Decolonizing the Reservation one plant at a time 

By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

Colonization is named the root of numerous ills in Native America. We often forget that while our people and culture suffered the effects of colonization by other humans, our lands were also colonized by non-native plants. Some are easily managed, and others have been wildly out of control since nearly the day they were introduced.

  On the Tulalip Reservation, Poison Hemlock, Scotch Broom, and Japanese Knotweed are some of the most pervasive. The problem isn’t that non-native species are inherently bad. In fact, many beneficial food crops are non-native. The most obvious problem is that invasive species outcompete native species that provide food and shelter for native animals.

  Austin Richard, a Stewardship Ecologist with Tulalip’s Natural and Cultural Resources Division, is part of the team working to decolonize habitats on the Reservation.

  “Part of my job entails invasive plant management and treatment both on Reservation and throughout our usual and accustomed areas,” he explained. “We define invasive species as plants or animals that do not naturally occur in an ecosystem and whose introduction can cause environmental harm, economic harm, or harm to human health.”

The on-Reservation efforts focus on areas where people work or play regularly. The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the Gathering Hall, and the Health Clinic waterfront. Austin described the three primary species his team is targeting.

  Poison Hemlock, as its name implies, is toxic to people and animals. “We want to make sure it’s not accidentally ingested or harming people,” said Austin.

According to the USDA*:

Poison Hemlock can poison animals who eat the plant, either fresh or dried.

It looks very similar to wild parsnip, which is edible.

Children have been poisoned and died from using the hollow stems as homemade whistles.

Signs of Poison Hemlock exposure include trembling, ataxia (poor muscle control) that affects the lower or hind limbs, salivation, lack of coordination, dilation of the pupils, rapid, weak pulse, respiratory paralysis, coma, death, convulsions and occasionally bloody feces and gastrointestinal irritation.

  Scotch Broom is next on the list. Whether they know it or not, most people have seen Scotch Broom growing alongside the freeway. According to the National Parks Service** it is a member of the pea family. This ornamental was introduced to North America from Africa and parts of Europe. It was also used as erosion control along highways. Its bright yellow flowers are in full brilliant display currently. When the plant is pollinated, it produces pods that dry and twist until they burst, flinging thousands of seeds into the surrounding area.

  “The major problem with Scotch Broom is how rapidly it spreads,” said Austin. “It out shades and outcompetes native plants so that nothing else can get established. It’s really difficult to control because those seed pods explode and release tens of thousands of seeds. Those seeds can last upwards of 60 years in the soil. So even if you kill the plant initially, if you’re not reintroducing native plants in the soil, the seeds can propagate, and you have more Scotch Broom plants.”

  Japanese Knotweed is the third target species. Another escaped ornamental, Japanese Knotweed can grow up to 8 feet tall, spread by seed, tiny plant fragments, and its extensive root system. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as bamboo, *** Japanese Knotweed has reddish brown hollow stems, large leaves, and whitish flowers that grow in clusters. Although it seems like a pretty landscape plant, it can cause some real damage to infrastructure and the environment.

  “Salmon need really specific habitat and conditions,” described Austin. “They need cooler water temperatures and specific gravel types, not too small like sand and silts because that will suffocate their eggs, but not so large that the salmon can’t move them to create the redds (nests) where they lay their eggs. The problem with Knotweed is that it doesn’t allow those conifers to grow and provide shade to the streams.

  Lack of large conifers also impacts the way streams flow, said Austin, “Those large conifers grow and then fall into the water, providing larger woody debris and creating pooling, and more habitat complexity that salmon and smaller fish rely on. Knotweed also grows extensive root systems that spread out – but don’t stabilize the soils. That allows the banks to become eroded and provide more silt and sand that covers up spawning gravel and suffocates salmon eggs.”

  Knowing the damage they do, it still begs the question, why pesticides? Can’t we rip them out and call it good? It’s not that easy, said Austin. Each plant requires a specific chemical treatment administered within a particular time frame to be effective. The team always weighs the benefits and risks before resorting to chemical interventions.

  “We use manual and mechanical means whenever possible unfortunately, some of those natural vinegar-type treatments just don’t work,” said Austin. When used according to the regulatory guidelines and labels, the products we use are very safe for humans and animals. Once they’re sprayed, and the product dries, there is minimal risk to humans and animals.”

  Signage is posted indicating the day and time the area was treated to protect and educate people.  

  “We recommend people avoid the area for 24-48 hours to allow the herbicides to dry on the plants and reduce any impacts. The chemicals we use are all approved for aquatic use by the EPA and Washington State Department of Agriculture.”

