Elders Potlatch: A Celebration of Smiles and Joy

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Suns out, elders out, as the 2023 Tulalip Elder Potlatch was underway on August 17 inside the Tulalip Gathering Hall. Over a thousand elders were in attendance – some from as far north as Canada and as far south as New Mexico – all looking forward to intermingling with their compatriots, friends, and family, which they usually don’t get to see. 

Buses and caravans arrived throughout the morning, and attendees could shop outside from local vendors or enjoy the breakfast being served inside. At 11:00 a.m., the Tulalip Veterans carried the flags inside signaling the beginning on the ceremony. A welcome song by Tulalip tribal member Ray Fryberg and family was sung before acknowledging the oldest elders in attendance. 

93 year-old Hank Williams was recognized as Tulalip Tribe’s most senior member. 

Dale Jones, Tulalip tribal member, announced Don Smith of Cheyanne as the oldest person in attendance at 95 years old. Then he also acknowledged the most senior Tulalip tribal members, Joan Jones, 90, and Hank Williams, 93. All were blessed with a handmade cedar hat, blanket, and drum.

After the songs were sung, speeches made, and the gifts handed out, lunch was served. On the menu was a feast of clams, crab, salmon, and much more. After the event, those in attendance were given a gift bag with various goodies to be taken home. 

Some elders stayed at the Tulalip Resort and Casino. “There were 12 elders that made their way from Nespelem, Colville Tribe,” said Charles McKay. “It was a hot cruise over, but we made it. Having an enjoyable time, I spent the night at the casino, then came over here early in the morning. There are lots of good conversations to be had and good food.”

 “You better believe it. I’m having a great time. I wouldn’t miss it for nothing,” Theresa Jones of Lummi said. “I have so much fun talking to my friends from all over. You just don’t get to see everyone like you used to.” 

“We drove over early this morning,” said Marilyn Manzano of Yakima Nation. “This is an enjoyable event, and I just love the building. It’s my first time inside it, and it is so pretty that it almost makes me cry. Also, the people are nice here and made everything run smoothly.”