Native American Fitness Council empowers local fitness leaders

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Native American Fitness Council (NAFC) was established in 2004 with the mission of empowering Native Americans through exercise education. The NAFC cofounders recognized a need for knowledgeable, passionate, and experienced Native American fitness instructors, but their vision didn’t stop there. These dedicated professionals developed programs that teach people to train other Natives in proper exercise and healthy lifestyles.

Today, NAFC has educated and inspired thousands of individuals to become positive role models in their communities. Tulalip was fortunate to receive their one-of-a-kind, culturally relevant approach to Native health during a two-day fitness camp hosted at our local youth center on August 4th and 5th

“The Fitness Council chose Tulalip as one of only four northwest tribes to help implement their vision of learning traditional games and exercises in an effort to ignite a spark for new fitness leaders within the local community,” said Erik Kakuska (Zuni Pueblo), western tribal diabetes project specialist. “These traditional games ranged from Eskimo Olympics, like the seal pull and seal carry, to the plains version of field hockey, better known as shinny.

“Our goal is to incorporate a great deal of functionality into all our workouts, so the youth learn proper form and alignment when they’re running, jumping, and really playing any popular sport,” he added. “The last two days have been filled with all kinds of activities that encourage the kids to find the fun in the game. Visiting tribal communities across the nation, we recognize that a lot of our culture was lost. It’s important to reteach that culture to the best of our abilities, and a part of that is teaching the value of keeping yourself healthy. Not only with your physical, but also with your mental.”

In true collaborative fashion, the NAFC worked side by side with Tulalip’s own diabetes care and prevention teams and representatives from youth services to make the multi-day fitness camp run as smoothly as possible. The shear quality of garden-fresh breakfasts and nutrition filled lunches cooked up by chef Brit Reed was almost as impressive as the 30 or so adolescents who went back for plate after plate. Filling up on much needed fuel for their mind, body and spirits as they engaged in a variety of A/C chilled, indoor games and even more sun soaked outdoor exercises in 80+ degree temperature. 

It’s no secret that as an ethnic group, Native Americans are hit the hardest, per capita, by several life shortening risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Then there’s the recent engagement of our young people with that homicidal maniac Fentanyl. A dark topic that needs a brighter spotlight shed on it for sure, but we’ll save that for another time.

Breaking news! All these debilitating diseases can come to a screeching halt by simply making healthier decision on a routine basis. Wild, right? Well, the even better news is that there are those among Gen Z who recognize this truth and desire to break the stereotypes that depict their people as unhealthy. Two such lean, mean fighting against the diabetes machine tribal members were willing to share their fitness camp experience. 

“What I’ve enjoyed is that all the activities we’ve done aren’t really hard to do, like anyone can participate and still go at their own pace,” said 16-year-old Ryelon Zackuse. “I’ve had some coaches who’ve been really rude or loud trying to make a point and that makes some people want to give up. But the coaches and instructors here were sensitive to our people’s abilities and took it slow to make sure everyone understood the motions and rules of the games. Eating good foods and being active is important to me because I have goals I want to achieve through sports and I can’t achieve those things if I’m eating junk food all the time. Its pretty simple really, if you stop treating your body well, then eventually your body will stop treating you well.”

“My favorite parts of the camp were learning to play traditional games from other tribes across the country, like when we went onto the ball field and played shinny. Not only did we learn to play a new game, but they showed us some simple tips to make sure we were engaging our cores and keeping our hips in alignment while running,” added 17-year-old Samara Davis. “I’ve really enjoyed the past couple days, being with so many of my peers and just having fun outside. It’s important for all our people, the youngest to the elders, to know the importance of daily movement.

“Personally, I love the way fresh fruits and vegetables taste, so it was cool being in an environment where we were provided with good, nutritional foods,” she continued while snacking on an apricot. “Healthy habits, whether its eating or exercise, is all about consistency. Once you’ve learned the habits, just keep doing them. That’s how we become elders.”

