Celebrating Clear Sky’s decade of dedication and mentorship to Native Youth

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The stark reality when it comes to Native Americans and the education system isn’t good, in fact it’s pretty poor. The latest stats and trends only demonstrate Native students continue to have difficulty finding success (i.e. graduating high school) in comparison to their peers from different racial backgrounds.

National Congress of American Indians reports that on average, less than 50% of Native students graduate from high school each year in the seven states with the highest percentage of Native students, Washington State is included in that list. Moreover, recent numbers released from local public school districts, such as the Marysville School District and Seattle School District, show their Native student populations only graduating high school at a rate between 43-48%. For reference, the national average for high school student graduation, regardless of race, is 82%, according to recent publications from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Enter Clear Sky, the crown jewel of the Urban Native Education Alliance, a non-profit 501(c)(3), Native-led, grassroots, volunteer-based organization. Clear Sky was founded by urban Native students in Seattle as a youth centered program, serving thousands of Native youth since its inception in 2008.

The marvel of Clear Sky is that since its humble beginning ten years ago, Clear Sky continues to uphold a 100% graduation rate and academic advancement of Native learners who actively participate in its tutoring and mentorship offerings.  Read that again, a 100% high school graduation rate for these Native students.

Sustained success via a decade of dedication and mentorship to Native youth is worth celebrating, so on February 27th a 10-year celebration was held for all Clear Sky has achieved and continues to strive for. The location was none other than Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Seattle’s newest public school named for a beloved Native American educator of the 1980s and ‘90s.

Clear Sky’s decade of dedication celebration featured a host of influential leaders, educators, activists, and former students who spoke about the immensely positive impact Clear Sky makes in the Native community.

“There are many aspects of our ten years I take pride in, given the unconventional model of being the flagship program of our Native-led, non-profit organization Urban Native Education Alliance,” stated UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson (Oglala, Sioux). “Clear Sky has flourished, expanded outreach, and has become part of the fabric of our urban Seattle community. The number of alumni students returning back to volunteer and support Clear Sky is astonishing, and a testament to the impact Clear Sky had on their success. These young adults serve as healthy, positive role models for our youth.

“I’m proud of our ongoing 100% graduation and academic advancement of Clear Sky students throughout the many years of our program. The results are a reflection of our organizations core values and the fostering of leadership through academic achievement, civic service and stewardship.”

Shared values of culture and tradition was on full-display as well, through the sharing of drum circles and song. The UNEA women, led by Roxanne White, brought out the Women’s Warrior Song to honor and remember missing and murdering Indigenous women. The A.I.M. song was performed by a group of proud Lakota men, while Roger Fernandes led the young men of the Clear Sky youth council in a Warrior Song.

“Shout out to Clear Sky and UNEA. Seattle’s Native community has an abundance of incredible leadership making this place one where Native kids can flourish,” remarked Matt Remle, local Lakota activist and Native Liaison for the Marysville School District. “To the volunteers of Clear Sky who have showed up day after day, week after week, and year after year, for the sake of our kids…to the founders, past and present board members, staff, tutors, coaches, mentors, teachers, speakers, student leaders and families, thank you and wow!”

Among the student leaders and athletic coaches is Tulalip tribal member, Cullen Zackuse. Cullen is a Clear Sky Co-Coordinator and Native Warrior Athletics basketball coach. He serves as a youth mentor and provides leadership through positive role modeling. Cullen has strong roots and cultural ties with Tulalip and he brings those cultural/traditional values into every interaction with the urban Native youth.

“I took on a formal role with Clear Sky about six months ago so I could work with the youth after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday, but mostly I coach the basketball team for Native Warrior Athletics,” said Cullen of his leadership role within UNEA and Clear Sky. “Working with tribal kids and teaching them the fundamentals of basketball, coaching them at tournaments is making a difference and creates a positive environment for learning.”

Two other notable guests in attendance for the celebration were Seattle Public School Board Member, Scott Pinkham (Nez Perce), and Seattle City Councilmember, Debora Juarez (Blackfeet). They shared in the festivities, spoke on the importance of Clear Sky, and gave special recognition by way of a City of Seattle official Proclamation declaring it “Seattle Clear Sky Day”.

“The content of the Proclamation addresses several decade long issues UNEA and Clear Sky youth have been addressing through Seattle Public Schools public testimony, rallies, community meetings, documentaries, and countless news media interviews and letters, and petitions,” explained UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson. “We plan to share the City of Seattle Proclamation with other youth groups and at various venues to illustrate that the City of Seattle supports our initiatives and our vision as a legitimate voice for Indian Education.”

