Kudos to our Heritage art interns

Submitted by Mytyl Hernandez and Ty Juvinel

“I wanted to share some information on the intern program that Ty has been coordinating at Tulalip Tribes design. He has had two tribal members, both interns from Heritage High School, for the majority of the year. They are finishing up their final week of internship and we thought it could make for a very good share. They have helped with all types of projects, including an order of 100 unsanded clapper kits for our events department and an additional 4 paddles that will all be gifted to students at their upcoming graduation.”

– Mytyl Hernandez, Hibulb Cultural Center manager

“These two young men have been doing some wonderful work, both of which are due to graduate. Adrian Jefferson and Taryn Fryberg have been really working their tails off through their own challenges, along with prepping for graduation. I’m just hoping we can inspire them to continue bettering themselves.

I’m proud of how driven this graduating class is. It takes a lot of strength and drive to talk about your passion and even more strength to follow your dreams. It always seems that once u speak on your goals people are quick to put you down, but these young men keep moving forward!”

– Ty Juvinel, creative arts & media specialist

Commemorating healing and resiliency in a redwood

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For one year, a master carver and his pride of wildcats sawed, whittled, and chipped away at a 4,000-pound redwood log. Their combined force of will and strenuous efforts are permanently affixed on the Arch Bishop Murphy High School campus, residing in the spirit of a fully-grown wildcat emerging from a mountainous forest.

This stunning symbology is what brought so many people together on May 15 as the entire student body, school staff, local school district officials, and representatives from the Tulalip Tribes gathered within Terry Ennis Stadium to commemorate the official debut of a one-of-a-kind healing pole. 

“A little over a year ago, we began carving the healing pole in the spring of 2023. Most of the hands here in the audience today – our students and staff – helped carve this beautiful pole – complete with student signatures across the back,” explained Principal Alicia Mitchell. “We are so grateful to Mr. James Madison for serving as our first ever artist-in-residence. The goal of this project was to provide a source of healing, while rebuilding and strengthening our community from all of the disruption caused to schools throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the same time, students had a unique opportunity to learn about Coast Salish art and Tulalip culture. This project has complemented our faculty professional development, which has included visits to the Tulalip Hibulb Cultural Center and hosting Dr. Stephanie Fryberg on our campus. As a result of this learning, our U.S. History classes now make trips to the Hibulb Cultural Center, our English classes have sought to include even more Native American voices in their readings, and our Science and Social Studies Department chairs have personally met with the education coordinator for the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department in the hopes of extending the learning beyond our classrooms.”

Tulalip artist and master woodcarver James Madison recently received the Richard and Nancy Wendt Award of Excellence, an award given annually to a person or organization that has demonstrated outstanding support of the arts throughout their lifetime. Deepening his connection with the arts regionally, he embarked on this healing pole journey with both his sons and their fellow Arch Bishop classmates.

One of those classmates is Amaya Hernandez. She was one of the commemoration’s student speakers. “I’m so grateful to have the healing pole on our campus. I’m happy to have representation of my culture here at AMHS. Being one out of 15 Native American students here, it makes me proud that we have made such a big impact to campus. I can’t wait for our community to grow even more here. t’ígʷicid huy, thank you and goodbye,” said the 16-year-old Tulalip tribal member.

“Being able to help my dad create this pole and seeing everyone come together today to celebrate it really means a lot,” added Jevin Madison. “My dad allowed all of Arch Bishop students who were interested and willing to work on the pole with us. Through the process of making it over all these months, I think it helped students who didn’t really understand our Tulalip culture or what we’re about to find some understanding. 

“I witnessed some students open up and ask questions, others who were really excited to help on certain parts of the pole, and then so many who were eager to carve their name in the back of it,” continued the 17-year-old Tulalip tribal member. “I think that just shows the level of respect for Tulalip culture grew as the pole was made because they were able to help work on it and ask questions. With there only being about 15 Native American students here, I think this process helped us come together and form a larger community here at school…that’s healing.”

Easter Bunny brings literary joy to TELA

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

In a heartwarming event that brought smiles to children’s faces at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA), the Easter Bunny appeared on Thursday, March 28 to distribute books and cookies, spreading joy and excitement among the young learners. The happy bunny made his way through every classroom.

Students would either run up to give a high five or pound fists, while some held back as they weren’t sure of the furry creature standing in their room. One student said, “That’s a big bunny.” Another student remarked, “Can he hop like a little bunny?” 

