Journey to a healthier you

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Everyone wants to live a healthy life. The ideal health for most is reached by eating nutritious meals to fuel the body and mind, while being balanced with enough physical activity to keep the body working properly. 

But where does one start? There seems to be an endless amount of questions to ask and information to gather before starting a journey to a healthier you. Luckily, for the Tulalip community, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and a team of health experts are here to help by offering a series of nutrition and cooking classes that are fun and interactive.

Eat Smart, Be Active classes will be taking place every Tuesday from now until July 31 at the Tulalip Dining Hall from 5:00pm – 6:30pm. If you are interested in learning more about whole foods, quality health, exercise, meal prepping, or cooking quick and healthy meals on a budget, then this is the perfect opportunity.

“Making healthy lifestyle changes is not an easy thing to do, but in the end the reward is so worth it!” stated AnneCherise Jensen, SNAP-Ed Nutritionist. “Eat Smart, Be Active classes really do give you an opportunity to learn, to ask questions, to discuss, and gain the tools you and your family need to live a happy, healthy, energetic life. Overall, these classes are very positive, energetic, and fun. We have a great preventative care team that truly cares about your health and wellbeing.”

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean dieting or giving up all the foods you love. During the opening class on Tuesday, June 5, the twenty-five health conscious participants learned about ditching junk food and give their bodies the nutrient-dense fuel it needs by making a meal together. The main course? A delicious chicken stir fry made with nine different flavorful vegetables. 

After learning a 15-minute aerobic exercise routine that can be done at the comfort of home, the community members received basic cooking instruction before gathering in the kitchen. There each participant had a job to do in order to make the evening’s meal. Finally, while enjoying the freshly prepared chicken stir fry, instructors reviewed all the nutrients being consumed and emphasized how simple the process had been.

“It was empowering as a community to get together and participate in a healthy, nutritious meal,” added AnneCherise after the evening class had ended. “There are so many amazing health benefits to making these small, gradual changes. You start to have more energy, you begin to feel more confident in yourself, you find yourself in better moods, and the more and more you do it – the more friends you will find to exchange recipes with and encourage each other along the way.”

If you missed out on the opening class, no worries. The invite is open to anyone who wishes to learn about healthier lifestyle choices when it comes to nutrition and physical activity. Come in to as many classes as you can, if not all of them.

Questions? Please contact AnneCherise Jensen, SNAP-Ed Nutritionist at 360-716-5632 or ajensen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov OR Brooke Morrison, Tulalip Diabetes Prevention Assistant at 360-716-5617 or bmorrison@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov 

‘Go Hard or Go Home’ league wraps up spring season

Tulalip basketball league – Spring season Champs.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Established in February 2015, the Go Hard or Go Home community basketball league is organized by Youth Services staff and has gained more notoriety with each passing season. Local ballers can be found competing on the hardwood every Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Tulalip Youth Center.

The league is a prime outlet for basketball players of every level. And most importantly, everyone is welcome to participate. There are former high school stand-outs, a couple college players, but mostly people who just love the sport.

After paying a modest fee of $200, each team played a nine-game regular season and everyone had a spot in the postseason playoffs. Giving Tulalip ballers the best bang for their buck has been a priority of the community league. In fact, costs have been minimal and the amount of games plenty when compared to most basketball leagues. 

Spring season saw nearly ninety players make-up the ten teams vying for bragging rights and making the most out the opportunity to play competitive, localized basketball. Ages ranged from early teens to elder statesmen.

“This league is great for the community,” said Fred Brown Jr., long-time community friend and lead-referee of the past season. “Spring season ran for three-months, giving people in the community something to do either as players or spectators. Most interesting to me was the variety of basketball games. There were high-flyers, 3-point specialists, under the rim fundamentally sound guys, and then those playing to get into shape or to stay in shape. It was a good basketball season for everyone involved.” 

