Tsunami & fog advisories over MLK weekend

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Following the two-week holiday snow storm that led us into the new year, the Pacific Northwest’s forecast has consisted of nearly all the different types of weather since. From our typical overcast and rainy days to clear sunny skies, Washington state residents have experienced just about every type of precipitation imaginable as well as felt the various degrees in temperature, ranging from below freezing to as warm as the low 50’s. 

On an early evening last week, many people were compelled to reach for their smart phones and open their camera apps to snap a shot of the sky, which was a scene filled with gorgeous and vibrant colors of pink, purple, blue and golden hues. Multiple areas throughout the state also dealt with extreme flooding as this winter’s snowfall began to melt after steadily compiling for several days in a row. 

Starting out, 2022 has already seen snow, rain, hail and sunshine, not to mention cloudy and windy days. And over the three-day weekend, in which we take to time to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, local meteorologists predicted that we were set to have our first encounter with some morning fog throughout the Puget Sound region this year.

Although the weather specialists did predict fog in the forecast, they also thought it would only occur in the early hours of Saturday January 15, and sunshine would prevail for the rest of the long weekend. As we know, however, that was not the case as heavy condensation hung in the air, and coastal communities experienced limited visibility as a dense fog advisory was put into effect, extending through both Sunday and MLK day. 

Amidst the fog and the mist, many of us woke to urgent alerts and notifications on Saturday morning, stating that we, along with California, Oregon, B.C., and Alaska, were under a tsunami advisory. The underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’api volcano erupted in the South Pacific on the evening of January 14, covering the isles of the Tonga nation with ash and smoke, as reported by CNN. The tsunami waves caused from the volcanic eruption first hit the shores of Tonga, flooding several homes of the island community. 

The initial waves were reportedly several feet high and traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean and eventually reached the Salish Sea on Saturday morning. The National Weather Service warned local residents to stay away from the beaches and coastlines as the tsunami waves arrived, claiming that the waves could be as big as three feet and could potentially drag people out to sea. 

At Tulalip, the reservation was covered with a thick layer of fog. It was suggested on Tulalip News Facebook that the fog was brought on because of the volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami waves. But as it turns out, the two bouts of weather, which both called for advisories, were indeed separate. 

The eruption did in fact impact the fog. However, an 820-mile-per-hour shockwave traveled nearly 6,000 miles to our local region and actually cleared some of the fog temporarily, and for a moment blue skies and sunshine could be seen in certain areas of the northwest. 

The effects of the volcano eruption and tsunami waves have yet to be seen and many are wondering if it will impact the climate, sea-level rise or marine life. Scientists and specialists are still studying the natural phenomenon. And with the recent tsunami threat, many coastal communities are updating their tidal wave and evacuation plans. 

With the somewhat extreme and unpredictable weather occurring throughout this winter, it is important to stay up-to-date with the current forecast. Be sure to follow the National Weather Service on your preferred social media platform and set-up a few weather alerts on your phone to be best prepared for whatever weather may come our way. 

You can also text STORM to 844-962-3985 to stay up to date on the latest information about storms and emergencies on the Tulalip Reservation. 

Commemorating the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott

Dancer  at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary’s  yearly Tulalip Day celebration. 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“At this time, we remember and acknowledge our ancestors who signed the treaty,” said Tulalip Elder, Inez Bill. “We reflect on the importance of that treaty – who we are as a people and how to continue our way of life – a commemoration of the signing of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott that affected the coastal tribes.”

January 22nd marks 167 years since tribal leaders across the northern Puget Sound region gathered at the location that is presently known as Mukilteo. A historic day in which representatives from various tribes, bands and villages, including the people of Snohomish, Lummi, Swinomish and Suquamish, met with Washington Territory Governor Issac Stevens to negotiate and sign a document that would become known as the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. Close to 5,000 Coast Salish people were in attendance, and the negations required two translators – one translating English to Chinook Jargon and the other interpreter translated the Chinook Jargon into the traditional languages of the various tribes.

