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 

Coastal Jams keep the cultural fire burning

By Kalvin Valdillez

On the fourth Thursday of every month, traditional drumbeats echo from the Longhouse of the Hibulb Cultural Center between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. And according to a couple of museum employees, the songs can be heard from as far as the intersection of Marine Drive and 27th Ave NE.

Traditional singers, dancers, storytellers and musicians from across the nation gather at the museum to celebrate Indigenous culture during an event known as the Hibulb Cultural Center Coastal Jam. During the most recent Coastal Jam, tribal members from Tlingit, Apache and Swinomish joined Tulalip members in a fun hour of song and dance.

“These Coastal Jams are all about keeping the cultural fire burning,” explains Coastal Jam Host and Tulalip tribal member, Cary Williams. “We’ve been doing this for around five to six months. I’ve been to many different of arenas and many different styles of gathering, so in that way I’ve picked up those tools to run this floor. More and more people show up and more and more drums and songs from all different tribes are shared on this floor. It’s an open floor for traditions and teachings; we also play flute songs as well. We honor our elders and give them time to speak, we also allow the children to participate and pick up those teachings and be exposed to the songs and traditions.”

Many participants from other tribes shared their songs as well as a little bit about themselves and their families during the event.

Traditional Flutist, Paul Nyenhuis, opened and concluded the ceremony, performing beautiful melodies on his handmade flutes. Paul also gifted miniature flutes to the youth in attendance. During one of the songs, a young tribal member was inspired to take to the floor to showcase her traditional dance skills. Soon after, participants began to join the young dancer until nearly every person in the Longhouse was either dancing or singing. One of the first to join the young lady was community member and Apache tribal member, Ayanna Fuentes.

“I think the event is really good,” states Ayanna. “I live in Stanwood-Camano area and so most jams I have to drive out like forever far, so it’s super nice to have a local and safe space in the area. It definitely warms my heart to be able to come and share and sing. I love to dance. I sing and drum a lot but dancing is one of my favorite things about jams so it’s nice to be able to dance on a regular Thursday, it’s beautiful.”

Currently the Coastal Jams are held for only an hour, but Cary explained that as the event grows, so will the duration, expressing he wants each jam to go as long as it can for as long as it needs to.

“It’s an honor to carry these songs,” Cary expresses. “It’s an honor to have them as a part of my life, to share them with the youth of this tribe and to have them out in front of our elders as well. It also heals me along the way when people come and share their songs. Our doors are always open and we invite all drummers and singers to this space to share what they have to offer to their community and families. Also, the outside world that comes and looks at who we are as Indian People, we also have that ground to educate upon and share our ways of life and our ways of viewing the world we all live in. I feel like participation keeps growing, one day soon this Longhouse will be too small for this event.”

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

Weekly Wednesday Weaving Workshops at Hibulb

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The Hibulb Cultural Center and Museum hosts a lineup of classes that teach the Tulalip and Marysville communities about the traditional lifeways of the northwest Indigenous Peoples. Such classes include drum making, carving, beading, traditional flute demonstrations as well as storytelling and poetry nights. A series of classes that regularly attracts newcomers are the Weaving Gathering Workshops where participants learn how to weave an assortment of items including cedar baskets, loom blankets and regalia such as headbands, hats, neckties and purses.

The workshops are taught in an open-forum style class setting that encourages attendees to work on personal projects and visit while mastering the art of weaving. In preparation for the annual Treaty Days Commemoration, a group of dedicated weavers have been working persistently, meeting each week since December, to create headbands to gift to the speakers as well as the floor and table managers during the ceremony.

All ages are welcome to attend the weekly weaving sessions. The museum also invites weavers of any skill levels to participate during the gatherings. Cedar kits are available for purchase to help beginners get started.

“They’ll show anyone interested in learning, especially little kids. They’ll make little roses and small baskets with them,” says Hibulb Cultural Center Education Curator and Tulalip Weaver, Lena Jones. “It’s a place where people have the room and space to create whatever they want.”

