Former Seahawks bring outdoor fun and leadership skills to Tulalip youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.

 “We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”

Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.

“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world. 

“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”

After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime. 

“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”

Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.

The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources. 

“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.

“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”

Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community. 

“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.

“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”

To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles. 

“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”

Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth. 

“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”

Youth Council declares to Marysville School District, ‘We are not stereotypes’

Marisa Joseph, Evelyn Vega-Simpson, Shylah Zackuse, and  Kaiser Moses hold a Q&A session with MSD educators. 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

In early August, over fifty Marysville School District administrators toured their neighboring reservation to receive an enriching glimpse into Tulalip culture and lifeways. Among the group included every principal and assistant principal in the District. The highlight of their day-long venture was a powerful face-to-face sit down with four thriving Tulalip Youth Councilmembers. 

Treasurer Marisa Joseph,12th grader at Marysville Pilchuck, social media coordinator Evelyn Vega-Simpson, MP junior, secretary Shylah Zackuse, 10th grader at MP, and chairman Kaiser Moses, Marysville Getchell junior, each shared details of their unique experiences as young culture bearers and excelling students of the public school system. 

They sat front and center while speaking their truths in response to a series of questions their school administrators asked them. Between the four inspiring, high-achieving students are multiple honors classes, instruments played, languages spoken, and an overwhelming desire to be seen for their well-earned accolades that break commonly held stereotypes of Native American youth. The following is an edited transcript of that Q&A.

Q: What are three awesome facts about yourself?

Kaiser: “The fact I’m able to live so close to the Tulalip longhouse, be able to actively participate in my culture through traditional gatherings, and I enjoy hosting and traveling to powwows.”

Shylah: “I’m Indigenous. Half my school classes are either A.P. or honors level. I’m really good at multitasking.”

Evelyn: “I’m able to play five instruments, I’m fluent in three languages, and I am an advocate for other kids who do not have a voice.”

Marisa: “I’m Indigenous. I participate in my culture and love my culture. My cumulative G.P.A. is 3.96 and my goal is to go to Harvard and study law so I can represent Native people on the federal level.”

Q: What do you love learning about?

Marisa: “History, especially Native American history. However, in my U.S. History class this past year we only spent a brief part of one week where we watched a video about Native Americans. I think we can improve upon that and definitely spend more time learning an accurate Native history.”

Kaiser: “I love learning about our traditional longhouse history. It’s really easy to go over and talk to a bunch of elders and learn from them, so you all here can incorporate their teachings into the school curriculum.”

Shylah: “I love learning about my culture. This summer I participated in Canoe Journey and have been learning my traditional language, Lushootseed. I’ve learned how to formally introduce myself and look forward to becoming fluent in Lushootseed so I can teach my future children.”

Q: What do you most look forward to this school year?

Evelyn: “Band. I’ve been playing instruments since I can remember. Music is a big part of my life and obviously my culture as well. I’m also taking Running Start classes right now during the summer and look forward to continuing to take college classes during the school year.”

Kaiser: “My mom says when you go to school you’re building a bridge to society. We get teachings from school and teachings from the longhouse. I’m excited to develop that bridge even more so it’s easier to navigate back and forth.”

Q: What is something you wish your teachers knew about you?

Shylah: “I want my history teacher to know the history of my ancestors. When we’re in the classroom they don’t teach about the genocide of Native Americans or the boarding schools our ancestors were forced to attend. My ancestors weren’t allowed to be Native American. They couldn’t speak their language or practice their dances and songs. My history teachers should know this.”

Marisa: “I want my school teachers and peers to be educated about our culture, traditions, and way of life. If they knew what our ancestors went through, then they’d have a better understanding of our daily lives and what we go through as Native people today.”

Evelyn: “The Tulalip Tribes donates a lot of money to the school district. I know that can be a touchy subject, but I’d like to see a public ‘thank you’ from the Marysville School District. The money the Tribes donates helps not just Native students, but all the students.”

Q: What is the importance and role of education in your life?

Evelyn: “Education has always been a top priority in my life. I grew up in Snohomish with a wonderful pair of foster parents. They taught me to embrace music and to love school because they can take me so far in life. I dream of attending Oxford to become a surgeon. I have a high G.P.A. and plan on getting my Associates Degree as a high school student. Those things shock people because I’m Native, but I’m not a stereotype. I am better than any stereotype and will always be better.”

