Bringing Culture to the Classroom

Tiyanna Bueno, a second grade student at Immaculate Conception Catholic School teaches her 
classmates about traditional Native American culture and cedar weaving with the help of Tulalip
educators, Malory Simpson and Maria Martin.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During a recent in-class lesson, 2nd grader Tiyanna Bueno sat at her desk inside Immaculate Conception Catholic School reading about a Native American rug weaver from New Mexico. Suddenly, inspiration struck the 8-year-old Tulalip tribal member and she yelled out excitedly, “My mom is a weaver! She weaves with cedar.”

A dash of persuading here, some finagling there, and Tiyanna had whipped up an hour-long session for her mother Malory Simpson and Lushootseed language teacher Maria Martin to be guest presenters in her Everett classroom. The idea was to teach the 2nd grade class about local Native American culture while giving a cedar weaving lesson in the process. Fancy that: actual Tulalip culture taught by actual Tulalip educators. 

“We want our Native kids from Tulalip to feel like they are represented as an important part of our school,” explained 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Hegg. “Our school’s values are enhanced by promoting the cultures of our students. It’s vibrant, it’s beautiful and goes well with our shared teaching to be good stewards of the Earth.”

1st grade teacher Mrs. Weatherbie gets cedar weaving instruction from Tiyanna.

So on a Friday afternoon in early May, Tiyanna, wearing a traditional cedar hat, beamed with pride as she introduced her fellow students to their special guest presenters. Malory and Maria brought in a treasure trove of cedar along with their life-long experiences from being Tulalip citizens.

“We come from the Tulalip Tribes, live on the Tulalip Reservation, and wanted to talk to you all about cedar and what it means to our culture,” said Miss Maria. “I’ll be reading the story Her First Basket. If you listen carefully, you’ll come away with a few lessons that are meaningful to us.”

Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave their people cedar as a gift. Traditionally, a prayer was offered to honor the spirit of the tree before harvesting its bark, branches and roots. Their ancestors taught them the importance of respecting cedar and understanding how it is to be used, so it will be protected for future generations. 

Cedar was the perfect resource, providing tools, clothes, baskets and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. The highly sought after golden inner bark is separated into strips or shredded for weaving. The processed bark is then used like wool and crafted into clothing, baskets and hats.

Those same traditional teachings are practiced today, along with many others, and passed down to the next generation. While Malory and Maria shared their stories and personal experiences through cedar teachings to the attentive group of youngsters, an ecstatic Tiyanna embodied the spirit of her ancestors by not being afraid to express herself culturally and modelling a variety of cedar creations.

  Traditional knowledge was shared and memories made, especially when the trio of Tulalip culture bearers gave a hands-on lesson via cedar rose making. They not only received 100% participation from the students during the activity, but after explaining its tradition to give away your first creation, the 2nd graders quickly got to work making a second and, in some cases, even a third cedar rose.

“[Cedar] smells like nature’s perfume,” described one eloquent kiddo. While another quick learner insisted, “Cedar roses are better than real flowers because those die. These ones will live for 1,000 years!” 

A definite highlight was when the students asked how to say ‘cedar’ and ‘thank you’ in Lushootseed. After getting the pronunciations down, they were heard using their learned Lushootseed over and over again amongst each other. 

“It felt so good to be able to share a piece of our culture,” said Miss Malory, Native Education Advocate. “It makes my heart happy to see the students being so welcoming and eager to learn about another culture. Tiyanna is such a free spirit and takes pride in being open to share about herself, her family and our culture.”

Reflecting on an afternoon she got to bring her Native American lifeway into the classroom, 8-year-old Tiyanna shared, “My favorite part was showing off the cedar hats, cedar headbands, and a cedar heart. I liked showing these things to my class because they remind me of my home in Tulalip.”

Mrs. Hegg’s 2nd grade kids received hands-on teachings with cedar weaving, learned how to say ‘cedar’ and ‘thank you’ in Lushootseed, and, most importantly, learned about a local Native culture not from a textbook, but by living, breathing Tulalip educators. 

