations or activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Succulents, clam shell rattles, clam shell succulent holders.
  • Weaving – God’s Eye, bracelets.
  • Songs – Paddle Song, Berry Picking Song, Welcome Song, Kenny Moses’ Arrival Song, Martha Lamont’s huyəxw st’ilib 
  • Traditional Teachings – Canoes, Canoe Journey protocol
  • Language – Lushootseed alphabet, canoe terms.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related their final performance using handheld games on Tablets created by Dave Sienko.

Every station and daily lesson incorporated various Canoe Journey teachings and protocol verbiage. With the annual tribal Canoe Journey going on now, it made for an ideal time to teach the youngsters about the tradition.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to give our young ones as much teachings as possible,” explained Language Warrior Roselle Fryberg. “It was really important to us to teach them about hosting a potlatch and coming together as a community. For our mini Canoe Journey, each child plays a role. We have fisherman, berry pickers, tribal leaders hosting Canoe Journey, and several canoes representing visiting tribes. 

“We also talked about how grateful we are that they are here to carry on these traditions of singing, dancing, and speaking their ancestral language. One day, all these teachings will be on their shoulders to carry on and pass to the next generation,” added Roselle. 

The closing ceremony for week two’s camp took place on Friday, July 20 at the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their theatrical debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

Most of the children beamed with joy as they performed their roles in the closing ceremony, while some caught the shy bug being in front of such a large audience. There were several Lushootseed songs everyone was able to sing along together, giving family and friends plenty of opportunities to capture such precious moments on photos or video. 

“We would like to thank the children for all of their hard work and efforts,” proclaimed Natosha Gobin during the play’s opening. “They attended camp for just one week and learned so much about their culture, traditions, language, and more. They do not hesitate to step up and share their teachings. 

“We thank you, the parents, for joining us to celebrate the work the children have accomplished this week. Your presence here for the children will encourage their learning of their culture and traditional language.”

Lushootseed Camp Language Warriors.

After the youth performed their rendition of “Mini Canoe Journey” and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave their handmade crafts created during the past week to each and every audience member; sharing in a final act of memory making with their peers, before filling their bellies with a salmon lunch. 

A Tradition of Storytelling

Tulalip storteller, Michelle Myles.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

For Native Americans, the telling of stories passed down from generation to generation remains a crucial form of knowledge transfer. Oral storytelling traditions allow tribes to communicate their spiritual and historical understandings of themselves and the world they cultivated for their children and their children’s children. This all but guarantees that members of each individual tribal nation never forget their roots or lose sight of important teachings that continue a harmonious and cooperative existence with nature.

The tradition of storytelling lives on in Tulalip, where several prominent storytellers have been featured as part of a library-ran initiative to teach the general public about Native culture and to honor the Indigenous land on which they reside.

Culture bearers Michelle Myles, Natosha Gobin, and KT Jean Hots comprised a team of Tulalip storytellers who shared their craft at the Everett Public Library. The event was part of the city of Everett’s 125th anniversary celebration.

“The city of Everett, including the Everett Public Library, has been putting together a series of programs to celebrate the anniversary,” explained Mindy Van Wingen, Assistant Director Everett Library. “We wanted to include the Tulalip Tribes and honor the Native heritage of Everett and what came before the city was developed. The storytellers offered a great program. We are really happy with the attendance and the visitor engagement.”

The library’s auditorium was filled to capacity with eager listeners willing to explore local history from the Tulalip Tribes’ perspective, while learning about a vibrant culture and community. 

“We were invited to share traditional stories from our area and ancestors,” said Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher. “We shared oral history and helped the listeners gain a better understanding of the life ways of Coast Salish people. 

“Storytelling is significant because that is how all of the teachings were passed on, from the elders to children through oral teachings, and those teachings were passed on daily. We didn’t have a written language until the late 1960s, so storytelling is how everything that makes us who we are was passed on.”

Tulalip storyteller, Natasha Gobin.

Natosha and Michelle took turns sharing traditional stories, such as The Seal Hunting Brothers, The Gossiping Clams, The Basket Lady, and A Story About Coyote. In each story were lessons learned about living in a good way, instructional survival skills, and even explanations for natural phenomena. 

