Quil Ceda 3rd graders experience living history at Hibulb

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interwoven Oral History Project Symposium

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steven Madison is teaching traditional carving, and it’s cultural importance

Steven Madison (left) helps a student learn carving techniques.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The pleasant smell of freshly cut cedar floated out of classroom 2 of the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the afternoon of January 19, as a group of ten local citizens gathered for the center’s first Intro to Carving class. The museum enlisted longtime HCC collaborator and Tulalip Master Carver, Steven Madison, to teach the two-part culture series. Wood shavings fell to the floor while the group worked, constructing small projects and exchanging stories and laughter. 

Each participant was challenged to learn the art of carving in an expedited fashion, picking up new tips and tricks throughout the two, three-hour courses. As Steven bounced about the room, personally assisting each student with their carvings, he introduced them to an assortment of tools such as the drawknife, a two-handed blade used to shape wood, and emphasized technique for safety reasons, constantly reminding the class to pay attention when sculpting their pieces. During the class, Steven carefully used a bandsaw to cut a whale design out of a block of cedar for one of his students.

One young lady needed assistance with an adze, a large axe-like tool with a sharp blade used for cutting and smoothing out large pieces of wood. He took a seat next to the student and placed a large slab of cedar on his knee, picked up the tool before advising with a chuckle, ‘don’t do this on your leg’ and began hacking with the adze as strands of wood flew all around him. All eyes appeared to be fixated on the master carver as he gave them a step-by-step tutorial on using the traditional tool. 

“This all started with me simply wanting to teach people how to use the adze,” Steven recalls. “I did a carving demonstration here last year at the [HCC annual Salmon Bake Fundraiser]. During that demonstration, a lot of people were interested and asked their questions about my technique and the history, so I end up teaching them a lot about carving that day. After that, we decided we might as well do the carving class.

“This actually had a pretty good turnout. I really didn’t know how I was going to approach this series,” he admits. “Two, three-hour classes aren’t really enough time to get into depth with carving. So what I did with this class is I told them to go online and find a project they wanted to make, and let them know that we’re going to go all in, hands-on. Each of them chose a design; a salmon, the Tulalip whale, one girl is creating a carving with mountains and tress, like you’d see on a cedar basket. We just start carving wood and they’ve been learning as we go.”

The traditional art of carving has been passed down generation after generation. Amongst Coast Salish tribal communities, carving was important to the cultural lifeways of our people. The ancestors carved items for both ceremonial purposes and everyday use, sculpting canoes, paddles, rattles, masks, totem poles and even longhouses out of the spiritual cedar tree. 

“I’ve always been interested in carving,” expressed young tribal member Khianna Calica. “With that being said, I had no idea where to start or how to get involved. I’ve come to other [HCC] events and when I saw this workshop on the events list, it was perfect timing. Prior to this, I have never touched any carving tools and with the two classes I feel more comfortable with the execution. I came to the workshop today because I think that events at the cultural center are a phenomenal way to preserve the old medicine and the traditional arts and craft. We have to participate. If the knowledge keepers are willing to be here, people need to show up. I found it really important for me to show up and invite these traditions in my life, it’s so healing.”

Steven believes this series is an ideal way for beginning carvers to get familiar with the tools and technique. His partnership with the museum extends throughout the course of this year, hosting another Intro to Carving class before starting an in-depth six-week course in the late summer where students will craft paddles and spindle whorls. 

“The reason we’re doing this is really because we want to keep this alive forever,” states Steven. “That’s why it’s always so good to see the younger generations learning. A lot of kids want to learn but don’t necessarily have the patience for it. I’m one of few people who learned from my grandfather [Frank Madison] and Bernie Gobin. There’s a lot of great carvers, but those are the ones I learned from. There are so few of us left who know the technique of the old ways and the reason why we carve. You can go to anybody to learn how to carve a totem pole, it’s not rocket science, but the reason we do it is because each carving has a point and there’s a story to each one. 

“Carving is so important to our people. It was almost gone before [William] Shelton carved his story poles at a time when they were prosecuting people for carving and practicing traditions. Carving was passed down from my grandfather to my uncle to me and now I’m teaching that to the upcoming generations who want to learn.”

For further details about the Intro to Carving classes, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.