The showcase of Tulalip physical talent ranged from flexing agility and dexterity with a balloon tied around their ankles while attempting stomp the balloon of another player, to demonstrating nimbleness and light on their feet juke moves in a hybrid version of dodge ball, except they used water-soaked sponges on the hot summer day. Two days filled with exercise, education, an abundance of health and nutrition advice, traditional games from across Indian Country, and many memories made for the what the Native American Fitness Council are dubbing community fitness leaders.

“Our team believes if the kids see us as adults having a good time and doing our best to demonstrate good fun sportsmanship in winning and losing, while embracing simple traditions like coming together to share in wonderful meals where the kids can share their experiences, then we all benefit and win,” explained Veronica ‘Roni’ Leahy, diabetes care and prevention manager

“Our health clinic wins in the sense our program engages with the youth of Tulalip by delivering the best we can offer, and gives us chances to build long-lasting, positive relationships. The youth of Tulalip wins by having opportunities to be trained by some of the best trainers in Indian Country, not to mention experience traditional foods and the making of traditional medicines, like sore muscle salves. It really was so amazing to witness all the joy and laughter from simple fun and games that brought us all together. 

“We look forward to a time when we can offer this again, but on a larger scale,” added Roni. “So many people of all ages could really learn and enjoy these expert trainers and have so much fun in the process. Definitely one of the best events our program has offered.”

George W. Lewis

August 1, 1934 – August 7, 2022
George W. (Bill) Lewis, 88 of Tulalip passed away on August 7, 2022.

Bill was born in Portsmouth, Ohio on August 1, 1934 to Oscar and Edith joining siblings, Nancy, Tom, Sandy, Hilda, Candy and Penny. His children included Denise, David, Bill, Crystal, Jackie and Gay.; Step-children, Datasha, Lynn, Richard, Gail and Ken, whom he added when marring Bernita Brown in 2001 until her passing in 2007,

Although Bill lived in Washington State for over 20 years, you would find him in front of the TV on Saturdays watching his Ohio State Football Team and rooting on those Buckeyes. Bill also enjoyed the Seahawks, Mariners, playing bingo (In his earlier days), singing Karaoke, going to Vegas and the Kentucky Derby. You might have even seen him driving around town on his Vespa Scooter.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, Oscar and Edith; brother, Tom; wife Bernita; and grandson Dylan.

Bill leaves behind numerous family members.

Funeral services will be held Monday, August 15, 2022 at 10:00 AM at Schaefer-Shipman Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 9-10:00 AM. Burial at Mission Beach Cemetery.

Learning the fundamentals of S.T.E.M.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

According to the U.S. Department of Education, if we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, then building our students’ skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential. We must also make sure that no matter where children live, they have access to quality learning environments. A child’s zip code should not determine their STEM fluency. 

For those unfamiliar with the acronym STEM, its stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. On the Tulalip Reservation this concept can be thought of as career pathways to critical departments within our government, such as Natural Resources, Tulalip Data Services (TDS), construction and infrastructure building, and financial literacy necessary for various fields of Finance. 

In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing, techno-driven climate, it’s imperative our Tulalip youth be prepared with fundamentals of STEM teaching, such as problem-solving, making sense of important information, and being able to gather and examine evidence to make sound decisions. These were the skills being learned in truly stunning ways at this year’s 5th annual STEM week, made possible by some brilliant minds journeying all the way from Colorado and our local homework support program.  

“Our youth today are digital girls and boys in a world that is digitally based,” said Shana Simpson, lead student support specialist. “It is important for our kids to make these connections between science, technology and mathematics in order to draw out the relation to engineering. For this to be possible, they must first gain the knowledge to understand those connections and how they are applied to everyday life.”

Shana and her fellow coworkers were able to witness first-hand the amazing journey several Tulalip youngsters were able to have in the STEM realm. Nearly twenty kids, ranging in grade level from kindergarten to 6th grade, learned the fundamentals of STEM in the kind of fashion previous generations only experienced while watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. 

“It is highly enjoyable to watch our kids get nerdy as they are captivated by STEM activities,” added Shana. “After participating in STEM week, the kids continue to make their own observations and connections once they leave here. They are more likely to repeat what they have learned and pass their knowledge along. Hopefully, some continue to hold on to their interest and develop it into a true passion as they get older. Their participation in STEM week gives them an advantage at school and, we like to think, more opportunities in the future.”