This year, TELA is working on consent. The teachers instructed the students to ask the bunny for consent before trying to hug the bunny. 

And as a special treat, a copy of the book, ‘Coast Salish ABCs’ by TELA counselor and tribal member, Marysa Sylvester, was given to each child. “It felt very cool,” Marysa said. “I didn’t think my ABC book would be picked; I am very grateful that the Academy chose my book. I feel very blessed, and I think it’s awesome.”

  “There are many positives to early learning reading,” teacher assistant Absyde Dacoscos said. “It exposes the kids to language literacy and letter recognition. We want to provide books to encourage families to go home and read together. The Co-Salish ABC’s book is a bonus, allowing them to see the cultural designs while teaching the ABCs.”

As the children bid farewell to their furry friend, TELA concluded yet another successful event dedicated to spreading happiness and fostering a love for learning. 

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.

Operation Heart to Heart

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, 15 high school students of the Marysville School District (MSD) organized a beautiful and heartwarming event that brought endless smiles to special needs students across the district.

Officially dubbed Operation Heart to Heart, the event originally made its debut three years ago and was organized entirely by the Marysville Getchell Native American and Friends Club. The club planned the first gift giving event to spread love and kindness to developmental learning program (DLP) classrooms within MSD, and it’s grown every year since. 

This year the Marysville Pilchuck United Native Club joined-in on Operation Heart to Heart. The two clubs also partnered with Leah’s Dream Foundation and the Tulalip Tribes, both of which made contributions to the project. Additionally, the clubs released a flyer at the top of the year which asked the community for donations of coloring books, crayons, fidgets, colored pencils, stickers, stuffed animals, and small toys. The club members then assembled gift bags to distribute to several schools throughout the district in the few weeks leading up to the annual event. 

Said Charley Dick, President of the MG Native American and Friends Club, “Today we delivered all the Operation Heart to Heart donations, which was really heartwarming. It’s nice to be able to go see everyone and to just see all the smiles on everyone’s faces. It really makes me feel like our club is doing good things and like we are positively affecting the community, because we’re all about inclusion, building community, and making a good impact.”

Operation Heart to Heart 2024 kicked-off on the morning of February 13, at Quil Ceda Tulalip. In a classroom of just four students, as the new DLP is still in its infancy stage, the two clubs presented the first gift bags of the holiday season. The clubs, along with a handful of MSD Native liaisons, then offered a traditional song to the students before saying their farewells and continuing on their journey. 

In total, the clubs visited seven schools, four elementary schools, two middle school schools, and one high school over a two-hour span. Getchell’s 18-21 special needs teacher, Jim Strickland joined the excursion at the second stop and brought out his acoustic guitar to sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to the DLP students while the club members distributed the gift bags. 

The clubs were met with warm welcome at each of the seven campuses, some classrooms even made posters and valentine’s cards for the high schoolers in anticipation of their arrival. And though the amount of time the clubs spent at each school was brief, there was still plenty of laughter, dancing, hugs, smiles, and warm fuzzies to go around during the Valentine’s Day event. 

Amy Sheldon, MSD Special Education Native American liaison, expressed an overall excitement to see inclusivity celebrated by students in today’s school system. All throughout the Heart to Heart event, Amy beamed with pride as she watched the club members interact with the students at each and every school. 

Amy shared, “I think the important thing is for our students to realize that they’re making a difference by including others, and understanding, and being accepting of others. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished, and they’re really enjoying what they’re doing. My favorite part of the day was seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces. I want all special needs kids to feel like they’re part of something in our schools – and I’m really happy that our students [in the clubs] are stepping up.”

After making their rounds at Quil Ceda Tulalip elementary, Marshall elementary, Marysville Pilchuck high school, Cedarcrest middle school, Kellogg Marsh elementary, and Grove elementary, Operation Heart to Heart concluded at Totem middle school. Following the distribution and song offering, the two clubs elected to take one big group picture together. And with the success of today’s event, the groups expressed a desire to work on future endeavors together, in addition to supporting each other’s upcoming projects. 

“This is really important to me, because I just want to make sure that everyone feels included,” expressed Charley. “It’s really nice to know that we’re making a lot of these kids’ days. It’s important to let them know that they have a community, that they have people who care about them, because a lot of students do face bullying. Knowing that they’re included in activities like these, and knowing that when they do go to middle school and high school, that they have people who are there for them and who will give them that safe space is important.” 