  If you want to know more or have noxious weeds from your property, contact Austin at 360-716-4603, or email

  • *Source:
  •  ** Source:,along%20highway%20cuts%20and%20fills.
  •  *** Source:

Container for Life secures lifesaving information

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

An exciting and potentially life-saving program is being welcomed into the Tulalip community. In a true collaborative effort by Community Health and Tulalip Bay Fire to not waste a single second while attending to our on-reservation residents during emergency situations, the family friendly Container for Life launch event is scheduled for June 16, from 3pm to 5pm, at the Tulalip fire station.

The Container for Life is designed to speak for you when you can’t speak for yourself. The container holds important information that can assist emergency personnel in administering proper medical treatment. 

“When a medical emergency has occurred, it’s very hard for the person involved or their family to answer all the questions that EMS and/or medical personnel will need to ask. With the Container for Life, most of that information is in the container. This helps ease stress and errors that can occur when people are under duress,” explained lead nurse for Community Health, Ashley Schmidt.

What is the Container for Life program? 

The Container for Life program is a community safety and harm reduction program. In the case of a medical emergency one of the most crucial factors is time. The Container for Life provides crucial information for EMS and medical professionals to quickly assess and respond on an individual basis during an emergency. 

Why should our community make it a priority to implement the Container for Life in their homes? 

Tulalip consists of 22,000 acres or 35 square miles. Much of the area has limited access, often only one road in and out. 4 out of 5 Tulalip emergencies happen in the home. The Container for Life will greatly assist in addressing medical needs immediately and possibly prevent a need to go the hospital, not to mention this could be lifesaving. In addition, there is a section on the Medical Information Form for tribal members to include preferences and goals of care. For example, this would be a great place to include cultural considerations such as not cutting one’s hair or spiritual preferences. 

Which services and programs are collaborating to bring this potentially lifesaving program to Tulalip? 

The Community Health nurse team and the Tulalip Bay Fire paramedic team have partnered together to bring this life saving product to tribal homes. The Community Health Department was awarded a Public Health Improvement & Training subaward through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB).  

This subaward will fund the Container for Life project as well as ACT community classes. ACT stands for Antidote, CPR and Tourniquet. The Community Health nurses and community paramedics will offer important classes on reversing overdoses using Narcan, compression-only bystander CPR and in-the-field tourniquet use to stop critical bleeds (i.e. fishing or hunting accidents, car or ATV accidents, etc.). These classes will begin later this summer.  

Who is championing the Container for Life cause already and what messages are they hoping to share?

Ray Sheldon Jr. and Rhonda Gobin are our two Container for Life champions. Ray said, “We have to think about the larger picture. If I have to go to a new medical provider or for some reason have to go to a different hospital than Providence, say Overlake or Evergreen, then I can grab the container. It has all my important medical information in it and is readily accessible to go where I go. It’s a win-win.”

Rhonda shared, “Not everyone has access to get a Life Alert. Knowing that I live alone and my information is there if it is needed. It gives me lots of assurance and confidence in the EMTs. I’d advise my fellow elders to not be afraid and try something new. Trust in this program because it is good. This makes me feel safe. I have had many good experiences with Tulalip Bay Fire. This Container for Life would have saved my grandmas life and many other people’s lives. We have attended so many funerals that we should never had to if they had this.”

How can interested individuals and/or families participate? 

KICK-OFF distribution event: Friday June 16th at 3pm, come by the Tulalip Bay Fire Department to learn about the project, receive a Container for Life kit and meet the teams! This is a family-friendly event. We will serve BBQ foods. We will also have TPD Community Outreach there with the canine unit and the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator to engage with the community. 

After the distribution event, we will have Containers for Life kits available for pick-up both at the TBFD and Community Health buildings. In addition, EMS teams will have kits for distribution while they work in the field. 

Community Health can be contacted for additional information at 360.716.5662 option 5.

Each Container for Life kits will include:

  • The Container for Life vial
  • A branded magnet for the refrigerator 
  • A branded window cling for a front facing door or window 
  • 2 medical information forms 
  • An instruction card explaining how to use all of the above items

Passing the baton

Kenzie leads Lakewood relay team to State showing 

The Lakewood relay team etched their names in school history with 6th place at State.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During the summer of 2022, soon-to-be high school senior Kenzie Thompson Sheldon made the decision to transfer from Marysville Getchell to Lakewood. A seemingly simple enough transfer had major ramifications for the three-time Varsity letter earner for her prowess on the soccer field, as Washington Interscholastic Activities Association — the state’s governing body for high school sports – denied her petition to play soccer at Lakewood during her senior year.

Roughly half the country’s state athletic associations require one year of ineligibility for student-athletes transferring for anything other than “bona fide” family reasons, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. This longstanding restriction is generally an attempt to prevent high school athletic programs from recruiting and thereby gaining a competitive advantage.

Kenzie prepares to run the first leg of her team’s 4×100 relay.

