Luau-themed lunch brings elders and youth together

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

“Okay, I want everybody to find a partner and create a secret handshake,” instructed DJ Monie Ordonia to a large crowd of elders and youth at the Tulalip Senior Center. “Once you’ve done your handshake, you can come up front and we’ll vote on whose is the best.”

Immediately kids sprung from their seats in search of an elder, someone to create a super-secret and super-cool handshake with. Some were a simple, yet firm handshake. Others were complex and even involved a little choreography. The important thing to note is the youth’s display of respect, how quickly they responded so their elders wouldn’t have to leave their chairs and also how they introduced themselves by explaining their lineage so the elders could identify their family. This was all showcased during the first activity of the Hawaiian Paradise event hosted by the Tulalip Problem Gambling program on August 7. 

The luau-themed luncheon united youth and elders alike in an afternoon of fun, which included a dance group competition. The kids continued to show respect to their elders throughout the day by happily plating and delivering a delicious Hawaiian meal catered by Ryan’s Rez-ipes. 

Nadene Foster and granddaughter Kailani Carpenter-Cox attended the event together and were incidentally paired up during the handshake competition. The ladies won the competition, garnering the most applause from the crowd. 

“It’s important to bring our youth and elders together to hang out with each other,” says Nadene.

“It’s fun just to be together and celebrate,” adds Kailani. “All the elders are awesome. I like how all the kids participated in all of the activities. My favorite was creating a handshake with my grandma.”

The event not only brought youth and elders together, it also shed light on problem gambling and how it can affect your family and community. The youth and elders listed many of the ways gambling addiction can become an issue such as depression, boredom, anxiety and the loss of a family member. The group also took the time to brainstorm other activities people can try instead of gambling, like hiking, exercising, writing, and watching movies as well as attending family and cultural events. 

Deyamonta Diaz and Rachel Steeve of Tulalip Youth Services transported two vans filled with kids from the youth center to Hawaiian Paradise. And just for a brief moment, with the amazing weather paired with the food and décor, one could almost trick themselves into thinking they were actually on one of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. 

“We attended this last year and we had quite a few kids too,” states Rachel. “It’s important for the kids to sit among their elders because they can teach the youth so many things. They have all of our knowledge and are the only people who can pass it on. And these youth will get the chance to pass on that same knowledge in the future. It reminds kids a lot about respect and taking care of our elders. All the kids prepared plates and brought food and refreshments to the elders, so it teaches them the importance of taking care of our elders because they took care of us at one point.

“It’s really good to see them having fun and interacting with each other,” she continues. “Just walking around the room you can see the smiles and feel the positive energy radiating from everybody. The dance competition was fun, the food was wonderful and it was nice to bring enlightenment to the issues of problem gambling in a fun way that the elders could teach and the youth can grasp.”

For further information regarding gambling addiction, please contact the Tulalip Problem Gambling program at (360) 716-4304. 

Elder’s luncheon emphasizes triumph over addiction

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Tribes Problem Gambling Program continued their month-long Lifting Our Community Through Recovery concept, in recognition of March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month, by hosting a special elder’s luncheon on Friday, March 24.

Held at the Senior Center, close to 50 elders were in attendance as the program celebrated the wisdom and strength our elders share in the Tulalip community, while acknowledging problem gambling as a disease that can be defeated. A delicious buffet style meal was catered by Ryan Gobin’s Rezipes for the elders to enjoy while listening to members of the gamblers anonymous community share their personal experiences with problem gambling and their victories over it.

In the mainstream, compulsive gambling can often be portrayed as an issue of morality, creed and lack of willpower; something that is a personal choice. However, science has proven compulsive gambling is much more than a decision made from lack of willpower. It is in fact a disease.

“Gambling addiction is a real disease, and impacts communities at the individual, family, extended family, community and society level,” explains Sarah Sense-Wilson, Problem Gambling Coordinator. “Older adults have a number of additional vulnerabilities and risk factors, such as medical conditions and health problems. These issues can render some older adults less active, thereby limiting their social and recreational activities. Isolation, grief and loss, boredom, and having more time (in retirement) can all be additional factors that contribute to older adults being more vulnerable to a gambling disorder.

“The impact of gambling addiction on the extended family and partners is stressful, painful and often leads to crisis (financial, health, mental/emotional, relational and spiritual). Treatment and the 12-step program can help restore wellness and health.”

Gambling addiction has been recognized by the mental health and medical community for nearly 40 years now. There are brain changes that explain why people can’t stop gambling and feel a need to be in a casino sitting at a slot machine or playing a table game. Like asthma or diabetes, there’s no permanent cure for compulsive gambling, but it can be controlled to the point that you are not worrying about it every day.

Tulalip tribal member and elder, Toni Sheldon, understands this all too well from her own battle and triumph over the addiction.

“Recently, over the past few years I started to gamble. It started with going to the [Quil Ceda Creek Casino] for lunch to socialize with friends and former co-workers. While socializing, I’d make my way over to a slot machine and play forty-cent bets,” recalls Toni. The betting amounts began to increase little by little, while her trips to the casino became more frequent. Eventually, the losses were adding up and becoming noticeable to those closest to her. The tipping point came when Toni’s caregiver reviewed a copy of her win-loss statement with her just to show how much money she was putting back into the casino.