Not only does STEM provide a new way of thinking and learning to students, the earning potential of a STEM versus a non-STEM career is staggering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average wage for all STEM occupations is $87,570. This is nearly double the average wage for non-STEM occupations averaging just $45,700. 

The four-day STEM week hosted from August 1-4 was anticipated for some time by Matthew and Kathy Collier, who taught the course to Tulalip’s youth for four straight years before the pandemic forced a two-year hiatus. The 2022 rendition a host of fund, hands-on activities that the kids embraced and thrived in.

“The robotic gripper teaching is all about studying different designs and analyzing how to make them more efficient. It also is an engineering model used in used in prosthetic limbs and shows how they can extend the use of programming and engineering to help humans. It’s used in Robotics and manufacturing,” explained Matthew Collier, STEM education training specialist. “The experiment with the brain scanner allowed children to tangibly see the force of their brain waves, invisible yet tangible forces we all have in our brains. 

“We taught them about Theta and Beta brain wave,” he continued. “Through the activity, they could see that Theta waves grow stronger with rest and Beta waves grow stronger through intentional focus. This science is used in education, medical science, behavior research and more. Additionally, the push car derby with LEGOs taught them to explore the forces of push and pull, as well as the effects of friction between objects. It provides great examples of cause and effect.”

From brain waves and robotics to a LEGO derby and computer coding, some of Tulalip’s youngest minds were able to successfully grasp STEM fundamentals and apply them in a variety of activities that have real world applications. The best part about their experience was the instructors’ enthusiasm and passion for STEM education was infectious. To the point the young participants were genuinely learning while having fun.

“The importance of providing children with STEM opportunities when they are young is the way in which it empowers them to better navigate their 21st century world around them,” said Kathy Collier, STEM education program development. “They can become participants rather than spectators in regards to the technologies that will influence every sphere of society. Through STEM camps like this one, as children take part in these activities, they begin to connect the dots in their understanding and discover that they may carry ideas for the next invention…or perhaps realize they hold the answer to a problem the world needs solved.”

A family reborn through naming ceremony and canoe unveiling

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Stacey Sam

On July 30, a Tulalip family held a canoe unveiling and naming ceremony for four of their family members, Stacer, Sampson, Saleena and Scotty. The highly anticipated event followed years of the family members attempting to reconnect with their culture and people, and the desire to earn their Indian names.

Naming ceremonies and receiving an Indian name plays an important role in Native American culture. Certain elements and traditions of each ceremony are sacred and specific to it’s given tribe. Nonetheless, each name that is given carries on a piece of our ancestors, and the language that we speak. Rather than their English name, Native Americans can proudly use their new name and be a representation of our people and our perseverance. 

Traditionally speaking, Native Americans used to not receive a name at birth, and would instead earn a name that was passed down from their family lineage. The name is typically chosen based on their personality, skills, or similar characteristics and traits that a loved one also once had. These names are taken and used with pride as each person with a given name represents the strengths of the past and the promises of the future.

Stacey Sam is the father to Stacer, Sampson, Saleena, and Scotty. He once lived on the Tulalip Reservation and then went on to spend most of his life at Muckleshoot. Unfortunately, with some familial problems that Stacey faced growing up, he didn’t quite have the connection with his culture as much as he would’ve liked. But, after building a family, and having kids of his own, he was able to watch them grow and see them strive for a culturally-led life. 

Scotty was the first of the kids that made an initiative to connect with his culture and asked his brother Stacer to join him. They went out of their way to learn cultural teachings, become more engaged within the community, and create a newfound respect for their people and ancestors. They started by attending Coastal Jams up and down the coast, and eventually became apart of the Canoe Team in Muckleshoot. By doing so, Stacer also found a new love for singing and began performing at jams and ceremonies. 

After watching his children and their newly found cultural journey, Stacey was inspired to continue on the path that his children had embarked. He realized they had gone too long without culture in their lives, and wanted a reset for his family. He wanted to establish a new legacy for his family that would last for generations to come. He quickly connected with some tribal elders and Tulalip family, and decided that a family canoe unveiling and naming ceremony would be the perfect next step.