Marisa: “I’ve always taken my education serious and put it first always. I’ve sacrificed a lot of time with my friends in order to study and get good grades. My goal is to attend an Ivy League. I will be successful and not let myself be a statistic.”

Shylah: “I come from stereotypes. The stereotypes I come from are we don’t graduate, we’re drug addicts and alcoholics, and we’re teen moms. Well, I’m none of those. I get good grades, I’m not a drug addict, and I’m not a teen mom. I come from a drug addict dad and a single mom. My mom is going to college now with four kids and a fulltime job to prove to her kids we can go to college, too. Through my education I will go to college and have a successful career.”

New TANF program introduces kids to the importance of gainful employment

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Many experts agree that adolescence, the process of growing up from young, bashful kid to stubborn, head strong teenager, is a critical period for determining future employment success. It’s during this stage the average youth constantly tests boundaries and rules while striving for more and more independence. With every new experience comes a change in perspective, including their general response to the always imposing question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most will answer that question with an “I don’t know, but whatever it is I want to make a lot of money doing it.” What they are then placing the highest priority on is gainful employment. That is, a career path that provides consistent, long-term work while paying a livable wage. Those kinds of jobs usually take some combination of education and proficient skills, while placing an emphasis on self-management and productivity. In sum, learn your job, do your job right without being constantly managed, and strive to get better over time. 

Sounds simple, right? But how does a young person, better yet an early adolescent, even begin to learn about a job so they know which skills to hone and perfect? The best answer is always through hands-on experience. That is why a new tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been introduced to the Tulalip community and is already making an impact on a select group of Native youth. 

“The 477/TANF Program has a new employment opportunity for Native American youth within our community known as the Youth Employment Preparation Program or YEPP,” explains Krisan Fryberg, 477/TANF Training Coordinator. “The idea of this program is to prepare our tribal youth for future employment. Our mission is to implement progressive thinking with a goal of empowering youth to obtain and maintain successful employment. Not only for employment within our tribe, but any industry they choose.”

YEPP is a six-week program that incorporates several aspects of employment preparedness and provides opportunities for adolescent youth to connect with the various departments and entities that make up a Tulalip government and enterprise. YEPP also serves as a perfect introduction for kids who will be participating in the tribe’s Summer Youth Program in the future.  

Over the past several weeks, fifteen YEPP participants between ages 11-13 years old have dove deep into drug prevention by discussing the effects of drugs and alcohol as a huge obstacle to personal sovereignty. They went deeper into the subject while touring and meeting with representatives of Tulalip Police and Tulalip Bay Fire. Exploring the concept of healthy living and its impact on gainful employment and overall wellbeing, the group had many diabetes prevention discussions while harvesting native plants with Health Clinic staff at the Wellness Garden, visiting a local U-Pick farm, and working out at Tulalip Bay Crossfit.

Skill building exercises have also been a top priority for the YEPP program. One cannot expect to be gainfully employed without the necessary skills of time management, ability to set and reach goals, know how to respect others’ cultures, and understanding how to maintain healthy relationships in the work environment. Because it’s the digital age they were also schooled in the art of social media use, especially its many traps that can derail a potential career long before it even starts.

A definite highlight of this inaugural YEPP program was the contribution to the community by collaborating with the TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) to build and donate two cedar planter boxes to Youth Services. On August 13, TVTC provided the materials and instructors for the YEPP kids to receive a crash course in construction basics. For most of them it was their first time handling actual construction tools, let alone the powered variety like a nail gun or circular saw.

“We learned how to take accurate measurements and cut wood to specific sizes,” said 12-year-old Navaeh Gray. “I was scared at first to use the nail gun, but after using it I realized it was super easy. There’ve been a few experiences with this YEPP program that have taken me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned when you believe in yourself anything is possible.”

“We learned how to use power tools and then got to test how good we were with them in a few activities,” added 13-year-old Gary Fryberg while still holding onto his favorite tool, the hammer. “I’ve never used any tools before, but realized I’m pretty good with a hammer. Maybe I’ll work construction when I’m older because it’s fun to build things.”

Members of TVTC spoke at length about the many benefits of a career in the construction and trades industry. Even if it wasn’t for all of them, for some a spark could have been lit to a whole new future. At the very least they each can say they played a role in creating planter boxes they will surely see often outside of their commonly frequented youth center. 

“Our program spent two days with the youth staff at TVTC where they learned how to utilize equipment properly and worked hand-in-hand with the youth staff to build planter boxes,” remarked Krisan. “I enjoyed seeing both programs work together to create a generous gift to be donated within our community. They all seemed to appreciate the time spent with one another.”

