The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in Seattle, established by Black Lives Matter protestors, has inspired a wave of negative media attention (false rumors of extortion initiated by a rightwing blogger were repeated by Police Chief Best, she later retracted the statement) along with a threat of military force by President Trump on Twitter. CHAZ, comprising several blocks near Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, is a self-governed area, largely free of police presence, established when SPD abandoned the precinct Monday. Following a week of violent police actions directed at protestors, CHAZ has been transformed from a raucous war zone with teargas and flash-bang grenades, to a mecca for activist speeches, mural painting, leafleting, and free food and water.
Having visited CHAZ three successive days this week, Tuesday—Thursday, it’s obvious the protestor’s position is tenuous. During the day, crowds swelled to several thousand and with the sun out it’s incredibly relaxed, like Seattle’s most vital street fair. But the fear of police returning is constant—protestor speeches are punctuated by calls for bodies to man street barricades. On Wednesday I saw police nonviolently repelled twice by protestors, but a chain of bike police did manage to enter the East Precinct in the afternoon. They installed themselves in windows directly above the people’s mic at 12th and Pine, monitoring the protests from above.
Protestors see the police as an occupying force which uses violence disproportionately against people of color. Among protestor demands are defunding the SPD, essentially redistributing funds to the community, turning the precinct building over to the community, so no return of the police. The protestors give near-constant recognition to the fact that CHAZ sits on stolen land, and encourage collaboration with Native movements. Roxanne White, Yakima, Nez Perce, Nooksack and Gros Ventre, an advocate for the families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) spoke on Wednesday about the connections between Native people and BLM: https://vimeo.com/427945837
The future of the zone is unclear. Protestors say they are willing to talk to Chief Best but that she backed out of a meeting yesterday. In the meantime the city is experiencing a flourishing of voices and mutual-aid collaboration not seen since Occupy. At a minimum, everyone hopes a resolution is achieved, non-violently, that brings significant reform to the way Seattle is policed.
In the days since video evidence surfaced clearly showing a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds that resulted in Floyd’s death, protests have erupted across the United States. From Minneapolis to New York and from Atlanta to Seattle, thousands upon thousands of concerned citizens have taken to the streets in a show of solidarity. Their message: Black Lives Matter.
These peaceful protests are part of fifteen consecutive days and counting of nationwide demonstrations in direct response to the death of George Floyd on May 25. In memory of both him and countless other people of color who have died while in police custody, the people of this country are forcing the media, corporate elites, and anyone with a TV or internet connection to reexamine America’s deep-seated notions of racial equality and justice for all.
Over the weekend of June 5, the Black Lives Matter movement united hundreds of people across the racial spectrum in the city of Everett. Armed with only eye-catching signs and their bold presence, the peaceful rally began at the always busy intersection of Everett Avenue and Broadway, just four blocks from Snohomish County Jail and Everett Municipal Court.
“We’re out here because our lives matter. Police brutality is just tremendous right now. We want them to stop killing us,” explained Alana Wilson as she stood proudly with her daughters. “My kids our here with me because they need to understand this is the world we live in and, unfortunately, we have to have these conversations with our kids. It’s a lot for them to grasp, but it’s important they know.”
Her 9-year-old daughter Laylah held a handmade sign in honor of George Floyd’s final words, ‘I can’t breathe!’ At such a young age, Laylah recounted watching the horrifying video of Floyd’s final minutes and said it was important everyone remember him. “I want people to know that we are all the same,” she said. “We all matter.”
As demonstrators stretched a block in every direction, holding up their signs and clenched fists in protest against systemic racial injustice and police brutality, they received an outpouring of support from commuters who continuously honked, yelled out ‘Black Lives Matter’ or held their own signs from their vehicle’s open window.
“We’re here in support of the city for showing support for us and this Black Lives Matter movement,” shared Rafael Harris. “We appreciate the solidarity and all the love we are getting out here. This is a networking opportunity. By being out here we all are putting our thoughts and minds into action. What can we do? How can we assist? These are opportunities for us to be the change that makes a real difference for our future and our children’s future.”
Among the hundreds of demonstrators was a group of local teachers from North Middle School. “We are standing together to support our students and our community,” explained 6th grade math teacher Shauna Harris. “Enough is enough. We can’t keep letting this happen and to continue to watch it happen and nothing be done is unacceptable.”
Protesters nationwide are demanding police reforms and a reckoning with institutional racism in response to George Floyd’s death. Calls to ‘defund the police’ have become rallying cries for many. A heavy-handed response to demonstrations in several major cities has highlighted what some critics have maintained: law enforcement has become militarized and too often defaults to using excessive force.