“This is all new to me, but I want to bring that cultural presence back into my family line. My kids have already started and I want to see it through. They helped me pick up the drum, and it’s a blessing to get to know our ways. This journey has opened my eyes with the way we all come together and take care of one another,” Stacey said.

Stacey reached out to George Swanaset Sr. of Nooksak, who is an avid canoe carver, to help build his family canoe. Stacey wanted to be sure the canoe could fit everyone in his family, and that the canoe would hold “S?adacut” on the side, a tribute to his late father William Edward ‘Sonny’ Sam. Being Tulalip himself, it was important to Stacey that the canoe would paddle off into Tulalip Bay.

Shortly after, Stacey reached out to various Tulalip tribal members and asked for their help to ensure the naming ceremony would play out perfectly. Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch who has been a longtime family friend of theirs helped orchestrate and organize the ceremony to ensure it’s traditional ties, “Stacey’s dad was a tremendous friend of mine, and I was glad to be involved” he said. Penoke talked about the importance of having the ceremony, “I’m really proud of what the Sam family is doing. It’s an honor to carry an Indian name. You earn your name, and it’s how you present yourself to your people.”

Marlin Fryberg also helped by researching the Sam family’s lineage to find appropriate names to use and pass on to all four of the children. It was decided that Stacer would carry on his grandfather’s Indian name “S?adacut”, Sampson would carry on “Tsoh-see-oose”, Saleena would hold “Tsee-si-lit-sah”, and Scotty would be named “Tix-tad”. All of the names came from their ancestors and family before them.

Quickly, more and more Tulalip family and community members became involved and helped with painting the canoe, cooking food for everyone in attendance, and establishing themselves as witnesses to the ceremony. What started off as just one family’s journey quickly became a community journey that supported and helped aid the teachings of our people.

On the day of, Tulalip members Thomas Williams and Natosha Gobin stepped up to the plate to help with ceremonial blessings and prayers, and the unveiling of the names. Most of the ceremony was presented first in Lushootseed and then parts in English to instill its traditional roots.

The ceremony couldn’t have gone more perfectly. “I had never been to a naming ceremony before, and I didn’t know what to expect. But once it all took place, I felt very calm and at peace. I feel honored to carry my grandpa’s name. And being so close with my siblings growing up, it meant a lot to do this together,” Stacer said. 

The Sam family could feel their ancestors smiling down on them as they took this new step together. They are extremely grateful to everyone who helped them take on this journey and rebuild their cultural ways. Being gifted their Indian names was a fresh start for their family, and created a new sense of pride that they planned to hold onto for the rest of their lives.

Pride BBQ happening Saturday, August 13

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“We want to make sure the youth have a place, a space, and a voice if they are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson. “This is a super important event to bring community awareness to the two-spirit population at Tulalip and the surrounding area. It’s important to make sure that they feel comfortable in our community. This is the big kick-off event, it ought to be great and lots of fun.”

Years in the making, the highly anticipated Pride Everyday BBQ at Tulalip is scheduled to take place on August 13, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Don Hatch Community Center. Since the successful, and Tulalip Youth Council organized, Pride Walk in 2018, members of the LGBTQ+ community at Tulalip were inspired to create a yearly Pride celebration on the reservation.

Aiming to embrace, uplift, support, honor and help individuals create new friendships within the local two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, and ally community, the Pride BBQ promises nothing but great times, good summertime grub, and fun for all. 

Phoenix Two Spirit (Cree) is a well-known member of the Tulalip community, as well as the self-proclaimed ‘instigator’ of this project. Phoenix presented the idea for the get-together as well as helped organize the event. Phoenix shared, “This event is great for community awareness. It’s part of the decolonization process, recognizing that two-spirit people have been in the Indigenous community since time immemorial. And it’s time to recognize that, indeed, there is a place for two-spirit people in the tribal community, that they hold a special place. This is not new. This is reclaiming our past.”

Originally planned for 2020, the Pride BBQ was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the tribal government re-opened, following the first initial wave of the novel coronavirus, the Pride BBQ was rescheduled to take place last summer. That is, until a large spike in the number of COVID cases at Tulalip rose once more prior to the event, causing another postponement. Now, nearly a year later, the Pride BBQ is happening for the very first time.

