Quil Ceda Elementary Celebrates Diversity


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 


President Trump’s latest immigration order suspended refugee resettlement in the United States for 120 days and indefinitely for Syria. In the same order, Trump suspended entry for 90 days for citizens of Muslim majority nations such as Iran, Iraq, and Libya. The President’s reasoning is national security, as he believes the countries harbor potential terrorists. The order was controversial, to say the least, and resulted in protests across America and a temporary halt to the order by the U.S. Federal Court. On social media, Native America showed support for refugees with the hashtag #NoBanOnStolenLand.

In a divided country, amidst the controversy surrounding Trump’s immigration order, Quil Ceda Elementary recently held a cultural fair to celebrate diversity by teaching their students about different cultures. School staff of varying cultural backgrounds prepared interactive stations to give students a look into the lives and cultures of other nations.

Upon arrival the students received paper passports. As they “traveled” around countries such as Guam, Peru, Mexico and China, they filled their passport with stamps from each country.

Quil Ceda Elementary also celebrated the culture of the Tulalip Tribes. The school dedicated four learning stations to the Tribe, each station representing different cultural aspects the Tribe values such as the Lushootseed language, the Hibulb Cultural Center, and basket weaving. An exclusive coastal jam was held in the school library, complete with a powwow rendition of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.

Cardboard presentations, prepared by students, were on display in the school cafeteria. The topics varied from Martin Luther King Jr. tributes to recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Water is Life.

The after-school-hours event attracted a large amount of families, as parents and siblings joined the students in celebration. For many, the highlight of the evening was the international cuisine. As the students passed through different nations, they tasted traditional homemade dishes such as egg rolls, tortilla chips with pico de gallo, coconut candy, and frybread.

Once the students completed their passports they received a free book of their choice to take home.



During a time when the President is signing executive orders that violate the rights of Native, Muslim, and Mexican-Americans (not to mention the women of America) events such as cultural fairs are vital to communities in America. Through the cultural fair, the youth learned the importance of diversity as well as the history and traditions of several countries in a fun, interactive yet respectful manner.

Many students enjoyed the event, as evidenced by student Colt, as he excitedly exclaimed, “I had a blast! I really did. It was so awesome reading about Vietnam and China.”

“And I liked the egg rolls the best!,” his younger brother, Evan, quickly added.


UW Seminar: Preserving the Past Together

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the keynote speaker.


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The University of Washington has created a new seminar and workshop series sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, Office of Research, and the Burke Museum. These two-hour luncheon events bring together tribal representatives, tribal historic preservation offices, representatives from local, state and federal agencies, and cultural resources managers to evaluate the contemporary needs and challenges of preserving heritage in the Salish Sea. The objective is to foster the development of collaborative approaches to heritage management and historic preservation that integrate the needs of these diverse stakeholders.

On Thursday, January 12, the opening seminar of the four-part series, titled Collaborating on Heritage in the Puget Sound, was held at UW’s ωəɬəbʔαltxʷ Intellectual House. Taking place was a facilitated conversation with representatives from local tribes, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, UW Law, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We want to provide a forum for archaeologists, heritage professionals, and tribal cultural resource managers to consider the current challenges and future possibilities of managing heritage in our own backyard,” explained Sara Gonzalez, UW Assistant Professor and seminar moderator. “Our objective is strengthen and build upon existing methods of knowledge sharing from the diverse stewards and stakeholders who are sitting here today. We have the unique opportunity to think more deeply and creatively about how we can best use our resources to contribute to the capacity of tribes, as well as local agencies and cultural resource firms to manage heritage within the Salish Sea.”

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the key-note speaker and gave a heartfelt opening address that connected with many in the room. The following is an excerpt of his speech that explains the important of cultural resources and sacred site protection to Native peoples and how these topics apply to Standing Rock.

“Cultural resources has always been deep in my heart and remains a key pillar of my thinking as we move forward. There are a number of issues that face the tribes, from economic development to habitat protection to educating our children to justice and housing for our people. Many, many aspects of our tribal governments take into account the physical cultural resources unique to our respective nations and communities, as well as our spiritual culture.

One topic that there’s been a lot of talk about recently is sacred site protection, especially in regards to Standing Rock. We know natural resources is vital as a part of the context for identifying a sacred site. We are hearing a lot that cultural practitioners are being asked to step in and explain those elements that essentially tell us why a place is important spiritually. The Standing Rock – DAPL protest is an example of this, where there are a lot of different factors and influences to the protest. There’s a very strong argument based on sacred site protection. This highlights the importance landscape has to us as Native people, that we have these ancestral connections to the land.