With her decision to transfer high schools for her senior year solidified, the Tulalip soccer standout had no other choice but to consider playing another sport to fulfill her competitive spirit. She had previously participated in track and field events while in middle school. Memories of running the mile and doing the long jump seemed like forever ago, but more prominent was the litany of soft tissue injuries that plagued her from year-round soccer.

“It was important for me to play a sport during my last year of high school. Even though I had strained muscles in my back and groin playing soccer and then running track in consecutive seasons in the past, I was confident with the time I had before track started that I could make my body strong enough to withstand the stress of sprinting,” said Kenzie. 

And so during the three winter months, she focused her sights on Lakewood’s indoor workout facility and its variety of weight-lifting equipment. Her commitment to an ideal sprinter’s bod required three days a week getting in her routine of Russian twists, pike crunches, box squats, goblet squats, and a whole host of barbell-based lifts.

Kenzie and her grandmother Denise Sheldon
on the day of State finals.

When spring sports season came around, Kenzie had lived up to her commitment to strengthening her body for track. At a lean, mean 5’1 and 110 pounds she had achieved bench-pressing and squatting well over her body weight for multiple reps. Remarkably, she managed to successfully streamline her body to one of a single-digit body fat percentage that could easily explode out of the runners’ blocks and move lightning quick around the track.

Her competitive fire was reignited once track kicked off. To the point she eagerly accepted the challenge of competing in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, long jump, and 4×100 relay. As the season progressed, she and her coach made the decision to focus solely on the 100-meter sprint and 4×100 relay because of the success they were achieving meet after meet. 

“Early on, I knew our relay team was going to be good because every one of us had a good 100-meter time. We just hadn’t all run together as a relay team before, and I was brand new to the team, so our times earlier in the season didn’t really show how good we were,” admitted Kenzie. “But after figuring out which order of relay runners we each needed to be, getting our steps dialed in, and practicing our baton hand-off, oh I don’t know, like, a thousand times, then our time kept getting faster and faster.”

With each passing track meet the Lakewood High School girls 4×100 relay continued to progress. Running the first leg, considered by most to be designated for the team’s strongest runner, Kenzie continued to work on her blazing fast split, which she says topped out at a whopping 11.8 seconds. Her relay team was peaking at just the right time. When they competed in sub-districts and then districts in mid-May, they managed to post a blistering 50.8 second time that qualified them to run at State. 

This year’s Washington State track finals took place at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. Kenzie and her relay team were among the top 2A runners invited to race into the record books during the weekend of May 27.

Kenzie’s keepsakes from the memorable season: her cleats,
relay baton, and favorite pre-race candy.

A contingent of family made the trip to Mount Tahoma’s outdoor track and field facility to cheer on their soccer star turned State qualified sprinter. As she does before every race, Kenzie devoured a pack of pink lemonade-flavored sour strips. The 120-gram shot of sugar refuels her glycogen level for the longest 12-second sprint of her life. After she completes her leg and passes the baton to the next runner her time is leading the race and all she can do is wait for the relay to conclude to see where they place.

A matter of seconds later the times are announced and the Lakewood relay team finishes with the 6th best time.

“When the times were announced I was both excited and sad. Excited because of how well we did as a first-time relay team and how much we grew from the beginning of the season, but sad because I know we were so close to finishing 4th. But really, no one predicted we’d even qualify for State, let alone make school history,” reflected Kenzie. “We were told it was the first time in Lakewood school history that a team made it to a State final for the 4×100. That’s a pretty cool achievement.”

  With graduation only a couple weeks away, the 18-year-old State finisher admits her athlete days may be behind her. That is unless she manages to make the Hawaii Pacific University soccer team as a walk-on. But if not, she’ll turn all her focus to her studies while pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in marine biology on the gorgeous Honolulu-based campus. 

Large turnout for Stick Games Tournament 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Several dozen camping tents were set up throughout the northern parking lots of the Tulalip Resort Casino during the first weekend of June. The sound of traditional hand drums could be heard around the gaming establishment and luxury hotel.  The drum beats emanated from the center of the Tulalip Amphitheater where close to 1,000 people gathered for the Tulalip Tribe’s annual Stick Games Tournament. 

According to stories passed down generation after generation, stick games was originally introduced to the Northwest coastal tribes and First Nations Bands thousands of years ago. The traditional game, also known as bone games, slahal, hand games, and lahal, was created as a way to settle intertribal disputes such as the rights to hunting and fishing grounds, and also as a means to prevent warfare between tribes. And while each tribe and band have different stories pertaining to stick games, the origin of the game is consistent throughout the region. Tribal nations agree that the game was gifted and taught to the people by the Indigenous wildlife of our territory. 

