Contest winner Announced for National Problem Gambling Month Design

Tulalip tribal youth Jaycenta Miles-Gilford’s Indigenous Resilience design was chosen as the winner of the ‘Reclaiming Wholeness Through Recovery’ contest. The Problem Gambling Program will feature her art on t-shirts.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Tulalip Family Services held a contest during the month of January for the youth of the community. The contest encouraged kids to explore their creative minds to create a t-shirt design for the upcoming National Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March. Open to kids between the ages of twelve and eighteen, the theme for the contest was Reclaiming Wholeness Through Recovery. Family Services’ Problem Gambling Program has several special events planned next month to help bring awareness and education to the Tulalip community about gambling addiction.

The Problem Gambling Program often collaborates with the Tulalip Youth Council to brainstorm ideas for upcoming events. The t-shirt contest idea was so popular, the council spent an extended amount of time, excitedly discussing ideas and debating whether the design should be created on computer or by hand.

“We went to the Youth Council and asked for their input on awareness month and what they want to see, because we want them to know that they’re heard and that their voices mean something. We want them to know that they’re included in this process because a lot of times we hear how gambling, whether it’s them personally or a family member, this disease is impacting their lives,” states Robin Johnson, Problem Gambling Counselor.

Family Services accepted art designs through January 30th and received several submissions. On the first of February, young Tulalip tribal member Jaycenta Miles-Gilford was informed that her art was picked as the winning design. The Problem Gambling Program will feature her art on t-shirts that will be handed-out at all of the upcoming events during National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

“It’s the ribbon of awareness,” states Robin. “And the color for National Problem Gambling Month is blue. She also incorporated the cultural aspect with the canoe and paddle. And I love the message, Indigenous Resilience, that’s exactly what it’s all about, not giving in and fighting back. The young lady who won is going to be honored at our Annual Community Dinner and will be presented with a three-hundred dollar Wal-Mart gift card.”

The program aims to provide as much education as possible about the addiction to the Tulalip Youth. Sarah Sense-Wilson, Tulalip Problem Gambling Coordinator, believes that many times the youth become gambling addicts because they find it taboo and thrilling because of the risk and reward, as well as exciting when competition is involved which is extremely popular in the sports realm.

“March is identified as National Problem Gambling Month because of March Madness and the mainstream promoting of gambling during the entire month,” Sarah explained. “It’s really a campaign to promote awareness. Three years ago, we initiated the campaign in the tribal community here in Tulalip. We really want to show people that this is a real illness, this is an addiction and that it’s something that affects tribal communities just like it affects non-tribal communities. And given the proximity of the casino and other gambling establishments, we want to let people know that there is treatment and that treatment does works. We’re available and accessible to everyone.”

Sarah explained that when the Problem Gambling Program was in early development, they chose to focus on two age groups, the elders and the youth, who are statistically more vulnerable to the disease. For the elders, she attributes the addiction to an excess amount of time due to retirement, as well as an escape from both physical and emotional pain caused by grief and loss. Studies conducted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine show that gambling causes a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which seemingly appear to ‘numb’ the pain receptors, when in actuality the gamblers found a way to temporarily mute their problems and relieve their pain.

“We wanted to do community outreach, supporting these groups so they know that we’re a resource,” states Sarah. “If you want to come and learn more or see about setting up an intervention for a family member, we’re here to offer support, education, materials and anything we can do to help promote the wellness of our community. We strongly encourage people to get their families involved because statistics and data show that the more the family is involved – spouses, extended family, friends and the important people in their life – then the likeliness of that individual getting well increases dramatically.”

The upcoming National Problem Gambling Awareness Month events include the 3rd Annual National Problem Gambling Month Community Dinner on March 3rd at the Hibulb Cultural Center from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., a community movie night on March 17th at the Boys and Girls Club beginning at 5:00 p.m. as well as the Annual Honoring Elders Luncheon at the Tulalip Senior Center on March 21st from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

For more information, please contact Tulalip Family Services at (360) 716-4304.


Tulalip Family Services Family Night

family services family night


By Sarah Sense-Wilson, Tulalip Tribes Family Services


On July 28 Tuesday evening, community members and Family Services staff gathered for a workshop presentation titled ‘Tree of Life’. Guest presenters Arlene Red Elk (James Town S’klallam) and Norine Hill, (Onieda) facilitated the interactive educational activity designed to engage all generations for purpose of exploring how to improve our well- being as individuals, family and community. Elder Arlene Red Elk and Norine Hill are members of the 501c3 non-profit organization Native Women In Need. NWIN provides workshops, trainings and presentations for supporting health, wellness through culture based values and traditions.

The ‘Tree of Life’ workshop was kicked off with customary introductions, blessing of our dinner feast, followed by an in depth explanation of the ‘Tree of Life’ metaphor. The ‘Tree of Life represents our personhood. The roots of the tree represent our ancestors, our lifeline connection with the earth, tradition, and our foundation for growth. The tree trunk symbolically represents our body, our core, our being.  Tree branches are a reflection of how we represent ourselves, our values, how we reach out and engage in the world. The Leaves represent both the dichotomy of life problems and solutions; personal, family and societal issues/concern.

