New leadership sworn-in

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The latest iteration of Tulalip’s Board of Directors became official on the morning of Saturday, April 6. The regularly scheduled Board meeting began promptly with the first order of business to swear-in the two highest vote getters from March’s general council election: Glen Gobin and Theresa Sheldon.

They replace Pat Contraro, who served one term, and Mel Sheldon, who served for nearly two decades. Mel chose not to run for re-election, while election results showed Pat received the ninth highest total.

After their oaths of office, Glen and Theresa were each given an opportunity to share a few words with those in the room and the many more tuning in on

“In many ways it feels like I never left, but in other ways I feel kind of apprehensive for some reason, sitting back up here. I think it comes with the realization of all the responsibility that comes with the position,” admitted Glen. He had previously served as a Board of Director for 15+ years before taking some time off to spend with his family and enjoy the open waters, fishing. “The expectations, by all those who voted for me, are to bring positive change, bring traditional teachings back, and continue to move forward ensuring future generations have the same opportunities we have, if not more.

“I’m glad to be back to help, and look forward to being a part of this team as we work together in the best interest of the Tribe, to move us forward in a good way. Those are the teachings our elders had; it is always about the Tribe first and making sure our membership is secure. Also, I’d like to thank all those who voted for me and encouraged me step forward once more to help the Tribe,” he added.

Glen received the highest vote total during last month’s general election, surpassing all other candidates by a whopping 150 votes.

Theresa received the second highest vote total. She returns to the Board of Directors after previously missing out on a second term in 2017 by just nine votes. In her time away, she made a significant impact on Indian Country. First, she served as the Democratic National Committee’s Native American Political Director. Then she stepped down from that position to become Director of Policy and Advocacy for the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

After getting voted back on to the Board, and subsequently chosen to serve as Madam Secretary, Theresa shared, “I have to first start by expressing my gratitude and love to my babies. This General Council my son, two nephews and two nieces, plus other first-time voters, voted for me as they all voted for their very first time. Understanding I was chosen as the candidate for them, I will never take this responsibility for granted. I must now live up to their expectations.

“Protecting our right to vote, utilizing our right to vote, making sure we have easy access to voting, and voter protection is what I’ve been passionate about for years,” she continued. “I began voter engagement in 2007 and continued to work diligently for Native Vote at the county level, state level, and national level. Never would I have thought back then that my family’s babies at the time would grow up and cast their first vote for me. 

“This is a reminder to all those who doubt the power of our younger generation that they have the capacity to create historical change. I am so grateful to our young people and want them to know I hear them and I see them demanding more from all of us; in demanding their language, in demanding their songs, and in demanding their culture. To everyone who supported me,t’igʷicid! To those who did not support me, I will work hard for you, too, as I want us all to succeed.”

For decades addiction, housing, child welfare, economic development, treaty rights and sovereignty have dominated Tulalip’s political discourse. Glen and Theresa both campaigned with an emphasis on their work ethics, diverse experience, and commitment to the people.

Concluding the induction of Tulalip’s newest leaders, Chairwoman Gobin said, “Both of them have served on Council before. They bring so much valuable leadership and knowledge to our team, and I’m excited to see how much we can get accomplished with as strong a Board as we have now.”

Governor Jay Inslee signs landmark bills, honors John McCoy

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

A momentous day unfolded for the people of Tulalip and all Indigenous communities in Washington State as Governor Jay Inslee visited the Tulalip Resort Casino on March 19 to sign several new house bills. These bills not only enhance the recognition and education of the Native community but also allocate additional resources and aid to assist tribal communities grappling with the drug epidemic.

The occasion wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for one of Tulalip’s greatest champions of the people, the late John McCoy (lulilas). John loved his people and his country, and because of this, he served 20 years in the Air Force, became a computer programmer, and worked in U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s situation room in the white house. In 2002, he ran for Washington State Senate and won. There, he served ten years in the Washington House of Representatives after being appointed to the State Senate, representing the 38th Legislative District.  

One highlighted bill was No. 1879, Since Time Immemorial Curriculum, a testament to John’s dedication. This meticulously developed curriculum aims to teach about the Indigenous tribes of Washington State accurately. It marks the first instance of the Legislature incorporating Lushootseed language into State law. The bill explicitly acknowledges John McCoy’s tireless and visionary efforts in supporting student and educator learning about the history, culture, and government of federally recognized Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2005, John sponsored Substitute House Bill No. 1495 to compile comprehensive information on tribal history, culture, and government statewide. This initiative sought to integrate these vital aspects into the social studies curriculum, particularly in courses covering the history of Washington and the United States. Due to McCoy’s diligent efforts, the Legislature will pay tribute to him by naming the curriculum the John McCoy (lulilas) Since Time Immemorial Curriculum.

“In Washington D.C, he broke down barriers, built bridges, and educated tribals and non-tribals alike about the challenges faced in Indian Country,” said Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “He had national recognition for being an innovative and visionary leader and bringing the Legislature forward not only for the tribe but also for the state of Washington and all of Indian Country. Our children are benefiting from what he has fought to bring to this State.”

“John sponsored the foundational Legislation that led to the teaching of the curriculum on tribal history, government, and culture in our schools,” Governor Jay Inslee said. “This is also the first time the Legislature will incorporate the Lushootseed language into law in the history of the State of Washington.”

“My dad fought for everyone, not just the people in Washington State but for all Indian Country,” John McCoy’s daughter Sheila Hillarie said. “He worked that bill to help his grandchildren. There were mostly plains Indians, and that was talked about in school when I was growing up. There was nothing about the coastal Natives. So, I feel that this Bill John McCoy (lulilas) Since Time Immemorial Curriculum will help educate the people on the culture and knowledge of tribes.” 

The legacy of John McCoy is a beacon of advocacy and progress for the Tulalip community and all Indigenous peoples across Washington State. His tireless dedication to education, culture, and tribal sovereignty has left an indelible mark on Legislation and learning. As we move forward, let us continue to honor his memory by embracing the rich heritage and wisdom of our native communities, ensuring a brighter future for generations to come.


