Tulalip students learn traditional language

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Government deemed it necessary to forcibly remove Native American children from their families and send them to boarding schools. Among the many atrocities that occurred in the boarding schools, Native children were punished whenever they spoke their language. This practice resulted in many tribal nations losing their language completely. After the horrific boarding school practice ended many tribes immediately began to restore and preserve their language.

Lushootseed is the Coast Salish language of the Native Peoples in the Northwest. Primarily spoken in the greater Seattle area of Washington, Lushootseed is the language of the peoples of Puyallup, Swinomish, and of course Snohomish.

In Tulalip, Lushootseed is taught to children early between the ages of three and five at the Tulaip Early Learning Academy. The children learn songs, stories, numbers and animals in Lushootseed. Tulalip also offers their employees and community members Lushootseed classes, showing how important the language is to the tribe.

The Northwest Indian College (NWIC) offers Lushootseed classes to college students in which the student receives five college credits towards a foreign language. In collaboration with NWIC and Heritage High School, the Tulalip Tribes is now offering Lushootseed 101 to the students at Heritage.

In the Lushootseed class students revisit vocabulary learned at a young age and use that as a starting point. Lushootseed 101 has ten enrolled students who have been learning phrases and introductions. After three months into the curriculum students are able to state their name, where they are from, and who their families are. In solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, students even created a Water Is Life video in Lushootseed.

“It is a great way to get back to our traditions and it makes me feel connected to my ancestors.”

– Myrna Red Leaf, Heritage H.S. student

 

Lushootseed Language Instructor, Michelle Myles states, “They are learning the 101 college level so this will be one of their fulfillments for college. They’re learning right alongside the Northwest Indian College [students]. Our goal this quarter is to have the college students come and speak with the high schoolers, and have our students greet them, so they can see that others are learning as well, and it’s not isolated to the classrooms.”

Tulalip’s effort in preserving their language is outstanding and it is reflected through the fun, respect, and appreciation the students show during class. During an entire class period, the only English spoken was when students needed assistance with a Lushootseed word. And as student Myrna Red Leaf states, “It is a great way to get back to our traditions and it makes me feel connected to my ancestors.”

Promoting Men’s Health

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Early detection is key for the treatment of heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, and many other diseases that disproportionately affect men. However, men are less likely to seek preventative care than women. Despite growing awareness, men usually take a back seat approach to maintaining their health. We will shy away from seeking advice, delaying possible treatment and/or waiting until symptoms become so bad we have no other option but to seek medical attention. To make matters worse, we refuse to participate in the simple and harmless pursuit of undergoing annual screenings.

Enter the Annual Men’s Health Fair held at the Karen I. Fryberg Tulalip Health Clinic on Friday, December 16. This year’s health fair provided us men the opportunity to become more aware of our own health. With various health screenings being offered for the low, low price of FREE, we were able to get in the driver’s seat and take charge of our own health. Blood sugar, cholesterol, and prostate screenings were among the options for men to participate in. Along with all the preventative health benefits of participating in these screenings, as if that was not reason enough, they gave out numerous goodies and a complimentary “Indian taco” lunch to every man who showed up to take charge of his health.

At 16.1 percent, Native Americans have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups. Also, Native Americans are 2.2 times more likely to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites (per Diabetes.org). Clearly we are at a greater risk when it comes to diabetes, making it all more crucial to have glucose testing and diabetes screenings performed on an annual basis. For those men who attended the health fair, they were able to quickly have their glucose (blood sugar) tested with just a prick of the finger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the first and stroke the sixth leading cause of death among Native Americans. High blood pressure is a precursor to possible heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is also very easily detected by having routine checks of your blood pressure taken periodically.

 

 

Representatives from Health First Chiropractic, the Marysville branch, were on hand as well to offer a free posture analysis. Using a spinal analysis machine, the patient advocate conducted postural exams on a number of men and reviewed the results with each participant. Good posture can help you exercise more safely and achieve better general health. When you sit or stand correctly, your organs will be better aligned, which reduces indigestion and helps your lungs to function at full capacity. Your core muscles will be strengthened and your back and shoulders will feel more comfortable.

Along with the various health screenings being offered there were information booths available that ranged from alternative health care options in the local area, ways to have cleaner air in your home, and methods to change eating habits to live a heathier lifestyle. There was a booth where we could have our grip tested, a method used for assessing joint and muscle fatigue. Another booth offered us the opportunity to have our BMI (body mass index) and body fat percentage measured. Wondered if you need to cut back on those weekend treats? Or if you need to start leading a more active lifestyle? Well if that BMI was too high and you didn’t like what your body fat percentage was, now you know the answer.