Share your story: Poetry at Hibulb

Shawnee tribal member and renowned Indigenous Poet, Laura Da’, read poems from her most recent book, ‘Instruments of the True Measure’, the follow up to the critically acclaimed, Tributaries.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

As far back as many can recall, long before precontact times, Indigenous Peoples used the art of poetry to engage their communities and convey important life lessons. Through stories, the younger generations learn how to navigate through their journey and avoid some of the many pitfalls life has to offer. 

Poetry has always been a way to cleverly portray a story, rhythmically using words to paint vivid pictures into the audience’s mind. Traditionally, poems were crafted as blessings to the creator and countless storytellers throughout time used poetry to explain how Mother Earth came to be, with such verses describing the raven stealing the moon and tossing it into the sky. And across the world, generation after generation, romantics relied on the expressive art form to win the hearts of their main attraction. 

Once a month, the Hibulb Cultural Center hosts a poetry series inside of their longhouse where local Indigenous poets are featured and invited to share their words with the community. The series provides a space where creatives can tell their story and explain the thought behind each of their readings, while listeners delve into the deeper meaning, paying close attention and hanging onto every word.  

“Tulalip elders were the foremost poets in our area,” says Hibulb Cultural Center Education Curator, Lena Jones. “Our ancestral language itself is rhythmical and expressive. When one translates the elders’ words and wisdom from Lushootseed, the words contain profound meaning expressed in a beautiful way. Our elders tell us that the ancestral elders advised us to use words as medicine for the people.

“Hank Gobin,” she continues. “The first director of the Hibulb Cultural Center and himself a talented poet, included poetry as one of the objectives of the Center, feeling poetry was becoming a lost art.”

On the afternoon of January 3, Shawnee tribal member and renowned Indigenous Poet, Laura Da’ read poems from her most recent book, Instruments of the True Measure, the follow up to the critically acclaimed, Tributaries. During Hibulb’s first poetry series of the year, she explained that she created fictional characters to tell the true story of the relocation of the Shawnee people.

“I see them [my books] as part of the same art, they definitely go together,” says Laura about her publications. “They both have a sense of going back and forth from the history to the present time and kind of wobbling along that line and taking the linear piece of time out. Mostly they [show]how the past impacts the present, particularly for Shawnee people and how the history informs how we live today and how knowledge of it can gives us more strength, but also understanding of our conflicts within our own nation. Knowing what my own ancestors have gone through is helpful to me to know how to interact with challenges today.”

Poetry is an essential art within many cultures and has led to modern day music and film. To Native American culture specifically, poems are integral to many tribal communities’ way of life. Since the years of forced relocation and assimilation, contemporary Indigenous writers use poetry to speak about important issues and accurately recount the colonization era that is far too often romanticized in U.S. History. While displaying incredible resiliency, the poets give insight to rez life, coping with generational trauma as well as many other issues happening across Native America. 

“Poetry is the way I love to write best because I like that it allows a lot for the unsaid,” Laura explains. “I feel that it gives you time to sit with difficulty and also with beauty but it doesn’t tell you what to do with it. It’s a meditative kind of writing and I like to do it because it’s so difficult. It makes you notice things so much as a person. You work so hard to get the line, the image and the rhythm, you create a relationship with words that ebbs back to an original appreciation of what it means to say something.”

The one-hour poetry series allows the featured artist to express their words for approximately half-an-hour. The floor is then opened up for fellow wordsmiths to share their poems and ideas with the people. 

“Poets such as Laura Da’ bear historical witness to the strength of the Native American spirit and inspire appreciation for the diversity of the American experience,” states Lena. “Others, such as Tulalip tribal member Sarah Miller, a poet and Lushootseed Language teacher, illuminate Tulalip’s vibrant cultural legacy. Sarah will be the featured poet on February 7. The open mic portion of the poetry series brings an endless source of wisdom and imagination, often times humor, and quite often meaningful dialogue to the Tulalip experience and current social issues.”

In recent years, poetry has seen a huge resurgence within tribal communities. More and more youth are reciting original words that reflect their perspectives while tackling issues that they witness on a day-to-day basis including suicide and drug abuse. Laura encourages young Indigenous writers and artists to pursue their dream and continue creating. She also urges young Native women to use their talents as a tool to heighten their voice, expressing that stories about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as well as domestic and sexual assault, need to be heard. 