  • House Bill No. 1879 – Relating to naming the curriculum used to inform students about tribal history, culture, and government after John McCoy (Lulilas). Primary Sponsor: Rep. Lekanoff
  • Third Substitute House Bill No. 1228 – Relating to building a multilingual, multiliterate Washington through dual and tribal language education. Primary Sponsor: Rep. Ortiz-Self
  • Engrossed Substitute House Bill No. 2019 – Relating to establishing a Native American apprentice assistance program. Primary Sponsor: Rep Steams
  • Substitute House Bill No. 2075 – Relating to licensing of Indian health care providers as establishments Primary Sponsor: Rep. Lekanoff
  • Substitute House Bill No. 2335 – Relating to state-tribal education compacts. Primary Sponsor: Rep. Santos
  • Substitute Senate Bill No. 6146 – Relating to tribal warrants. Primary Sponsor: Rep. Dhingra
  • Substitute Senate Bill No. 6186 – Relating to Disclosure of recipient information to the Washington state patrol for purposes of locating missing and murdered indigenous women and other missing and murdered indigenous persons. Primary Sponsor: Rep. Kauffman
  • Second Substitute House Bill No. 1877 – Relating to improving the Washington state behavioral health system for better coordination and recognition with the Indian behavioral health system. Primary Sponsor: Rep. Lekanoff
  • Substitute Senate Bill No. 6099 – Relating to creating tribal opioid prevention and treatment account. Primary Sponsor: Sen Dhingra

Road Collapse on 12th Ave NW

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources

Last week, we saw problematic journalism about Tulalip by the King 5 media team. The story highlighted a culvert and road collapse on 12th Avenue NW, within the Battle Creek neighborhood on the Tulalip reservation. The footage showed residents of the Aqua Hills Homeowners Association blaming the Tribe while simultaneously asking for the Tribe’s assistance to remedy the issue. 

On the afternoon of March 1, heavy rainfall led to flooding which caused a decrepit culvert and the private road above it to wash out. The angle the media team chose to take was, of course, sympathetic to the approximate 20 affected families. However, they neglected to provide context. Tulalip has a long history of offering help and being turned away by Aqua Hills residents. The Tribe responded to this situation immediately, ensuring the residents were safe and had drinkable water, despite being met with hostility by the HOA on numerous occasions. 

Moving forward in this article, it is important to understand that the Tulalip Tribes has zero responsibility in the maintenance of 12th Avenue NW. Although the road and the neighborhood are located within the boundaries of the Tulalip reservation, this is a privately owned and operated road, and its proper care and upkeep is the sole responsibility of the Aqua Hills HOA. 

This particular instance is a prime example of how Native sovereignty is consistently undermined and exploited by non-Natives who choose to buy property and reside on reservations all throughout the country, without acknowledging or following any of the respective tribe’s laws, rules, or regulations. 

The Tribe issued a detailed media release pertaining to the collapse on March 5, which explained that back in 2013, Tulalip notified the HOA that the culvert which caused the flood was inadequate and needed to be replaced. The Tribe also expressed an interest in working together with the HOA to get a properly sized culvert installed. The HOA did not share the same interest at the time and failed to take action following the Tribe’s initial recommendation. 

Nine years later, in 2022, the Aqua Hills HOA reached out to the Tribe and asked for their help in removing beavers in their area through Tulalip’s beaver relocation project. After agreeing to relocate the beavers living along the Battle Creek marshes, the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department was met with conflict as one of the HOA property owners denied them access to their land and threatened to take legal action if the Tribe continued with the relocation effort. 

The media release also spoke about how the Tribe has been on the scene and made a handful of their various departments available to assist with the road closure, whether that’s through surveying the damage, restoring potable water to the residents, or ensuring that the homeowners are not physically trapped within the enclosed area. 

Out of the entire detailed media release, King 5 chose to share just one section of it in their article about 12th Avenue NW:

“The non-native residents are asking Tulalip to replace private infrastructure that is the homeowners’ responsibility, at the Tribe’s expense, and for the benefit of a handful of landowners…Tulalip will continue to work with the HOA to arrive at a quick and effective solution to this crisis because of the Tribes’ values.”

Let’s spend a second here because balanced journalism, which shares both sides of story, is important especially when dealing with tribal sovereignty. This statement, although true, was altered to villainize the Tribe and help push the homeowner’s narrative that it’s the Tribes obligation to fix the culvert and road. In total, four paragraphs that explained how the HOA got themselves in this predicament and burnt bridges with the Tribe were ignored and not mentioned whatsoever in the article. And the portion that was included, has key statements missing, that ultimately misleads readers about the situation. The original statement reads as follows, with the sentences that were excerpted in italics: 

Tulalip neither owns nor collects taxes to maintain these parcels. The non-native residents are asking Tulalip to replace private infrastructure that is the homeowners’ responsibility, at the Tribe’s expense, and for the benefit of a handful of landowners. They have been aware of the vulnerability for a decade and have not addressed the issues that led to this problem. Tulalip will continue to work with the HOA to arrive at a quick and effective solution to this crisis because of the Tribes’ values – not because it has a responsibility to rectify problems caused by private non-member landowners.”

It is upsetting that a Tribe that has done so much good throughout the region, that has consistently given back and has routinely helped build up the local community, were portrayed as negligent, unwilling to help, and at fault for the incident on 12th Ave NW, when in fact it is the complete opposite of the situation. 

This is dangerous because the news station is making a conscience decision to exclude the Tribe’s voice on a story where they were attacked on-air and in-print, regardless of their efforts to help these individuals and families over the past 11 years. 

Since King 5 chose to silence Tulalip leadership and those who are monitoring the road closure closely, we wanted to share their perspective in this article, where they can provide insight to the collapse of 12th Ave NW. 

Teri Gobin, Tulalip Chairwoman

12th Avenue NW is a privately owned road. The Tribe does not own it and we do not have any responsibility to fix it. What happened there is a private owner of the land had a culvert there, that was undersized. And actually, our natural resource people told them years ago, that it was failing, that they should do something about it. The owner of it told us that the Tribe had no jurisdiction, being it was on his private land, and asked us to leave. 

If this were to happen two weeks later, it would have wiped out a chum run. We were getting ready to bring our fingerlings down there. It would have wiped out that run, and who’s responsibility would that have been? 

They have been warned that this culvert was bad. And they did nothing about it. 

They don’t want anything to do with the Tribe until when they need the Tribe, and they think the Tribe will take care of that. It’s not our responsibility.

Carson Cooper, Tulalip Managing Attorney

We have a mix in the types of roads that are located here on the reservation. There are really three types. There are roads that are maintained and owned by Snohomish County. There are tribal roads that are owned and maintained by Tulalip Tribes. And then there are private roads, which are roads that individual communities have decided they want to restrict access to. 