Chief Seattle spoke of our interconnectedness with the land and nature in his most memorable speech. He explained how we live with our ancestors on a daily basis and how they are with us all the time. What happens to the land is permanent, and knowing this we are very concerned about what may impact the land because that in turn impacts our lives. That is why we are so adamant about protecting our cultural resources and sites we can preserve because we want to remain respectful of that constant presence in our lives.”

Native American scholar John Mohawk (Seneca) defined culture as a learned means of survival in an environment. As tribes, our means of survival used to be finding what the need was within our community and then each member doing their part to fulfill that need.

In thinking about opportunities and challenges of caring for heritage and protecting our culture in the Pacific Northwest, there is a glaring need to better understand one another. We have to work together to communicate and understand each other’s viewpoints, instead of making assumptions about one another. There are assumptions made about the tribes, about the government, about federal agencies, and seemingly everything in between. Some of these assumptions may be true, but a lot of them aren’t. We have to make sure that we talk to each other and feel safe in doing that, even if it means being blunt in order to express how we feel.



In order to preserve the past together and continue protecting our cultural resources there must be an open dialogue that allows for questions and understanding. This UW workshop series is a promoter of such dialogue and looks to build upon all the knowledge shared and communicated by all those who attend. The next workshop in the series, Meaningful Collaboration and Indigenous Archaeologies, takes place on February 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Suzzallo Allen Library (located on the UW campus). For more information please visit http://blogs.uw.edu/preserve.


Contact Micheal Rios: mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Passing Ancestral Teachings To Our Young Men

Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.

Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A new program that teaches the young men of Tulalip about their treaty, hunting, and fishing rights began this month. The group meets at the Family Haven center located across from the Boys & Girls Club. Led by Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger, the group will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“We are saying ages 12-14 but that is a recommended age. We aren’t going to turn anybody away who wants to participate,” stated Cody.

Young Men’s Group will feature many fun activities such as fishing and drum making. Andy expressed that while he is excited about making pre-cut hand drums, he eventually wants the group to start creating them from scratch. He believes that it is essential to know how to track, hunt, skin, soak and stretch the hide for their drums.

“That’s where it all starts. Our ancestors never received pre-cut drum kits and its important our kids learn the teachings the ancestors passed down generation after generation. Afterwards, they can keep the drum and use it for cultural purposes and ceremonies or they can gift them. What they decide is up to them but the important takeaway is they wanted a drum, they made a drum, and now they know how to [make a drum] in the future.” Andy stated.

Among the cultural activities and important lessons, Young Men’s Group will also cover areas that teen males want advice in, but don’t necessarily know how to ask for. Topics such as conflict resolution, how to deal with anger, and family, social, and romantic relationships will be discussed during group meetings.

Cody expressed, “We will be involved a lot, just helping with anything they don’t get at home or in school.”

“Our intent is not to take the place of the parents but to help these young men progress into life,” Andy added.

By instilling values and culture, Cody and Andy are taking on an incredibly important task of molding the minds of the young men of the Tulalip community. Young Men’s Group participants now have the opportunity to learn the teachings and traditions the Tulalip ancestors practiced and apply those lessons while learning how to survive in today’s society.

To sign up and for more information please contact Andy James at (360) 716-4403 or Cody Monger at (360) 716-4935.



Marysville School District works to ensure tribal heritage and culture is visible, shared and preserved


By Dr. Becky Berg, Marysville School District Superintendent

Recently, a conversation was overheard at the Hibulb Cultural Center. A young woman was talking about her tribal history. Her grandmother was a student during the boarding school era and the young woman said that while growing up she rarely learned about her tribal history and culture. She added that her grandmother often hid her cultural affiliation, as well as her ability to speak Lushootseed. In turn, her father never learned the language or embraced his native heritage. This was difficult for the young woman to understand, as at a young age, she chose to dedicate her career to educating herself and her community about her region’s rich cultural history, and her own tribal identity.

As a community, we are lucky to have tribal members and others who have had the strength to stand up and ensure tribal history and culture is recognized, shared and preserved. Our community, our school district, and our local leaders must also take on this charge and do what is necessary for our entire community to understand where we have been, where we are today, and where we are going.

In November of 2014, The Marysville School Board of Directors took the historic action of officially adopting the “Since Time Immemorial” (STI) Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum so that all students learn about the history, culture, government, and experiences of their Native American peers and neighbors. Partners who were instrumental in this effort included Denny Hurtado, former OSPI Office of Indian Education staff member, and State Senator John McCoy.

This curriculum was adopted in advance of Washington State Senate Bill 5433, which passed in 2015 and mandated that Washington’s Tribal history, culture and governance be taught in all Washington schools by 2016-17.