Collaboration and the value of team work is just another key skill that should be practiced over and over again, not just for gainful employment prospects but to ensure a future generation that knows how to work alongside one another for the betterment of everyone. 

Aspiring Native youth make journalism workshop a success

By Micheal Rios

Media, be it print-based, television or on a social media platform, continues to shape the world by dictating public opinion. From words one reads or hears to the images one may be exposed to, the media landscape is never-ending in its pursuit of an audience. Which is why it’s so important to have proper representation in media. 

Aside from portraying our world through a realistic lens, credible and accurate representation in media also allows those belonging in minority and marginalized groups, such as Native Americans, to feel validated for who they are. By being depicted in a positive light and empowered to tell their own stories, Natives can distance themselves from stereotypes and other prejudices, allowing them to gain confidence in themselves, their culture, and the future.

Putting these concepts to practice, the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA), a non-profit organization based in Seattle, and the Clear Sky Native Youth Council collaborated to create an all-new workshop series dedicated to increasing knowledge and improving critical thinking for high schoolers intent on a career in journalism. Dubbed the Aspiring Journalist Series, the five session process took place over the first three weekends in August. 

“We see the value in providing the opportunity for youth to explore the vast field of journalism and learn the many facets and mediums available to utilize as platforms for having visibility, voice and influence,” explained UNEA elected Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson (Oglala Sioux). 

“Aspiring Journalist Series inspiration was driven by several converging forces, starting with the current trend in the underrepresentation of Natives in the profession of journalism. Also, we wanted to address the importance of leveraging Native voice in mainstream outlets such as high school papers, radio, blogs, social media, and local papers,” continued Sarah. “We want to raise student consciousness on dominate societies narratives and impact on attitudes, beliefs, and biases towards Native Americans.”

Student consciousness was indeed raised during the series, as nine Native high schoolers were introduced to the journalism field and the tribal role in mass media by a collection of individuals dedicated to telling the stories most important to them and their communities. Series participants toured the University of Washington’s Communications Building, visited The Daily newspaper, and got first-hand knowledge from those who do the job every day. Quality Native and non-Native professionals in the field of journalism served as guest instructors who educated, inspired, and motivated the eager to learn youth.

“I learned that you may not go into your first profession you thought you would be passionate about. You can find something else that you’d enjoy more along the way.”  – Miguel Echo-Hawk Lopez (Pawnee, Athabaskan)

“I thought the part when the instructors explained that people randomly come up to them to share something was interesting because that means people are comfortable sharing things with them.” – Autumn Yellowbear (Kiowa, Northern Arapahoe, Eastern Shoshone)

“Speakers such as Matt Remle, Gyasi Ross, Micheal Rios, and Brian “Red Bone” Frisina, all offered valuable lessons for developing critical thinking as a necessity to empower and challenge youth to upend the mainstream narrative and to raise their visibility using writing, reading and voice for meaningful causes,” added Sarah. “Each presenter shared interesting perspectives, insights and challenges to our youth, which made the trainings engaging, interactive and fun.”

Over the five sessions, students improved their critical thinking, writing, and reading comprehension, while learning to discern fact from opinion. All those skills are vitally important for youth to achieve academic excellence in their pursuit of a steadfast career. Students also learned about newspaper layout, interviewing techniques, research methods, and the roles and responsibilities of publishers, reporters and photojournalists. 

The enthusiasm for journalism and an interest for exploring the Native voice in media was a common theme from each student, especially when the Native journalism professionals took front and center. These professionals provided a Native perspective and critical cultural framework for developing tools and techniques to the vast and diverse field of journalism. Many questions were asked by the students and much truth was shared by the instructors. 

“I’ve learned the positive and negative of people who consider themselves right or wrong, and that it takes action from writers/activists to get accurate information to Native American tribes.” – Nevelen Yellowbear (Northern Arapahoe, Kiowa)

“I learned that Tulalip had its own news coverage. I also found that Tulalip News live streams events for people, such as elders, who can’t make it to events can still watch from home, for free.” – Joanne Sayers (Ojibwa, Nez Perce)

“I learned way more about journalism than what I thought I knew, like the daily roles of being a journalist and how to gain access to specific people and places,” shared workshop participant Josiah Vaomu (Northern Arapaho). “Also, learning about how you would want audiences and readers to feel, so that’s pretty cool. I found it interesting how being a journalist means you can cover multiple and diverse topics, like sports and music.”