The workshops are held every Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Hibulb Cultural Center Classrooms. For additional information please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.

Hibulb Exhibit Teaches Kids About Agriculture During Assimilation Years

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Beginning in the late 1800’s and extending into the early 1900’s, boarding schools were established across America in an effort to strip the culture and traditions from Indigenous Peoples. Native children were taken from their homes and were punished for speaking their traditional language and practicing their cultural teachings while in the schools. The atrocities were occurring across the nation as the students who were forced to attend the boarding schools were mistreated and often beaten. The United States Government set up these schools to introduce the western lifestyle, including the English language, in attempt to ‘civilize’ Native people. However, students were tragically abused, both physically and mentally.

The Tulalip Indian Boarding School opened in 1905, fifty years after the signing of the Point Elliot Treaty of 1855, and operated until 1932. One of the main areas of study at the boarding school was agriculture. Tulalip tribal members were learning how to grow their own crops and were to become farmers. In 1915, Tulalip and several surrounding tribes held their first Indian Agriculture Fair as a requirement by the state. At the fair, students showcased their new ‘Americanized’ teachings as well as some traditionally inspired handicrafts such as an assortment of tools and baskets. Many events occurred at the fair including a football game and an award ceremony. Tulalip Indian Boarding School Superintendent Dr. Charles Buchanan would continue the fair, holding the first annual Indian Fair two years later on October 5 and 6, 1917.

On the hundredth anniversary of the first annual Indian Fair, the Hibulb Cultural Center opened a new exhibit, Cultivating History: Tulalip Indian Fair, sharing the history of the agriculture fair, which occurred for over ten years. The exhibit features many interactive activities and is targeted for youth from kindergarten to the third grade; and also provides exciting displays with interesting information to keep parents entertained as well.

“We have all these reports from the early 1900s about how the U.S. Government was attempting to train our people to become farmers, becoming dependent on small plots of land,” explains Hibulb Cultural Center Lead Curator, Tessa Campbell. “Each family received 80-acre allotments and the government wanted Native Americans to farm on their land, deterring them from going out and practicing the hunting and gathering lifestyle.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that we were able to obtain so much information on the fair,” she continues. “We have newspapers that start from the very first fair in 1915 all the way up to 1922. We have all the original brochures from the fair and the original ribbons. That’s where the inspiration for the exhibit actually came from, when I was hired in 2009 we had one little ribbon from the 1917 fair. As I continued working, all this material kept coming in until one day we had enough material for the exhibit. The photographs depict the different displays of the exhibit that our tribal people put together. The fair was overseen by Dr. Charles Milton Buchanan, everything else was done by tribal members. They promoted it, fundraising, advertisement, they put together all of the displays and developed a committee. We’re lucky to have some photographs depicting some of the events that took place at the fair – there were a lot of sports games like football games, tug-of-war, canoe races and canoe tug-of-war.”

The exhibit is sure to keep the youngsters entertained by engaging them with fun activities. Aside from the original fair items, and a Chief William Shelton carving and headdress on display, kids can play a variety of games during their Indian Fair experience.

“We have touch screen games that were developed by our TDS Department,” says Tessa. “We wanted to have learning activities to reflect the Washington State learning standards, so there’s a math element. One is a canoe racing game, kids race each other. You can do one to two players, so the kids can play against the computer or a friend. They answer math questions such as subtraction and addition; whoever hits the correct button first, their canoe will go faster. The other game is called At the Fair and it’s a farmers market where the youth sell their produce and win prizes.

Then we have the garden section, one garden bed has actual fake dirt, and the other is made out of felt. Kids can build their own garden and play in the sandbox. There’s also a produce stand that our TERO construction department built for us, they did an awesome job. There’s a cash register with games so that kids can practice buying and selling produce. There’s also a chalkboard wall where kids can design their own gardens. It’s really a highly interactive exhibit.

When I’ve told tribal members about the Indian Fair they’re surprised to learn about it, a lot of tribal members don’t know about this history,” she continues. “I think [the exhibit] is important because it reinforces the importance of the treaty and sustaining our cultural lifeways like hunting, gathering and access to our natural resources.”

