A perfect day, a perfect moment’: UNITY mural revealed

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Don “Penoke” Hatch Youth Center. Kenny Moses Building. Greg Williams Court. Alpheus “Gunny” Jones Ball Field. Debra Barto Skate Park. 

These locations have become five common place names in everyday Tulalip lexicon. However, the people these locations are named after are anything but common.            They were influential individuals who dedicated much of their lives to supporting, bettering, and empowering tribal youth. 

Each a Tulalip citizen, their commendable spirits are now immortalized in paint as part of a five portrait project known as the UNITY mural. The highly anticipated mural reveal took place on Saturday, April 13.

 “This is a perfect day, a perfect moment,” declared Herman Williams Jr., a representative from Greg Williams’ family shortly after the murals were unveiled. “This is what we are about as Tulalip people, honoring those who had a positive effect on ourselves. Each mural is of someone who was very influential to us as young people, old people, and everything in between.” 

More than 150 community members gathered at Greg Williams Court to share in the special moment as the curtains were pulled down and the vibrant portraits were put on full display. This type of gathering was exactly what the project coordinator had in mind.

“Initially, I envisioned something that would bring the community together and bring families together,” explained mural coordinator Deyamonta Diaz. “These murals tell the stories behind our buildings, who they are named after, and the legacy these people left. To see all five people together gives the families an opportunity to share memories. 

“Also, for the people who don’t know them, they are going ask ‘who are these people?’ and ‘why are their pictures up?’” added Deyamonta. “I think that’s a great conversation starter for the community to keep these people’s legacies alive.”

Legacy was a concept routinely mentioned as speakers and representatives for each painted figure shared loving words and fond memories. A shared hope for future generations to carry on their family member’s legacy through resolve and action, while looking to each painting as a symbol of support when needed, was also expressed repeatedly at the podium. 

Don “Penoke” Hatch gets an up close and personal view of his portrait, while daughter Denise speaks of his long-time commitment to the youth.

Four of the five mural honorees have passed on, with Penoke Hatch being the lone exception. 

“As we look at these murals, it’s important to know each one of them is still here with us. They are here in their families who tell their stories,” shared Penoke. “Each one of them made an impact in different ways. They always took care of everybody, especially the young ones. Thank you to the artists, Youth Services, and the Tribe for what they did here to honor us.” 

Honoring those represented on the Tulalip Bay athletic campus with a UNITY mural was made possible in partnership with Youth Services and local Native artists, Monie Ordonia (Tulalip) and Jordan Willard (Tlingit).

Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia (right) and assistant Jordan Williard (Tlingit) reflect on their painting process during the mural reveal.

“They had a vision of having portraits in mural form of all the legends that these building are named after,” said Monie. “The concept incorporates Native colors, so we used red, black, yellow, and white as the backgrounds. For Debbie, we used gray as the background and then incorporated her grandchildren’s hand prints.

“I like to feel the energy of who I’m painting, like an activation, it helps bring the person to life,” continued Monie. “Once the murals are complete and I look into the eyes of the painting, then I can feel them communicating with me. Hopefully, that helps other people have the ability to do the same.”

The memories of Kenny Moses, Debra Barto, Greg Williams, Penoke and Gunny Jones are kept alive by those who knew them best. Some were beneficiaries of their admirable determination, while others were fortunate to witness their heroic exploits in action. For everyone else, the UNITY mural serves as a reminder that legends are never forgotten. 

Young Active Native Americans: We Choose Life



Article and photos by Kalvin Valdillez

Unity Month, held in October, was designed by the Marysville School District and the Tulalip Tribes to unite the youth of the community to heal together and raise awareness to topics such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and suicide. During Unity Month many events are held such as Friday Night Lights, a fieldtrip to the corn maze, and perhaps most importantly the Young Active Native Americans (YANA) Conference hosted by Tulalip Youth Council.

Focusing on healing and love, the October 18 conference included raffles, activities, and one insanely fun icebreaker where the youth played an adaptation of musical chairs.  Instead of chairs, they were assigned a random partner, and instead of sitting they had to find each other amongst the crowd within five seconds and touch each other (example: elbow to elbow or knee to forehead).

Native American activists Chad Charlie, Calina Lawrence, LoVina Louie, Mylo Smith, and Deborah Parker were in attendance to teach workshops and talk to the youth about leadership, self-care, suicide prevention, healthy relationships, and growing up on the reservation.

Tulalip tribal member Deborah Parker spoke to the youth about domestic violence, sexual abuse and how to have thriving healthy relationships as a survivor.

Tulalip tribal member Deborah Parker spoke to the youth about domestic violence, sexual abuse.
Tulalip tribal member Deborah Parker spoke to the youth about domestic violence and sexual abuse.


She states, “When you’re young, having good positive self-esteem is difficult especially if you’re a survivor of sexual abuse. I think in this generation we’re finally now openly talking about both sexual abuse and domestic violence. We’re now talking about the importance of having a healthy relationship not only with yourself but with others as well.”

Deborah continued by informing the youth of the recent findings of sexual abuse in Native America. She stated that this past April, research showed that 87% of young female Natives were abused and 83% of young male Natives were abused. She urged the kids to be aware because the abusers are usually people they know.

“I’m no longer ashamed to say I’m a victim of child sexual assault. I was embarrassed until I was 24 years old. Not often are the perpetrators unknown to us. Sometimes it’s going to be someone you love and trust like family. It’s could be a cousin, uncle, grandfather, and yes sometimes it’s even aunties. Do not be ashamed if it’s happened to you. That’s how we are going to break the silence and stop this. We’re going to speak the truth. Victims should not be shamed or blamed. We are going to raise our voices and raise awareness so the perpetrators who hurt us, won’t hurt others. We need love. That’s the foundation we need, and it begins by loving yourself. Self-love is so important. Believe in what you have, only you know what it is, and take care of it. And please take care of your spirit.”

