Class of 2024 celebrate being ‘dreamt into existence’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On the evening of Tuesday, June 11, the Tulalip Tribes hosted a memorable banquet in the resort’s Orca Ballroom for eighty-two recently graduated high schoolers. The graduates, a combination of Tulalips and other Natives from within Marysville School District, were surrounded by friends and family in the Four-Diamond setting, making for an ideal setting to celebrate their latest rite of passage – reclaiming their educational future.

Klayton Sheldon and Mariana Richwine were announced as 
Tulalip boy and girl of the year winners.

This latest crop of graduates is part of a generational movement comprised of Native students desiring to reclaim their educational futures by achieving academic success enroute to earning their high school diplomas. Historically, Native communities like Tulalip have faced systemic barriers in education, including underfunded schools, cultural insensitivity, and policies that aimed to assimilate rather than celebrate their heritage. However, through perseverance, community support, and inclusive initiatives, our Tulalip students are increasingly crossing the high school finish line, an accomplishment that can significantly impact the trajectory of their personal and collective futures.

 “I want to start by thanking all of the parents, families, and members of our education team for being here and bringing their good energy into this space so we can uplift our graduates,” said Director of Education, Jessica Bustad. “We are so grateful to have an education division made up of seven different departments full of team members who put their hearts into all the work that they do to support our community’s youth.

“Coming together as a community to honor all our Native graduates is one of the most important things we can do. Our graduates are a true reflection of resilience, dedication, and perseverance. As we are spiritual beings in this human experience, it is important we honor our roots. Our ancestors laid a strong foundation so that we could be here today. We honor them by being proud of where we come from and doing all that we can to reclaim, revitalize, and preserve the way of life our ancestors sacrificed so much for. In being intentional about this work, our people ensure that they always show up as their best selves.”

Cody Barnett earned the male IEPC scholarship.

For many Native students, graduating high school is not just an academic achievement but a reclaiming of their identity and heritage. Education systems have often sought to erase Native cultures, most infamously through boarding schools where Native children were forbidden and often punished from speaking their traditional languages and practicing their traditions. 

Today, Native students and their communities are reversing this trend by integrating cultural education into their learning experiences, such as what’s been achieved within Tulalip’s Early Learning Academy, Quil Ceda Elementary and Heritage High School. Marysville School District has aided the cultural integration movement by offering Tulalip’s ancestral language, Lushootseed, as an elective class taught within certain schools. Schools that offer Native language courses and culturally relevant extracurricular activities help students see their education as an extension of their cultural identity, not a replacement for it.

“We have been dreamt into existence,” explained banquet keynote speaker, Gene Tagaban (Tlingit, Raven Clan). “There was a time they didn’t want us as Native people to even be born, yet here you are. You made it through birth. You made it through elementary. You made it through middle school. You made it though high school, and now you are graduating. That is the power of our ancestors who dreamt and prayed for the resiliency of their future generations, which is you all in this room today. Each and every one of you have been dreamt into existence.”

Community involvement continues to play a crucial role in supporting our high school students as they seek diplomas to broaden their future pathways. Tribal leaders, elders, and parents are increasingly active in school boards and educational planning, ensuring that the curriculum and school policies reflect and respect their cultural values. Mentorship programs that connect students with Native professionals, like what is implemented through Heritage’s ‘big picture learning’, provide local role models to reinforce the idea that academic success and cultural pride can fuse a career ladder’s foundation.

Kamaya Craig earned the female IEPC scholarship. 

Indian Education Parent Committee scholarship awardee Kamaya Craig embodies that professional and cultural fusion in a way that dismantles the misbegotten narrative that Natives can’t thrive in the academic setting. Her father Dr. Anthony Craig is a professor at the University of Washington and her mother Chelsea Craig is a vice principal at Quil Ceda Elementary. Together, they’ve raised a daughter who graduated high school with an astounding 3.7 GPA, but more than that she intends on following in her parents’ footsteps and decolonizing local education systems from within.

“I plan on furthering my education at Evergreen State College where I will join the Native Pathways program and pursue a degree in education,” shared the inspirational 18-year-old, Kamaya. “I am passionate about creating curriculum where our Tulalip students can learn about our actual Tulalip elders and past ancestors. There is so much wisdom and cultural grounding we can learn from our own people, it just needs to be made accessible to the younger generation. I’d love to be a part of making this happen.”

When asked what she thinks of those who continue to push the narrative our people can’t succeed in the classroom or on the college level, she responded, “It’s imperative that we decolonize these education systems from within. In order to accomplish this, we need our people to get educated. I love learning and want to see our future generations learn all the things so they can find their true passion, whatever it may be.”

The impact of increasing high school graduation rates among Native students extends beyond individual success. Like Kamaya and her fellow young Tulalip matriarch Mariana Richwine, who will be attending Lesley University in Massachusetts in pursuit of a criminal justice degree, educated Natives are more likely to return to their communities and contribute to cultural preservation, economic development and positive health outcomes for their people. They become advocates for their people, using their voices to influence policy and career pathways previously thought unattainable.

