Tribal leaders demand dishonorable status for vets at Jan. 6th insurrection at Capital Building

News from Yakama Nation

YAKAMA NATION AGENCY, YAKAMA RESERVATION – The National Congress of American Indians (“NCAI”), Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (“ATNI”), and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (“Yakama Nation”) call upon the Department of Defense to revoke and replace the discharge status of veterans with dishonorable discharges if convicted of participating in the January 6th, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building (“Insurrection”).  The Yakama Nation issued this call among Tribal Leaders, starting with its own Tribal Council Resolution, because of the historically high rates of military service in Native American populations and the inherent understanding of veteran’s solemn duty to support and defend the Constitution.   

The NCAI Resolution memorializes the response across Indian Country, “tribal veterans and leaders . . . believe that the attack on the United States Capitol is unconstitutional and against the morals and values of . . . service to their country and duty to protect.”  Insurrection participants sought to destroy this Country’s tradition of the peaceful transfer of power, the sanctity of voting, and American federalism by attacking the certification of state electors. 

According to a CBS News analysis of military service records, court documents, and attorney statements, at least nine current members of the military and more than 75 veterans have been arrested in connection with the Insurrection. The significance of veterans and active military members was apparent in released reports of specialized military doctrine and terminology used to provide strategic skills carried out to effectively breach the US Capitol Building. It is estimated that up to 15% of all Insurrection participants had military service backgrounds.   

The Yakama Nation Resolution T-039-21, dated February 4, 2021, called the Insurrection a “domestic terrorist attack” that was promoted by the words and actions of the former Commander in Chief. The condemndation was subsequently adopted by ATNI on May 19, 2022 (Resolution #2022-28) and by NCAI on June 16, 2022 (Resolution #ANC-22-021).

Make Your Independence Day a Blast! Visit Boom City

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“It is that time of year again,” exclaimed a young teen, wearing a huge grin as he greeted his group of friends at the gravel lot behind the Tulalip Resort Casino. As he finished exchanging high-fives and daps with his peers, a loud boom rocked the entire area. “Whoo! That’s what I’m talking about. You guys ready?” One of his friends chuckled and replied, “we were just waiting on you!” And with that, the group of four young adults hurried down a row of stands, looking to find the best deal on their first purchase of the holiday season.

The Northwest pyrotechnic capital known as Boom City officially opened on June 22nd this year, to the excitement of many firework enthusiasts, die-hard American patriots, and business-minded tribal members alike. 

If you grew up locally, then Boom City is practically synonymous with summertime fun. Each summer, for nearly the past fifty years, Boom City has been the go-to place for people to purchase their favorite fireworks in the Snohomish County region. And of course, thanks to tribal sovereignty, Boom City vendors offer many fireworks that are not available to the public at stands located off reservation. 

By permitting their membership the right to buy and sell federally legal fireworks at Boom City, Tulalip has provided an opportunity for tribal entrepreneurs to earn another source of income for their families. And not to mention, gain some experience in commerce and business ownership. 

Close to one-hundred stands are currently open for business at Boom City this year. The stand owners have innumerable types of fireworks available for purchase including cakes, firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, Roman candles, fountains, smoke bombs, pop-its and many more, sure to make your Independence Day a blast. 

This year, we asked a handful of stand owners about the theme behind their vibrant and creatively designed stands.

“My theme is ‘Light It Up’, which means a few things,” explained Jennifer Ashman, who is also the manager of Tulalip Remedy. “I love lighting fireworks and I sell cannabis. I had Dalton Shay do my art, he’s a tribal member and he also did the art at the [Remedy] store and that’s how I knew his work. I love it. I had all these cool ideas and he brought them to life.”

Eli Ruiz, who helps run a jungle-themed stand with his wife Danielle, said, “Our stand was painted by an artist named Lou. He did it back in 2018. He painted it twice. The first time we liked it, but it was called Wildthing. I wanted to change it because I felt that it was not just about the stand, I wanted it to also be about our products which are Wildthings. Our zebra-print is our signature, and we are the very first ones with the zebra-striped countertop.”