For more information on the Urban Native Education Alliance and Clear Sky, or to contact about mentorship and tutoring opportunities for the youth, please reach out to Sarah Sense-Wilson by phone at (206) 941-0338 or via email markseattle3@aol.com

Cultural Gatherings brings Lushootseed language to ELA families

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the Lushootseed Language Department and the Rediscovery Program teamed up to bring Family Cultural Gatherings to the young students of the Academy and their families. The gatherings are held at the Academy every Tuesday and alternate between a one-hour class at 12:00 p.m. and a two-hour class at 5:00 p.m. weekly. Families can learn traditional Tulalip Lushootseed Language by means of storytelling, song and interactive lessons.

“We really want to build that connection between our language and culture back to the families so that they can really have a feeling of what the kids are learning in school,” explains Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “We want to share that value; I think that the Lushootseed Department does a really great job of sharing that value. We want our families to have an opportunity to learn Lushootseed too, with our kids.”

The revitalized traditional Coast Salish language is currently offered at all levels by the Lushootseed Language Department. The language is being spoken to and utilized by students at the Early Learning Academy,

Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary and Tulalip Heritage High School. The Language Department also offers Lushootseed 101, a college course through Northwest Indian College, to the employees of the Tulalip Tribes. This past summer, the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp was a huge success as over one hundred and sixty youth participated in the week-long language camp.

The Academy wanted to bring this experience to the parents and siblings of their students, and the Cultural Gatherings presents the perfect opportunity for students to practice the language outside of the classroom. During the Cultural Gatherings, parents and students learn words, phrases and songs alongside one another.  A meal is prepared by the Academy for the participants and each gathering begins with a joint prayer, in Lushootseed, to bless the food. The Language Department creates a fun learning experience for the families with book readings, flash cards, and songs as well as arts and crafts. Many students are familiar with the words and often assist their parents with pronunciation.

Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natasha Gobin, encourages families to attend the gatherings.

“It’s encouraged for each family to attend at least one of the classes we offer,” states Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natasha Gobin. “We’re trying to teach the families what the kids are learning in school because we know that when the kids go home, they’re trying to get their parents to learn [the language] with them. If they point out any of the animals and are saying the words in Lushootseed to their parents, quite often the parents are like ‘I have no idea what you’re saying’, so we’re trying encourage the families to engage in that learning and make it relevant in the home which in turn empowers the kids when they start using the language.”

The next gathering will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 12:00 p.m. for more information please contact the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy at (360) 716-4250.

UW Bothell empowers Native American students to plan for higher education


For the Native high school students, the hope is by getting a taste of the university experience they will be inspired and motivated to attend a higher education program after graduating high school. 


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The University of Washington Bothell campus held its 5th annual Reaching American Indian Nations (RAIN) diversity recruitment event Friday, April 21. RAIN is a day dedicated to preparing students of American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native American backgrounds with the tools necessary to access higher education.

Tribal high school students and faculty from Native American educational programs from all across Washington State were invited to attend RAIN 2017.

For the Native high school students, the hope is by getting a taste of the university experience they will be inspired and motivated to attend a higher education program after graduating high school.

Creating culturally relevant events where advocates, faculty, and college alumni can speak on all the reasons why potential high school graduates should attend college helps turns dreams into reality. Explaining why higher education is important as a Native American person, how the education can be used to connect to and better the community is all integral to changing the narrative. It doesn’t matter if it’s a community or technical college, online or big-time university, so long as Native students start thinking about and planning for life after high school.

Interestingly enough, the inspiration that led to UW Bothell creating RAIN five years ago happened right here on the Tulalip Reservation. It was during a routine admission workshop that Rachael Meares, former UW Native American Outreach Coordinator, was undertaking at Tulalip Heritage High School that inspiration struck. The junior and senior high school students at Tulalip Heritage were so eager to participate in her workshop and to learn of the opportunities available at UW Bothell that Meares thought it would be really beneficial for the students to spend a day at the UW Bothell campus. While on campus, students participated in various workshops, while exploring and learning about what university life at UW Bothell has to offer them. The Tulalip students received an alternative college perspective that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them here on the reservation.

A few months later, the entire Tulalip Heritage High School student body, with chaperoning from teachers, spent a day at the UW Bothell campus learning about the university and opportunities available only a short thirty minute drive south on I-5. That day marked the first culturally relevant outreach event for Native American students, which was given the name Reaching American Indian Nations, or more commonly referred to as RAIN. The next year Meares and her colleagues from the UW Bothell Division of Enrollment Management extended invites to Tulalip Heritage and other tribal schools across Washington.

Matt Remle, Marysville School District Native American Liaison.


At this year’s RAIN, the students were welcomed with breakfast, introductions of the coordinating event staff, and an opening prayer by Matt Remle (Lakota), Native American Liaison for Marysville School District. The students then heard a culturally oriented key-note speech from Abigail Echohawk (Pawnee/Athabascan).

Following their warm welcoming, the high school students chose two available on-site workshops to attend. Keeping the idea of cultural relevancy in play, each workshop was specifically tailored to the Native American students pursuing higher education. Each workshop was also led by a Native American staff member of UW Bothell.