Attendees young and elderly participated in identifying issues and concerns, writing on ‘leaves’ and placing the leaves on the tree. The problem leaves were shared with the entire group, followed by the solution leaves. A large group discussion followed in a talking circle format.

Participants reflected on the exercise as a valuable experience for recognizing how many personal, family and community problems can be remedied and addressed by first and foremost seeking personal healing. Participants took ownership of the issues which is a powerfully motivating factor in making change happen within a community.

The example set by one participant was especially empowering when they shared about this exercise Tree of Life as an enlightening experience to share in a process engaging three generations of community members for purpose of striving for balance, health and wellness. One member of the group identified ‘have a voice’ as the single most inspirational message.

The ‘Tree of Life’ workshop evoked thoughtful reflection, positive engagement and courageous conversation among tribal members. The workshop facilitators effectively created a safe forum for productive inter- generational interactions which underscores the pronounced strengths, assets and traditional cultural values of Tulalip community.

A special recognition and in memory of Mikki Fink –Custer (Youth CD Counselor), we honor her commitment to supporting Family and Youth seeking healing from the wreckage, pain and losses due to alcohol, drug and gambling addiction.

Family Night is a once a month event, last Tuesday of the month, open to the Tulalip Tribes community. Each month we have different topics, speakers and presentations, in addition we provide dinner for everyone, all ages welcome and invited.


Learning to live with, and heal from, generational trauma

Ryan AkinAndrew Gobin/Tulalip News

Ryan Akin
Andrew Gobin/Tulalip News


By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

TULALIP − “It’s about language and perspective. How issues are talked about. How issues are presented and received,” said Ryan Akin, one of the new additions to the child and family therapy team at beda?chelh. As he transitions into his position in the Tulalip community, Akin discusses his views on mental wellness and what it takes to get there.

“I’d like to explain a little bit about what I do,” he began. “I am a counselor, not a therapist. Therapy in practice works to identify a problem and help people fix that problem. Counseling moves away from the very sanitized and sterile practice of therapy, focusing on people. Everyone here is an individual. We respond to the person, not the issue.”

Grief counseling is one aspect of his job, and in an effort to understand the people he is working with, he was encouraged to attend a funeral service for a tribal member to experience the grief of the family and the community. He offered grief counseling to kids for a week following the funeral.

“This is so different than the institutionalized idea of people. Rather than learning about them and their needs, I live with them and experience who they are in order to understand their needs,” Akin explained.

The Tulalip community is unique, as are most tribes. They have a history of generational trauma intertwined with tradition and cultural revitalization.

“Understanding generational trauma is integral in helping people to wellness. You have to know that each piece that shapes behavior potentially stems from these traumas. It’s the difference between ‘and’ and ‘but’. I’m trying to be ok but I have this trauma, versus, I have this trauma and I will be ok.”

Ultimately, Akin’s goal is to help remove the generational trauma Tulalip people, and all Indian people, have been steeped in. Healing the community now will prevent the coming generations from experiencing these same traumas.

“We focus on the small steps towards healing, not the five to ten years it takes to get there. This is not a doctor’s office. There is no checklist or agenda. It is based on the person.

“For Indian people, the road to wellness is more like a filter. Holding on to what was, bringing that forward to what is now, and looking to what will come next, while continuing to bring the past forward,” he concluded.

Akin acknowledges the team of counselors he has joined. It is their joint work to promote mental wellness and work towards building a strong connection with the community in order to create a comfortable and safe environment for everyone.

“I want people to understand what we do here. I want anyone to be able to come and talk about things that we can help them with,” he said.

For more information contact Ryan Akin at, or by phone at (360) 716-3284.


Andrew Gobin: 360-716-4188;

Tulalip focuses on suicide prevention

By Monica Brown, Tulalip New writer

gI_82357_Talk to Me - Social MediaTULALIP, Wash. – September is national Suicide Prevention month and the Tulalip community has come together to spread awareness about this misfortune. Studies by the National Institute of Mental Health have found that American Indians and Alaskan Natives have the highest rates of suicide with 14.3 per 100,000 compared to Non-Hispanic Whites 13.5, Hispanics 6.0, Non-Hispanic Blacks 5.1 Asian and Pacific Islanders 6.2.

During Tulalip’s community meeting on Friday, September 13th, the focus was on suicide prevention awareness and motivational speaker Arnold W. Thomas was asked to attend and share his life changing experience in an effort to highlight the warning signs and steps to take when someone may be having suicidal thoughts.

In 1988 Thomas attempted suicide, an event that left him alive yet permanently disabled. Due to the extensive damage from his suicide attempt he was left permanently scared, blind and unable to speak for many years.