 “My main piece of advice is, seek and cultivate your community,” she says. “Use your writing to enhance your friendships, use your writing to talk to your elders and listen to them while honoring your voice too. For young Indigenous writers, know how much we need your story.”

The next Hibulb Cultural Center Poetry Series will be held on February 7. For additional details, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.

Hibulb Cultural Center opens new wool weaving exhibit

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Generation after generation, the Coast Salish tradition of wool weaving was historically passed down from mother to daughter, since the beginning of time all the way until the years of assimilation. The art of creating clothing, regalia and blankets from wool was nearly lost until it saw a sudden resurgence in the early 2000’s. Of course, the tradition wasn’t completely lost, after the boarding school years a number of families continued to practice weaving. Both oral history as well as several artifacts served as reference points when bringing back traditional wool weaving. 

Master Weavers Betty Pasco (Suquamish), Danielle Morsette (Suquamish), Dr. Susan Pavel and Frieda George (Sto:lo Nation) are among the few names who deserve the most credit for the revival. These ladies took it upon themselves to host a number of classes on local reservations to teach tribal members the tradition that seemed to be fading from existence due to the advancement of technology.  

The revitalization allowed Coast Salish people to reconnect with the tools and textiles our ancestors created, as well as reflect on the significance certain woven items possess within tribal communities. Now all of the students from the wool weaving resurgence are passing their knowledge down to the next generation as more and more tribal members want to learn how to traditionally weave blankets and regalia, as well as the history of wool weaving.

On the night of November 2, Tulalip and surrounding communities gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) for an exclusive first look at the museum’s new exhibit, Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool. As the guests entered the museum’s longhouse they were welcomed by HCC Senior Curator, Tessa Campbell. 

“This exhibit demonstrates the resilience of our people, our culture and how the teachings have been passed down,” explained Tessa. “Coast Salish wool weaving started to disappear around the early 1900’s with the introduction of the boarding schools. Around 1905 you started seeing the sale of goods by tribal members such as vegetables because they were learning how to grow crops. But basketry and woven blankets were being sold around this time also. Around 1920, tons of socks were being knitted, which seemed to replace wool weaving. And in the 30’s, the Tulalip Home Improvement Club was started by a group of Tulalip women and this one woman started teaching Coast Salish wool weaving. It seemed to disappear up until around 2000-2005 when Tulalip people start weaving again and it seems they learned from Susan Pavel and Danielle Morrissett. Those two weavers were the forces that brought back Coast Salish weaving in Tulalip.”

Woven tapestry by Frieda George.

Master Weaver Frieda George traveled all the way from Chilliwack B.C. with her family and was honored as the evening’s guest speaker. Frieda recalled first learning how to weave as a child, when she would visit with her grandmother. She also stated that she is a fourth generation weaver and has carried the tradition for her entire life, sharing her techniques with Coast Salish people for decades. Frieda’s daughter, Roxanne, then took the floor to share a story about how her great-great-grandmother used to cleverly place branches along pathways in the Canadian mountains where mountain goats were known to pass through. After a few days, she would return to the mountains and collect all of the fur from the branches to use for weaving traditional blankets. 

Museum attendees were free to explore the new exhibit in an open-house style setting. Upon entering the exhibit, your eyes immediately meet a beautiful wool woven shawl that was gifted to Tulalip Board of Director Mel Sheldon. You’re then taken on an interactive adventure that is fun for the entire family. The exhibit features a number of hands-on activities for the youth including a puppet show, a touch-screen weaving game as well as a sensory station. On display were a number of pieces created by Tulalip tribal members including a spindle whorl by Tulalip carver Mike Gobin and several regalia pieces woven by a number of Tulalip artists. 

Spindle whorl
by Mike Gobin.

“We reached out to the community to see who was an active weaver and if they wanted to loan any pieces,” says Tessa. “We had twelve pieces donated by weavers Virginia Jones, Carolyn Moses, Sarah Andres, Joy Lacy, Tessa Campbell, Andrew Gobin and Taylor Henry.”