“We honor the good intentions our ancestors had for us in negotiating and signing the treaty,” stated Lena Jones, Tulalip Elder and Education Curator of the Hibulb Cultural Center. “I encourage young folks to listen to their elders when they talk about the treaty and our sovereignty. Understanding the treaty will help you understand the influence it has in every aspect of our lifeways.” 

With their future generations in mind, the tribal leaders ceded upwards of 5 million acres of ancestral land to the United States government for white settlement. Today, that enormous amount of land currently makes up Washington’s King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. The treaty established the Tulalip, Port Madison, Swinomish and Lummi reservations, and thereby acknowledged each tribe as a sovereign nation. In exchange for ceding such large portions of land, the tribes reserved the right to fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations, as well as the right to hunt and gather on open and unclaimed lands.  

Ryan Miller, Tulalip Tribes Director of Treaty Rights and Governmental Affairs, speaks on the importance of treaty rights and the need to protect them (2019).

“Treaty rights are an inherent right,” explained Ryan Miller, Tulalip Tribes Director of Treaty Rights and Governmental Affairs. “Treaty rights were not given to tribes. It’s a common misconception that the government gives Native Peoples special rights. That’s the exact opposite of how it works. Tribes are sovereign nations, they give up rights and they retain rights. Treaty rights are rights that are not given up by tribes, and they’re upheld by the federal government as part of their trust relationship with the treaty tribes. The tribes’ right to self-govern is the supreme law of the land. It’s woven into the U.S. constitution as well as many legal decisions and legislative articles. The constitution says Congress has the power to make treaties with sovereign nations, and that treaties are the supreme law of the land.”

Tulalip Fisherman, Brian Green, expressed, “The treaty is literally my livelihood. We fight for our rights every day – fighting to keep our treaty rights. I want my kid’s kids to come out here and be able to exercise their treaty rights. Not everyone has to be a fisherman, but it should be there if they want to exercise it.”

Tribal communities faced difficult years after the signing of the treaty, including the boarding school era. Fifty years after the signing of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott, the Tulalip Indian Boarding School opened, one of many Indian boarding schools throughout the country. During this dark era of American history, Native children were forcibly removed from their families and had to attend these schools and learn how to live the new colonized lifestyle.

The institutions were established to ‘civilize’ the Indigenous population. But while at these boarding schools, the kids were often punished, physically and mentally, for speaking their traditional language and practicing their spiritual and cultural teachings. Many children died as a result of the abuse, while the ones who made it through these atrocities often, and unknowingly, passed on their traumas to the next generations, causing vicious cycles of abuse and destructive coping mechanisms to deal with that abuse, throughout the years.

During this era, the U.S. Government also outlawed traditional practices and spiritual ceremonies that took place on these lands since time immemorial. Coast Salish tribal members could not sing their songs, perform their dances or speak their ancestral languages, and therefore could not pass those teachings to the next generations. Longhouses were demolished and modern-day houses were erected on the reservations. The people who inhabited, lived-off and cared for this land for ages were to learn the ways of agriculture and become farmers.

The descendants of the signatories of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott were in the middle of experiencing the horrors of forced assimilation when the last hereditary chief of the Snohomish, William Shelton, stepped in to save his people’s heritage, culture and way of life. In 1912, persistence paid off when he convinced the Tulalip Superintendent and the U.S. Secretary of Interior to build a longhouse along the shores of Tulalip Bay. 

William created a way for the tribes to practice their traditional lifeways every winter by informing U.S. Government officials that the people would be celebrating and commemorating the anniversary of the treaty once a year at the longhouse. This allowed tribal elders and wisdom keepers the opportunity to teach the younger generations about their culture, which seemed to be slipping away at an alarming rate due to colonized efforts. The annual gathering became known as Treaty Days, a yearly potlatch that often extends into the early morning of the following day.

