By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; photos courtesy Potlatch Fund
‘Tis the season of giving. Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a family-specific tradition newly created, Tulalip families will gather in celebration over the coming weeks to give thanks, share food, and strengthen kinship bonds with those they hold dearest.
These end-of-year gatherings typically involve gift-giving, which is a modern twist of traditional teachings that can be traced back to potlatches. Potlach gift-giving feasts were held by many Northwest Coast tribes pre-contact, and their legacy continues to be celebrated today.
A perfect example of enduring potlatch principles is the aptly named Potlatch Fund. It’s a native-led nonprofit that provides grants and leadership development to tribal nations in the Pacific Northwest region. They recently held their much-anticipated annual gala at the Tulalip Gathering Hall.
“November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich and diverse histories and cultures of the 7+ million Native American people. While many celebrate Natives during this month only, Potlatch Fund celebrates Native communities every day through the cultural tradition of giving in our four-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.
“Our organization measures wealth in shared abundance. We provide leadership development services to tribes and Native nonprofits; educate the non-Native and funding communities about the needs, issues, and structures that exist within Indian Country; run grant programs that support emerging and innovative initiatives; and advocate for our communities. We have graduated over 100 emerging leaders through our capacity-building program cohorts, distributed over $8 million through our grantmaking program, and recognized over 80 individuals and organizations through our many awards,” detailed the Fund’s board of directors in a press release.
The memorable evening was full of Native culture bearers proudly flaunting their vibrant, handmade regalia and all manner of Salish swag. Announced as the Fund’s 20th anniversary gala, attendees did their best to be swept away in the spirit of giving. Compelled by the spirit, a whopping $260,000 was raised!
Beyond gifting of material possessions and cold hard currency, traditional teachings of giving extend to the sharing of knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual insights. Elders, who are highly revered within our community, play a crucial role in passing down these teachings to younger generations.
During the eventful gala, Sheryl Fryberg, a Tulalip elder and Early Learning Academy director, was announced as the Spirit of Reciprocity award recipient. She was described as a longtime supporter of the Potlatch Fund, fostering a genuine sense of outreach and inclusion, creating change with a vision towards the future, and demonstrating significant promise of leadership.
“I think Sheryl has a very innovative way of giving,” said Director of Philanthropic Partnerships, Brian Tanner. “It’s one that we wish to offer to donors for Potlatch Fund. Sheryl is able to calculate how much she would have paid in federal tax and give that portion to Potlatch Fund. The way Sheryl gives is intentional. She gets to decide where her hard-earned money is spent, and she chooses Potlatch Fund.”
After receiving the award, Sheryl said, “I look at this money as an investment. An investment in my community, and yours. A way to support the future generations. I believe that language, culture, song, and dance are part of what is going to heal our communities. It is by having the opportunity to participate in Tribal Journey and other community-driven activities that are funded by Potlatch Fund that our children and families reconnect with their traditional ways of being.”
During this season of giving, there are quite a few Tulalip-based events that are open to the greater community and offer plenty of opportunities to support local artisans. Most notable is the upcoming Holiday Bazaar happening November 17 and 18 at the Gathering Hall. Followed by Lights & Ice’s holiday market hosted near the Quil Ceda Village amphitheater November 24-26. And then the annual holiday Pow Wow hosted at the Marysville-Tulalip campus gym on December 16.