One stand owner, William Moses, proudly showed-off the back of his stand. Painted at the center is a Native man, donning traditional regalia. The most prominent article he is wearing is a headdress made of feathers. “It really is a good name,” he expressed. “War Bonnet Fireworks. It is famous, I think it’s cool and it is a part of our tradition. One of my buddies painted it, I probably had it for about seven or eight years now. It looks real good!”

Near the center of Boom City, is a red stand with a cupid theme and a downward slanted roof. When asked about her stand, Sylvanna Brinson shared, “I’m the only backward stand with a metal roof. My younger brother had some crazy wild idea that it would be better for me because I’m short. I still have to use a ladder on the inside, but I can maneuver my own shelves and I know where everything goes.” 

Sylvanna also has five words painted on the front of her stand: Crazy, Unsafe, Psychotic, Insane and Dangerous. Each word represents a member of her family. “When I was younger, my mom Theresa had a firework stand that was called Unsafe and Insane. One day, when we were painting this stand, I realized I didn’t have a name. I said, well I’m crazy, everyone calls me crazy. My brother was there, and he said he was psychotic. And dangerous is Sophia because she is young. Crazy, unsafe, psychotic, insane and dangerous – I always say those [words] describe the fireworks, not people. But really, that’s how we came up with our name.”

Many of the stand owners at Boom City have a unique and entertaining story behind the artwork, name, and theme of their stands. And hearing those stories and seeing all the hard work that goes into decorating the stands, is almost as much fun as sticking a punk to a wick and running a safe distance before your fireworks burst into the sky – almost (wink emoji)!

Boom City also offers a designated area so you, your family and friends can enjoy those fireworks safely and legally. Several food vendors are stationed at Boom City as well, serving up treats such as kettle corn, Hawaiian shaved ice, frybread and tacos! 

Boom City is open daily, 8:00 a.m. – Midnight, until July 4th.

Jump into summer with the Tulalip Education Division

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

As school breaks out for summer, the Tulalip Education Division has already set out daily summer camp options for Tulalip youth. Some of the activities include lake and beach days, sports tournaments, paintballing, bowling, and traveling to places like Seattle Pike Place, Point Defiance Zoo, Deception Pass, Family Fun Center, trampoline parks and many others. 

Some of the kids attending have been going to the Youth Center for years, and are apart of the ‘regular’ crowd. One of the camp’s attendees, Derek Rabang said “I just like hanging with my friends everyday.” And even though the Tulalip Education Division is used to some of the same faces, they love seeing new ones as well. 

Currently 81 kids have been signed up for the summer camps, some attending everyday, and others switching out between events. 

With activities set up every Monday through Friday until August, another set of summer camp activities will be released following through until the start of the school year. Needless to say, these summer camps provide an opportunity for Tulalip youth to have a fun, safe, and fulfilled summer. 

Youth and Family Enrichment Supervisor, Sarah Murphy said, “the most exciting thing about summer camp is the energy that the kids give us. These camps set up summers for some of the most fun they will ever have. Some people don’t have the means or the funds or the transportation to go places with their families, so us giving them that opportunity brings me joy. It just warms my heart.”

The summer camps are available for any youth coming into 6th grade on through 12th grade. Because of limited space in the vehicles, and limited staffing, only the first 50 kids that sign up will be able to attend off-site trips. Every child also must have permission slips filled out for them and returned to the Youth Center’s front desk. 

Sarah said “[Tulalip youth] being here is creating a sense of safety and giving them something to do that’s productive, and in a positive manner. Come sign your kids up.”

If you would like to sign your child up for the summer camps or have any questions, please email or you can call 360-716-4909.

Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court recognized as National Mentor Court

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In recognition of outstanding service to the treatment community, the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court Tulalip, WA is hereby recognized as a member of the 2022-2024 National Mentor Court Network by NADCP’s Drug Court Institute and The Bureau of Justice Assistance

On the afternoon of June 27, the courtroom at the Tulalip Justice department was filled with multiple people, some hailing from as far away as Arizona. On the hottest day of the year so far, many were in splendid spirits and thankful to be in the comfort of the almighty A/C. About six of those individuals were especially in a good mood, as they are currently on a journey to becoming the best version of themselves, fighting hard to stay on the road to recovery. And thanks to the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, they are seeing successful results. 

