Recovery Resource Center designed to ‘save lives’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On the morning of Monday, January 30, community change makers convened for the grand opening of Tulalip’s latest resource designed to combat substance use disorder and an opioid crisis that continues to terrorize our community. Appropriately named the Recovery Resource Center, the remodeled building is intended to serve as a safe space for those actively along their recovery journey in search of resources to get clean, maintain sobriety, or simply desiring to chat with nonjudgmental staff and peers about obstacles experienced.

“We’ve been working on the development of this building for close to a year now, and the time has finally come to unveil this latest project,” said Rebecca Hunter, director of comprehensive recovery solutions. “We brought over the ODMAP team from the court house to work with our clients closely, which allows for a greater level of outreach. Within this Recovery Resource Center, we offer short-term sober living for those getting out of inpatient treatment, we monitor compliance of aftercare recovery, check-ins with recovery counselors, NARCAN distribution, and even offer financial services for those living in Oxford housing.”

An Oxford House is a shared housing residence for people in recovery from substance use disorders. An Oxford House describes a democratically self-governed and self-supported drug-free house. There is no length of stay and the house may have from six to ten residents. There are houses for men, women, men with children, or women with children. Visit for more information and eligibility requirements of Oxford living. 

The newly remodeled building that is the Recovery Resource Center has served Tulalip in multiple capacities over the years. Most notably as the old health clinic, before being the one-time home of Lushootseed and then a domestic violence shelter after that. It’s burnt orange exterior with red trim resembling a rustic torch, lighting the way to new beginnings for those whose life may depend on its resources offered

“Our overarching mission is to work with people as they are. Those coming right off the street and looking for a warm space to stay dry and have a bite to eat, even if for a short while, are much more open minded and accepting to engaging in our services,” Rebecca explained. “It’s another pathway for us to get the education out there and NARCAN distributed so we can save lives.”

According to the latest data available from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), 250 Americans die every day, on average, from a drug overdose. The number of overdose deaths has increased over time, with a sharp rise during COVID. Making matters more concerning for Native American population centers is the well-known fact that per capita, we have the highest rate of rate of overdose deaths, and that rate has only increased in recent years. This unfortunate, gut-wrenching trend is clearly illustrated in the accompanying CDC chart.  

“Having a drop-in center for people to go to, staffed with friendly, well-informed individuals who won’t judge, but will listen and suggest resources is so important for outreach,” added Rebecca. “We have so many community members in need with recovery, and yet we continue to have more deaths, too, especially among our young people. So where are systems not speaking to each other? Where are our gaps between Behavioral Health, Family Services, and the Health Clinic? 

“Our team is committed to finding solutions and identifying those gaps in service so we can better our services to the community and save lives.”

When your tribe’s leading cause of death is drug overdose, which is and has been the case for Tulalip in recent years, it’s no understatement to say having more resources, more outreach, and more staff trained to recognize the signs of substance use disorder can save lives. Rebecca and her team at the Center are committed to being the change that the community has called for: a group of culturally responsive, judgement-free professionals committed to helping those caught in the trenches make their way out to live long and full lives. 

“Although the grant for our overdose mapping program is coming to an end, we fully intend to continue on that mission to implement as many efforts as we can to combat the opioid crisis and high rates of overdose in Native communities,” said Kali Joseph, manager for the Recovery Resource Center. “One of our goals is to offer a space for our people to come together and feel that connection of community. For those who feel lost, that connection to community may be the exact thing they need to start their recovery journey.

“In order to most effectively reach our people and keep them engaged, we must take a holistic approach to substance use order,” she continued. “Meaning we need to approach it not just physically, but spiritually, mentally, and emotionally as well. We understand the need to raise awareness about how this crisis is related to intergenerational and historical trauma. A lot of times people use substances as a coping mechanism to heal from all that unresolved grief and trauma.”

It’s worth mentioning that the source of so much of that intergenerational and historical trauma that currently burdens our people stems from the now demolished Tulalip Boarding School that operated from 1857 to 1932. On the same grounds where multiple generations of Tulalip children were stripped of their culture and forced to assimilate, where untold horrors and countless wrongs occurred, that is where the newly minted Recovery Resource Center now stands. 