To recap, the graduation banquet for the class of 2024 was a celebration of being dreamt into existence by their ancestors, and a recognition of the significant importance high school diplomas have become for our inspiring youth leaders. They aren’t just a piece of paper, they are a symbolic cornerstone for community empowerment and self-determination.

Ribbon shirt making with Winona Shopbell-Fryberg

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on workshops and other events at Hibulb, visit their website at

Rez Reads: Summertime Edition

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

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

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

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

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

Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Burial Ground by Nick Medina

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

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

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

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

Where They Last Saw Her by Marcie R. Rendon

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

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

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

The Indian Lake Trilogy by Stephen Graham Jones

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

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

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

The Moon Series by Waubgeshig Rice

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

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

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

Transform your money mindset with  Master Your Money Workshop

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

In today’s society, effective money management is crucial. With prices at an all-time high and inflation affecting every aspect of our daily lives, saving and investing in our future has never been more critical. Romica Devi, a Tulalips Behavioral Health representative, offers a unique six-step course on managing your money with the Master Your Money Workshop. These classes focus on changing spending habits and the mindset surrounding money, offering a comprehensive approach to financial management.

Money can evoke a wide range of emotions, and how you deal with these emotions will determine what your relationship with money might bring. The Master Your Money Workshop will equip you with the knowledge and skills to transform your relationship with money by delving into crucial topics like credit, savings, scams, and money harmony.
“When managing money, your emotions will play a major role, and this workshop is designed to help you navigate these emotions with confidence and control,” Romica said. “I grew up with a lot of stress around money. Whenever I had money, I had impulses to get rid of it as fast as possible. My emotions were skewed. What you focus on is what you will notice. I used to put things on credit cards, so I would automatically put myself in debt. I would feel happy when I spent my money and not when I kept it. I had fear, anger, and resentfulness about how I felt and dealt with money.”

In her most recent class, Romica talked about money harmony. This dealt with getting to the root of why you feel the way you do about money and some ways to help change. She also talked about your reticular activating system. This system is a part of your brain that regulates behavioral arousal, consciousness, and motivation. What you focus on with this system, will bring more of that into your life.
One of Romica’s solutions is, she put a little bit of money into an account and treats it like a game, having fun watching her balance grow. This brought her positive feelings and helped her see the potential of her money. You might not notice it immediately, but you’ll start feeling better as you save more.
Managing money can be very difficult, and knowing how to deal with these issues is vital in becoming a more conscious buyer and spender. Romica explained, “There are things that happen in all areas of our lives that we don’t ask for; they just happen. The thing is, now we are adults, and we have the choice to change how we feel about money.”

This workshop is open to everyone, and you are welcome to attend any class as long as you register before attending each one. Classes are held on the 4th Thursday of every month at the Tulalip Recovery Resource Center. If you or someone you know is interested in attending Romica’s class on managing finances or wants to gather additional information on how to handle money matters, we encourage you to reach out to Romica via email at or or call (425) 530 6341. Don’t miss this opportunity to master your money and transform your financial future.

Fatherhood Café helps establish local Dad’s Group

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It was a large turnout for the first Fatherhood Café at Tulalip, presented by the Tulalip Family Haven program and the Washington Fatherhood Council. On the morning of May 22, approximately 30 tribal dads participated in the four-hour event at the TELA gymnasium. Showing up with intention and a desire to learn, they all shared the common goal of becoming the best fathers that they can for their children. 

One of the major aspects of the Fatherhood Café is to connect the local dads with available resources to help them out along their journey. For this reason, there were several representatives from tribal departments like TOCLA, TANF, and the Village of Hope in attendance to answer questions and discuss the services they offer. 

This particular Fatherhood Café event was tailored for tribal members. It was also designed to help the dad’s open up and vocalize their struggles, as well as discuss possible solutions to the obstacles that they face as Indigenous fathers in 2024. Additionally, it gave them an opportunity to talk about what they would like to see from the Tribe and the community in terms of support and recognition.

The dads broke into small groups and brainstormed together about various topics and areas where they would like to see more support for local fathers, such as guidance through the justice system, assistance for dads in recovery, reunification efforts, reintegration after incarceration, child support, housing, employment, community gatherings, and cultural activities. 

Halfway through the event, the dads took a break to enjoy some delicious Hawaiian food, catered by Taste of Aloha. Raffle items were also awarded during the break and attendees walked away with some cool prizes like beaded drumsticks, Trickster basketballs, car seats, books, toys, kites, and Native Northwest water bottles. 

After the dads got a few jumpers off during an impromptu shoot around, they regrouped to engage in open dialogue and go over their notes from their earlier brainstorming session. This resulted in a bonding moment, where the dads where able to relate to each other’s experiences and build off each other’s ideas. 

By the end of the discussion, the dads put together a detailed list of changes they would like to see in the community on behalf of all tribal fathers, and also a solid plan of how to accomplish said changes. 

