Reflections from Gathering of Nations

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Gathering of Nations, known as the largest powwow in the United States, is more than a cultural celebration – it’s a thriving hub of triumph that showcases tradition and a fierce determination to honor our ancestors.

Of course, there is a constant emission of celebratory vibes as thousands of culture bearers from across Native America come together to witness the highest echelon of powwow performances. From tiny tot to golden age, Native men and women from all across the four directions take to the arena floor to proudly dance like their forebearers. From fancy shawl to jingle dress and traditional, to fancy dance, grass dance and the always captivating chicken dance, 2,200+ dancers radiated generations worth of resistance to colonial assimilation over the three-day Gathering.

There are entire families who view Gathering as an annual rite of passage that demonstrates their commitment to each other and to those who came before them. Like the Yarholar clan from Sac & Fox Nation. Father Cortney learned to fancy feather dance from his grandfather and has since taught his 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter how to carry on the fancy feather legacy.  

“The fancy feather dance has been a part of our family tradition for generations. How it’s been explained to me was we had a grandfather, way back there in the family tree, who went through ceremony and was given a dance. He was told to take care of it and teach his children who would teach their children, so on and so forth,” recalled Cortney Yarholar. “With each passing generation, the older ones taught the younger ones not just the dance, but the lessons that come with it; how to hold yourself in and out of the arena, how to take care of the body and spirt, and how to embrace the good medicine that comes from it.

“It’s a gift from Creator that was given to my family a long time ago and continues to be a source of strength and unity, especially for the relationship between my son and I. It’s so special to be able to travel and share these experiences with him. Even the simplest of things, like helping him put on his regalia and braiding his hair, these are special moments we get to share. Each time, I’m reminded of when I was his age and my uncles helped me paint up. There are times when I watch my son and I remember being a little one dancing and looking over to see how proud my grandfather was as he watched me. He was 90-something at the time and couldn’t dance any more, but he’d sit there and tap his cane to match my rhythm. The harder I danced, the harder he tapped that cane while having this huge smile. So, for me, dancing fancy feather is a spiritual connection that links the past to the present.”

In the present, the youngest generation continues to lead in their own way. Often in such subtle ways that their offerings may be overlooked by those not paying great attention. Tiny in stature but immense in power are those little ones who carry on culture and tradition without even knowing it.

Such is the case with a remarkable 2-year-old named Roderick Walker (Seminole). He’s been immersed in the powwow circuit since the womb, with both his parents being acclaimed dancers. So much so that he’s created his own type of powwow dance. A resounding remix that represents his Seminole, Navajo, and Sac & Fox heritage

“Basically, he learned from all his family. His cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents are all dancers,” shared Roderick’s mom, Darrica. “He’s taken a little bit from everyone and created an all-around style all his own. It’s a little bit fancy, little bit southern, little bit traditional, and then a little bit whatever comes to him in the moment. 

“We’ve travelled all around Indian Country and into Canada, too, for powwows and ceremonies,” she added. “We’ve never had to tell him to dance. As soon as he was standing and heard the music or heard the drum, he was dancing. He just loves it. I’m so excited to see him continue to grow and represent for his people wherever he dances.”

Young Roderick’s one-of-a-kind dance style earned him the title of #1 tiny tot boy upon the conclusion of Gathering of Nations.

Among the tens of thousands of Native Americans who journeyed to Gathering, one particular powwow princess stood out. That was Quinault’s Violette Capoeman. Dawning a cedar cap and cedar skirt, while wearing an assortment of shell necklaces harvested from the Salish Sea, she was regarded as the only Coast Salish contestant vying for the coveted crown of Miss Indian World.

In traditional Pueblo territory, deep in dessert terrain and amongst so many tribal citizens from the Great Plains, the 18-year-old Violette was far from the familiarity of towering evergreen trees and endless blue sea.

“This entire experience has been a culture shock,” she admitted. “But we’re all relatives and interconnected by a larger sense of culture that allows us to befriend one another and share our personal stories and ceremony experiences. Over the past few days, I’ve really enjoyed being able to learn from my fellow princesses about their tribes’ customs. They’ve shared so much with me and I’m been fortunate to be able to share with them, too. There’s been so questions about my cedar regalia because they aren’t use to seeing it like we are back home.

“Looking back at my time here in New Mexico, I’ve built so many friendships in such a short amount of time with people from all over the country. That’s really the beautiful thing at the heart of our Native American culture, that ability to connect.” 

Violette’s traditional Lushootseed name translates to Where Thunder Dropped Whale. Befitting, since her growth and development on the powwow circuit gave her confidence, the internal thunder, if you will, to be dropped into Gathering of Nations and stand proud as the only Coast Salish princess; a symbolic whale in pueblo territory.

“It’s been a transformative experience, and I’m just so happy to be the representative for costal nations,” added Violette.

The sentiments expressed by Cortney, Darrica, and Violette give credence to the crucial role Gathering of Nations plays in sharing the many nuances of Native American powwow dance, music, regalia, and other contemporary cultural expressions, like those offered by 2-year-old Roderick. It’s both a hub of triumph and a platform of preservation for traditional practices that are very much alive, continuing to evolve, and remain as vibrant as the photographs accompanying this article.