The road that goes over Battle Creek is a private road. It’s the responsibility of Aqua Hills Homeowners Association. What that means is that they are responsible for maintaining both the road and the culvert. They originally funded that road. They did the construction. They put in the culvert without the involvement of Tulalip Tribes, and they’re responsible for maintaining it and making sure it’s in good shape.

Ryan Miller, Tulalip Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs

I think it’s really important for people to understand that originally, reservations were set aside for tribes, and they were collectively owned by the tribal government. It wasn’t until the allotment era that those reservations were broken up into individual Indian allotments. And that’s how we ended up in this situation, that we have with checkerboard reservations. There are examples of Indian women who had an allotment, and they received some kind of government funding, and the government said you can’t be a property owner and receive welfare from the state, so now you have to sell your property and pay it back. There are lots of different times when the BIA, that’s supposed to hold that land and trust for the benefit of tribal members, mismanaged the money, mismanaged the land, leased the land to be logged or mined, or some other use, and never gave the money to that person. And that person ended up having to sell the land. That created the start of this adversarial relationship between non-Indian people and Indian people on the reservation. And as Snohomish County got bigger, those jurisdictional questions expanded. Environmental rules and permitting for homes and things like that, that didn’t exist prior, became more and more of a problem.

When we have a catastrophic event like this, especially if there are fish in the water, one of the number one things that we worry about is turbidity. So, you get a lot of sediment stirred up in the water, it becomes a part of the water column and fish can get that into their gills and it kills them. So that’s kind of the number one immediate threat. And also, there’s the threat of this large volume of water coming out all at one time, which could push the fish out into the saltwater before they’re ready. Which could again kill them because they need time to adjust. They need to get in that mixture of salt and freshwater, and they go through some physical changes in their scales that helps protect them from saltwater, it’s part of the biology of anadromous fish.

So, those are the immediate threats. And then the long-term threats are – if this culvert doesn’t get repaired properly, it could cause significant water quality challenges into the future for temperature, for flows, depending on if there may be chemicals or other things within the structure that could cause problems downstream. Those are kind of the main risks. And until it’s fixed, we can’t put fish in this facility, because there’s always the threat that the culvert itself could move downstream. It could have significant impacts on the lungs of fish, of their gills. It could burn them, it could burn their skin, it could delay or inhibit their ability to go through the smelting process which is what they need to do in order to get into the saltwater.

Sam Davis, Tulalip Tribes COO

We had a culvert fail. That happened around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. on Friday and we responded through most of the night. We had our emergency management there, Snohomish County emergency management there, so we had the all the response teams ready to go. 

It had a very big impact on Battle Creek and flooded out our chum hatchery. We do have a major chum hatchery downstream, so our gauges that are in Battle Creek went off the chart. We had four to six feet of excess water above where it normally is, so that was really where our strategy was, to look at our areas downstream.

As a Tulalip member and a lifelong citizen up of Tulalip, it’s been disturbing to look in the news media and have these people pointing their fingers at Tulalip like we’re somehow to blame for their lack of maintenance on their asset and their inventory in the road. 

We would like to be good neighbors, but when somebody is bad mouthing us that much in the in the media, in the press, it hurts a little bit, and it makes us a little angry. It’s pretty simple – this is the private road owned by an HOA. It’s laid out in a legally binding document. And now that they don’t have anywhere to go, they want to point fingers at us, and that’s the wrong thing to do.

Krislyn Parks weaves together the past, present, and future into her Salish skirts

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Long strands of intricately woven wool sway vertically at the bottom of a traditional Coast Salish skirt. Across the top is a horizontal pattern that creates the skirt’s waistband, which often features Salish designs or accessories such as shells and buttons.

The skirts were a necessity pre-colonization and are now often overlooked by the general public, thanks to some of our other masterful creations such as blankets, shawls and cedar weavings. However, the Coast Salish skirt played an intricate role in the lifeways of our women ancestors. For the skirts provided warmth throughout the cold fall and winter months, and also served as ceremonial attire during traditional gatherings. 

Native America is currently experiencing a powerful and important ribbon skirt resurgence. Locally, more and more women from coastal tribes are contributing to what could be the start of a new revitalization movement by wearing wool skirts to ceremonies and as a part of their OOTDs (outfit of the day). These ladies also often alternate between ribbon and wool skirts, to show their continued support of the ribbon skirt initiative. 

Although new to the game, Tulalip tribal member Krislyn Parks has found a passion in creating traditional Coast Salish skirts. Her handmade textiles with exquisite color schemes are bringing more attention to a practice that was nearly lost during the assimilation era, while also putting a her own spin on it.

After coming across her beautiful work, on her Instagram business account, Tulalip News reached out to Krislyn to chat about her newfound passion, it’s history, and what she hopes to accomplish through her handwoven skirts. 

Tulalip News: Why don’t we start by learning a little bit about you?

My name is Krislyn Parks. I am 20 years old. I’m Kristie Fryberg and Jared Parks’ kid. My grandparents are Karen Fryberg and Cyrus Fryberg Sr., and Beatrice Forman and Leslie Parks. I’m proud to be Tulalip because it roots me down here from generation to generation. I have family ties here and I think it’s important to learn about my people and who I am. And be proud of who I am – express my culture and show everybody what it means to be Tulalip and who we are today. 

What are some of the cultural practices that you take part in?

As a kid, I always took part in canoe journeys and sweat lodge, my dad’s side of the family always participated in that. And as I’ve gotten older, I was taught how to bead by my auntie Winona Shopbell and uncle Bubba Fryberg. My grandma Karen taught me how to sew at a young age so I could make my regalia. And I picked up weaving when I joined the Lushootseed department. Michelle Myles sat down with me a couple of days and just weaved with me, showed me how to do it and got me interested in it. 

That’s awesome! Can you talk to us about the wool skirt and it’s history?

The wool skirts were something that we would wear during the cold time. Just to keep us warm, our women would be weaving all the time, that was one of our jobs. I’ve weaved cedar before, but weaving with fabric was new and really interesting. And so was learning about the woolly dog.

The story about woolly dogs is fascinating. Can you tell our readers more about the woolly dogs?

Our people used to have our own island that we used to take care of. Our ancestors, the women of the families, would go out onto the islands and take care of our woolly dogs. They would process their wool into the yarn used for skirts. 