Said Phoenix, “I’ve been in the Tulalip area for a few years and thought that this a very-needed event. I’ve been part of the pride celebrations in Seattle and Snohomish County, and I have been noticing announcements locally for Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Lummi, who are having pride celebrations. There has been much interest by the Tulalip LGBTQ+ TS community to have an event, but COVID put a damper on creating one. So, now is the time to bring us together and celebrate our community.”

The Tulalip Pride BBQ will feature music by DJ Monie Ordonia, as well as several icebreaker games and activities, which helps create opportunities for people to meet and build connections while celebrating their true selves together. 

The event is sponsored by the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program, Tulalip Family Wellness Court, and the Tulalip Community Health’s Youth Wellness program. With the promise of high 70-degree weather on Saturday, the Pride BBQ is sure to be a day to remember for all involved, so be sure to mark your calendar and come show your pride and support!

“I want everybody to know that everyone is welcome to come,” expressed Phoenix. “Whether you define yourself in the LGBTQ+ community, the two-spirit community, if you are friends, family, allies, or tribal members, I want everyone to feel welcome to come.”

Robert Wade Monger

February 17, 1959 -August 6, 2022
Robert Wade Monger, WHAAKADUP from Tulalip, went to the be with his creator in Eternal life on August 6th 2022. Whaakadup was 63 born on February 17th 1959 to Hirontimus Monger and Magdalene L Cladoosby in Everett Wa. 
Robert gained his Indian name Whaakadup from his Aunt Beverly Grant Cladoosby, who raised him for the first 3 yrs. of his life. Whaakadup continued his younger year in Everett with his parents and siblings, traveling back to Tulalip visiting friends and relatives. Whaakadup at 14 met and married Darla Imhoff Perry where they moved back to Tulalip living next to the Taylors and they had Jennifer. Whaakadup worked with his Uncle George building Dock on beach for the fisherman, where he learns from his elders the love of the water that lasted his whole life. 
Whaakadups #1 love was Fishing with his partner Rodney and Glen Simpson on the Fishen Magician he referred to as a high liner. 
Whaakadup later met Brenda having his second daughter Danielle, in 1982. 
In 1994 Whaakadup did his tour of duty (as her referred), in Washington State corrections, this is where the story begins with the Love of his Lisa A Monger Stakiyote meeting at Pine lodge prerelease, a program for first time offender and a chance at a new life, Whaakadup became the drum carrier for the Native Circles, running sweats and drumming. This is the start of his passion for helping other offenders find a new way to live, once release from prison. Whaakadup was the Native American Chaplin from 2006 to 2012, in this year starting the battle to bring back the rights of the Native Americans incarcerated. Whaakadup stated this fight with Gab Galanda to advocte the right of Natives to have their Ceremonies and Tobacco other medicines, returning Frybread and other culture foods to the Powwows along with the families and Children. This was the birth of the HOYT foundations, Whaakadup ran sweats, drumming and beading circle as part of the culture. 
Whaakadup and Lisa became very well known in the Native Circles around the State of Washington as those to protect the rights.
Whaakadup worked with Skipper Jones on the Skipper J for many year digging Ducks, where he almost lost his life. This is when he retired for Gooey ducken.
Whaakadup worked for many years for the Tulalip Tribes in different areas including, Casino, Boys and Girls Club, and the Tulalip Government. Whaakadup worked for the Healing Lodge as a Recovery Coach sharing his passion and life and Culture in the teachings. Mentoring many young men and women on the road to recovery. Whaakadups current position was spiritual recovery at Family Service, where he continues sharing the passion of stay clean and sober through life. 
Whaakadup was also the Native American Roadman for The Fireplace of Man, caring songs and prayers to many. Whaakadups love for his Culture and sharing the gifts of Songs, Drum making, jewelry making, paddles, actually what ever it was he would learn and do it well. 
His life and love are his girls, Jennifer Marie, Danielle Ruiz Monger (Eli) Brittany Monger (Joel) son Caleb his grandkids, Wesley, Autumn, Julie, Kiara, Lexi, Izzy, Sajali, Leondra, Nathan, Ryan, and Dylan, Journey, Adela, Madalina, Caleb Jr, Dekota, Tony. Great Grands, Emily, Brexley, Royce, and Champ. Many more kids calling him Grampa. 
Whaakadup is survived by his Wife of 27 years Lisa anne Monger, brother Chuck Vasser, sisters, Lucina Jo Cladoosby and Rose Webb (Kevin) , many nieces and nephew, great nieces and nephew, and great great nephews and nieces with extended family and friends he called family.
He was preceded in death by his patents Hirontimus and Magdaline Monger, brothers, Joey, Daryle, Richard, Jack, Robert, Jim, Totums, Ernest and Mark sr. sisters Anita and Tina louise and son Dylan Dale Monger. 
Remembering the words of Whaakadup: 
Its better to speak with less Thunder in your mouth and more lightening in your fist, in other words don’t talk about it, be about it! Say what you mean and mean what you say or don’t say it at all, cuz words don’t impress, the world is full of Betty Crockers, Big Talkers. 
We have been Blessed for many Generations with The Man The Myth The Legend.
Whaakadup Monger 