Teachings of the cedar tree

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Natosha Gobin & Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip Tribal members

“Pray, pull, peel …it’s so peaceful being out there. Being disconnected from the busyness of daily life is refreshing and that silence is healing,” reflected tribal member Natosha Gobin of her day spent walking in the shadows of her ancestors near Lake Chaplain, harvesting cedar. “It’s amazing to watch the experienced ones of the group pull strips and separate them with ease. This is just one of the many ways to stay connected with not only each other but our ancestors, through keeping their teachings alive.”

Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave their people cedar as a gift. Traditionally, a prayer was offered to honor the spirit of the tree before harvesting its bark, branches and roots. Their ancestors taught them the importance of respecting cedar and understanding how it is to be used, so that it will be protected for future generations.

Cedar was the perfect resource, providing tools, baskets, bowls and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. The highly sought after inner bark was separated into strips or shredded for weaving. The processed bark was then used like wool and crafted into clothing, baskets and hats.

Those same traditional teachings are practiced today and passed down to the next generation. Over the weekend of June 15, the Tulalip Tribes membership was given the opportunity to participate in the cultural upbringings of their ancestors by journeying into their ancestral woodlands and gathering cedar. Led by Forestry staff from Tulalip’s Natural Resources Department, participating tribal members ventured just north of Sultan to Lake Chaplain, located on the outskirts of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The annual cedar harvest showcases a partnership between several agencies working as a team to coordinate this culturally significant opportunity. The Tulalip Natural Resource’s Timber, Fish, and Wildlife Program generally arranges a cedar harvesting site for the upcoming season by utilizing existing relationships with off-reservation landowners and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

“We have grown and maintained a wonderful working relationship with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who provides opportunities to pull cedar bark from trees within DNR’s timber stands that would otherwise not be available to tribal members,” explained David Grover, Tulalip Tribes Forestry Program. “Having opportunities not just to acquire the bark itself, but also to spend time practicing the cultural tradition of harvesting from the cedar trees, and passing that tradition on to the tribal youth is invaluable for the tribe.

“This [opportunity] also offers the DNR foresters that help us on site during these events a chance to gain a better understanding of the forest resources they manage, as well as a unique glimpse into the different types of relationships people have with those resources that are not tied to timber sales,” added Grover.

The relationship Coast Salish peoples have with cedar cannot be understated. Our ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of their life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, the powerful cedar provided generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. Those teachings have not been lost.

Master weavers, elders, and youth alike all echo the very same cedar harvesting technique employed by their ancestors. With a small ax and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from designated cedar trees. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth tan inner layer. After harvest, the cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for a year before being made into baskets and hats or used in regalia.

Many Tulalip youth participated in the three-day cedar harvesting event, gathering strips for elders and learning techniques of separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For some tribal members it was their very first trip to gather cedar, while for others it was another step in the continual journey to connect with the spirits of past and present.

“Thankful for Natural Resources and the Rediscovery Program who constantly advocate and work hard so we can have access to gathering locations,” shared tribal member Theresa Sheldon. “Their work is appreciated and much needed as more and more traditional areas are being gated off and made harder to access.

“Taking our children out to learn how our people harvested cedar is a gift. We were able to share with our young ones that our people have always cared for the grandmother Cedar trees and in return they care for us by providing clothing and protection from the elements. Appreciating each other, sharing our energy together, and respecting our ancestors by teaching our children how to value nature is who we are as a people.”

Cultural fair celebrates diversity at QCT Elementary

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Students of Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, along with their families, were captivated by the richness of Native American song and dance during the Cultural Fair held on the evening of April 24th. In collaboration with Marysville School District (MSD) Indian Education, Tulalip Youth Services and school staff, the Cultural Fair celebrated the wonderfully diverse community that is the Tulalip/Marysville area. 

Over a hundred participants filled the elementary multi-purpose room where a hearty dinner was enjoyed by all. Following the meal, there was a variety of family-friendly activities to engage in. Interactive booths and presentations represented several cultures from around the world, including Tulalip, Guam, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

“It’s always nice to learn about other cultures because it creates a better understanding between people,” shared QCT Teacher, Ms. Sablan. Along with her daughter, the duo were presenters of the Guam station. “I taught on Guam for six years and during that time I loved learning about the culture. While there I married and had a daughter who is Pacific Islander. My passion for embracing vibrant culture was the reason I became an educator at Tulalip after attending a Salmon Ceremony years ago.”