That shows how strong our ancestors were. To me, it’s always about recognizing how much they put into their work and how much love they put into it. They didn’t get to go to the store and buy yarn. They had to breed that type of dog, take care of them, and then they would shave the wool off the dogs every season. They would then pull it, spindle it in a whorl, and turn it into its own yarn. 

Now that woolly dogs are extinct, what type of wool do you use in your work?

I use alpaca wool instead of woolly dog because – well, because we can’t get any of that anymore. We can never get that type of wool back, but we can keep preserving the tradition in different ways by showing and telling people about that kind of wool compared to the kind of wool we are using today. 

You mentioned that you picked up the practice from Michelle Myles, can you expound on the beginning of your weaving journey?

When I started, I learned everything at the Lushootseed department. We had looms that were donated to us that were kind of old and broken down. But, we decided to work with them. And really, we just picked it up while preparing for language camp, to teach the kids about weaving and how to do it. 

In our department we always say that we can’t just teach the kids and not practice the work ourselves. I teach weaving in the winter because that’s when our ancestors would weave at Tulalip. And my first time teaching that weaving unit, it was hard to connect with the kids. Learning how to weave this summer will make that weaving unit a lot easier. Now I’ll be able to bring in the loom and show the kids how to warp up their own weavings and make skirts for the classes, which I’m really excited to show the kids this year. 

Now that you’ve learned how to weave wool, can you explain your process of creating a skirt?

Weaving wool skirts is really calming for me. I typically do it at home now, I have my own little weaving station setup in my room. Once you have your wool, you’re going to setup your loom and it’s going to need to have two bars on it. And then you’re just going to start warping the wool, just wrapping it around the loom. For an adult sized skirt, I would wrap it around 200 times, warping it up on the loom so it looks like a flat map. And then, I would take individual sections by two and just weave. Then I’ll twist through every two pieces and that’ll will be like me creating the design. It’s definitely all about the twining.

We heard that you paid homage to Barbie through your skirt designs. Let’s hear the deets!

We did! During the Barbie movie release, Marysa Sylvester did an Indigenous Barbie shirt and I bought it. So, I was like I need to make a skirt! Me and my coworker both made Barbie-themed pink and purple skirts and we raffled them off as a part of a Barbie raffle. It was so much fun. 

When I was growing up, there were Indigenous Barbies that Mattel put out and they were in powwow regalia. So, we were talking about making dolls with some wool skirts for our classes because it would be nice to show the kids our representation. To show not only what a Native American Barbie looks like, but what a sduhubš, Snohomish Tulalip, Barbie would look like. 

Since you started this new endeavor and you now have skirts available for purchase, have you seen any of your skirts in the wild or during a ceremony?

I’ve had a few so far. I made a skirt for myself and I ended up letting a friend have it, and she wore it to a jam that was happening that night. It was also really awesome to see a couple little girls and my old coworker walking around in my skirts and dancing in my skirts, when I know that they would’ve otherwise worn ribbon skirts. I’m glad that they’re culturally getting down, and are enjoying it and representing it with pride. I think that’s such a beautiful thing.

You are not only learning about wool weaving and how to do it, but you’re also passing down that knowledge to the next generation. What does it mean to you to carry on this tradition?

For me that means being open to share with anybody who is wanting to learn. Since I’ve learned and picked this up, I’ve had many of my own family members asking me to to host a class and teach them how to do this. I think that really shows how open our tribe is to learning things, we just don’t always have access to it. I think by me doing this, it’s granting more opportunities for other people to feel comfortable expressing their culture. 

As you continue to practice this tradition, what do you hope to see in the future for your skirts?

I hope to see other kids find this way of life and that they show me how they practice it. This is something that our people dedicated their lives to, and there’s reason for that. It’s always going to be my main goal to see somebody I taught speaking the language and practicing all the arts our people did. 

Where can people find your work and purchase your weavings?

On my Instagram account, @krislyns.kreations, or on Facebook under Krislyn Jo. Those would be the best ways to reach me. I know that every Native got some type of social media, so that’s the way for right now. 

Annual Salmon Bake raises $51,000 to benefit Hibulb Cultural Center

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Kaya, an elder Salish woman with a basket full of clams, has welcomed thousands of people to the Hibulb Cultural Center since the museum first opened its doors in 2011. As a twelve-foot cedar carving known as a welcome pole, Kaya serves as each visitor’s first introduction to a beautiful experience of Tulalip’s culture, history, traditions, and artwork.

Since its establishment, the cultural center has imparted a vast amount knowledge about the Tribe’s ancestral traditions and teachings to the wider community. While providing their guests with interactive exhibits, the museum shares the Tulalip way of life, from present day all the way back to pre-colonial times, through an astounding display of visuals including artwork, photos, documents, and artifacts. 

In addition to their exhibits, there is a gathering space that resembles a cedar longhouse, as well as a wall dedicated to all of the Tribe’s military veterans. The cultural center also has three dedicated classrooms where cultural workshops take place throughout each month. And they have an impressive gift shop that often features the works of Tribal artists. 

“Over the past 13 years, we have welcomed more than 120,000 guests; 150,000 if you were to include special events,” said Hibulb Cultural Center Manager, Mytyl Hernandez. “That’s 120,000 opportunities to educate people on our culture, our true history, and how much Tulalip does for our outside community. We have had more than 1,500 events here, that includes workshops, lectures, films, private events. 1,500 opportunities for us to invite in our own community and outside communities to learn a little bit more about our culture, our history and about us.”

Now an award winning museum, and a top field trip destination for nearby schools, the Hibulb Cultural Center has provided insight and a tribal perspective on issues such as colonialism and assimilation while taking time to celebrate the teachings, values, beliefs, stories, and lifeways of the Tulalip people. 

Because the cultural center has grown in popularity and offers new exhibits and workshops on a regular basis, the Tulalip Foundation organized a silent auction and salmon bake to raise funds for the museum’s exhibits, events, and workshops back in 2017. 

The Tulalip Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports tribal programs and projects based on five support areas – culture and natural resources, education and workforce, law and justice, community and development, and health and social. The Foundation has made a positive impact on the tribal community and has become well-known throughout the region. Many local companies and nationwide corporations have donated thousands of dollars for the betterment of both Tulalip’s governmental programs as well as community-led and focused projects. 