A celebration of his life will be held Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at 10:00 AM at the Tulalip Gathering Hall with burial to follow at Mission Beach Cemetery.

Alice Mae Carpenter


1951 – 2022

Alice Mae (Hunziker) Carpenter was born to Genevieve and Earl “Mick” Hunziker on July 2, 1951 and passed on August 5, 2022 surrounded by loved ones. Alice graduated in 1969 from Marysville High School. She loved painting ceramics, bowling, camping. Visiting her grandkids having picnics and fishing with her family were favorite things. Many road trips to the ocean and Deception pass. She loved watching her husband race motocross every weekend. Alice loved traveling to car shows and showing off her green Mustang. Alice’s favorite job was working as a Manager at the Tulalip Stanley Jones Retirement Home and taking care of our elders. The shinier, sparklier, and more fashionable, the better. Alice loved being 100% put together from head to toe. In addition to her own kids, Alice was a Mom and Grandma to so many in the community. 
She leaves behind her husband of 42 years Don “Wheatie” Carpenter, Son Bryce (Andrea), Daughter Sarah (Anthony), Special Daughter Roxy, Grandchildren Bryce Jr., Mikey, Melissa “Sissy”, Juanito, Olivia, Dorothy, Jaxson, Neil, Donovan, Nicholas, Brianna, Liz, Emilee, Ben, Phil. Great grandchildren Aniyah, Adrianna, Nevaeh. Siblings Jim, John, and Judy. Mother-in-law Ginnie Carpenter, brother-in-law Gene Carpenter, sister-in-law Lou Ann Carter, Nieces Mandy, Rosie, Angela. Numerous aunts, uncles, cousins. 
She was preceded in death by her parents, her father-in-law George Carpenter. Sister-in-laws June and Barb, and her cherished nephew Shawn. Her favorite message to her family was always “Love you to the moon and back.”

A celebration of her life will be held Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at 10:00 AM at the Tulalip Gathering Hall with burial to follow at Mission Beach Cemetery. Arrangements entrusted tp Schaefer-Shipman Funeral Home.

Traditions from an Elder: Kirk Jones shares his salmon teachings with local nonprofit

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tulalip elder Kirk Jones sat patiently next to his homemade, ten-foot smoke stack. The savory aroma of King salmon being slow cooked at 225 degrees Fahrenheit gradually filled the air. In his chair, he reminisced about his earliest days as a splash boy working alongside handmade seine nets in the 1960s, while his then-elders fished to provide for their people.

“Growing up, most of the elders either fished or logged to make a living. Either way, they were handling and collecting wood to keep the fires going all year long,” remembered Kirk. “We’d usually eat the fish as fresh as can be, right there on the beach as the fisherman beach seined. Whatever fish was leftover they’d smoke and hang on Cedar sticks. 