Bingo Fever at 21st Annual Tribal Bingo Day

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Excitement filled the Tulalip Bingo Hall as members of the Tulalip Tribes gathered for the 21st annual Tribal Bingo Day on Monday, April 29. Including all three gaming sessions, 1,074 tribal members tried their luck. With cash prizes and exciting trips up for grabs, the atmosphere buzzed with anticipation. 

MC of the night Mel Sheldon kicked off the event with a drawing, giving 20 people a chance at the prizes on hand. Names were called to the announcer’s booth where the lucky recipients could choose a prize and then draw the next contestant. One of them was tribal member Shelly Barto, who has been coming to Tribal Bingo Day since its inception. 

“I was overjoyed when my granddaughter’s name was called, and then, to my surprise, my name was called too,” Shelly exclaimed. “Winning the washer and dryer set couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I am moving into a new apartment, and these prizes will greatly help me and my family.”

After the last of the names were announced and prizes chosen, the bingo began. As numbers were called, the sound of everyone’s daubers filled the air. The anticipation for a player’s number to be called and yell “bingo” grew. You could almost sense when someone was about to get bingo as the muttering got louder with every number. Finally, “bingo!” is yelled by one lucky player and the crowd sighs in disbelief that their numbers weren’t chosen. 

“I have been a part of the Tribal Bingo Day tradition for about ten years,” tribal member Nicholas Martin shared. “I used to go with my dad until he passed. Now, when I go and play, I am filled with nostalgia for all the good times we used to have there. It’s a special time to be able to reconnect with all my friends and family that I don’t get to see very often. I didn’t have any luck at bingo, but I did win a little bit on the slots.”

For many, heading home with a win from Tribal Bingo Day feels almost out of reach. But for some, like tribal member Keith Rosen, getting a win seems almost a tradition. 

“I just started coming about five years ago,” Rosen said. “I won tonight on the second to last blackout. I won last year in the drawing and getting a win this year made getting up early worth it because I work graveyard.”

When the final numbers were called and the last echoes of “bingo” faded, the energy of Tribal Bingo Day lingered, leaving behind fond memories for those who attended. From seasoned veterans to newcomers, each person left with a story to tell and a smile proving that Tribal Bingo Day isn’t just a game – it’s a tradition where fun and good times are always guaranteed.

Art Festival empowers youth artists

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Creatively inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District wandered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Complex on Thursday, April 18 for an always eye-captivating Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and educators, emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Festival visitors and judges with a variety of imaginative creations that centered around a shared Tulalip culture expressed via a variety of modern-day mediums.

“Our annual Art Festival is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a unique and creative way,” explained positive youth development lead advocate, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. 

“Each year our expectations are surpassed because we receive hundreds and hundreds of submissions,” he added. “For me, I look forward to seeing what new ways our kids find to express their Native culture or even developing their own way to retell a traditional story. There’s always something new and eye-catching that they come up with.”

For more than two decades now, Tulalip Tribes has partnered with Marysville School District to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by so many emerging artists from Tulalip and the surrounding area within the District. The Art Festival gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbon. Plus, all the bragging rights that come with them.

Catherine Velazquez (16), Gabe Joseph (13), and Tehya Robinson (9) each showcased their inner artist across various mediums and earned multiple ribbons at this year’s Art Festival. 

Such was the case with 9-year-old Tehya Robinson. She radiated pure joy while leading cousins and classmates to her five ribbon winning submissions. Then there was 13-year-old Gabe Joseph who beamed with pride as he posed for a picture with his 3rd place winning beaded earrings and 2nd place winning photograph.

“The photograph I took was from a family vacation to California. I was standing on the balcony and thought the view was so cool that I needed to take a picture to remember it. The sun was just right and seeing the dock and palm trees just made me feel peaceful and relaxed,” shared the St. Michael’s 8th grader. “My aunt taught me to make beaded earrings and so I thought I’d make some purple ones to give to a friend’s mom. Now, she’ll be happy to know they are award winning earrings.”

Tehya, Gabe, and their fellow student culture bearers were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.

“It’s always amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” shared Festival judge Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

Like in years past, this year’s Festival received hundreds of submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were dozens of artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. There are also artists who continue to evolve their artwork and challenge themselves each year to claim one of those coveted ribbons in different categories.

Tenth grader Catherine Velazquez is in the midst of quite the dynastic run, having won multiple ribbons since she first started participating in the Festival as an elementary-aged student. At 16-years-old now, she’s collected more ribbons than she can remember, but admits to looking forward to the Festival each year because of the opportunity to create new pieces and, yeah, collect some walking around money for her efforts.  

“This past winter, I was at snow retreat in the mountains, it was night, the ground was completely covered in snow, and the moon casting this stunning red light. The moment was perfect for a picture. That photo won me 1st place this year,” said the Grace Academy 10th grader. She added ribbons from Digital Media, Mixed Media, Drawing, and Writing to her already large ribbon collection from past Festivals. “I love coming year each year and looking at all the art everyone does. Just walking around and admiring pieces that are my favorite inspires me to try new concepts and styles.”

This year’s art fest gala again offered several interactive tables, each led by an established adult artist. Representing possible career paths for the children to aspire to, or simply to have the young ones recognize art doesn’t have to stop when student life does. Tony Hatch, Tillie Jones, Ty Juvinel, and others did their best to engage Festival visitors and impart their cultural know-how through friendly, hands-on instruction.

