Lushootseed Camp, week two: more youth, more culture

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos by Micheal Rios & Natosha Gobin

During week one of the 23rd Annual Lushootseed Day Camp, there were 58 youth participants. Engagement and overall involvement increased significantly during week two, as 72 Children of the Salmon contributed to the cultural sharing and commitment to Lushootseed.

“It makes my heart happy seeing so many of our young ones learning our traditional language,” boasts Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager. “It is amazing to witness the amount of participation and community involvement we receive each year.”

From Monday July 16 to Friday July 20, the Kenny Moses Building was home to the children learning traditional teachings, listening to storytelling by elders, and using their creative minds to create and paint an assortment of giveaway items. It’s a time that Tulalip children, families and community look forward to as it provides them an opportunity to immerse themselves in Lushootseed and the rich culture of the Coast Salish people.

Open to children age five to twelve who want to learn about their culture and the language of their ancestors, Lushootseed Camp provides invaluable traditional teachings through art, songs, technology, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with Cultural Resources, along with a select number of vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week day camps in the summer. 

“So proud of my fellow Language Warriors for putting together some amazing lessons, proud of our volunteers for stepping up to help us along the way, and proud of our community who supported our efforts by allowing their kids to participate,” said Language Warrior Natosha Gobin. “Most importantly, we are so proud of our youth, about 130 total, who rised up over the past two weeks. They learned so many traditional teachings and are eager to keep them alive.”

With a high turnout in camp participation came an equally impressive turnout in community volunteers who assisted Lushootseed staff to coordinate daily camp activities. There were 15 volunteers readily available on a daily basis to help camp run smoothly.

Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily stations or activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Succulents, clam shell rattles, clam shell succulent holders.
  • Weaving – God’s Eye, bracelets.
  • Songs – Paddle Song, Berry Picking Song, Welcome Song, Kenny Moses’ Arrival Song, Martha Lamont’s huyəxw st’ilib 
  • Traditional Teachings – Canoes, Canoe Journey protocol
  • Language – Lushootseed alphabet, canoe terms.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related their final performance using handheld games on Tablets created by Dave Sienko.

Every station and daily lesson incorporated various Canoe Journey teachings and protocol verbiage. With the annual tribal Canoe Journey going on now, it made for an ideal time to teach the youngsters about the tradition.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to give our young ones as much teachings as possible,” explained Language Warrior Roselle Fryberg. “It was really important to us to teach them about hosting a potlatch and coming together as a community. For our mini Canoe Journey, each child plays a role. We have fisherman, berry pickers, tribal leaders hosting Canoe Journey, and several canoes representing visiting tribes. 

“We also talked about how grateful we are that they are here to carry on these traditions of singing, dancing, and speaking their ancestral language. One day, all these teachings will be on their shoulders to carry on and pass to the next generation,” added Roselle. 

The closing ceremony for week two’s camp took place on Friday, July 20 at the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their theatrical debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

Most of the children beamed with joy as they performed their roles in the closing ceremony, while some caught the shy bug being in front of such a large audience. There were several Lushootseed songs everyone was able to sing along together, giving family and friends plenty of opportunities to capture such precious moments on photos or video. 

“We would like to thank the children for all of their hard work and efforts,” proclaimed Natosha Gobin during the play’s opening. “They attended camp for just one week and learned so much about their culture, traditions, language, and more. They do not hesitate to step up and share their teachings. 

“We thank you, the parents, for joining us to celebrate the work the children have accomplished this week. Your presence here for the children will encourage their learning of their culture and traditional language.”

Lushootseed Camp Language Warriors.

After the youth performed their rendition of “Mini Canoe Journey” and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave their handmade crafts created during the past week to each and every audience member; sharing in a final act of memory making with their peers, before filling their bellies with a salmon lunch. 

Lushootseed Family Night

Quality time to empower one another, keeping culture thriving

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Today, quality family time often takes a back seat to all the other directions that people are pulled, whether it be work, school, manufactured drama, or personal entertainment. One way to bring back that sense of quality time is to start a dedicated family night, which is exactly what Lushootseed Family Night intends to achieve.

In coordination with the Hibulb Rediscovery Program, the Lushootseed Language Department has brought back its Family Night on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month of March. Meeting from 5:00pm – 7:00pm at the Lushootseed building (the gymnasium of the old Tulalip Elementary), the evenings are a dedicated time for Tulalip families and members of the community to share in keeping a language and culture thriving. Its two-hours of undivided attention given by the Language Warriors to any and all who wish to learn Lushootseed words and phrases, whether it be children, adults, or elders; all are welcome.

The community’s response has been very positive thus far, with near 70 participants joining in on March 8th’s Family Night.

“Any participation in our Family Night is appreciated. When we have a large number of participants, like our second night, we are excited to see so many people who want to be exposed to Lushootseed or want to become Language Warriors and speak with us,” said Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher and co-coordinator of Family Night. “For those who don’t feel comfortable since they don’t know the language, or think they will have a hard time learning it, these classes are intended to be fun and laid back. Just being exposed to the language being spoken will help in eventually speaking it.”

This particular series of Family Night classes in March are focused on canoe terms in order to prepare families that intend on participating in this year’s Canoe Journey, but the dialogue is not limited to canoes only. Language Warriors are also working to assist participants to learn their own introductions and speeches, while getting accustomed to traditional prayers, stories and songs. The Lushootseed Department aims to support the teachings that are important for canoe journey participants, while passing on lessons that are relevant for daily use.