As fair goers made their way around the room they gained insights into other cultures and traditions. Of course, the variety of Native cultural stations was the most popular. There was dreamcatcher making under the guidance of experienced staff members and even a fry bread station manned by Chelsea Craig and her daughter Kamaya. 

With the weather cooperating, many people wound up outside after hearing the call of the Native round-drum. Terrance Sabbas, Native Liaison for MSD, led a series of round-drum songs that held the attention of everyone young and old. Several young girls, dressed in their powwow regalia, shared their dance skills to the rhythmic beats of the drum. 

“It means a lot for our kids to have pride in who they are and where they come from,” said Terrance. “When different tribes come together to celebrate with song and dance it’s even more special. Seeing youth who have the confidence to share their dances is awesome. To know they have that within themselves and are willing to share that with our community is inspiring.”

The musical jam session continued with a variety of hand-drum songs led by Ray Fryberg.

The Cultural Fair was a success in putting a spotlight on the richness of a diverse community; knowledge was gained and shared. For those with a strong understanding of historical context, the fact that so many were able to participate in traditional song and dance is a testament to the strong Native spirit.

“When the boarding school was here, our songs, our dances and all our ceremonies were prohibited by law. It was the aim of the government to assimilate the Indians into American society. For many years our people couldn’t speak their language or sing their songs for fear of punishment,” explained Ray Fryberg, Executive Director of Natural Resources. “It’s important for us to know who we are and where we come from, to retain the parts of our culture that make us unique. The boarding school era sought to take all that away from us, but we endured.

“Now, we have our own schools where we can teach our culture to the young ones; it gives them a cultural identity and builds up their self-esteem. The drum has a voice that calls to our people; it has its own good medicine. You can see how much the children love learning their culture. Our songs and dances are an expression of the inner spirit and that’s the one thing that can’t be taken away from us.”

Quil Ceda Elementary Celebrates Diversity


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 


President Trump’s latest immigration order suspended refugee resettlement in the United States for 120 days and indefinitely for Syria. In the same order, Trump suspended entry for 90 days for citizens of Muslim majority nations such as Iran, Iraq, and Libya. The President’s reasoning is national security, as he believes the countries harbor potential terrorists. The order was controversial, to say the least, and resulted in protests across America and a temporary halt to the order by the U.S. Federal Court. On social media, Native America showed support for refugees with the hashtag #NoBanOnStolenLand.

In a divided country, amidst the controversy surrounding Trump’s immigration order, Quil Ceda Elementary recently held a cultural fair to celebrate diversity by teaching their students about different cultures. School staff of varying cultural backgrounds prepared interactive stations to give students a look into the lives and cultures of other nations.

Upon arrival the students received paper passports. As they “traveled” around countries such as Guam, Peru, Mexico and China, they filled their passport with stamps from each country.

Quil Ceda Elementary also celebrated the culture of the Tulalip Tribes. The school dedicated four learning stations to the Tribe, each station representing different cultural aspects the Tribe values such as the Lushootseed language, the Hibulb Cultural Center, and basket weaving. An exclusive coastal jam was held in the school library, complete with a powwow rendition of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.

Cardboard presentations, prepared by students, were on display in the school cafeteria. The topics varied from Martin Luther King Jr. tributes to recent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Water is Life.

The after-school-hours event attracted a large amount of families, as parents and siblings joined the students in celebration. For many, the highlight of the evening was the international cuisine. As the students passed through different nations, they tasted traditional homemade dishes such as egg rolls, tortilla chips with pico de gallo, coconut candy, and frybread.

Once the students completed their passports they received a free book of their choice to take home.



During a time when the President is signing executive orders that violate the rights of Native, Muslim, and Mexican-Americans (not to mention the women of America) events such as cultural fairs are vital to communities in America. Through the cultural fair, the youth learned the importance of diversity as well as the history and traditions of several countries in a fun, interactive yet respectful manner.

Many students enjoyed the event, as evidenced by student Colt, as he excitedly exclaimed, “I had a blast! I really did. It was so awesome reading about Vietnam and China.”

“And I liked the egg rolls the best!,” his younger brother, Evan, quickly added.


UW Seminar: Preserving the Past Together

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the keynote speaker.