 

 

Face it, as we get older, we all need to become more aware of the inevitable health concerns that may one day affect us. The possibility of having to deal with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or the possibility of prostate cancer looms over us all. The only way to avoid such health concerns to heighten our awareness of these preventable conditions. Health educators empower us to be more proactive about our health by getting annual screenings, detecting issues early, as well as seeking medical treatment before a simple, treatable issue becomes life altering.

At the conclusion of the Men’s Health Fair, Jennie Fryberg, Health Information Manager, said the following, “I’d like to personally thank all the men that came out and participated in the men’s health fair today! Way to come and take care of your health, men.”

 

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

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

 

Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.

Certified STI instructor, Dr. Laura Lynn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Since Time Immemorial’ Training Gets a $600K Boost

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Richard Walker, Indian Country Today

 

A state law requires schools in Washington to teach students the history of the state’s 29 federally recognized indigenous nations, just as they teach U.S. and state history.

School districts that have adopted the “Since Time Immemorial” curriculum, which was formerly “encouraged” but is now mandatory, say the curriculum is an easy tool to use. But the curriculum encourages participation with local Native nations. “Our goal is to teach WITH tribes, rather than about them,” the curriculum states—and one of the challenges school districts report is developing the partnerships to make that happen.

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

Training now underway is helping to build those associations.

“Our [curriculum] trainings have doubled in both size and frequency” since the law made implementation of the curriculum mandatory, Michael Vendiola texted on July 27 from a conference in Omak on the Colville reservation. Vendiola, Swinomish, is program supervisor for the state education department’s Office of Native Education. “We are training more dynamically as well. For example, we are training more curriculum teams, administrators, and education associations.”

The training is getting a boost from Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education, which received two grants totaling $600,000 from the Washington Student Achievement Council, a cabinet-level state agency.

“These two grants not only advance our professional development work in schools but, most significantly, forge important new efforts with Native American communities in our region,” Woodring College of Education Dean Francisco Rios said in an announcement of the grant. “It capitalizes on the strengths of our faculty while also honoring the important cultural knowledge of local indigenous communities.”

Of the funding, $400,000 is being invested in “Implementation of Since Time Immemorial: Higher Education and K-12 School Partnership Pilot Project,” a collaboration of Woodring College, The University of Washington, Western Washington University, and the state Office of Native Education.

The project will assist schools and districts that have a high number of Native American students, including Chief Kitsap Academy, which is owned and operated by the Suquamish Tribe and serves Native and non-Native students; Lummi Nation School; Marysville School District, which serves students from the Tulalip Tribes; Muckleshoot Tribal School; Shelton School District, which serves students from Skokomish and Squaxin; Taholah School District, which serves students from the Quinault Nation; and Wellpinit School District, which serves students from the Spokane Tribe.

State Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, who authored the curriculum law, said it’s important that Native nations be involved because the curriculum is “only a baseline curriculum.” The curriculum includes such topics as “Exploring Washington State —Tribal Homelands,” “Washington Territory and Treaty Making,” “Being Citizens in Washington: The Boldt Decision,” and “Encounter, Colonization and Devastation.” But those courses are not localized; the involvement of local indigenous nations can help students understand those subjects on the local level.

The project is providing training workshops, professional development and coaching to teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals.

“Our entire team of diverse partners is dedicated to providing professional development that teaches regional tribal government, culture and history through the STI curriculum,” said Kristen French, associate professor of elementary education at Western Washington University.

“We are thrilled to have this grant because we can contribute and build on the good work that [the state Office of Native Education] and state Sen. John McCoy have done to improve Indian education,” she said, adding that six of seven team members are Native women trained in education.

Vendiola’s wife, Michelle, is “Since Time Immemorial” grant coordinator at Woodring College.

“With an emphasis on culture and identity, we expect this work to have long-term impact on the academic achievement of Native students, as well as all Washington state students,” she said in the grant announcement. “Ultimately, we are honored to participate in the improvement of future relationships between tribal communities and mainstream Washington state citizens.”

An example of how the involvement of local Native nations can bolster knowledge of Native culture and the environment Native and non-Native students share is “Science and the Swinomish,” a collaboration of Western Washington University, the Shannon Point Marine Center and the Swinomish Tribe.

The project received $200,000 in funding to train teachers and administrators in the La Conner and Concrete school districts, two districts serving Swinomish students.

The partnership will “personalize the STI curriculum and develop hands-on science lessons focused on the restoration and care of the environment essential to maintaining the traditional Swinomish way of living,” said Tim Bruce, an instructor at Woodring College.

Teachers and principals will receive training in the basics of the curriculum and then will dig deeper into the aspects that relate to science, focusing on locally relevant, culturally important topics such as salmon recovery, tideland impacts and water use—topics that affect everyone.

Organizers say teachers and principals will have a strong working knowledge of the curriculum by spring 2017, and will have multiple lesson plans ready for submission to a digital library where they can be shared with a wider audience.

Vendiola said feedback received from curriculum partners is helping educators innovate the curriculum in new ways.

