By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
On a frigid December morning, close to one hundred Tulalip community members rose at the crack of dawn in order to attend a brilliantly designed event held in the Tulalip Resort’s Orca Ballroom. Created in collaboration by the tribe’s Problem Gambling Program and Youth Council, the 2021 Youth Summit created memories galore through a variety of team building workshops and a series of inspirational Native influencers offering a unique blend of unforgettable entertainment mixed with words of wisdom.
Envisioning Our Indigenized Future was the theme of this year’s Youth Summit, held on December 11.
“We are happy to provide the momentum to do this and co-host a gathering with you all here today,” said youth council chairman Kaiser Moses during the early bird breakfast. “We chose the theme ‘envisioning our indigenized future’ because essentially the youth are the future and today we want to envision what we are capable of with all the opportunities available to us by our tribe. A lot of these opportunities are only possible by educating ourselves in order to avoid the pitfalls that effect so many of our people. We want to help each other develop the tools necessary to stay on a good path and realize those opportunities.”
The “pitfalls” Kaiser spoke of include substance abuse, gambling addiction, and a general lack of responsibility for one’s own actions when repeatedly choosing short-term pleasures over long-term success. Academics, physicians, and all other manners of wellbeing experts have written and lectured at length over these pitfalls and most recently have come to refer to them as ‘diseases of despair’.
Instead of dwelling on these negative concepts and bringing everyone down emotionally, Youth Summit coordinator Sarah Sense-Wilson went with a more effective strategy to showcase endless possibility through groundbreaking Native role models whose stories emphasize sobriety, self-respect, and conviction of culture. This star-studded lineup of all-Native entertainers shared a common belief that as Native people we are not bound by despair, but by resiliency and the ability to overcome any obstacle, real or imagined.
Innovative hip hop artist Supaman stunned the crowd with his one-of-a-kind presentation combining Native culture, comedy and urban music. He dazzled onlookers with his vibrant fancy dance regalia before captivating them with his uplifting words full of compassion and encouragement.
Supaman’s uncanny ability to connect with his audience was exemplified by his message, “Yes, this country was founded on the attempted genocide of our people. Yes, they employed all kinds of violent means and federal policies to eradicate us from the face of the Earth…But you know what this means don’t you? This means that you all come from families who defied the odds. As beautiful, young Native people in 2021, each breath you take is in defiance to a system that didn’t want you to exist. Each one of you is a blessing that our ancestor’s prayed for.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to embrace who we are,” he continued. “We must uphold our culture and pass it on like our ancestors did long before us. I challenge you to learn as much as you can, participate as often as you can, and share everything you know because one day you will be an elder. And when you’re an elder the younger people will look to you for traditional teachings and protocols for ceremony. They will look to you for that knowledge and you’ll want to be able to give them the knowledge and guidance they’re searching for. That is how we pass on our culture in a good way. I believe in you. Your ancestors believe in you.”
After Supaman’s riveting performance and many good words shared, high schooler and Tulalip tribal member Image Enick shared his appreciation by gifting him a handmade drum. Many in attendance then waited their turn to take photos with the Native hip hop icon.
The full day’s Youth Summit was filled with uplifting messages echoing the sentiments shared by Supaman, exercises in compassion building and benefits of team work, and informative presentations regarding the energy drain that social media and unchecked video gaming can have on youth’s social and emotional development. There was also an informative breakout session with Tulalip’s own podcaster Dominick Joseph. He shared his educational journey and gave listeners a glimpse into his podcast world, while receiving a number of topic requests for future episodes.
Performances by DJ Element on the turntables and Swil Kanim with his serenading classical violin both received a huge round of applause. However, it may have been a pair of brothers standing a whopping 4 feet and 7 inches tall that made the biggest impression. Known for their roles in the Emmy nominated TV show Reservation Dogs, Lil Mike and Funny Bone captivated their multi-generational audience through comedy, hip hop lyrics, and motivational stories about not letting haters get in your way of excellence. They shared that they’ve been overlooked their whole lives. If they let what others think of them matter, then they’d have never made it to primetime actors on a hit TV series.
In between performances and leadership sessions, Summit participants had many opportunities to fill up on event swag designed by Native artists and businesses. From t-shirts and backpacks to hoodies and essential school supplies, many could be seen leaving the Resort with their hands, bags, and hearts full of newly acquired swag and renewed confidence for their Indigenized future.
After the exhilarating eight-hour Youth Summit, event coordinator Sarah Sense-Wilson shared, “We are thrilled with amount of participation and engagement we had today by such a special group of Indigenous youth. Our goal was to provide valuable and meaningful workshops that centered on our youth, while promoting health, well-being and resilience. Our workshops and presentations ranged from QPR (Suicide Prevention Certification), to a wide range of motivational speakers, to teambuilding and ropes course activities. We hope all the local Native youth who joined us for a full day of energizing, fun-filled edutainment will remember the messages shared today and use them as fuel for empowerment whenever needed. Their future is our future.”