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The University of Washington has created a new seminar and workshop series sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, Office of Research, and the Burke Museum. These two-hour luncheon events bring together tribal representatives, tribal historic preservation offices, representatives from local, state and federal agencies, and cultural resources managers to evaluate the contemporary needs and challenges of preserving heritage in the Salish Sea. The objective is to foster the development of collaborative approaches to heritage management and historic preservation that integrate the needs of these diverse stakeholders.

On Thursday, January 12, the opening seminar of the four-part series, titled Collaborating on Heritage in the Puget Sound, was held at UW’s ωəɬəbʔαltxʷ Intellectual House. Taking place was a facilitated conversation with representatives from local tribes, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, UW Law, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We want to provide a forum for archaeologists, heritage professionals, and tribal cultural resource managers to consider the current challenges and future possibilities of managing heritage in our own backyard,” explained Sara Gonzalez, UW Assistant Professor and seminar moderator. “Our objective is strengthen and build upon existing methods of knowledge sharing from the diverse stewards and stakeholders who are sitting here today. We have the unique opportunity to think more deeply and creatively about how we can best use our resources to contribute to the capacity of tribes, as well as local agencies and cultural resource firms to manage heritage within the Salish Sea.”

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the key-note speaker and gave a heartfelt opening address that connected with many in the room. The following is an excerpt of his speech that explains the important of cultural resources and sacred site protection to Native peoples and how these topics apply to Standing Rock.

“Cultural resources has always been deep in my heart and remains a key pillar of my thinking as we move forward. There are a number of issues that face the tribes, from economic development to habitat protection to educating our children to justice and housing for our people. Many, many aspects of our tribal governments take into account the physical cultural resources unique to our respective nations and communities, as well as our spiritual culture.

One topic that there’s been a lot of talk about recently is sacred site protection, especially in regards to Standing Rock. We know natural resources is vital as a part of the context for identifying a sacred site. We are hearing a lot that cultural practitioners are being asked to step in and explain those elements that essentially tell us why a place is important spiritually. The Standing Rock – DAPL protest is an example of this, where there are a lot of different factors and influences to the protest. There’s a very strong argument based on sacred site protection. This highlights the importance landscape has to us as Native people, that we have these ancestral connections to the land.

Chief Seattle spoke of our interconnectedness with the land and nature in his most memorable speech. He explained how we live with our ancestors on a daily basis and how they are with us all the time. What happens to the land is permanent, and knowing this we are very concerned about what may impact the land because that in turn impacts our lives. That is why we are so adamant about protecting our cultural resources and sites we can preserve because we want to remain respectful of that constant presence in our lives.”

Native American scholar John Mohawk (Seneca) defined culture as a learned means of survival in an environment. As tribes, our means of survival used to be finding what the need was within our community and then each member doing their part to fulfill that need.

In thinking about opportunities and challenges of caring for heritage and protecting our culture in the Pacific Northwest, there is a glaring need to better understand one another. We have to work together to communicate and understand each other’s viewpoints, instead of making assumptions about one another. There are assumptions made about the tribes, about the government, about federal agencies, and seemingly everything in between. Some of these assumptions may be true, but a lot of them aren’t. We have to make sure that we talk to each other and feel safe in doing that, even if it means being blunt in order to express how we feel.



In order to preserve the past together and continue protecting our cultural resources there must be an open dialogue that allows for questions and understanding. This UW workshop series is a promoter of such dialogue and looks to build upon all the knowledge shared and communicated by all those who attend. The next workshop in the series, Meaningful Collaboration and Indigenous Archaeologies, takes place on February 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Suzzallo Allen Library (located on the UW campus). For more information please visit


Contact Micheal Rios:

Passing Ancestral Teachings To Our Young Men

Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.
Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger are leading the Young Men’s Group and helping to guide youth through life.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A new program that teaches the young men of Tulalip about their treaty, hunting, and fishing rights began this month. The group meets at the Family Haven center located across from the Boys & Girls Club. Led by Tulalip tribal members Andy James and Cody Monger, the group will meet on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“We are saying ages 12-14 but that is a recommended age. We aren’t going to turn anybody away who wants to participate,” stated Cody.