The adoption of the STI curriculum seeks to remedy a grave omission by our educational system. American history begins with the story of indigenous peoples in all parts of the land. Yet for decades our curriculum has made this rich and important heritage and culture virtually invisible. The lack of awareness of the Tribal legacy in our Marysville-Tulalip community is especially glaring given the presence of the Tulalip Tribes within our district boundaries. Teaching the STI curriculum to all students in our schools is a matter of basic justice for all, especially for those who were made to feel ashamed of their identity and culture for far too long.

The “Since Time Immemorial” provides engaging lessons. The lessons are thought provoking and are meant to help students understand multiple perspectives. During the 2015-16 school year, the curriculum was implemented in grades Kindergarten through 5, and this year it has expanded to all secondary schools district-wide.

Every day I feel deeply honored to be a member of this community and to be welcomed by tribal leaders, elders, parents and students. And every day, the Marysville School District will work to ensure our community’s tribal heritage and culture is visible, shared and preserved.

To learn more about the Since Time Immemorial curriculum, please visit www.indian-ed.org.

Co-Stewardship Ensures Tulalip Cultural Traditions Live On

Picking huckleberries at Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015

Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos Courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources


Annually, the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service hold a meeting regarding the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) the two parties signed in 2007. The aforementioned MOA was created so that the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service can collaborate on the decision-making, planning, and counseling for the conservation of Tulalip’s resources on off-reservation ancestral lands in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This year the meeting was held on May 12, 2016.


Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon and Forest Supervisor Jamie Kingsbury sign an historic and important agreement, the swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan, 2016-2026.


During 2016’s MOA meeting Chairman Sheldon and Forest Supervisor Jamie Kingsbury signed an historic and important agreement, the “swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan, 2016-2026”. The agreement, a provision to the MOA, is a culture resource management plan that covers the swədaʔx̌ali  area over the next ten years. swədaʔx̌ali  or “Place of Mountain Huckleberries” is a 1,280-acre parcel in Tulalip ancestral lands in the upper Skokomish watershed that the Tulalip-Forest Service Co-Stewardship looks to enhance. One of the many reasons this is important to the tribe is the huckleberry.

Northwest huckleberries are generally picked in the late summer/early fall seasons, and grow in the damp areas of mountains. The huckleberry, known for boosting the immune system, has always had a strong relationship to the indigenous peoples of the northwest. Coastal Native American ancestors considered the huckleberry to be of the utmost importance because of the medicine the plant contains.

Inez Bill, Tulalip Tribes Rediscovery Program Coordinator, provided a foreword for the swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan. In the foreword Inez spoke of the significance huckleberries and the spiritual connection Natives have with the berry.

Inez writes, “Huckleberry is a food and medicine to our people. Our ancestors visited certain areas for gathering these berries. They knew where the berries were growing, and what companion plants were growing there too and how to utilize them.” Like fishing and hunting the huckleberry is essential to the Native American culture. Preserving these plants requires a lot of love and care. Inez stated that caring for the swədaʔx̌ali area offers a chance to pass on the knowledge of the huckleberry and it’s harvest to Tulalip’s future generations.

“Through the teachings of how we value, take care of and utilize our environment, we pass down our history and traditions, and what is important to the cultural lifeway’s of our people, said Inez. ‘This connection to the land enables us to know who we are as a people. It is a remembrance.”


Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015

Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015


Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Environmental Policy Analyst, Libby Nelson, agrees that passing the knowledge to the youth is essential to preserving Tulalip’s natural resources. The co-stewardship between the Tribe and the Forest Service is a way to ensure that Tulalip cultural traditions live on.

Libby states, “Treaty rights encompass more than an opportunity to pick berries, hunt game or harvest fish. Having a meaningful role on the ground, in the stewardship of these resources, helps reconnect tribal peoples to these lands and the teachings of their ancestors”.

Last year the Tulalip Tribes hosted it’s first Tulalip Mountain Camp at swədaʔx̌ali  for the youth of the Tulalip community, and looks to make it an annual trip. Inez detailed the trip stating that the youth were able to experience a connection to the mountains and ancestral lands, which in turn allowed the youth to bond with their families and community members by sharing what they learned and observed during their experience.

Tulalip’s Natural Resource Department and the Tulalip Youth workers will manage the swədaʔx̌ali area incorporating both traditional practices passed down from the ancestors and western science while nurturing the plants.

Libby stated that the forestry department is set to begin work on the swədaʔx̌ali area this summer. “As part of this plan, Forestry will be working on one of the major huckleberry areas this summer because it is threatened with getting shaded-out by conifers, which are small now and easier to move as opposed to two to three years from now when they start to vault out and will be more difficult to get out.”

The Natural Resource Department is looking to engage both summer youth workers and Tulalip Mountain Camp attendees to help remove the small conifers that are now about two-feet tall and have has many as 22,000 per acre.