The inaugural salmon bake brought in approximately $25,000 from the silent auction and a number of sponsors. Since then, the Salmon Bake has continued to grow and has become an event that many look forward to each summer.  Funds from previous Salmon Bake benefits went toward fan favorite exhibits such as Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool, Vibrant Beauty: Colors of our Collection, and The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy, as well as a number of events and workshops including the museum’s annual film festival. Although it’s been seven years since the first event, the Foundation hosted its 5th Annual Salmon Bake this year, after two events were canceled due to the pandemic. 

“For all your loving energy and support for the Tulalip community, we raise our hands to you,” said Tulalip Foundation board member Rochelle Lubbers at this year’s salmon bake. “We’re able to celebrate and share our living culture throughout all of our business days. We are not a people of the past. We are here, we are present, and we are thriving.”

The 2023 Salmon Bake Fundraiser happened on the evening of August 19, and over a hundred of people were in attendance and dressed to the nines. The event was held outdoors, behind the cultural center’s classrooms, where tables with formal settings and a stage were set. About halfway between the stage and the last line of dinner tables, three tribal members were busy behind a smoke screen of traditional deliciousness as the smell of cooking salmon emanated from a rectangle fire pit. As always, the salmon was prepared in real time for all to see by Lance and Tammy Taylor and their grandson Jared, who demonstrated not only the art of a traditional salmon bake, but also the act of passing down ancestral teachings to the next generation. 

Showcased in the middle classroom of the museum, were rows of artwork donated by over 20 Tulalip artists. Next to each donation was a sheet of paper which detailed information about the art pieces and their creators. At the bottom of each paper were several blank lines where the attendees could place their bids. Included in the vast array of traditional artwork were weavings, paintings, carvings, beadwork, paddles, ribbon skirts, a hand drum, and a flute.

Once the silent auction placed a last call for bids, the guests took their seats at their respective tables. The event began with an opening prayer and the presentation of colors by the Tulalip Honor Guard. Attendees were entranced when Flutist Paul Nyenhuis played a welcome song to kick off the entertainment for the evening. While the sponsors and silent auction bidders enjoyed their fresh king salmon dinners, the youth of the Red Eagle Soaring collective performed a read-through of a play written by one of their young and talented members. It was an emotional and relatable story of aging told from both the youth and elder standpoints of the same few characters. 

To close out the salmon bake, Mytyl thanked all of the sponsors. And with the help of her teenage daughters, who were babies when the museum first opened, she blanketed each sponsor in attendance. The blankets featured orcas pulling cedar canoes through the Salish Sea and were designed by Tulalip artist James Madison for the summertime tribal canoe journey. 

“Thank you for supporting the Hibulb Cultural Center,” Mytyl expressed. “We always have an ask to keep funding our programs, curriculum, efforts, workshops, events, and our new exhibit that will open at the end of October. Our goal for the exhibit, just like it is throughout our museum and in everything that we do, is to make culture accessible to our community.”

Executive Director of the Tulalip Foundation, Nicole Sieminski, officially announced that a grand total of $51,000 was raised at this year’s silent auction and salmon bake. That is double the amount raised at the inaugural event, which speaks volumes to how the cultural center has grown over the years and its significance to the community. 

The following statement was included in this year’s program, “The Tulalip Foundation is proud to host this event for the benefit of the Hibulb Cultural Center as it continues to revive, restore, protect, interpret, collect, and enhance the history, traditional cultural values, and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes.”

The Hibulb Cultural Center is currently gearing up to launch a new exhibit that focuses on the traditional languages of the Coast Salish people. The exhibit is slated to open on October 28, so be sure to follow their Facebook page for any updates, as well as details for upcoming events. 

Strong winds, and even stronger competition

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

The day was mighty gusty as canoe pullers from all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada battled waves in Tulalip Bay on August 18 during Tulalip’s Annual Canoe Races. The two-day event pitted the young and old in different canoe races. Although the waters were choppy, each competitor gave forth an outstanding performance. 

Starting at 9:30 am, Saturday’s competition was fierce. Not only were the competitors battling the strong winds and waves, but also each other to take home a trophy and some prize money. 

From single-person canoe races to 11-person teams, events for all levels of racers, male or female, gave many a chance at competing. There were races for kids nine and under to races for adults 19 and older, including a special race Saturday evening between co-ed partners of two. This consisted of one male and female partner who had to run with a paddle for about half a mile, then jump into their canoes and paddle for about a two-mile journey. 

In the face of wind gusts reaching up to 15 mph, creating turbulent waters, dedicated pullers demonstrated unwavering determination, securing victories by multiple boat lengths. A few pullers would find that the seas were not playing around as some rolled over due to being off balance when the wind and the waves hit their canoe. 

“You need to do a few things to prepare yourself to be out there on that rough water,” said Buddy Gray, from Cowichan, racing with Lummi. “You’re going to be tired; you’re going to get fatigued. You can’t quit. You paddle out, so you have to paddle back. Having that mental and physical strength is very important, as is healthy eating and keeping yourself hydrated so you don’t cramp up out there.” 

Buddy continued, “I’ve always had a different mindset on just paddling to win. I have kids now and have that mindset of being there, showing them a good way, and setting a better example for the next generation, as they are always watching. The more you train, the more you race, the better you get.”

One of the teens who won a few different events in the 16 and under category, Elias Mamac of Lummi, said, “Eat lots of French toast, train, and get some rest to be able to race your best.” When asked why he loves canoe races, Elias said, “Makes me feel good.” 

Although the waters were rough and the air was a little smoky, canoe pullers who braved the seas for the chance of victory took home the thrill of competition and great memories. 

From one generation to the next: Carrying on canoe culture

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since 1989’s iconic Paddle to Seattle, a remarkable cultural revival has been taking place across the Pacific Northwest region, known to the tribes therein as Coast Salish Territory. Sovereign Native nations from Alaska to Oregon have united almost every summer to participate in the time-honored tradition of tribal Canoe Journeys. These annual Journeys have deep cultural significance and spiritual importance for our Indigenous communities, fostering unity, healing, and a profound reconnection with our ancestral roots.

Originating from Coast Salish traditions, Canoe Journeys have been practiced for millennia. Traditionally, canoes were the primary means of transportation, allowing our ancestors to navigate the intricate network of waterways that crisscrossed their territories. These Journeys were not only practical but also ceremonial, carrying spiritual significance that symbolized the connection between the people, the water, and the land.

