Annual camp immerses youth in traditional language
By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
TULALIP – Tulalip youth welcomed their family and friends to the 19th Annual Lushootseed Language Camp where they presented the play “The Seal Hunting Brothers,” a traditional Tulalip story told by Martha LaMont.
Throughout this week language warriors, ages 5–12, have been adding to their expanding Lushootseed vocabulary while learning a condensed version of the original “The Seal Hunting Brothers,” which is comprised of 900 lines. The story explores topics about greed, honesty, providing for family and community, as well as how the Tulalip Tribes emblem came to be the killer whale.
Tulalip Lushootseed teachers and staff, who coordinate the camp every year, teach youth basic Lushootseed phrases, prayers and traditional stories through interactive workstations. The camp, which features two sessions each a weeklong focuses on a different traditional story each year. This year a handful of Quil Ceda & Tulalip Elementary teachers joined youth in learning the traditional values and stories of Tulalip, resulting in a continued collaborative effort between the Marysville School District and Tulalip Tribes.
“Each year we pick a theme,” said Lushootseed teacher Natosha Gobin to the audience before the play. “This year we learned about the seal hunting brothers and we are excited for you to hear what the kids learned during camp. Each year we have returning students. We only have ages 5 through 12, but when they reach that 12 year mark, most return to be group leaders and are excited to participate as a group leader.”
This year’s play was held at the Kenny Moses Building in Tulalip, a change from last year’s venue, held at the Hibulb Cultural Center’s longhouse. The longhouse setting is traditionally a place oral history; stories and traditions were told. Despite the change in venue, the youth put on a spectacular play, featuring a decorated set, costumes and props.
Keeping with Tulalip tradition, two witnesses were called forth to watch the play and speak a few words to the youth about their work. This year, the honor went to Tulalip elder Hank Williams, whose mother is Martha LaMont, and Tulalip tribal member Patti Gobin.
“I thank everyone for being here to watch the kids learn our language,” said Williams following the play. “This lifts my heart and makes me feel good to know that these children have learned our language and I hope they do not forget it, and they carry it on.”
“What I witnessed was a dream come true,” Gobin said to the youth. “ The old people used to say they were waiting for this day. They were waiting for the day when we could speak our traditional language. My grandmother was forced into the boarding school when she was just five years old. She entered speaking Lushootseed and left at the age of 19 speaking English. She refused to teach me our language because she said she didn’t want me to get hurt like she was for speaking Lushootseed. These children are privileged to be able to speak our language. It is exciting to see this. I thank the you children for speaking our language, and I thank the staff for being here to teach it to them.”
For more information about the Lushootseed language or the camp, please contact the Tulalip Lushootseed Department at 360-716-4495 or visit their website at http://www.tulaliplushootseed.com/.
Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; firstname.lastname@example.org