Treaty Days is an event that tribal members across the region look forward to every year. Although the original longhouse, which Shelton convinced the government to build, was replaced in the sixties, people met at the historical location every January 22nd for over 100 years after the first Treaty Days ceremony took place. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tribal members have not been able to gather to commemorate the treaty for the past three years. However, many tribal families still take the time to honor, reflect, study and pass on the knowledge of the treaty to the next generations at home, until it is safe to convene once more in large numbers at the smokehouse.

“I think that we have the responsibility to revisit the treaty all the time, so we know we are keeping our younger people abreast and informed as much as possible,” said Ray Fryberg, Tulalip Elder and Hibulb Cultural Center Tribal Research Historian. “We gave up a lot in the treaty to keep our sovereignty – to be able to determine our own future and our own direction in our tribal path. And also just living on the reservation, and protecting those rights that were reserved for us, as well as the spiritual and cultural way of life.”

Added Lena, “The treaty accepts the fact that our people have the right to organize themselves, protect our way of life, and care for our resources. Our tribes have significant control of, and rights to, important natural resources such as fishing. As our language and culture become stronger, we are able to help others understand how to take care of the earth and one another.”

The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott is currently on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center as a part of their The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy exhibit. For more information, including the most up-to-date COVID guidelines and restrictions, please contact the museum at (360) 716-2600 or visit the Hibulb Cultural Center’s Facebook page.

Desperate for a family daytrip? New Burke Museum is a prime destination

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“The Burke Museum stands on the lands of the Coast Salish peoples, whose ancestors resided here since time immemorial,” said Burke executive director Julie Stein to a crowd of 400+ people representing tribal nations from all across the Pacific Northwest. “Many Indigenous peoples thrive in this place. Part of that history is embedded in the museum, allowing us to move forward in a good way.

“You all are the first to be invited to tour and experience the all-new Burke Museum,” continued the museum’s executive director. “We are truly honored by your presence. The Burke recognizes our colonial legacy, and we promise to dedicate ourselves to learning from communities and building a more ethical and collaborative future together.”

Julie’s words were direct and heartfelt as she greeted hundreds of Native American visitors who convened for the Burke Museum’s Indigenous Preview in late 2019. Only a matter of months after that glorious day, the global landscape would be upended by a coronavirus. The museum, along with countless other establishments worldwide, would soon close out of an abundance of caution.

Mary Jane Topash, Burke Assistant Director for Cultural Education Initiatives

Now, more than two years after the Indigenous Preview that created legendary memories, the Burke has reopened and welcomes Tulalip families to visit. Located on the University of Washington campus, it’s a 45-minute drive from the Reservation to the $99 million, 113,000-square-foot facility dedicated to preserving creative, complex knowledge. As a thriving cultural resource officially reopened to the public, the Burke staff are excited to host local Native culture-bearers from the greater Tulalip community.

Among the Burke’s staff is Tulalip’s own Mary Jane Topash. She spent eight years at the Hibulb Cultural Center before transitioning to the Burke as its Assistant Director for Cultural Education Initiatives. The UW campus is a home away from home for Mary Jane as she earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees while dawning the purple and gold. 

In honor of the Burke’s collaborative spirit with Indigenous communities, Mary Jane invites all Tulalip families to visit the redesigned museum. 

“Tribal members and their families should visit the new Burke because it’s our only natural history museum in the state, but if that isn’t enough then you should know the Burke isn’t a typical museum. It’s a place we can actually see ourselves and related tribal cultures represented and showcased in the best kind of way,” explained Mary Jane. “It’s an opportunity to learn about fun and excited things beyond just our tribal history, too, like the prehistoric era. We have Dinosaurs!

“We’re still in a pandemic, so I know circumstances may be difficult for some of our people, especially families with multiples kids in the house asking questions that seem to have no answers, but that’s why the Burke is a prime daytrip destination,” she continued. “You can escape to the museum and be immersed in imagination. It’s a perfect family outing for children because it gives them a different outlet for learning and we can answer so many of their questions. Plus, the Burke offers family-based activities such as interactive crafting and scavenger hunts.”