Pure heart icon Sean-Paul Mace was on-site with his very own table to display his LEGO Star Wars collection. He dazzled with his depths of dark side knowledge and could even tell you which cinematic scenes his figures could be found in. 

Interwoven through many of the thought-provoking youth creations were both subtle and not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing social awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for a sustainable future. From artistic renditions on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, to declarations of Native-inspired rally cries like ‘Water Is Life’ and ‘Protect the Salmon’, to even rather imaginative way to represent heritage through a Fabergé egg.

Fifth grader Lillianna Hope was gracious enough to break down the various elements of her heritage egg. “I chose copper as the equator line because is the closest color to yellow and yellow represents happiness. I chose to the eternal line because evil spirits will look at them and memorized by them and it will trap the evil spirit and it will stay in there forever. I did yellow dots because they represent happy memories. I chose the brown, yellow, and black swirls because I think it is pretty.”

Whether it was from reading written words or interpreting the depths of color and images on display from the inspiring artists, a message being conveyed loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and understand how their culture is viewed, both locally and nationally. More importantly, their art demonstrates they are capable of channeling their traditional teachings and spiritual strength into pure artistry.

“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” reflected Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development Manager.

“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars and advocacy movements is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational teachings while in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary-aged children. It’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”

Without a doubt, the 2024 Native American Art Festival showcased a wide-range of artistic skills among our Tulalip youth. Confirming, yet again, what inspiring imaginations these artists are capable of creating when empowered to express themselves wholeheartedly and authentically, without judgement. Well, unless that judging comes with a shiny ribbon. Then it’s cool.

IndigipopX 2024 was a SMASH!

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Once upon a time in the 80’s, a giant wearing a sailor’s cap terrorized the streets of New York while wearing a bright smile on his face. In the classic 1984 Ghostbusters scene, people are seen abandoning their cars and running away from his path of destruction. 40 years later, the sight of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man caused nothing but excitement as hundreds rushed toward the 30ft inflatable monster throughout the weekend of April 12, for their first photo-op at the 2024 IndigiPopX conference. 

Now, that’s something you don’t see every day, but luckily for Indiginerds across the nation, this event does happen once a year. Back in 2016, this gathering of comic book and Indigenous pop culture fans made its debut in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since then, it has grown and has become a space for Natives, in all creative mediums, to share in each other’s love for the geek culture and fandom. 

Formally known as Indigenous Comicon (ICON), the 3-day festival officially became IndigiPopX in 2019. Shortly after, the event found a permanent home at the First Americans Museum, in Oklahoma City, which features a large convention area with two theaters and plenty of space to host multiple workshops, panels, and live demonstrations throughout the weekend.

What makes IndigiPopX more exciting is they bring in accomplished creatives to share the tricks of their trade to help empower and inspire young and upcoming artists, writers, musicians, actors, social media influencers, and more. This year’s special guests included writers such as Shane Hawk, Johnnie Jae, Jim Terry, and F. Anthony Falcon. As well as several cast members from both Reservation Dogs and Echo. 

Author and Comic Book Writer, F. Anthony Falcon, shared his secret 5-step formula for writing fiction. With a packed classroom, he had each person in attendance write a summary of their very own story starting with 1. The protagonist 2. The antagonist 3. Their supporting characters 4. The journey and 5. A strong entity to open or close.  By the end of the class, each writer had carved out a detailed idea for a story, and many were impressed to see their wildest imaginations come to life on paper. 

Said Falcon, “To take part in this event and be able to share, it makes my heart happy. It makes me proud to know that I’m doing my little part to ensure that stories are being told and that our people feel valued. And it’s important that people understand – don’t let your voice go unnoticed, you’re special, you’re strong, and you do have it in you. If you want to be a writer, and you have a story to tell, by all means tell it. The goal of every Indigenous writer should be to elevate where they come from and their people, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Don’t be afraid. Put that pen to paper or do it on your computer. Even if you’re only writing a couple sentences a night, you’re making progress and just know you’re valued, you’re important and your stories need to be heard.”

Also in attendance was an independent multi-media company that is making soundwaves here in the Pacific Northwest. Rising Sons Media, based out of Seattle, was started by the Esquivel brothers, Sade and Deyo (Kanien’keha:ke), who specialize in illustration, beadwork, and music production. Both Sade and Deyo hosted workshops throughout the weekend; Sade shared about his work that has been featured in video games and comic books, and Deyo hosted an interactive music production demonstration where he made a beat with those in attendance of his class. Through Rising Sons Media, Deyo has collaborated with other Native artists throughout our region. And recently, he produced and released an album by Tacoma Indigenous songstress, Akaya the Alien.

Following the workshop, Deyo shared, “One great thing about IndigiPopX is that we have so many Native people doing all these different things in art, music, film, VR, AI stuff, robotics. That’s a great thing to show the youth, all the different things that we can do and the different avenues that are there for us to be creative, and to tell our own stories – our cultural stories, our history, and our future. It’s not just about the past, the traditional ways the traditional songs, it’s about where do we go from here? How do we as modern people identify what is cultural for ourselves and for our future generations? And so that’s what I love about being here at IPX and teaching classes to the youth. Just to show that this is what you can do. You can do the art that you want, and it is Indigenous. Even if it’s hip-hop or it’s country, it’s Indigenous because it comes from you.”