Requiring the skill and mastery of deception and distraction, the game is initiated by two opposing teams that consist of three to five players. During gameplay, the team’s alternate turns, and sticks are used to keep score throughout the contest. A set of bones is discreetly distributed amongst the team that is in-play and the opposing squad must correctly guess where the bones are hidden and how many pieces the player has concealed in their hands. While the bones change hands between teammates, the team sings traditional family songs to distract their opponents from seeing who is in possession of the bones. The team with the most correct amount of guesses wins the game and advances to the next round. 

In addition to bones and sticks, there are a number of unofficial game pieces that each team utilizes to their advantage during a stick game tournament. Such items include foldable lawn chairs, so that teams can quickly set-up against their opponents and move and play about the grounds; pull-over hoodies, blankets, and bandanas are used to cover a player’s hands to prevent opponents from seeing where the bones are placed. Of course, traditional hand-drums and rattles are used to distract the rival team while the bones are in-play.

“I’m happy to be back here playing at Tulalip,” said Lummi tribal member, Tavis Washington Jr. “I am a 5th generation stick game player, but it’s been a part of my family since the beginning of time. It always feels great to come out to this event and see all the people who I [know] and meet new people too. My favorite part of the game is winning, I like when my team or my family wins.” 

For observers and players alike, a highlight of the Tulalip Tribes annual Stick Games Tournament is supporting Indigenous owned businesses as local artists and chefs set up shop at the amphitheater throughout the weekend. This year a vast amount of vendors were scattered throughout the amphitheater’s grounds, including several Tulalip entrepreneurs. 

Josh Fryberg’s clan sold their signature smoked salmon as well as a selection of hoodies and t-shirts, Jared’s CORNer was popping as many stopped by the food truck to grab a bag of kettle corn, Winona Shopbell-Fryberg had a beautiful array of her family’s beaded jewelry for sale, and Angel and Amber Cortez’s kids operated the ‘Traveler’s Drinks & Grub To-Go’ food truck to help raise funds for a trip to Washington D.C. this fall. Other items for purchase at the tournament included Indian tacos, snow cones, and Native-designed clothing, blankets, and accessories. 

The participants of the Tulalip Stick Games Tournament competed for the chance to walk away with some scrilla in their pockets. With a total payout of $60,000 this year, many cash prizes were awarded throughout the three-day event, including the grand prize of $25,000. In addition to the main competition, several mini matches were also held during the tournament such as the three-man tournament and the kid’s tournament.

Jennie Fryberg, Tulalip Stick Games Tournament Committee member, shared, “I’m so happy our Tribe hosts tribal events for our people. We hosted 145 teams for Saturday’s five-man tournament and 115 teams for Sunday’s three-man tournament! Congratulations to Martin Hannigan’s (Muckleshoot) five-man team for winning first place in the big tournament Saturday night. It was an amazing weekend full of friendship, good food, and beautiful art by Native vendors. Hands up to my sister Carrie Fryberg for making this event happen. Can’t wait for next year’s event!”

MSD’s Native American students honored as they prepare for middle school

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the evening of May 25, twenty-six Indigenous youth, from the Marysville School District (MSD), were celebrated and recognized for their hard work of completing elementary school. Bringing their 5th grade year to a close, the students beamed with pride as their parents and family cheered them on. As their names were announced, the young learners entered the longhouse of the Hibulb Cultural Center one at a time, in alphabetical succession of their last names, before taking a seat together at the head of the room. 

“Congratulations to all of our 5th grade students,” expressed Eneille Nelson, Marysville School District’s (MSD) Executive Director of Equity and Family Engagement. “You’ve accomplished a lot in getting through the first phase of your educational journey. You still have a long way to go, but you have started the journey. You’re on a great path, so stick with the path because at the end, the reward is going to be worth it.” 

The annual 5th grade honoring was co-coordinated and co-funded by the Tulalip Education Division team and the Positive Youth Development and Leadership Program. The honoring united students from over ten different elementary schools throughout the district. The new middle schoolers formally met the MSD Native liaisons as well as some of their future classmates, and a number of representatives from the Education Division.

“I want to thank you for joining us here today to honor these amazing 5th graders who will be going on to 6th grade,” said Jessica Bustad, Executive Director of Tulalip’s Education Division. “It’s going to be a big journey for you, we’re really excited to be here to support you and honor you. We’ll be here through your education journey and through your future. All these team members, we dedicate our time and lives to serving our youth. You are our future, and we value you.”

Eager to begin a new journey in their educational careers, the kids were all ears as the Native liaisons shared encouraging and motivational words with the students. Faith Valencia of the Tulalip Youth Council was also in attendance, and she invited the soon-to-be middle schoolers out to the Teen Center over the next couple months, where they planned out a fun and eventful summer that the elementary school graduates will be sure to enjoy. 

