Ribbon shirt making with Winona Shopbell-Fryberg

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

On a cozy, rainy Saturday afternoon, June 15, the Hibulb Cultural Center was alive with a shared sense of creativity. The unique ribbon shirt class, led by the renowned Tulalip artist Winona Shopbell-Fryberg, brought together a diverse crowd. From the Sauk-Suattle Reservation to local enthusiasts, everyone was united in their eagerness to delve into the art of creating their ribbon shirts.

The ribbon shirt, whose origins are deeply rooted in the Great Lakes and throughout the Prairie, Plains, and Northeast tribes, carries a profound historical significance. Shopbell-Fryberg explained, “These shirts were created as replacements for war shirts when there was a shortage of hides to make them.” 

Following the French Revolution, extravagant clothing decorated with ribbons went out of style and was exported to the Americas. There, the French traded silk ribbons along with metal for knives and cookware, bells, small mirrors, glass and brass beads, guns, alcohol, and wool blankets to the Native Americans in the latter part of the 18th century. By the 19th century, Europeans noticed that many tribes had incorporated ribbon work applique into their culture.

Shopbell-Fryberg is widely recognized as a respected cultural leader. She is revered for her exceptional beadwork on earrings and medallions and her expertise in creating ribbon skirts. Her classes offer invaluable guidance to those looking to acquire these skills, and given the success of her second ribbon shirt class, it’s evident that her teachings are highly sought after. 

“I’m self-taught in making ribbon shirts,” Shopbell-Fryberg said. “My son needed a shirt, so instead of finding a pattern, I used one of his existing shirts to create my design. I have been teaching various classes for over ten years. This is my second ribbon shirt class, and I would like to teach more classes if there is a demand.”

Her hands-on teaching approach effectively demonstrates simplified methods for creating ribbon shirts. Anyone with basic sewing machine skills can quickly master these methods. By breaking down the project into manageable steps, she instills confidence in individuals with limited sewing experience, showing them they can achieve success.

One of those who was there to learn a new skill was Tulalip tribal member Bryce Carpenter-Juneau, who said, “It was easier than I thought. I was nervous about the sewing going into it because my wife usually sews. So, I figured I would try to learn myself. That way, I could help her out in a pinch. I enjoyed the class, and instead of just purchasing a ribbon shirt, I thought it would mean more to make one myself, knowing my sweat went into it. I would definitely retake this class.” 

“I made a ribbon shirt about 20 years ago,” said Hermina O-Raven from Sauk-Suattle. “I like this style because you can use anybody’s shirt as an outline instead of buying a pattern. I enjoyed the class, but we always want it to be longer. I couldn’t finish my shirt, but with the start I got from the class, I will be able to finish it at home.”

As the afternoon concluded, participants left the Hibulb Cultural Center with new ribbon shirts and a deeper connection to their heritage. 

For more information on workshops and other events at Hibulb, visit their website at www.hibulbculturalcenter.org.

Rez Reads: Summertime Edition

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Whether you’re catching some rays by the relaxing shores of the Salish Sea, out harvesting traditional foods in the natural world, or looking for something to capture your attention to pass the time while working in a firework stand at Boom City, make this short list of Indigenous novels your companion this summer for some fun, entertaining, thrilling, and emotional reads. 

Each of the following books are filled with rez humor, traditional lessons, and haunting tales that ultimately bring attention to issues that we face as Indigenous people in 2024, such as boarding school trauma, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/People, and substance abuse/addiction. 

What makes all of the stories so powerful and inspiring for the Native community is the fact that most of the main characters must recall and rely on their ancestral teachings to get through a number of dilemmas and survive the story. What that looks like in today’s modern society is half the fun, and it’s what makes each of these books certified page-turners. 

If you are an audiobook listener or old-school paperback reader, be sure to pick up a copy of these works to help support Indigenous art and writers. Happy reading!

Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange

Following up his classic debut, There, There, Tommy Orange returns with an emotionally heavy novel that takes a deep dive into the assimilation era, and the trickle-down effect it’s had on tribal families for multiple generations since. 