A major highlight for IndigiPopX goers is checking out all the artwork, clothing, jewelry, board games, stickers, and books that are on sale. What makes this special is the people get the chance to chat with the various creators and vendors, and more often than not, they leave with an autograph in addition to their purchase. 

Comic book writer and First Nations artist, Alina Pete, made the trip to OKC from Vancouver, B.C. Amongst her jewelry and amazing Pokémon art prints, Alina had a number of her own comic books for sale. During the IndigiPopX weekend, the Native comic book community lost one of the founders of the Indiginerd culture, Jeffrey Veregge, who was known for bringing Coast Salish formline to the masses through his work with Marvel. While taking a moment to reflect on Jeffrey’s impact to the Native geek world, Alina shared that her book actually contains one of his last stories, By the light of the Moon.

“The main thing that I’m here promoting is my book, Woman in the Woods and other North American stories, which is a comic anthology by Iron Circus Comics,” said Alina. “It’s got a variety of stories in it from different Native groups around the USA and Canada. One of the stories in here is by an Indigenous comic artist we just lost this weekend, Jeffrey Veregge. He wrote it and he was slated to illustrate it, and he got sick during the course of it. So, his partner actually had to go onto his computer and find the script so that we could try and find someone to draw it and get it in the book, because we really wanted to include it in the book. And this was before – we didn’t know how serious it was yet. We thought he’ll recover, we’ll get his story in there, and he’ll go on to make so many more things. And it ended up being, I think, the last thing he worked on. I hope we made him proud.”

She continued, “I was just talking with a bunch of other friends who are also Indigenous comic artists who are here at the event. And we were saying how, most the time, when we were at comic book shows, we feel like we’re the only ones in the building. And so, we kind of have to explain what is Indigenous comics, and why are you doing it, and why is it important as an Indigenous person to do comics? And here, everyone just gets it. Everyone is like, yes, of course, Indigenous representation is really important. And that’s why we’re here, we just feel really loved and supported being here. But also, everyone gets what we’re trying to do, and why it’s so important to see yourself represented on the page of a comic book.”

After a fun and geeked out weekend, IndigiPopX 2024 closed out with a cosplay contest in which nearly 30 participants showcased their tailoring skills on costumes that ranged in characters from Star Wars all the way to a Werewolf tribal chairman. Immediately after the contest winners were awarded their prizes, the cosplayers lined up for a parade around the First Americans Museum, before everyone said their goodbyes til next years conference. 

Indigenous artist and Cosplayer, Adam Youngbear, expressed, “I think it’s really awesome, just to have the opportunity to share my art, share my culture, but also see everybody else’s coming in, see the folks that are from up north or out west. So, I really think it’s awesome to get a blend of all the Native nerds together. I participated in the costume contest; I was a tribal council-wolfman. Last year, I was a Native ninja turtle and I got second place. My daughter won; she beat me last year. But it’s always fun to put a costume on and put a Native spin on it. It’s important to see that Native representation. We’re not only looking at movies and shows anymore, but we’re also seeing us in comics and gaming out. It’s really awesome to see that, the little kid in us is loving every second of it.”

Legends never die: Jeffrey Veregge’s legacy lives on in his formline superheroes

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After three years of constant hospitalization due to acute renal and respiratory failure caused by undiagnosed lupus, acclaimed artist Jeffrey Veregge passed away on Friday, April 12, following a heart attack. He was 50 years old. He is survived by his wife Christina and their three children.

Following his passing, Christina posted on their shared Facebook account, “We’re heartbroken to share the devastating news that our beloved Jeffrey passed away, unexpectedly, this morning from a heart attack. Our family is in shock and trying to process this unimaginable pain. For 1,025 days he fought lupus like the superhero we knew him to be. The strength, determination and courage he showed while being in the hospital for a total of 925 days was an inspiration to us all. He will be missed more than words can express. This world was a better place because of him.”

A proud member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Jeffrey will be remembered for the remarkable imprint he made on lovers of comic books, action figures, and all things superhero related through his unmistakable, formline reimagining of iconic Marvel and DC characters.

As a Tulalip News reporter, I’m so grateful to have had two opportunities to interview and profile the self-described Salish Geek, first in 2015 at PechaKucha Seattle volume 63 and again in 2020 after his Native American heritage collaboration with Marvel Comics. Using the best parts of those previous interviews, I now share with our readers a profile on the man, the myth, the legend, Jeffery Veregge.


About Gods and Heroes.

Jeffrey Veregge is an award winning Native American comic book artist from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, located in Kingston, Washington. His work uses Coastal Salish and contemporary graphic design techniques that created the look dubbed ‘Salish Geek’ by his creative peers. Along with his work for IDW Publishing, he has appeared in numerous websites and publications such as Fast Company Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, and Wired Magazine. His works and commissions are part of some prestigious collections located at Yale University, Washington State University, The Burke Museum and the Seattle Art Museum. He’s also the pop and nerd culture contributor for Indian Country Today Media, where he is known as NDN Geek.

“I was raised and spent a majority of my life on our Port Gamble reservation known locally as Little Boston. Although I am enrolled there, I am also both of Suquamish and Duwamish ancestry,” said Veregge of his Native American roots. “I am an honor graduate from the Art Institute of Seattle, and I have had the privilege to study with Tsimshian master carver David Boxley for a short time, learning the basics of Salish formline design.”