A pre-K/early learning curriculum, titled “STI Tribal Sovereignty Early Learning Curriculum,” is a partnership of Thrive Washington—First Peoples, First Steps Alliance, and the Puget Sound ESD Native American Early Learning Project. “There are currently three pilot lessons availablefor the early learning community,” he said.

Giving Balance to History Instruction

Thirty percent of school districts in Washington are using “Since Time Immemorial,” which was developed by the state in consultation with indigenous nations in Washington.

The legislation that established STI seeks to give balance to history instruction, which has often ignored the state’s indigenous history. It also seeks to improve student knowledge of indigenous history and culture; foster cross-cultural respect and understanding; and bolster cultural sensitivity in all students.

“We do have a rich, solid history in the state, and it should be taught,” McCoy said in an earlier interview. Doing so would help students understand sovereignty and the work that indigenous nations do in their historical territories—authority that many elected officials don’t understand, McCoy said.

In addition to the above projects, regional training will be hosted in October by the Toppenish School District, on the Yakama Nation reservation; Education Service District 113, in the state capital of Olympia; the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, whose students attend schools in the North Kitsap School District; and the Lummi Nation, whose students attend Lummi schools or schools in the Ferndale School District.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/08/03/time-immemorial-training-gets-600k-boost-165325

Honoring the past, Impacting the future: 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp

 

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By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

During the pleasantly warm and sunny summer days of July 18-22, the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium was home to the 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp. The camp was open to children age five to twelve who wanted to learn about their culture and Lushootseed language through art, songs, games, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with the Cultural Resources Department, along with a select number of very vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week camps. Each camp has openings for up to 50 participants, but this year the demand was so high that 64 kids were signed up and participated in Language Camp week 1.

“We are dedicating the 21st Annual Lushootseed Language Camp to Morris Dan and Harriette Shelton-Dover, for their guidance and teachings bringing back the Salmon Ceremony, as well as honoring Stan Jones Sr. “Scho-Hallem” for his decades of leadership and determination to keep the ceremony going,” said Lushootseed language teacher and co-coordinator of the camp, Natosha Gobin. “This year we are recreating the Salmon Ceremony to pass on the teachings to our youth.  With the generosity of the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Table, we have received a grant to make regalia for each youth who is signed up for camp.  This is exciting, as we will be able to ensure that all the youth who sign up for camp will have the ability to stand up and sing at every opportunity. Vests and drums will be the regalia for the boys, while the girls’ regalia will be shawls and clappers.”

Using the 1979 Salmon Ceremony video to help pass on the earliest teaching of what is still practiced today, the young campers learned a selection of highlighted songs and dances.  The lessons learned each day during Language Camp were based on the teachings of the Salmon Ceremony by way of songs and dances, traditional teachings, language, art, weaving, and technology. The goal this year was to provide our youth with some basic regalia along with the knowledge and ability to sing and dance. Staffers hope the youth that have participated have the teachings and experience needed so they will stand up and sing at every opportunity.

 

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With the emphasis of honoring the past and impacting the future with education and practice of Salmon Ceremony, there was a renewed sense of excitement and vigor to both the teachers and bright, young minds who participated. There was so much to do and prepare for that the parents of each camper were also called upon to participate in create long-lasting memories while working with their kids and fellow community members to help make regalia.

During the evening of Tuesday, July 19 the parents came through in a big way. The parents and guardians joined their kids in the gymnasium and were guided on how to make the drums and clappers. There were lots of laughs and stories shared as the evening went on and slowly, but surely every camper was assured of hand-made regalia.

“This is what we wanted to bring back; families coming together to spend some time working on the drums and clappers, lots of smiles, and most importantly lots of happy kids,” stated Natosha after the evening of regalia making concluded. “A huge thank you to the parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins who come out tonight to make sure every child would have a drum or clapper. I know our ancestors are watching over us all and proud the teachers are still being passed on.”

 

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Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Salmon bracelets, Salmon hands, paddle necklaces.
  • Weaving – Pony Bead loom beading, small raffia baskets.
  • Songs and Dances – Welcome Song, Eagle Owl BlueJay Song, Snohomish Warrior Song.
  • Traditional Teachings – Salmon Ceremony videos, traditional stories, realia experience in traditional story and science face of how Salmon migrate.
  • Games – Various games and playground time.
  • Language – letter sounds, Salmon Ceremony key words, Lushootseed workbook.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related to Salmon Ceremony using the Nintendo DSi handheld games created by Dave Sienko.

The closing ceremony for week one’s camp was held on Friday, July 22 in the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

“The young ones continue to honor our ancestors by learning their songs and words. It fills my heart with so much joy to watch them speak our language and perform the dances of Salmon Ceremony,” marveled ceremonial witness Denise Sheldon.