“Back then, when I was learning to smoke, all we had was salt…process the fish, salt the fish and then let them dry. It was hard chewing for sure,” he chuckled. “But they were preserved to be ate throughout the year regardless of weather. We didn’t have freezers or stoves or nothing fancy like today. Just our teachings passed on from one generation to the next intended to make use of what we had available to us and keep our people fed.” 

Today, the 65-year-old smoked salmon savant credits Glen Parks, Les Parks, Rocky Parks and Bernie Parks for becoming his secondary family after he got clean and sober in 1986. Under their guidance and skill with their family smoker, Kirk learned to take his ancestral teachings and add a touch of his own flare. Small technical changes like the use of a particularly gauged chicken wire and addition of brown sugar in the seasoning, Kirk has perfected his technique for creating golden-colored ‘Indian candy’. 

Kirk’s Smoked Salmon is a prime example of Tulalip’s entrepreneurial spirit. Known for its high quality and sweet salmon offerings, Kirk created a business that is flexible enough to be sold on the side of the road along Marine View Drive or from a makeshift blue stand often seen between Cabela’s and Home Depot in the spring/summer time. Its also become a family operation as his children, nieces and nephews are frequently doing the sales, so Kirk can focus on making his primary source of income: smoked deliciousness.

“My passion for the salmon is still the same as when I was a little kid filling the role of splash boy to maneuverer fish into the elders’ nets,” said Kirk. “You know what, maybe my passion is even stronger now. Being older, I have a greater sense of appreciation for what those who came before me managed to accomplish and pass on. It’s my responsibility now to make sure their teachings aren’t forgotten.”

With that sentiment in mind, Kirk lent his lifelong expertise with a fillet knife and 25-pound freshly caught King salmon to a cultural workshop coordinated by local nonprofit, Indigenous Beginnings. For an afternoon in late July, the Tulalip culture bearer did his best to impart practical skills and guidance on the double digit, all-Native group who were eager to learn the ins and outs of fish filleting. 

Over the course of two-hours, the group received up close and personal instruction on proper technique to clean a salmon, including the conventional fillet and butterfly fillet methods, how to remove the jaw for making fish head soup, and some general advice from their elder on best practices to smoke, can or cook their fish at home. 

Along their way, the group of learners shared many laughs as they attempted to mimic Kirk’s proficiency with a fillet name. Most failed miserably, but it was in that failure where Kirk was able to step in and offer gentle words of encouragement; often reminding them that we all gotta start somewhere. Luckily, there was more than enough whole salmon provided that those choosing to rework their fillet skills could give it another go. Some even shrieked with excitement when opening their fish and finding eggs to be used for homemade sushi, stew or as a simple caviar side dish. 

For their commitment to learning cultural traditions, the group was rewarded with jumbo sized bags of salmon fillets and all the ‘Indian candy’ they could eat. With tummies full, Kirk thanked everyone for participating and helping him grow as an instructor. 

“I love fishing. A goal of mine has always been to learn to smoke salmon,” shared Tulalip citizen Sara Andres after the workshop. “Getting an opportunity to learn from Kirk was super exciting and I’m so happy to have participated. With the fish heads I’ll be making my grandma Katie’s fish head soup that I remember fondly as a kid. I also bought a small smoker so that I can brine the salmon filleted here and smoke my fish for the first time.”

“We are so thankful to Kirk for sharing his home and teachings with us to learn the basics of filleting and smoking salmon together,” added Stephanie Cultee, Indigenous Beginnings founder and chairwoman. “Originally, this workshop was only going to be focused on smoking salmon, but then we received such a huge number of requests by people who admitted to not even knowing how to clean and fillet a fish. By being vulnerable and admitting to not knowing this tradition, we were able to fulfill a big need. Ultimately, this workshop got such good turnout and positive responses already that we plan on hosting another workshop with Kirk at the end of summer.”

For those who missed out on this amazing opportunity to receive hands-on learning from a Tulalip elder and are interested in participating in a similar workshop in September, please email Indigenousbeginnings@hotmail.com or text 425-418-2346 for more information. You can also follow Indigenous Beginnings on Facebook or Instagram to stay up to date with a variety of teaching workshops intended for first-time learners and those desiring a safe place to ask questions about our shared culture.