“Seeing the financial damage it was bringing to my life, my caregiver suggested doing a self perm bar. I didn’t even know you could do that,” says Toni. A self perm bar is the process by which an individual goes to casino security and has themselves permanently barred from the gaming properties. After being voluntarily barred, if you are caught on the gaming property you will be escorted out and can be cited and/or arrested for trespassing. “With the support of those closest to me, I perm barred myself. It’s now been a full year since I’ve last gambled. My life is much happier, and I have money to spend on life’s necessities once again.”

Following the shared stories and experiences with gambling addiction, the atmosphere continued to be uplifted by the Grammy-winning musical talents of Star Nayea. Tribal elders danced in their chairs and sang along as Star performed their favorite songs to end the luncheon.

For those who may be wondering what the options are for someone with a gambling problem, Sarah Sense-Wilson and Problem Gambling Program is here to help in any way they can.

“Steps a person can take is to call Tulalip Family Services for an appointment or contact me directly for consultation at 360-716-4304. All services are free, confidential and supported by licensed and certified professional staff,” states Sarah. “We provide an array of services including interventions, couples counseling, Family Therapy, group and individual counseling. We believe in a holistic client-centered, culturally responsive approach for supporting the healing and recovery process. We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact us. We are here to serve the Tulalip Tribes community.”


Merging programs to benefit the community

By Kalvin Valdillez

The Tulalip Caregiver Program has recently moved from the Health Clinic to the Senior Center. The move is part of a merge between the Tulalip Elder/Vulnerable Adult Protection Department and the Tulalip Caregiver Program. The joining of the two will provide more efficient and convenient care for their clients.

“The move just seemed like a good fit,” explained Tulalip Elder Protection Manger, Cara McCoy. “Having the two departments housed together will better service the community.”

Aside from location convenience, the merge offers numerous advantages for those in need of assistance. The department is working closely with two caregiving agencies to ensure that cultural needs are met and respected by their team members. The department also recruits and encourages tribal members to become paid certified caregivers, giving them an opportunity to help their fellow community members who are in need of assistance.

“We want to be culturally sensitive and listen to the concerns that everybody has, and address those concerns because we want our people to be able to stay home and get the care they need so they can be with their families,” stated Cara.

The new unified department services close to 90 patients, ages 18 and over, within Snohomish County. With the two programs successfully merging, the next step for the department is managing the supplemental supply for their patients.

Cara states, “Currently, we are in the process of taking over the medicinal supplies. We are learning how to properly store and distribute as well as creating a policy so everybody has an opportunity to get the supplies they need.”

She believes her new crew shares the same goal of taking care of the Tulalip community, “We are all tribal members in the department. I think that we have a unique perspective, we’re thinking of how we can best support our people long-term.”

For more information about the Tulalip Elder Protection Department contact (360) 716-4689.

Rockstar climber Alex Honnold scales up solar in Navajo Territory



By Samantha Larson, Grist

Jimmy Chin


Sunny, high 50s, and just a light breeze: It’s a perfect California December morning for rock climbing at the Owens River Gorge and Alex Honnold has just offered to give me a belay — meaning, he’s offered to attend to the safety rope for me on a climb. The official reason I’m here is to get the scoop on Honnold’s environmental foundation. But, for a climber, getting offered a belay by Honnold is probably the closest thing we have to getting thrown a ball by Peyton Manning or LeBron James.

Because his crazy free-solo (climbing without ropes) ascents in places like Zion, Utah, and Yosemite, Calif., have landed him front-page features in OutsideNational Geographic, and on 60 Minutes, Honnold has probably done more than anyone else to bring the historically fringe sport of climbing into the U.S. mainstream. When he started climbing full-time in 2005, he got used to living the dirtbag life of a rock-obsessed vagabond on about $8,000 a year. Now, the 28-year-old does stuff like star in commercials for Citibank and Dewar’s Scotch.

So, in considering whether to take him up on the offer to do the climb, I’m intimidated. I step back and tell myself I’m here to learn about what he’s up to away from the crag, anyway. Through his namesake foundation, he’s dropping some of his extra cash into environmental projects like Solar Aid and Grid Alternatives.

He’s bringing a can-do attitude to it, too: Instead of looking down at how far the planet could stumble, he’s looking for the next hold. “I feel like a lot of the traditional environmental stuff is sort of depressing,” he says. “You know, ‘the world is fucked, things are going downhill, we’re going to have to drastically change our lifestyles in order to keep the world from being so fucked.’ I’m not really that pessimistic by nature … There are so many solutions that only take, like, doing it,” Honnold says.

For now, he sees the next handhold as solar power, hence his next trip: a 2.5 week tour he’s embarking on Friday that will combine climbing desert towers, biking, and working for his foundation installing solar panels in Navajo Territory. The Honnold Foundation will work with Eagle Energy to install solar power systems into the homes of 30 Navajo elders who are currently living without access to electricity, and a total of 200 solar lights into five schools.

“There’s something like 18,000 households on reservations there that don’t have access to power,” Honnold told me over the phone recently. “And, in sunny Arizona, especially, solar is the ideal solution. It seems like we should be powering people who are on the grid with it, let alone people who are off the grid.”

For the record, I did suck it up and do the climb. Later in the day, a hush came over the crowded crag — everyone around me was looking up. There was Honnold, at the top of that same climb, totally solo.

Here’s some footage I took of Honnold on the climb:


Honnold and Wright leave for their trip on Friday. Look out for their movie Sufferfest 2.0 about it next year. 

Samantha Larson is a science nerd, adventure enthusiast, and fellow at Grist. Follow her on Twitter.