One by one they approached the stand and the first question the judge asked was, ‘how many clean days do you have?’ Ranging anywhere from 36 days to 265 days clean, each person received a resounding and well-deserved round of applause by the entire courtroom when they revealed the amount of days they have remained sober. 

The clients then reflected on the past week with Judge Peter Boome. The judge let the clients know if they were in-compliance, and together they discussed all of the weekly tasks the clients have completed, or were meant to complete, such as community service hours, check-in’s with their advisors and team, court-mandated essays, and UA’s.

 A few of these individuals, who are just beginning their recovery journey, were experiencing the Healing to Wellness Court’s proceedings for the first time, and this appearance served as either an observation day or an opt-in day. Others have long been participants of the wellness court and were celebrating upwards of hundreds of days clean, that were acquired with the assistance of the Tribe’s wellness court. If the client was 100% in-compliance, they were rewarded with an incentive of their choosing.

Observing the wellness court in-action, was Susan Alameda, the Project Director of the National Drug Court Institute. Once the proceedings were finished, Susan presented an engraved plaque to the tribal court, recognizing the Healing to Wellness Court as an official member of the National Mentor Court Network. 

This is the second two-year term in a row that the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court received this esteemed title. The title allows other courthouses throughout the country, that are looking to improve or begin their own wellness courts in their respective communities, the opportunity to visit and learn from Tulalip’s model. 

Said Susan, “At the National Drug Court Institute, we say that these programs are about saving lives. I believe that is absolutely true. There’s an approach to these programs, especially Tulalip’s Healing to Wellness Court, it’s very rooted in community, very rooted in science and research. When you think about families who are able to stay together, or to be reunited, people who turn their lives around from substance abuse and have a second chance, to me, that’s life saving. When they get all that fog out of their system, and they can see themselves and all the things they want to achieve, they become a new person. That is such a beautiful thing to see.”

She continued, “This particular wellness program now has the prestige title of being a mentor court, which is one of very few mentor courts throughout the country. We take great honor in recognizing this court for all of its achievements. The staff played a big role to begin and continue carrying out this program, and [the judges] have been very dedicated, as well as all those who have come before. To be called a mentor court, you really have to adhere to some high standards. And through that, you have the opportunity to play a role in helping shape other courts that are interested in doing something like what’s been going on here.”

The Tulalip Tribes and the Tulalip Justice department first introduced the Healing to Wellness Court at the start of 2017 as an alternative path to the road to recovery for it’s tribal membership. As the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to escalate, skyrocketing in Native America since the pandemic, the tribal Wellness Court program looks to continue to be a source for the people as a means to get clean and escape the battle of addiction. 

The tribe tailored the wellness court to meet the needs of their people, and implemented community and cultural work, or ‘give-back hours’, as a requirement to complete the program. And thereby helped re-instill traditional values in many of their clients as well as helping them get re-acclimated back into the community. 

In addition to having a strong team of professionals by their side, consisting of judges, attorneys, tribal courthouse officials, TPD officers, drug counselors, and recovery specialists, the client is also reunified with their families, friends, and community along the way. And with a strong support system and a return to traditional Tulalip lifeways, the client has a great chance of completing the 18-24 monthlong program and maintaining their sobriety once they graduate from the Healing to Wellness Court. 

Susan presented the plaque to Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, who stated, “I would like to thank you on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes. It’s a true honor for our court system. I also want to thank Judge Bass, who was there since the beginning to help bring this forward. And all of the other judges, lawyers, staff, supportive staff, and everyone who has been involved. It’s an honor to receive this prestigious honor for our court system.”

In attendance for the special recognition, and taking note of the court’s proceedings, were representatives of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe who are in the planning phase of opening their own reservation-based wellness court. The Muckleshoot Wellness Court coordinator, Henry Carranza, is anticipating a ribbon-cutting ceremony as early as September, but noted that a lot of work is still required before they’re able to hold their first hearing. 