 

Building a better future with Tulalip’s construction career program

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Educators, parents and others often place emphasis on college preparation and earning an Associate or Bachelor’s degree by traditional means. But some students see a more hands-on future for themselves. For those unafraid of getting their hands dirty and learning the true meaning behind a hard day’s work there are ample opportunities available within the construction industry. 

In fact, look around the Seattle area and you’ll see more cranes than you can count. While other career pathways may be oversaturated and hard to come by, the construction trades are booming. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, open construction positions are expected to increase by more than 745,000 jobs nationally through 2026, a faster growth than any other occupation. In Washington State alone, there are already more than 3,200 unfilled construction jobs, of which many pay more than the average state wage of $54,000 a year. 

Whether it be laborer, carpenter, ironworker or heavy equipment operator, there are countless openings for work and advancement within construction trades, especially for sought after minorities, like Native Americans and women. A major access point for entry into the construction trades for tribal citizens and their families continues to be Tulalip’s own TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC).

On Wednesday, May 30, eighteen TVTC students were honored with a graduation banquet for their commitment to building a better future. Over 200 guests attended, including several Board of Directors, trade union representatives, and many cheerful friends and family members of the graduates. 

Of this latest graduating cohort, nine students are Tulalip tribal members, two are children of tribal members, and seven are other Native. Three hardworking ladies were among the graduates; Sela Kalama (Quinault), Verla Wapato (Yakama) and Pamela Dick (Colville). The desire to build a new skillset while creating new career pathways was the main motivator, as each of these three women left their home and children in order to reside within the Tulalip area for the duration of the intensive, sixteen-week pre-apprenticeship construction trades program 

As far as we know, the TVTC program, which is managed by the Tulalip TERO, is the first and only state and nationally recognized Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the country. The program is accredited through South Seattle Community College and Renton Technical College, while all the in-class, hands-on curriculum has been formally approved by the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council. 

The sixteen-week program provides 501-hours of hands on instruction, strength building exercise, and construction skills that can last a lifetime. In addition, students are trained and awarded certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, and OSHA 10-hour safety training. Also, students receive certification in the scissor lift, boom lift, industrial fork lift, and powder-actuated tools. Upon completion, each graduate’s diligent training is rewarded with a wide-range of new employment opportunities as they navigate the construction trades career path. 

  “I took this class to better my work experience, gain new skills, and become more comfortable with interviews,” said Tulalip tribal member and now TVTC graduate, Izzy Wolftail. “My favorite part of the TVTC experience was making new friends from different tribes and working side-by-side with them to complete our tiny home project. I plan on bettering my future and the Tribe with my new skills.”

TVTC pre-apprenticeship is a unique, nationally known model that supports tribal members from sovereign nations across the United States. The program is not dependent on tribal hard dollars. In fact, zero hard dollars are used to fund it. Instead, due to the dedication and commitment of so many individuals the TVTC program continues to grow and gain more recognition while being funded by the graciousness of the Tulalip Charitable Fund and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“This particular group of students was just tremendous,” described instructor Mark Newland during the graduation ceremony. “They came prepared and ready to work every single day. Each student was eager to learn and they worked really well with one another. It was a pleasure being their instructor.”

Under the supervision of Mark and co-instructor Billy Burchett, spring quarter students constructed four tiny homes as their final class project. These houses, which are approximately 120-square-feet in size, are the first batch of tiny homes that will be staying on the reservation, with plans for them to provide shelter for homeless tribal members. The insulated houses will be a major upgrade for their soon-to-be residents as they offer electricity, heat, and, most importantly, a measure of stability.

“Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors requested this TVTC cohort build the first four tiny houses for the Tribe. The Board provided the materials and the class built the houses,” explained Lynne Bansemer, TERO Coordinator. “According to instructor Mark Newland these were the best home that have been built to date by our students. We feel the reason is because they were built with love. Bringing this home has meant so much for the TERO and TVTC staff, but our students knew they were building for potential family and friends. What a difference this made!”