Nearly a decade’s worth of planning and consultation went into the unique redesign of the natural history museum that boasts a massive 16 million object collection. An emphasis on transparency and treating Native cultural artifacts with their proper respect, while acknowledging their rightful creators, is sure to be a conversation starter for museum patrons as they peruse the Culture is Living gallery. From intricate weaving creations to generations old traditional regalia to a truly stunning dedication to canoe journey, Northwest Native artistry and craftsmanship is proudly displayed.

According to the Burke, the Culture is Living gallery breaks down traditional museum authority and brings the expertise and knowledge of communities to the forefront. Cultural objects aren’t tucked away on the shelves. They are alive, embodying the knowledge, language, and stores of people and cultures.

“We wanted to share how diverse our Indigenous cultures are and share the fact that we are still here,” said Sven Haakanson (Alutiiq), curator for North American anthropology. “To us, the cultural pieces we have on display are living. We are representing a hundred-plus cultures in our Culture is Living gallery and to pay them their proper respects we interwove elements of Earth, air, water, our ancestors, children, and community.

“As a curator, one of the things I’m most proud of is we put the Native languages first on every item. Over the next decade, I’m hoping to work with our local tribes to get more item descriptions written in their languages and to add quotes from those communities telling us what the item’s story is from their perspective,” continued Sven.

No trip to the Burke is complete without sampling the palette enriching food cooked up at Off the Rez café. Located inside the Burke, Off the Rez is a permanent outpost spawned from Seattle’s first and only Native food truck. Menu hits include handmade fry bread with choice toppings, braised bison Indian tacos, and smoked BBQ pulled pork wild rice bowls.

It’s a new kind of museum with a whole new way to experience our world. The Burke is located on the UW’s Seattle campus and is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of every month. You can expect to be blown away by the attention to detail the dedicated curators used in setting up each and every item in the multiple galleries. And with Native voices prominently featured, there is sure to be an opportunity for learning and reflection.

“The inclusivity is awesome!” shared Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit) of her Burke experience. “Yes, there are artifacts dating back hundreds of years, but there is so much contemporary art, too. So many young Native artists have works included among the galleries. The voice and presence of the future generations we always talk about is definitely represented.”

Due to King County restrictions, proof of vaccination for visitors ages 12 and older is required for museum admission. Burke staff also encourage pre-purchasing your museum tickets online at www.burkemuseum.org to make your trip as seamless as possible. Current museum hours are Tuesday – Sunday: 10AM – 5PM (Closed on Mondays). For more information please call (206) 543-7907

Carrying on culture through the power of storytelling

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Storytelling is a cultural tradition passed through generations of Native American people. These stories speak of legends, folktales, and fables. They also have the ability to recount the history of our people, rituals, relate to everyday life, and educate children about cultural morals and values. 

Luckily today, many traditional stories are now readily available in books, various audio formats, and videos. But before these technological advances, they were carried on through oral communication. Today if you were to find the written records of historical events and stories, they would contain more visual aspects than narration. Every time a story is shared from one generation to another, it is preserving Native culture, cultivating the Native languages, and honoring our ancestors before us.

Language is one of the most important aspects of any culture. Language paves the way so that people can communicate with one another, build relationships, and create a sense of community. Like many other tribes across the nation, our language and having the freedom to use it is a privilege that our ancestors fought so desperately to keep.

Tribal stories often reflected the land they were on at the time, like hunting routes, local plants, how tribes came to be, family lineage, their spiritual leaders and elders, etc. Therefore, if you listen to stories told by the Inuit of Alaska, their stories may differ from the Seminole of Florida. 

In other ways, storytelling acted as a tool. It is how Native Americans maintained their symbiotic connection to the earth and relationships with animals. As they explored various parts of their land, the language and verbal use of storytelling helped them to live off the land, survive their environment, and how to best utilize the natural resources around them. Some of the themes surrounding storytelling were about creatures, fantasy and realism, places, tricksters, the creator, heroes, society, rites of passage, and disasters. 

Most of these stories were shared through talking circles, similar to events that the Hibulb Cultural Center puts on. On January 8th, 2022, a small group gathered to listen to Maria Rios share this tradition. She recited stories both in English and in Lushootseed.