“A lot of the things happening here at the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, we’re going to borrow and implement,” Henry said. “We’re looking to get as much information that we can get and use it for our court. The whole transformation of helping others and watching them turn their lives around will be so worth it. Here at Tulalip, everybody has the same goal of helping the individual turn their life around, everybody works together to help that one person, I think that’s the key.”

The mentor court title will remain in effect through 2024, where if eligible, the courthouse can once again apply to be a member of the National Mentor Court Network and can continue to lead by example for wellness courts nationwide. 

While wiping tears from her eyes, Teri expressed, “I think about everybody’s lives that it’s changed – seeing the difference in what has happened with our people. It makes a difference having everybody surrounding you, supporting you. It’s like the medicine wheel. We’re making sure they are whole all the way around, but also keeping them accountable for that first year. I want to thank you for this honor on behalf of our court and the staff who made this possible.”

Perseverance and a Diploma: Celebrating the Class of 2022

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“Welcome to our 2022 ceremony to celebrate our graduates,” said Rochelle Lubbers as she greeted the hundreds of family and friends who ventured to the Tulalip Resort on June 14. “We’re so excited to have you all here. Our hearts are beyond full to be in the same room with our community on such a remarkable occasion.

“Reflecting on all our beautiful students today, I thought about all the different journeys they have taken to get here, and how each journey is unique and special. Not a single one had the same walk, but there are some commonalities that they experienced being seniors during a global pandemic. They experienced distance learning and all the challenges with technology that came with that. However, what I’m most impressed with is they exemplified perseverance. Our students overcome these challenges and pushed through in whatever way they had to in order graduate. For that, their entire Tribe is proud of them and that’s why we’re here to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment.”

The triumphant atmosphere was palpable in the Resort’s Orca Ballroom as the unrelenting hopes and limitless dreams from the Class of 2022 took center stage with a stylish graduation banquet. 

A whopping seventy-eight high school seniors, accompanied by their loved ones, convened to commemorate the rite of passage. There were traditional songs sang and drummed, words of wisdom from tribal elders shared, opportunities to immortalize the occasion with a visit to on-site photo booth, a decadent buffet-style dinner, and plenty of motivational words offered from Tulalip’s next generation of leaders.

One emphatic message that was repeated throughout the night from graduates, parents and elders alike was a reminder to the praise worthy 18-year-olds that receiving a high school diploma is only the first major milestone on their journey to manifesting their dreams into reality. 

For some the dream may be finding a convenient job to establish independence via a one bedroom apartment, or joining the Tribe’s next TERO vocational training center class in order to enter the construction trades and start building up a pension. There are those newly minted adults who are far too eager to start a family of their own, and there are a few who never thought they’d graduate high school and now, having achieved the seemingly impossible, are in search of their next step. 

Then there are the awe-inspiring dream chasers. These type of high school grads aren’t satisfied with just the one diploma. They want more; more education, more diplomas, and more experiences than what can be found within the boundaries of the Reservation or Snohomish County. These individuals intend to redefine the expectations of success as it pertains to Native Americans and the education system. 

Like, homegrown Tulalip tribal members Tamiah Joseph and Quintin Yon-Wagner. They were chosen as Class of 2022 student speakers and shared heartfelt words to the Ballroom crowd. Tamiah was noted as being a standout athlete during her participation in Rising Stars gymnastics and UNITY basketball, as well as being credited for being a NABI finalist, Tulalip Nationals Champion, and 2022 WIAA District Champion. 

“I didn’t think I’d make to this day, honestly. But now I’m here and so thankful for all the support I’ve received. I’m delighted to share that next year I will be attending Multnomah University on a full-ride scholarship to play women’s basketball,” said Tamiah from the podium. “My high school experience was far from what I imagined it would be. From 8th grade on, my academic journey was not easy. However, my experiences have led me to who I am today. Returning to the class room setting after living through a pandemic was a difficult transition, with all the social expectations and norms of everyday high school.