Each Family Night begins with the sharing of a hot meal, a significant activity shared by any family, while the next generation of Lushootseed speakers read aloud from a collection of traditional stories. Then, children and adults learn together select Lushootseed words and phrases by a variety of activities.

Among those activities is the hearing of traditional songs. Andrew Gobin, of the Tulalip Rediscovery Program and former Lushootseed Teacher, provides his resonant voice and drum in order to pass along the teachings and well-intending meanings with each song.

“Language belongs to all of us. Culture belongs to all of us. Getting involved is the first step,” stated Andrew. “At these language and culture nights, the people come to share with one another. Those that may know more than others are helping those that are just beginning to engage with who they are. It’s always exciting to have people come to gather together and share in what our culture has to offer.

With an increase in technology and a dwindling attention span, family time will still often get set aside because of other demands and duties. Despite busy schedules and long workdays, for families and individuals looking to build strong bonds through culture and create lifelong memories for children, Lushootseed Family Night is a welcome site.

“This language belongs to us all,” explained Natosha. “We pray that when our days come to an end, that we can hear it being used daily in our community by everyone. These are the same prayers of our ancestors. They didn’t want the language to die with them, and we don’t want the language to die with us. We hope that through these Family Nights and the other language learning opportunities that we are working on, we will continue to grow our Language Warriors, empowering speakers to rise up and help keep our language, culture and teachings alive.”

The current Lushootseed Family Night series will continue each Tuesday and Thursday during March, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm. Dinner will be provide and all ages are welcome to attend.

For more information, questions or request contact

Michelle Balagot, Lushootseed Department Manager by phone at 360-716-4495 or email

Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher by phone at 360-716-4499 or email

Cultural Gatherings brings Lushootseed language to ELA families

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the Lushootseed Language Department and the Rediscovery Program teamed up to bring Family Cultural Gatherings to the young students of the Academy and their families. The gatherings are held at the Academy every Tuesday and alternate between a one-hour class at 12:00 p.m. and a two-hour class at 5:00 p.m. weekly. Families can learn traditional Tulalip Lushootseed Language by means of storytelling, song and interactive lessons.

“We really want to build that connection between our language and culture back to the families so that they can really have a feeling of what the kids are learning in school,” explains Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “We want to share that value; I think that the Lushootseed Department does a really great job of sharing that value. We want our families to have an opportunity to learn Lushootseed too, with our kids.”

The revitalized traditional Coast Salish language is currently offered at all levels by the Lushootseed Language Department. The language is being spoken to and utilized by students at the Early Learning Academy,

Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary and Tulalip Heritage High School. The Language Department also offers Lushootseed 101, a college course through Northwest Indian College, to the employees of the Tulalip Tribes. This past summer, the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp was a huge success as over one hundred and sixty youth participated in the week-long language camp.

The Academy wanted to bring this experience to the parents and siblings of their students, and the Cultural Gatherings presents the perfect opportunity for students to practice the language outside of the classroom. During the Cultural Gatherings, parents and students learn words, phrases and songs alongside one another.  A meal is prepared by the Academy for the participants and each gathering begins with a joint prayer, in Lushootseed, to bless the food. The Language Department creates a fun learning experience for the families with book readings, flash cards, and songs as well as arts and crafts. Many students are familiar with the words and often assist their parents with pronunciation.

Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natasha Gobin, encourages families to attend the gatherings.

“It’s encouraged for each family to attend at least one of the classes we offer,” states Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natasha Gobin. “We’re trying to teach the families what the kids are learning in school because we know that when the kids go home, they’re trying to get their parents to learn [the language] with them. If they point out any of the animals and are saying the words in Lushootseed to their parents, quite often the parents are like ‘I have no idea what you’re saying’, so we’re trying encourage the families to engage in that learning and make it relevant in the home which in turn empowers the kids when they start using the language.”

The next gathering will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 12:00 p.m. for more information please contact the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy at (360) 716-4250.

Learning from the past, looking to the future

22nd Annual Lushootseed Day Camp

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The week of July 24-28 was nothing but pleasantly warm and sunny summer days in the Pacific Northwest. Inside the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium even more radiating beams of sunshine could be found, created by the record turnout 92-kids participating in week two of the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Day Camp.

Open to children age five to twelve who want to learn about their culture and the language of their ancestors, Lushootseed Camp provides invaluable traditional teachings through art, songs, technology, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with Cultural Resources, along with a select number of vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week day camps in the summer. Each camp is intended to have openings for up to 50 participants, but this year the demand was so high that 70-kids participated in week one and a stunning 92-kids comprised week two.

“It seems like every year we get more and more kids participating in our language camp, which is great!” boasts Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager. “We broke our record for total attendance that we set last year. It is amazing to witness the amount of participation and community involvement we received this year. It makes my heart happy seeing so many of our young ones learning our traditional language.”

With the extraordinary high turnout in camp participation came an equally impressive turnout in community volunteers who assisted Lushootseed staff coordinate daily camp activities. There were 25+ volunteers on a near daily basis on hand to help camp run smoothly.