At one point, storyteller apprentice, nine-year-old tribal member KT took center stage and shared the story Her First Basket. After finishing her favorite story, KT received a loud applause from the audience.

“I think it’s important for kids to learn to tell stories. They can learn and go home and teach their parents and brothers and sisters,” shared KT after her storytelling session. “Kids can learn our culture and Lushootseed and help teach it. Family or friends can help you like the cedar tree helped the little girl in Her First Basket.”

Nine-year-old storyteller, KT Jean Hots.

Native American storytelling has always been and continues to be equal parts real, metaphorical, spiritual, instructional and transformational. Most of all, however, the stories are entertaining and memorable to the audiences who hear them. This way the stories are remembered and passed down to the coming generations, who needs to understand who they are, where they come from, and why the world is the way it is.

“Storytelling means being the example, being the one that kids can look up to and ask questions to,” explained tribal member artist and storyteller Ty Juvinel. “Having a story to tell children, instead of yelling or chastising when they’ve done something wrong allows them to learn in a good way. From stories they learn the values of their people and how to present themselves.”

Ty has recently partnered with the Seattle Public Library system and will be sharing Coast Salish stories and tradition through the summer. Intended for kids ages 7-11, there is no registration required for families to bring their kids to a Ty story time. 

Tulalip storyteller Ty Juvinel.

Using modern technology, Ty has fully illustrated and digitized several of his stories for use on an iPad. Of note, the University of Washington has purchased his digital stories to be used in their travelling exhibits and Burke Mobile for educating people on Coast Salish culture.

Seattle’s Broadview Branch was the latest to host the storytelling series. Children were treated to several original stories, including How Mouse Moved the Mountain, When Beaver Taught Man, and How Puppy Got His Ears.

“I loved it!” remarked Irene Haines, Librarian and enrolled member with Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. “Ty did a wonderful job of being patient with the kids and speaking to them in their own language. There’s such a wealth of art and culture to be shared.” 

Although the tradition of storytelling is less common today than it was many years ago, the rich oral tradition lives on through the current generation of culture bearers.

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. 

Lushootseed Language Camp, Week One

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Over sixty future Tulalip leaders participated in the first week of the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp. The kids learned the traditional Coast Salish language and Tulalip culture during the week of July 17-21. Hosted by the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department, the summertime camp is held twice during the month of July and is open to Tulalip youth age five to twelve.

The kids are treated to five fun days of culture in which they learn the traditional language, teachings and stories of Tulalip. The camp utilizes several interactive activity stations to teach about Tulalip’s traditional way of life. Campers become familiar with the words while playing games and using modern technology. In addition to studying Lushootseed, campers also learn traditional Tulalip dances and songs.

“One of the songs we sang was the Welcome Song and it was Harriet Shelton Dover’s song,” stated Language Camp Instructor, Cary Michael Williams. “We also sang the Killer Whale Song, which was Ray Fryberg and Tony Hatch’s song they put together and brought forward to the Lushootseed Department.”

Each year, the Lushootseed Department honors a Tulalip member by teaching the youth about their work within the Tulalip culture. Last year the camp was dedicated to Harriett Shelton-Dover, this year the camp is dedicated to her son and Tulalip Elder, Wayne Williams.

“We always think of somebody to honor and dedicate the camp to and this year Wayne Williams came to mind,” explains Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natosha Gobin. “We know that he’s done so much for our community with preserving our teachings as well as everything he’s donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center. We felt it’s very important to acknowledge him while he’s here because a lot of times people don’t get acknowledged until they’re gone, and he’s still here with us so we want to honor him.”

Throughout the week, the youth rehearse a play based on a traditional Tulalip story. The play is performed for the community during the closing ceremony on the last day of camp. In honor of Wayne Williams, the Language Campers reenacted Wayne’s story Killer Whale and Two Boys.

Language Camp continues to grow; previously the department would anticipate about fifty participants each summer. However, due to increasing interest, the camp has seen an increase of fourteen participants each week in the past two years.

Young Tulalip tribal members and siblings, Natalie and Carsten Nordahl, travel from Boston every summer to attend Language Camp. According to their father, Natalie excitedly awaited the year her younger brother was old enough to enroll, in order to experience the cultural camp together.  The kids have returned each summer, making this their third trip to Tulalip.