The Cultivating History: The Tulalip Indian Fair exhibit is currently on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center and will extend into 2018. For more information, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.

Hibulb Cultural Center Hosts 5th Annual Film Festival

Larry Campbell Sr. (Swinomish) and Tracy Rector (Seminole/Choctaw)
accept lifetime achievement awards at the Film Festival for their work in cultural sharing and filmmaking.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Local filmmakers, cinephiles, culturalists and food fanatics gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center on Saturday September 23, to attend the Center’s annual Film Festival. Every year the festival has a new theme and filmmakers are encouraged to submit a project correlating to the theme, however, all projects are welcome. The Cultural Center chose First Foods: Feeding our Spirits as the theme for this year’s festival.

Celebrating its fifth year, the festival featured a showing of several Indigenous films, a presentation by the Rediscovery Program and a story presented in Lushootseed by Natosha Gobin. Awards were presented to filmmakers in attendance as well as lifetime achievement awards to Swinomish elder Larry Campbell Sr. and Longhouse Media Director and Seminole/Choctaw tribal member Tracy Rector for their work in cultural sharing and filmmaking.

Language teacher Natosha Gobin tells a story in Lushootseed.

The Rediscovery Program shared the history of traditional Tulalip ancestral foods and a food tasting which included hawthorn horsetail peppermint tea, basil stinging nettle pesto, deer and elk meat, as well as mixed berries comprised of salal berries and mountain huckleberries. The Rediscovery Program also showcased a traditional bentwood box used for cooking. Inside the box were a variety of traditional foods, including mussels, oysters, clams, salmon, elk meat, berries and herbs; as well as cooking necessities such as cedar-woven food storage baskets, cooking rocks and utensils.

“It’s truly a blessing to be able to be one with our environment,” expresses Rediscovery Program Coordinator, Inez Bill. “We need to share that with our young people so they know that the lifeways of our people is very important to who we are. We need to see that continues to our grandchildren’s grandchildren. What’s important to know and remember is that our ancestors were one with their environment; and being one with the environment, they had a key identity with the resources. These natural resources provided for all of the needs for our people; it provided shelter, tools, transportation to go from one area to another. This relationship with the natural environment also meant that they respected the environment, they had teachings and values that they lived by. They had a spiritual connection that they followed daily.

“The spiritual connection, the teachings and the values were in all the lifeways of our people,” she continues. “Whether it was hunting, fishing or gathering it was done in a proper manner – with the rituals, making the baskets, carvings and all of the different teachings that took place. We had people that were so keen to the native plants that they were able to provide the medicine that was needed to help our people live. There were no hospitals; there was no fast food outside the reservation like there are now. Our people were a lot healthier than they are today. As our people adapted to the changing world, our bodies were not accustomed to these drastic changes and it’s not always in the best interest for our health. We need to do the best we can to continue to keep some of these foods, not for ourselves, but for the future generations. Because we know that when we eat our native foods we’re not only nourishing our bodies, we’re nourishing our spirits.”

Rediscovery Program Coordinator, Inez Bill.

 

Following the presentation by the Rediscovery Program, festival attendees were treated to a viewing of eight films.

“We have categories in animation, documentaries long and short, feature films long and short, anti-bullying and experimental films,” explains Hibulb Cultural Center Education Curator and Film Festival Organizer, Lena Jones. “We have youth categories for animation, documentaries, feature films, anti-bullying, and experimental also. We have a section specific to Tulalip members in all those categories as well.”

Navajo Filmmaker Kody Dayish submitted three films for this year’s event. In his film The Beginning, a Navajo elder explains the heritage and traditions of the Navajo people to his grandson through traditional song. Kody also tackled serious issues such as bullying in schools and suicide during his three-minute film, Spared. For his third submission, Goodbye, a Navajo elder returns to her childhood home and is hit with a wave of nostalgia as she reminisces of young love in a music video-style film featuring music by Navajo band, Our Last Chants.