For the participating students, they received a glimpse of the university life that pushes the boundaries for what opportunities are available to them after graduating high school. They were able to learn about higher education opportunities and campus programs, while participating in cultural and educational workshops. The college admissions process, touring UW Bothell, and networking with community partners were designed to give students a better understanding of college life, while relating the importance of education to the individual and their communities.

“What a time to be alive and in education!”

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 


Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.

Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.

Since Time Immemorial (STI) is a curriculum created to educate Washington State elementary through high school students on the history, culture, traditions and sovereignty of the Northwest coastal tribes. The school districts will meet frequently with local tribes so their students can learn first-hand about the resilient people of Native America and the unfortunate journey we have experienced since Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the new world.

In the early 2000’s, Tulalip tribal member and Washington State Senator, John McCoy wrote House Bill 1495 that encouraged Washington school districts to teach students about local tribes. Since the bill was passed less than 30% of the school districts participated in teaching the history of neighboring Native communities. In 2014, Senator McCoy presented a new bill, Senate Bill 5433. House Bill 1495 and Senate Bill 5433 were essentially the same, however, the slight alteration of verbiage changed Native American education from being encouraged to a requirement.

During the time period between the two bills, STI was created and made available for the schools that chose to participate. Since then the creators have been able to fine-tune the curriculum by trial and error of participating school districts. The end result is a free, easy accessible curriculum that includes full lesson plans, videos, reading material, and activities that will potentially put an end to stereotypes and misconceptions of Native People that many non-natives possess.

Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn, recently spoke to educators, administrators, and parents from the nearby school districts of Edmonds, Mukilteo, Monroe and Arlington at the Hibulb Cultural Center to discuss the background, and to present an in-depth view of the curriculum.

“What a time to be alive and in education!” Dr. Lynn exclaimed. “The intent of this meeting is not to shame but to give a clear understanding of the Native communities. By sharing the curriculum with our students, it is going to help them become informed citizens. As our youth step up into leadership roles they will be deeply connected with the community. As educators we aren’t teaching our students so they can leave, but so they can grow. We need to assist them as they perfect their talents and give them the tools they need to enrich our communities.”

Dr. Lynn expressed that the youth need to understand the true history of local tribes. She explained that America often tries to downplay the tragedies that occurred to Natives and make it feel like it took place a long time ago. When in reality the elders of today’s tribes were taken from their families and placed into boarding schools where they were forced to learn the white culture and lose their traditional cultural teachings.

Before STI, the story of the birth of America often leaves out the fact the U.S. Government stole its land by murdering Native Americans. That is only the beginning of the countless atrocities the government committed against the Indigenous community.  Dr. Lynn stated, “We are not fulfilling our duties if we are not being honest about the genocide, the assimilation, and the boarding schools. It is important that you know the history because you can teach a curriculum, but if you don’t understand the spirit and the intent behind it, you will tend to make the same mistakes repeatedly.”

Dr. Lynn quickly went through a lesson plan with the educators titled ‘The 600 Memorial Lesson Plan’ she said, “Since [House Bill 1495] was signed, over 87% of school districts did not participate in teaching the history of Native People. The only native history we have been teaching is in a post 1900 context. Think about it. Close your eyes and envision the image of a Native American tribal member. Because of what is portrayed in our history books, in our minds we are living with a stereotype. The image is usually in a post 1900 context and its usually of a tribal member who is not from this region. The 600 Memorial Lesson Plan addresses the stereotype issue. During this lesson, students will learn about contemporary issues that local tribal communities are facing today. It will give our students a chance to meet with and understand contemporary Native People, giving us a chance to finally dissolve those stereotypes that often lead to racism and barriers.”

The event concluded with a story, exclusively for the educators, by Master Carver/Storyteller Kenny Moses. As more schools are starting to implement the STI curriculum, the hope of a better tomorrow emerges. An opportunity for a future without harmful stereotypes and offensive mascots is presented. Coast Salish tribes will finally get to share our similar yet unique story as Native Peoples.

For more information about STI and for upcoming classes and seminars, visit www.indian-ed.org

Don’t Be A Monster

Kids meet Frank, a victim if bullying. Frank was featured in a video about bullying that presented by Georgetown Morgue Haunted House staff members.

Kids meet Frank, a victim of bullying. Frank was featured in a video about bullying that was presented by Georgetown Morgue Haunted House staff members.


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

During the month of October, school assemblies are held nationwide to talk to America’s youth about bullying, a serious situation that unfortunately is often overlooked. Don’t Be A Monster! is an organization that is informing students, fourth grade and up, that the bullying issue is real. Too often bullying is brushed off like it’s no big deal. In many cases victims are somehow left responsible and sent off with the ‘sticks and stones’ mantra when searching for advice.

Traumatic scars, caused by bullies, were initially emotional cuts that were once quite deep. According to the program’s research, over 90% of kids are bullied in school. Amongst the youth in the state of Washington, suicide is the third leading cause of death. One of the main contributing factors to suicide is harassment from classmates.