Rios currently works for the Tulalip Tribes Lushootseed Department. But her love for the language goes as far back as when she was three years old. Her older cousin Tony Hatch was her teacher and helped her learn the language. She said, “Storytelling is a part of our culture and who we are. For me, as a kid, it was a way to learn how to behave and the ways of the world without being scolded.” She went on to talk about the values of people learning about Tulalip through these stories, “The words, the language, it all comes from the land. We have stories about the animals, because we observed them and picked up on the characteristics of them. Everything you learn, you can find a story related to it.”

One of the audience members, Mae Mcgehee said, “We try to come to all of the storytellings. We moved up here a couple of years ago, and it was important that we understand and respect the land and the people on it. Everything is connected, and we knew we needed to come here to listen to these stories.”

There is a lot of historical value that comes from people continuing storytelling today. Repeating the stories that were once told is an opportunity to share the mindsets that our ancestors had and continue our cultural values for future generations. Knowing our Native language is an essential aspect for storytelling, but understanding the worth and meaning behind these stories is what will continually shape our people.  

If you or someone you know is interested in reading some of these stories, or want to share them with your friends and family, you can find most of them through the Lushootseed Department’s website. If you would like to listen to the stories in-person, you can find more information about related events on the Hibulb Cultural Center’s website, or call (360) 716-2600 and ask about their upcoming Storytelling event.

New year, new goals, same us

Snowy Tulalip Bay photo by Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Towards the end of every year, it becomes a time of reflection, what all we have accomplished, exciting events in our lives, and maybe some challenges we endured. The next day, the New Year reigns and brings opportunities for people to have a fresh start, to reinvent themselves, and create better and healthier habits. Historically, the most common trend is New Year’s resolutions.

About 4000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians were the first people to start New Year’s resolutions. During that time, it was a 12-day religious festival that incorporated promises to the gods to pay off debts, return things they had borrowed, etc. And in return if the Babylonians followed through on their promises, the gods would bless them with good crops, and bestow favors on them.

The modern-day version is less about praying to the gods, and more about setting up personal endeavors and a time to start over and pursue new habits. Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions include exercising more, saving money, paying off debt, losing weight, spending more time with family, traveling more, and reducing stress. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. However, only 8% of those people achieve their goals. 

So, if almost half of the country sets these resolutions, why do only 8% achieve them? In a 2021 article from Business Insider, psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert talked about three reasons why it may be hard for people to follow through on their goals; Your resolution isn’t specific enough. You must be able to mark your progress, or else it becomes hard to stay motivated. Therefore, if your goal is to lose weight, make milestones of weight you’d like to lose by certain dates and timeframes.

Secondly, you aren’t framing your goal in a positive manner. If you’re making a goal to stop doing something, it becomes a shameful message to yourself. It becomes something you’re avoiding rather than creating a positive focal point on what you’d like to accomplish. Lastly, your resolution isn’t about you. Alpert said, “So often, people seem to be influenced by their friends, their family, what they see in society.” Rather than trying to fulfill expectations of others, remember that these goals are about you and your life. 

Setting resolutions/goals for ourselves are important because it is an essential tool that we can use on a personal and professional level. Setting goals are linked with higher motivation, self-esteem, self-confidence, and autonomy. It gives meaning to our every-day lives and creates a vision for what we would like for our lives to look like. And though New Year’s is typically the time where people like to set goals, everyone is capable of setting goals at any point in their life. 

So where do we start? 

Imagine the results you want to see. Visualize the time and effort it will take to reach that result, and do you think it is worth it? 

