Gathering foods, spiritual medicine

Rediscovery Program brings people together to learn and share in the harvest and use of traditional foods


Inez Bill-Gobin slices clam strips to be smoked.Photo: Andrew Gobin/Tulalip News
Inez Bill-Gobin slices clam strips to be smoked.
Photo: Andrew Gobin/Tulalip News

By Andrew Gobin, photos by Andrew Gobin, Niki Cleary, and Theresa Sheldon

The Rediscovery Program at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve has been more busy than usual over the last few weeks, gathering and processing traditional foods. Program staff have been planning harvesting events, showing groups of Tulalip community members how to what can be gathered where, when, and how.

Program Coordinator Inez Bill-Gobin said, “Our native foods feed not only our bodies, but our spirits too. I think we are really rich in our culture when we are able to harvest and use our native foods.”

On Monday, June 30, Rediscovery Program staff took a group of Tulalip community members to gather wild blackberries, elderberries, and native teas. A bountiful harvest yielding much more than foods, as many teachings are shared.

Bill said, “We were gathering wild blackberry. A lot of people don’t know that these small berries are indigenous berries. Not like the Himalayan Blackberry you see, which is invasive.”

These events and others like them are in preparations for a cultural workshop to take place in early August of this year. Each excursion is an opportunity to learn about the many uses of traditional foods. For example, the blackberry vines offer more than berries, the leaves can be made into tea. While they gathered no blackberry leaves, the group did harvest horsetail and fireweed to be dried for tea. The people gathering foods and materials with the Rediscovery Program will become teachers themselves, as the community draws together for four or five days of gathering traditional foods, preparing them, enjoying them, and learning and remembering the traditional ways of our people.

“Everyone has a gift. Everyone has something to offer. These teachings are our teachings, and they are for everyone. Even the new ones have a gift. I was teasing Niki that we know what her gift is, she picked the most berries of all of us,” said Bill about Niki Cleary, who harvest blackberries with the June 30 group.

On Tuesday, July 1, people joined the Rediscovery staff at the Hibulb Cultural Center to process the berries, canning them into preserves for later cultural activities.

After drying for a few days, the horsetail and fireweed teas were ready to be processed and packed away. On Thursday, July 3, Bill and her protégé Virginia Jones taught Courtney Sheldon and Darkfeather Ancheta how to make the horsetail and fireweed teas, specifically the base measurements and cook time.

About six weeks ago, the Rediscovery Program harvested clams and cockles, freezing them. Tuesday, July 8, rediscovery, youth services, and cultural staff processed the clams along with a deer, to be smoked, using their new smokehouse for the first time.

Inez Bill-Gobin, Donald Jones, and others peel smoked deer off of the racks after they smoked for a few hours.Photo: Andrew Gobin/Tulalip News
Inez Bill-Gobin, Donald Jones, and others peel smoked deer off of the racks after they smoked for a few hours.
Photo: Andrew Gobin/Tulalip News

The dates for the harvest celebration in August are yet to be determined. Look for updates here in the see-yaht-sub, on Tulalip News website, or contact events coordinator Robert Watson by phone at (360) 716-4194, or by email at for more information.


Andrew Gobin is a staff reporter with the Tulalip News See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department.
Phone: (360) 716.4188

Nettle, the nutritional nuisance: Hibulb rediscovery program begins annual spring harvest of traditional superfood

Inez Bill discusses how to gather Nettle.
Inez Bill discusses how to gather Nettle. Photo: Francesca Hillery

By Andrew Gobin, photos by Francesca Hillery

The nuisance in the back yard known for its annoying sting and pungent earthy smell, nettle is not the most desirable flora of the Pacific Northwest. For northwest tribes, however, nettle is a cultural and traditional staple. The Rediscovery Program at the Hibulb Cultural Center began their spring harvest of nettle sprouts March 12th, working to reintroduce the use of nettle into the community and continuing the revitalization of our culture.

Inez Bill, who has spent the last ten years learning about how to use nettle, harvested nettle sprouts on the bluff above Arcadia on the Tulalip Reservation. Derek Houle, who has been involved with the culture program for most of his life, and Lauw-Ya Spencer, who became involved in 2012 through the summer youth program, joined Bill as they gathered the sprouts to use in the rediscovery program. They then process the nettle sprouts for use in foods and preserve some nettle for continued use throughout the year.

“Nettle was a staple for our people for hundreds of years,” explained Bill, “It has tremendous health benefits. For food you have to harvest the sprouts in the spring, or in the summer you can harvest the tops of the nettle, the stock gets too hard. Here at the museum we have expanded the uses. We make nettle tea and different flavored lemonades with nettle tea. We also have created Hibulb Bread, which is like buckskin bread, only more healthy and nutritional.”

Bill and her husband, the late Hank Gobin, learned to harvest and prepare nettle and other traditional flora from Valerie Segrest, Elise Krohn, and the late Bruce Miller, whose dedicated themselves to cultural revitalization and educating about traditional flora. Bringing that knowledge to the rediscovery program, Bill continues their work in revitalizing traditional plant use. As a girl, Bill’s elders instilled in her the respect and reverence for these traditional plants as foods and as medicines and she hands down those teachings throughout the rediscovery program. She also gets creative, incorporating nettle into many recipes.

“The Hibulb bread is diabetic friendly. It is made with ground almond meal instead of flour, and without salt or sugar. Ground nettle is added, but we had to play around with how much was the right amount.” said Bill.

A true superfood, nettle is packed with nutrients. It can be ground up and added to almost any dish for a healthy boost. The cultural center makes a seasoning, ground nettle for recipe ingredients, blanched and frozen nettle for later in the year, nettle stock, nesto (nettle pesto), and so much more. As a cultural staple, beyond food, nettle was traditionally made into twine and nets, it is one of the stronger natural twines.

To learn more about the rediscovery program, or to participate in activities, contact Inez Bill at the Hibulb Cultural Center at (360) 716-2638.



Nutrients of nettle mg/100g (About 1 Cup)

  • Calcium 2900
  • Magnesium 860
  • Iron 41.8
  • Potassium 1750
  • Vitamin A 18,700 AU
  • Vitamin C 83
  • Thiamine .54
  • Riboflavin .43
  • Niacin 5.2
  • Chromium 3.9
  • Cobalt 13.2
  • Phosphorus 447
  • Zinc 4.7
  • Manganese 860
  • Selenium 2.2
  • Sodium 4.9
  • Protein 16.5%


Andrew Gobin is a reporter with the See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department.
Phone: (360) 716.4188