“The role of the summer youth and volunteers was to be the group leaders, working alongside the youth, mentoring them and encouraging them at each station,” says Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher who has been involved with every Lushootseed Camp either as a participant or teacher for the past twenty years. “We met with the group leaders almost daily to go over their role and encourage them to be as involved with each of the kids as possible. There were three to four group leaders per group, which helped us ensure that the kids were staying on task at each station.”

Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily stations or activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Votive candle holders, cedar photo frame.
  • Weaving – Cedar medallions, paddle necklaces.
  • Songs and Dances – Killer Whale Song, Berry Picking Song, Welcome Song, Kenny Moses Arrival Song.
  • Traditional Teachings – Message from Wayne Williams, Killer Whale facts, story comparisons.
  • Games – Various outdoor games incorporating Lushootseed.
  • Language – Lushootseed alphabet, Killer Whale and the Two Boys key words.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related their final performance using handheld games on Tablets created by Dave Sienko.

For this 22nd Annual Lushootseed Camp, Wayne Williams was honored for his leadership and the teachings he has passed on to our community. His story “Killer Whale and the Two Boys” was selected as the final performance to be put on at week’s end.

“This year we honored Wayne Williams for his countless years of leadership for our people,” states Michele. “Wayne knew the importance of upholding the teachings that were instilled within him and many others. He has led our community as Assistant Manager and Manager of TTT, while also having served as a Board of Director, including time as Chairman. Wayne passed on his family’s traditional artifacts and documents to the Hibulb Cultural Center, and we are grateful to have such rich teachings within reach for us to continue to learn from.”

For the youthful camp participants, learning Wayne’s story “Killer Whale and the Two Boys” serves two purposes – learning and practicing the Lushootseed words it requires, and gaining knowledge of the lesson hidden within the story.

“The moral of this story is to watch who you hang around,” explains Natosha. “If you find the people you associate with tend to get in trouble, you will realize that you will end up getting in trouble right alongside them, and there are things that may happen to you along that path that will mark you for life and be a reminder of those hard times. Messages like this from our ancestors is so important for our kids to hear, understand and to respect in their early years as they develop into young adults. We can look at many situations in our lives and connect them to traditional stories.”

The closing ceremony for week two’s camp was held on Friday, July 28 in the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium. The joyous, young play-performers made their theatrical debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

“I am honored to be here today to witness the young children sharing in the Lushootseed language. The language is the very heart of our culture as Tulalip people,” proclaimed ceremonial witness Ray Fryberg, Executive Director of Natural Resources. “I thank the parents and families who gave their kids the opportunity to participate in our language camp. Also, I thank our Language Warriors for ensuring that this portion of our culture moves forward and stays alive. Our words are life, reflecting our ancestors and passing on their teachings.”

After the youth performed their rendition of “Killer Whale and the Two Boys” and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to each and every audience member, which preceded a buffet-style lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s 22nd Lushootseed Camp, Language Warrior Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “We continue to give thanks to those who had the vision to bring this camp to life, and we are grateful to be a part of keeping it going. These two weeks out of the year are really a blessing for us to give back to our community, build relationships with our youth and their families, and remind ourselves of our roles in the community. We are Language Warriors, we are Culture Warriors, and we will battle every day to ensure our traditional teachings live on for the next generation of warriors.”



Honoring Wayne Williams

Submitted by Natosha Gobin

This year we honored Wayne Williams.  His messages to our people, his leadership, his passion, it has touched so many lives and continues to do so. A couple of our staff members stepped away from camp on Monday, July 24th to visit Wayne and gift him with a paddle created by the Art & Design department, a blanket that was on behalf of the Hibulb Cultural Center staff and Lushootseed Staff, and a t-shirt from this year’s camp.

We felt it was important to gift him with these things and let him know how many youth were learning about his amazing work. It was an honor to speak to him and share that his work is still continuing with the teachings our youth are learning these two weeks.

One of Wayne’s famous quotes is “It’s important for us to know who we are and where we come from.” We are hoping to make more visits just to share with him how much he continues to inspire our people and allow each one of our staff members the chance to meet with Wayne.

Lushootseed Language Camp, Week One

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Over sixty future Tulalip leaders participated in the first week of the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp. The kids learned the traditional Coast Salish language and Tulalip culture during the week of July 17-21. Hosted by the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department, the summertime camp is held twice during the month of July and is open to Tulalip youth age five to twelve.

The kids are treated to five fun days of culture in which they learn the traditional language, teachings and stories of Tulalip. The camp utilizes several interactive activity stations to teach about Tulalip’s traditional way of life. Campers become familiar with the words while playing games and using modern technology. In addition to studying Lushootseed, campers also learn traditional Tulalip dances and songs.

“One of the songs we sang was the Welcome Song and it was Harriet Shelton Dover’s song,” stated Language Camp Instructor, Cary Michael Williams. “We also sang the Killer Whale Song, which was Ray Fryberg and Tony Hatch’s song they put together and brought forward to the Lushootseed Department.”

Each year, the Lushootseed Department honors a Tulalip member by teaching the youth about their work within the Tulalip culture. Last year the camp was dedicated to Harriett Shelton-Dover, this year the camp is dedicated to her son and Tulalip Elder, Wayne Williams.