Tulalip’s Recovery Resource Center is here to support all Tulalip citizens in all phases of their journey: whether new to recovery, after a difficult transition, during mental health changes, or now wanting to give back in service to others. A bold initiative to arm our people with the resources they need to build resiliency, acquire strength, and feel empowered to heal themselves and our community in a good way.

A crucial levy for Marysville and Tulalip youth

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

Registered Marysville and Tulalip residences should’ve already received their voting ballots concerning the reinstatement of the Marysville School District (MSD) Levy. The levy is not a new tax; it is a reinstatement of a levy that supports student learning, achievement, health and safety, sports, and school activities. Votes must be submitted on or before Election day on February 14th. If the levy does not pass, it will hurt MSD and the Tulalip youth attending. 

MSD Executive Director of Finance David Cram said, “This levy is critical to the school district’s operations in support of its students’ learning, physical, and social-emotional health and development. Without this levy…reductions in staff and other programs district-wide will be necessary.” The levy directly affects students from preschool through high school and eliminates resources that Tulalip youth use daily. 

If the levy does not pass, what does it directly impact?

  • Sports like football, basketball, cheerleading, soccer, tennis, swimming, and others risk getting shut down
  • The Marysville Pilchuck High School pool, which has been open for over 50 years by levy dollars, risks closing its doors
  • Transportation like school buses and drivers will be cut. Therefore making students wait outside longer to be picked up or required to be driven to school
  • School nurses and counseling services risk losing their jobs, and students will be left without those resources
  • Teaching staff will be cut. Therefore class sizes will grow, and students will receive less one-on-one time making it harder to learn
  • Students will be forced to re-use older technology 
  • Creative outlets and college application resources like clubs and other extra-curricular groups will be eliminated 
  • Early learning for kids ages three to four will be cut. Studies show that students without early learning opportunities are more likely to skip class, be suspended from school, and be less academically prepared when they’re older

Why is the district struggling for funds?

Because the levy failed in 2022, this upcoming levy reinstatement has become more crucial for MSD than ever. 

Out of the revenue MSD receives, state revenue makes up 68%, federal 14%, property tax (from levies) 14%, misc. other 3%, and local non-tax 1%.

According to MSD, the state funding they receive only provides 1 out of 7 safety and security staff, 27 out of 54 counselor and emotional support staff, 5 out of 21 social services staff, and 54 out of 69 grounds and maintenance staff. 

Because Tulalip tribal youth are a big part of MSD, the district does receive 2.2 million annually from Tulalip tribal government. This funding serves three schools: Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, Totem Middle School, and Heritage High School. However, that still only equates to part of the misc. other (3%) of the funding that MSD obtains. 

What does the levy cost you?

This is not a new tax. This levy is a proposed reinstatement and is 68 cents less than the expiring EP & O Levy rate. Levies typically run on a 4-year cycle renewed through voter-approved ballot measures. The levy is approximately $1.67 per thousand of an assessed home value and is 68 cents less per thousand than the expiring measure. It saves each household roughly $340 less per year in taxes. For example, if your home is valued at $600,000 (the median home price in Marysville), the estimated levy cost per year is approximately $1,000. 

For tribal members, land in trust won’t be affected by the levy tax.

Additionally, senior citizens and disabled persons may qualify for tax exemption. To learn more, people can call the Snohomish County’s Assessors office at 4253883433.  

What if there is mistrust with MSD?

As the Executive Director of Tulalip Tribes Education Division, Jessica Bustad, posted on Facebook, “We know that the division between Tulalip and Marysville is real. We know that racism and inequalities are alive. We know that our Native children (and all students of color) deserve better! Our children deserve an education that will build them up and contribute to their quality of life. Our people have suffered at the hands of the ‘education system,’ starting with Boarding Schools. We know, in our hearts, that these systems must be decolonized and dismantled for our children to thrive. However, it takes time to create and build a foundation for our children. Once our Tulalip school is built, the reality is that we will still have to earn the trust of our parents and families…In the meantime, we must support our children in the public school system. Supporting this Levy is supporting OUR children. When a Levy fails, it is not the School Board or Executives that are hurting, it is our students & families, and the teachers who serve them.” 

How does this levy directly impact Tulalip youth?