Utilize the SMART method for creating your goals. S- Specifc, M- Measurable, A- Attainable, R-Realistic, T-Time-bound

Write down your goals. Statistics show that when you write down your goal, they become more tangible, rather than an indistinct thought. You can also place the written goal somewhere you can see it every day, as a daily reminder of what you are aiming for

Create a plan or a roadmap to your goal. Every goal has micro-steps and milestones that lead up to it. The more you understand what steps you need to take and the action route that you must follow, the more broken down your goal is and easier it is to digest and move towards. If you aren’t sure about how to create this, you can also utilize resources and experts to assist you

Create a timeline. Once you understand the steps and milestones your goals require, create a deadline for each of them. It creates a sense of urgency and keeps you moving in a forward direction

Pull the trigger. Now that you set yourself up for success, dive into the deep end. The sooner you start, the sooner you will reach your goal

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and assess your progress. Check in on your progress, throughout your timeline. If you’re falling behind, you’ll be able to assess where you need to catch up. If you’re moving in the right direction, you will feel re-motivated and work even harder to finish out your goal

Some Tulalip tribal departments and staff have already set out their goals for the new year. 

The Higher Education Department said their goals included increasing enrollment, seeking more internship opportunities with some of the tribal departments, reaching out to more tribal colleges, and creating more educational programs for the membership.

The Problem Gambling Program will work to increase knowledge on Gambling Disorder behavior and reach community members interested in addressing their own issues with gambling or a loved one’s issues related to gambling behavior. They hope to continue to partner and collaborate with other departments in effort to strengthen outreach to the community. They also would like to continue expanding and developing their expertise with Gaming and Social Media addiction to best support youth, parents and families experiencing negative consequences related to screen activity.

The Tulalip Tribal Court plans are to merge into in-person hearings for all case types, and resume jury trials.

The Youth & Family Enrichment Department plans to bring our youth and community together in a safe and productive manner. They would love to bring in more family-based programs, along with cultural, health & fitness programs. They plan on offering various sports conditioning, a variety of sporting competitions, the Get Drugs Off Our Rez car parade, the Autism Awareness car parade, monthly Coastal Jams, various sports leagues, Youth Awareness Talking Circles, different arts and crafts programs, in school and after school programs, and various other events within covid 19 guidelines.

With 2022, let’s make it our year. Share your goals, spread positivity, and motivate others to do the same. 

Honoring our Indigenous educators

Indigenous educators recognized for having 20+ years of experience.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

While the vast majority of students were enjoying their winter break and anxiously awaiting what would become Snowmageddon, a special gathering took place among the Indigenous educators of Marysville School District. Co-hosted by MSD’s Indian Education and Tulalip’s Positive Youth Development teams, all Indigenous educators within the District, and their families, were invited to Heritage High School’s commons area to be honored for their united goal of decolonizing education. 

Decolonizing education means to dismantle a colonial system. In this case, the specific colonial system is education, which wasn’t integrated until the 1970s after decades of legal battles. So then how can a system that separated white people and people of color for hundreds of years, a system that was created and maintained by white people for the benefit of white people, all of a sudden become an inclusive system that prioritizes the success of all? Put simply, it can’t. 

Tulalip elder Dawn Simpson, with 50 years of education work, stands beside Heritage counselor Shonta Paul.

In order to achieve such a lofty goal, it’ll require the tireless pursuit and often underappreciated life’s work of Native culture bearers who are fully aware that they are raging against the machine and regularly feeling like no matter how much they do it’s never enough. Yet, for these special few, they know the deck is stacked against them but they’ll answer the call anyway. They take the college classes, get the required degrees, and receive the necessary accreditations to gain entry into colonized school systems as Indigenous educators. 

Armed with traditional teachings and ancestral wisdom, and fueled by a relentless love for their people, it’s the Indigenous educators who are fighting to change the education system from within. From their positions they can actively provide an environment where Native students can learn about, and be proud of, their history and culture. It is these educators who were celebrated on that December evening. 

“I’m going on my eighteenth year now working in education. In my new position I’m so honored to be working with all of you, the beautiful Indigenous educators of our District. As far as I know, this is the first time a celebration like this has been held exclusively for you all,” remarked Matt Remle, MSD Indian Education coordinator, to all in attendance. “The thought behind this event is simple. We want to honor, encourage, and uplift our Native educators because what you all do every day is remarkable and worth celebrating.”