“I did two pieces for this exhibit, a speaker sash with a matching headband,” explains Taylor Henry. “I’ve been weaving since 2014 and have been beading since 2004. Once I mastered beading, I wanted to expand my knowledge and put my hands in other textiles. I did these pieces on my own, it was my second project that I made on the loom my auntie Marci gave me. I wanted to stick with traditional colors, I did the natural white and brown, I didn’t want to go too contemporary. 

“It’s an honor to be asked to have something displayed in the museum,” he continues. “It’s important because it teaches us our identity and where we come from, who we are. We may work with commercial wool now, but we still use that traditional technique and style of weaving and that’s something that connects us to our ancestors.”

Traditionally, the Coast Salish people utilized fur from mountain goats as well as from wooly dogs when weaving. Wooly dogs were a breed that the Northwest tribes held in high regard because of their fur, so much so that tribes kept the dogs on nearby islands away from village dogs to prevent crossbreeding. In his expedition log, Captain George Vancouver stated that the wooly dogs resembled pomeranians but larger. The dogs were sheared every summer and their wool was used to prepare for the upcoming cold seasons. After the arrival of blanket manufacturers like the Hudson Bay Company and the importation of sheep, tribes no longer had to use wooly dog fur as sheep fur was more water resistant and blankets became easily accessible. Tribes eventually brought the wooly dogs back to their villages and because of crossbreeding, the breed went extinct in the early 1900’s. 

Shortly after the opening of the museum, HCC sent a traditional blanket to the University of Victoria so they could determine what type of fabric was used to create the blanket. The university recently contacted the cultural center with the results and to great surprise, the blanket was comprised of both mountain goat and wooly dog fur.

“I think the focal point of the exhibit is the fact that we have a wooly dog blanket which is very rare and very few museums throughout the whole world have them,” Tessa exclaims. “We’re so fortunate to have something from the 1820’s that helps preserve our culture and helps us tell the history of this important part of Coast Salish weaving.” 

Master Weaver Tillie Jones held a live demonstration during the exhibit’s first night. On large looms, she displayed two of the projects that she’s currently working on and explained the many intricacies and the importance of weaving. 

“We have a twill pattern, twine pattern and tabby pattern,” she says. “I really like to mix them, it reminds me of the blankets I grew up seeing, the significant ones the chiefs would wear and the status that comes with those different pieces. We also have different dyes. We use huckleberries and different natural materials whether it’s nettles, walnuts, madrona bark, you can use commercial dyes as well. Twining really teaches patience. You have to be present when your weaving, if you let your mind wander, you can make a mistake. It’s important because you’re putting yourself into your work, whether you’re a carver or a weaver, you’re bringing that work to life, you’re breathing life into your piece.”

Tillie is currently hosting a six-week course at the museum, teaching the community the art of wool weaving. The class immediately filled up upon its announcement but she encourages you to call HCC and request to be put on a waitlist for the next course and to visit the Interwoven History exhibit in the meantime.

“Whether we’re teaching or creating our weavings, we’re keeping it alive for the generations to come,” says Tillie. “We’re showing that this is the regalia that we used to wear, that we still wear and that this is who we are as Coast Salish people. That’s how we’re recognized, by our regalia. When we travel people recognize where we come from, who we are and what our roles are in life.”

Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool is on display until the end of 2019, be sure to visit soon. And for more information, please visit www.HibulbCulturalCenter.org

Traditional salmon dinner, art and culture at Hibulb fundraiser

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

For a brief moment, the smokey, hazy air from local forest fires dissipated and blue skies were visible in Tulalip on the evening of August 18. The timing couldn’t have been any better because the Tulalip Foundation planned for a spectacular outdoor event at the Hibulb Cultural Center, which involved cooking salmon traditionally over an open-flame fire pit. Over two hundred guests arrived at the museum for the second annual Salmon Bake Fundraiser in benefit of the Hibulb Cultural Center. 

While dinner was prepared the guests toured the museum’s exhibits, learning of Tulalip’s history and culture. The cultural center’s upcoming exhibit Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool is due to open this November, and fundraiser attendees got a sneak preview of some of the blankets and artifacts as well as some of the works by Coast Salish Wool Weaver, Tillie Jones, in the museum’s longhouse. Guests also used this time to bid on a variety of traditional art created by Tulalip artists, such as baskets, blankets, beaded earrings, drums and paintings, donated for the silent auction. A number of guests entered a raffle for the chance to win a framed art piece by James Madison or a gift basket donated by the T Spa at the Tulalip Resort Casino. 