The Georgetown Morgue Haunted House in Seattle participates in the program and sends their staff to local schools to help kids identify what bullying is and how to step up when one of their peers is picked on. As a perfect tie-in to Tulalip/Marysville Unity Month, the Georgetown Morgue team paid a visit to the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club on a chilly Friday afternoon.

“You know we have all kinds of monsters and ghouls at the haunted house, but you know those aren’t real. But there are real monsters out there, bullies,” stated Lynette, a Georgetown Morgue staff member, to the group of kids filling the Club gymnasium.

A video presentation about a new student, Frank, who is struggling to fit in was shown to the youth. Frank, based on Doctor Frankenstein’s’ creation, is trying to adjust to his new school, however, because of how he looks he becomes an outcast. The video portrays popular kids using cruel words to hurt Frank’s feelings. At the end of each scene, somebody stands up for Frank and tells the bully to stop. The video displayed different types of bullying such as physical, emotional, and its most recent form, cyber-bullying.

The presentation showed Frank logging into his Facebook account to a plethora of messages. Statements such as ‘nobody likes you,’ ‘go away,’ and the horrific ‘kill yourself’ are comments that are sadly left on kids profiles and comment sections daily.

Lynette attempted to project her voice over the kids who lost interest in the assembly by stating, “I knew somebody like Frank, who went to my high school, that was pretty much like that. He always smelled like urine, his clothes were filthy, his teeth were yellow. He walked the halls alone with his head down and nobody sat with him at lunchtime. Nobody was kind to him. It was terrible, but this type of stuff does happen, and…”

After several attempts to re-engage the youth in the topic at hand, Lynette’s statement would unfortunately remain incomplete because of constant interruptions from the kids. She stated that over half of her presentation was cut short as she gave up the battle for the youth’s attention. She called upon special guest Frank, the character from the video, to make a quick appearance as the kids exited the gym.

Despite the many interruptions, Lynette’s message is one of much importance. Kids and parents need to be aware and heed the signs of bullying to help prevent it.


The following information and more can found at www.stopbullying.gov.

Signs a Child is Being Bullied

  • Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away.

Signs a Child is Bullying Others

  • Kids may be bullying others if they:
  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

Why don’t kids ask for help?

  • Statistics from the 2012 Indicators of School Crime and Safety show that an adult was notified in less than half (40%) of bullying incidents. Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons:
  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Kids may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
  • Kids may fear backlash from the kid who bullied them.
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
  • Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
  • Kids may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.

Edmonds School District seeks Tulalip input on new Native curriculum

Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership. Photo/Kalvin Valdillez

Edmonds School District staff meets with Tulalip tribal leadership.
Photo/Kalvin Valdillez


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“He took my sacred place and ripped it in half! I knew it was going to happen, but it still made me sad,” stated a third grade student from Edmonds School District (ESD). The student was referring to an assignment from her teacher where she had to create a ‘Sacred Place’ with all of her favorite things, and with all her favorite people. The student drew her sacred place, which included a rare one-of-a-kind tree that grew sideways at a secluded campsite with her family and friends. As she passionately explained her assignment, it was obvious to see she was extremely excited and attached to her sacred place.

Once the student was finished with her assignment her teacher looked at her drawing, admired it and then tore it in half. “It just made me really sad and a little mad because it was mine.” This emotional scene was a video clip from a presentation to the Tulalip Board of Directors (BOD) on May 18, 2016, one of many exercises that were shown in the presentation provided by the ESD. After the video clip finished, a look around the boardroom showed how emotional the video made everybody feel, the little girl was visibly distraught. Which is when the room was informed that the teacher taped up the drawing for the student.

“That is exactly like where we are now, as sovereign nations, we are trying to tape back together our sacred place,” stated board member Bonnie Juneau. The purpose of the assignment was to show young students how it felt to have their sacred place taken from them and destroyed. With Governor Jay Inslee recently signing Senate Bill 5433 into law, making it mandatory for Washington State Schools to teach the history and governance of the 29 federally recognized tribes of Washington State, ESD is taking a step forward by implementing a curriculum that covers elementary through high school students.

Other clips showed students talking about The Boldt Decision, colonization, and religion. “The book I read stated that the Natives were converted to Christianity,” said a Fifth Grade student, “but then I read that the Natives were forced into Christianity. The first one sounds like they had a choice, the second one sounds like they didn’t have a choice at all.”

Prior to Senate Bill 5433, House Bill 1495 only encouraged schools to teach of the indigenous nations in Washington. Tulalip’s John McCoy, who wrote both Bill 5433 and HB 1495, believes Senate Bill 5433 will be a relationship-builder between different cultures, and will provide a more engaging approach to students who will potentially become our future leaders.

Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State, or STI for short, is the curriculum created by The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). STI was pilot tested for the past five years, in fourteen different Washington State schools. Now, it is being implemented by Edmonds Office of Native Education, headed by Program Supervisor Michael Vendiola. Michael explained that STI is a free online curriculum and available to all school districts.

“I think this is great. Growing up I remember checking all of my history text books for Tulalip Tribes, and I never once found anything about our people in those books,” said Chairman Mel Sheldon.  “All of it was Plains Indians, and even then, it wasn’t much. It’s heartbreaking that our youth can’t identify themselves in our schools.”

It is no secret that Indigenous Peoples are misrepresented in U.S. History and the media. On a national level, Coastal Native Americans specifically are nearly non-existent in the history courses being taught in schools. The Chairman continued, “I remember being asked, and I am sure everyone in this room at some point has been asked, if I lived in a Tee-Pee when I told somebody I was a Native American.”

Vendiola pointed out that change won’t happen overnight. “This is like our  ‘Zero Year’ where we are still seeing what works, what doesn’t, and how we can improve the curriculum.” One of the ways ESD looks to improve STI is to provide the history of the nearest federally recognized tribe. This is a huge change.

“Partnering with The Tulalip Tribes allows us to involve the community in [the] culture close to home. This is our opportunity to change the future.”

The presentation not only showed how concerned and shocked students were, but also showed that most students reacted positively to learning the history and culture of Native People. One mother was astounded by her son’s enthusiasm, stating that he has never talked about what was going on in school, but could not hold in his excitement when learning about the culture. The mother, who at the time was finishing law school at Gonzaga University, continued stating that she was able to have a full discussion with her fifth-gradestudent about fishing rights.

An ESD instructor gave a teacher’s perspective on STI. “I think at first teachers were hesitant to teach this subject because of how harsh the reality is, and also because we didn’t know where to begin. With STI, I believe teachers are discovering how fun and easy this can be.”

He then stated that his students were disappointed when the lesson was over and were not excited to move on to the usually popular Medieval Times lesson.

Although STI does mainly focus on the history of both local and national tribes, it also touches on where the tribes are today as far as culture and self-governance.Tulalip Board member Marie Zackuse spoke about changing the perception of tribes in today’s world, and why it is important to update what’s being taught about tribal communities in a contemporary point of view.

Marie stated, “Racism is still very alive and well in communities that are nearby reservations. Most of the history taught about our people is in a pre-1900 context.” She believes that the racism stems from the misunderstanding of our treaty rights. For example, many non-native citizens believe Native Americans receive privileges not granted to others, rather than seeing Treaty Rights as the rights that a tribe negotiated to keep while giving up other rights.


“I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” 

– Fourth-grade student from Edmonds


The curriculum itself is extensive, incorporating information of the history, governance and culture of federally recognized tribes in elementary, middle, and high school lesson plans. What an elementary school student can expect to take away from STI is a basic understanding of tribal sovereignty, the history of tribal sovereignty, as well as the ability to identify the names and locations of the tribes in their area. A middle school student will comprehend that tribal sovereignty has cultural, political, and economic basis. And a high school student will be able to explain the governmental structure of at least one tribe in their community.

The Tulalip Board briefly explained to ESD that Tulalip is proactive about teaching Tulalip’s culture, history and language in The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, and Heritage High School. However, the Board also expressed that high school students who choose to go to different high schools in the Tulalip/Marysville area are not exposed to the culture, history and language. This is why both Senate Bill 5433 and STI are vital in today’s society, so both tribal and non-tribal students have a better understanding of Native America.

ESD is looking to Tulalip for consultation to ensure that Tulalip’s perspective is represented appropriately. “Every tribe is different. Look at how different we are compared to tribes on the other side of the mountains,” stated Bonnie Juneau.  “We have so much history and we want to share our story.”

The tribe and ESD are looking to meet once a month to continue to build upon the STI model. Chairman Sheldon closed by stating, “We raise our hands to you. This is something we feel is needed, and it’s great to see your school district implementing this curriculum. It’s a long awaited step in the right direction and it’s very healing to see.”

The impact of just the pilot curriculum is beautiful and promising, as evidenced by the reaction of one fourth-grade student from Edmonds, “I thought Indians were just people who were discovered and who hunted a lot, but now I know that there are many different tribes and the tribes here fish, dance and carve beautiful masks!” she exclaimed.


Contact Kalvin Valdillen, kvaldillen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

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




A dream come true for ‘Children of the Salmon’

Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon, surrounded by ‘Children of the Salmon’, cuts the ribbon, officially marking the opening of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy.Photo/MIcheal Rios

Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon, surrounded by ‘Children of the Salmon’, cuts the ribbon, officially marking the opening of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy.
Photo/MIcheal Rios


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Friday, August 7, the much anticipated grand opening was held for the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy. The event marked the culmination of over a decade’s worth of planning, devotion, and perseverance by countless individuals committed to helping local community families make a lasting, positive difference in their children’s education. In partnership with parents and community, the caring and experienced Tulalip Tribes teaching staff created a loving and safe environment where children and families can grow in academically. The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (ELA) provides no cost educational schooling from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday for children ages birth to 5 years-old.