However, the tradition began to wane before ending abruptly due to the impacts of colonization, forced assimilation policies, and the displacement of one tribe after another from their ancestral lands. Yet, in the latter half of the 20th century, a revitalization movement breathed new life into the practice, and now, in the 21st century, Canoe Journeys are experiencing a resurgence like never before.

The revival has been spearheaded by Native American leaders, cultural activists, and elders who recognize the importance of preserving their heritage and passing it on to future generations. Through storytelling, intergenerational knowledge sharing, and the relearning of traditional canoe-building techniques, our sovereign nations are actively reclaiming their cultural identity with each paddle stroke.

“The Canoe Journey campsite, to me, is the epitome of being a tribe,” explained Tulalip elder and Journeys veteran, Monie Ordonia. “We’re all there together. The younger kids are running around, making friends and having fun. The older kids are taking in all the experience from becoming a puller and getting opportunities to sit with their elders and hear their stories. And the adults become that traditional teacher again. Whether it’s sharing songs and dance, or some kind of regalia making technique, or even just accepting the role of watching other people’s young ones and making sure they stay safe. This is the closest thing to experiencing the real village environment that our ancestors thrived in.”

Central to the significance of Journeys is the sense of community they create. 2023’s Paddle to Muckleshoot had nearly 100 canoe families, each representing different tribes and clans, embark on a Salish Sea expedition that stretched for weeks. As these proud culture bearers navigated their ancestral waterways, they were greeted by host tribal communities that welcomed them with open arms, sharing food, songs, and dances. This exchange reinforced the ties that bind our Coast Salish people.

The revitalization of the Tribal Canoe Journeys has also highlighted the importance of environmental stewardship. As participants paddle through pristine waters and encounter the impact of climate change, the connection between the land and its people becomes even more evident. The tribes have been at the forefront of advocating for the protection of their waterways, embracing sustainable practices, and raising awareness about environmental issues within their communities and beyond.

The impact of Canoe Journey 2023: Honoring Our Warriors Past and Present extended far beyond the participating tribes. Non-Indigenous communities have been invited to witness the significance of Journeys and contribute to various cultural exchange activities. This cross-cultural understanding helps dispel misconceptions and raise appreciation for local Native American traditions and histories.

As the sun set on another successful Canoe Journey, the participants returned home with hearts full of memories, renewed connections, and a strengthened sense of cultural pride. The revival of this sacred tradition has proven to be a powerful force in preserving tribal identities, fostering healing, promoting environmental stewardship, and creating lasting connections among communities.

“For us in Tulalip, I’m sure this year’s Paddle to Muckleshoot had a record of youth pullers and parent/child combinations,” reflected Monie. “Does this youth movement excite me? Hell to the yeah! For me, I’m on the verge of retiring and hanging up my paddle, so to witness the kids consistently coming to canoe practice and to be so excited to pull for the first time, and then to get their Journeys experience and already be excited for next year…this brings me so much hope because I know the next generation is ready to learn, eager to get on the canoes and keep this part of our culture alive.”

Julianna Fryberg, 16 years old

“The entire experience was eye-opening. Me, my sister Lilly and my dad all got to pull together on Big Brother for 11 miles straight. That was my first time pulling and something I’ll never forget. We got to be out on the water with so many other canoes around us, all heading to the same destination. Being able to bond with other tribes through our stories, songs, and dance was amazing. It was a real family atmosphere, especially in the camps when Natosha Gobin would hold Lushootseed class to help us learn and pronounce the words of our ancestors.”

Skipper Natasha Fryberg, 33 years old

“Being in the canoe with my daughter is something I’ve anticipated for so long. As a mom, this is truly one of my greatest experiences, being able to share this part of our culture with my daughter. We strive for our kids to follow in our footsteps and now here she is pulling stroke for us, the same position I started out in. She may only be 14, but with each pull, she gains experience and gets stronger.”

Damon Pablo, 17 years old

“It’s been such an honor. A cool moment for me was when another canoe family from up north allowed me to join them as they welcomed a brand new canoe into the water and be a part of it’s first pull. Aside from that, just being able to spend this time with my dad and bond with him in new ways, like during protocol in the longhouse, is something that’s brought us closer. I’d like to see more father/son duos on the water next year.”

Theresa Sheldon, 45 years old

“When I was six months pregnant with my son Klayton, I was on the water pulling canoe, so he has not known a day without the canoes…until Covid. He’s grown up with Canoe Journey every summer since before he was born. It’s something I like to think he inherited from his grandmother and my mom, Toni Sheldon, who was the only woman to pull for Tulalip in 1989’s Paddle to Seattle. All four of her daughters pulled canoe, and now this year her grandchildren are pulling, too. Having my son out there just brings everything full circle and reassures me that we are living who we truly are as canoe people.”

Lilly Jefferson, 15 years old

“Me, my mom, and my siblings tried to make it to every canoe practice so we could all be on Journeys together. Right before my first pull, I was so excited because I never pulled before and didn’t know what to expect. It was everything I imagined it would be. It’s two different experiences, depending if your on Big Brother or Big Sister, but both are amazing in their own way. The weather and views were so nice. I love being on the water.”

Alicia Horne, 40 years old

“My daughter Keyondra is 20 now, but she actually started out on the canoe when she was 12. Back when Natasha Fryberg, Shawnee Sheldon, and I all chipped in and encouraged our kids to participate in canoe race practice. It was important to us to have our kids get that initial experience needed to build up their confidence on the water, their muscles and endurance needed for long pulls. She’s a true paddler. She loves being on the water, whether in single-man races, doubles, or on Canoe Journey. For her to have the strength to pull through all the mental and physical challenges of navigating the waters, I am just so proud of her.”

Janiesha Zackuse, 13 years old

“I was a little bit nervous, but at the same time it was a lot of fun and definitely healing to be out there. A cool moment was when we pulled into Lummi and saw everyone waiting for us on the shore, ready to welcome us. Having my mom there by my side for my first Canoe Journey was everything and filled my heart knowing how much it meant to her, too.”

Michael Wenzel

“I was so proud to watch as my son Thomas put in all the effort necessary to attend practices and ask questions when he was curious to learn more. Now, here he is utilizing what he learned and embracing all the healing that the water gives us. Witnessing not only my son but the other kids following in their parent’s footsteps with canoe culture is simply great. It lets me know that another generation wants to and will be enjoying the waters in the future.”