Both of the clubs will continue to host events and activities throughout the school year. Be sure to follow the MG Native American and Friends Club and the Marysville Pilchuck High School Facebook pages for more information. 

New Year’s resolution series: 14 TVTC graduates construct new career aspirations. So can you!

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

New year, new me. A popular phrase used to express the idea of a fresh start. The sentiment behind the phrase suggests a desire for change, self-improvement, and the opportunity to reshape one’s future. A simple, four-word phrase with a larger-than-life meaning that truly encompasses the long-held tradition of New Year’s resolutions.

Each year, as the calendar turns from December to January, many people find themselves inspired to pursue fresh opportunities and set ambitious goals. For those considering a shift in their professional trajectory, New Year’s resolutions can serve as a guiding force by offering a structured roadmap for personal and career growth.

At the heart of the New Year’s resolution process could be the pursuit of clarity in one’s career aspirations. Whether it’s a desire for a career change or the acquisition of new skills, resolutions provide the foundation for a clear and well-defined path forward.  For resolutioners unafraid of getting their hands dirty and learning the true meaning of a hard day’s work, there is an abundance of opportunity within the construction industry. That’s where Tulalip’s own TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) comes in, manifesting itself as an actual lifeline to those looking to construct new careers.

“Not everybody wants to be a doctor or lawyer. Not everybody wants a desk job. I’m a lifetime fisherman that started a construction company when it became apparent we could no longer sustain ourselves simply by living off the land,” explained former board of director Glen Gobin. “Some want to be outside working with their hands. That’s what brings people to our training program. It gives them an opportunity to get exposure to all the different trades, learn how to function on a job site and how to get work. Graduates of TVTC enter a section of the workforce that is in high demand.”

Whether it be laborer, carpenter, ironworker, electrician or heavy equipment operator, there are countless positions available for work and advancement within the trades, especially for sought after minorities like Native Americans and women. A major access point for entry into these desirable career paths for tribal citizens and their families continues to be the one-of-a-kind TVTC.

Along the I-5 corridor, from Olympia to Mt. Vernon, construction projects are booming and many on-site jobs continue to go unfilled. While other career pathways may be oversaturated and hard to come by, those within construction trades are thriving. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, open construction positions are expected to increase by more than 700,000 jobs nationally through 2028, a faster growth than any other occupation. In Washington State alone, there are nearly 3,000 unfilled construction jobs that pay much more than the average state wage. 

Brighter horizons and prospects galore were among the reasons family and friends gathered to celebrate the latest TVTC graduation. Fourteen students (including twelve Tulalip citizens) were honored with a banquet for their commitment to building a better future. Among those in attendance were trade union representatives, construction company managers, and a horde of cheerful family members.
“Being a part of the community and actually living in the same neighborhood as a couple of the students, they’ve all made me so proud over the last couple months as I watched them step out of their comfort zones, learn so many practical skills, and become graduates ready to enter a new workforce,” said TVTC’s newest instructor and homegrown Tulalip citizen, Lukas Reyes Sr. He brings nearly three decades of construction experience and all manner of past leadership roles to his latest venture as TVTC instructor. “Something I reiterated to them over and over again was the importance of taking pride in their work and to never sell themselves short, but instead place high expectations for both themselves and their quality of work.

“Being a construction worker, a laborer, a carpenter, these are just labels on the job site. I want our people to know that within the construction trades industry, they can also be artists,” continued Lukas. “From look to design to install and custom work, being a builder means seeing what is not there and creating what needs to be. That takes artistry. I have full confidence that our graduates can become artists in whichever construction field they decide to enter.”

Embarking on a new career often requires personal development. Resolutions that include goals related to gaining new skills and know-how or even completing past goals that went unfilled, like not earning a high school diploma, can all be achieved through TERO’s training center. Twenty-two-year-old Kiara Jones is a shining example of this.

“I [acquired] hands-on skills so that I can fix or build anything around the house, from patching holes in the wall to common plumbing issues in the bathroom or kitchen,” said TVTC graduate Kiara. “Before taking this class, I only had retail experience. Not having my high school diploma really limited me, but with the help of the TERO staff, who were my support system and helped me stay motivated, I earned my diploma.

“If I’m being completely honest, before this class I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t have skills for a fulfilling job, and I didn’t have a diploma. When filling out job applications, one of the first questions was, ‘Do you have a high school diploma?’ and having to check the no box doesn’t feel good,” she confessed. “Now, I feel great knowing that I have my diploma and all these skills that are in high demand. Looking into the future, I’m thinking of becoming an electrician apprentice. Just being able to say that out loud now is a game changer.”