“We always think of somebody to honor and dedicate the camp to and this year Wayne Williams came to mind,” explains Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natosha Gobin. “We know that he’s done so much for our community with preserving our teachings as well as everything he’s donated to the Hibulb Cultural Center. We felt it’s very important to acknowledge him while he’s here because a lot of times people don’t get acknowledged until they’re gone, and he’s still here with us so we want to honor him.”

Throughout the week, the youth rehearse a play based on a traditional Tulalip story. The play is performed for the community during the closing ceremony on the last day of camp. In honor of Wayne Williams, the Language Campers reenacted Wayne’s story Killer Whale and Two Boys.

Language Camp continues to grow; previously the department would anticipate about fifty participants each summer. However, due to increasing interest, the camp has seen an increase of fourteen participants each week in the past two years.

Young Tulalip tribal members and siblings, Natalie and Carsten Nordahl, travel from Boston every summer to attend Language Camp. According to their father, Natalie excitedly awaited the year her younger brother was old enough to enroll, in order to experience the cultural camp together.  The kids have returned each summer, making this their third trip to Tulalip.

“I love that we get to learn about our culture and the language of our Tribe. My favorite part is learning the language and just being a part of this experience,” Natalie expressed. Carsten added, “My favorite part about camp was playing the games!”

Parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles gathered at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Gym on July 21, for the 22nd Annual Lushootseed Language Camp closing ceremony. The youth showcased their teachings to the community by performing the songs and the play in Lushootseed.

“As a parent it’s important for my son to attend language camp because it was something I was able to do as a child and it’s important to carry on the songs and the teachings from our ancestors,” states Lushootseed Camp parent and Tulalip tribal member Samantha Chavez.

After performing Killer Whale and Two Boys, the youth gave handmade gifts, such as weavings and necklaces, to every guest in attendance.  Over the span of twenty-two years, the camp has inspired numerous Tulalip youth to learn more about their culture. Many current Lushootseed Language Instructors, attended Language Camp when they were younger, including Tulalip tribal member Shelbi Hatch.

“Language Camp started before I was born actually, it was in ‘93 I think,” Shelbi recalls. “It’s a place for the kids to learn their culture and for everybody to get a view of what Tulalip is and how intact our culture and language still is. This gives them the utilities and the tools they need for later on in life. I feel more of a generational importance, I don’t feel like it’s me receiving the teachings, I feel like I’m giving it and these kids will be the ones to speak fluently.”

The Lushootseed department and the language campers displayed two paddles, with traditional artwork depicting the Killer Whale and Two Boys story that will be gifted to Wayne Williams and his sons.

“We keep trying to follow the teachings that Shelly Lacy and Auntie Joy [Lacy] laid out because this was part of their vision twenty-two years ago,” states Natosha while reflecting on a successful first week. “This is always the best time of the year for us. The kids have so much fun, the families are so grateful and it’s just a good time. We’re happy we’re able to keep this alive and keep it going.”

For more information about the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp please contact the Lushootseed Language Department at (360) 716-4499 or visit their website

Tulalip students learn traditional language


By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Government deemed it necessary to forcibly remove Native American children from their families and send them to boarding schools. Among the many atrocities that occurred in the boarding schools, Native children were punished whenever they spoke their language. This practice resulted in many tribal nations losing their language completely. After the horrific boarding school practice ended many tribes immediately began to restore and preserve their language.

Lushootseed is the Coast Salish language of the Native Peoples in the Northwest. Primarily spoken in the greater Seattle area of Washington, Lushootseed is the language of the peoples of Puyallup, Swinomish, and of course Snohomish.

In Tulalip, Lushootseed is taught to children early between the ages of three and five at the Tulaip Early Learning Academy. The children learn songs, stories, numbers and animals in Lushootseed. Tulalip also offers their employees and community members Lushootseed classes, showing how important the language is to the tribe.

The Northwest Indian College (NWIC) offers Lushootseed classes to college students in which the student receives five college credits towards a foreign language. In collaboration with NWIC and Heritage High School, the Tulalip Tribes is now offering Lushootseed 101 to the students at Heritage.

In the Lushootseed class students revisit vocabulary learned at a young age and use that as a starting point. Lushootseed 101 has ten enrolled students who have been learning phrases and introductions. After three months into the curriculum students are able to state their name, where they are from, and who their families are. In solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, students even created a Water Is Life video in Lushootseed.

“It is a great way to get back to our traditions and it makes me feel connected to my ancestors.”

– Myrna Red Leaf, Heritage H.S. student


Lushootseed Language Instructor, Michelle Myles states, “They are learning the 101 college level so this will be one of their fulfillments for college. They’re learning right alongside the Northwest Indian College [students]. Our goal this quarter is to have the college students come and speak with the high schoolers, and have our students greet them, so they can see that others are learning as well, and it’s not isolated to the classrooms.”

Tulalip’s effort in preserving their language is outstanding and it is reflected through the fun, respect, and appreciation the students show during class. During an entire class period, the only English spoken was when students needed assistance with a Lushootseed word. And as student Myrna Red Leaf states, “It is a great way to get back to our traditions and it makes me feel connected to my ancestors.”