Veregge has been an artist since the moment he was able to hold his first action figure and created stories of his childhood superheroes on paper with whatever art utensils were available. That creative fire and passion for superheroes and comics never faded and eventually led him to the Seattle Art Institute where he studied industrial design technology. Later, he was fortunate to study with Boxley to learn Salish formline design, a traditional style that he would blend fluidly within the Marvel and DC universes

“My most popular works are a reflection of a lifetime love affair with comic books, toys, TV and film; taking my passions and blending them with my Native perspective,” he said.

After graduating from the Seattle Art Institute, Veregge had a great job at an advertising agency for eleven years. Working in advertising allowed him to tap into his creative side, but the Native artist within wasn’t satisfied, he needed something more. He went to art school to be an artist and to have fun, not to have his inner artist constrained by the everyday politics of advertising.

12th Man.

For him, being an artist wasn’t just to sell art and make money; it meant having fun, it meant viewing a blank piece of paper as a magical canvas to express the imagination of a cluttered mind of a Native American who loves comics, movies, Sci-Fi, and action figures. So, he left the advertising agency and embarked on an artist’s mission to create something truly unique. The search for a new, personal and bold direction in his work resulted in Veregge remixing iconic comic superheroes with his now highly tuned hand for formline.

“For me it wasn’t just trying to create art as a geek or nerd, but as a Native I felt like I had something unique to offer,” Veregge said. “That’s my appreciation for all art and design, my passion for heroes, robots, aliens and monsters, and my pride in where I came from.

“My origins are not supernatural, nor have they been enhanced by radioactive spiders. I am simply a Native American artist and writer whose creative mantra in best summed up with a word from my tribe’s own language: ταʔčαʔξʷéʔτəν, which means get into trouble.”

Following that mantra, constantly testing his creative boundaries, and, yeah, getting into trouble a time or two ultimately led Veregge to one solo exhibition opportunity after another to showcase the wonderful world inside the mind of a Salish Geek. Multiple exhibitions of his work were held from 2009 to 2020, the pinnacle of whish was the Smithsonian’s 2018-2020 show at the National Museum of the American Indian, Of Gods and Heroes, featuring two 50-foot murals of Marvel’s heroes battling the Celestials. 

Space Needle.

“For thousands of years, Native and non-Native storytellers have used art as a means to share the tales of their people. For me, I am carrying on a tradition that started with my ancestors by simply using the means of today and all its modern conveniences to share the tales that I love. Art evolves, tools get better, but the essence of what I do is the same as those who did it on the canvases nature provided for them to tell the stories of gods and heroes long, long ago” stated the Salish Geek on his website prior to Of Gods and Heroes grand opening. 

His explosion onto the highest levels of the art scene eventually meant his one-a-kind designs reached the game-changing creatives at Marvel Comics. It was perfect timing, too, as the comic book goliath was in the midst of developing an all-new collection titled Marvel’s Voices.

“Marvel’s Voices started and evolved from a popular Marvel podcast into a larger program within our comics,” explained Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief, C.B. Cebulski in a press release. “Our first anthology in this program was released this past February and the reception from fans was incredible. It was clear we needed to do more to lift up more voices and talent and increase representation in and behind our stories. This is the first step of our next expansion of the program to discover new writers and artists who can bring their voices to our characters, both old and new. And this is only the beginning.”

In a cosmic shift for Native American representation, Marvel celebrated Indigenous history in November 2020 with a landmark special, Indigenous Voices #1. Written and drawn by some of the industry’s most renowned Indigenous talent, including none other than the Salish Geek himself, Jeffrey Veregge. Now a celebrated artist, he is leading this super powered movement alongside a team of creators to explore the legacy and experiences of Marvel’s incredible cast of Indigenous characters.

Iron Man.

In addition to the Indigenous Voices comic series, Veregge illustrated Native American tribute variant covers for other popular comic titles featuring Dani Moonstar, Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and others. All depicted in his signature Salish style.

“I am truly grateful for the platform that Marvel has not only provided for me and my work, but with this edition of Marvel Voices, all of Native America,” said Veregge. “This is an opportunity to share the cultural influences that we as Native artists and writers grew up with that will add more depth and dimension to the Native heroes in the Marvel Universe.”

From blockbuster movie goers, animated series streamers, and a very devout base of comic book enthusiasts, there are hundreds of millions of Marvel superhero fans globally. The exposure to the limited-edition Indigenous Voices series and the must-have Native Heritage tribute covers illustrated by Veregge offered immeasurable cross-cultural learning experiences to the traditional Native storytelling and the thriving art scene that is Salish formline. 

In a world severely lacking in authentic representation of Native American culture, Veregge reached the highest pinnacle of his craft while elevating Salish formline into the bold and vibrant worlds of comic book lore and museum quality art exhibitions.

Within the pop culture realm, there’s a saying that goes something like “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” The Salish Geek is a f*cking legend.

Culture Night is back!

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Over 60 community members helped usher in the spring season on the night of April 9, at the first Culture Night gathering of 2024. For many tribal families, this is a time of year that is dedicated to learning, practicing, engaging, and sharing in the ancestral teachings of the Tulalip people. 