The sixteen-week TVTC program provides 455 hours of hands-on instruction, strength-building exercises, and construction skills that can last a lifetime. In addition, students are trained and earn certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, industrial forklift and scissor lift, 40-hour HAZWOPER, and OSHA 10-hour safety. 

Six months removed from receiving his Master’s Degree from Washington State University, local podcast personality Dom Joseph added to his skillset by being among the latest TVTC graduating cohort.

“It’s important to me to create as many opportunities as possible here at home to carve out a career or to have the flexibility to change careers if need be,” shared Dom. “The inclusivity of having a good network of people within the trades is super valuable. Plus, my brother has taken this class, and my girlfriend’s brother as well, so being able to add to that tight-knit construction community is cool. My grandpa has been a carpenter his whole life, so being able to speak his language now makes me eager to build some stuff with him.

“Looking back at all the career fields we dabbled in, I’d say there’s a plumbing aspect that stood out to me,” he added. “I’ll be keeping my eyes open to all the possible routes from here, but what I’ll remember most is the good group of people and the awesome experiences we shared. Maybe I’ll be able to come back one day as a plumber and share what plumbing is like to a future class. The instructors here (Lukas, Jared, Lisa and Billy) do such a great job and give it a real family vibe that they welcome back graduates to share their positive experiences in the trades with the students. Those experiences let us know what great things are possible for us out there.”

With hundreds of skilled trade workers retiring every day across the state, the construction industry needs the next-generation workforce to help build an ever-growing Puget Sound community. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction employment climbed by 17,000 jobs in December alone, while hourly earnings continue to rise at a faster clip than other industries. These are job opportunities that actually pay a living wage and are available to people straight out of TERO’s training center.

Those interested in being among the next available TVTC cohort or would like more information about the program, please call (360) 716-4760 or email tvtcstaff@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov 

Tulalip TERO is actively recruiting for its winter cohort that begins January 29. Don’t miss out on this life-changing opportunity to pronounce new year, new me with a new career.

Awakening the Language pt. II: Lushootseed Dept introduces new words for three-phrase challenge

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“This is who we are and where we come from. Lushootseed is part of our culture, and we should be able to embrace it and share it with everyone,” expressed Lushootseed Language Warrior Michelle Myles. “It’s awakening the language. This initiative is keeping it awake, spreading it, and sharing it with everyone.”

Last September, the Tulalip Lushootseed language department embarked on an initiative that challenged the community to incorporate three words into their everyday vernacular: ʔi čəxʷ, t’igʷicid, and huyʔ, which translates to hello, thank you, and goodbye in English. 

For decades, the language department has done amazing work at both recovering the traditional sduhubš language and sharing that knowledge with the tribal community. With established partnerships with the Betty J. Early Learning Academy and the Marysville School District, the language department introduces Lushootseed to their membership at a young age, setting a strong foundation to build upon. As students progress through their academic career, Lushootseed courses are readily available, from pre-k all the way through college, for those who wish to sharpen their traditional linguistics and be a part of the language revitalization movement happening at Tulalip.

In the past, the department has come up with some impressive and innovative ideas to help spread the language community-wide. For example, the department regularly holds classes for the adults of the community and employees of the Tribe. They also host storytelling get-togethers aimed at getting the entire family unit speaking Lushootseed with each other. And on top of all of that, they developed an interactive, informative, and easy to navigate database that is jampacked with Lushootseed knowledge including the visual and audio pronunciations of hundreds of words and phrases.

What was nearly lost to assimilation efforts in the 1900’s is flourishing in 2024 thanks to the dedication and love that each Lushootseed warrior has for their ancestral language. Thanks to their hard work, it is nearly as common to hear a toddler speaking Lushootseed phrases as it is to hear a Tulalip elder speaking the same language. 

That being said, there are still numerous tribal members who are not quite as acquainted with the language as they’d like to be. There are several non-Natives, or other tribal members, throughout the reservation who would like to learn and utilize the language of the sduhubš as a sign of respect to the original inhabitants of this region. 

This initiative is the perfect place to start for newbies to the language. The idea is that by replacing three English words with their Lushootseed counterparts during your everyday conversations, you are more likely to grasp the meaning and pronunciation of the word. You’ll be all the more encouraged to use the phrases throughout your day; and every time you speak the language, you share it and inspire others to participate in the initiative. 