Honoring the past, Impacting the future: 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp




By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

During the pleasantly warm and sunny summer days of July 18-22, the old Tulalip Elementary gymnasium was home to the 21st Annual Lushootseed Day Camp. The camp was open to children age five to twelve who wanted to learn about their culture and Lushootseed language through art, songs, games, weaving and storytelling. Each year the Lushootseed Department teams up with the Cultural Resources Department, along with a select number of very vital community volunteers, to hold two one-week camps. Each camp has openings for up to 50 participants, but this year the demand was so high that 64 kids were signed up and participated in Language Camp week 1.

“We are dedicating the 21st Annual Lushootseed Language Camp to Morris Dan and Harriette Shelton-Dover, for their guidance and teachings bringing back the Salmon Ceremony, as well as honoring Stan Jones Sr. “Scho-Hallem” for his decades of leadership and determination to keep the ceremony going,” said Lushootseed language teacher and co-coordinator of the camp, Natosha Gobin. “This year we are recreating the Salmon Ceremony to pass on the teachings to our youth.  With the generosity of the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Table, we have received a grant to make regalia for each youth who is signed up for camp.  This is exciting, as we will be able to ensure that all the youth who sign up for camp will have the ability to stand up and sing at every opportunity. Vests and drums will be the regalia for the boys, while the girls’ regalia will be shawls and clappers.”

Using the 1979 Salmon Ceremony video to help pass on the earliest teaching of what is still practiced today, the young campers learned a selection of highlighted songs and dances.  The lessons learned each day during Language Camp were based on the teachings of the Salmon Ceremony by way of songs and dances, traditional teachings, language, art, weaving, and technology. The goal this year was to provide our youth with some basic regalia along with the knowledge and ability to sing and dance. Staffers hope the youth that have participated have the teachings and experience needed so they will stand up and sing at every opportunity.




With the emphasis of honoring the past and impacting the future with education and practice of Salmon Ceremony, there was a renewed sense of excitement and vigor to both the teachers and bright, young minds who participated. There was so much to do and prepare for that the parents of each camper were also called upon to participate in create long-lasting memories while working with their kids and fellow community members to help make regalia.

During the evening of Tuesday, July 19 the parents came through in a big way. The parents and guardians joined their kids in the gymnasium and were guided on how to make the drums and clappers. There were lots of laughs and stories shared as the evening went on and slowly, but surely every camper was assured of hand-made regalia.

“This is what we wanted to bring back; families coming together to spend some time working on the drums and clappers, lots of smiles, and most importantly lots of happy kids,” stated Natosha after the evening of regalia making concluded. “A huge thank you to the parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, siblings and cousins who come out tonight to make sure every child would have a drum or clapper. I know our ancestors are watching over us all and proud the teachers are still being passed on.”




Throughout the duration of camp, the children participated in seven different daily activities. The following list is what each child accomplished throughout the week:

  • Art – Salmon bracelets, Salmon hands, paddle necklaces.
  • Weaving – Pony Bead loom beading, small raffia baskets.
  • Songs and Dances – Welcome Song, Eagle Owl BlueJay Song, Snohomish Warrior Song.
  • Traditional Teachings – Salmon Ceremony videos, traditional stories, realia experience in traditional story and science face of how Salmon migrate.
  • Games – Various games and playground time.
  • Language – letter sounds, Salmon Ceremony key words, Lushootseed workbook.
  • Technology – children learned and practiced Lushootseed materials related to Salmon Ceremony using the Nintendo DSi handheld games created by Dave Sienko.

The closing ceremony for week one’s camp was held on Friday, July 22 in the Kenny Moses Building. The joyous, young play-performers made their debut to a large community attendance, as family and friends came out in droves to show their support.

“The young ones continue to honor our ancestors by learning their songs and words. It fills my heart with so much joy to watch them speak our language and perform the dances of Salmon Ceremony,” marveled ceremonial witness Denise Sheldon.




After the youth performed their rendition of Salmon Ceremony and the ceremonial witnesses had shared a few words, there was a giveaway. The camp participants gave handmade crafts to the audience members, which preceded a salmon lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s 21st Annual Language Camp week one, Natosha Gobin beamed with pride, “Week one has come to an end, but it is truly just the beginning of our youth rising up! The fire has been lit and they will be the ones to keep it burning. I can’t say it enough, how thankful we are for the parents that sign their youth up to participate. Shout out to the volunteers who mentored our young Language Warriors and to the staff who prepped and taught the lessons, and those who did all the behind the scenes work. Thank you to each and every person who made this week’s camp a success.”

For any questions, comments or to request Lushootseed language materials to use in the home, please contact the Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4499 or visit





Lushootseed: Preserving a legacy, teaching a new generation



by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The “7th generation” principle imbedded in Native culture says that in every decision, be it personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Long before environmentalists got us thinking about “carbon footprints” and “sustainability”, indigenous peoples lived in balance with the world around them. But then hundreds of years of colonization happened that nearly drove our population to extinction. Yet, still we remain.

Then came the decades and decades of federal policy aimed at forced assimilation for the remaining Native population who were confined to reservations. Policy after policy required children to be removed from their homes and communities, and enrolled in boarding schools where many were punished or beaten for speaking their Native languages. As a result, generations of Native people either never learned their language or lost their fluency in it. Thus, many links to traditional culture and knowledge were broken. Still we remain.




From the ashes of the colonial fire that ravished our people, we endured even though much was lost. The language of our region, Lushootseed, once spoken by thousands of Coast Salish people in Washington State clings to life by the small number of people dedicated to preserving it. Lushootseed’s territory extends from north of present-day Mount Vernon to south of Olympia.