“In 1999, Les Parks and I took a very transformative trip to Philadelphia to look at a learning academy,” recalls Mel Sheldon, Tulalip Chairman. “We think about education and what it means to our kids, what it means to our community, and how we create safe environments for learning. I look at this building and I see nothing but good vibrations and endless possibilities for our young ones. What a great site for the school here. Our youth are going to have memories that will go long into their life with their teachers, their parents, and all the learning that they’ll be doing.”

A large community attendance, along with representatives of Marysville School District and Washington, D.C. dignitaries, turned out to witness the debut of the gorgeous 52,000 square-foot Early Learning Academy. The facility, oriented towards views over Tulalip Bay and the surrounding woodlands, sits on nine acres of land and is designed to symbolize the tribe’s commitment to a healthy community and a strong foundation for our children’s education. Tribal artists worked with the project team to incorporate artwork on the site and within public spaces of the building to reflect the cultural context being infused into our idea of early learning. Tulalip artwork is clearly visible in the stunning, etched-glass panels provided by James Madison, the blue glass wave directly above the reception area, and the river designed walkway throughout the academy.


Spirited youngsters performed songs during the Early Learning Academy grand opening ceremony. Photo/Micheal Rios

Spirited youngsters performed songs during the Early Learning Academy grand opening ceremony.
Photo/Micheal Rios


“To me, this day has been 17 years in the making. It’s been a dream that we’ve all had,” details Les Park, Tulalip Board of Director, to the hundreds of attendees. “Research tells us that 90% of a child’s brain development happens before age five. Ever so true that is, our kids are capable and eager to learn at a very early age. We’ve known this and in response have created several different programs that touch on early learning, but this is the building where we are going to take it to a new and higher level, which I think is going to change our membership in the future. A generation from now, when these kids have grown up and are leading our tribe, they would have learned so much more than they would have, had they just waited to enter the public school system. It’s so exciting for me to witness this, a 17 year vision come to fruition today as we bring an early learning academy to Tulalip.”

Far too many children enter public school kindergarten unprepared for the drastic changes in routine and academic expectations. When children begin school unprepared it’s only a matter of time before they fall behind, and they tend to fall further behind as the school year progresses. All children need to enter school ready and able to succeed, which is why early education is so important. Cognitively, early education improves school performance, raises math and language abilities, and sharpens thinking and attention skills. Early learning also has plenty of social and emotional benefits as well. Children will improve and strengthen their interactions with peers, decrease problem behaviors, and helps adjustment to the demands of formal education.

With the opening of the Early Learning Academy, we fully expect all the added benefits and rewards of early learning to materialize for our children. However, those aren’t the only benefits of the ELA, as many new and exciting changes will be instituted to the way Tulalip will approach educating our young children. One such change is the moniker of the students who will attend the ELA, who will be affectionately known as the ‘Children of the Salmon’.  The foremost game changer is the consolidation of all birth to five-year-old programs into one program, under one roof.


Photo/Micheal Rios

Photo/Micheal Rios


“We have brought all our birth to five programs out of their silos and brought them together into one, singular program with the same focus,” explains Sheryl Fryberg, ELA Manager. “We’ve redone all of our policies, procedures, and intake forms to reflect this. We are now the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy. We’re not Montessori, we’re not ECEAP, and we’re not Early Head-Start; we are one.

“This academy is open to all of our tribal kids. In addition to our tribal kids, our service area is Marysville School District, so if your family is within the Marysville School District then your eligible to apply here.”

ELA will be using the Creative Curriculum, but utilizing different strategies. Teaching staff will utilize the Teaching Strategies assessment tools to show the progress that all of our children are making. This curriculum assures that the academy remains aligned with the school readiness early learning content standards, while doubling as a means to provide constant feedback on students’ progress.

“We will be utilizing a new child evaluation system, so that we can keep track of where our kids are with their learning,” explains Sheryl Fryberg. “Assessments that all our teachers will be using from birth to five will measure our students’ growth in different areas and stages. This process will make it possible for us to create custom and, if need be, individualized lesson plans from the assessment results to ensure we don’t allow any children to lag behind or fall into the gaps. Our top priority is to provide the best educational foundation as possible for each and every ELA student.”

Another big change, that undoubtedly will take some time for parents and students to adjust to, is the switch to a year-around school system. There will be no 2.5 month long summer break for students of the Early Learning Academy, instead there will be four school closures throughout the year. A one-week break will occur in December, April and June, while a two-week break is expected in August.



