Lushootseed Family Night

Quality time to empower one another, keeping culture thriving

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Today, quality family time often takes a back seat to all the other directions that people are pulled, whether it be work, school, manufactured drama, or personal entertainment. One way to bring back that sense of quality time is to start a dedicated family night, which is exactly what Lushootseed Family Night intends to achieve.

In coordination with the Hibulb Rediscovery Program, the Lushootseed Language Department has brought back its Family Night on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the month of March. Meeting from 5:00pm – 7:00pm at the Lushootseed building (the gymnasium of the old Tulalip Elementary), the evenings are a dedicated time for Tulalip families and members of the community to share in keeping a language and culture thriving. Its two-hours of undivided attention given by the Language Warriors to any and all who wish to learn Lushootseed words and phrases, whether it be children, adults, or elders; all are welcome.

The community’s response has been very positive thus far, with near 70 participants joining in on March 8th’s Family Night.

“Any participation in our Family Night is appreciated. When we have a large number of participants, like our second night, we are excited to see so many people who want to be exposed to Lushootseed or want to become Language Warriors and speak with us,” said Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher and co-coordinator of Family Night. “For those who don’t feel comfortable since they don’t know the language, or think they will have a hard time learning it, these classes are intended to be fun and laid back. Just being exposed to the language being spoken will help in eventually speaking it.”

This particular series of Family Night classes in March are focused on canoe terms in order to prepare families that intend on participating in this year’s Canoe Journey, but the dialogue is not limited to canoes only. Language Warriors are also working to assist participants to learn their own introductions and speeches, while getting accustomed to traditional prayers, stories and songs. The Lushootseed Department aims to support the teachings that are important for canoe journey participants, while passing on lessons that are relevant for daily use.

Each Family Night begins with the sharing of a hot meal, a significant activity shared by any family, while the next generation of Lushootseed speakers read aloud from a collection of traditional stories. Then, children and adults learn together select Lushootseed words and phrases by a variety of activities.

Among those activities is the hearing of traditional songs. Andrew Gobin, of the Tulalip Rediscovery Program and former Lushootseed Teacher, provides his resonant voice and drum in order to pass along the teachings and well-intending meanings with each song.

“Language belongs to all of us. Culture belongs to all of us. Getting involved is the first step,” stated Andrew. “At these language and culture nights, the people come to share with one another. Those that may know more than others are helping those that are just beginning to engage with who they are. It’s always exciting to have people come to gather together and share in what our culture has to offer.

With an increase in technology and a dwindling attention span, family time will still often get set aside because of other demands and duties. Despite busy schedules and long workdays, for families and individuals looking to build strong bonds through culture and create lifelong memories for children, Lushootseed Family Night is a welcome site.

“This language belongs to us all,” explained Natosha. “We pray that when our days come to an end, that we can hear it being used daily in our community by everyone. These are the same prayers of our ancestors. They didn’t want the language to die with them, and we don’t want the language to die with us. We hope that through these Family Nights and the other language learning opportunities that we are working on, we will continue to grow our Language Warriors, empowering speakers to rise up and help keep our language, culture and teachings alive.”

The current Lushootseed Family Night series will continue each Tuesday and Thursday during March, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm. Dinner will be provide and all ages are welcome to attend.

For more information, questions or request contact

Michelle Balagot, Lushootseed Department Manager by phone at 360-716-4495 or email

Natosha Gobin, Lushootseed Teacher by phone at 360-716-4499 or email