Beyond construction skills, several students, who are also tribal members, reached major milestones during the pre-apprenticeship program. Quinton Hill retrieved his driver’s license, while Carter Paul and Hayden Cepa both put in the work necessary to be awarded their high school diploma. 

“For persons on the path to recovery, we have seen them find success during their time as TVTC students and beyond,” added Lynne. “This program introduces them to so many new experiences, shows them their unique individual strengths, and builds their confidence to new heights. We have had families reunited and people find the success they have hoped for because they are able to see daily how strong and capable they are.”

For more information on Tulalip TERO’s TVTC program or to inquire about admission into the next pre-apprenticeship opportunity, please contact Lynne Bansemer, TERO Coordinator, at 360-716-4746 or visit TVTC.TulalipTERO.com 

Annual Stick Game Tournament unites Northwest tribes in friendly competition

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Players of the traditional Coast Salish gambling game, known by a few names including slahal, lahal, bone games and stick games, gathered at the Tulalip Amphitheater during the weekend of June 1-3. Many players arrived an entire day early, equipped with their bones, drums and lawn chairs in anticipation of the 9th Annual Tulalip Tribes Stick Game Tournament. This year’s tournament attracted a record-breaking one-hundred and forty-two teams who competed for a chance to win cash prizes, including the grand prize of $50,000. 

Native families journeyed across Washington and Canada to play in the tournament. The total payout this year was $63,000 which was distributed throughout the weekend during a number of rounds including the kid’s tournament, which drew a large crowd of spectators. 

The game was said to be invented centuries ago in order to settle a number of disputes between tribes of the Northwest, including the rights to fishing, gathering and hunting territories. As legend has it, the game was gifted to the people by the animals in order to unite the tribes and prevent war. 

During gameplay, two teams consisting of three to five players face each other. The game pieces, which include a set of bones and sticks, are discreetly distributed amongst the players on one team. The opposing team has to correctly guess where the bones are and how many pieces the player has in their hands. The sticks are used to keep score and the team with their bones in play, sing traditional family songs in an attempt to distract the other team from seeing where the bones end up. The team who has the correct amount of guesses wins the game and gets to advance to the next round.

 “I came out to play for the Northwest Indian College team,” says NWIC student, Mikaela ‘Miki’ Ponca-Montoya of the Osage Nation. “We held a fundraiser last week so we could register and play in the games. We’ve been practicing, we have a stick game club at the college and a bunch of people participate and came out to play. I enjoy the medicine from the games because when people are playing their songs, some of us don’t know what they mean but we proudly sing those words as they’ve been upheld for generations and generations. You can feel it when your team starts to put their medicine in the music and when they’re playing the game you can feel the energy. That, and if you win, that’s the best part!”

Smiles are shared throughout the entire weekend, even when a team is knocked out of the competition, as most people are delighted to visit with other Native people and practice the traditional game of our ancestors. 

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. 

Celebrating Diversity with Festival of World Cultures

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

All families and students of the Tulalip-Marysville community were invited to an evening of cultural exploration at Totem Middle School on May 18th. Offering a free, fun-filled event with a variety of music, dance, art and food for all, Marysville School District (MSD) presented the Festival of World Cultures.

“The coordinator of the English Language Learner Program and I met a few months ago to discuss how we could provide a more diverse and culturally rich experience within the District,” explained Deborah Parker, Director of Equity, Diversity and Indian Education for MSD. “The idea stemmed from the need our District has to become more aware of diverse cultures, while celebrating the distinct backgrounds of our students and their families.”

Community involvement played a large role in the development of the Festival, as coordinators reached out to local businesses, cultural performance groups, and a variety of vendors who could engage with people of all ages, from children to elders. The planning paid off big time as more than 300 people showed up to celebrate diversity and learn about other cultures. 

Attendees were each given a mock passport that were then stamped with approval throughout the evening as they travelled the world and learned from representatives of twenty different nations.

“It is important to both teach students about different cultures and experience cultures that are different from their own,” stated MSD Lead Native Liaison, Matt Remle. “These experiences help to grow students understanding about the broader world around them. Meaningful cultural sharing can lead to meaningful relationships and meaningful relationships can only help our students and communities engage in our diverse world.”