Wandering Stars is technically a sequel and revisits some of the main characters from There, There and digs into their family history. However, Wandering Stars can easily be read as a standalone. But there are several references and connections between the two novels, so if you have the time and haven’t read There, There, just yet, we highly recommend it!

“Extending his constellation of narratives into the past and future, Tommy Orange once again delivers a story that is by turns shattering and wondrous, a book piercing in its poetry, sorrow, and rage—a masterful follow-up to his already-classic first novel, and a devastating indictment of America’s war on its own people.”

Never Whistle at Night:  An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology by Shane Hawk

Fair warning, some of the stories in this book will stick with you for several days and are downright scary. We’re talking ghosts, monsters, curses, hauntings, sinister revenge plots. But of course, you were probably able to surmise that on your own from the title, as the message to Never Whistle at Night is embedded into the brain of every Indigenous youth, adult, and elder all across the nation. 

In this book, we are introduced to nearly thirty original stories by well-known Indigenous authors like Stephen Graham Jones, Morgan Talty, Kelli Jo Ford, Nick Medina, Norris Black, Waubgeshig Rice, and many, many more.

“Many Indigenous people believe that one should never whistle at night. This belief takes many forms: for instance, Native Hawaiians believe it summons the Hukai’po, the spirits of ancient warriors, and Native Mexicans say it calls Lechuza, a witch that can transform into an owl. But what all these legends hold in common is the certainty that whistling at night can cause evil spirits to appear—and even follow you home.”

Indian Burial Ground by Nick Medina

Like most of Nick Medina’s works, Indian Burial Ground, is extremely difficult to put down once you get started. With fast pacing and short chapters, you are sure to fly through this book in no time.

Through his stories, Nick Medina tackles Indigenous issues head-on. In his bestseller, Sisters of the Lost Nation, Medina does an excellent job of bringing attention to the MMIW epidemic and its effects on a tribal community. The two underlying themes that he explores in Indian Burial Ground are teen suicide and alcoholism. 

In an attempt to make this recommendation completely spoiler free, we’ll leave the shocking mystery to you. But what we will share is that Medina ramps up his storytelling ability and has the reader following two timelines; one in present time and the other occurs during the summer in the 80’s. 

All Noemi Broussard wanted was a fresh start. With a new boyfriend who actually treats her right and a plan to move from the reservation she grew up on—just like her beloved Uncle Louie before her—things are finally looking up for her. Until the news of her boyfriend’s apparent suicide brings her world crumbling down. But the facts about Roddy’s death just don’t add up, and Noemi isn’t the only one who suspects something menacing might be lurking within their tribal lands.”

Where They Last Saw Her by Marcie R. Rendon

Set on the Red Pine reservation in Minnesota, this novel follows Quill as she decides to take it upon herself to find answers after another woman from her rez goes missing. Out of all the fantastic reads on this list, Where They Last Saw Her, has the highest rating across all platforms, including Goodreads, Amazon, Audible, and Apple books. 

Trigger warning, this book touches on difficult subjects that Indigenous women unfortunately often experience such as violence against women and sex trafficking. This book is raw, heartbreaking, as well as powerful and educational, and Rendon masterfully provides insight and perspective on the MMIW/P epidemic. 

“As Quill closes in on the truth behind the missing woman in the woods, someone else disappears. In her quest to find justice for the women of the reservation, she is confronted with the hard truths of their home and the people who purport to serve them. When will she stop losing neighbors, friends, family? As Quill puts herself, her family, and everything she’s built on the line to make a difference, the novel asks searing questions about bystander culture, the reverberations of even one act of crime, and the long-lasting trauma of being invisible.”

The Indian Lake Trilogy by Stephen Graham Jones

Truth be told, every single literary piece of fiction by SGJ should be on everybody’s TBR list. Ahead of The Indian Lake Trilogy, Stephen Graham Jones became famous for weaving in traditional stories into contemporary reads with a horror twist. However, this series isn’t that. Sure, there may be callbacks to certain Indigenous legends and lore, but the main character in this series is a badass Indigenous teen girl, Jade Daniels, whose love for slasher films may just save her life as well as her loved ones. 