“I want to thank you all for being here and allowing us to acknowledge you together as our Indigenous educators,” added Jessica Bustad, executive director of Tulalip Education. “Words can’t express how important you are, and the work that you do to positively impact our youth is immeasurable. But we do know how important it is for us to support each other.


Heritage teacher Marina Benally (center) with her son and daughter who both work as educators
within the District.

“We know that these systems we work in were not built for our Indigenous students,” she continued. “Times are difficult right now, but it’s never been easy doing the kind of work we do. What keeps us going is a shared dedication to our students’ success and a passion to do what we can to help them thrive in and out of the classroom. The Indigenous students within the District need and depend on us. They are so fortunate to have educators who genuinely care for them, and I hope you all know how much of a difference you make.”

Public education was among the first colonial institutions deployed over Native American tribes as a tactic to subordinate, confuse and debilitate. The effort to forcibly assimilate Native children through education took place all of the United States. Today, we refer to this effort as the Boarding School Era; when Native children were removed from their families and placed in faraway boarding schools to eradicate Native culture. Whether the boarding schools were sponsored by the church, state or federal government is of little difference. The Native students were stripped of their traditional languages, clothing, and teachings. They weren’t able to see themselves in the curriculum nor in those individuals appointed as teachers.

Because of our Indigenous educators’ efforts, the same cannot be said for Native students within Marysville School District. They have opportunity to see themselves in Since Time Immemorial curriculum, and to learn traditional teachings from their elders who unapologetically display their Native cultures in the school setting. From intricately handwoven cedar to vibrant ribbon skirts and beaded earrings, to Lushootseed words and the heartbeat of hand drums, the sights and sounds of a thriving Native culture is embodied by these educators.

During the celebratory dinner, within the commons area of Heritage High School, the sentiment was shared how fitting the location was. The high school located on the Tulalip Reservation, dreamt of by past leaders, serves as a model that can redefine and inspire Indigenous education. Nationally, many Native students struggle with low academic achievement and only about half graduate from high school. Contrast that with Heritage High recently setting records for overall student enrollment and total number of seniors earning their diploma. It becomes easy then to understand the importance of allowing Native youth to learn in a community-led, culturally-rich environment.

Marina Benally has been teaching Tulalip’s youth for twenty-three years. Most recently as a teacher at Heritage where she is routinely spoken highly of by her students, past and present. Before the intimate gathering, Marina asked her son, Terrance, and daughter, Amanda, to stand with her. Her kids have inherited their mom’s passion for educating the next generation, as they both work as Indigenous educators in the District as well.

“We love being here and are forever grateful to be entrusted with educating your students,” said an emotional Marina. “Ray and Sheryl Fryberg recruited me to come here and help the Tulalip youth back in 1999. Since then, we’ve made Tulalip our home, and you all have helped make us feel like we belong. We thank the Tulalip community for upholding us. Like each and every one of the Indigenous educators out there, we stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us.”

 Quil Ceda 4th grade teacher Tanya Houle (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) sharing her educational journey. 

There were songs shared, traditional medicines offered, and many messages of encouragement between the group of educators. After a hearty meal, a special recognition of those who had 20+ years working in education ensued. Each offered more good words on the mic before being blanketed. Tulalip elder Dawn Simpson received a huge ovation when she announced she now has over 50 years helping her people achieve their academic goals, and she’s still working.

“Dawn was the lifeline for many of us educators here today,” shared Quil Ceda assistant principal Chelsea Craig. “When we were the young students attending schools within the Marysville School Districts, we may not have had much support, but we had Dawn. She was always there and some of us may not be doing the work we are today if it wasn’t for Dawn paving that foundation.”

Imagine how many Native students within the District these awe-inspiring educators are impacting every year. How many kids are excited to go to school and learn from teachers who look like them, or are emboldened to wear traditional regalia, even if it’s just accessories, because their teachers sparked that Native pride? Now, envision just a fraction of these students being inspired to create real change because their educators made them believe it was possible. That’s a kind of cultural legacy powerful enough to take down a system, maybe even to decolonize education.