“During my high school journey I was able to experience life outside of my tribal community,” she continued. “From traveling all across the nation for AAU and Native basketball tournaments, to being a part of ArchBishop Murphy playoff runs. I experienced triumphs and failures, but with each I became a stronger person for both myself and my family. I wish all my fellow graduates the best in your future endeavors and hope each of you realizes that your capable of greatness.”

  Meanwhile, Quintin shared how the two-year hiatus from the classroom for most students during the coronavirus pandemic may have been a struggle, but when viewed from a certain perspective it only helped prepare them for adulthood. He also credited Tulalip’s Education team, Marysville Indian Education, and the Tribe’s volunteer educators who assisted the community when it needed them most.

“We can all agree this has to be the most abnormal high school experience a student can go through,” Quintin said. “After waiting two long years, we finally came back to school, and we came back stronger than ever. This class of 2022 put their heads down and persisted through all the pandemic struggles in order to reach this stage. I appreciate all the parents and family support systems that adapted to online and at-home learning. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. 

“The tough times we had to endure provided us with essential life lessons about priorities, time management, and sacrificing fun for what’s actually important,” he added. “After all the trials of the past four years, we’ve finally made it to graduation. I’m so excited to see where the paths lead each of you and hope that no matter the journey, the destination is fulfilling and prosperous. I’d like to share that I will be attending Central Washington University in the fall on a full-ride scholarship to play football and further my education in Mathematics and Business Administration.”

Becoming leaders of the present may seem like a daunting task to most young adults who have grown accustomed to daily consistency and certain levels of comfort provided by a cushy K-12 education. However, for these Native youth, they’ve been bucking the trend and blazing new paths to academic success for years now without even realizing it. They’ve overcome long odds that said they wouldn’t earn a high school diploma, while breaking down barriers that prevented previous generations from attending college.

For our students, their ability to thrive in the westernized school system and graduate with top honors meant not only proving the doubters wrong, but also proving their ancestors right. The right for future generations to be educated and have the ability to pursue a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate Degree was something previous tribal leaders fought and sacrificed for. Their vision comes true every time an Indigenous citizen boldly ventures off to a University armed with strength of culture and a tribe’s worth of support. 

Natalie Otto soared into Tulalip from the Bird Clan of Eastern Cherokee. Far from her traditional homelands, the Otto family embraced the local community, which allowed Natalie to thrive in and out of school. Natalie participated in ASB where she held the role of Secretary during her senior year, while maintaining a flawless 4.0 GPA. She graduated atop her Marysville Getchell graduating class and for her stellar academic efforts was named valedictorian. She was also awarded Indigenous Student of the Year.

“I’m so humbled to have received scholarships from both the Tulalip Tribes and Marysville. These scholarships will help fund my college education and assist me achieving my next goal, which is to graduate Penn State University with a degree in fashion,” shared Natalie post-banquet. “My great-grandmother Dr. Lee Piper was heavily involved in our Cherokee culture and instilled in her family a dedication to becoming educated. My whole life, my goal was to become valedictorian. In doing so I honor her legacy the best way that I can.”

The final two awards given out on the evening were the coveted Tulalip Senior Students of the Year. Having spoke already, where he detailed his college plans, it was no shocker that Quintin was announced as the first student of the year. He was described as holding a 3.7 GPA, being a National Honors Society member, four-year varsity letterman in football and a 4x defensive player of the year.

The second Tulalip Senior Student of the Year winner was the four-year wrestling standout, three-year letterman earner for football, National Honor Society achiever, 3.67 GPA toting and proud Diversity Club member, Brianna Williams. Her educators describe her as having an abundance of positive energy that shows through with her stellar leadership, work ethic, athletic brilliance, compassion for others, and exceptional commitment to improving both herself and the world around her. 

She has earned many accolades during her high school tenure, but what stands out most is her humility and willingness to embrace challenges and new learning opportunities. This is summed up best by her dream to become a civil rights attorney.  

“The current school system wasn’t meant for us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t break those stereotypes. It doesn’t mean we can’t change the system from within and build ourselves up to make real change in the world,” explained Brianna with a beaming smile. “I’d like to thank my mom for everything she’s done to support me on my educational journey. She made it possible for me to dream of being a civil rights attorney. If that doesn’t work out, then hopefully another career in law because like our leaders tell us all the time, our Tribe needs lawyers and judges who understand our people. Through education, we can make this dream a reality.”