According to MSD Native American Program Coordinator Matthew Remle, there are around 800 Tulalip students within the district. Transportation, Pay to Play, and paraeducators are some of the heavily used resources that Tulalip students and low-income families risk losing. 

Why is tribal support so crucial?

As Jessica has already witnessed working with MSD, some of these budgetary cuts have already been made because of the failed levies last year. Class sizes have already started to grow, and middle school sports were cut and merged with the YMCA. 

 Historically speaking, the Tulalip population has consistently had a low voter turnout. According to a Snohomish County Elections breakdown, the overall turnout for the April 2022 Marysville School District Levies was 27%. Only 12,924 votes were cast out of 47,899 registered voters. And if we look more closely at the Tulalip Reservation population, the turnout was 24% or 1,799 votes cast out of 7363 registered voters.

 Looking back at the failed levies from last year, Proposition No.1 lost by 9%, and  Proposition No. 2 lost by 5%. Jessica said, “We must do what’s right for our people and students in any election. These decisions are being made without us simply because we’re not voting. Ultimately, its impacts our children and their future.” 

How does someone help?

Vote! As Superintendent Dr. Zachary Robbins said, “This is the most critical levy in the city’s, Marysville, and Tulalip community’s history.” Ballots can be turned in until February 14th at 8:00 PM. The closest ballot drop box is located by the Don Hatch Youth Center. If you have not registered to vote, please register online by February 6th at:, or in person at 3000 Rockefeller Ave, Admin West Building, Everett, WA 98201, by February 14th.

To gain voter turnout and support for the levy, the Tulalip Education Division is hosting a Valentine’s Day ballot drop party on February 14th at the Greg Williams Court at 5:30 PM. For any additional questions, please reach out to Jessica at  

*Levy information and statistics provided by MSD 

The Spirit of Running 

By Kalvin Valdillez, photos by Kalvin and Tyler Fryberg

We all know someone who loves to run. Some runners train for marathons where they competitively engage in the sport with their fellow members of the running community, and many others run with their health and conditioning in mind. No matter what people run to achieve, what brand their running sneakers are, or if they run on road, trail, treadmill, or track, they develop a deeply personal relationship with their self’s byway of the sport. 

After the initial stage of side stitches and that feeling of complete exhaustion, running becomes an activity that new athletes look forward to in their everyday schedule. And once runners have all the techniques down, such as breathing, stretching, practicing proper running form, and eating a healthy and nourishing diet, running eventually becomes second nature, which allows time for people to go inward to process their thoughts and focus on their mental and spiritual state.

There is something so freeing while you are out in the middle of a run and the endorphins are high. Perhaps it’s the terrain and the beautiful scenery of the natural world that puts people in a meditative state and increases their cognitive clarity. Whatever it may be, runners usually gain a positive outlook on life and are very in tune with the universe as we know it.

That connection between soul and exercise is all the more special for the Indigenous Peoples of North America. What many gain from ceremony and engaging in various cultural activities, Native runners also share – that experience of connectedness to their territory, spirituality, and traditional way of life.

Long before colonialism arrived at our lands, Native people utilized running as a means of delivering messages to other tribes, and also as rites of passage as their youth transitioned into adulthood. For generations upon generations, Natives relied on running and traveling by foot, and to say they were good at it is an understatement. Not only could Natives run long distances, but they could do it in a short amount of time, and they frequently covered as many as one hundred miles over the course of 24-hours. 

Several survivors from the boarding school era went on record to tell of how they escaped the institutions of genocide on foot and ran extremely long distances in harsh conditions to be reunited with their tribes and families. 

It’s safe to say that running is embedded in our traditions, heritage, and culture. In modern times, the act of running in Native America is typically accompanied with a cause to raise awareness. Last Fall, NCAI President and Vice-Chair of the Quinault Indian Nation, Fawn Sharp, organized a 1,787-mile relay that spanned across five states to bring attention to the 2022 Supreme Court ruling, Castro v. Oklahoma, and also to celebrate the recent reinstatement of Jim Thorpe’s 1912 Olympic records as the sole champion of the that year’s decathlon and pentathlon. 

At Tulalip, several awareness runs are hosted throughout each year such as the Orange Shirt Day Run and the Color Run, which helps open up the discussion about some of the issues that tribal youth face due to generational trauma such as suicide, bullying and addiction. 