Recent decades have seen a cultural resurgence in Puget Sound tribal communities, including carving, weaving, canoe making, and efforts to revitalize Lushootseed. New tribal museums and long houses have been constructed, and events such as the annual Canoe Journey involve hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators.

Today, on the Tulalip reservation, few elders remain who learned Lushootseed as a first language. In fact, Lushootseed Department Manager Michelle Balagot says there may be only 30-40 tribal members who can speak Lushootseed with some degree of conversational skill. She adds that although that number is incredibly low, the department is working hard to make sure that the language survives, and the next few years will be critical if the language is to be revitalized to the point that children become and remain fluent speakers.

The biggest advancement in preserving and revitalizing Lushootseed amongst Tulalip tribal members has been building an essential staff of Lushootseed teachers whose love for their language and culture can easily permeate through the young minds and spirits of our most precious resource, our children.




This past school year the Lushootseed Department had full access to teach our ancestral language to the kindergarten classes and one 1st grade class at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School. It was the return back to a curriculum that had been paused in 2011 when the old Tulalip Elementary was closed.

“We have noticed an increase in student engagement when students have the chance to learn the language that connects them to their heritage. It certainly makes education more meaningful for our students,” says Cory Taylor, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary Principal. “While the Lushootseed program serves many Native students, it also benefits non-Natives, too. These students have the unique opportunity to develop skills to be culturally responsive. These skills will be beneficial throughout their lives. As students learn about other cultures and languages they are more likely to honor diversity and appreciate cultural awareness.”

Lushootseed language teachers Maria Martin and Nikki St. Onge, known respectfully as Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki to their students, were selected to initiate the language revival at the elementary. They taught three classes individually and one “immersion” class jointly, for a grand total of seven classes.

For Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki, it was an opportunity to perpetuate the many Lushootseed stories and phrases they learned as children, and build upon the legacy of those who came before them.

“My year teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda was wonderful. I didn’t get a chance to learn Lushootseed in school after I left the Montessori, so being able to go back to the school I attended as a child and teach Lushootseed is amazing,” said Miss Maria. “This means we are growing as a language department and spreading our culture in places we weren’t able to before. Growing up I had a yearning to know and learn my culture, but it wasn’t offered in the schools. For the students that are enrolled in Tulalip or surrounding tribes, Lushootseed is their language, and my hope is they’ll be filled with the same kind of pride I have to know the words of our ancestors.”

“I really enjoyed teaching at Tulalip Quil Ceda. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with some of my students, since they were babies when I worked at the child care center in 2011. Then again at Montessori when I first started in the Lushootseed department in 2012, and now moving up with them to kindergarten,” marvels Ms. Nikki. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to have this experience. It’s really rewarding to watch them grow and develop their own personalities and characteristics, and also teach them such an important part of our culture.



“Growing up at my Grandma Rachel’s house, I was exposed to Lushootseed a little bit with words or phrases like: x̌ʷubiləxʷ (be quiet), gʷəƛ̕əlad (stop it, behave), spuʔ (fart/blow wind), ʔaləxʷ k̓ʷid (what time is it?), hədʔiw (come in), č̓ut̕əp̓ (flea), sp̓əc̓ (feces), sqigʷəc (deer), yəx̌ʷəlaʔ (eagle), sqʷəbayʔ (dog), and pišpiš (cat). I was always interested in learning to speak Lushootseed, but it was never offered in school. When I saw the job advertisement within the Lushootseed Department I was excited. I have always wanted to learn Lushootseed and I love working with kids, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to grow as a person and to give back to the Tribe and community.”

Both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki having taught Lushootseed at the Tulalip Montessori meant a strong familiarity and trust with their Tulalip students in their kindergarten classes at the elementary. All of their former students remembered them and were very excited to have them as Lushootseed teachers again. The excitement was shared by both teachers as they were able to create their own curriculum and teaching plans for students they knew very well. They knew what teaching methods would work and wouldn’t work with their students already.

Throughout the school year the students learned to play games, some of their favorites being təs-təs  (matching game), ɬiʔɬdahəb (fishing), stab kʷi ʔəsx̌ʷil̕ (what’s missing?), xʷiʔ gʷadsx̌ək̓ʷud (don’t turn over), ʔuc̓əlalikʷ čəd (I win/bingo), go fish, and tic-tac-know. Students completed daily work sheets that taught them how to read and write in Lushootseed while reinforcing many of the vocabulary words they learned at Montessori and the new Early Learning Academy.

Some of their favorite songs they learned are: ʔi čəxʷ syaʔyaʔ (hello friend), kʷədačiʔb čəɬ syaʔyaʔ (ring around the rosy), huyʔ syaʔyaʔ (good bye friend), ʔə tə tib, ʔulub miʔman pišpišpiš (ten little kittens), šəqild st̕ilib (respect song), sʔacus sʔilalubid (head, shoulders), baqʷuʔ stubs (Frosty the Snowman), and waq̓waq̓ st̕ilib (frog song). The students were able to hear stories that were translated into Lushootseed and traditional stories such as “tsiʔəʔ bəšč̓ad” (Lady Louse), “tsi sxʷəyuq̓ʷ” (The Basket Lady), and “Clamming with Lizzie.” They learned to count up to 25 and were exposed to 30 and 40. They have also learned verbs, farm animals, woodland animals, body parts, clothing and so much more.