 

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After the youth performed their rendition of Salmon Ceremony and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to the audience members, which preceded a salmon lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s 21st Annual Language Camp week one, Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “Week one has come to an end, but it is truly just the beginning of our youth rising up! The fire has been lit and they will be the ones to keep it burning. I can’t say it enough, how thankful we are for the parents that sign their youth up to participate. Shout out to the volunteers who mentored our young Language Warriors and to the staff who prepped and taught the lessons, and those who did all the behind the scenes work. Thank you to each and every person who made this week’s camp a success.”

For any questions, comments or to request Lushootseed language materials to use in the home, please contact the Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit www.TulalipLushootseed.com

 

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National wildlife refuge renamed to honor Billy Frank Jr.

A national wildlife refuge near Olympia, Washington, has been renamed in honor of Native American civil rights leader Billy Frank Jr.

The Associated Press
OLYMPIA, WASH. – A national wildlife refuge near Olympia, Washington, has been renamed in honor of Native American civil rights leader Billy Frank Jr.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and Nisqually Tribal Council chairman Farron McCloud are among those attending Tuesday’s celebration at the renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Frank, who died in 2014, was a Nisqually tribal fisherman who led the “fish wars” of the 1960s and 70s that restored fishing rights and helped preserve a way of life for Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

He and others were repeatedly arrested for fishing in the Nisqually River as they staged “fish-ins,” or acts of civil disobedience similar to sit-ins, to demand the right to fish in their traditional places. His activism paved the way for the landmark “Boldt” court decision, which affirmed the rights of Western Washington treaty tribes to half the fish harvest in the state.

Tuesday’s ceremony also celebrates the newly established Medicine Creek Treaty National Memorial, which commemorates the spot in 1854 where tribes signed the Medicine Creek Treaty with the U.S. government. The tribes include the Nisqually, Squaxin Island Tribe, Puyallup Tribe of Indians and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

The treaty was signed in a grove of trees near what is now McAllister Creek in the refuge. The tribes ceded land to the U.S. government but reserved their rights to fish, hunt and gather in their traditional places. For decades, Frank fought to hold the federal government to those treaty obligations.

In November, Frank was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. A month later, Obama signed into law the “Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act,” which renamed the wildlife refuge.

The 2,925-acre preserve was created in 1974 and protects one of the few relatively undeveloped large estuaries left in Puget Sound. It’s an important stop for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. It’s managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/state/washington/article90499542.html#storylink=cpy

Tulalip Welcomes Inaugural Jr NBA Native American Youth Camp

Source: NBA 

 

TULALIP, Washington and PINE RIDGE, South Dakota, July.1, 2016 – The Jr. NBA next week tips off the first of two summer camps focused on engaging Native American youth.  As part of the NBA’s youth basketball participation program for boys and girls ages 6-14, Jr. NBA camps are set for July 8-10 in Tulalip, Washington, and from July 29-31 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

The camps are designed to teach the game’s fundamental skills and core values at this grassroots level to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents.

NBA legend Detlef Schrempf and Spencer Hawes of the Charlotte Hornets – both alumni of the University of Washington – will headline the Jr. NBA camps at the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club about an hour north of Seattle.  Sacramento Kings head coach David Joerger, who began his professional coaching career in the Dakotas, will work with youngsters at Jr. NBA camps hosted by the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation outside of Rapid City.

“The Jr. NBA is always looking to engage different communities that love basketball,” said David Krichavsky, the NBA’s vice president of youth basketball development.  “Working with Tulalip and Pine Ridge provides us a unique opportunity to connect with our young fans and their coaches alongside some of the NBA’s best ambassadors.”

“Our Native community loves Basketball and the NBA,” said National Indian Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Famer Marlin Fryberg Jr., a longtime Tulalip Tribal Council member currently serving as executive director for the Tulalip Tribes Boys & Girls Club.  “The Jr. NBA camps acknowledge our Native American passion for the game and will help make NBA fans for life while teaching basketball’s important values.”

“Skills like teamwork, passion, accountability and responsibility are at the core of these communities and the core of our game,” said Brooks Meek, NBA vice president of International Basketball Operations and 1994 graduate of Washington’s Marysville-Pilchuck High School.  “I am especially excited to help bring the NBA to my home community, having grown up with so many friends from Tulalip.  We are very fortunate to work with such committed partners as we bring our League to these passionate fans.”

“As a young basketball player on the reservation, the values of the game helped me succeed in the classroom and in life,” said Christian McGhee, a 2008 graduate of Red Cloud and the school’s current athletic director. “Bringing the Jr. NBA to Pine Ridge is a dream come true and will expose a large number of our boys and girls to the lessons only basketball can teach.”