“I love that we get to learn about our culture and the language of our Tribe. My favorite part is learning the language and just being a part of this experience,” Natalie expressed. Carsten added, “My favorite part about camp was playing the games!”

Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles gathered at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Gym on July 21, for the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp closing ceremony. The youth showcased their teachings to the community by performing the songs and the play in Lushootseed.

“As a parent it’s important for my son to attend language camp because it was something I was able to do as a child and it’s important to carry on the songs and the teachings from our ancestors,” states Lushootseed Camp parent and Tulalip tribal member Samantha Chavez.

After performing Killer Whale and Two Boys, the youth gave handmade gifts, such as weavings and necklaces, to every guest in attendance.  Over the span of twenty-two years, the camp has inspired numerous Tulalip youth to learn more about their culture. Many current Lushootseed Language Instructors, attended Language Camp when they were younger, including Tulalip tribal member Shelbi Hatch.

“Language Camp started before I was born actually, it was in ‘93 I think,” Shelbi recalls. “It’s a place for the kids to learn their culture and for everybody to get a view of what Tulalip is and how intact our culture and language still is. This gives them the utilities and the tools they need for later on in life. I feel more of a generational importance, I don’t feel like it’s me receiving the teachings, I feel like I’m giving it and these kids will be the ones to speak fluently.”

The Lushootseed department and the language campers displayed two paddles, with traditional artwork depicting the Killer Whale and Two Boys story that will be gifted to Wayne Williams and his sons.

“We keep trying to follow the teachings that Shelly Lacy and Auntie Joy [Lacy] laid out because this was part of their vision twenty-two years ago,” states Natosha while reflecting on a successful first week. “This is always the best time of the year for us. The kids have so much fun, the families are so grateful and it’s just a good time. We’re happy we’re able to keep this alive and keep it going.”

For more information about the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp please contact the Lushootseed Language Department at (360) 716-4499 or visit their website wwww.TulalipLushootseed.com

Cultural imPRINT: Northwest Coast Prints exhibition showcased at Tacoma Art Museum

Robert Davidson (b. 1946)
Haida First Nation
Untitled (Sara’s Birth Announcement), 1973
Screenprint

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For generations, Coast Salish and First Nations artists developed visual language made up of colors, lines, shapes and space. These centuries-old designs can be recognized on cultural objects including basketry, carving, blankets and jewelry. When Coast Salish artists began printmaking in the 1960s, they translated their graphic languages onto a flat surface. The reproducible print medium raised visibility for Indigenous arts in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Susan Point and Kelly Cannell
Coast Salish, Musqueam First Nation
Memory, 2005 Screenprint
*This mother-daughter collaboration won the City of Vancouver’s “Art Underfoot” competition in 2004. The design can be found on storm sewer covers throughout the Vancouver area.

The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) is currently showcasing the vast styles of printmaking by tribal artists in its Cultural imPrint: Northwest Coast Prints exhibit. Reminding us of the local talent and cultural beauty inherent in works by artists from various First Nations and Native tribes along the Pacific Coast, you can take advantage of this special exhibition by visiting TAM now through August 20.

Faith Brower, TAM’s Curator of Western American Art, has partnered with co-curator India Young from Victoria, B.C. to bring together a selection of approximately 46 prints by 30 Coast Salish and Fist Nations artists.

Ben Davidson (b. 1976)
Haida First Nation
Just About, 2014 Screenprint

“This exhibition is really about how artists create community through their work,” said co-curator India Young. “Artists visualize their nationhood and territory. Cultural knowledge and design are passed from print to print and generation to generation. Prints circulate a sense of belonging.”

Providing a survey of Indigenous artists who have defined six-decades of printmaking in the Pacific Northwest, this exhibition proudly boasts a cultural narrative. Through their prints, these artists share knowledge about the diverse cultures in the region, while sustaining their art and history. Some of this artwork focuses on culturally specific design motifs that can identify a nation or tribe within the region. Others affirm how artists have used the print medium to reexamine the role of women’s histories with Northwest Coast communities. Still other works illuminate the passion of knowledge between generations.

Lyle Wilson (b. 1955)
Haisla First Nation
When Worlds Collide, 1979
Screenprint

“What’s fascinating about this exhibition is the various interpretations of cultural symbols,” states co-curator Faith Brower. “These print works connect people in new ways to vibrant Northwest communities.”