The fact that running plays a huge role in our history and our practices is often overlooked in today’s society of planes, bullet trains, and driverless automobiles, not to mention the ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft. 

This year, Tulalip News is highlighting a number of Native runners, historians, and organizations that are focused on the cultural aspect of running. And there is no better place to start than with the Tulalip Marathon Man himself, Tyler Fryberg, who has received countless accolades for his passion and dedication to the art of running, and who has also actively participated in the state’s Special Olympics throughout the years. So, without further ado, we present a fun Q&A with Tyler Fryberg.

As a tribal member, can you describe your relationship with running?

My relationship with running – I got into running seventeen years ago. At first, I hated it and then something clicked to where I loved running, and I started running five days a week when I was in high school. I used to hate the fact that I would always get injured. At one point, I wanted to stop running, but one day I realized that was just something I would have to [endure] if I wanted to keep going on as a runner. So I did and now I love the sport, and I’ve learned so many ways of how to run injury-free and how to keep my body in shape so I can keep running for many years to come.

You can often be seen training throughout the reservation, do you feel a special connection to your homelands when you are running through Tulalip? If so, what are some of your favorite scenic views during your route?

Yes, I do feel a connection to my homelands. My favorite view is when I run to the end of Mission Beach. When I look out, I can see everything from the water and animals in the trees, to seeing different tribal members do what they love on the water. Another view that I enjoy is when I go to the water, down behind the longhouse. I love the water and I feel a connection to my homelands by the water, since we as Tulalip members are water people.

Traditionally, running is an extension of the Native American way of life and is a great exercise both physically and spiritually. While you are running, do you feel as though you are able to embrace that connection to our ancestors and traditions?

When I run, I feel the Native Americans before me. They did not have cars at one time, so they didn’t just run for a sport like I do today, but also to get food for their families, to get wood, and other [necessities]. And for me, I feel that they’re watching me run and are there without me even knowing it. Because sometimes I feel like I am talking to someone who is not there on my runs. And I believe it’s the ancestors who lived before me. I feel like they would be proud of me for keeping running alive as a Native American today.

As mentioned before, running is practically in our DNA. In today’s world, with all the different modes of transportation and everyday distractions, why do you think it’s important for tribal members to reconnect with the sport of running?

I feel like running is our way of life, and we don’t take enough time to connect with what our ancestors did before. We might also have football or basketball in our DNA today, but people forget running was a sport here way before any of those were even created. 

And lastly, what are your current running goals, are you training for anything specific lately?

I am training for a full marathon on April 2, 2023, in Everett. And I am also training at the same time for the 5k road race for the Special Olympics. Because I run for sport as a competitive athlete, I never forget the Native Americans who came before me and I want to make them proud. Which I feel like I already do.

Tulalip History Project shares stories of our people

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

The Tulalip History Project (THP) is a video production unit within the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) that curates a variety of short films relaying important figures, events, and times of our people. The videos also provide an inside look at old photos and videos of our past that have been carefully collected throughout time by the Hibulb’s library. 

HCC staff have been producing historically and culturally-relevant videos since 2012. Many of the videos include interviews of tribal elders and leaders, discussing historical events like residential boarding schools, songs of our people, the Lushootseed language, tutorials on cultural arts, etc. The THP was formed in 2015 following multiple film presentations that HCC had created. One of the standout films was based on Tulalip cultural leader William Shelton titled “William Shelton & the Sklaletut Pole.” LJ Mowrer (Tulalip) and staff worked together to produce this short 11-minute documentary, which was accepted and screened at the American Indian Film Festival (AIFF) in 2013.

LJ spoke of this film and expressed the power visual image provides. “One time, I was with my father, who was 96, and his great-grandson, who was about 10, and we showed them this video. My dad could barely hear at the time, and the 10-year-old didn’t know who William was. They were both getting different things out of the video, but they were both exposed to this information about William. Information that they wouldn’t have normally gotten since neither one of them would have read Harriet Shelton’s autobiography,” she said. 

The current staff of THP includes LJ, Librarian, and John Altenhofen, Video Producer/Director. Together, they have produced over 81 videos, each uniquely displaying the different aspects of our culture. 