Young Men’s Group will feature many fun activities such as fishing and drum making. Andy expressed that while he is excited about making pre-cut hand drums, he eventually wants the group to start creating them from scratch. He believes that it is essential to know how to track, hunt, skin, soak and stretch the hide for their drums.

“That’s where it all starts. Our ancestors never received pre-cut drum kits and its important our kids learn the teachings the ancestors passed down generation after generation. Afterwards, they can keep the drum and use it for cultural purposes and ceremonies or they can gift them. What they decide is up to them but the important takeaway is they wanted a drum, they made a drum, and now they know how to [make a drum] in the future.” Andy stated.

Among the cultural activities and important lessons, Young Men’s Group will also cover areas that teen males want advice in, but don’t necessarily know how to ask for. Topics such as conflict resolution, how to deal with anger, and family, social, and romantic relationships will be discussed during group meetings.

Cody expressed, “We will be involved a lot, just helping with anything they don’t get at home or in school.”

“Our intent is not to take the place of the parents but to help these young men progress into life,” Andy added.

By instilling values and culture, Cody and Andy are taking on an incredibly important task of molding the minds of the young men of the Tulalip community. Young Men’s Group participants now have the opportunity to learn the teachings and traditions the Tulalip ancestors practiced and apply those lessons while learning how to survive in today’s society.

To sign up and for more information please contact Andy James at (360) 716-4403 or Cody Monger at (360) 716-4935.



Marysville School District works to ensure tribal heritage and culture is visible, shared and preserved


By Dr. Becky Berg, Marysville School District Superintendent

Recently, a conversation was overheard at the Hibulb Cultural Center. A young woman was talking about her tribal history. Her grandmother was a student during the boarding school era and the young woman said that while growing up she rarely learned about her tribal history and culture. She added that her grandmother often hid her cultural affiliation, as well as her ability to speak Lushootseed. In turn, her father never learned the language or embraced his native heritage. This was difficult for the young woman to understand, as at a young age, she chose to dedicate her career to educating herself and her community about her region’s rich cultural history, and her own tribal identity.

As a community, we are lucky to have tribal members and others who have had the strength to stand up and ensure tribal history and culture is recognized, shared and preserved. Our community, our school district, and our local leaders must also take on this charge and do what is necessary for our entire community to understand where we have been, where we are today, and where we are going.

In November of 2014, The Marysville School Board of Directors took the historic action of officially adopting the “Since Time Immemorial” (STI) Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum so that all students learn about the history, culture, government, and experiences of their Native American peers and neighbors. Partners who were instrumental in this effort included Denny Hurtado, former OSPI Office of Indian Education staff member, and State Senator John McCoy.

This curriculum was adopted in advance of Washington State Senate Bill 5433, which passed in 2015 and mandated that Washington’s Tribal history, culture and governance be taught in all Washington schools by 2016-17.

The adoption of the STI curriculum seeks to remedy a grave omission by our educational system. American history begins with the story of indigenous peoples in all parts of the land. Yet for decades our curriculum has made this rich and important heritage and culture virtually invisible. The lack of awareness of the Tribal legacy in our Marysville-Tulalip community is especially glaring given the presence of the Tulalip Tribes within our district boundaries. Teaching the STI curriculum to all students in our schools is a matter of basic justice for all, especially for those who were made to feel ashamed of their identity and culture for far too long.

The “Since Time Immemorial” provides engaging lessons. The lessons are thought provoking and are meant to help students understand multiple perspectives. During the 2015-16 school year, the curriculum was implemented in grades Kindergarten through 5, and this year it has expanded to all secondary schools district-wide.

Every day I feel deeply honored to be a member of this community and to be welcomed by tribal leaders, elders, parents and students. And every day, the Marysville School District will work to ensure our community’s tribal heritage and culture is visible, shared and preserved.

To learn more about the Since Time Immemorial curriculum, please visit

Co-Stewardship Ensures Tulalip Cultural Traditions Live On

Picking huckleberries at Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015
Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos Courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources


Annually, the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service hold a meeting regarding the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) the two parties signed in 2007. The aforementioned MOA was created so that the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service can collaborate on the decision-making, planning, and counseling for the conservation of Tulalip’s resources on off-reservation ancestral lands in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This year the meeting was held on May 12, 2016.


Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon and Forest Supervisor Jamie Kingsbury sign an historic and important agreement, the swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan, 2016-2026.


During 2016’s MOA meeting Chairman Sheldon and Forest Supervisor Jamie Kingsbury signed an historic and important agreement, the “swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan, 2016-2026”. The agreement, a provision to the MOA, is a culture resource management plan that covers the swədaʔx̌ali  area over the next ten years. swədaʔx̌ali  or “Place of Mountain Huckleberries” is a 1,280-acre parcel in Tulalip ancestral lands in the upper Skokomish watershed that the Tulalip-Forest Service Co-Stewardship looks to enhance. One of the many reasons this is important to the tribe is the huckleberry.

Northwest huckleberries are generally picked in the late summer/early fall seasons, and grow in the damp areas of mountains. The huckleberry, known for boosting the immune system, has always had a strong relationship to the indigenous peoples of the northwest. Coastal Native American ancestors considered the huckleberry to be of the utmost importance because of the medicine the plant contains.

Inez Bill, Tulalip Tribes Rediscovery Program Coordinator, provided a foreword for the swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan. In the foreword Inez spoke of the significance huckleberries and the spiritual connection Natives have with the berry.

Inez writes, “Huckleberry is a food and medicine to our people. Our ancestors visited certain areas for gathering these berries. They knew where the berries were growing, and what companion plants were growing there too and how to utilize them.” Like fishing and hunting the huckleberry is essential to the Native American culture. Preserving these plants requires a lot of love and care. Inez stated that caring for the swədaʔx̌ali area offers a chance to pass on the knowledge of the huckleberry and it’s harvest to Tulalip’s future generations.

“Through the teachings of how we value, take care of and utilize our environment, we pass down our history and traditions, and what is important to the cultural lifeway’s of our people, said Inez. ‘This connection to the land enables us to know who we are as a people. It is a remembrance.”


Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015
Tulalip Mountain Camp 2015


Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Environmental Policy Analyst, Libby Nelson, agrees that passing the knowledge to the youth is essential to preserving Tulalip’s natural resources. The co-stewardship between the Tribe and the Forest Service is a way to ensure that Tulalip cultural traditions live on.

Libby states, “Treaty rights encompass more than an opportunity to pick berries, hunt game or harvest fish. Having a meaningful role on the ground, in the stewardship of these resources, helps reconnect tribal peoples to these lands and the teachings of their ancestors”.

Last year the Tulalip Tribes hosted it’s first Tulalip Mountain Camp at swədaʔx̌ali  for the youth of the Tulalip community, and looks to make it an annual trip. Inez detailed the trip stating that the youth were able to experience a connection to the mountains and ancestral lands, which in turn allowed the youth to bond with their families and community members by sharing what they learned and observed during their experience.

Tulalip’s Natural Resource Department and the Tulalip Youth workers will manage the swədaʔx̌ali area incorporating both traditional practices passed down from the ancestors and western science while nurturing the plants.

Libby stated that the forestry department is set to begin work on the swədaʔx̌ali area this summer. “As part of this plan, Forestry will be working on one of the major huckleberry areas this summer because it is threatened with getting shaded-out by conifers, which are small now and easier to move as opposed to two to three years from now when they start to vault out and will be more difficult to get out.”

The Natural Resource Department is looking to engage both summer youth workers and Tulalip Mountain Camp attendees to help remove the small conifers that are now about two-feet tall and have has many as 22,000 per acre.

According to a Seattle Times article from 1946, families camped, sometimes for the whole picking season, while gathering huckleberries. Gathering huckleberries was considered a fun social event where families from different tribes would travel to take part in the festivities including games, dances, and singing. Ceremonies were also held thanking the creator for the vitamin packed berry and asking for a blessed harvest.


vame harlan


Often referred to as a superfood, huckleberry offers an abundance of benefits to its consumer. For example, these berries contain large amounts of antioxidants, which help aid in the prevention of many diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases. In today’s society diabetes is a prevalent disease in communities all across Native America. The huckleberry is a reliable food that diabetics can enjoy without elevated blood sugar levels. Huckleberries are used in a variety of recipes including tea, pie, and jam. When used for medicinal purposes the huckleberry can be applied to treat pain, heart conditions, and infections.