With the promise of numerous fun cultural activities on the horizon, including the annual Salmon Ceremony, Canoe Journey, and Spee-Bi-Dah, the Tulalip events department is hosting the weekly Culture Night gatherings, every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., to help prepare tribal members for the upcoming summertime events. 

Summer is filled with an abundance of teachings that are important to the tribal nation, such as harvesting traditional foods, plants, and medicines like huckleberries, cedar, salmon, and shellfish. The act of exercising their inherent treaty rights and gathering these items is a significant aspect of the Tulalip culture, which is why it is important for younger generations to learn about the preparation and work that goes into these ceremonies and gatherings, so they can in turn pass it on to the future of the Tribe in the years to come. 

At Culture Night, the community gets the chance to learn a handful of Tulalip’s songs and dances that have been passed down throughout the generations. More importantly, they do so at a slower pace, and take the time to show the little ones each step, drumbeat, and chant, so when the time comes, they are able to perform this work at game speed. 

Additionally, Culture Night has become synonymous with traditional crafting, due to the fact that many community members utilize the three-hour event to stitch and weave together regalia items for themselves and their families, including shawls, vests, headbands and more. This year, the events department teamed up with the Rediscovery Program for Culture Night. Together, they are making a strong effort to ensure that Tulalip has matching regalia for this summer’s cultural gatherings by providing regalia kits, so families have everything they need to fashion their own traditional attire.

Said Tulalip Events Manager, Malory Simpson, “We’ll be doing kits again this year, so shawl kits and vest kits. And we want to prevent waste, so we’ll be requiring them to check out their kits each week, to make sure projects are completed before they move on. We’re trying to plan, coordinate, and be more uniformed as far as our regalia style. One thing that we will provide this year is a certain color scheme for the material of our regalia. 

“I’m excited to see that cohesiveness, coming together as a tribe and representing the Tribe as a whole, overall, in our matching regalia. I really want to see that this year. And if it’s not something that community members want to use, if they want to make their own or use their family colors, they will be responsible for bringing that their selves, but we’ll still have sewing machines and materials available for them to use.”

Although the first Culture Night of the year was somewhat lowkey, there was still plenty of buzz in the air in anticipation for the weeks to come, leading up to all those exciting and important cultural events taking place this summer. 

This gathering was a great way to get the ball rolling and a wonderful opportunity for the community to share in some fun and laughter together, as well as discuss a number of upcoming events, including the 5:30 p.m. Canoe Washing on Monday April 15, at the Hibulb Cultural Center, and also Salmon Ceremony practice which begins on April 18, at 5:30 p.m., and is set to occur every Thursday at the Gathering Hall until the Salmon Ceremony takes place on June 1. The annual MMIW/P Day on May 3 is another event the community looks forward to participating in each year, and it’s in a space where they are able to put all their teachings that they’ve acquired from attending Culture Night to use, to help spread their healing medicine through that good work. 

“I’m just excited to gather again and provide a safe place for people to come, enjoy time together, share songs, dance, and learn,” Malory expressed. “This is the time to come out and learn, before we get into the bigger ceremonies. Some people are starting out from ground zero and seeing that growth throughout the weeks is exciting – being able to see that excitement on their faces when they finish their regalia and seeing them at Salmon Ceremony or on Canoe Journey dancing in their regalia, it’s really cool to see all their hard work and their pride when they get to wear it.”

Culture Night is happening every Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. On April 16, Culture Night will take place at the Tulalip Dining Hall once again. The following weeks, the location will change to the Kenny Moses Building – same time, same day of the week though. Be sure to join in if you would like to craft regalia or practice a few songs and dances with the community.

Youth Services Easter Bash

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Hundreds hippity hopped to an early Easter Bash hosted at Tulalip’s Youth Center on Saturday, March 30. There were dyed eggs galore, coloring stations, plenty of Easter themed backdrops for pictures, and energy-inducing sugary treats. However, nothing topped the pure joy of children eager to meet their imaginary icon, the Easter bunny.

“The Easter Bash was a huge success,” said Sheena Oldham, one of the event coordinators. Serving as an activities specialist and proud mom of three kids, she was well versed in what a proper Easter party required. “I feel like our Bash brought a ton of people together. I’m proud of your Youth Services staff for all they did behind the scenes to make this happen, including wearing the bunny suit.

“The games, the food, the racing to get eggs, you could see how much everything meant to the kids who were running around endlessly from one activity to another,” she added. “Personally, my favorite aspect was seeing the competitive atmosphere from both parents and kids when it came time to the egg hunt. It was all smiles throughout and we saw so many people taking and sharing pictures of their happy kids. It’s events like this that really show how much our community appreciates getting together and having fun.” 

Easter Bunny and Sparky return for annual Easter Run

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The kids of Tulalip could not contain their excitement on the afternoon of Saturday, March 30. Many were literally jumping with joy when they spotted two life size characters strolling down their street. And though some of the kiddos were initially terrified, a few of them put on their brave faces and overcame their fear once they were gifted candy and toys from Sparky the Fire Dog and the Easter Bunny. 

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a local nonprofit known as Together We’re Better organized the first Easter Run for the community of Tulalip in 2021. The event was an instant success and helped raise the spirits of the entire reservation. With gathering restrictions in place, With gathering restrictions in place, and while many folks were practicing social distancing, the Easter Run brought back a sense of normalcy to the community.