There was something offered for everyone in the family-based atmosphere providing entertainment and many laughs, while engaging everyone’s curiosity as they made their way through a variety of informative booths. Several culture representatives distributed knowledge through collaborative activities that had people learning while having fun.

“Everyone enjoyed the decorative and fun activities for kids, like the paper flower making with the group of Spanish-speaking volunteer moms from Cascade Elementary,” said Wendy Messarina, MSD Parent Liaison. “Also the group of Mexican dancers from Mary’s Place, in Everett, was a highlight when they shared ballet and folklore.”

Some families made quite the journey to learn about cultures different from their own, even families with students from outside the Marysville School District.

Gloria Campbell and her granddaughter Araba, both of West African ancestry, saw a flyer for the Festival of World Cultures online and travelled from Mukilteo to partake in the event. 

“We are very culturally motived,” said Gloria. “It is very important for us to embrace the cultures that are around us. I take my granddaughter with me everywhere to explore this region. I want her to learn as much as she can about people who don’t necessarily look like her.”

After feasting on a diverse selection of food, including the ever-popular fry bread station, Festival guests were treated to song and dance offered by Native, Hispanic, Pilipino, and Hawaiian cultures. 

Officer Sparr of Marysville Police Department enjoyed the Festival and having the opportunity to interact with so many children in such a positive setting. “This is how community events should be”, Officer Sparr said.

The Festival’s success garnered enough excitement that one for next school year is already being planned. 

“It was such a beautiful and harmonious event. We want to continue to expand on the enthusiasm and cultural understanding that was gained through just one evening. The YMCA has already asked to be a co-sponsor for next year,” added Deborah Parker. “Events like this not only helps build stronger relationships in our community, but also strengthens the commitment to our children’s success. It’s about finding ways to honor the diversity of students we have in the District and uplifting them for who they are and where they come from.”

Early Learning’s Annual Superhero Dance is a (Hulk) Smash

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Many superhero stories begin in fictional cities such as Gotham or Metropolis, this one however, takes place on the reservation of Tulalip at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy gym. On the evening of May 18, a team of young students, incognito as their alter egos, assembled, not to fight injustice or villainous bad guys, but just to have a good time at the annual Superhero Dance planned by the Academy’s Parent Committee. Dressed as their favorite characters including Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl and Spiderman, the kids took to the dancefloor to showcase their special moves and superpowers.

“The Parent Committee deserves a lot of credit. The dance and the theme was their idea. They decorated and they fund-raise to put this on every year,” says Katrina Lane, the Academy’s Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. 

The inside of the gym was decorated with illustrations from the classic comic book era, complete with a metropolis-esque city skyline. After the first successful Superhero Dance last year, the Committee decided to continue with the theme this year. The inspiration for the dance originated from an annual dance held by the Marysville School District. 

“We wanted to do something to encourage being active,” explains Jennifer Bontempo of the Parent Committee. “Marysville does a mom and son superhero dance every year and we thought this is awesome, we need to do this for our kids.”

“And our dance isn’t just for the boys,” adds Parent Committee Chairwoman, Mireya Gonzales. “The little girls get to dress up too! It’s great spending time with all the families, interacting and meeting new people. This is my first year planning for the dance, they held one last year and it was very popular so we decided to go ahead and redo it. We held a pretty good fundraiser around Christmas time so that gave us the funds to get the DJ. We also have Spiderman and Batman coming to visit.”

The kids were surprised when the superhero characters arrived, so much so they put their boogie on hold to greet Spidey and the Bat with hugs, high-fives and multiple questions. The characters stayed for the remainder of the event, dancing alongside the kids. Local heroes from the Tulalip Police Department and the Tulalip Bay Fire Department were also in attendance.

“We like getting out and spending as much time as we can with the community anytime there’s an event,” says Tulalip Bay Fire Captain, Chris Finley. “Especially with the little kids, because we know how much kids look up to firefighters and we just wanted to join the fun and be a part of this.”