Interior views of ELA’s classrooms set-up for learning and imaginative play.Photo/Micheal Rios

Interior views of ELA’s classrooms set-up for learning and imaginative play.
Photo/Micheal Rios


“Research shows that when you do year-around schooling the children do much better academically, and what better time to have them transition to year-around school then while they are getting adjusted to the Early Learning Academy,” continues Fryberg. “I feel like we are laying such a strong foundation for our kids and the families to be involved in their kids’ education. The research has shown that when kids are off school for 2.5 months that they lose so much of what they’ve learned. You’re almost starting all over when they come back to school in the fall, so this move to year-around education will be such a huge benefit to the future academic success of our children.”

The academic success of our children is at the forefront of every idea and strategy that will be implemented in the ELA’s curriculum. The cultural tie-ins will remain and even be pushed to new limits, especially when it comes to teaching and learning the Tulalip language, Lushootseed.

“We’re working with the Lushootseed department to develop an immersion classroom,” says Fryberg. “We haven’t worked out all the details just yet, but for 18-months to 3 years-old we want one classroom for three hours a day, all the children do is speak and hear our Lushootseed language. Then we want to follow that group up, continuing to offer them Lushootseed immersion, and see what the end results are. If it’s successful, then we can find grants to really grow a Lushootseed immersion program.”


The ELA playground was built with safety in mind, featuring specialty mats to prevent injury and no public access.  Photo/Micheal Rios

The ELA playground was built with safety in mind, featuring specialty mats to prevent injury and no public access.
Photo/Micheal Rios


One vision leads to another. As the ELA opens its doors to the children of our community and promises long-term positive results, one can’t help wonder what the future holds for the cohorts of birth to 5 year-olds whose education and future academic prospects just got a whole lot brighter. Time will determine just how big an impact the ELA’s foundation will have on the tribe’s future, but for now let us just appreciate all the people and effort that made the ELA possible.

“There were so many people involved, who came together as a team to make this vision a reality,” proclaims Misty Napeahi, General Manager of the Tulalip Tribes. “It’s not easy when we’ve had separate programs run as individual programs with different teaching models for all these years. We know the commitment to the children will supersede all obstacles and that our teaching staff will all be working together to serve our children. It couldn’t be done in a better facility. This building is absolutely gorgeous. This dream came true because of all the hard work of our maintenance and construction teams, our teaching staff, and all those who were involved behind the scenes. Because of you all, our children will be here for years to come.”



Photo/Micheal Rios

Photo/Micheal Rios


























gʷədᶻadad: teaching of one’s ancestors

Maria Martin teaching Lushootseed.

Maria Martin teaching


Maria Martin enjoys juice time at the first language camp, held in 1996.

Maria Martin enjoys juice time at the first language camp, held in 1996.


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

At this year’s closing ceremony for the 20th Annual Lushootseed Day Camp, Maria Martin, better known as Miss Maria to the Tulalip young ones, was acknowledged for being an inaugural participant at the first-ever Lushootseed camp in 1996. Fast forward 20 years to the present and Miss Maria has come full-circle, now a Lushootseed teacher and instructor for the 2015 rendition of the language camp.

“It’s such a special feeling knowing we are now celebrating our 20th year of language camp. During this year’s camp we had a lot of first time attendees, they are only five-years old, and we were able to talk to them about how Miss Maria started out being at the very first language camp 20 years ago,” says Natosha Gobin, a fellow Lushootseed Teacher and instructor at the annual language camp. “She was one of our very first camp attendees and here she is now as one of our Lushootseed teachers. We wanted to pass this message onto our kids because it’s pretty amazing.

“Through her work, which is of a humble heart, Miss Maria continues to inspire our next generation to continue learning, speaking, and being the amazing little language warriors that they are. We are so grateful for her.”

Miss Maria has only fond memories of the early years of language camp that unknowingly shaped her future.

“Lushootseed language camp has been a part of my life for years. It’s a reunion of friends, family and history,” says Maria. “You get to attend a summer time camp where you’re able to be reunited with people you may not normally see and have fun together. You get to learn things that aren’t offered just anywhere. It was a place I got to learn about my people and through that learned who I wanted to be.

“The people at camp, the volunteers, the Lushootseed staff, my family and friends, they all definitely impacted my decision to be a Lushootseed teacher. I feel I learned important life lessons, as well as my cultural values, in a way that I could understand them as a child. It makes me so happy to be a part of the Lushootseed department today. I couldn’t ask for a better job. It’s amazing to come full circle. I get the opportunity to be the kind of teacher who inspired me and taught me our culture. Ideally, I get to reciprocate the actions of all the teachers who have made me who I am today. Now, I get to inspire.”

As the participants, teachers, and even the format of language has changed so has Miss Maria, but her goals will always remain the same.

“I love camp. I always have. Whatever changes have come or whatever changes will come, I’ll always be ready and looking forward to another amazing year. We take the good from camp and leave behind the bad. Just keep making it a wonderful experience, that’s my goal.”