Known both as the Awakening the Language initiative or the three-phrase challenge, the project introduces three words and/or phrases to the community at a time. Throughout the fall and early winter season, the people became familiar with ʔi čəxʷ, t’igʷicid, and huyʔ. Many incorporated the phrases into their e-mails and professional interactions as soon as the initiative was announced. 

To keep the project fresh in everybody’s minds, the language department posted yard signs throughout the reservation, in highly visible areas, that displayed the Lushootseed words for hello, thank you, and goodbye. At the bottom of each yard sign were QR codes that the passengers of moving vehicles or those out for a walk could capture with their phone cameras. The QR code led them to the Tulalip Lushootseed website where they could learn more about the initiative and hear the pronunciation of each word. The signs did exactly what they were intended to – get the people talking. 

After the community spent close to four months with those initial phrases, the Lushootseed department introduced three new words to the people earlier this month. And if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it! The department is taking the same approach that was successful last fall. New signs are already posted all across the village in various neighborhoods and along high-traffic roadways. The new words areare ʔi (yes), xʷiʔ (no), and haʔɬ dadatu (good morning).

Brian Berry, the language department’s video producer/director, was instrumental in this getting this project started. He shared, “These are three things that everyone can say. It actually started here at the Lushootseed department. There are some signs here in the building that say, ‘English words we’re not going to use anymore’. That kind of got my brain spinning that we, as employees and tribal members, should replace these three phrases, using the Lushootseed ones instead of the English ones – just trying to get everyone to speak the language.”

This go-round we get a bonus word as red octagon signs, with the word gʷəƛ̕əlad, have been placed underneath stop signs all around Tulalip as well. Given it’s placement and shape, one could easily surmise they are Lushootseed stop signs, which is incredibly creative and entices people to learn the Lushootseed pronunciation of the word stop as soon as possible. And like the signs from the three-phrase challenge, the gʷəƛ̕əlad sign also has a QR code that people can follow to hear that pronunciation. 

As soon as the signs were posted, we shared an image of a gʷəƛ̕əlad sign to our Tulalip News Facebook which was met with great reception and many praised Tulalip for preserving their language and making it accessible to their people. 

Said Michelle, “This was something fresh we could work on to get the community speaking the language. We were looking for ways to get the language out there to share it, where it’s not in the classroom, not with a teacher, and it’s something you could use with family members and share it in that way.”

For more information about the initiative, the three phrases and how you can help spread the ancestral word, please visit www.TulalipLushootseed.com

Navigating challenges and shaping the future: Eliza Davis joins Marysville School Board

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

 On a momentous Thursday, November 30, a modest yet meaningful gathering of family, friends, and fellow tribal members offered their support as Tulalip tribal member Eliza Davis was sworn in for her newly appointed position on the Marysville School Board.

Eliza faced a challenging setback in a closely contested race, losing the primary by a mere 20 votes. However, fueled by a united effort from the Tulalip community and voters of Snohomish County, Davis made a remarkable comeback, securing victory with a lead of 671 votes and a total of 7,400 votes cast in her favor. With this triumph, Eliza Davis now joins an esteemed group of Tulalip tribal members who have had the honor of holding a position on the Marysville School Board.

  Amid the anticipation of a promising future, Eliza assumes her role on the Board, stepping into a term riddled with challenges for the school district. The situation is underscored by a significant budget shortfall of $10.8 million, as reported by the Everett Herald. Their reporting delves into the potential consequences, including discussions on merging schools, downsizing counseling staff to meet minimum state requirements, and possibly closing the Marysville Pilchuck High School pool. State advisers have recommended that the district make monthly cuts of $1 million, highlighting the gravity of the school district’s financial predicament.

You were elected during a tough time for the school district; where do you see yourself navigating the challenges the school district faces in the next couple of months?

I had some reservations about that because it is a scary time for MSD. If we can’t figure out the financial part, the next step would be the dissolution of MSD.  I plan to get in there and learn about their discussions with the deficit. I also plan to bring outside-the-box ideas. For example, some school districts have foundations, but MSD doesn’t. That’s an opportunity to bring in more funding. 

We got into this position because our voters didn’t pass a levy two years in a row. Also, the formula for funding schools is outdated. The levy system is not equitable when looking at different areas, socioeconomic classes, statuses, and taxes coming into certain areas.  We need to advocate for that. I will investigate my opportunities to be that person who gets to advocate at the state level. I will get in there, learn everything, and use my strengths to move us forward.