According to a Seattle Times article from 1946, families camped, sometimes for the whole picking season, while gathering huckleberries. Gathering huckleberries was considered a fun social event where families from different tribes would travel to take part in the festivities including games, dances, and singing. Ceremonies were also held thanking the creator for the vitamin packed berry and asking for a blessed harvest.


vame harlan


Often referred to as a superfood, huckleberry offers an abundance of benefits to its consumer. For example, these berries contain large amounts of antioxidants, which help aid in the prevention of many diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. In today’s society diabetes is a prevalent disease in communities all across Native America. The huckleberry is a reliable food that diabetics can enjoy without elevated blood sugar levels. Huckleberries are used in a variety of recipes including tea, pie, and jam. When used for medicinal purposes the huckleberry can be applied to treat pain, heart conditions, and infections.

The swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan is an imperative provision to the MOA between the Tulalip Tribes and U.S. Forest Service, as evidenced by Inez in her conclusion. “Today, it is not only important that we continue the struggle to uphold our treaty rights, but we need to be involved in taking care of those resources our culture depends on so that they will be available for our future generations. This work at swədaʔx̌ali is an expression of Tulalip’s sovereignty regarding our foods, and our commitment to support the dietary needs and the life ways of our people.”



Understanding and legitimizing how indigenous children learn

Dr Stephanie Fryberg spoke about building on the strengths of Native students at her lecture held in Kane Hall, on the UW campus. Photo/Micheal Rios

Dr Stephanie Fryberg spoke about building on the strengths of Native students at her lecture held in Kane Hall, on the UW campus.
Photo/Micheal Rios


Article/photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The way we learn is shaped by our culture. For indigenous children, there is often a mismatch between their culture and the classroom. This has been a long held belief in the Native community. For Tulalip tribal member and associate professor Stephanie Fryberg, Ph.D., she had the unique access to resources and methodology necessary to examine how indigenous children’s approach to learning and how the teaching model of their educators can coalesce to create a more supportive academic environment. Dr. Fryberg shared her findings during a lecture held at the University of Washington on Wednesday, April 20.

Dr. Fryberg’s lecture was part of the Connecting the Dots Between Research and Community series, where a UW Psychology professor partners with a visiting colleague to tell the story of how their research is addressing some of society’s biggest challenges. Presented by the UW Department of Psychology and the UWAA, this event was free and open to the public. In attendance to support their fellow Tulalip tribal member were Senator John McCoy, General Manager Misty Napeahi, and Board of Director Glen Gobin.

Dr. Fryberg’s lecture was titled Using Cultural Models to Build on the Strengths of Native Students. The description is as follows: Individuals are a product of the culture they inhabit, and also play an important role in creating and adapting to that culture. For many indigenous students, the culture of educational institutions in the U.S. reflects a set of ideas and practices about what it means to be a “good” student, the purpose of education and the nature of the relationship between teachers and students. This results in a cultural mismatch between indigenous students’ model of self and the model prevalent in mainstream educational contexts.

A central theme to the lecture was an examination of the “struggling Native student” narrative. We’ve all heard about this narrative and probably seen the statistics that are often used to defend it. Taking it up another notch, we’ve also heard that even when Native students do manage to graduate high school, they are not adequately prepared to achieve success in higher education. Dr. Fryberg attributes this narrative to being one of a cultural context and to alleviate the narrative we must reframe the idea altogether.

“We are going to reframe this idea of the struggling Native student by looking at it through a bigger picture, which we in my field refer to as the cultural cycle,” stated Dr. Fryberg. “The culture cycle reminds us that to truly alleviate the achievement gap we have to start by looking at every piece of the culture cycle. So when we think about a child in a classroom, it isn’t just about the child and the teacher, it’s about so much more. It’s about the ideas that stand behind why children go to school, it’s the ideas that lead to the development of the school, or that set the stage for what we see as the ‘good’ or ‘right’ way to be a student.

“Within that we setup institutions. We have schools and we have the media, but we also have classrooms and we have micro-cultures within classrooms, in which teachers play a role. So we get to this level of the interaction that’s between the student and the teacher, but sometimes what our field has shown is that interaction is not just between us in relationship, it’s between us and representational space. It is the idea the teacher has about me, as a student, that allows that space between us to shape the interaction and ultimately, for young children, to shape their development and the outcomes that we see.”

Within the cultural cycle it is critical to be aware of two distinct cultural models of self, the independent model and the interdependent model, that play major roles in how the shaping of interactions between student and teacher effect student development and achievement outcomes.

The independent model of self is based on an understanding of self as independent from others and the social context. “Good” actions promote separation from others and individual self-expression. The independent model of self is best seen in the U.S. mainstream, where context is driven by a set of cultural norms, values and beliefs that center the individual as independent and separate from others. It is a unique cultural model that most of the world does not engage in.