The Hibulb Cultural Center Film Festival also screened the short animation film, σčəδαδξʷ. The film’s name is in the traditional Lushootseed language, meaning salmon. The animation explains the importance of salmon to Coastal Natives while depicting the salmon’s lifecycle. The main character is the late Billy Frank Jr. and is told entirely in his voice, as the cartoon was built from one of his speeches.

“When I first saw [σčəδαδξʷ] I was at home reviewing all the films and I just cried,” states Swinomish tribal member and Hibulb Cultural Center Film Festival Judge, Robin Carneen. “Billy Frank Jr. was such a hero in our Northwest area because he was such a fighter for the rights of the people – treaty rights, our right to fish. He was on the ground to the day that he passed. That is such a powerful film. And to mix it as an animated film, it’s going to reach even younger generations. I grew up watching cartoons, not a lot of educational purpose to them except maybe for entertainment value and not necessarily always a good message. Later as an adult and watching animation, you think ‘wow all that was going into my brain?’ You see how much of an influence animation, films and TV are. To see Billy Frank again – he’s immortalized. His message is immortalized now, for all of us and all the generations yet to come so that we don’t quit fighting. This film is going to be our inspiration to make sure that fight keeps happening for generations to come.”

Tulalip tribal member, David Spencer Sr., presented his film, Waiting for Blackberries, which displayed clay Stick Indians chanting a traditional song to help ripen blackberries during the upcoming spring season. David was inspired to create the film when recalling advice from his grandmother to respect the berries, stating, “if you don’t show the berries respect, they will whip you with their thorny vines.”

The main screening, Maiden of Deception Pass: Guardian of her Samish People, was held in the Hibulb longhouse. The twenty-minute documentary highlighted the traditional story of Ko-kwal-alwoot, a young Samish woman who married a sea spirit in order to save her people from famine; and the erection of her story pole at Deception Pass in 1983. Filmmakers of the documentary include Jason Ticknor, Lou Karsen and Tracy Rector. Two international films, Hani’s Barbershop and Closer, were also shown to close out the festival.

“What I like about the Native films is that it’s really important that we’re preserving and documenting our culture,” says Robin. “When I see the language show up in the films, I get so excited to see and hear the language. That’s what I like about the films that are coming in from our area. The films are all so different but they’re all so important. The mix of people that we have, including the many generations, I think that all of the storytelling is great. Especially with all the modern technology, to mix the two together because it’s going to reach everybody on some level.”

The fifth Annual Hibulb Cultural Center Film Festival was a success as movie buffs from the Pacific Northwest, including Canada and Oregon, traveled to Tulalip for an afternoon of culture and movies. The event continues to generate interest as several young tribal members attended. Lena hopes to inspire indigenous youth to pick up a camera and start shooting.

“I encourage young people to become involved in filmmaking,” she states. “Films can impact people. We have such a strong, beautiful culture; and we have a belief that young people can reflect our ancestral values in film work because of their experience living in the culture. Plus, filmmaking is enjoyable!”

For additional information about the Annual Hibulb Cultural Center Film Festival please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600.

Jazz Therapy: Preservation Hall Legacy Jazz Band visits Tulalip community

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

As the last note of their second set was hit and spit valves were emptied, trumpet extraordinaire, Gregg Stafford, approached the microphone at the Francis J. Sheldon Gymnasium. He graciously thanked the audience of middle and high school students for the standing ovation he and his fellow band members of the Preservation Hall Legacy Jazz Band were receiving. The traditional six-piece New Orleans jazz band recently traveled to Tulalip to perform and speak with the youth of the community about jazz history, culture and the importance of keeping traditions alive. During their week-long visit the band performed for over 4,000 students at schools within the Marysville School District including Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, and Heritage, Getchell and Marysville-Pilchuck high schools.