How vital is Tulalip’s representation in the Marysville School District?

I think it’s crucial because if we pay attention to the state of MSD, when I left in 2017, we had over 1200 tribal students, and now we only have around 700 students. Many of our students are leaving the district, which tells me the district is failing our kids. We are a large portion of that population, and our students have been underrepresented for too long. So, having a voice for our kids is enormous. 

What made you decide to run for the school board?

Tulalip Tribes asked me to run. But I feel it’s always been a calling to be in education. I have been in education for many years as a language teacher and a Native American liaison. I worked for the tribe as a custodial manager and then in my current position as the director of general services. I miss that work in education. 

Having been a liaison for the school for so many years, what skill sets from that job will you bring to the school board?

My job was to be an advocate for our students and families. I understand the systems in place with MSD and our students’ rights. Also, I know what the teachers and staff need and go through. I will weigh all that knowledge in any decision we make as a board. 

What was it like to be surrounded by your family and community the night you took your oath?

I knew people would show up. That’s what we do as a Tulalip community. We show up for our people. I am so grateful for my family, support system, and community that believe in me and support this role I am about to embark on. It felt amazing; I was overwhelmed with so much gratitude and blessed. I am much more at ease knowing I have such a sound support system. 

What does being on the school board mean amongst other past tribal members like Chuck James, Marjorie James, Wendy Fryberg, and Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch? 

My grandfather Francis Sheldon has a Marysville school district gym named after him, The Francis J. Sheldon Gym. It makes me feel proud to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. He wasn’t on the school board, but he was a strong advocate for all education. I have had conversations with Penoke as he is mentoring me about actions and steps I should take and the support system I should bring to help make good decisions. It means a lot because we continue the work needed for our kids and all kids in the district. 

How does representing the Tulalip people on the Marysville School Board feel? 

I feel happy and proud to be a Tulalip woman. I also feel so glad to be a part of the education system again. That work is so meaningful. Sometimes, when you’re doing the day-to-day grinds, it doesn’t always feel significant, but when you can be a part of this work and shape the future for students, that means something, and I take that very seriously. I will not be afraid to be the only no or yes vote if the decision being made is not the right one, or is the right one. I am going to be strong. Penoke said, “Don’t back down. Speak your voice. You have a whole community behind you.” 

What else do you want the people to know?

I cannot stress the importance of our community aunties, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, big brothers, sisters, moms, and dads being good educational partners. In my years working in education, I strived for families to build their capacities as partners in education. That means being involved, volunteering with the school, keeping in constant contact with your child’s teacher, addressing concerns as they come forward, reinforcing all the lessons at home, and finding ways to be involved with the school with your kid. Do what you can to be a partner in education. We must have families participating for success in that system. We need all hands on deck to ensure our kids get what they need. 

* Everett Herald, ‘At tense meeting, Marysville school stare down drastic cuts to sports, more’, Wednesday, November 29, 2023,

Awakening the Language

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

An inspiring cultural reclamation is happening throughout Native America as tribes are actively working to restore their traditional languages. Once outlawed and considered a punishable offense during the years of assimilation, many Native languages were all but lost. But thanks to each respective tribe’s knowledge keepers and traditional linguists, there has been a resurgence of the dialect of our ancestors over the years. 

Within the sduhubš nation, the revitalization of the Lushootseed language seems to grow stronger with each decade that passes. Ever since Hank Gobin and Toby Langen set the foundation in the early 90’s, when the Lushootseed department was established, the language has spread amongst tribal families and is now often used conversationally.  

Many of today’s traditional speakers were introduced to the language by the Lushootseed department along their educational journey or through a course offered to the community. Today, the department has grown considerably in size as a number of tribal members fell in love with the language and developed a passion for sharing that knowledge with the next generation.

Known as the Language Warriors, the team of culture bearers teach Lushootseed to tribal members as young as newborn babies, infants, and toddlers at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, as well as to students at every grade level within the Marysville School District. The department also teaches college courses and frequently holds community classes and events to ensure the language is accessible to Tulalip’s members and its community. 

Keeping with the times, the Lushootseed department offered online lessons and storytelling videos through the stay-at-home ordinance during the pandemic. They also developed an educational app geared towards kids that is based around foods. And we’d be remiss to mention their website, an online Lushootseed database that provides the spelling of a variety of words and phrases in the Lushootseed alphabet as well as an audio clip of the pronunciation of each word. The website also includes several video lessons and as well as traditional stories. Their homepage is updated regularly and shares the department’s upcoming events and activities. 