Once everyone grabbed a plate full of salmon, they sat down to enjoy each other’s company while Tulalip tribal member and Hibulb Cultural Center Museum Assistant, Cary Michael Williams, played a few tunes on the traditional flute. Young Tulalip Storyteller Xavion Myles-Gilford also took the stage to share traditional Tulalip stories and received a great deal of applause for his work. Tulalip Artist and Master Carver Steven Madison held a live demonstration carving a large cedar salmon, which sold immediately after it was completed. Red Eagle Soaring, a Native youth theatre group in Seattle, performed several songs for the guests as well. 

Last’s year’s salmon bake raised over $25,000 which was used to open new exhibits as the cultural center continues their mission to revive, restore, protect, interpret, collect and enhance the history, traditional cultural values and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes. For seven years, the museum has taught both surrounding communities and tourists of the Tulalip way life, while bringing attention to serious topics such as the boarding school era and assimilation. Local kids learn words of the Lushootseed language while engaging in hands-on, interactive activities at each of the exhibits. The center also hosts a number of events including cultural nights, where the community can make traditional items like baskets and drums as well as participate in Coast Salish jams and traditional flute nights. 

As the night ended, the highest bidders retrieved their newly acquired Tulalip artwork from the auction and the raffle winners were awarded their prizes. The second annual Salmon Bake Fundraiser was yet again a great success. 

“It was a really good time,” says Mytyl Hernandez, Hibulb Cultural Center Marketing and PR. “I think everyone wanted to enjoy a good salmon dinner while we shared a little bit of the Tulalip culture. Our artists and vendors donated over thirty items for the silent auction which went really well. I want to thank all of our vendors, artists, community members, tribal leadership for all of their support because without their support we wouldn’t be as successful as we are.”

For more information, including upcoming events, please contact the Hibulb Cultural Center at (360) 716-2600. 

HCC Flute Circle encourages self-expression and creativity

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Soothing, peaceful music resonated throughout the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the night of Thursday, May 24. Around thirty community members gathered in the museum’s longhouse to listen and take part in HCC’s bi-monthly flute circle. The circle is led by Tulalip tribal member and HCC Museum Assistant, Cary Williams, and is a recent addition to the museum’s Culture Series workshops.

“I’ve been playing since 2007, so eleven years now, wow,” Cary reflects. “Growing up, I went to church at St. Anne’s and they would do an intermission with flute and from that I was inspired to pick the instrument up myself. My first flute was actually a Chinese flute that was made from maple. It was very thin and actually broke when I was climbing up a hillside where I was playing as a kid. After that, I purchased more flutes up until I met my uncle Paul Nyenhuis and he gifts me handmade flutes that he makes from his heart. I’ve been playing those since and been sharing my music with my community since I started playing. I pack them with me wherever I go and share with anyone who is interested in listening.”

Cary enlisted his uncle Paul to help encourage a new generation of flute players to join in on the fun. Paul is local flutist who constructs and plays his own collection of handmade instruments, all of which are carved from various trees such as cedar, maple and cherry and also contain their very own stories. Paul shares the story behind each flute with the community and lets them get an up-close, detailed look at each of his designs before performing a melody for the circle. Cary also performs a number of songs throughout the event, which was originally inspired by his love and passion for the Indigenous instrument.  

“Being a flutist myself, I wanted a space where other flutists could share a connection with each other and also share their songs with the community, the young people and the elders of the tribe,” he explains. “And to help inspire an artform that was once lost as well as encourage self-expression through music, because physically, spiritually and emotionally the flute helps out a lot. 

“Personally, it helps me in my day-to-day life. If I’m overwhelmed I can play the flute and calm myself and come back to a great state of being or if I’m happy I can play a song and share that happiness as well. Just honoring our surroundings and our ancestors by playing the songs of them, speaking about the area that surrounds us, the Pacific Northwest, and talking about our salmon and that cedar tree. The music speaks on behalf of the unspoken, our ancestors and our Tribe. That’s what these songs feel like to me.”