The Jr. NBA will reach five million youth in the U.S. and Canada over the next two years through a series of basketball clinics, skills challenges and tournaments.  As part of this effort, the NBA has developed a Jr. NBA partnership network that includes youth basketball programs of all NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League teams, elementary and middle schools, military installations and longstanding community partners, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Jewish Community Centers of North America, National Association of Police Athletic Leagues, National Recreation and Park Association, National Wheelchair Basketball Association, Special Olympics, and YMCA of the USA.

 

 

For additional information on the Tulalip camp, contact Marlin Fryberg at the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club: mfryberg@bgcsc.org

Native films ‘Mekko’ and ‘Before the Streets’ premiere at Seattle Film Festival

Siff-Mekko poster art

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

 

The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), the largest and most highly attended film festival in the United States, had a massive lineup in its 42nd annual 25-day run from May 19 through June 12. This year SIFF screened 421 films representing 85 countries: 181 features, 75 documentaries, 8 archival films, and 153 shorts. The films included 54 World premieres and 27 U.S. premieres.

Among those hundreds of films, two (Mekko and Before the Streets) were made with North American indigenous issues central to their theme. Prior to their Seattle premieres, SIFF publicists and media relations staff reached out to local tribal media about covering the films and meeting the directors for potential publications. According to festival publicist Sophia Perez, the staff of Tulalip News were the only tribal media who responded to the SIFF invitation.

 

Mekko director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) at his film’s SIFF premiere.

Mekko director Sterlin Harjo (Seminole/Creek) at his film’s SIFF premiere. Photo/Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

 

Mekko is the product of director/writer Sterlin Harjo who is a member of the Seminole nation with Muskogee heritage. Born and raised in the small town of Holdenville, Oklahoma, Sterlin studied film and art at the University of Oklahoma. Sterlin is a founding member of the Native American comedy troupe, the 1491s, whose bold stylings have garnered millions of views on YouTube.

Mekko is a film that explores the rarely seen slice of life about marginalized homeless Native Americans. Mekko is an uncompromising thriller set against the streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma wherein a Muscogee Native is released from prison and falls in with the homeless “street chiefs” at the edge of the city, struggling to find shelter, hope, and redemption among the local Native population.

“People walk past or drive past the homeless all the time and never think about where they came from and how they ended up where they are. In making this film I wanted to humanize the Native homeless population in Tulsa while giving them a voice,” says Director Sterlin. In writing the film Sterlin spent a lot of time among the Native homeless population in order to ensure his story line was an accurate portrayal of their struggle. “While doing my research I was also recruiting them to be in my film. They were very open to the idea and I could tell how excited they were to have someone tell a story about them.

“For those you watch the film, I hope they come to realize that we are all just a few decisions away from ending up on the streets,” adds Sterlin. “Whether it’s through alcohol or drugs or anything else that alienates you from your family, once you lose that support it’s easy to end up on the streets.”

 

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Award winning film and television actor Zahn McClarnon plays the character Bill in Mekko. Photo courtesy of Sterlin Harjo.

 

 

Mekko paints the portrait of a homeless Native American parolee in Tulsa. As he struggles to find his way in the outside world after two decades behind bars, the titular Mekko discovers a chaotic yet occasionally profound and beautiful community of impoverished natives which now includes Bunnie, one of his old carousing buddies from his wilder youth. Though Mekko finds some peace in this society that exists on the fringes of our modern world, he also uncovers a darkness that threatens to destroy it from within. After a tragic series of events, Mekko dedicates himself to a quest for revenge which he believes will cleanse the sickness from this collective of marginalized individuals and perhaps atone for the sins that landed him in jail so many years ago.

 

 

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Making its United States premiere, Before the Streets is a gripping and spiritual film set among the Atikamekw communities of Quebec, Canada. Featuring an indigenous cast speaking in their native tongue, it’s a redemptive story of a young man who returns to his Native traditions after a robbery ends in tragedy.

The lead character, young Shawnouk kills a man during a robbery and flees into the forest. Deciding to return to his Atikamekw village in Quebec, he tries to return to his everyday life, but is haunted by his past. Covering gritty, everyday issues of Native life on reservations from hunger and poverty to less talked about social issues of teen suicide and struggling family dynamics, Shawnouk must overcome his despair and redeem himself using traditional cleansing rituals.

Before the Streets celebrates a revival of the Native culture and its traditions, as embodied by the very actors who participated in the film. The first dramatic feature shot in the native language of Atikamekw, the film boasts a cast composed almost entirely of non-professionals living and working in the villages where the film was shot. The story takes place in Manawan, while a forest fire closes in on the nearby village of Wemotaci.

 

Director, producer and writer Chloe Leriche set out to highlight First Nations resilience and how it manifests itself.

Director, producer and writer Chloe Leriche set out to highlight First Nations resilience and how it manifests itself. Photo/Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

 

First-time feature director Chloe Leriche made Before the Streets with the collaboration of Quebec’s three Atikamekw communities, in drawing on all the vitality they embody. By following the pacing of her non-professional actors, she created a distinct style that goes beyond notions of the North American indie genre and recent media reports on the dismal conditions in Canada’s Native communities.