If you were to visit www.tulaliplushootseed.com this very moment, you would find three phases listed at the top – ʔi čəxʷ, huyʔ, and t’igʷicid  which translates to hello, goodbye, and thank you in English. The Lushootseed department chose these three phrases to kick-off a new initiative aimed at getting the entire community speaking the language on an everyday basis. 

It’s been only a few weeks since the department announced the initiative via a cute video titled ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5-year-old?’, in which a tribal youth effortlessly spoke the three phrases and gave the definition of each word. The video ends with the tagline ‘get your Lushootseed on’, and challenges all of Tulalip to implement these words into their daily interactions and eradicate the English counterparts from their vocabulary completely. 

“ʔi čəxʷ, t’igʷicid, and huyʔ are the three phrases we are starting off with – just trying to eliminate those three words in English, that is our goal for the rest of the year,” explained Interim Lushootseed Manager, Michelle Myles. “This was something fresh we could work on to get the community speaking the language. We were looking for ways to get the language out there to share it, where it’s not in the classroom, not with a teacher, and it’s something you could use with family members and share it in that way.”

With fall knocking on the door, the Lushootseed department recently provided a treat for the community in the form of eye-catching yard signs. Posted in highly visible areas, all throughout the 22,000-acre reservation, each sign displays one of the three phrases that local commuters can view and then in-turn practice while enroute to wherever their destination may be. For foot traffic, those active runners and walkers journeying across the rez, there is a QR code at the bottom of every sign. When scanned with a smartphone, the code will bring you to the Lushootseed department’s website where people can learn more about the challenge and hear the pronunciation of each phrase. 

“These are three things that everyone can say,” exclaimed the Lushootseed department’s Video Producer/Director, Brian Berry, who has been instrumental in getting the initiative off and running. “It actually started here at the Lushootseed department. There are some signs here in the building that say, ‘English words we’re not going to use anymore’. That kind of got my brain spinning that we as employees and tribal members should replace these three phrases, using the Lushootseed ones instead of the English ones. The QR code will take you to our website. We got a little slot on there – three commercials that I put together, thirty second spots that we’re pushing out on Facebook, trying to get everyone to speak the language.”

The signs can be spotted all along Marine Drive, as well as in front of various department buildings and public spaces such as the Administration building, the Gathering Hall, the teen center campus, and the Tulalip Bay Marina. The signs are also located at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the 27th Ave. school campus which includes Heritage High and Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, as well as at the Marysville Getchell campus and the Marysville Pilchuck campus.

The effects of the initiative are already taking place as numerous governmental employees are utilizing the three phrases in their e-mails and in-person interactions. It’s amazing to see how the Tulalip people are reclaiming their language and are making strong efforts in preserving Lushootseed by passing down the teachings to current day citizens and the future leaders of Tulalip.

“This is who we are and where we come from,” expressed Michelle. “Lushootseed is part of our culture, and we should be able to embrace it and share it with everyone. It’s beautiful. I’ve been working at the department for over 20-some years now and it’s nice to see this freshness and all the new innovations we can use to inspire people to speak the language. It feels good. It’s awakening the language. And this initiative is keeping it awake, spreading it and sharing it with everyone.”

For more information about the initiative, the three phrases and how you can help spread the ancestral word, please visit the Tulalip Lushootseed website.

Camp culture powered by language warriors

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For two-and-a-half decades, dedicated language warriors of the Lushootseed department have planned, coordinated, and hosted our community’s children in the closest thing we have to a full-on cultural immersion experience. An opportunity for the youngest generation to glimpse the traditional syllables and syntax of their ancestor’s common tongue through everyday phrases, storytelling, and glorious song accompanied by deer hide drum beats.

“Teaching Lushootseed is incredibly beneficial to our youth,” explained Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager. “Learning more than one language helps with brain development, which opens their minds to more possibilities. 

“We know some kids don’t have the opportunity to learn Lushootseed in school, so, for them, our summer camps are the only chance they get to participate in learning the language,” she continued. “No matter the experience level or how ingrained in the culture the children may be, they all make connections and becomes family here. For me, my favorite part of Lushootseed camp is the big play put on Friday. All the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts come together to watch their child in the program sing, dance, and act in a play. All in Lushootseed!” 

Highly anticipated by both parents and kids alike, this year’s 26th annual Lushootseed day camp was offered in two one-week options. The first occurred between July 10-14, while the second took place the following week July 17-21.