Much of the printmaking from the Northwest Coast can be immediately recognized by the high contrast, black and red graphics. Indigenous printmaking in the region continues to be exploratory and innovative while adhering to traditional teachings. Through the print medium artists expand on their visual languages to create works that broaden the scope of Northwest Coast art.

Ken Mowatt (b. 1944)
Gitxsan First Nation
Legend of the Avenged Flea, 1975
Screenprint

Ken Mowatt (b. 1944)
Gitxsan First Nation
Lynx’ Ooy’, 1980
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Honoring the past, Impacting the future: 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp

 

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By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

During the pleasantly warm and sunny summer days of July 18-22, the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium was home to the 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp. The camp was open to children age five to twelve who wanted to learn about their culture and Lushootseed language through art, songs, games, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with the Cultural Resources Department, along with a select number of very vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week camps. Each camp has openings for up to 50 participants, but this year the demand was so high that 64 kids were signed up and participated in Language Camp week 1.

“We are dedicating the 21st Annual Lushootseed Language Camp to Morris Dan and Harriette Shelton-Dover, for their guidance and teachings bringing back the Salmon Ceremony, as well as honoring Stan Jones Sr. “Scho-Hallem” for his decades of leadership and determination to keep the ceremony going,” said Lushootseed language teacher and co-coordinator of the camp, Natosha Gobin. “This year we are recreating the Salmon Ceremony to pass on the teachings to our youth.  With the generosity of the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Table, we have received a grant to make regalia for each youth who is signed up for camp.  This is exciting, as we will be able to ensure that all the youth who sign up for camp will have the ability to stand up and sing at every opportunity. Vests and drums will be the regalia for the boys, while the girls’ regalia will be shawls and clappers.”

Using the 1979 Salmon Ceremony video to help pass on the earliest teaching of what is still practiced today, the young campers learned a selection of highlighted songs and dances.  The lessons learned each day during Language Camp were based on the teachings of the Salmon Ceremony by way of songs and dances, traditional teachings, language, art, weaving, and technology. The goal this year was to provide our youth with some basic regalia along with the knowledge and ability to sing and dance. Staffers hope the youth that have participated have the teachings and experience needed so they will stand up and sing at every opportunity.

 

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With the emphasis of honoring the past and impacting the future with education and practice of Salmon Ceremony, there was a renewed sense of excitement and vigor to both the teachers and bright, young minds who participated. There was so much to do and prepare for that the parents of each camper were also called upon to participate in create long-lasting memories while working with their kids and fellow community members to help make regalia.

During the evening of Tuesday, July 19 the parents came through in a big way. The parents and guardians joined their kids in the gymnasium and were guided on how to make the drums and clappers. There were lots of laughs and stories shared as the evening went on and slowly, but surely every camper was assured of hand-made regalia.

“This is what we wanted to bring back; families coming together to spend some time working on the drums and clappers, lots of smiles, and most importantly lots of happy kids,” stated Natosha after the evening of regalia making concluded. “A huge thank you to the parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins who come out tonight to make sure every child would have a drum or clapper. I know our ancestors are watching over us all and proud the teachers are still being passed on.”

 

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Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Salmon bracelets, Salmon hands, paddle necklaces.
  • Weaving – Pony Bead loom beading, small raffia baskets.
  • Songs and Dances – Welcome Song, Eagle Owl BlueJay Song, Snohomish Warrior Song.
  • Traditional Teachings – Salmon Ceremony videos, traditional stories, realia experience in traditional story and science face of how Salmon migrate.
  • Games – Various games and playground time.
  • Language – letter sounds, Salmon Ceremony key words, Lushootseed workbook.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related to Salmon Ceremony using the Nintendo DSi handheld games created by Dave Sienko.

The closing ceremony for week one’s camp was held on Friday, July 22 in the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

“The young ones continue to honor our ancestors by learning their songs and words. It fills my heart with so much joy to watch them speak our language and perform the dances of Salmon Ceremony,” marveled ceremonial witness Denise Sheldon.