“I was working for Wapikoni Mobile, a project that involved traveling to Native communities in a trailer equipped with video cameras and editing tables. The idea was to encourage young people to express themselves through cinema,” says Director Chloe of how the inspiration for her film came about. “The first time I went to Obedjiwan, an Atikamekw community in northern Mauricie, I met a young man in the street and suggested he make a documentary on whatever subject he wanted. We went to look for two of his friends to hold the camera and record sound. I told his friends to ask him questions, and we filmed in different places around the village. Speaking to the camera, he talked about friends and relatives of his who had taken their own lives. The longer we shot, the longer the list of names grew. It was harrowing. After that, of the different scripts I was developing, Before the Streets forced itself on me like a scream. I felt compelled to make it, it became a necessity. The project grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

 

Lead character Shawnouk undergoes traditional cleansing ceremonies in order to move forward with his life.

Lead character Shawnouk undergoes traditional cleansing ceremonies in order to move forward with his life. Image courtesy of Chloe Leriche

 

I spent a lot of time in different native communities. I visited Obedjiwan several times; in all I must have spent six months there,” continues Chloe. “I took part in many traditional ceremonies and pow wows, I lived with different families and made many friends. I also did research and read about the Native concept of restorative justice. I attended councils of elders, where village elders meet to discuss different issues and question solutions. In my film, the resolution, with the return to tradition, grew out of these exchanges.”

We know that there is a large group of people in America that are going unnoticed and often, unappreciated. Filmmakers like Sterlin and Chloe, bringing Native films to the table, are allowing their audience to be exposed to Native culture and see that the marginalized have something important to say. While installing themselves in a genre often thought reserved only for the rich and upper-class, whether it’s Native filmmakers breaking out onto the circuit or just films in general portraying Native life in today’s modern times, the presentation of Native films is a significant shock to the system. They help to shed an accurate light on so many Native issues, like homelessness and teen suicide on reservations, commonly hidden in the shadows.

 

 

Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Lushootseed: Preserving a legacy, teaching a new generation

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by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The “7th generation” principle imbedded in Native culture says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Long before environmentalists got us thinking about “carbon footprints” and “sustainability”, indigenous peoples lived in balance with the world around them. But then hundreds of years of colonization happened that nearly drove our population to extinction. Yet, still we remain.

Then came the decades and decades of federal policy aimed at forced assimilation for the remaining Native population who were confined to reservations. Policy after policy required children to be removed from their homes and communities, and enrolled in boarding schools where many were punished or beaten for speaking their Native languages. As a result, generations of Native people either never learned their language or lost their fluency in it. Thus, many links to traditional culture and knowledge were broken. Still we remain.

 

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From the ashes of the colonial fire that ravished our people, we endured even though much was lost. The language of our region, Lushootseed, once spoken by thousands of Coast Salish people in Washington State clings to life by the small number of people dedicated to preserving it. Lushootseed’s territory extends from north of present-day Mount Vernon to south of Olympia.

Recent decades have seen a cultural resurgence in Puget Sound tribal communities, including carving, weaving, canoe making, and efforts to revitalize Lushootseed. New tribal museums and long houses have been constructed, and events such as the annual Canoe Journey involve hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators.

Today, on the Tulalip reservation, few elders remain who learned Lushootseed as a first language. In fact, Lushootseed Department Manager Michelle Balagot says there may be only 30-40 tribal members who can speak Lushootseed with some degree of conversational skill. She adds that although that number is incredibly low, the department is working hard to make sure that the language survives, and the next few years will be critical if the language is to be revitalized to the point that children become and remain fluent speakers.

The biggest advancement in preserving and revitalizing Lushootseed amongst Tulalip tribal members has been building an essential staff of Lushootseed teachers whose love for their language and culture can easily permeate through the young minds and spirits of our most precious resource, our children.

 

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This past school year the Lushootseed Department had full access to teach our ancestral language to the kindergarten classes and one 1st grade class at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School. It was the return back to a curriculum that had been paused in 2011 when the old Tulalip Elementary was closed.

“We have noticed an increase in student engagement when students have the chance to learn the language that connects them to their heritage. It certainly makes education more meaningful for our students,” says Cory Taylor, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary Principal. “While the Lushootseed program serves many Native students, it also benefits non-Natives, too. These students have the unique opportunity to develop skills to be culturally responsive. These skills will be beneficial throughout their lives. As students learn about other cultures and languages they are more likely to honor diversity and appreciate cultural awareness.”

Lushootseed language teachers Maria Martin and Nikki St. Onge, known respectfully as Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki to their students, were selected to initiate the language revival at the elementary. They taught three classes individually and one “immersion” class jointly, for a grand total of seven classes.

For Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki, it was an opportunity to perpetuate the many Lushootseed stories and phrases they learned as children, and build upon the legacy of those who came before them.

“My year teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda was wonderful. I didn’t get a chance to learn Lushootseed in school after I left the Montessori, so being able to go back to the school I attended as a child and teach Lushootseed is amazing,” said Miss Maria. “This means we are growing as a language department and spreading our culture in places we weren’t able to before. Growing up I had a yearning to know and learn my culture, but it wasn’t offered in the schools. For the students that are enrolled in Tulalip or surrounding tribes, Lushootseed is their language, and my hope is they’ll be filled with the same kind of pride I have to know the words of our ancestors.”

“I really enjoyed teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with some of my students, since they were babies when I worked at the child care center in 2011. Then again at Montessori when I first started in the Lushootseed department in 2012, and now moving up with them to kindergarten,” marvels Ms. Nikki. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to have this experience. It’s really rewarding to watch them grow and develop their own personalities and characteristics, and also teach them such an important part of our culture.

 

 

“Growing up at my Grandma Rachel’s house, I was exposed to Lushootseed a little bit with words or phrases like: x̌ʷubiləxʷ (be quiet), gʷəƛ̕əlad (stop it, behave), spuʔ (fart/blow wind), ʔaləxʷ k̓ʷid (what time is it?), hədʔiw (come in), č̓ut̕əp̓ (flea), sp̓əc̓ (feces), sqigʷəc (deer), yəx̌ʷəlaʔ (eagle), sqʷəbayʔ (dog), and pišpiš (cat). I was always interested in learning to speak Lushootseed, but it was never offered in school. When I saw the job advertisement within the Lushootseed Department I was excited. I have always wanted to learn Lushootseed and I love working with kids, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to grow as a person and to give back to the Tribe and community.”

Both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki having taught Lushootseed at the Tulalip Montessori meant a strong familiarity and trust with their Tulalip students in their kindergarten classes at the elementary. All of their former students remembered them and were very excited to have them as Lushootseed teachers again. The excitement was shared by both teachers as they were able to create their own curriculum and teaching plans for students they knew very well. They knew what teaching methods would work and wouldn’t work with their students already.

Throughout the school year the students learned to play games, some of their favorites being təs-təs  (matching game), ɬiʔɬdahəb (fishing), stab kʷi ʔəsx̌ʷil̕ (what’s missing?), xʷiʔ gʷadsx̌ək̓ʷud (don’t turn over), ʔuc̓əlalikʷ čəd (I win/bingo), go fish, and tic-tac-know. Students completed daily work sheets that taught them how to read and write in Lushootseed while reinforcing many of the vocabulary words they learned at Montessori and the new Early Learning Academy.

Some of their favorite songs they learned are: ʔi čəxʷ syaʔyaʔ (hello friend), kʷədačiʔb čəɬ syaʔyaʔ (ring around the rosy), huyʔ syaʔyaʔ (good bye friend), ʔə tə tib, ʔulub miʔman pišpišpiš (ten little kittens), šəqild st̕ilib (respect song), sʔacus sʔilalubid (head, shoulders), baqʷuʔ stubs (Frosty the Snowman), and waq̓waq̓ st̕ilib (frog song). The students were able to hear stories that were translated into Lushootseed and traditional stories such as “tsiʔəʔ bəšč̓ad” (Lady Louse), “tsi sxʷəyuq̓ʷ” (The Basket Lady), and “Clamming with Lizzie.” They learned to count up to 25 and were exposed to 30 and 40. They have also learned verbs, farm animals, woodland animals, body parts, clothing and so much more.

As the year progressed and the Lushootseed curriculum continued to evolve, so did the students. They developed such a good working knowledge with certain phrases and words that it became common place to hear the young students speaking Lushootseed even when Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki weren’t around.

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“It’s difficult to put into words because it’s such an amazing experience to witness, this ownership of language and seeing themselves reflected in their school. It feels like this belongs to them between the drumming, the dancing and morning messages, then coming into class and starting our day with Lushootseed,” stated Mrs. Poyner, Kindergarten teacher and host to the immersion class taught by both Lushootseed teachers. “Having both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki in the class at the same time I’ve really noticed the students are picking up the language much more quickly. They are using it in other parts of the day, like when we’re teaching math they’ll start counting in Lushootseed instead of English. When we’re doing letters of the alphabet and brainstorming words that start with a specific letter they’ll come up with Lushootseed words. When we are learning new stories with animals in it they’ll call the animals by their Lushootseed name. It’s so exciting to see them apply what they’ve learned into other pieces of their day.”

The teachers are even hearing numerous stories about their students using Lushootseed at home with their parents.