In many parts of the world that notion to separate yourself from others is not only unheard of, but would be seen as unhealthy. A much more common model is the interdependent model of self that is based on an understanding of self as interdependent with others and the social context. “Good” actions promote connection to others and attention to others’ preferences. Most people and cultures in the world, specifically outside of the U.S., engage in this more interdependent model. It’s important to recognize that Native culture is inherently within the interdependent model, but because we are within the U.S. our actions, values, and norms are constantly scrutinized by the mainstream independent model.

Now, you may be wondering how all these concepts and social psychology terms tie-in with Native students, their teachers and academic success. It does all come together.

By recognizing Native students’ engagement in the interdependent model of self, but that in large part their teachers and schools adhere to the independent model of self, we can then understand how the prevailing education system is not setup for Native student to succeed. However, there are courses of action to change this, which Dr. Fryberg and her team demonstrated at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary from 2011-2014.

Using the culture cycle to enhance academic performance by Native students alleviates the “struggling Native student” narrative by requiring culturally-grounded interventions that focus on all levels of the cultural cycle. This work is achieved by building schools that reflect and foster a diversity of viable ways of being; creating an immersion environment (e.g., morning welcome assembly, growth mindset, purposefully placing posters/images on walls); creating “matches” by helping Native students build identities that maximize potential while also providing them with a culturally-safe educational atmosphere; and by valuing old identities and scaffolding new identities.

In the study done at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary from 2011-2014 by Dr. Fryberg and her team, with the inclusion of the previously listed methods and intervention, the results were staggeringly in favor of increased Native student achievement. Kindergarten and 1st graders led the district in oral reading fluency; 95% of Kindergarten and 80% of 1st graders were proficient or above benchmark in reading.  Using measures of academic progress in literacy and math for grades 3-5, 60% made more than one year’s growth and at least half of these students made 1.5 to 2 years growth. Best of all, the school met state annual measurable objectives in every category.

It’s important to note that having teachers who are aware of their own biases towards the independent model of self and willing to retrain and reframe their teaching methods to suit their Native students is central to overall success as well. It’s a cycle of understanding and legitimizing the learning and cultural model of Native children that leads to them making greater strides in academic development and achievement. When this occurs not only do the expected outcomes of the students and their teacher benefit greatly, but the entire community as well.




Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov




Cultural teachings continue with new story poles at Tulalip


Tulalip Master Carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison and sons.

Tulalip Master Carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison and sons.


By Kim Kalliber, Tulalip News


“We’re not petrified, we’re still alive”


These strong words by James Madison were spoken by his grandfather, Frank Madison, before him. And that is the message Madison wishes to convey to the next generation of Native youth, keep us alive.

Maintaining our culture is of the upmost importance to Indigenous communities like Tulalip. On March 7, Tulalip tribal leaders, tribal members and tribal employees gathered outside the Tulalip Administration Building to welcome two beautiful new story poles, one featuring an orca, the other an octpous, that take position outside the entrance to the building. The poles, made from red cedar, were created by Tulalip master carvers, Joe Gobin and James Madison.

Orca pole created by Joe Gobin.

Orca pole created by Joe Gobin.


Octopus pole created by James Madison.

Octopus pole created by James Madison.


The unveiling of the poles began with a prayer followed by singing and drumming. Gobin and Madison then shared the meaning of the poles.

Gobin, who carved the Orca pole, explains that, “we’re killer whale people. The person on top is our spirit of the whale.” The eagle design represents the eagles that watch over our gatherings.

The octopus pole features a diving rock. This represents the power of the Native people. Madison’s grandfather told stories of this water power, and how they would jump into the water with a diving rock and get water power for protection.

Madison, with a hand on the shoulder of each his two sons, spoke of how proud his grandfather is for us putting our culture into our tribal buildings.


Tulalip tribal drummers and singers.

Tulalip tribal drummers and singers.

Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon and various tribal board members gave thanks to the artists and the art work, while emphasizing the importance of the teachings being passed on.

Wrapping up the unveiling was a singing and drumming performance by Quil Ceda Elementary students.


Quit Ceda Elementary students

Quil Ceda Elementary students


Crowd gathered at the Tulalip Administration Building for the totem pole unveiling.

Crowd gathered at the Tulalip Administration Building for the totem pole unveiling.




Strengthening our community: Red Curtain Arts Center hosts Tulalip culture night


Red Curtain2

by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Friday, October 23, the Red Curtain Foundation for the Arts, in partnership with the Tulalip Tribes’ Lushootseed Language Department, hosted a free cultural event from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tulalip tribal member and Lushootseed teacher, Maria Martin, shared the legend of “Her First Basket” in Lushootseed and English, accompanied by tribal illustrations and artwork.