After the much deserved cheers and applauds began to quiet down, Gregg informed the students that the band would be answering any questions the students had for them. The kids asked a variety of questions ranging from who is your favorite jazz singer to more complex questions regarding mutes, tempo and time signatures. Inevitably, a student asked ‘how long have you guys been playing?In this moment Gregg, along with trombonist Fred Lonzo, clarinetist Louis Ford, pianist Lars Edgrean, bassist Richard Moten and drummer Joesph Lastie Jr collectively grinned as Greg looked at his watch and responded ‘oh about twenty-five minutes now.’ Laughter filled the entire room, most notably from the band.

Those small joyful moments, within the twenty-five-minute jazz set, where the entire room is smiling ear to ear, sharing laughter with one another and getting lost in the music is the reason Tulalip Tribes Employee Assistance Counselor, Jessica Talevich, brought the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to the Pacific Northwest.

Tulalip Tribes Employee Assistance Counselor, Jessica Talevich (right) dancing to the band during their performance at  the Hibulb Cultural Center.

Nearly two years ago, after witnessing the band live in their native New Orleans and once again in Seattle a week after, she discovered the band offers outreach work to high schools nationwide. In the wake of tragedy amongst the Tulalip-Marysville community, Jessica consistently witnessed division as several messages from ‘talk-based’ outreach programs missed their mark and constantly reminded community members of their hard times.

In an effort to change the cycle and promote healing, Jessica and the Tulalip Tribes partnered with the Marysville School District to bring the unique outreach program to the community.

“They just exude so much joy,” exclaimed Jessica. “The history of New Orleans is built on tragedy. From the early days of illness’ and diseases killing off many people, to the whole city burning to the ground and being rebuilt, and slavery is a whole other aspect. And then there’s instance after instance of hurricanes coming through and decimating [the city] such as Katrina and then the gulf oil spill that happened after [Hurricane Katrina]. These are resilient folks and their culture and arts, especially their music, have a lot to do with their resiliency so I wanted to bring that up here and talk about creativity as a tool for resiliency.”

After a tour of Tulalip, hosted by Tulalip tribal member Freida Williams, the band performed for the community at the Hibulb Cultural Center. Plenty of audience members danced and joined in a march led by Fred while he performed a solo on his trombone. Following the performance, the band had an open discussion with the audience touching on subjects such as the ever-changing music industry and music education. Gregg inquired about the local population of black bears and the tribe’s hunting regulations.

Tulalip tribal member Natosha Gobin and her children were present for nearly every Preservation Hall Jazz Band performance to offer prayers and gifts to the musicians.

She states, “It was a good week, my kids had so much fun! I think that music is such a great outlet and sometimes there are youth out here who kind of feel overwhelmed with not knowing our own traditional songs or like they can’t sing their songs and express themselves through our culture. And I think that a lot of the youth were able to find a connection and a love and passion for another music outlet and they understand more about Preservation Hall, although they are not an Indigenous group. They’re not a tribe, yet everything that they struggled with is parallel to what our people struggle with. So you can make those connections and those connections help – they’re inspiring for kids. For our youth, I think its inspiring that music does have a culture.”

On their last night in the community, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band spent the evening performing for a large crowd in the Marysville-Pilchuck auditorium. Both Getchell and Marysville-Pilchuck high school jazz bands showcased their skills for Preservation Hall. Fred, Louis and Gregg made special appearances and performed alongside the bands.

During their final performance the band shared the stage with Native American Grammy Award Winner, Star Nayea. The band played Dixieland jazz, jazz blues, and ragtime as well as jazz funeral music. The audience was highly engaged and interactive throughout the bands last set. The crowd sang along to classic songs such as What a Wonderful World and A Closer Walk with Thee. Nearly everyone in attendance marched around the auditorium before rushing the stage while the horns blew to the tune of When the Saints Go Marching in.

“Witnessing the interactions between our musicians with students from the Tulalip community was both inspiring and impactful,” states Preservation Hall Foundation Program Director, Ashley Shabankareh. “We saw such passion from students in the community for their own cultural traditions and were able to make meaningful connections to how we pass traditions in New Orleans. This trip is something myself and our musicians will never forget – we were overjoyed to see the power of music bringing communities together.”

For additional information about the Preservation Hall Jazz Band please visit PreservationHallJazzBand.com