  “What stood out most to me was that in journalism you try and reflect a specific message or an emotion in the work, whether that’s in writing or even the pictures you take,” said Logan Lebeau (Cheyenne River Sioux). “I also learned to look at both sides of a story and incorporate all viewpoints into my evaluation.”

“What I learned was that Tulalip was its own newspaper. Also learned about what you have to do to be a successful journalist.” – Timothy Shay (Yakama)

“I learned that journalism is more than just reporting, it’s about informing people about what’s happening in the community.” – Noni Echo-Hawk Lopez (Pawnee, Athabaskan)

“Today, I learned that all family members get updated on events or news from the Tulalip News website and social media platforms. Also, the articles they produce cover both positive and negative topics.” – Taleah Vaomu (Kiowa Apache, Northern Arapaho)

Investing in high school students takes time, commitment, and dedication. The Aspiring Journalist Series encouraged Native high school students to work together to tell the stories that are most important to them and their communities. By using current Native media professionals to interact with and inspire the high schoolers, this workshop series not only broadened horizons, it demonstrated that given the opportunity Native young people can and will perform successfully in the media landscape.

Celebrating Clear Sky’s decade of dedication and mentorship to Native Youth

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The stark reality when it comes to Native Americans and the education system isn’t good, in fact it’s pretty poor. The latest stats and trends only demonstrate Native students continue to have difficulty finding success (i.e. graduating high school) in comparison to their peers from different racial backgrounds.

National Congress of American Indians reports that on average, less than 50% of Native students graduate from high school each year in the seven states with the highest percentage of Native students, Washington State is included in that list. Moreover, recent numbers released from local public school districts, such as the Marysville School District and Seattle School District, show their Native student populations only graduating high school at a rate between 43-48%. For reference, the national average for high school student graduation, regardless of race, is 82%, according to recent publications from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Enter Clear Sky, the crown jewel of the Urban Native Education Alliance, a non-profit 501(c)(3), Native-led, grassroots, volunteer-based organization. Clear Sky was founded by urban Native students in Seattle as a youth centered program, serving thousands of Native youth since its inception in 2008.

The marvel of Clear Sky is that since its humble beginning ten years ago, Clear Sky continues to uphold a 100% graduation rate and academic advancement of Native learners who actively participate in its tutoring and mentorship offerings.  Read that again, a 100% high school graduation rate for these Native students.

Sustained success via a decade of dedication and mentorship to Native youth is worth celebrating, so on February 27th a 10-year celebration was held for all Clear Sky has achieved and continues to strive for. The location was none other than Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Seattle’s newest public school named for a beloved Native American educator of the 1980s and ‘90s.

Clear Sky’s decade of dedication celebration featured a host of influential leaders, educators, activists, and former students who spoke about the immensely positive impact Clear Sky makes in the Native community.

“There are many aspects of our ten years I take pride in, given the unconventional model of being the flagship program of our Native-led, non-profit organization Urban Native Education Alliance,” stated UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson (Oglala, Sioux). “Clear Sky has flourished, expanded outreach, and has become part of the fabric of our urban Seattle community. The number of alumni students returning back to volunteer and support Clear Sky is astonishing, and a testament to the impact Clear Sky had on their success. These young adults serve as healthy, positive role models for our youth.

“I’m proud of our ongoing 100% graduation and academic advancement of Clear Sky students throughout the many years of our program. The results are a reflection of our organizations core values and the fostering of leadership through academic achievement, civic service and stewardship.”

Shared values of culture and tradition was on full-display as well, through the sharing of drum circles and song. The UNEA women, led by Roxanne White, brought out the Women’s Warrior Song to honor and remember missing and murdering Indigenous women. The A.I.M. song was performed by a group of proud Lakota men, while Roger Fernandes led the young men of the Clear Sky youth council in a Warrior Song.

“Shout out to Clear Sky and UNEA. Seattle’s Native community has an abundance of incredible leadership making this place one where Native kids can flourish,” remarked Matt Remle, local Lakota activist and Native Liaison for the Marysville School District. “To the volunteers of Clear Sky who have showed up day after day, week after week, and year after year, for the sake of our kids…to the founders, past and present board members, staff, tutors, coaches, mentors, teachers, speakers, student leaders and families, thank you and wow!”