 

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After the youth performed their rendition of Salmon Ceremony and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to the audience members, which preceded a salmon lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s 21st Annual Language Camp week one, Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “Week one has come to an end, but it is truly just the beginning of our youth rising up! The fire has been lit and they will be the ones to keep it burning. I can’t say it enough, how thankful we are for the parents that sign their youth up to participate. Shout out to the volunteers who mentored our young Language Warriors and to the staff who prepped and taught the lessons, and those who did all the behind the scenes work. Thank you to each and every person who made this week’s camp a success.”

For any questions, comments or to request Lushootseed language materials to use in the home, please contact the Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit www.TulalipLushootseed.com

 

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Lushootseed: Preserving a legacy, teaching a new generation

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by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The “7th generation” principle imbedded in Native culture says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Long before environmentalists got us thinking about “carbon footprints” and “sustainability”, indigenous peoples lived in balance with the world around them. But then hundreds of years of colonization happened that nearly drove our population to extinction. Yet, still we remain.

Then came the decades and decades of federal policy aimed at forced assimilation for the remaining Native population who were confined to reservations. Policy after policy required children to be removed from their homes and communities, and enrolled in boarding schools where many were punished or beaten for speaking their Native languages. As a result, generations of Native people either never learned their language or lost their fluency in it. Thus, many links to traditional culture and knowledge were broken. Still we remain.

 

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From the ashes of the colonial fire that ravished our people, we endured even though much was lost. The language of our region, Lushootseed, once spoken by thousands of Coast Salish people in Washington State clings to life by the small number of people dedicated to preserving it. Lushootseed’s territory extends from north of present-day Mount Vernon to south of Olympia.

Recent decades have seen a cultural resurgence in Puget Sound tribal communities, including carving, weaving, canoe making, and efforts to revitalize Lushootseed. New tribal museums and long houses have been constructed, and events such as the annual Canoe Journey involve hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators.

Today, on the Tulalip reservation, few elders remain who learned Lushootseed as a first language. In fact, Lushootseed Department Manager Michelle Balagot says there may be only 30-40 tribal members who can speak Lushootseed with some degree of conversational skill. She adds that although that number is incredibly low, the department is working hard to make sure that the language survives, and the next few years will be critical if the language is to be revitalized to the point that children become and remain fluent speakers.

The biggest advancement in preserving and revitalizing Lushootseed amongst Tulalip tribal members has been building an essential staff of Lushootseed teachers whose love for their language and culture can easily permeate through the young minds and spirits of our most precious resource, our children.

 

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This past school year the Lushootseed Department had full access to teach our ancestral language to the kindergarten classes and one 1st grade class at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School. It was the return back to a curriculum that had been paused in 2011 when the old Tulalip Elementary was closed.

“We have noticed an increase in student engagement when students have the chance to learn the language that connects them to their heritage. It certainly makes education more meaningful for our students,” says Cory Taylor, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary Principal. “While the Lushootseed program serves many Native students, it also benefits non-Natives, too. These students have the unique opportunity to develop skills to be culturally responsive. These skills will be beneficial throughout their lives. As students learn about other cultures and languages they are more likely to honor diversity and appreciate cultural awareness.”

Lushootseed language teachers Maria Martin and Nikki St. Onge, known respectfully as Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki to their students, were selected to initiate the language revival at the elementary. They taught three classes individually and one “immersion” class jointly, for a grand total of seven classes.

For Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki, it was an opportunity to perpetuate the many Lushootseed stories and phrases they learned as children, and build upon the legacy of those who came before them.

“My year teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda was wonderful. I didn’t get a chance to learn Lushootseed in school after I left the Montessori, so being able to go back to the school I attended as a child and teach Lushootseed is amazing,” said Miss Maria. “This means we are growing as a language department and spreading our culture in places we weren’t able to before. Growing up I had a yearning to know and learn my culture, but it wasn’t offered in the schools. For the students that are enrolled in Tulalip or surrounding tribes, Lushootseed is their language, and my hope is they’ll be filled with the same kind of pride I have to know the words of our ancestors.”

“I really enjoyed teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with some of my students, since they were babies when I worked at the child care center in 2011. Then again at Montessori when I first started in the Lushootseed department in 2012, and now moving up with them to kindergarten,” marvels Ms. Nikki. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to have this experience. It’s really rewarding to watch them grow and develop their own personalities and characteristics, and also teach them such an important part of our culture.