Scott Randall, president of the Red Curtain Foundation for the Arts in Marysville, first approached Maria at the annual Raising Hands event in 2014 with his idea for bringing the Marysville and Tulalip communities together with a culture night.

“We, Scott and I, thought it would be beneficial to everyone in the Marysville and Tulalip communities. There is a separation between the two and we wanted to break down that wall,” stated Maria. “We know we can be a strong community, but there is so much unknown about one another. This event is just one way for our communities to come together and grow.

“We plan on having a story and activity once a month. It is a free event, with donations if you feel up to it. We just want to break down those walls of curiosity. I’m sure that there are many Natives/ Tulalip community members that have encountered some sort of silly question about Native Americans and how we live. This is a way to educate outsiders, to understand one another.”

Maria chose to share her favorite Lushootseed story “Her First Basket”, a core story in the Lushootseed Department’s values book, and pass along the significant meaning it holds to both her and her people.


Red Curtain


“It’s a story about not giving up and there is a bit of community unity within it as well,” explains Maria. “A Cedar tree helps this little girl to see her potential and she gains friends for it. Bringing people together and seeing their potential, it’s something every teacher strives for.”

Marysville and Tulalip community members were invited to partake in the evening of culture. Each table within the auditorium had at its center a “Her First Basket” picture book, so that children and adults could follow along as Maria first told the story in her traditional language, Lushootseed.

Following the storytelling sessions, the audience members were taught some basic weaving skills, using paper and yarn as substitutes for traditional cedar strips, to create their own basket and memento from the evening.

“After telling the story in Lushootseed and in English, we worked on making paper and yarn baskets. For many it was their first basket. It was a fun experience, and people’s talents are so amazing,” says Maria. “I hope to see more community members from both the Marysville and Tulalip communities at future events. We are all related, we live right next to one another, and our care for our neighbors is so important. It was so nice to see the people that showed up; the outcome of their basket making was beautiful. Accomplishing something you haven’t done before is such a great feeling, and meeting new people with the new experience is a beautiful thing too. There are so many people out there that we can all learn something from.”


 Contact Micheal Rios,  mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Tobacco-Free Together

Attendees at theTobacco-Free Together Day not receive help to quit smoking, they also learned weaving and beading as a way to use cultural activities to cope with and get through nicotine cravings. Photo/Micheal Rios

Attendees at the Tobacco-Free Together Day not only received help to quit smoking, they also learned weaving and beading as a way to use cultural activities to cope with and get through nicotine cravings. Photo/Micheal Rios


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Smoke Salmon, Not Cigarettes. That was the theme at this year’s first ever Tobacco-Free Together Day, held on Wednesday, October 28 at Greg Williams Court from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Planned by the Adult and Youth Smoking Cessation programs, the event brought members of the Tulalip community together with the goal of getting as many people as possible to quit smoking for the day, begin thinking about quitting, and celebrating a journey to becoming smoke-free together.

Some quick, sobering facts. Although Native Americans make up approximately 1% of the United States population, we have the highest smoking rates of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. Two out of every five Native Americans will die from tobacco-related diseases if the current smoking rate of 40.8% persist. Currently, there is no proven, effective culturally-tailored smoking cessation program designed specifically for the Native American population.

Fortunately, there are dedicated folks within Tulalip’s Smoking Cessation programs who are committed to creating culturally-tailored stop-smoking events and strategies to help combat cigarette smoking, the number one cause of preventable death among Native Americans.

“Attendees shared a salmon lunch, learned some interesting facts about nicotine, and received a goodie bag including smoked salmon, facts about tobacco, and shirts sporting our motto for the event, ‘smoke salmon, not cigarettes’,” said Ashley Tiedman, Tobacco Cessation Program Coordinator. “It was a very positive day full of good vibes!  On top of the delicious lunch, we had the Rediscovery Program from Hibulb Cultural Center on hand teaching attendees cedar weaving. Also, Taylor Henry taught beading as a way to use cultural activities to cope with and get through nicotine cravings.


Photo/Micheal Rios

Photo/Micheal Rios


“It was a great start for an event we plan to have annually. A total of 120 people attended. Of those, about 30 people were thinking about quitting smoking, currently quitting, or committed to quit for the day.

“I really look forward to how this event will grow,” continued Ashley. “Tobacco-Free Together Day is a day for the whole community, whether you smoke or not, to come together and celebrate being smoke-free. The goal of this event was to help raise awareness on the dangers of smoking while also being a fun and relaxing environment where people wouldn’t feel pressured to quit, but be able to walk away with valuable resources rooted in culture, so when they’re ready to quit they’ll know what is available to help them on their journey to becoming smoke-free.”

Ready to quit smoking? Tulalip Tribes Stop Smoking Program can be reached at (360) 716-5719. Please call for supplies and support in your journey to become smoke-free.