Native Liaison, Matt Remle shared, “I am very honored to be here tonight, honoring these future leaders, future middle schoolers. We wanted to show you all the support systems you’re going to have throughout your time in school, who to look out for in your time of need. Our team, liaisons, advocates, the equity department, we are here to support you in whatever capacity it is that you need.”

Each graduate received a special gift during the ceremony, a beautifully designed dreamcatcher, to commemorate their latest accomplishment. The ceremony ended with a traditional sduhubš song, performed by the MSD faculty, the Tulalip Youth Council, and Tulalip Education Division team members. 

5th grade graduate and Tulalip tribal member, Braiden Kane, reflected on the evening’s events. He stated, “Today felt really good. It was a little nerve-racking but I’m looking forward to the future, learning new things and meeting new people. And I’m just happy to be in the 6th grade!”

Following the ceremony, the kids happily posed for photos for their parents along with their fellow graduates. Their shared excitement of entering middle school together was evidenced in their wide smiles in every photo captured during the event.

Along with the dreamcatchers, the youth were sure to leave the Cultural Center with a message from Eneille. She urged the students, “Do not let anyone to tell you what you cannot do or what you cannot accomplish, because you have the ability to be anything you want to be and to go wherever you want to go. Don’t let anyone limit you to anything. If you can dream it, you can do it.”

“Remember so we don’t forget” Memorial Day commemorated at Tulalip 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Stars and stripes waved in the breeze. Hundreds of tiny US flags were placed at the graveside of every Tulalip member who served in the military and moved on to the next journey. The Tulalip Honor Guard stood at attention. Comprised of thirteen tribal Veterans, seven held rifles and four carried flags, while Hank Williams held the Eagle Staff and David ‘Chip’ Fryberg wielded his brass trumpet. As the Tribe’s Veterans Coordinator, William McLean III, called out the orders, barrels were raised high and each of the seven veterans simultaneously shot three rounds into the air while Chip performed Taps on his horn.  

  Tulalip is the proud home of countless courageous service men and women, from as far back as the first world war to this very day. Throughout the generations, numerous tribal members answered the call to duty, trained hard, and bravely fought to defend our nation and our freedoms. And once a year, the families of those soldiers and veterans who passed, collectively join together to pay tribute to their loved ones. As always, the Tribe held two beautiful Memorial Day ceremonies, one at the Priest Point cemetery and the other at the Mission Beach cemetery.

“Across America, everybody is pausing just like we are doing right now, to remember those who served in this great country of ours,” said Vietnam Veteran and Tulalip BOD, Mel Sheldon. “And across many of the reservations, they’re doing the same exact thing as we are. Native Americans are very proud of our people signing up, being in the military. We raised our hands more than any other groups throughout history. Whether they were Marines, Semper-Fi, Air Force, Army, Navy, we had our men and women who volunteered and signed up to fight for our country, and we’re so proud of that legacy.”

The weather was perfect on the day of the ceremonies, which set a beautiful backdrop for the immaculately manicured landscapes of the two cemeteries. Many thank-yous were expressed to the Tribe’s groundskeepers for preparing both sites for the Memorial Day commemoration. 

At the Mission Beach cemetery, Mel addressed the families in attendance, “Take a look around at how beautiful this cemetery looks today. Seeing all the rhododendrons in full bloom and all the other shrubbery with flowers, it’s a magnificent cemetery. It’s great to be here today, to remember so we don’t forget.”

Sharing roll call duties, Cy Hatch III and Sara Andres read the names of nearly 300 tribal members who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country, as well as all those veterans who are no longer with us. Families listened intently and waited patiently to hear the name of their fallen heroes. 

A handful of veterans shared their personal experiences of time spent in the military, and recalled their past campaigns, while also taking time to honor their friends of family members who didn’t make it back to their homelands. Mel also held a special dedication for Cy ‘Saigon’ Williams and Stan Jones Sr., who both recently passed and were a big part of the Tulalip Veterans community. 

Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, shared, “I want to thank each and every one of you who served in the military, and those who also gave the sacrifice of their lives, and the gold star mothers. It’s so important that we continue this to remember those who made that sacrifice, and their families because they make the sacrifice right along with them when they’re in the military.”

Once the ceremony at the Mission Beach cemetery concluded, the families stopped to visit the final resting places of their loved ones before they headed to the Gathering Hall to share a little good medicine together after the moving day of remembrance – a meal, some memories, and of course, some hearty laughter. 

Training for a better tomorrow: TERO hosts graduation ceremony

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

This past February, sixteen men and women took a chance on themselves and committed to a sixteen-week course at the Tulalip TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC). Entering the game with little to no experience, those individuals showed up every morning for five days a week to soak up as much knowledge as they could about the booming construction industry. At TVTC, their slogan is ‘Training For A Better Tomorrow’, and that day officially arrived for those sixteen students on the afternoon of May 26. 