 

 

“Growing up at my Grandma Rachel’s house, I was exposed to Lushootseed a little bit with words or phrases like: x̌ʷubiləxʷ (be quiet), gʷəƛ̕əlad (stop it, behave), spuʔ (fart/blow wind), ʔaləxʷ k̓ʷid (what time is it?), hədʔiw (come in), č̓ut̕əp̓ (flea), sp̓əc̓ (feces), sqigʷəc (deer), yəx̌ʷəlaʔ (eagle), sqʷəbayʔ (dog), and pišpiš (cat). I was always interested in learning to speak Lushootseed, but it was never offered in school. When I saw the job advertisement within the Lushootseed Department I was excited. I have always wanted to learn Lushootseed and I love working with kids, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to grow as a person and to give back to the Tribe and community.”

Both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki having taught Lushootseed at the Tulalip Montessori meant a strong familiarity and trust with their Tulalip students in their kindergarten classes at the elementary. All of their former students remembered them and were very excited to have them as Lushootseed teachers again. The excitement was shared by both teachers as they were able to create their own curriculum and teaching plans for students they knew very well. They knew what teaching methods would work and wouldn’t work with their students already.

Throughout the school year the students learned to play games, some of their favorites being təs-təs  (matching game), ɬiʔɬdahəb (fishing), stab kʷi ʔəsx̌ʷil̕ (what’s missing?), xʷiʔ gʷadsx̌ək̓ʷud (don’t turn over), ʔuc̓əlalikʷ čəd (I win/bingo), go fish, and tic-tac-know. Students completed daily work sheets that taught them how to read and write in Lushootseed while reinforcing many of the vocabulary words they learned at Montessori and the new Early Learning Academy.

Some of their favorite songs they learned are: ʔi čəxʷ syaʔyaʔ (hello friend), kʷədačiʔb čəɬ syaʔyaʔ (ring around the rosy), huyʔ syaʔyaʔ (good bye friend), ʔə tə tib, ʔulub miʔman pišpišpiš (ten little kittens), šəqild st̕ilib (respect song), sʔacus sʔilalubid (head, shoulders), baqʷuʔ stubs (Frosty the Snowman), and waq̓waq̓ st̕ilib (frog song). The students were able to hear stories that were translated into Lushootseed and traditional stories such as “tsiʔəʔ bəšč̓ad” (Lady Louse), “tsi sxʷəyuq̓ʷ” (The Basket Lady), and “Clamming with Lizzie.” They learned to count up to 25 and were exposed to 30 and 40. They have also learned verbs, farm animals, woodland animals, body parts, clothing and so much more.

As the year progressed and the Lushootseed curriculum continued to evolve, so did the students. They developed such a good working knowledge with certain phrases and words that it became common place to hear the young students speaking Lushootseed even when Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki weren’t around.

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“It’s difficult to put into words because it’s such an amazing experience to witness, this ownership of language and seeing themselves reflected in their school. It feels like this belongs to them between the drumming, the dancing and morning messages, then coming into class and starting our day with Lushootseed,” stated Mrs. Poyner, Kindergarten teacher and host to the immersion class taught by both Lushootseed teachers. “Having both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki in the class at the same time I’ve really noticed the students are picking up the language much more quickly. They are using it in other parts of the day, like when we’re teaching math they’ll start counting in Lushootseed instead of English. When we’re doing letters of the alphabet and brainstorming words that start with a specific letter they’ll come up with Lushootseed words. When we are learning new stories with animals in it they’ll call the animals by their Lushootseed name. It’s so exciting to see them apply what they’ve learned into other pieces of their day.”

The teachers are even hearing numerous stories about their students using Lushootseed at home with their parents.

“I have heard stories of the students going home and singing the songs they learned in class and using their Lushootseed words,” says Miss Maria. “Running into parents of my students and hearing that they are reinforcing their Lushootseed at home makes my heart glow.”

Ms. Nikki echoes the sentiment, “Hearing from parents and teachers that students are reinforcing Lushootseed outside of their time spent with me in classroom is probably the most rewarding feeling. It means the students are not just learning a curriculum, they are learning a language, their language.”