As the year progressed and the Lushootseed curriculum continued to evolve, so did the students. They developed such a good working knowledge with certain phrases and words that it became common place to hear the young students speaking Lushootseed even when Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki weren’t around.





“It’s difficult to put into words because it’s such an amazing experience to witness, this ownership of language and seeing themselves reflected in their school. It feels like this belongs to them between the drumming, the dancing and morning messages, then coming into class and starting our day with Lushootseed,” stated Mrs. Poyner, Kindergarten teacher and host to the immersion class taught by both Lushootseed teachers. “Having both Miss Maria and Ms. Nikki in the class at the same time I’ve really noticed the students are picking up the language much more quickly. They are using it in other parts of the day, like when we’re teaching math they’ll start counting in Lushootseed instead of English. When we’re doing letters of the alphabet and brainstorming words that start with a specific letter they’ll come up with Lushootseed words. When we are learning new stories with animals in it they’ll call the animals by their Lushootseed name. It’s so exciting to see them apply what they’ve learned into other pieces of their day.”

The teachers are even hearing numerous stories about their students using Lushootseed at home with their parents.

“I have heard stories of the students going home and singing the songs they learned in class and using their Lushootseed words,” says Miss Maria. “Running into parents of my students and hearing that they are reinforcing their Lushootseed at home makes my heart glow.”

Ms. Nikki echoes the sentiment, “Hearing from parents and teachers that students are reinforcing Lushootseed outside of their time spent with me in classroom is probably the most rewarding feeling. It means the students are not just learning a curriculum, they are learning a language, their language.”

Being able to demonstrate what you’ve learned is the basis of knowledge, and the young students using Lushootseed when the teachers aren’t around is proof positive the internal flame to connect with our culture and ancestors through language is being rekindled. It’s all part of an essential process to carry on our ancestors’ legacy by keeping the language alive. Because seven generations from now, we want Lushootseed to be the common language of all Tulalip people, like it was for our ancestors.





Contact Micheal Rios:

Teaching the next generation of Lushootseed speakers


By Chris Winters, The Herald


TULALIP — Last Thursday, the children in Sarah Poyner Wallis’ kindergarten class at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School filtered in after the morning assembly.

Maria Martin and Nik-Ko-Te St. Onge, teacher assistants with the Tulalip Tribes’ Lushootseed department, wish the kids good morning.

“haʔɬ dadatut,” they said. The children said it back to them.

The kids sat in a circle for their first lesson: a song, simply called “Hello Friend,” and sung in Lushootseed to the tune of “Frère Jacques.”


Andy Bronson / The HeraldWith the help of flash cards, kindergartners at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School speak the Lushootseed language with instructor Nik-Ko-Te St. Onge. From left: Jaycee Williams, Jesse Lozano,Tyler Hills and Joscelynn Jones-Lloyd.
Andy Bronson / The Herald
With the help of flash cards, kindergartners at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary School speak the Lushootseed language with instructor Nik-Ko-Te St. Onge. From left: Jaycee Williams, Jesse Lozano,Tyler Hills and Joscelynn Jones-Lloyd.



For years Tulalip children have received lessons in their ancestral tongue at the Tulalip Montessori School and the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy on the reservation. The written form of the language includes characters found in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

This year Lushootseed, or dxʷləšucid, the language of Coast Salish Indians around Puget Sound, was reintroduced to the Marysville School District for the first time since 2011. That’s when the old Tulalip Elementary in the heart of the reservation was closed.

About 50 kindergartners and first-graders — five total classrooms — are getting daily language lessons from Martin and St. Onge this fall.

The simple explanation for the reintroduction is that the Tulalip Tribes were able to hire more teachers.

“Our problem is we were short-staffed. We’ve never had a full crew,” said Michele Balagot, the tribes’ Lushootseed department manager.

Newly hired teachers start out by teaching pre-school kids, and ideally would remain with the same the class of students as they get older, she said.

That’s not very easy in practice, however.

“Some people we hired found out they didn’t like to teach, or weren’t teacher material, or found out they didn’t like working with little kids,” Balagot said.

Add to that the fact that most of the teachers hired have had to learn Lushootseed at the same time they taught it to the children, one of the aftereffects of the boarding school era in which the language was suppressed almost to the point of extinction.

Maria Martin, who is 25, represents a new generation of speakers. She started learning the language as a child in the Montessori school, but throughout her school years only learned the language in the Tulalip summer language camps.

The Lushootseed program sends new hires to Northwest Indian College in Bellingham for formal instruction before they are put in front of a class.

Martin said she feels reasonably fluent when in front of the class, although still consults with her superiors in the language program when she needs specialized vocabulary.

Still, she’s become fluent enough that she’s often delivered invocations and greetings in Lushootseed at official tribal functions.

In Poyner Wallis’ class, she gave instructions to the kindergartners in Lushootseed first, and only English if the kids didn’t appear to understand them.

In one exercise, she held up a flash card with a picture of a brown bear. “stəbtabəl̕,” the kids chimed together.

She held up a picture of a frog. “waq̓waq̓!”

Then she held up an orca, but the kids are unsure and need reminding. “qal̕qaləx̌ič,” Martin said, and the kids shape out the unfamiliar glottal consonants.