The THP’s goal is to continue producing quality films highlighting Tulalip’s irreplaceable cultural beauty and history. Natives are telling Native perspectives and stories. Without compromise or bias, the history of our people is shared through these films with transparency and veracity. 

“My definition of history is one person’s opinion of what’s important and what’s not,” LJ said. “For the main population of the US, it has been the Western expansion of Manifest Destiny, and that’s the perspective of history that most people get in school.”  

One example that LJ shared was the lack of access to information that Natives face. She used the Civil War as an example and the thousands of books about this historical event, and yet, there are only a handful of books about Tulalip’s history. Because of that, it breeds a difference between librarianship and the videography that they’re creating. Librarians deal with published material, while the biographies and stories being told by our people only have one source or one interview that exists. And videos like these are left to establish this source or interview as information for us. They hope that with access to these films, people can learn about Tulalip’s history and information about the Natives of this land more easily and quickly.  

“One of the THP objectives is to record elders’ autobiographies,” LJ said. “That is something that people outside of the reservation wouldn’t be interested in. To them, it’s just ordinary people living ordinary lives. But to us, they’re our family, and it is interesting,” 

LJ spoke about one of Sarah Sheldon’s descendants watching the Sarah Sheldon biography video, and how even though they had not known much about Sarah, they were proud to hear her story and were proud to say they were related to her. 

Projects that are in the pipeline include:

  • An educational video on the history of the Tulalip Indian School, aimed at middle school students, to support the “Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State” curriculum.
  • Biographical videos of leaders like Patkanim, William Shelton, Wilfred Steve, Charles Jules, Lawrence Williams, Edith Parks, Marya Moses, Elsie Price, George Williams Sr., Agnes James, Janet McCloud, Clarence Hatch, Delores Gobin, Leota Pablo, Kenny Moses Sr., Della Hill, Katie Berkeley, Jerry Jones, Ray Moses, Leroy Fryberg, etc.
  • Update the “2005 Directory of Tulalip Veterans” book.
  • Place “Hibulb Conversations” on First Nations Experience channel (FNX is the first national Native American channel in the U.S.).
  • A Ken Burns/Civil War-style documentary series on Tulalip history (as recommended by Herman Williams Sr. in 1990).
  • Create a Tulalip history book for children.
  • A reading program aimed at kids from pre-school to first grade, as read by community members.

Most videos can be found on the HCC Facebook page or the Tulalip History Project YouTube channel. Since many of the videos predate the use of social media, each video is being re-introduced to the public as the THP “Video of the Week” at If any tribal members have content ideas for future THP projects, please get in touch with LJ Mowrer at 

TVTC enrollment open now; only 16-weeks, 455 hours to construct the new you

By Kalvin Valdillez, photos courtesy of Lisa Telford

With the turn of the year comes a time of reflection and reevaluation. Something about a fresh new calendar inspires many to make changes, set personal goals, and take on new challenges to become the best version of their selves. Now, we all know the old adage, ‘new year, new me.’ And while many overuse the phrase to trick themselves into a healthier lifestyle, the Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) is providing an opportunity for you to turn that expression into reality by offering their construction pre-apprenticeship course at the top of the first quarter. 

“The Native way is to take care of your people because that’s what we do, we take care of each other,” said TVTC Family Career Navigator, Lisa Telford. “Construction wages are livable wages that you can support your family on. I was a carpenter for twenty-three years and I only worked with about three or four Native carpenters, and two of them were my cousins. I’ve always been interested in helping Natives enter the construction industry, mainly because it is such a good wage.”

The TVTC construction course is the first of its kind, and to date, it remains the only Native pre-apprenticeship in the nation. The program is offered to tribal members enrolled in any of the 574 federally recognized tribes, as well as to their parents, spouses, and children. Throughout the years, TVTC has helped hundreds of Natives find their career path, some from as far away as Alaska and Wyoming. 

During the sixteen-week course, the students build a strong skillset that can be applied to a variety of well-paying jobs such as carpentry, cementing, and plumbing as well as electrical and mechanical work. Additionally, TVTC participants also earn a number of certifications while attending the hands-on program. 