Students and parents, many of whom also dressed up, had a fantastic time dancing together during the hokey-pokey and the cha-cha slide. The Parent Committee also began raising funds for next year’s dance by holding a raffle with an array of prizes including a TV and a tablet. 

“The best part about the dance is dancing!” expressed Early Learning Academy student, Penny. “I also like dressing up. I dressed up as Belle because I really like Belle but my favorite superheroes are PJ Masks!”

After a night of action-packed dancing, the young heroes hung up their capes until the next superhero dance, or at least until they’re called upon to save the entire universe.

Quil Ceda Village tax case underway in federal court

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

According to the Washington Department of Revenue, Tulalip’s Quil Ceda Village generates approximately $40 million in tax revenues each year, but none of these taxes go to Tulalip or the Village. Instead, the State and County collect 100% of the taxes, with the vast majority going to Olympia. The State and County do not share any of these tax revenues with Tulalip.

The Tulalip Tribes’ lawsuit challenging Washington State and Snohomish County’s authority to collect sales tax generated by businesses in Quil Ceda Village (QCV) has finally commenced. The bench trial, presided over by Judge Barbara Rothstein, is scheduled for 10-days and began on Monday, May 14, at the U.S. District Courthouse located in Seattle.

Moments prior to court going into session, Chairwoman Marie Zackuse stated, “The Tulalip Tribes are here today to present our case. This is about taxes generated in our own tribal municipality – built with our own resources. We are confident we have a strong case and look forward to a positive outcome.”

The U.S. federal government is Tulalip’s co-plaintiff in the legal battle against Snohomish County and Washington State. The United States claims the State and County’s imposition of taxes on commerce in Quil Ceda Village undermines tribal and federal interests, infringes on tribal self-governance, and violates the Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The United States takes seriously the federal role in protecting tribal self-government, which has its foundation in federal statutes, treaties, and regulations,” said John C. Cruden, the Assistant U.S. Attorney General at the time the lawsuit was filed.

“The State of Washington and Snohomish County did not contribute in any significant respect to the development of Quil Ceda Village,” according to the United States complaint filed in Seattle. “Moreover, they provide no significant governmental services at the Village and they play no role in the Village’s ongoing operations.” 

The State and County currently collect over $40 million in annual property, business and occupation and sales taxes on the on-reservation activities at Quil Ceda Village. Even though Tulalip has its own applicable tribal tax laws, State and County taxation, in effect, preclude Tulalip from imposing its own taxes and deprive the Tribe of the tax base needed to fund important governmental services.

During opening arguments, Tulalip’s legal team expressed that the evidence will show that Tulalip has done everything reasonable to build QCV into what it is today while working under the guidelines of the Tulalip Leasing Act and other federal statutes encouraging self-determination. Tulalip created an economic engine, only to have the tax-base they created be 100% appropriated by County and State governments. 

Background

In 2001, the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved QCV’s status as a tribal municipality. Quil Ceda Village became the first tribal political subdivision in the nation established under the Indian Tribal Governmental Tax Status Act of 1982, and one of only two federal municipalities in the country, the other being Washington, D.C. As the first tribal city of its kind, Quil Ceda Village is an innovative model of tribal economic development.

The Tulalip Tribes, with support of the United States government, took what was once undeveloped land and engaged in master planning, invested in infrastructure, and created resources that benefit its tribal membership and the surrounding communities. 

Quil Ceda Village is widely regarded as an economic powerhouse, located entirely on federal land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Tulalip Tribes. The Village contains the Tulalip Resort Casino, Walmart, Home Depot, Cabela’s, the 130 designer store Seattle Premium Outlets, and provides jobs for over 5,000 employees. QCV has fulfilled the vision of past tribal leaders who sought to create a destination marketplace on the Tulalip Reservation.