At the time, Together We’re Better Founder, Malory Simpson, shared, “It was important for us to do an event. Normally, we do a huge egg hunt and multiple communities come out to celebrate, but COVID has interfered with a lot of events this year. Together We’re Better is community-driven and 100% community funded, so seeing the kids cooped up and not having anything really planned for them, we wanted to do something for them and bring Easter to the community.”

Malory drew inspiration from the Tulalip Bay Fire Department’s yearly Santa Run, in which the Fire squad escorts Santa Claus throughout Tulalip neighborhoods while collecting donations for the Tulalip Church of God Food Bank. When Malory reached out to the fire station, a partnership was quickly forged between Together We’re Better and the Tulalip Bay Fire Department. Their firehouse dalmatian mascot, Sparky, also wanted in on the fun and volunteered to distribute candy alongside the Easter Bunny. 

“When you see the kid’s faces light up, and their smiles are so big, ear to ear, when they see Easter Bunny and Sparky from across the road, it’s just the best,” expressed TBFD Captain John Carlson. “The interactions are always great; they all mean a lot to us. To make their day makes my day, because we see people on some of their worst days. I view the fire services as a family and the Tulalip community is a huge part of our family too. It’s so great to work together and make each other’s day better, it means a lot to us. It’s why we’re here.”

In addition to Sparky and the fire crew, two other local groups volunteer their time to hand out candy each year and are essential to the Easter Run – Aunties in Action and the Redrum First Nations Motorcycle Club. Every Easter Run, there are about 20 volunteers who walk numerous miles throughout the day to deliver treats and smiles to the homes of Tulalip children and their families. 

The Easter Run was such a big hit within the community that Together We’re Better decided to make it an annual occasion. Now, it is something that many kids look forward to each spring. Kids are on the lookout, peering out their windows, and as soon as they catch a glimpse of the dynamic duo, they are outside waiting to greet them.The kids shower the bunny and fire dog with hugs and high fives, and graciously accept their gifts of sugar and plastic novelties. The parents are equally as excited as the youngins, and they are sure to have their camera apps open and ready to snap a shot of their babies with the two loveable characters. 

Said Malory, “Giving back to the community always feels really good. This is all community effort; it makes my heart happy to see the community coming together to take care of each other. I just love it. The smiles and laughter make you feel really good inside. Just seeing the kids get excited is one of the best things about the event. It’s pretty fun to see all of their reactions and see how happy the kids are to spend some time with the Easter Bunny and Sparky.”

This year, the Tulalip Bay Fire Department expanded its district to include homes located in the Quil Ceda Creek neighborhood developments. As the Easter Run mirrors the fire department’s service area, this meant that the Easter Bunny and Sparky would see some new faces this year. And that they did. With the addition of three neighborhoods, Sparky and the bunny made dozens of new friends of all ages, from newborns to elders, as they spent a generous portion of their day getting to know the kids and families on the Quil. 

In total, the Easter Bunny and Sparky visited 10 neighborhoods on the reservation, walked over 14,000 steps (≈ 7 miles), and brought smiles to over 100 kids during the 2024 Easter Run. 

Natosha Gobin, the 2024 Easter Run event planner, stated, “The Together We’re Better events are so much fun to participate in because it is community driven. For the Easter Run, a lot of community members look forward to stuffing eggs, buying snacks, and doing whatever they can to help. It’s nice to take time and visit with the families and go to all the different developments. This year, we were excited to add the Quil developments as well. It feels so good to be with the community for a positive reason. And to see how much this means to the family as a whole – it just feels really good to be a part of something that is putting smiles on their faces.”

If you are looking to get more involved with the community, Together We’re Better is always accepting donations, whether that is goods, funds, or your personal volunteered time. For more information, please contact Natosha Gobin at (425) 319-4416 or Malory Simpson at (425) 905-9137.

Quil Ceda students embrace Hibulb scavenger hunt

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Devoted educators of Marysville School District’s Indian Ed. Department, Quil Ceda Elementary and Hibulb Cultural Center are determined to make education great again. MEGA, if you will.

The united effort is intended to raise cultural awareness, fulfilling a key aspect of the late John McCoy’s since time immemorial legislation, while creating an inspirational atmosphere at the intersection of learning and fun.

Quil Ceda 4th graders were ushered into Hibulb’s makeshift longhouse where they were welcomed by members of the Indian Ed. Department, which included Matt Remle, Terrance Sabbas, Zee Jimicum, Doug Salinas, Tony Hatch and Ian LaFontaine on this particular Monday. After they each gave a brief introduction of their family background and tenure within education, they stood poised with handmade drums and sang several songs. They were followed by a 15-minute video that gave a board leader view of the Tulalip Tribes history.

Then, the real fun began. Longhouse doors were opened and students were each given a Raven’s Scavenger Hunt to complete while exploring the cultural center’s history-filled exhibits. 

“I think it’s so important that we provide opportunities to educate all children here at Hibulb. By sharing our culture and history openly and authentically, we help bridge gaps in cultural understanding that Tulalips and non-Tulalips may have,” explained 23-year-old group tour specialist Courtnie Reyes.

“I went to Quil Ceda as a child and, back then, our cultural education was more based on the broader sense of what it means to be a Native American. We learned of historical figures from other tribes, but I don’t really remember any being Tulalip specific,” she continued. “I’ve always wanted to be an educator, so today I’m proud to be a part of sharing the stories of so many important Tulalip figures who laid the foundation we’ve built so much upon.”  