The annual graduation banquet culminated in a ballroom’s worth of support hooting and hollering as each graduate strutted down the red carpet to a podium where education staff and school district representatives awaited them. Each inspired-Native was given congratulatory handshakes, hugs, and a stunning Pendleton travel bag as a graduation gift.

A Strong Tribal Voice: Daryl Williams for WA State House of Representatives ‘22

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Daryl Williams

Tulalip tribal member Daryl Williams is well-known throughout the region for his work in protecting the environment and defending Northwest tribal treaty rights. For decades, he has dedicated his life to preserving the natural world and has been an inspiration to eco-friendly environmentalists, leaving his stamp by helping reduce the Tribe’s carbon footprint. In fact, he was the driving force behind the partnership between the Tulalip Tribes, Werkhoven Dairy and Qualco Energy, a bio-gas project that creates renewable energy from livestock waste, and therefore helps reduce the amount of pollutants that enter local stream systems. 

As a member of the Tulalip Natural Resources team, Daryl has spent many years behind the scenes blocking proposed bills that would ultimately hurt the environment and violate tribal treaty rights. Through this work, he has made strong connections with Washington State legislators and government officials. And with that experience and those connections, it is no surprise that Daryl wishes to continue to be a strong voice for the Indigenous population on a governmental level, not only for Tulalip but for all the treaty tribes of Washington State. 

Daryl recently announced his candidacy for the District-38 seat on the Washington State House of Representatives, a position that was long held by fellow Democratic Tulalip tribal member, John McCoy, before he became a state senator. An ideal candidate for the position, Daryl is looking to make an even bigger impact if elected to the house of representatives, furthering his efforts in protecting treaty rights and Mother Earth, as well as addressing many other tribal issues. Tulalip News recently sat down with Daryl to discuss his candidacy as his campaign run officially begins.

Tell us a little about your journey so far and your background.

Well, I got hired on by Tulalip shortly after I graduated high school. I’ve been working in our Natural Resource program ever since, doing legislative work for at least the last thirty-some years. 

I received my degree through Columbia College through the U.S. Navy base in Everett. Several of our tribal members have received their degrees there. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a member of the Navy to take courses on the base. They have the extensive courses offered to everybody. The more people we get enrolled, the broader amount of courses they can offer.

Can you explain what position you are running for? 

I’m running for the legislative seat for the 38th district, which covers most of Everett, most of Marysville, and all of Tulalip, to get into the state house of representatives and try to work on issues from the inside. We have a lot of legislators that really want to do the right thing for the environment, but they don’t know how. They don’t understand the issues that well. The same with tribal issues, they don’t really understand tribal issues that well, but most of them want to actually do things that support the tribes. We need more people on the inside who can help educate the rest of the legislators on environmentalist issues, health care, education, and things that can overlap with what the tribes are doing. We have to work with them on what works for the tribes and what doesn’t, and try to come up with things that works for both the non-tribal and tribal communities. 

What is the biggest issue you wish to address if you are elected into that seat?

We want a little more flexibility with tribes because we want to be able to do compact schools for the tribes. I think most of the tribes want to be able to set up their own schools and be able to receive some state funding to help do that.But we don’t necessarily want to see state funding going to compact schools that primarily benefit rich kids. We have to work with legislators to develop proper language to where we can do both. 

What are compact schools?

They are really just privately-run schools, created in order to give kids another option on how to get an education. But for the most part, they are primarily schools for rich kids. Most of the funding comes from rich families who pay tuition fees, they get some supplemental state funding, but a lot of it is just fees from the kid’s parents. Both middle- and low-income families can’t afford to send their kids to compact schools. So, what the tribes are looking into is creating a tribally funded school along with some state funding to help pay for it. 

You mentioned that you have done a lot of legislative work over the years, if elected would you be doing some more of that same work, or would be proposing and writing other bills?