Tulalip Canoe Family parent/child combos 

  • Alicia and Clayton Horne with their daughter Keyondra 
  • Shawnee Sheldon and her kids Adrian, Lilly, and Isabelle Jefferson
  • Eddy Pablo Jr. and his son Damon Pablo
  • Natasha Fryberg and her daughter Kaylenna
  • Josh Fryberg and his two daughters Julianna and Lillyannah
  • Theresa Sheldon and her son Klayton
  • Michael Wenzel and his son Thomas
  • Tanisha Fryberg and her daughter Maliyah
  • Jolene Fryberg and her daughter Janiesha Zackuse

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. 

Large turnout for Stick Games Tournament 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Several dozen camping tents were set up throughout the northern parking lots of the Tulalip Resort Casino during the first weekend of June. The sound of traditional hand drums could be heard around the gaming establishment and luxury hotel.  The drum beats emanated from the center of the Tulalip Amphitheater where close to 1,000 people gathered for the Tulalip Tribe’s annual Stick Games Tournament. 

According to stories passed down generation after generation, stick games was originally introduced to the Northwest coastal tribes and First Nations Bands thousands of years ago. The traditional game, also known as bone games, slahal, hand games, and lahal, was created as a way to settle intertribal disputes such as the rights to hunting and fishing grounds, and also as a means to prevent warfare between tribes. And while each tribe and band have different stories pertaining to stick games, the origin of the game is consistent throughout the region. Tribal nations agree that the game was gifted and taught to the people by the Indigenous wildlife of our territory. 

Requiring the skill and mastery of deception and distraction, the game is initiated by two opposing teams that consist of three to five players. During gameplay, the team’s 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. 

In addition to bones and sticks, there are a number of unofficial game pieces that each team utilizes to their advantage during a stick game tournament. Such items include foldable lawn chairs, so that teams can quickly set-up against their opponents and move and play about the grounds; pull-over hoodies, blankets, and bandanas are used to cover a player’s hands to prevent opponents from seeing where the bones are placed. Of course, traditional hand-drums and rattles are used to distract the rival team while the bones are in-play.

“I’m happy to be back here playing at Tulalip,” said Lummi tribal member, Tavis Washington Jr. “I am a 5th generation stick game player, but it’s been a part of my family since the beginning of time. It always feels great to come out to this event and see all the people who I [know] and meet new people too. My favorite part of the game is winning, I like when my team or my family wins.” 

For observers and players alike, a highlight of the Tulalip Tribes annual Stick Games Tournament is supporting Indigenous owned businesses as local artists and chefs set up shop at the amphitheater throughout the weekend. This year a vast amount of vendors were scattered throughout the amphitheater’s grounds, including several Tulalip entrepreneurs. 

Josh Fryberg’s clan sold their signature smoked salmon as well as a selection of hoodies and t-shirts, Jared’s CORNer was popping as many stopped by the food truck to grab a bag of kettle corn, Winona Shopbell-Fryberg had a beautiful array of her family’s beaded jewelry for sale, and Angel and Amber Cortez’s kids operated the ‘Traveler’s Drinks & Grub To-Go’ food truck to help raise funds for a trip to Washington D.C. this fall. Other items for purchase at the tournament included Indian tacos, snow cones, and Native-designed clothing, blankets, and accessories. 

The participants of the Tulalip Stick Games Tournament competed for the chance to walk away with some scrilla in their pockets. With a total payout of $60,000 this year, many cash prizes were awarded throughout the three-day event, including the grand prize of $25,000. 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.

Jennie Fryberg, Tulalip Stick Games Tournament Committee member, shared, “I’m so happy our Tribe hosts tribal events for our people. We hosted 145 teams for Saturday’s five-man tournament and 115 teams for Sunday’s three-man tournament! Congratulations to Martin Hannigan’s (Muckleshoot) five-man team for winning first place in the big tournament Saturday night. It was an amazing weekend full of friendship, good food, and beautiful art by Native vendors. Hands up to my sister Carrie Fryberg for making this event happen. Can’t wait for next year’s event!”

Training for a better tomorrow: TERO hosts graduation ceremony

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

This past February, sixteen men and women took a chance on themselves and committed to a sixteen-week course at the Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC). Entering the game with little to no experience, those individuals showed up every morning for five days a week to soak up as much knowledge as they could about the booming construction industry. At TVTC, their slogan is ‘Training For A Better Tomorrow’, and that day officially arrived for those sixteen students on the afternoon of May 26. 

A transformation took place at the space where the latest round of TVTC students learned numerous skills over the past few months in carpentry, cementing, plumbing, blueprint reading, and also in electrical and mechanical work. Tables were set up at the center of the TVTC building, and as soon as the clock struck 1:00 p.m., families and friends of each of the students began to pour in to show their support to their loved ones on their special day of recognition. 

“This is an amazing program,” said Teri Gobin, Tulalip Chairwoman and former TERO Director. “You all have improved your skills in all of the different trades that are offered here to help you. This is a good step. You are making a big difference in your life, your family’s lives, and especially your children’s lives. You are setting the example for the next generation by being somebody they can look up to. I’m so proud that we have so many here today that are graduating.”

TVTC is a construction-focused course, and it’s the first of its kind. To date, TVTC remains the only Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the nation. The course is offered to tribal members enrolled in any of the 574 federally recognized tribes, as well as to their parents, spouses, and children. Throughout the years, TVTC has helped hundreds of Natives find their career path, some from as far away as Alaska and Wyoming. And that’s not to mention the countless homegrown students. Out of the sixteen graduates this quarter, eleven are enrolled Tulalip tribal members.

“We are accredited through LNI. And what that does is it gives our graduates direct entry into an apprenticeship, in whatever union that they choose to go into,” explained Jerad Eastman, TVTC Site Specialist. “So, it checks a box that gives them a step up, compared to anyone coming off the street, into a union. Some of the other things that we do here is we give them OSHA-10 training, we give them First Aid/CPR and AED training, they get certified in boom lift, forklift, scissor lift, and they also get HAZWOPER-40 hours, which is like asbestos abatement and working with hazardous materials. Those are all beneficial for anyone who’s looking to get into the trades.” 

As soon as the students complete their 455 hours of coursework, they are introduced to a world full of opportunity with their newly acquired experience. According to the latest report by the U.S. Department of Labor, construction jobs are currently in high demand and are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years by an estimated 700,000 jobs. 