Among the student leaders and athletic coaches is Tulalip tribal member, Cullen Zackuse. Cullen is a Clear Sky Co-Coordinator and Native Warrior Athletics basketball coach. He serves as a youth mentor and provides leadership through positive role modeling. Cullen has strong roots and cultural ties with Tulalip and he brings those cultural/traditional values into every interaction with the urban Native youth.

“I took on a formal role with Clear Sky about six months ago so I could work with the youth after school on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday, but mostly I coach the basketball team for Native Warrior Athletics,” said Cullen of his leadership role within UNEA and Clear Sky. “Working with tribal kids and teaching them the fundamentals of basketball, coaching them at tournaments is making a difference and creates a positive environment for learning.”

Two other notable guests in attendance for the celebration were Seattle Public School Board Member, Scott Pinkham (Nez Perce), and Seattle City Councilmember, Debora Juarez (Blackfeet). They shared in the festivities, spoke on the importance of Clear Sky, and gave special recognition by way of a City of Seattle official Proclamation declaring it “Seattle Clear Sky Day”.

“The content of the Proclamation addresses several decade long issues UNEA and Clear Sky youth have been addressing through Seattle Public Schools public testimony, rallies, community meetings, documentaries, and countless news media interviews and letters, and petitions,” explained UNEA Chairwoman, Sarah Sense-Wilson. “We plan to share the City of Seattle Proclamation with other youth groups and at various venues to illustrate that the City of Seattle supports our initiatives and our vision as a legitimate voice for Indian Education.”

For more information on the Urban Native Education Alliance and Clear Sky, or to contact about mentorship and tutoring opportunities for the youth, please reach out to Sarah Sense-Wilson by phone at (206) 941-0338 or via email

Native Sports and Baden join forces to create new business model

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Two Rivers Community Development Corporation, a non-profit located in North Bend, has created a new company called Native Sports to officially partner with Baden Sports Inc. in a new venture designed to empower Native youth through sports and business. The partnership also hopes to change the landscape of sports balls used on reservations across the country by providing exclusive tribal designed, top-of-the-line basketballs and footballs for play at all levels.

“Native Sports was created for the purpose of working with Native youth to create our next generation of leaders,” explained Chairman Daucey Brewington, a citizen of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. “One of our missions over the next ninety-days is to identify Native youth as potential board members both on their background/interests and their willingness to help develop this new concept.”

Native Sports and Baden Sports formally launched their partnership at the first Native Sports Youth Development Summit held at Baden’s headquarters in Renton on November 21st. Native youth from the twenty-nine tribes in Washington were invited to participate. Attendees learned about the newly formed Native Sports group and how they as youth can become involved in the organization.

Baden representatives provided product overviews and demonstrations, including balls engraved with the Native Sports logo. Proceeds from Native Sports will be used to further educational, athletic, and social development of Native American youth.

“I am proud to stand with Baden Sports to realize this dream of empowering our youth to live better lives through their own efforts,” said President and CEO of Native Sports, Lawrence SpottedBird, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. “This dream is a result of many years of planning to come together. We will show this unique partnership can not only make a profit, but also engage young Native people to become leaders while learning key business skills along the way.”

Among the Youth Development Summit attendees were several members from Puyallup Tribe’s Youth Council and representatives from Muckleshoot. After listening in detail to how they could join the Native Sports business venture, the tribal youth got to meet Baden Sports Vice-President, Jake Licht, and then received a surprise meet and greet with Seahawks legend, Jim Zorn.

For more information about Native Sports or to learn about their products and programs for Native youth, please visit their website

Opportunistic youth enjoy “Glamping” adventure on the Oregon Coast

Sea lions entertain the girls at Port Stevens State Park.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Exploring the great outdoors is a concept lost on most youth today. The digital age has ushered in a generation of children who would rather use their digital devices within the confines of an available Wi-Fi signal than to go outside and play. For precisely this reason, it is imperative children are exposed to nature and their surrounding environments if for nothing else than to remind them there is a whole wondrous world out there and they are a part of it.

“Glamping” is a new term used to describe a method of exploring the outdoors, but still having some of the luxuries and comforts of home. Imagine, a primitive cabin located next to a beach that has bunk beds and electricity to provide heat, but no TVs, no computers, no Wi-Fi. Instead of a kitchen there’s an available fire-pit to make fires and then cook over. Oh, and the only available restroom in the evening is the one you construct. Talk about getting back to nature.

The girls visit the house featured in the movie Goonies.