A picture of a salmon also stopped them cold, and Martin prompted then with the answer: “sʔuladxʷ.”

“That’s a hard one because it looks like qal̕qaləx̌ič,” one boy piped up. “I almost said ‘salmon’.”

The student body at Quil Ceda Tulalip is about 60 percent Native American, although the actual figure is likely higher once children of mixed marriages or parents who aren’t enrolled in a tribe are taken into account, said Chelsea Craig, a cultural specialist at the school.

All the schoolchildren have been getting a dose of native culture in the morning assembly, which includes singing and a drum circle. The school is also leading the charge in incorporating native history into its regular curriculum.

Craig said she hopes that by getting the kids into Lushootseed while still young, they will learn their ancestral language and come to associate it with a supportive and healing environment.

“My great-grandmother was beaten for speaking Lushootseed,” she said, referring to the boarding school era, which began in 1860 and didn’t truly end until the 1978 passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act.

When Craig was growing up, some tribal elders could still speak the language, she said.

“The elders spoke it but didn’t share it, because it was too traumatic,” she said. “My great-grandmother didn’t want me to go through what she went through.”

Some Lushootseed words are introduced at the morning assembly, but it’s the lessons in class that are moving toward making the language thrive again.

In Poyner Wallis’ classroom, the kids were split into groups. Nik-Ko-Te St. Onge used the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” to help reinforce the vocabulary, and then moved on to flash cars with numbers.

St. Onge held up a card with the number six on it. Jordan Bontempo counted out loud on his fingers.

“č̓uʔ, saliʔ, ɬixʷ, buus, cəlac … yəlaʔc!” he said triumphantly.

Meanwhile, Maria Martin gave the kids pictures of a bear to color that also had a connect-the-dots tracery of the Lushootseed word “stəbtabəl̕.” Two kids colored the bear brown and one black, but others went for green, purple, rainbow stripes and one outside-the-lines expressionist squiggle.

When they were done with the bear, they moved on to a picture of a frog.

Carlee James-Jimicum waved her completed bear at Martin. “I’m ready for my waq̓waq̓,” she said.

Balagot said that there are about 40 people on the Tulalip reservation who can speak Lushootseed with some degree of conversational skill.

“We probably couldn’t hold a full conversation, but we could get the gist of what we’re saying,” she said.

The hope is the 50 kindergartners and first-graders will grow into older kids and teens who can add to that number.

Like Martin, perhaps some of them will return to teaching the next generation.

After finishing up in Poyner Wallis’ class, St. Onge and Martin split up. Martin walked down the hall into Lisa Sablan’s kindergarten class, where the kids were eagerly waiting for their lesson.

When she stepped into the room, they all called out together, welcoming their teacher and friend “haʔɬ dadatut syaʔyaʔ!”

gʷədᶻadad: teaching of one’s ancestors

Maria Martin teaching Lushootseed.
Maria Martin teaching


Maria Martin enjoys juice time at the first language camp, held in 1996.
Maria Martin enjoys juice time at the first language camp, held in 1996.


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

At this year’s closing ceremony for the 20th Annual Lushootseed Day Camp, Maria Martin, better known as Miss Maria to the Tulalip young ones, was acknowledged for being an inaugural participant at the first-ever Lushootseed camp in 1996. Fast forward 20 years to the present and Miss Maria has come full-circle, now a Lushootseed teacher and instructor for the 2015 rendition of the language camp.

“It’s such a special feeling knowing we are now celebrating our 20th year of language camp. During this year’s camp we had a lot of first time attendees, they are only five-years old, and we were able to talk to them about how Miss Maria started out being at the very first language camp 20 years ago,” says Natosha Gobin, a fellow Lushootseed Teacher and instructor at the annual language camp. “She was one of our very first camp attendees and here she is now as one of our Lushootseed teachers. We wanted to pass this message onto our kids because it’s pretty amazing.

“Through her work, which is of a humble heart, Miss Maria continues to inspire our next generation to continue learning, speaking, and being the amazing little language warriors that they are. We are so grateful for her.”

Miss Maria has only fond memories of the early years of language camp that unknowingly shaped her future.

“Lushootseed language camp has been a part of my life for years. It’s a reunion of friends, family and history,” says Maria. “You get to attend a summer time camp where you’re able to be reunited with people you may not normally see and have fun together. You get to learn things that aren’t offered just anywhere. It was a place I got to learn about my people and through that learned who I wanted to be.

“The people at camp, the volunteers, the Lushootseed staff, my family and friends, they all definitely impacted my decision to be a Lushootseed teacher. I feel I learned important life lessons, as well as my cultural values, in a way that I could understand them as a child. It makes me so happy to be a part of the Lushootseed department today. I couldn’t ask for a better job. It’s amazing to come full circle. I get the opportunity to be the kind of teacher who inspired me and taught me our culture. Ideally, I get to reciprocate the actions of all the teachers who have made me who I am today. Now, I get to inspire.”

As the participants, teachers, and even the format of language has changed so has Miss Maria, but her goals will always remain the same.

“I love camp. I always have. Whatever changes have come or whatever changes will come, I’ll always be ready and looking forward to another amazing year. We take the good from camp and leave behind the bad. Just keep making it a wonderful experience, that’s my goal.”