Mandatory Native American Curriculum in the Cards for Oregon

Oregon Department of EducationThis image was taken when the state adopted the plan to make an American Indian/Alaska Native curriculum mandatory. Pictured, from left, are Matt Eide, Education Northwest (co-facilitator); April Campbell, ODE (co-facilitator); Se-ah-dom Edmo, Oregon Indian Education Association Chair (Advisory Panel member); Robin Butterfield, Independent Contract (Advisory Panel Member); Artis Clark, Jefferson County School District (Advisory Panel Member); and Rob Saxton, ODE Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Oregon Department of Education
This image was taken when the state adopted the plan to make an American Indian/Alaska Native curriculum mandatory. Pictured, from left, are Matt Eide, Education Northwest (co-facilitator); April Campbell, ODE (co-facilitator); Se-ah-dom Edmo, Oregon Indian Education Association Chair (Advisory Panel member); Robin Butterfield, Independent Contract (Advisory Panel Member); Artis Clark, Jefferson County School District (Advisory Panel Member); and Rob Saxton, ODE Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Michelle Tirado. Indian Country Today


A new American Indian/Alaska Native State Plan moves Oregon ever closer to making a Native American curriculum mandatory in all public school districts. When it happens, it will join a still way too short list of states, with neighboring Washington added to it this spring, to issue a similar directive.

The new two-year plan, developed over a nine-month period by the 26-member AI/AN Advisory Panel, which includes representatives from each of the state’s nine tribes, was adopted by Oregon’s State Board of Education in April. Under the plan, all 197 school districts will implement a “historically accurate, culturally embedded, place-based, contemporary, and developmentally appropriate AI/AN curriculum.” While ultimately it is up to Oregon’s legislature, the plan states that the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) will support and assist in the development of legislative language for a mandate in the 2017 session.

Under the previous plan, issued in 2006, school districts were “encouraged to implement AI/AN curriculum and instructional materials.” While some have, the information taught is often outdated or inaccurate. Tammie Hunt, education director for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians and a member of the AI/AN Advisory Panel, said about a year and half ago, she learned that schools in the Medford 549c district, where some Cow Creek students are enrolled, were teaching information from 1963 sources. In the 1960s, many of Oregon’s tribes were terminated. “They did pull the curriculum. They finished teaching it at the end of this year, from what I understand. They were supposed to do something this summer to update it,” Hunt said.

A few school districts, however, have made a good effort, albeit recent, to get it right. Hunt pointed to Salem Kaiser, which just developed an interactive curriculum that incorporates direct input from all nine tribes. In June, Hunt and representatives from other tribes spent the day in a classroom going through the curriculum as if they were the students.

Ramona Halcomb, education director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and also a member of the AI/AN Advisory Panel, said Pendleton School District has come a long way. Not only did the district approach the Umatilla for assistance in developing a curriculum for a two-week Oregon Trail program, but teachers and administrators have attended cultural events, a few even participated in a sweat with Halcomb, and new teachers have orientation at the tribal museum.

“Ever since the boarding school heritage, developing trust and developing that time to connect with communities is what’s important and what’s so needed—and Pendleton does that extremely well,” Halcomb said.

Including the culturally relevant curriculum, the new plan contains 11 state educational objectives, ranging from increasing AI/AN attendance and graduation rates to meet or exceed state levels to districts recruiting a minimum of 5 percent AI/AN educators and ensuring that educators receive AI/AN responsive training at least once per year, to boost outcomes of Indian students. The plan contains strategies for each objective, though the finer details need to be worked out. “Now we are developing subcommittees that are taking each of the goals and developing action plans—the how this will actually unfold,” said ODE’s Advisor to Deputy State Superintendent on Indian Education April Campbell.

Undoubtedly, there will be challenges in meeting these objectives. Take the 5 percent AI/AN educator target. Halcomb called it a “lofty goal,” but with Native American students dropping out of Oregon public schools at a rate 6.8 percent (2013-2014)—the highest in the state—aiming high is better than aiming low. As Halcomb sees it, through collaboration with the tribes and other entities dedicated to increasing diversity in the education workforce, it is not an unachievable goal. For instance, she would love to see school districts matching tribal scholarships for students pursuing teaching careers.

They also need to brainstorm ways to promote teaching as a worthy profession to go into. Out of the 160 Cow Creek students currently receiving tribal scholarships, none are in teaching programs. “Going into teaching is really tough. You are so governed by rules and regulations,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Campbell is excited about the updated plan, which also provides for a full-time Indian education specialist. She said they took a look at what other states, such as Minnesota, Montana, and Washington, are doing and trying to learn from their successes.

RELATED: From ‘Encouraged’ to ‘Mandatory’: Schools Must Teach Native History in Washington

“Our students are struggling, and so we need to do something for them,” Campbell said. “Our leadership recognized that. I think everyone is ready, ready to see something change for our students. It’s time. It’s overdue.”


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/08/03/mandatory-native-american-curriculum-cards-oregon-161234