For eight opportunist youth, plus their two chaperones, this was precisely their set of circumstances as they unplugged for three days and two nights in order to experience the great outdoors, namely the Seaside, Oregon coastline.

Jacynta Myles-Gilford, Kendra McLean, Savannah Black Tomahawk, Hazel Black Tomahawk, Lovaiya Guardipee, Tahlanna Guardipee, Mirayna Guardipee, and Ariyah Guardipee were all glamping first-timers eager to try out the new experience. Their chaperones were Barbara Hinchcliffe, Therapist at Behavioral Health, and Monica Holmes, MSPI Grant Behavioral Health.

“As part of the MSPI grant and values of Tulalip Youth Services, we hope to expose youth to various opportunities to learn and grow, build skills and positive coping mechanisms, while boosting their resiliency and quality of life,” explains Monica on the decision making that ultimately led to the glamping opportunity. “I believe that engaging youth in activities that stimulate their growth mindset, put them in a position to learn and practice self-sufficiency skills, and mentorship through adults who care about them helps our community get one step closer to solving the problem of teen suicide and addiction.”

During the three-day adventure along Seaside’s coastline, each young lady learned some basic outdoor essentials, like how to start a campfire, prepare food, and to cook over a campfire. They were introduced to financial literacy as well. Each participant was given a per diem to cover a meal out, souvenirs and entrance fees to various activities. Many of them learned to budget their money wisely and save for a rainy day.

Stormy weather made-up most of their first two days at the coast, however that didn’t stop the girls from having fun and finding new experiences. Despite the wind and heavy rainfall, the girls geared up in rain ponchos and explored the Seaside beach for adventures in the surf and sand.  Whether it was charging up sand dunes or splashing around in the ocean, there were plenty of smiles to go around.

A high-tide adventure was found at Fort Stevens State Park where the Peter Iredale shipwreck remains along the shore. The youth reveled in the sea foam, waves and climbed the wreck like a jungle gym. They also collected a variety of seashells, sand, and other beach trinkets for their memory cups they created.

While exploring their surroundings, the group came into contact with a variety of animals, such as elk, deer, raccoons, sea lions, and seals. In fact, at one of the coastal docks was a host of seals that entertained the girls with their funny antics and graceful swimming. When the girls bought sardines and tossed them out for the seals to eat as snacks, the seals gave a loud applause through their vocalizing.

The group came into contact with lots of other marine life when they enjoyed a tactile adventure at the Seaside Aquarium. A favorite spot was the octopus tank where those brave enough could reach into a water tank and feel the underside of octopus tentacles. The touch tank exposed the girls to a wide variety of local sea life located in the Pacific Ocean. Creatures like starfish, anemone, and sea urchins beckoned them to learn more about a range of textures, colors and habitats of each animal through a completely hands-on approach.

“My favorite part was…probably all of it!” exclaimed 11-year-old Savannah of her glamping experience. “I learned to work together and spend my money wisely.”

“I liked seeing such big waves. I’ve never seen ones like that before,” added 14-year-old Hazel.

While she enjoyed the getaway and seeing all the sights, 13-year-old Lovaiya said she “learned to be prepared” when it comes to the outdoors and inclement weather.

Reflecting on the Oregon Coast adventure with eight energetic youth minus smart phones and TV, chaperone Monica can’t help but smile. “Eight girls in two small cabins did not come without its minor setbacks. Youth were encouraged to express their issues in a forum where they could be resolved in a calm and constructive fashion. Each girl walked away learning how to resolve issues, trust each other, and live up to expectations for conduct and healthy communication. They represented the Tulalip Tribes, their families, and themselves well during our travels. I am so proud of the leaps and bounds everyone has made and look forward to watching them bloom into their highest potential.”

Next Gen leaders step forward


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Saturday, January 14, eight representatives of Tulalip’s future leaders were introduced to the Board of Directors. These eight strong-spirited, young men and women were sworn in to be the next cohort to make-up the Tulalip Youth Council.

“Congratulations to the Tulalip Tribes new 2017 Tulalip Youth Council. I’m excited to work with them and look forward to seeing them grow and prosper,” said Board of Director Theresa Sheldon. “Our youth are so important and when they are given a positive opportunity, they always rise to the occasion. I believe in them and am so proud of them. We are so thankful for the amazing staff who continually supports them and provides them with a safe place to be creative and build as a team.”