Each aspect of the Raven’s Scavenger Hunt is meticulously designed to captivate students’ imagination while they are immersed in various aspects of Tulalip history; from fishing and hunting and gathering practices to the importance of harvesting cedar and its many practical applications to central tenants of being canoe people and children of the salmon.

Present to assist chaperone the children as they navigated their scavenger hunt was members of the Marysville Pilchuck high school’s United Native Club. Tenth grader Monet Clemons serves as vice president and says collaborative education efforts at Hibulb is something she wished were possible when she were in elementary, but is so excited to see now widely available for local students.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really have this kind of hands-on experience with culture. I was told I was Native, but never got to learn what it meant to be Tulalip,” Monet shared after helping a group of students answer the question ‘What is the most innermost layer of the cedar tree called?’. “Now, to be here and help the next generation learn what it means to be Tulalip and all the ways we embrace culture is pretty cool.

“Bringing elementary-aged kids here is a good age because they are so curious to learn and we can see just how excited they are to see key parts of our culture, like the canoes and fishing village. Being here and experiencing everything the museum has to offer opens their world more and lets them view our culture in a real meaningful way versus just reading about it in a textbook,” she added. 

The meaningfulness went even deeper for several young Tulalip students who, while viewing the veterans wall, suddenly found themselves overcome with excitement staring at a much younger version of their grandpa Ray Fryberg. They were quick to tell anyone within ear shot, “That’s my grandpa!” while pointing to the portrait of the Vietnam veteran. 

Following completion of the scavenger hunt, the children gathered one more time in the longhouse. This time, they were divided up into dancers, singers and drummers. They quickly learned the Spokane Happy Dance and eagerly performed it to perfection to the joy of their onlooking educators. The moment served as a living embodiment of what it truly means to make education great again.

The Easter Bunny is hopping to a neighborhood near you on March 30

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Recently, an inside source reached out to Tulalip News in hopes to pass a message to the all the kids living on the reservation. According to this source, who is definitely not a dalmatian named Sparky the Fire Dog, the one and only Easter Bunny will be returning to Tulalip on Saturday March 30, to deliver toys and sweets to the children of the tribal community!

Now the translation is a little ruff ruff, but the same source also revealed that Tulalip happens to be one of the Easter Bunny’s favorite places to visit, and he cannot wait to greet the kiddos with a big hug or an awesome high-five this year.  The source, who has been spot-on with this information, also shared that the Easter Bunny is excited to reunite and join forces with his bestest pal in the whole wide world, Sparky the Fire Dog, once again. 

This is the fourth year in a row that the bunny and dalmatian duo have teamed up to bring smiles to the kiddos on the reservation, in what has become known locally as the annual Easter Run. The event was originally started to help bring back a sense of normalcy during the height pandemic, in a way that was both fun and safe, to limit the spread of COVID. 

The Easter Run was such a big hit amongst both the youth and elders of the tribe that the local non-profit group, Together We’re Better, that organized the event, decided to bring it back year after year, even after gathering restrictions were lifted. 

Together We’re Better partnered with the Tulalip Bay Fire Department and the local group Aunties in Action for the event. The large collective spends an entire day walking through each neighborhood located within the fire district’s area of service to deliver goodies to the kids alongside Sparky and the Easter Bunny. This year, in addition to the Mission Highlands, Silver Village, Larry Price Loop/ Ezra Hatch, Battle Creek, and Y-site neighborhoods, the group will also be visiting three new sites including Levi Lamont (Quil #1), 81st (Quil #2), and 77th (Quil Meadows). 

The collective will begin at Mission Highlands at 12:00 p.m. and work their way through the reservation throughout the course of the day. Their official schedule, which is subject to change depending on time spent in each neighborhood, reads as follows:

  • Mission Highlands: 12:00
  • Silver Village: 12:30
  • Larry Price Loop/Ezra Hatch: 1:00
  • Battlecreek: 1:30
  • Y-Site: 2:00
  • Village of Hope 2:30
  • Quil #1: Levi Lamont: 3:00
  • Quil #2: 81st: 3:30
  • Quil Meadows: 77th: 4:00

The Easter Run is quickly becoming one of the more popular events at Tulalip, and after each visit, the children are sure to leave with a good amount of treats and happy memories. 

So, to all the local children, when you hear the sirens of the Tulalip Bay fire engine, be sure to grab your Easter baskets and head outside for your opportunity to meet the Easter Bunny and Sparky the Fire Dog in-person. And parents, bring your cameras and/or cell phones to capture a photo with your kiddos and the beloved characters.

Following last year’s Easter Run, Together We’re Better Founder, Malory Simpson, expressed, “Giving back to the community always feels really good. This is all community effort; it makes my heart happy to see the community coming together to take care of each other. I just love it. The smiles and laughter make you feel really good inside. Just seeing the kids get excited is one of the best things about the event. It’s pretty fun to see all of their reactions and see how happy the kids are to spend some time with the Easter Bunny and Sparky.”

If you are looking to get more involved with the community, Together We’re Better is always accepting donations, whether that is goods, funds, or your personal volunteered time. For more information about this year’s Easter Run, please contact Natosha Gobin at (425) 319-4416.