“I have heard stories of the students going home and singing the songs they learned in class and using their Lushootseed words,” says Miss Maria. “Running into parents of my students and hearing that they are reinforcing their Lushootseed at home makes my heart glow.”

Ms. Nikki echoes the sentiment, “Hearing from parents and teachers that students are reinforcing Lushootseed outside of their time spent with me in classroom is probably the most rewarding feeling. It means the students are not just learning a curriculum, they are learning a language, their language.”

Being able to demonstrate what you’ve learned is the basis of knowledge, and the young students using Lushootseed when the teachers aren’t around is proof positive the internal flame to connect with our culture and ancestors through language is being rekindled. It’s all part of an essential process to carry on our ancestors’ legacy by keeping the language alive. Because seven generations from now, we want Lushootseed to be the common language of all Tulalip people, like it was for our ancestors.

 

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Contact Micheal Rios: trios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Poll shows Tulalip overwhelmingly in favor of term Indian, split on Redskin

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

A few days ago the Washington Post, a daily newspaper widely circulated in Washington D.C., published their findings of a poll supposedly showing that Native Americans don’t care that much about the term ‘Redskin’. In fact, the Washington Poll found that an overwhelming 90% of Native Americans weren’t at all bothered by the term. Following their publishing of the poll, news outlets across the country picked it up and ran with it. All the sports related networks, TV shows, talk radio and on-line media were quick to have “Native Americans don’t care about term Redskin” as a major talking point.

Here’s the thing though and it’s a biggie…the Washington Post poll was grossly inaccurate in its methodology. So much so that as a fellow media outlet and news organization, we are embarrassed for them.

“Accuracy is the foundation of good journalism. However, the methodology used to conduct [the Washington Post] poll was fundamentally flawed and as a result, its data set and all conclusions reached are inherently inaccurate and misleading,” stated the Native American Journalist Society in their response to the poll. “The reporting fails to pass the test of accurate and ethical reporting in an example of creating the news rather than simply reporting it.”

The poll was severely flawed on two fronts. First, it relied completely on self-identified Native American respondents in its sampling. So individuals would be asked if they are Native American or not. Then they would be asked if they did claim to be Native, if they were enrolled in a tribe. No research or fact gathering was done to verify whether a respondent was indeed Native or if they were actually enrolled. Secondly, the vast majority of respondents to the poll lived nowhere near a tribal reservation, let alone actually lived on one.

So the Washington Post polled individuals who did not live on or near a reservation and who self-identified as being Native American with no kind of process in place to determine if these people were actually, you know, Native American. Terrible, terrible methodology which led to wide-spread inaccurate reporting in the mainstream media. We can’t begin to assume what every Native American in the country thinks about the word Redskin, but we can figure out what Tulalip thinks about it. While on the subject we also wondered how our people felt about the word Indian. So we did our own poll.

Here’s our methodology. With a quick stop to the Tulalip Admin. Building, Senior Center, Youth Services, Hibulb Cultural Center, Heritage High School, and a few places in between we were able to poll 110 Tulalip citizens. That’s 110 tribal members who are firmly connected to the reservations through residence, school, and work. Of the 110 it was a seemingly 50/50 split of males vs. females, while ages ranged from high school student to tribal elder. It’s interesting to note that every single person polled responded in-person to the polling staff member; no one refused or abstained from questioning.

You may be wondering how a poll of only 110 Tulalip citizens can be indicative of the entire Tulalip Tribe. Well, basically that’s how surveys and polls of nearly any nature work. For example, in the Washington Post poll they used 504 so-called Native people to represent the 5.4 Million Native American population. Here, we are using 110 Tulalips to statistically represent the 2,845 adult members of the Tulalip Tribe.

The polling consisted of two straight-forward questions; 1. Do you find the word Indian offensive? 2. Do you find the word Redskin offensive? Accepted responses were ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘depends on the context’. The following is our results.

 

 

A whopping 83% of Tulalip citizens said they are not offended by the word Indian, while only 9% said they were offended, and the remaining 8% said it depends on the context.

Now, for the as-of-late, media driven buzz word Redskin: 46% of Tulalip citizens said they are offended by it, 37% said they were not offended by it, and the remaining 16% said it depends on the context. The results were quite mixed, but definitely a far cray from the 90% the Washington Post found to be not bothered by the term. Interesting to note that of the 16% who said it depends on the context, almost everyone said that the context is whether or not a Native or non-Native person was using it.

Interpretation of the results is an entirely different discussion. People can talk about political correctness, media narratives, and social science theories on linguistics and imaging for days on end. That’s not what we are doing at this time. Instead, we just wanted to show what an accurate polling representation of Tulalip citizens would illustrate in regards to the level of offensiveness of two words, Indian and Redskin, on the Tulalip Reservation.

 

 

Contact Micheal Rios, mrios@tulalipnews-nsn.gov