Being willing to step up and represent your community is a huge undertaking for anyone, especially true for our youth. They have each opted to take this critical step together and aim to be role models in and out of the classroom for their peers. When you see these youth, please congratulate them for committing to a productive year of making positive change for their peers and community, and thank them for taking on this important role of leadership.




Jlynn Joseph, Chairwoman
Kordelle Hammons, Co-Vice Chairman
Keely Gobin Mcghie, Co-Vice Chairwoman
Shayleigh Tucker, Treasurer
Irista Reeves, Media Coordinator
Ilivia Hatch, Media Coordinator
Tamiah Joseph, Junior Representative
Dexter Smith, Junior Representative

Youth Perspectives: Suicide

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Talking to adolescents and teens about sensitive issues can be a daunting task, let alone trying to start a conversation about youth suicide. However, it is of vital importance that the conversation be had and the youth allowed to speak freely on the subject. It’s imperative there be no judgement, no pressure, and no expectation. The goal is to create a comfortable space where conversation flows naturally. During these times the youth can be very enlightening and provide insight to a topic we may not have considered before.

Over a period of weeks, this comfortable space where conversation could flow freely was created with several Tulalip youth who are highly vested in their community. These are youth who range in age from 8th grade to recent high school graduates, with the majority being current high schoolers. It was made clear that their perspective on suicide would remain anonymous and be contributed to a collaboration article with several of their peers. The focus of conversation was on the recent coverage and response to community suicides over the last few months, their thoughts on what leads Native youth to contemplate suicide, and what they feel would be effective programs and developments to prevent teen suicide.



“As Native youth, we have endured so much loss and pain when it comes to losing family members or close friends or even just stress within our family. We are still suffering from the impacts of the genocide to our ancestors. Even today, almost on a daily basis the outside world still tries to strip us of what’s left of our culture. We’re like 50 years behind on education, we are more prone to addiction, alcoholism and using drugs. Let the youth know that we don’t have to continue that cycle. We can break those cycles of being addicts and uneducated. We can focus more on education, sports, and being culturally and community oriented.”


“Often partying is glorified. We should try to have more programs to go against all the things considered cool to do as a high school students. The underage drinking, smoking, ditching school, and things like that. We need prevention programs that actually speak to us, keep us busy, and focused on what’s really important. Let’s teach the youth to aspire to something greater…than just being on the Rez living paycheck to paycheck.”


“When you’re a teen you think it’s cool to look older or act older or do adult things, but you’re still just a kid. You’re still in high school. Why not learn to be a cool kid but in different ways? We try so hard to fit in but really in the world after high school its cooler to stand out.”


“There are definitely cycles that have been created. We all know and are told everything about suicide. We’ve seen the statistics that show we are more likely than other cultures to commit suicide. We know that’s there. Even when you’re in the moment, you know that’s going to be passed on, you’re going to become another statistic, but it still happens anyway. It’s hard to get out of that thinking that life just isn’t worth it anymore. Creating programs that help us to aspire, to know that whatever it is we’re going through doesn’t have to define us, that this isn’t the end of our journey, but the beginning, is critical to us breaking those cycles.”


“There’s a program at Behavioral Health that’s so amazing, but not a lot of people know about it. They offer counseling, someone for you to talk to about anything. Even if it’s something as simple as wanting to voice your thoughts they’ll listen. It’s located in the old Montessori building. They offer transportation so they can pick you up from school, will take you to appointments if your parents can’t. This program is so readily available, you just have to take the first step of reaching out to them.”


“I have cousins whose parents try to deny the fact they need help, that they have depression, and are suicidal. They need help from people who can support them and help them with what they are thinking and feeling, but their parents want to push it all under the rug. That doesn’t help anyone. It’s that old style of thinking that some of our parents still have and we need help breaking that cycle, too.”


“There’s a slippery slope that comes when discussing overdoses and deaths related to drugs and alcohol. Suicides is a part of that. The lines get blurred when it comes to a teenager who is driving drunk or high, crashes, and dies as a result. To some that’s considered not a suicide, but to others it is. Sometimes those of us closer to the situation know the true intent even if people want to deny it. If we count some of the drug and alcohol related deaths as suicides then that statistic for Tulalip looks a lot worse.”