Probably a combination of the two. Proposing new bills to submit, but also commenting on other legislator’s bills from the inside and try to make some changes to make them better for the tribes or to convince the legislators that they really are doing the wrong thing. But most likely, the worst bills typically come out of the Republican Party, and they’re doing it just to show support for their members. And even if they don’t expect the bill to pass, they’re still going to submit them just to show their voters that they’re trying to do something. So, we can’t kill all the bad bills, but we can at least try to change them to where they’re less damaging to the tribes.

What are some of your proudest moments working for Natural Resources and doing that important legislative work?

Most the time, we were just trying to kill ‘bad bills’. I didn’t really get too involved on creating good ones. It’s a long process. When the bill is submitted, it has to go through a committee in each house and has to be passed by each house, before going to the Governor for final approval. And we have asked the Governor to veto a few bills, which is what governors have done over the last few years for us. But most of the time we can get them killed in committee if they are something that could hurt the tribes.

What are some examples of bad bills?

Well, most of them that I fought against were bills for water rights. When they were ready to authorize cities, counties, corporations, and others to pull more water out of the river. Really, every river is already over-allocated for water, so anymore that comes out just hurts our fish runs even more. We’ve really worked hard to prevent further water appropriations. 

You said you were fresh out of high school when you started working for the Tribe, how has working with the Natural Resources department over the years prepared you for this run?

My first like four years, were working with our hatchery program. I’ve worked with every governor since John Spellman. And I know a lot of the legislators in Olympia because we’ve worked with them for a few years. I’ve got the experience dealing with legislative issues, things I’ve learned on the job working with other folks. Dave Somers and Kimberly Orton are the two who I’ve learned the legislative issues from most. Of course, Dave’s our county executive now and Kimberly retired from us a few years ago. 

A lot of it’s just spending the time doing it and learning on the job. It takes a lot of time and effort to read through the proposed bills, understand how the process works, talk to key legislators before the bill is discussed in committee, and then actually testify in front of the committees. If the bill makes it out of the committee, it’s talking to a lot of legislators to try to prevent it from passing out of the house.

And of course, you have done some very important work with Qualco Energy. Can you talk to us about that project?

The one project that I’ve worked on that everybody likes, bio-gas project, where we work with Werkhoven Dairy. We receive all of their cow manure and run it through an anaerobic digester and capture the methane gas within the digester. That’s just the normal product of decomposition. Anaerobic digester speeds up the decomposition rate of the cow manure, so we capture the methane and use it for producing electricity. And the digestate that comes out the back end of it, the farmer uses it to irrigate his fields because it’s basically a high-nutrient water. They use the nutrients to fertilize their field as well.

When you apply raw cow manure on farm fields, it takes a year to a year-and-a-half for the nutrients to mineralize into a form that the crops can use. And during that year, year-and-a-half, a lot of those nutrients wash away during the floods. By running it through the digesters, it comes out in the form that crops can use right away. So, we store the liquid effluent in our lagoons and apply it as needed. And none of that nutrient is getting washed into our river systems. That’s the main reason Tulalip got into it, developing renewable energy with just a byproduct.

You have dedicated years to protecting our environment and tribal treaty rights, how will that experience help you if elected to this position?
I’ve worked on environmental issues, and fish and wildlife habitat issues for over forty years. I actually started the Tribes’ air quality program back in the 90’s. 

We had a person burning all sorts of debris, which would have been illegal anywhere else. He found out there was a loophole because the Tribe didn’t have any air quality regulations on the books. 

He wasn’t breaking any laws, because the state laws on air pollution are not enforceable within reservation boundaries under the Clean Air Act. The federal regulations for clean air are pretty minimal. And we couldn’t show that he was violating any federal rules, so we had to create our own set of air quality rules. We were able to put a stop to it because he was burning plastics, fiberglass, rubber, all sorts of things that you really don’t want to be breathing. 

Are there any specific areas within environmental preservation that you haven’t had the chance to focus on, that if elected to this position, will allow you to work on?