Deborah’s speech prompted two tribal members, a youth and an elder, to share their stories.

Velda Gobin, Tulalip Education Manager and Tulalip Elder drew from her past experiences with abuse.

“[Sexual abuse and domestic violence] hasn’t changed since my generation. Its still happening and the same type of people are still doing it. When I was young I grew up in a dysfunctional family, there was a lot of drinking. My stepfather was violent and used to beat my mom all the time. I was the oldest so I had to hide my brothers and sisters.”

Velda went on to explain that although her stepfather physically abused her she was never sexually abused. She continued, “but I was molested by a cousin, a girl. It’s people you love and trust who usually do this. If it’s happened to you, I hope you speak to somebody because you shouldn’t have to go through this alone.”

Young Tulalip tribal member, Perfecto Diaz, had to express his thoughts and feelings to his peers. Deborah’s words sparked something inside him that made him take the microphone and address what he believes is a division between the adults and youth.

Perfecto stated, “I’ve been having a tough life so far. I know you guys talk a lot about love, but when you come around I don’t feel it. We don’t see it. I want to be a role model to these kids. I write music and poetry in my free time. I have things to say. I am a survivor and I’m still going through the struggle every single day. I went through beda?chelh and the system. I am angry but we need a positive role model, so that’s what I am going to be. There’s wicked people out there. They’re not playing games. I pray for every kid here going through the struggle because I’m out here grinding every day, going through it with you.”

Perfecto’s words resonated throughout the rest of the conference. Each speaker congratulated and thanked him for speaking his mind, including Comedian/Activist Chad Charlie.


Chad Charlie, Native American Activist, speaks to the youth of Tulalip about suicide prevention at the first annual Young Active Native Americans (YANA) Conference.
Chad Charlie, Native American Activist, speaks to the youth of Tulalip about suicide prevention at the first annual Young Active Native Americans (YANA) Conference.


Chad stated, “I want to say I have a lot of respect for [Perfecto], he spoke his truth. We need more young people to stand up and utilize their voice and speak on the reality of our world as Indigenous People.”

Chad has spent the last two months in North Dakota protesting alongside the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline. He talked about finding his path in life. Over the past five years Chad has been making a name for himself as a stand-up comedian. He states because of the name he built for himself, he was able to use his voice to reach a larger audience regarding this much bigger issue. Chad spoke to the conference attendees about suicide prevention.





“I want to remind every single person that you all have a purpose. Regardless of how small or large those purposes are; they all mean something. It could be cooking, singing, writing poetry, making people laugh. Those purposes can change the world,” expressed Chad.

LoVina Louie, Native American Activist, gathered everybody and faced them towards a handmade sign that read We Choose Love. She then called Perfecto to the front of the crowd and had everybody place a hand on each other’s shoulder. “Perfecto said he heard a lot of talk about love but doesn’t feel it. I want to make sure that he and everybody in this room know they are loved.” LoVina then led the group in prayer, asking for a cleansing throughout the Tulalip community.

Tears were shed but there was no shortage of laughter. Serious topics were discussed and entertaining games were played. Both hugs and prizes were handed out. As the first annual YANA Conference came to an end, the youth of Tulalip began the healing process together.



United National Tribal Youth, Inc. Receives $850K Grant from Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Source: Red Lake Nation News

Chandler, Arizona–United National Indian Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) has entered into a four-year cooperative agreement with the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to plan and implement the National Intertribal Youth Leadership Development Initiative. The Initiative’s goal is to offer opportunities for Native American youth to, “Reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors in youth, schools, communities, and families.” To accomplish this goal, the Initiative will conduct a series of national and regional Intertribal Youth Leadership Development gatherings and a range of related youth leadership development opportunities for Native American and Alaska Native youth.

UNITY, Inc. is a national network organization promoting personal development, citizenship, and leadership among Native youth between the ages of 14 – 24. UNITY affiliated youth councils that make up the National UNITY Council will have an opportunity to put the training their youth members receive through the Initiative to good use within their communities as the youth themselves learn by doing. The training will enable the youth to plan, organize, and carry out service projects within their respective communities. These youth led projects will benefit tribal communities while providing valuable real world leadership experiences that will better prepare the involved youth to assume and succeed in their future leadership roles. UNITY and a team of technical assistance providers will offer guidance and support to engaged youth and their adult advisors throughout the project to help ensure the successful completion of the service projects.

“The Initiative provides welcome resources that will help make it possible for UNITY to continue the important work that it has performed for the past 37 years. The UNITY staff, members of the Council of Trustees, and the youth leaders of the National UNITY Council are looking forward to working with the OJJDP staff and its team of consultants and trainers to provide our Native American youth with the added opportunities for personal development the Initiative makes possible. I personally encourage Native youth and youth-serving programs throughout Native America to take part in this important Initiative,” said Mary Kim Titla, UNITY Executive Director.

UNITY staff, OJJDP staff, trainers and technical assistance providers will collaboratively develop and adopt specific project objectives along with a plan for accomplishing the Initiative’s overall goals. The schedule for all project activities and events is expected to be completed and announced on the UNITY website (www.unityinc.org) as well as through other media outlets shortly after the start of the New Year.

UNITY’s mission is to foster the spiritual, mental, physical and social development of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and to help build a strong, unified, and self-reliant Native America through greater youth involvement. UNITY’s network currently includes 132 affiliated youth councils in 35 states. Youth Councils are sponsored by Tribes, Alaska Native villages, high schools, colleges, urban centers, and others. To learn more about UNITY, visit the website at http://www.unityinc.org.