The three novels of the trilogy are: My Heart is a Chainsaw, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and The Angel of Indian Lake. This series is like a cross between Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and the entire Friday the 13th film collection. The Indian Lake Trilogy is a must read. It is gory, beautiful, and most importantly, it teaches a significant lesson about caring for the land and the impact colonization has on sacred territories. 

“You won’t find a more hardcore eighties-slasher-film fan than high school senior Jade Daniels. And you won’t find a place less supportive of girls who wear torn T-shirts and too much eyeliner than Proofrock, nestled eight thousand feet up a mountain in Idaho, alongside Indian Lake, home to both Camp Blood – site of a massacre fifty years ago – and, as of this summer, Terra Nova, a second-home celebrity Camelot being carved out of a national forest. That’s not the only thing that’s getting carved up, though – this, Jade knows, is the start of a slasher. But what kind? Who’s wearing the mask? ….. Go up the mountain to Proofrock. See if you’ve got what it takes – see if your heart, too, might be a chainsaw.”

The Moon Series by Waubgeshig Rice

This series is comprised of two novels: Moon of the Crusted Snow and Moon of the Turning Leaves. Many of you can easily buy into the premise of this series as lots of Indigenous families have experienced this at least once in their lives, albeit at a much smaller degree. This is especially true for those who call Tulalip home and have dealt with days-long power outages from windstorms, where we felt disconnected from the world. 

These books take place on a remote reservation, far away from the conveniences of city-living. When the entire rez loses power and communication from the outside world, tribal members have to hunker down and survive a long and cold winter. Days turn to weeks and weeks turn to months as they return to their traditions and are able to get by on the strength of community alone. However, things take a fast and dark turn when the people agree to take in non-Tribal refugees who are fleeing a post-apocalyptic society. 

“With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow…. Blending action and allegory, Moon of the Crusted Snow upends our expectations. Out of catastrophe comes resilience. And as one society collapses, another is reborn.”

Hundreds participate at Annual Stick Games Tournament 

STICKS AND BONES

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Tribes Annual Stick Games Tournament was held during the weekend of May 31, and featured a total payout of $50,000. Over 130 teams competed for a chance to win the grand prize of $25,000 this year as Native families from all across the region journeyed to the Tulalip Amphitheater to try their luck in the tournament. 

The tournament is open to all ages and provides an opportunity for multi-generational families to learn, share, and enjoy the traditional game together.

According to stories passed down throughout the generations, stick games was originally introduced to the coastal tribes and First Nations Bands thousands of years ago. The traditional game is also known as bone games, slahal, hand games, and lahal. And while each tribe and band have different stories and legends pertaining to stick games, the origin story of the game is consistent throughout all Coast Salish nations.

Northwest tribes seemingly agree that the game was gifted and taught to the people by the Indigenous wildlife of our territory as a way to settle intertribal disputes like the rights to hunting and fishing grounds, and also as a means to prevent warfare between tribes.

During gameplay, two opposing teams, consisting of three to five players, face off against one another. The teams alternate turns, and sticks are used to keep score throughout the contest. A set of bones is discreetly distributed amongst the team that is in-play and the opposing squad must correctly guess where the bones are hidden and how many pieces the player has concealed in their hands. 

While the bones change hands between teammates, the team sings traditional family songs to distract their opponents from seeing who is in possession of the bones. The team with the most correct amount of guesses wins the game and advances to the next round. 

There are also several unofficial game pieces that slahal players can use to their advantage during the tournament. Such items include foldable lawn chairs, so that teams can quickly set-up against their opponents and move and play about the grounds, as well as pull-over hoodies, blankets, and bandanas that can be used to cover a player’s hands and prevent opponents from seeing where the bones are placed.

In addition to the main competition, several mini matches were also held during the tournament such as the three-man tournament and the kid’s tournament.

Professional Slahal Player and Ahousaht member, William Mack, travels from Nanaimo, B.C. to participate in the games each year, along with his family. Following the tournament, William shared, “We want to thank the Tulalip Tribes for hosting a great weekend of stick games. It was good to see our stick game family. We played six games in the main competition and won the three-man single elimination for $7,500!”.

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.”