Watching over the future: Childcare options for General Council

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It’s officially that time of year when yard signs and homemade billboards are on display along the roadways of the reservation. This creative method of advertising has become a necessity for tribal members who are announcing their candidacy for a seat on the Tulalip Board of Directors. And as soon as the signs go up, tribal members know that General Council is near. A yearly event where the people gather together to discuss important topics that pertain to the tribe’s overall welfare, as well as to collectively make decisions, and elect/re-elect members to its BOD councilship.

A lot of work goes into planning Tulalip’s annual General Council that includes community panels and open discussions leading up the to the event, as well as organizing the agenda and preparing the space for the large communal gathering, to help guarantee that everything goes smoothly on the day of. 

To assist those with children in casting their votes, Tulalip took extra measures about ten years ago to help boost the General Council’s attendance rate, amplify the voice of the community, and get more of its membership involved in the governmental side of the tribe. Working with the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, Tulalip provides childcare services for Tulalip parents and guardians who wish to attend the annual meeting. 

At the early learning academy, kids from birth to three, and also kiddos who are of preschool age, are welcome to a fun day of classroom activities and playtime during the entire duration of the General Council. 

Said Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg, “We provide classes for birth to three and preschool service. The families have to pre-register through our online application, or they can pick up an application here at the front desk. They can be any community member child and there’s no charge for it. We feed them snacks and lunch, and for the snack in the afternoon, we do have a bit heaver snack in case it goes beyond 4:30 p.m. We want tribal members to have the opportunity to attend General Council, hear what’s going on in our tribe, be able to vote, and know their child is in a safe space.”

Across the way, at the Club, the big kids are treated to an epic field day. Like with the academy, families must pre-register their children at the Boys & Girls Club and the childcare services are free of charge. This day is also something the club staff members look forward to. Diane ‘Grandma Diane’ Prouty, B&G Club Office Manager, explained that they are often understaffed during their day-to-day operations because of how many children they serve. And though they’ve seen upwards of 100 kids during General Council, this still provides an opportunity for the staff to engage and participate in activities with the youth that they wouldn’t otherwise get to on a normal weekday at the Club. 

She said, “The staff has a lot of fun with the kids on General Council day. We serve kids from kindergarten and up; we feed them breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. Our doors open at 9:00 a.m. and we close half-an-hour after General Council is done. The BOD actually pays for all the activities for the kids here. We have face painting, a balloonist, and a bouncy house. We have a big obstacle course where staff will have races against each other and against the kids. We’ll have craft making and a bunch of fun things to do as well. It’s just a fun day for everybody.” 

General Council is taking place this year on March 16 at the Tulalip Resort Casino. If you would like to enroll your kids for childcare at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy or the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club, their registration forms are due no later than Friday March 8. Registration forms are accessible online via the academy’s website, or through tribal e-mail for the Boys & Girls Club. They can also be picked-up in-person at the reception desks of either establishment. For additional details, please contact the Academy at (360) 716-4250 or the Club at (360) 716-3400.