A transformation took place at the space where the latest round of TVTC students learned numerous skills over the past few months in carpentry, cementing, plumbing, blueprint reading, and also in electrical and mechanical work. Tables were set up at the center of the TVTC building, and as soon as the clock struck 1:00 p.m., families and friends of each of the students began to pour in to show their support to their loved ones on their special day of recognition. 

“This is an amazing program,” said Teri Gobin, Tulalip Chairwoman and former TERO Director. “You all have improved your skills in all of the different trades that are offered here to help you. This is a good step. You are making a big difference in your life, your family’s lives, and especially your children’s lives. You are setting the example for the next generation by being somebody they can look up to. I’m so proud that we have so many here today that are graduating.”

TVTC is a construction-focused course, and it’s the first of its kind. To date, TVTC remains the only Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the nation. The course is offered to tribal members enrolled in any of the 574 federally recognized tribes, as well as to their parents, spouses, and children. Throughout the years, TVTC has helped hundreds of Natives find their career path, some from as far away as Alaska and Wyoming. And that’s not to mention the countless homegrown students. Out of the sixteen graduates this quarter, eleven are enrolled Tulalip tribal members.

“We are accredited through LNI. And what that does is it gives our graduates direct entry into an apprenticeship, in whatever union that they choose to go into,” explained Jerad Eastman, TVTC Site Specialist. “So, it checks a box that gives them a step up, compared to anyone coming off the street, into a union. Some of the other things that we do here is we give them OSHA-10 training, we give them First Aid/CPR and AED training, they get certified in boom lift, forklift, scissor lift, and they also get HAZWOPER-40 hours, which is like asbestos abatement and working with hazardous materials. Those are all beneficial for anyone who’s looking to get into the trades.” 

As soon as the students complete their 455 hours of coursework, they are introduced to a world full of opportunity with their newly acquired experience. According to the latest report by the U.S. Department of Labor, construction jobs are currently in high demand and are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years by an estimated 700,000 jobs. 

Many, if not all, of those available positions pay much more than the state’s minimum wage of $15.74. And a majority of those jobs are entry-level positions, so there is plenty of opportunity for TVTC students to make gains in both hands-on experience and financial health once they’ve completed their required apprenticeship hours. 

“The Native way is to take care of your people because that’s what we do, we take care of each other,” said TVTC Family Career Navigator, Lisa Telford. “Construction wages are livable wages that you can support your family on. I’ve always been interested in helping Natives enter the construction industry, mainly because it is such a good wage.”

In addition to helping their graduates get their foot in the door of the construction industry, the TVTC staff actively makes an effort to offer continued support throughout the graduate’s newfound career journey. And due to spending several hundred hours together, each class forms a unique bond with each other and the instructors. Classmates often keep in touch with one another far beyond their TVTC experience, and some even enter the same field together. 

The comradery was on full display at this quarter’s graduation ceremony. During the celebration, the students sat together at the back end of the classroom and let out enormous whoops, cheers, and applause each time their classmates received their certificate of completion. 

Said Jerad, “One of the things that we always talk about is that when you come to this program, you’re family. You gotta come back, and you gotta talk to future students. And another thing is that we’re always here to help you after this program. We’re always here to provide support, we’re always here to provide insight for them in whatever they need. At the end of the day, in the classes, we say ‘we leave together’, so we make sure no one’s leaving early. We all gotta leave together when everything’s done. We build a lot of groups here and we’re all one big family.” 

 After parting ways with their previous instructor at the end of the 2022 Fall quarter, Lisa, Jerad and TERO Client Services Coordinator Billy Burchett took on the instructor role for this group of students. 

Prior to the start of the quarter, Lisa shared, “Billy, who is a sheet metal worker and was the teacher’s assistant, is now the Client Services Coordinator of this program. And Jerad worked for Quil Ceda Village as a Project Manager, he knows a lot about blueprint reading and construction. We’re all going to do it together. I know about carpentry, Jerad knows about blueprints, Billy knows about math, plumbing, and electrical. We’re going to put it all together to make one exceptional instructor.”

After taking on that challenge, the instructors enjoyed the fruits of their labor on graduation day and shared laughter, hugs, personable daps, and happy tears with their students as they came forward to accept their certificates and gift bags.

“To me, the graduation is not really the finale because no matter what, they belong to the TERO vocational training center,” Lisa expressed. “We’re always going to be supporting you and reaching out to you. We can work as an advocate, act as a liaison, whatever we have to do to make your transition into the construction industry smooth. Throughout the whole program, I have the opportunity to watch them grow and shine. My favorite part is when they realize that they enjoy what they are doing, you can hear their laughter and see the pride on their faces. I enjoy watching them grow into that person.” 