Sasha Smith, Family Haven’s Youth and Family Support Coordinator, explained that a number of the fathers were actively involved during the planning phase of the Fatherhood Café and provided insight as tribal fathers.

Said Sasha, “We had a committee of like six or seven local dads who showed up each week and shared ideas of what they wanted the café to look like, and what Dad’s Group is going to look like. The whole point of the café was to brainstorm what is working, what isn’t working, and what they would like to see happen. I think it really speaks volumes to what the community is asking for and needing. They’re saying they want support just as much as anyone else – that dads matter too and that they’re just as important as the mother in our families.”

As a group, the first event that dads planned for is a breakfast cookout that will take place on a regular basis, the second Saturday of every month. Their first get-together is planned for July 13, from 9 am to 11 am. Though the location has yet to be determined, the Dad’s Group assures any interested parties that it will take place at a local space on the rez. With the monthly breakfast meetups established, the group is now in the planning phases for other gatherings and outings, that they can enjoy with their kiddos, such as tours of the Tribe’s hatchery, as well as harvesting trips to gather cedar, berries, and salmon.   

Local father and Dad’s Group member, Benjamin Deen shared, “This was my first time coming to something like this, and it was exactly what I needed. Today I’m leaving here knowing that I can be a part of something, that I’m not alone. And also, with the knowledge that we need to embrace our future and come together to make change happen. There are opportunities out there and we need to find them and grasp a hold of them, because we are a community and we need to work together to build up our young ones, so they have a bigger, brighter future. I’m excited to see what we can bring to the community and I’m looking forward to sharing my experience and what I’ve been through to help other Native males know they’re not alone.”

Dad’s Group is open to all tribal fathers. If you would like to learn more about Dad’s Group, please reach out to Sasha Smith at (360) 716-4404.  

“It’s important to have that group of people who you can have that commonality of, it’s okay to not be okay some days,” Sasha expressed. “We also want to honor the uncles who are helping raise their nieces and nephews, the grandpas raising their grandkids. Anyone who identifies as a dad and is raising children should be supported, whether you’re in a healthy relationship or not, if you’re with your partner or not, if you never had a dad, if you weren’t raised by your family. We want to make sure our fathers have the support they need. We want to help give them the tools to be more successful and to engage in services, culture, community, and help them be that dad that they want to be.” 

Free Narcan: Tulalip Pharmacy opens distribution box

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In the midst of a nationwide fentanyl and opioid crisis, the Tulalip Clinical Pharmacy is taking action to help save lives and reduce the amount of drug overdose deaths in our area by making Narcan easily accessible to their patients and the public. 

The very first Narcan distribution box at Quil Ceda Village was installed outside the pharmacy earlier this month. Located between their front door and their prescription lock box, the pharmacy is encouraging the community to come and learn it’s whereabouts and pick up a couple doses, to have on-hand in case of an emergency. 

Also referred to by its generic name, Naloxone, the lifesaving drug is administered via a nasal spray and acts quickly to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This project has been a long time in the making as the pharmacy put much research into finding a way to distribute Narcan to the community, that was both cost-effective and easily obtainable. 

“We talked to other tribes, and they have implemented similar solutions to the opioid epidemic on their reservations,” stated Pharmacy Director, Dr. Kelvin Lee. “Narcan is one of those drugs that’s really safe and effective, and you can’t say that for a lot of drugs because they can cause other side effects and can have effect on people who are not on narcotics. This is a really safe drug for both people who are using and are not using. That’s why we want it to be as accessible as possible.” 

Bright purple and reminiscent of newspaper boxes, the new distribution box is hard to miss. There are also large visual instructions on the front of the box, which could prove to be vital information during an overdose situation.

Dr. Lee explained that the pharmacy has always offered free Narcan, however, there were requirements that people would need to fulfill in order to receive the OD-reversing drug, such as providing a name or an address. Now, one can simply pay a visit to the distribution box, open its lid, and take however many they need, no questions asked. 

Said Dr. Lee, “Naloxone has been available for a long time at this pharmacy, but we felt that there are unnecessary obstacles, hurdles, and hoops that people had to jump through to get it and that’s not right. Again, this is a very safe and effective drug. We have always been looking for ways people can get it without being questioned and asked for information or qualifications – we don’t think that’s necessary at all. It’s really important that people can get it when they need it. And it’s important for people to carry on them, in case something does happen.”

Dr. Lee hopes that this is just the first of many distribution boxes on the reservation. In fact, he is inviting any tribal department that is interested in installing a box at their location to give him a call so he can help set it up. He also stated that the pharmacy can both provide the Narcan and replenish the inventory whenever necessary, for those departments that opt for a box.

“When an OD happens, each second really matters, you don’t want people to have to wait or have to drive across to the other side of the reservation for Narcan,” expressed Dr. Lee. “So, I think it’s very important that we have at least several distribution points where people can pick up the Narcan when they need it.” 

 The new distribution box is open to all and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Hundreds participate at Annual Stick Games Tournament 


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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