Over the last four decades I’ve worked on about everything, so I don’t think there is anything I haven’t put much time into. I would probably put more time into protecting wildlife habitat. We must rebuild our deer and elk herds for our hunters. I work with our wildlife staff periodically to provide some assistance for them, but that is an area I believe we need to put a little more time into.

In addition to those two values, environmental protection and defending treaty rights, what are some other issues that you are passionate about?

Being a tribal member and working for the Tribe my whole adult life, I want to help the tribes out any way I can. I know mental health and drug addiction are big issues. And it’s not just on the reservation, it’s everywhere. That’s something I want to get more involved in. That’s something my dad (Adam Williams) worked on back in the late 60’s through the 70’s. He started Tulalip’s drug and alcohol program. That’s a problem that has been getting worse over time. We need to do a better job of education and outreach before people start using the drugs and come up with a better way of treating people once they do start using.

Do you have any suggestions or tips for people to start being more environmentally friendly? Something that they can start working on right away?

People need to stop throwing trash out their windows. I can’t believe how fast that builds up along our roadways. I don’t know how many polluters are our tribal members, I hope it’s not much. A lot of our tribal members are good at recycling things, because of the way they’re brought up – our traditional background. Most of our members have learned enough about their culture that they respect our environment and want to protect it, and really aren’t doing the things that the rest of the country does. Unfortunately, other cultures don’t have our background, our respect. I think we’re trying to teach the rest of the world. 

Exactly. And if you get into that position, our voice will be amplified, and you can help speak to those issues on a higher level.

Yes! We really need to treat our environment better. One of the biggest problems is the amount of toxic drugs that end up in our stream system, both prescription drugs or illegal drugs. Your body only absorbs a small portion of what you take-in, and the rest ends up in the sewage system. Since our sewage systems aren’t designed to remove drugs, they end up washing out into our streams and rivers. We can detect levels of certain drugs in the juvenile fish coming out of the rivers; we can detect cocaine levels in our juvenile Chinook – and pretty much every prescription drug can be found in those fish now.  

Now the latest issue has been tire residue. Little rubber pellets wear-off our tires and end up at the storm drain, killing off our juveniles. Coho are actually the most susceptible. We just found out about it during the last year, and it’s really showing up in urban streams. The heavier the traffic is, the higher the concentrations of the tire residue that’s hitting the streams. So, we’re looking at different ways of treating the stormwater to help prevent that residue from affecting our fish. Fortunately, we’re finding some fairly simple ways of doing it, but having to do to every storm drain is going to cost a lot. We’re working on testing out some different techniques in the Nisqually watershed that seem to be working.

The Washington House of Representative District-38 seat represents the Tulalip/Marysville/Everett area, and you are the only tribal member running for that position. Are there other tribal members running for a seat in the other districts throughout the state?

Debra Lekanoff, who’s an Alaskan Native, is holding a seat and currently is the only tribal member in the house. Previously, we had John McCoy, of course, in the Senate and before that he was also in the House. And we had a senator, Claudia Kauffman, who is from the Nez Perce tribe, and has worked for Muckleshoot for many years, she’s running for the Senate again.

Why is it important to have tribal representation in that position?

When John McCoy was there, he was able to really teach legislators about Northwest treaty tribes. When they were drafting bills, they would talk to him and ask him questions about how the bill would affect tribes. He was able to explain to them the tribal view on a lot of those and he was able to do that before the bills became public for others to look at. You get a lot of opportunities to educate other legislators on the issues that concern tribes, and that really makes it easier to get good bills passed.

Are there any important upcoming dates that Tribal membership and our readers should know about?

The ballots should be getting mailed, I believe on July 14th, and then Election Day for the primary is August 2nd. We’re scheduling a kick-off event for the campaign at the Tulalip Resort Casino on June 30th from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Where can people learn more about your campaign?

They can visit the campaign website, And we also have a Facebook page. We have cards that we will be handing out when we start going door-to-door. 

Is there anything that we didn’t touch-on that you would like to mention?

A lot of tribal members know that I’ve worked for the tribe forever, but it’s important that we have a strong tribal voice in Olympia. With Debra being the only tribal legislator, we really need to have two or three tribal members down there, and hopefully this year we will!