The swədaʔx̌ali Co-Stewardship Plan is an imperative provision to the MOA between the Tulalip Tribes and U.S. Forest Service, as evidenced by Inez in her conclusion. “Today, it is not only important that we continue the struggle to uphold our treaty rights, but we need to be involved in taking care of those resources our culture depends on so that they will be available for our future generations. This work at swədaʔx̌ali is an expression of Tulalip’s sovereignty regarding our foods, and our commitment to support the dietary needs and the life ways of our people.”



Understanding and legitimizing how indigenous children learn

Dr Stephanie Fryberg spoke about building on the strengths of Native students at her lecture held in Kane Hall, on the UW campus. Photo/Micheal Rios
Dr Stephanie Fryberg spoke about building on the strengths of Native students at her lecture held in Kane Hall, on the UW campus.
Photo/Micheal Rios


Article/photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The way we learn is shaped by our culture. For indigenous children, there is often a mismatch between their culture and the classroom. This has been a long held belief in the Native community. For Tulalip tribal member and associate professor Stephanie Fryberg, Ph.D., she had the unique access to resources and methodology necessary to examine how indigenous children’s approach to learning and how the teaching model of their educators can coalesce to create a more supportive academic environment. Dr. Fryberg shared her findings during a lecture held at the University of Washington on Wednesday, April 20.

Dr. Fryberg’s lecture was part of the Connecting the Dots Between Research and Community series, where a UW Psychology professor partners with a visiting colleague to tell the story of how their research is addressing some of society’s biggest challenges. Presented by the UW Department of Psychology and the UWAA, this event was free and open to the public. In attendance to support their fellow Tulalip tribal member were Senator John McCoy, General Manager Misty Napeahi, and Board of Director Glen Gobin.

Dr. Fryberg’s lecture was titled Using Cultural Models to Build on the Strengths of Native Students. The description is as follows: Individuals are a product of the culture they inhabit, and also play an important role in creating and adapting to that culture. For many indigenous students, the culture of educational institutions in the U.S. reflects a set of ideas and practices about what it means to be a “good” student, the purpose of education and the nature of the relationship between teachers and students. This results in a cultural mismatch between indigenous students’ model of self and the model prevalent in mainstream educational contexts.

A central theme to the lecture was an examination of the “struggling Native student” narrative. We’ve all heard about this narrative and probably seen the statistics that are often used to defend it. Taking it up another notch, we’ve also heard that even when Native students do manage to graduate high school, they are not adequately prepared to achieve success in higher education. Dr. Fryberg attributes this narrative to being one of a cultural context and to alleviate the narrative we must reframe the idea altogether.

“We are going to reframe this idea of the struggling Native student by looking at it through a bigger picture, which we in my field refer to as the cultural cycle,” stated Dr. Fryberg. “The culture cycle reminds us that to truly alleviate the achievement gap we have to start by looking at every piece of the culture cycle. So when we think about a child in a classroom, it isn’t just about the child and the teacher, it’s about so much more. It’s about the ideas that stand behind why children go to school, it’s the ideas that lead to the development of the school, or that set the stage for what we see as the ‘good’ or ‘right’ way to be a student.

“Within that we setup institutions. We have schools and we have the media, but we also have classrooms and we have micro-cultures within classrooms, in which teachers play a role. So we get to this level of the interaction that’s between the student and the teacher, but sometimes what our field has shown is that interaction is not just between us in relationship, it’s between us and representational space. It is the idea the teacher has about me, as a student, that allows that space between us to shape the interaction and ultimately, for young children, to shape their development and the outcomes that we see.”

Within the cultural cycle it is critical to be aware of two distinct cultural models of self, the independent model and the interdependent model, that play major roles in how the shaping of interactions between student and teacher effect student development and achievement outcomes.

The independent model of self is based on an understanding of self as independent from others and the social context. “Good” actions promote separation from others and individual self-expression. The independent model of self is best seen in the U.S. mainstream, where context is driven by a set of cultural norms, values and beliefs that center the individual as independent and separate from others. It is a unique cultural model that most of the world does not engage in.