“It is carpentry based, so they’re going to learn a lot about carpentry, but they’re also going to learn that construction is a physically demanding trade and they’re going to learn to meet that challenge,” Lisa explained. “They earn certifications in forklift, boom lift, scissor lift, first-aid, CPR, OSHA-10, 40-hour HAZWOPER class, and hopefully traffic control. They are going to be able to competitively enter a construction apprenticeship because our graduates get direct or preferred entry into the construction industry, and they get extra points for completing a pre-apprenticeship program. 

“We are a state-recognized pre-apprenticeship program and we have agreements with carpenters, cement masons, [etc.], and also preferred or direct entry in any trade, and direct entry in a TERO job. If there is a TERO job where they need to hire carpenters, or they’re looking for apprentices, they can call up our graduates. Every time a job posting comes in, I send it out to everybody who completed this program.”

As soon as the students complete their 455 hours of coursework, they are introduced to a world full of never-ending opportunities with their newly gained experience. As evidenced in the latest statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor, construction jobs are currently in high demand and are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years by an estimated 700,000. Equally important to note, all of those available positions pay much more than the state’s minimum wage of $15.74. And mind you, those wages are just entry-level positions, so the opportunity to grow both in experience and financial health is yours to seize. 

“It’s good if you have the skills to help your people out,” expressed Lisa “That helps build your confidence and your pride. The more you do it, the more comfortable you feel and then you’ll be ready to step into that construction work zone. A lot of people go to work for housing, the majority of our graduates go to work for the Tribe or the Resort [Tulalip Resort Casino].”

Not only does the TVTC course equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to help get your foot in the door in the construction industry, but TVTC also supports their students far beyond their graduation ceremony. 

Lisa shared, “To me, the graduation is not really the finale because no matter what, they belong to the TERO vocational training center. We’re always going to be supporting you and reaching out to you. We can work as an advocate, act as a liaison, whatever we have to do to make your transition into the construction industry smooth. Throughout the whole program, I have the opportunity to watch them grow and shine. My favorite part is when they realize that they enjoy what they are doing, you can hear their laughter and see the pride on their faces. I enjoy watching them grow into that person.” 

The upcoming construction course will look a bit different than it has in previous years. Currently, the program is down a key component, but Lisa and the TVTC crew are ready to take the challenge head-on, and with much enthusiasm.

She said, “We lost our instructor, and we are currently looking for a new instructor. Hopefully we’ll find one mid-program so we can mentor them into our dream instructor. Billy [Burchett] a sheet metal worker, and the teacher’s assistant, is now the Client Services Coordinator of this program. And Jerad Eastman worked for Quil Ceda Village as a Project Manager, he knows a lot about blueprint reading and construction. We’re all going to do it together. I know about carpentry, Jerad knows about blueprints, Billy knows about math, plumbing, and electrical. We’re going to put it all together to make one exceptional instructor.”

Lisa also mentioned that she will more than likely have some additional help throughout the course from the likes of TVTC alumni. She shared, “That’s what I enjoy the most is when they come back and talk to the class about their work and what it’s like, because I think it’s important to see someone who looks like them be successful out in the construction workforce.”

The next TVTC course begins on February 13. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a few exceptions such as days when the class travels for a job site tour or when participants take part in a hands-on experience known as an ‘apprenticeship for a day’. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at (360) 716-4760 for additional information and an application. Applications are available online, however, the e-mail link is broken. If you do fill out an application online, please download it first and then e-mail it to Lisa. You can also send it to her via fax (360) 716-0144 or in person at the training center. 

And since we started with an expression, we’ll end with another for good measure. As the late Kurt Cobain once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Human Trafficking. Torn pieces of paper with the words Human Trafficking. Concept Image. Black and White. Closeup.

By Marisa Chavez, Tulalip Children’s Advocacy Center and Legacy of Healing 

Human Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.  Every year millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide, and Washington State has the 11th highest rate of trafficking in the United States. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. 

40% of women who are human trafficking victims or survivors identify as Native American or Alaska Native according to a 2015 study by the National Congress of American Indians. 

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. It has also been known as “trafficking in persons” or “modern slavery”. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. 

Traffickers will use violence, manipulation, false promises of well-paying jobs, and romantic relationships to target their victims. 

Traffickers also look for people who are easy targets for a variety of reasons which include psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, and lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, and political instability. 