Open to children between the age of five to twelve years old with a desire to learn a little language of their ancestors and a whole lot about their traditional lifeways, Lushootseed Camp provides invaluable cultural immersion through various methodologies. This is achieved by kids cycling through several hands-on workstations each day, such as art, weaving, songs, traditional teachings, games, language, and technology.

During week one, there were a total of 57 camp participants and 18 group leaders. Week two saw a slight uptick, with a total of 59 participants and 17 group leaders. It’s important to note that nearly all the group leaders, whether teenage or adult, were previous camp kids in their younger years, now older and willing to give back to the summer experience they once enjoyed.

One of those grown-up camp kids includes now Lushootseed teacher assistant Krislyn Parks. She credited long-time Lushootseed teacher Michelle Myles for being a highly impactful, positive influence on her not just at camp over a decade prior, but also at Heritage Highschool. Michelle has instructed a Lushootseed course at Heritage for a few years now. That’s where Krislyn was able to take the course and receive a thorough education on the language of her ancestors. The combination of experiences was so transformative that Krislyn chose to join the Lushootseed department after graduation.

“Seems like only yesterday that I was a Heritage student taking Lushootseed for three years straight, all of it taught by Michelle. She motivated all of us students at the time to embrace our culture, learn our language, and challenged us to implement what we were learning into our daily lives,” recalled Krislyn. “That experience was a big reason why I chose education as my future and what better way to educate our kids than through Lushootseed. Just by learning the language, you can learn all kinds of lessons about what was important to our people back then and what we should probably return to today.”

This year’s camp centered around Tulalip ancestor Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Krise’s traditional story titled Deer and Changer. This story takes place long ago. Long before the world was the way it was today and long before humans were a part of it. There were only animal people. When Changer passed through this world to make it ready for humans, some of the animal people were resistant. One such being was Deer, who attempted to stop Changer from making his changes. Ultimately, Deer’s plan fails, and his treachery results in all modern-day deer having dewclaws in their hooves, otherwise thought of as bones in the back of their feet.

The lessons youth learned daily at the various workstations were based on Lizzie Krise’s story, which tells how deer got extra bones in their feet. This story plot provided ample opportunity to teach the children about Bone Games, which Krislyn was excited to teach the kids how to play as she’d been playing for as long as she could remember. 

“It was stressful prepping a workstation that would be enticing for the kids to play and keep their attention, but in the end, it all worked out and was a lot of fun. The best part for me was after teaching them, being able to then step back and watch them play Bone Games with each other,” said Krislyn. Her aunt Carrie Fryberg’s family has played, traveled, and organized Stick Games tournaments for a long time. 

“Having a camp like this, where our kids get to learn about all aspects of their culture, not just ones that their family carry on, is super important,” she added. “We had so many kids admit to not even knowing what Stick or Bone Games are, and now some of those same kids are asking for Tulalip to form a kids’ travel team so they can continue to play against other tribes. That’s pretty cool to witness, in real-time, the transformation that can happen when our kids are given the opportunity to learn their culture.”  

Every camp station and its daily lessons incorporated some kind of traditional teaching and Lushootseed verbiage. Using creative, hands-on activities to keep the energetic youngsters focused, the language warriors made the most of their opportunities to teach the importance of tradition. From vibrant art creations to working together as a community to problem solve, camp kids were learning while having fun.

Using tablets loaded with custom-built software called ACORN (Acquisition of Restored Native Speech), combined with the next generation’s natural predisposition for digital screens, Lushootseed techs Dave Sienko and Brian Barry used digital gaming and videos to teach tradition. 

“I’m new here in the Lushootseed department, but found out pretty quick that it operates like an extended family. Everyone is willing to help the next person to reach the desired outcome, whether that’s going out harvesting together or sharing ideas and know-how that help us all perform our work more efficiently,” shared Brian as he pivoted between kids asking for assistance with their tablets. “At the technology station, we had Samsung tablets that were loaded with culture-related games and videos. Through the various age groups, some of them loved to watch previous years’ plays and songs. Some kids didn’t want to watch the play and instead would sit mesmerized by a video showing how to fillet a salmon. That showed me how much the cultural stuff really does resonate with even the youngest of tribal members.”

Both one-week camps culminated with the kids performing their own rendition of Deer and Changer in play form for their loved ones and the greater Tulalip community. Afterward, the ceremonial witnesses shared heartfelt words, followed by camp participants giving away their handmade crafts created during the past week to audience members.