In many parts of the world that notion to separate yourself from others is not only unheard of, but would be seen as unhealthy. A much more common model is the interdependent model of self that is based on an understanding of self as interdependent with others and the social context. “Good” actions promote connection to others and attention to others’ preferences. Most people and cultures in the world, specifically outside of the U.S., engage in this more interdependent model. It’s important to recognize that Native culture is inherently within the interdependent model, but because we are within the U.S. our actions, values, and norms are constantly scrutinized by the mainstream independent model.

Now, you may be wondering how all these concepts and social psychology terms tie-in with Native students, their teachers and academic success. It does all come together.

By recognizing Native students’ engagement in the interdependent model of self, but that in large part their teachers and schools adhere to the independent model of self, we can then understand how the prevailing education system is not setup for Native student to succeed. However, there are courses of action to change this, which Dr. Fryberg and her team demonstrated at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary from 2011-2014.

Using the culture cycle to enhance academic performance by Native students alleviates the “struggling Native student” narrative by requiring culturally-grounded interventions that focus on all levels of the cultural cycle. This work is achieved by building schools that reflect and foster a diversity of viable ways of being; creating an immersion environment (e.g., morning welcome assembly, growth mindset, purposefully placing posters/images on walls); creating “matches” by helping Native students build identities that maximize potential while also providing them with a culturally-safe educational atmosphere; and by valuing old identities and scaffolding new identities.

In the study done at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary from 2011-2014 by Dr. Fryberg and her team, with the inclusion of the previously listed methods and intervention, the results were staggeringly in favor of increased Native student achievement. Kindergarten and 1st graders led the district in oral reading fluency; 95% of Kindergarten and 80% of 1st graders were proficient or above benchmark in reading.  Using measures of academic progress in literacy and math for grades 3-5, 60% made more than one year’s growth and at least half of these students made 1.5 to 2 years growth. Best of all, the school met state annual measurable objectives in every category.

It’s important to note that having teachers who are aware of their own biases towards the independent model of self and willing to retrain and reframe their teaching methods to suit their Native students is central to overall success as well. It’s a cycle of understanding and legitimizing the learning and cultural model of Native children that leads to them making greater strides in academic development and achievement. When this occurs not only do the expected outcomes of the students and their teacher benefit greatly, but the entire community as well.




Contact Micheal Rios,




Cultural teachings continue with new story poles at Tulalip


Tulalip Master Carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison and sons.
Tulalip Master Carvers Joe Gobin and James Madison and sons.


By Kim Kalliber, Tulalip News


“We’re not petrified, we’re still alive”


These strong words by James Madison were spoken by his grandfather, Frank Madison, before him. And that is the message Madison wishes to convey to the next generation of Native youth, keep us alive.

Maintaining our culture is of the upmost importance to Indigenous communities like Tulalip. On March 7, Tulalip tribal leaders, tribal members and tribal employees gathered outside the Tulalip Administration Building to welcome two beautiful new story poles, one featuring an orca, the other an octpous, that take position outside the entrance to the building. The poles, made from red cedar, were created by Tulalip master carvers, Joe Gobin and James Madison.

Orca pole created by Joe Gobin.
Orca pole created by Joe Gobin.


Octopus pole created by James Madison.
Octopus pole created by James Madison.


The unveiling of the poles began with a prayer followed by singing and drumming. Gobin and Madison then shared the meaning of the poles.

Gobin, who carved the Orca pole, explains that, “we’re killer whale people. The person on top is our spirit of the whale.” The eagle design represents the eagles that watch over our gatherings.

The octopus pole features a diving rock. This represents the power of the Native people. Madison’s grandfather told stories of this water power, and how they would jump into the water with a diving rock and get water power for protection.

Madison, with a hand on the shoulder of each his two sons, spoke of how proud his grandfather is for us putting our culture into our tribal buildings.


Tulalip tribal drummers and singers.
Tulalip tribal drummers and singers.

Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon and various tribal board members gave thanks to the artists and the art work, while emphasizing the importance of the teachings being passed on.

Wrapping up the unveiling was a singing and drumming performance by Quil Ceda Elementary students.


Quit Ceda Elementary students
Quil Ceda Elementary students


Crowd gathered at the Tulalip Administration Building for the totem pole unveiling.
Crowd gathered at the Tulalip Administration Building for the totem pole unveiling.