“I should have died on that night. I lost a lot of blood, swallowed a lot of blood into my lungs, “said Thomas about the night he tried to take his life. Thomas was 18yrs old in high school, playing basketball and going through many confusing emotions about the suicide of his father two years prior. At a time of deep emotional turmoil, Thomas was using drugs and alcohol and began thinking that no one cared and instead of talking to someone or asking for help he put a gun to his head.

Thomas believes that suicide is not the problem, the real problem is, “Our inability to express our thoughts and our feelings in manner which helps us to feel at peace in our head and our heart.”

“Tell them you love them,” explained Thomas, on how important it is to talk to people close to you about your feelings and show gratitude to your family and friends. “All the bones in my face were shattered and I spent two years not being able to speak. I saw how I hurt my family. I made a commitment to go through any and all surgeries to reconstruct my face and maybe one day I’d be able to talk again.”

Thomas is a Shoshone-Paiute native and has prevailed over his depression and physical disabilities. He has undergone 30 surgeries and completed a rehabilitation program that allows him to live independently. Thomas has earned a degree in psychology, a masters in social work and owns a consulting business called White Buffalo Knife that allows him to travel all over the country to share his story of perseverance.

According to Global Mental Health, mental health disorders have become a global issue that currently affects 450 million people worldwide*. Tulalip Family services is working hard to inform the community about the prevalence of suicide among young people and especially Native people in hopes that it will inspire others to care and help someone that is dealing with depression.

The National Suicide Prevention  Line is 1-800-273-8255. For help with depression or help to speak with someone about depression please call Tulalip Family Services at 360-716-4400 or go to For more information about Arnold Thomas please visit

Arnold W. Thomas in native dress.Photo from

Arnold W. Thomas in native dress.
Photo from

Reaching the spirit through art

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

Art therapist Sara Giba believes you don’t have to be an artist to use art to heal


Sara Giba uses art to treat clients who have experienced trauma and stress Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil

Sara Giba uses art to treat clients who have experienced trauma and stress
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil


TULALIP, Wash. – Staff at Tulalip Behavioral Health are adding a creative approach to mental health through the use of art therapy, to treat clients who have experienced trauma, grief and loss.


Former Behavioral Health intern, Sara Giba, now a full-time staff member, specializes in grief and loss, developmental disabilities, and gender and sexuality issues. With an education in art therapy, Giba uses various art mediums to help clients communicate, overcome stress, and explore different aspects of their personality to heal.


The concept of using art to treat clients who have experienced extreme trauma and stress originated in the mid 20th century. Patients suffering from mental illness often expressed themselves through drawings and other art mediums, leading doctors to use art as a healing strategy or a form of communication with the patient. The practice of art therapy became popular in the 50s and has steadily increased as a professional form of therapy.


“Art therapy is such a primal human thing. Whether it is an American tribe or someplace else, one of the first things that people do is create and use that as medicine. You do not need any perceived skill to do it. The first thing that people will say if they are not doing art is, ‘I am not an artist I can only do stick figures.’ That stick figure can help us quite a bit,” said Giba, who treats primarily adults and couples.


Clients are asked to focus on their inner experiences, involving their feelings, perceptions, and imaginations. By using different art mediums such as drawing or painting, clients who have suffered physical abuse, anxiety, depression, and emotional trauma learn to resolve conflicts, manage their behavior, and boost their self-esteem, while reducing stress.


“I find a lot of power in trauma work, because biologically what is going on when you are creating art is, you’re getting both left and right hemispheres of the brain communicating at the same time. For anyone who has experienced trauma it is sometimes impossible to verbalize your experience. Either out of fear or you just know ‘this happened to me when I was five,’ and you don’t know what words to put to it. What you can’t tell me you can show me, either in concrete images or in shape or color. Everything that you do on the paper, even a single word on a blank page says so much more sometimes than words you can or can’t say,” explained Giba.


Years spent studying Native American culture and visiting numerous Native reservations has equipped her with the understanding that culture and tradition is important to healing in tribal communities.


“Someone who doesn’t draw but knows how to do bead work, I am going to offer them something that they are comfortable with, that is part of being culturally appropriate. I find that so many of my clients, even the ones who say, ‘well I don’t know how to do art’, have some sort of creative skill. And maybe its never been called art for whatever reason, maybe it is a part of the oppression issue. They don’t know that these beautiful baskets that they made are art.”


“You want to look at the person’s strengths and see what they are good at. And doing something that they are not comfortable with has its therapeutic reason. If someone has a fear of failure, we might work with something they are not comfortable with, so they can see that they can do it,” said Giba.


“It is important to make sure that the people that are sitting in front of you are being treated with respect and are heard. We explore ideas and we explore choices that will not only affect them, but everyone around them. It is important for me to be transparent at all times, and I welcome questions.”


In addition to being an art therapist, Giba is a facilitator for grief and loss groups, as well as a Reunite Resource Specialist with Tulalip Family Services Behavioral Health. Her hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For more information on scheduling an appointment, please contact Tulalip Family Services Behavioral Health at 360-716-4400.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;