“We hear a lot about generational trauma and the importance of our culture. After Jaylen, there were a lot of outsiders brought in and our space was no longer ours. In a way the response to bring in those outside professionals triggered more trauma in us. What do they know about our generation? What do they know about our culture? It’s hard enough for us to talk about sensitive subjects with family and friends. How were we expected to talk about these subjects and our thoughts and feelings with people we never seen before and didn’t know? It happened again after Dontae. It’s hard to talk about sensitive issues with strangers. Bringing outsiders to our spaces isn’t effective and doesn’t help us to heal.”


“When they had people who we didn’t know posted at the Teen Center it’s like you guys are messing with somewhere we feel safe, where we feel like we don’t have to be afraid or sad. Having those people there made some of us be elsewhere because we go to the Teen Center to be comfortable around our friends, not to be judged by people who don’t know us. It’s our safe haven and for that time we weren’t allowed to feel safe there.”


“I think that people find comfort in those they know and are familiar with. Starting our own teen support group is a good start. We want a place to talk about our feelings with people who understand what we’re going through. If you’re feeling suicidal or feeling like you don’t have anywhere else to go, then a peer-to-peer support group would be there for you.”


“Over the last couple months, since Dontae, there has been an increase in teens attempting suicide. I know of four or five attempts and that most likely isn’t all that have tried. I know a lot of people who feel so lonely and have suicidal thoughts, but there’s nothing I can do to help them. It’s hard because our youth are so stubborn. Trying to help someone is really hard if they don’t want to be helped. So we, as a community, need to work together on finding out what the emptiness is and how we can fill it.”


“A lot of why we are so apart as a community is we’ve lost so much of our culture. We are so disconnected from values are ancestors had. We really need to push our culture, like to an extreme extent to make up for all that we’ve lost. We hear so much talk on the importance of family and community, but it seems we are more divided than ever. Families vs. families, old feuds, and people fighting over who gets what. It’s like we need to learn to be a true community again. At the end of the day, all of us are Tulalip family.”


“There are so many of us who don’t even know who their family is because everyone is so caught up in their own day to day life. The support that should be there isn’t and we don’t know who to turn to. It’s sad. That’s where the loneliness comes from.”


“It’s interesting that when threatened by outsiders our people band together like no other. The tribal mentality and need to protect one another is super strong then. So why don’t we have that mentality all the time? Something that has stuck with me is at a community potluck put together by Natosha Gobin and Malory Simpson, it was geared towards the youth but a lot of families came together, and they said we should come together in the good times, not only the bad times like funerals. I think there should be more of a push to go to community potlucks, community gatherings, and having the youth get together. We find comfort talking to people that we know. Having events or community dinners where the youth can come and have a good time then our parents would be able to catch up with their friends, too.”


“We know the odds are against us. It’s up to us to work against these stats and cycles we hear so much about. Suicides, lack of education, alcoholism, addiction…all these things are working against us, all the percentages are negatively in our favor. We can’t just get stuck in what we know, we have to be open to what we don’t know. We have all this possibility in front of us and in our future. Why not try to turn that possibility into something positive? There’s so much more out there for us than just the stats and cycles. There’s a whole world of possibility out there, beyond this Rez. It’s up to us to realize that and not be afraid to journey on our own path. We decide what our story will be.”

Tulalip-based Juvenile Diversion Panel seeking additional volunteers

By Wendy Church, Tribal Court Director

Since starting the juvenile diversion panel (known as the Tulalip Community Accountability Board) in July 2009 here on the Tulalip Reservation, the C.A.B. has heard 58 cases so far.   This diversion program is an alternative to the juvenile court process.

The C.A.B. meets monthly with tribal member youths under the age of 18 years old who are arrested for minor offenses and are eligible for participation in this program.  Objectives of the panel are to hold the youth accountable for their actions, foster a change in the youth’s attitude, impress upon the youth the community is concerned about their conduct, increase the youth’s awareness of impact their behavior has; and to maximize opportunities for the youth.

We are actively recruiting additional volunteers for the Tulalip-based C.A.B.  Volunteers must possess an interest in youth and commitment to the welfare of others; have a non-judgmental attitude; treat youth and families with dignity and respect; have the ability to hold confidences and respect others privacy; have the ability to communicate effectively; have the ability to work and problem-solve with other volunteers; and have prior experience with youth.

The C.A.B. meets once a month at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tulalip Tribal Court.

If you are interested in being a volunteer, please contact Emmy Hoff, Juvenile Probation Counselor at the Denny Juvenile Justice Center for an application.  Applicants will be screened for any criminal record and will be required to attend a 2-hour training.  Ms. Hoff can be reached at 425 / 388-7917.