During the circles, participants are invited to share stories and songs of the traditional instrument with one another. Everett community member, Ray Mutchler, was delighted when he heard of the flute circle through a Facebook post and attended to showcase his music. Ray and his girlfriend Carlita have been playing the instrument over the past couple years and are a part of a local Native American flute community. 

“I think it’s important for people to learn how to express themselves, especially through music,” says Ray. “Creativity is an important part of life. I learned how to play clarinet in public school and it’s a hard instrument to play for improvisation. The Native American flute is almost all improvisation and that’s great for creativity and self-expression and those are great qualities to learn and possess. I’m grateful for the opportunity to come here to listen and play today.”

The flute circle inspired all ages, as youth and elders awed during the performances inquired about the history of the flute. Research has proven that the Native American flute has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest instruments in history, created shortly after drums and rattles. The flute is more prominently used by tribes to the south, such as Arizona and New Mexico, as well as by many Indigenous nations of the great plains, but is also an integral part of the Coast Salish culture and is used during a number of important ceremonies. 

Once the hour-long flute circles have ended, a handful of youngsters are often gifted beginner flutes from Cary. However, like many instruments, the flutes choose their owners, who often have an immediate connection when first exposed to the instrument.

“The teachings of the flute live within you,” Cary says. “My uncle made some give away flutes for me to hold on to and when I feel that feeling to give away, I gift them to the kids. I always ask if they’re inspired to learn and the majority of the time, being a part of this event, they are very inspired to learn. So I hand them over to them like they were handed to me, with no intentions and no expectations, just to know that they have that tool now and can learn from the flute and learn from themselves by playing the notes that they like that come from the flute.” 

Paul has already gifted Cary’s newborn son a small flute so he can play alongside his dad while growing up. Cary’s goal is to have his son playing by the age of three and participating in future flute circles at the museum.

The next flute circle will be held on the last Thursday of July as HCC alternates hosting the flute circles and the coastal jams each month. For further details, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600. 

Burke educators share cultural insights with Hibulb visitors

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It was a much busier than normal morning for the Hibulb Cultural Center as many visitors, from young kids to elders, stopped in on April 5 to take advantage of a new opportunity to get up close and personal with cultural objects, artifacts and traditional items. Learning more about Tulalip and other tribes in the Pacific Northwest was made possible by the BurkeMobile and its helpful program educators.

BurkeMobile is a traveling program that brings Burke educators and real museum objects to learning environments across the state. Program participants are able to investigate the cultural heritage of local tribes through hands-on activities that stimulate curiosity and model new ways to learn. 

“BurkeMobile is our statewide outreach program. We travel all over the state visiting schools, communities, and public libraries to showcase natural history and culture programs,” explained Katharine Caning, Burke Mobile Manager. “This specific program we’ve brought to Hibulb is called Living Traditions. It’s about Native American cultural traditions in Washington State.”

A highly appreciated program created by Burke Museum, located on the University of Washington campus, BurkeMobile was created specifically to stimulate learning about accurate Native culture. The program has included Native voices in its creation, such as collaborating with Hibulb and adding a mock Hibulb Village with accompanying miniature longhouse and canoe display. 

“Part of this program is help teachers implement Since Time Immemorial curriculum in their classrooms,” continued Katharine. “A piece of that is having the learning material be more localized in order for students to learn about tribes living close to them. For example, when we reached out to Tulalip, Hibulb offered to build a model longhouse for us to display when we go to schools in this area.”

Over the two-hour window BurkeMobile was available, many Hibulb visitors, especially the youth, were engaged with the hands-on materials. They saw how cultural practices can grow and change over time from generation to generation and learned about the diverse, local Native culture. Burke educators were more than willing to answer any questions and offer insights into various subjects, just like they do when traveling to schools.

“One thing we always do is tell students whose ancestral lands they are on and what tribal cultural center is closest to them. We encourage them to learn more about tribes and ask questions to further their understanding,” shared Beatrice Garrard, BurkeMobile Education Assistant. “These traditions are ancient, in that they have been practiced since time immemorial, yet they have been adopted and are still ongoing today. Students learn that even though some of the objects look old, they were in fact created recently and these items are part of a still living tradition.”

For more information about the BurkeMobile, please contact (206) 543-5591 or email burked@uw.edu