Contact Micheal Rios at mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Mountain Camp 2015: Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors

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By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst

Wilderness. The wild. Whether intentional or not, using the world “wild” to designate landscape and environment sets the land apart from us. Americans are civilized, Natives are savages, and the land is wild. Sound familiar? Because of American formal education and informal borrowing of traits from other cultures, Americans believe they can visit the wild, but can never live in it. Americans are trained to think that those who do choose to live in the wilderness are either Natives (read savages) or half-crazed tree huggers.

But the concept of wilderness was obsolete the minute it was born. We, as a Native society and Tulalip people, know every inch of this land used to be Indian Country. Every inch. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “wild” or a “wilderness” on this continent. All things are related. This notion of connectedness to all things was so central to our ancestors, to the very essence of Native culture, but has dissipated as generation after generation of Native peoples have found themselves urbanized; slowly transformed by the contemporary world of independence, big cities, and a relentless dependence on technology.

So then how can we reasonably begin to understand our ancestors, their actions, thoughts, and values? If we live in a modern time that is inherently different in nearly every respect than the time of our ancestors, how can we truly grasp the culture we stem from? The culture we fight to hold onto, both externally and internally, every single day, while the world around us constantly tells us to give it up, get with modern times, and stop looking backward, look forward.

There is no simple solution, yet as we look around we can clearly see a persistence and resurgence of Tulalip culture that we refuse to let die. There is the plan for Lushootseed immersion classrooms, the stead-fast work of our Rediscovery Program, the restoration of the Qwuloolt Estuary, and, most recently, the reintroduction of our ancestral mountainous areas to a new wave of Tulalip citizens, known as Mountain Camp 2015.




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The idea behind Mountain Camp helps us begin to answer the critical questions about how we keep in touch with our ancestors in modern times. Instead of bringing traditional teachings to an untraditional space, we learn our ancestral teachings in an ancestral space, to walk as they walked. The pristine swədaʔx̌ali co-stewardship area, located 5,000 feet up in the Skykomish Watershed, was a space where our ancestors once resided. It was a place where they hunted, gathered, and lived only off the sustenance the land offered them. Most importantly, after all these years, the swədaʔx̌ali remains a land our ancestors would recognize today, unhampered by urban cities and deconstruction.

“I think for our youth to be up in the mountains it is critical for them to get a strong, firm understanding of who they really are as Tulalip people,” says Patti Gobin, Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustee. “It’s been a long time since our people, our children in particular, have been allowed into these areas. After the signing of the treaty, we were confined to the reservation at Tulalip, and many of us grew up thinking that’s all we were, Tulalips from a reservation. But we are far more than that. From white cap to white cap, as Coast Salish people, this was our ancestral land and it means everything to have our children up here to allow the spirits of our ancestors to commune with them and talk to them, and for them to experience what it is to be out in the wilderness, the way we have always lived.

“If they are given the gifts of what the woods have to offer them and they have ears to listen, then those gifts will strengthen them as young men and women. They’ll never forget this experience and they’ll always come back here and they’ll always fight for the right to come back here, which is critical for future generations.”




For the inaugural Mountain Camp 2015 (held in mid-August), three camp leaders led eight Tulalip tribal members, all 7th and 8th graders, in the experience of a lifetime. They spent five days and four nights in the swədaʔx̌ali and surrounding areas living as our ancestors lived; setting up and taking down camp as they moved locations, singing, storytelling, making traditional cedar baskets, foraging, berry picking, preparing meals, building fires, using the crystal clear lake to cleanse their bodies and spirits, learning traditional values in the sacred land, and coming together as a supportive family.

In order to give the Tulalip youth the most impactful experience possible, the Natural Resources Department teamed with Cultural Resources and Youth Services to develop two main themes for the camp: reconnecting to the mountains and x̌əʔaʔxʷaʔšəd (stepping lightly).  Both themes aspire to reunite the children with teachings and values central to our ancestors; recognizing the connectedness of all things while respecting the Earth.

“Mountain Camp is all about having a space for kids to come up and just enjoy the outdoors, connect with their mountain culture, learn how to camp, learn how to be out here and be safe,” says camp leader Kelly Finley, Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator. “I grew up in the mountains hunting, fishing, and playing in the trees. It was a vital part of my youth and to this day I love being out there. It is an honor to provide an opportunity for young people to love the outdoors as I do. I hope through this experience there will be a better understanding of our natural world and how we all connect to our environment. I look forward to continue this work next year with new and returning students.”

In keeping with their traditional teachings the youth introduced themselves to the mountains and forest that make up the swədaʔx̌ali region. They took turns stating their names, their parents’ names, and the names of their grandparents. The mountains took notice and later that night swədaʔx̌ali formally introduced itself to the kids in the form of a glorious show of thunder and lightning.