Be a witness to history

Tulalip filed suit against the State and County in 2015, seeking the right to claim the tax revenue generated at QCV. Three years later, the lawsuit is finally being heard and is open to the public. Over the 10-day federal court proceedings, Tulalip Tribes, represented by the Office of Reservation Attorney and the Seattle-based law firm of Kanji & Katzen, will seek authorization to exercise its sovereignty over the economy and tax-base, while asking the Court to instruct the County and State to cease collecting sales tax on economic activities within the boundaries of QCV.

Tulalip Tribes, et al., vs. the State of Washington, et al. is ongoing at the U.S. District Courthouse located at 700 Stewart St, Seattle, WA 98101. Tribal members who wish to show their support are encouraged to do so. The case is being heard by Judge Rothstein in room 16106 from 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. 

“We are witnessing history in the making as the two-week hearing for our federal city, Quil Ceda Village, is underway to preempt Washington State sales taxes within our sovereign lands,” said former Board of Director Theresa Sheldon. “It’s important to acknowledge that it has taken decades of work for us to get to this point. The efforts of so many past tribal leaders and QCV employees helped carry this vision forward.”

Raising Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) are an epidemic in Washington State,” explained Earth-Feather Sovereign, a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes. “Washington State is 4th in the United States as having the most MMIW. I have two daughters, so I choose to not sit around and wait. Instead, I’m going to take action to try and make a better way for my children. There’s too many injustices going on with our Indigenous people. We should be the first thought, not the last thought.”

Earth-Feather coordinates the MMIW Washington group that aims to stop violence against Native women and children by advocating for social change in our communities. MMIW Washington recently worked with state legislatures to write a new state law that goes into effect in June. 

House Bill 2951 is designed to open up the reporting and data-gathering on missing Native women. By requiring Washington State Patrol to work with tribal law enforcements and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs to conduct a study, House Bill 2951 will increase state resources that are greatly needed to combat an epidemic of MMIW.

The National Crime Information Database reported 5,712 known incidents of missing and murdered Indigenous women in 2016, while a recent report from the National Institute of Justice found that more than four out of five Native women have experienced violence in their lives. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls homicide the third-leading cause of death among Native women ages 10 to 24. And the U.S. Department of Justice has reported Native women living on reservations are ten times more likely to be murdered than those who live off the reservation.

Earth-Feather, along with many members of MMIW Washington, visited the Tulalip Reservation on May 8th as part of their eight-day march from Blaine, Washington to Olympia. The occasion allowed them to meet with community members and provided an open invitation to all to walk in prayer for their Native sisters who have been murdered and gone missing. 

“Although a short notice, Tulalip Tribes made sure the group was honored with a meal and a place to sleep,” said Board of Director Marlin Fryberg, who greeted the MMIW Washington group as they arrived on the reservation. “Special thanks to Jen Maia for educating me on what MMIW is doing in North Dakota and helping me understand more about the cause and history. Awareness and education is key. Human trafficking has taken so many of our people across the nation and Canada. God bless everyone who has taken a stance.” 

Following the prayer walk and a blessing, the MMIW of Washington made their way to the Dining Hall where a large gathering of community members waited to hear about their mission and journey. An estimated fifty-five people were in attendance, including representatives from the Board, Youth Council and police department. Many of the women attendees dressed in red to support the MMIW movement. 

After everyone was treated to a catered dinner, they listened intently to the message, first-hand experience and call for action shared by their hosted guests. 

“As a people we must uplift our women who are at the bottom of the so-called totem pole because when our life givers are able to heal and become strong, then all our nations start to heal,” expressed Earth-Feather during her heartfelt, key-note address. “We come from warrior people, we still are warriors. To our young men: you are protectors. Our women and children are sacred and need to be protected.”

Tribal member Deborah Parker shared her Woman Warrior Song, which comes from First Nations sisters in British Columbia, and gifted several speakers with custom-made MMIW flags. The evening concluded with the MMIW of Washington members offering song and prayer for those have gone missing, those have lost love ones to murder, and for any women seeking strength.