Sex Trafficking vs Labor Trafficking

There are many misconceptions of what sex trafficking is. Trafficking rarely looks like what we see in the movies.  We all have a picture in our minds of someone lost in a back alley, suddenly grabbed, suffocated with chloroform, and thrown in the back of a van, only to wake up bound by straps or duct tape or handcuffs. 

Sex Trafficking can occur in any context, such as hotel-based commercial sex, fake massage businesses, street-based commercial sex, residential brothels, truck stops, or escort services.

Labor Trafficking can occur in any industry, including domestic work, agriculture, traveling sales, health and beauty services, restaurants, or construction.

Traffickers use a variety of methods to lure victims into trafficking situations. Language barriers, fear of their traffickers, and fear of law enforcement frequently keep victims from seeking help, often making human trafficking a hidden crime.

The trauma caused by trafficking can be so impactful that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

Who are the Traffickers?

Traffickers usually employ a much less risky and more effective method: grooming.  Grooming involves building trust and taking exploiting vulnerabilities. A trafficker might be a family member, or try to take the place of one, gaining the victim’s trust while brainwashing her or him to see the world in a certain way.

Perpetrators of human trafficking are just as diverse as their victims, and span all racial, ethnic, and gender demographics. Some use their privilege, wealth, and power as a means of control while others experience the same socio-economic oppression as their victims. They include individuals, business owners, gang members, parents or family members of victims, intimate partners, owners of farms or restaurants, and powerful corporate executives and government representatives.   

How do traffickers control victims?

Traffickers employ a variety of control tactics, the most commonly include physical and emotional abuse and threats, isolation from friends and family, and economic abuse. They make promises aimed at addressing the needs of their target in order to impose control. As a result, victims become trapped and fear leaving for myriad reasons, including psychological trauma, shame, emotional attachment, or physical threats to themselves or their family.

Traffickers target vulnerable people who have needs that the traffickers can fill. Sometimes they offer material support – a place to live, clothing, and a chance to “get rich quick.” Other times they offer love, emotional support or a sense of belonging. Kidnapping victims and forcing them into the sex trade through violence is rare.

Where to Get Help

For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to alert the National Human Trafficking Hotline described below so that they can ensure response by law enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area.

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Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan breaks glass ceilings for Natives

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

The critically acclaimed Yellowstone ‘trilogy’ [Yelowstone, 1883, 1923] broke the 2022 season premiere record, with the fifth Yellowstone season carrying over 12.5 million viewers. Of course, many viewers have loved watching the action-packed imagery, captivating storyline, and incredible cast. But for some viewers, what catches their attention is the trilogy’s storyline connections to Native Americans’ dark history and the social injustices that they suffer.  

Taylor Sheridan, speaks about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, at the NIWRC Fundraiser and Honoring at the Montana Club in Helena, MT. Photo:

The series was written and created by actor and American filmmaker Taylor Sheridan. The last seven years of his career have focused on or highlighted Native American issues. Some of his work also includes Hell or High Water, Wind River, and Tulsa King. The various storylines have Native issues like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, addiction, interactions and betrayal between early English settlers and Native Americans, illegal pipelines built on Native land, social bounds on interracial Native relationships, forced placement onto reservations, residential boarding schools, racism, etc. 

While addressing Native struggles has been an important theme through the various shows and films, Taylor has also chosen to spotlight our culture’s irreplaceable beauty. How our people have used cultural traditions to care for our mental health, the strength and alliance within our community, the ability to persevere, and fight for our voices to be heard. In Yellowstone, being the husband to Native Monica Long-Dutton, several tribal members lead Kayce Dutton through an Indigenous ritual to be accepted into the tribe. Later in the series, Monica is seen participating in Indigenous traditions and cutting her hair to overcome the loss of her unborn child. 

In 2022, Taylor Sheridan was quoted by the Whiskey Riff western website saying, “I don’t think that there is a more misrepresented group in American cinema than the Native American. And what little I can do to correct that historical perspective in fiction, I’m gonna do.”

The statement couldn’t be more accurate, as the UCLA 2022 Hollywood Diversity Report showed that Native representation in film and television averages less than 0.9%. 