Many, if not all, of those available positions pay much more than the state’s minimum wage of $15.74. And a majority of those jobs are entry-level positions, so there is plenty of opportunity for TVTC students to make gains in both hands-on experience and financial health once they’ve completed their required apprenticeship hours. 

“The Native way is to take care of your people because that’s what we do, we take care of each other,” said TVTC Family Career Navigator, Lisa Telford. “Construction wages are livable wages that you can support your family on. I’ve always been interested in helping Natives enter the construction industry, mainly because it is such a good wage.”

In addition to helping their graduates get their foot in the door of the construction industry, the TVTC staff actively makes an effort to offer continued support throughout the graduate’s newfound career journey. And due to spending several hundred hours together, each class forms a unique bond with each other and the instructors. Classmates often keep in touch with one another far beyond their TVTC experience, and some even enter the same field together. 

The comradery was on full display at this quarter’s graduation ceremony. During the celebration, the students sat together at the back end of the classroom and let out enormous whoops, cheers, and applause each time their classmates received their certificate of completion. 

Said Jerad, “One of the things that we always talk about is that when you come to this program, you’re family. You gotta come back, and you gotta talk to future students. And another thing is that we’re always here to help you after this program. We’re always here to provide support, we’re always here to provide insight for them in whatever they need. At the end of the day, in the classes, we say ‘we leave together’, so we make sure no one’s leaving early. We all gotta leave together when everything’s done. We build a lot of groups here and we’re all one big family.” 

 After parting ways with their previous instructor at the end of the 2022 Fall quarter, Lisa, Jerad and TERO Client Services Coordinator Billy Burchett took on the instructor role for this group of students. 

Prior to the start of the quarter, Lisa shared, “Billy, who is a sheet metal worker and was the teacher’s assistant, is now the Client Services Coordinator of this program. And Jerad worked for Quil Ceda Village as a Project Manager, he knows a lot about blueprint reading and construction. We’re all going to do it together. I know about carpentry, Jerad knows about blueprints, Billy knows about math, plumbing, and electrical. We’re going to put it all together to make one exceptional instructor.”

After taking on that challenge, the instructors enjoyed the fruits of their labor on graduation day and shared laughter, hugs, personable daps, and happy tears with their students as they came forward to accept their certificates and gift bags.

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

The next TVTC course begins this September. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a few exceptions such as days when the class travels for a job site tour or when participants take part in a hands-on experience known as an ‘apprenticeship for a day’. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at (360) 716-4760 for additional information and an application.

And hold up! Before you fold your copy of the syəcəb or exit the Tulalip News website, we put together a short Q&A with a select few of this quarter’s TVTC graduates. Check it out below! 

Tirja Greenwell, Tulalip Parent

Tulalip News: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the program?

Tirja: Yes, absolutely. I am a tribal parent, the grandmother to my children is Benita Rosen. She knew that I was really interested in working with my hands and building things. She actually turned me onto this program about year and half ago, but that was during COVID. I finally took it this quarter and it’s a super cool program.  

Tulalip News: What were some of the skills you picked up through the course and what was your overall experience with TVTC?

Tirja: We had a crap-ton of hands-on experience, which was really cool and a lot of fun. We did personal projects, and I really grew through this program. I think one of the things that was most interesting was learning how to make blueprints.

Tulalip News: Now that you’ve completed the program, what’s next?

Tirja: I actually ended up leaving the program a couple of weeks before completion because I ended up getting a job at a small local plumbing company as a project manager. The program made a huge difference. Walking in there, and just having this this huge bag of knowledge, I was so confident, I was so prepared in that interview. After they hired me, they told me that I was one of the most impressive candidates they’ve ever seen. And I put my hands up to Lisa for that because I feel like she really harped on us to learn our strengths to help us succeed out in the real world. 

Jazlyn Gibson, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: Can you share how it feels to complete the TVTC course?

Jazlyn: It was a great accomplishment for myself and my fellow students. We all accomplished getting our diplomas on top of getting our certificates for construction.

Tulalip News: Can you describe your experience with the TERO program?

Jazlyn: It was a very hands-on experience. It was great to be here and to get know everybody. And we were the first to experience the program with three different teachers who weren’t used to being teachers. And also, as students we got to learn from each other because a lot of them had some prior experience. So that definitely helped us grow and do everything we needed to do to get through the program.

Tulalip News: Why do you believe this program is beneficial for tribal members and their families?

Jazlyn:  It definitely helps get your foot in the door. You gain the necessary skills and have all these different possibilities that you can pursue so that you can get out there and be successful.

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the course, what do you plan to do next?

Jazlyn: Personally, I am looking to get into a sheet metal position or electrician. This definitely helped me figure out what I wanted to do as a career.

Erik Cruz, Colville Spouse

Tulalip News: You completed the course; how does this accomplishment feel?

Erik: It feels great! I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but I’m definitely going into the construction field. This has been a really great traditional way to learn about the construction industry. Carpentry is my future.

Tulalip News: As a tribal spouse, why do you believe this program is beneficial to tribal members and their families?

Erik: Honestly, it’s something that people can get into early. And if young people can get into the trades early, they’ll be set for life. If you want to be rich, this is a great way to do so, it’s not the only way but it’s a good way to support yourself and your family.

Tulalip News: Do you have any advice for those interested in starting the course?

Erik: This is a pivotal program and it’s changed many people’s lives for the better. TERO is the GOAT!

Armando Vega, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: What is the biggest thing you are going to take away from this TVTC experience?

Armando: All the experience and tools that I gained here – working with machinery, telehandler, boom lifts, scissor lift. And getting to know what goes together when building a tiny home, from the framing, roofing, flooring, the shingles, learning all of that was pretty cool. And also, taking in all the electrical work. They taught us about Ohm’s Law and how to wire three-way circuits. I was really good at that. They taught us about sheet metal workers and the air systems in buildings, and I was really interested in that. And I built a table here and it made me really like carpentry. It was nice to learn how to nail things with the nail gun and about what goes between wood, and how wood glue sticks good.

Tulalip News: Why do you think this program is beneficial for tribal members, other Natives, and their families?

Armando: It’s really beneficial because you learn new skills and learn more about yourself. It opens up everything – it opens your mind and opens all your options. 

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the program, what’s next?

Armando: What’s next for me is going into a union. I got three applications that I’m finishing up. I’m going to apply for carpentry, electrician, and sheet metal worker. So, I’m doing whatever one gets back at me first.