Being able to demonstrate what you’ve learned is the basis of knowledge, and the young students using Lushootseed when the teachers aren’t around is proof positive the internal flame to connect with our culture and ancestors through language is being rekindled. It’s all part of an essential process to carry on our ancestors’ legacy by keeping the language alive. Because seven generations from now, we want Lushootseed to be the common language of all Tulalip people, like it was for our ancestors.

 

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Contact Micheal Rios: trios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Tulalip feels the Bern

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Photo/ Nicole Willis

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; photos courtesy Nicole Willis

Native Americans are the first Americans, yet they have for far too long been treated as third class citizens.  It is unconscionable that today, in 2016, Native Americans still do not always have the right to decide on important issues that affect their communities.  The United States must not just honor Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, it must also move away from a relationship of paternalism and control and toward one of deference and support.  The United States has a duty to ensure equal opportunities and justice for all of its citizens, including the 2.5 million Native Americans that share this land.  It is no secret that this isn’t the case today.*

“Time and time again, our Native American brothers and sisters have seen the federal government break solemn promises, and huge corporations put profits ahead of the sovereign rights of Native communities.  As President, I will stand with Native Americans in the struggle to protect their treaty and sovereign rights, advance traditional ways of life, and improve the quality of life for Native communities,” states Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has repeatedly acknowledged the need to correct the U.S. history books and openly apologized for the wrongs done to Native people. It’s easy to understand why Natives from all across Indian Country are choosing to ‘feel the Bern’ and rally behind a candidate who honors us in such an honest and sincere manner.

Sanders continues to gain support and more momentum towards his bid for the White House, evident in his holding the largest political rally Seattle has seen since Obama in 2008. An estimated 18,000 people showed up at KeyArena on Sunday, March 20 to show their support for the Vermont senator.

Amongst his horde of supporters were many respected leaders and representatives of Coast Salish tribes, including Tulalip’s own Chairman Mel Sheldon and recently re-elected Board of Directors Theresa Sheldon and Bonnie Juneau.

“For the first time in my life a U.S. Presidential candidate spoke on Native American issues during his national platform. Elevating tribes to the national platform is a big deal,” says Theresa Sheldon. “It’s so important for tribes to be engaged and visible during this Presidential election. Our relationship is with the federal government, therefore we need to be present and participate in the civic process.”

 

Photo/Nicole Willis

Photo/Nicole Willis

 

During the rally, five Tulalip tribal members (Theresa, Bonnie, Deborah Parker, Monie Ordania and Justice Napeahi) took center stage to perform the Women’s Warrior song.

“We are thankful the creator gave us an opportunity to sing the Women’s Warrior song from our First Nations relatives at the Bernie Sanders rally,” adds Theresa. “The Women’s Warrior song honors and acknowledges the missing and murdered indigenous women who have been taken from us way before their time.”

In a more private setting, Sanders met with a tribal delegation including NCAI President Brian Cladoosby, VAWA champion Deborah Parker and Yakama leaders including Asa Washines.

It was during this setting that the Coast Salish leaders honored Bernie Sanders with a Lushootseed name.

“Native American leaders named Bernie Sanders ‘δΞσηυδιϖυp’ (pronounced dooh-s-who-dee-choop),” Deborah wrote on Facebook. “This name is now bestowed upon Bernie Sanders and will be known among the Coast Salish people and beyond. The Lushootseed language meaning is ‘the one lighting the fires for change and unity.’ Thanking our Tulalip language teacher Natosha Gobin for helping us with Bernie Sanders Lushootseed name.”

 

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According to Theresa, Sanders’ rally was historical for many reasons. Sanders has not only been a huge supporter of native issues, but he continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with tribes on such important issues as Violence Against Women and Oak Flats. He is an absolute protector of Mother Earth and he gives tribes total credit for the conservation and protection of the Earth that we do. If push comes to shove and the U.S. President has to make the call to either support treaty rights or to support corporate America and Army Corp of Engineers in the permit to build the coal terminal at Cherry Point, then you can guarantee that Sanders will go with treaty rights and support the tribes.

This is a huge shift that is happening nationally. Tribes are finally elevating themselves to the appropriate level, forcing mainstream media and corporate America to pay attention to us. When we are seen and heard by candidates, we can and will make a difference.

 

*source: https://berniesanders.com/issues/empower-tribal-nations/