The next TVTC course begins this September. Classes are held Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a few exceptions such as days when the class travels for a job site tour or when participants take part in a hands-on experience known as an ‘apprenticeship for a day’. Please feel free to reach out to Lisa at (360) 716-4760 for additional information and an application.

And hold up! Before you fold your copy of the syəcəb or exit the Tulalip News website, we put together a short Q&A with a select few of this quarter’s TVTC graduates. Check it out below! 

Tirja Greenwell, Tulalip Parent

Tulalip News: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the program?

Tirja: Yes, absolutely. I am a tribal parent, the grandmother to my children is Benita Rosen. She knew that I was really interested in working with my hands and building things. She actually turned me onto this program about year and half ago, but that was during COVID. I finally took it this quarter and it’s a super cool program.  

Tulalip News: What were some of the skills you picked up through the course and what was your overall experience with TVTC?

Tirja: We had a crap-ton of hands-on experience, which was really cool and a lot of fun. We did personal projects, and I really grew through this program. I think one of the things that was most interesting was learning how to make blueprints.

Tulalip News: Now that you’ve completed the program, what’s next?

Tirja: I actually ended up leaving the program a couple of weeks before completion because I ended up getting a job at a small local plumbing company as a project manager. The program made a huge difference. Walking in there, and just having this this huge bag of knowledge, I was so confident, I was so prepared in that interview. After they hired me, they told me that I was one of the most impressive candidates they’ve ever seen. And I put my hands up to Lisa for that because I feel like she really harped on us to learn our strengths to help us succeed out in the real world. 

Jazlyn Gibson, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: Can you share how it feels to complete the TVTC course?

Jazlyn: It was a great accomplishment for myself and my fellow students. We all accomplished getting our diplomas on top of getting our certificates for construction.

Tulalip News: Can you describe your experience with the TERO program?

Jazlyn: It was a very hands-on experience. It was great to be here and to get know everybody. And we were the first to experience the program with three different teachers who weren’t used to being teachers. And also, as students we got to learn from each other because a lot of them had some prior experience. So that definitely helped us grow and do everything we needed to do to get through the program.

Tulalip News: Why do you believe this program is beneficial for tribal members and their families?

Jazlyn:  It definitely helps get your foot in the door. You gain the necessary skills and have all these different possibilities that you can pursue so that you can get out there and be successful.

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the course, what do you plan to do next?

Jazlyn: Personally, I am looking to get into a sheet metal position or electrician. This definitely helped me figure out what I wanted to do as a career.

Erik Cruz, Colville Spouse

Tulalip News: You completed the course; how does this accomplishment feel?

Erik: It feels great! I’m not sure what I’m going to do next, but I’m definitely going into the construction field. This has been a really great traditional way to learn about the construction industry. Carpentry is my future.

Tulalip News: As a tribal spouse, why do you believe this program is beneficial to tribal members and their families?

Erik: Honestly, it’s something that people can get into early. And if young people can get into the trades early, they’ll be set for life. If you want to be rich, this is a great way to do so, it’s not the only way but it’s a good way to support yourself and your family.

Tulalip News: Do you have any advice for those interested in starting the course?

Erik: This is a pivotal program and it’s changed many people’s lives for the better. TERO is the GOAT!

Armando Vega, Tulalip tribal member

Tulalip News: What is the biggest thing you are going to take away from this TVTC experience?

Armando: All the experience and tools that I gained here – working with machinery, telehandler, boom lifts, scissor lift. And getting to know what goes together when building a tiny home, from the framing, roofing, flooring, the shingles, learning all of that was pretty cool. And also, taking in all the electrical work. They taught us about Ohm’s Law and how to wire three-way circuits. I was really good at that. They taught us about sheet metal workers and the air systems in buildings, and I was really interested in that. And I built a table here and it made me really like carpentry. It was nice to learn how to nail things with the nail gun and about what goes between wood, and how wood glue sticks good.

Tulalip News: Why do you think this program is beneficial for tribal members, other Natives, and their families?

Armando: It’s really beneficial because you learn new skills and learn more about yourself. It opens up everything – it opens your mind and opens all your options. 

Tulalip News: Now that you completed the program, what’s next?

Armando: What’s next for me is going into a union. I got three applications that I’m finishing up. I’m going to apply for carpentry, electrician, and sheet metal worker. So, I’m doing whatever one gets back at me first.

Still Alive, Not Petrified

“Gooch” Wolf Mask. Red cedar, acrylic paint, cedar bark. 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the art world is undergoing a profound transformation. Artists, once limited by traditional mediums, are now free to embrace modern tools and digital platforms to push the boundaries of their creative mind. 