“Thunder is medicine to our people, it was the mountain’s way of welcoming our people back to the place we’ve been absent far too long,” says Inez Bill, Rediscovery Program Coordinator. “The children were in an area where the spirits of our ancestors could see them. We, the elders who volunteered and visited the youth on their camp, did our best to impart the meaning and importance of what they were doing. They were experiencing a place, a spirit of our ancestors that most people will never be able to experience. We hope that experience helps lead those youth to live a good life. As younger people they are in their most formative years. We used to have rites of passage, and for these youth,  Mountain Camp represented a rite of passage for them.”

Indeed, the Tulalip elders and volunteers added to the overall experience of the youth; helping to explain how their ancestors were one with their environment and lived a fulfilled and spiritual life, all without the uses of cellphones, computers, T.V., and the internet. A true highlight was the elders teaching the youngsters how to make their very own cedar baskets so that they could go huckleberry picking during their brief stay in the mountains. The messages of finding strength and beauty in all experiences with nature were taken in by the youth and each did his and her best to internalize those values.

“The elders have been telling us stories about what they used to do when they used to go berry picking, and how it was tradition that they make it look like they weren’t even there. They just picked a little bit and moved along,” explains camp participant Jacynta Myles. “They made cedar bark baskets and used them for berry picking baskets. You can go from blackberries to huckleberries and store practically anything in it.

“I love the area. How we woke up to thunder this morning, I’ve never heard it that loud. I think every area in the woods is pretty special, but being here in this area, all together, makes it even more special. And we’re having fun.”




“It’s all about going into the wilderness, no electronics or nothing like that,” says youth participant Sunny Killebrew. “We’re just like on our own, no parents, just depending on ourselves and making new friends. We’ve been learning that this is the land where are ancestors were raised, grew up, and lived. They hunted, they ate, they slept, they did everything on this land right here. It feels good, like I’m doing something they would want me to do.”

For the tribal elders and everyone involved who contributed to making Mountain Camp a reality, it was a dream come true to witness the camp youth as they one-by-one grasped the importance of walking in their ancestor’s footsteps. The entire project had been in the works over the last few years, allowing Natural Resources the necessary time to find funding and the resources to build a Mountain Camp program for our youth.

“This, as the first year, was a big learning experience for all of us. While there are things we might tweak for next year, overall we believe this first year was a big success and deeply worthwhile, as measured by the experience these eight kids received and all that we, as program leaders, learned as it unfolded,” said Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst. “Success this year can be attributed to the collaboration with our Cultural Resources, Language and Youth Services staff; and a very successful and helpful partnership with the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Program in Seattle, the US Forest Service, and our own Rediscovery Program in Tulalip’s Cultural Resources division.

“This Mountain Camp experience presented an opportunity to reconnect tribal youth to these inland, mountain ancestral territories where their ancestors lived, while also explicitly reserving rights to continue using these areas for hunting, fishing and gathering.”


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From practically being inside a thunder and lightning storm at an elevation of 5,000 feet, to storytelling in their Lushootseed language as they witnessed a meteor shower, to creating their own cedar bark baskets for huckleberry picking, the Tulalip youth created many memories that will last a lifetime. As they grow and mature into adults, their sense of appreciation for what they were able to be a part of and experience will undoubtedly grow immensely. It’s a difficult task for anyone to be expected to live as their ancestors lived, let alone asking that of a 7th or 8th grade student. In honor of their efforts and achievements while participating in Mountain Camp 2015 the youth were honored with a blanket ceremony when they got back home to Tulalip.

“The ceremony was to acknowledge what the kids went through. It was an accomplishment for them to go through everything that they did while up in the mountains, living in nature,” continues Inez Bill. “They didn’t have their cell phones or any of the other electronic gadgets they would have back home. They experienced something together, they grew together, and they had a rite of passage together. I covered the kids with blankets as a remembrance of what they went through. The ceremony recognized that rite of passage, of how we want them to be as young people.

“In our ancestral way, they were brought out to nature to find their spiritual strength. I think later in their lives, that spiritual strength will give them direction and confidence when they need it most. And for the parents and grandparents who were at the ceremony, I think they were happy and truly touched.”

Following the ceremony the camp participants mingled a while longer, still wrapped in their blankets, and talking about their favorite moments from Mountain Camp. Going to their ancestral lands, being immersed in their cultural teachings, a rite of passage, experiencing nature as it was meant to be experienced. There are so many possible takeaways, but none bigger than that of camp participant Kaiser Moses who says, “I feel empowered. I feel I can do anything!”




Plans are already underway for Mountain Camp 2016. Stay on the lookout for more details and registration information in future syəcəb and online on our Tulalip News Facebook page.