In a New York Times (NYT) article, Taylor Sheridan disclosed that he made it clear to his casting team that they needed to hire Native American actors for Native American roles. “I wasn’t going to sit here and tell a story about very real issues [sexual violence against women in Indian Country] and cast people to portray characters in that world suffering those burdens and not have some connection,” Taylor said. “Don’t even read them unless you can vet the authentic nature of their ancestry.” 

That misrepresentation carries over into how Native culture and history have been portrayed in cinema and textbooks. In the same NYT article, Bird Runningwater, director of the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Film Program, explained, “Most Americans consume media, and then you have our representation within that. They consumed what has been created by the system.” As many Natives know, throughout American history, our stories have consistently been hidden from the general public, misconstrued, watered-down, and blatantly lied about. We know that our truth hasn’t been publicized for so long, and it lacks complete transparency when it is shared. Having a ‘seat at the table’ in popular cinema helps change that narrative. 

Tulalip tribal chairwoman Teri Gobin with Native actor Mo Brings Plenty, who plays ‘Mo’ in Yellowstone. They met at the National Congress for American Indian Conference in Sacramento.
Photo courtesy of Teri Gobin. 

Taylor’s mentality with hiring Native American actors and sharing Native stories has only added to the director’s creative ability. The way he can capture the raw and intense emotions of Native issues commands your attention. 

Tulalip tribal member Nina Gobin Scott is a big fan of the Yellowstone trilogy and said, “I started them when it had already become popular. I was shocked at the amount of recognition of our people’s issues. You hardly ever see that level of truth in popular shows like this. When watching 1923 [the scenes where a Native girl is being sexually assaulted by a nun at a residential boarding school], I cried. We often hear about the physical and emotional abuse that our people endured at these schools, but rarely ever is the sexual abuse talked about. Even then, watching the sexual abuse acted out on screen is completely different. It was heartbreaking. I just sat and cried for our people.”

The many horrific truths of Native American history shared in these cinematic films have expanded the exposure of these issues. “I know Native issues are regularly discussed in our communities, but I don’t think it is mainstream enough. I hope that Native issues being on such a popular series opens the eyes of more people,” Nina said. 

While the trilogy brings awareness to our past, it also addresses current issues like state and federal governments respecting (or not respecting) treaty rights. In the most recent season of Yellowstone, the character Chairman Thomas Rainwater, played by Native actor Gil Birmingham (Camanche), was told that a federally proposed gas pipeline would be built through his reservation. And even though the state Governor and Senator were against this and supported the tribe, they were told it would be a fight they wouldn’t win. Sound similar? Many viewers compared it to the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline that was built. It gained national and international attention as the Standing Rock Sioux and several protesting organizations said it violated Article 2 of the Fort Laramie Treaty and would be an environmental catastrophe. Rather than respecting treaty rights, the Federal government moved forward with the project, and protesters suffered the use of water cannons in freezing weather and were arrested by a militarized police force. 

Even though Taylor is not of Native descent, along with hiring Native actors, he made it his mission to consult with the Natives of the land on which each of his cinemas was based. In 2017, in a public statement captured by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC), Taylor spoke about being welcomed into the Oglala Sioux tribal community, working with members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes of the Wind River Reservation, tribal leadership in Crow and Standing Rock, and worked with Native journalist Lailani Upham, and Executive Director of NIWRC Lucy Simpson. These are just a few of the many Native liaisons and trial leaders he has been associated with. 

Along with his efforts to work with and acquire a Native perspective in everything he did, he took his experience to politics. In 2017, he gave written testimony in support of S. 1942, Savanna’s Act, to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs. In the testimony, he shared the experiences he had with working alongside Native Americans, the research he had done to understand Native issues, and his shock when no government agency tracked information or statistics on murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Taylor was quoted by the NIWRC saying, “Of all responsibilities our government assumes, none is more urgent, more dire, and more necessary than the protection of the most vulnerable of our society. I am testifying to a segment of our society that couldn’t be in more desperate need of that protection,” he said. 

Taylor’s efforts to support Native voices have not gone unnoticed, and many Natives have felt empowered. Yellowstone, 1883, 1923, and Tulsa King can be streamed on Paramount+ or watched on the Paramount Network. The films Wind River and Hell or High Water can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.