Tulalip citizen James Madison is one such artist who isn’t simply embracing this challenge of adapting to an ever-evolving art market, he’s actually empowered by culture and tradition to forge forward and demonstrate to the next generation what’s possible. A mindset he inherited from his grandfather Frank Madison.

Self Portrait “Triptych.” 
Limited edition case bronze, carbon fiber backing, lexan base.

“I started learning how to carve at 5-years-old,” shared the now 49-year-old James in a recent episode of Hibulb Conversations. “Some of my earliest carving memories are from when I’d be dropped off at my grandma Lois and grandpa Frank’s house every day during elementary. I’d basically receive my culture teachings from them in the morning, before going to school at Whittier Elementary, then continue the culture teachings with them after school. Back then, my grandpa would carve around the kitchen table. He’d sit me down with my cousin Steven and we would watch and learn.” 

James comes from an artistic family that spans multiple generations and includes both Tulalip and Tlingit forebearers who were deeply rooted in cultural traditions and storytelling. They used a variety of tools and elements that were at their disposal at the time to preserve their culture through art. 

Whale Mask. Hand carved yellow cedar.

Today, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and technology-driven, James and his contemporaries are finding ways to evolve their craft by blending traditional techniques with new mediums that require a functional knowledge of the latest techno wizardry. Welcome to the competitive art scene of 2023. Where true master’s of the craft must push themselves to learn exciting and innovative methods to preserve their cultural heritage like those before them.

“I always dreamt of being an artist like my grandpa and father before me,” admitted the Tulalip master carver. “There was a Haida artist named Bill Reid, who I never actually met in person, but he had a profound impact on me through his books filled with northwest coastal art and stunning sculptures that were 15 to 20-feet large. When I was young, his books were accessible to me and I’d look through them constantly; studying his technique and visualizing what I’d do if I had the ability to create things larger than life.”

Thunderbird Blackfish Panel. Hand carved red cedar, acrylic.

As his portfolio grew, so too did his public commissions; to the point that his previous childlike visions of one day creating larger than life carvings and sculptures came to fruition. James has created stunning 10, 20 and even 25-foot installations that are easily visible all across Coast Salish territory. From his home reservation (at Tulalip Resort Casino, Hibulb and the Admin Building), to Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park, Stanwood’s Kayak Point, Arlington’s Centennial Trail, and Everett’s Evergreen Arboretum. 

Now in his first solo exhibition with Stonington Gallery, located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, James mastery of the latest artistic mediums is on full display. His unique cultural expression fills the gallery space and allows onlookers to explore complex themes, while immersing themselves in the awe-inspiring creations developed by a master at work. 

“I know it’ll sound kinda goofy, but I don’t look at myself as a Native artist. I look at myself as an artist,” reflected James while reviewing his latest gallery collection. “My grandpa always told me, ‘we need to not just carve things out of the books, but look to create new things to show that we’re still evolving. We’re not petrified. We’re still alive.’ That was his mantra and I’ve incorporated into my life by always pushing myself creatively to create something new. To show that we’re not petrified. We’re still alive and still evolving.”

“Eclipse” Moon Mask.
 Hard carved yellow cedar, carbon fiber.

Fittingly titled Still Alive, Not Petrified, his Stonington Gallery exhibition embodies what an artistic mind can achieve when experimenting with different techniques, collaborating across disciplines, and creating groundbreaking works that challenge conventions, while intending to inspire new ideas from the next generation of artists.

“I’ve been so enthralled by not just the level of mastery James routinely exhibits, but the sheer diversity of his mediums as well. It was his carvings and public works that really caught my eye, and why I initially contacted him over Instagram,” explained Jewelia Rosenbaum, director of Stonington. “In my 24-years with Stonington, we’ve made it a mission to spearhead the connection between this region and Coast Salish art. In 2005, we were the first to put out a wide-ranging, largescale exhibit of only Coast Salish artwork. This went hand-in-hand with our partnership with University of Washington Press to publish a book titled Contemporary Coast Salish Art.

Stonington Gallery exhibit display. 

“We are so honored to feature a James Madison solo exhibition because he truly encapsulates contemporary Coast Salish art,” she added. “From metal sculptures and glass woven panels to intricately carved cedar masks and paddles to even molded carbon fiber weaves that contrast beautifully with a carved cedar panel backdrop, he represents everything one might want when coming to the art form.”

As he continues to evolve his use of traditional storytelling through new mediums and digital tools, James is actively revitalizing the Coast Salish art scene by injecting innovation, vibrancy, and relevance into the creative process. By leveraging technological advancements to preserve and showcase his culture, he’s also bridging the gap between generations and diverse backgrounds to create a collective understanding of what it means to be alive, not petrified.