In the wake of George Floyd’s homicide and his preceding pleas for help catching wildfire in the eyes and minds of millions, his memory lives on in the countless peaceful protests already held and the many more to come. Their accomplishments are too many to list outright, with the most significant being Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin arrested and charged with second-degree murder, and for the three other officers who failed to intervene also being arrested and charged with aiding and abetting.
“Nothing can be done to bring back our brother George Floyd, but these are steps in the right direction,” shared demonstrator Rick Nelson. “By being together, showing love and unity, and being positive examples to our families and community as black folk, we are showing the world this is our moment. It’s our time.
“Getting everyone to come together like this is how real change happens,” he continued. “This is not a problem only one race can solve. It’s a problem everyone has to solve. It’s not just about unlawful cops. It’s about equality. It’s about reforming the justice system. It’s about being better for our community and our planet.”
There is a Marysville-Tulalip Peaceful March Against Racism happening on Thursday, June 11, beginning at 1:00pm at Jennings Park.
Ten years ago, Tulalip tribal member Mary Jane Topash was enjoying her undergrad experience at the University of Washington when the opportunity to view an informing documentary about bees presented itself. She quickly found herself captivated by their importance to the environment and high level of interconnectedness. The dream to someday become a beekeeper was created that day.
Fast forward seven years to Mary Jane perusing Facebook when an advertisement for a local business, Snohomish Bee Company, offering classes to become an apprentice beekeeper pops on the screen. Her interest again sparked, she clicked on the ad and followed through with the class.
“It didn’t cost that much at all, like $100 maybe, and for two days they taught me all about the lifecycle of bees, beekeeping, and honey production,” recalled Mary Jane about the apprenticeship class. “There’s a short test at the end. After passing you get officially certified as a beekeeper. The best part was getting to learn a bunch of cool facts about bees and why they’re so vital to a healthy planet.”
Cool facts like at least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of all plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive, and here in the United States, bees are the most important pollinators. Bees earn their reputation as busy workers by pollinating billions of plants each year, including millions of agricultural crops. Their importance cannot be understated. Small bees play a big role in one out of every three bites of food we eat. Without them, many plants we rely on for everyday nourishment would die off.
After receiving her beekeeping certification in 2017, the ambitious tribal member was eager to put her skills to use, but was forced to wait until the timing was right. She needed to accumulate the necessary supplies and have enough dedicated free time to properly nurture a start-up hive. That’s time she just didn’t have while working fulltime at Hibulb Cultural Center and balancing her school work in the pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Cultural Studies from U.W.
Enter the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and a state-wide ‘stay home, stay healthy’ order. It may have taken a few years, but all of a sudden Mary Jane had an ample supply of free time to achieve her beekeeping dream. Plus, the Tulalip Tribes had just issued their membership a stimulus check to help cope financially in times of uncertainty. Well, uncertain for some, but not the aspiring Tulalip beekeeper. The same day that stimulus payment hit her bank account, she purchased the necessary gear and supplies to create her own colony. The most important supply? The bees, of course.
“Bees are purchased in pounds, so I bought a 3-pound box of Italian honey bees. That’s about 10,000 – 12,000 bees and one queen,” explained Mary Jane. She started her own bee hive on April 29th. “In the beginning stage they are completely reliant on me to provide them with food, which is sugar water. I’ve gone through a 25-pound bag of sugar in just one month. In a few more weeks they’ll be self-reliant and won’t need me to feed them. Until then they are my bee babies.”
That previous spark of interest fully aflame now as a passion project, the 30-year-old revels in the time she’s had to build a reciprocal relationship with her bee colony. From planting them their own garden with a variety of flowers to learning their behavioral patterns from dawn until dusk, Mary Jane proved she is meant to bee. So much so that she’s already looking forward to expanding her bee family next spring.
“This whole experience has been a great way to channel energy. Overcoming the natural instinct to run or swat around bees, especially an entire hive, is an intellectual challenge,” admitted Mary Jane. Overcoming those fear-induced natural reactions, like to not flinch if a bee is buzzing by her face, shows a level of understanding about the nature of benevolent bees.
“This is my way of giving back because honey bees are so important to our environment,” she continued. “From our plant life to water to honey and their own hive, how these little guys all work together for a common goal is just amazing.”
The value of teamwork in a honeybee colony is a lesson humans could definitely benefit from, especially now in an age of seemingly endless polarization and incessant squabbling. One worker bee makes only about 1/8th of a teaspoon of honey in their entire life, but a thriving colony where everybody is doing their part can produce 10+ pounds of honey per year.
Speaking of the liquid gold, Mary Jane is curious as to what flavor of honey her bees will produce. They are surrounded by a cove of blackberry bushes and towering maple trees to forage nectar and pollen from, so odds are the locally sourced honey will taste of maple berry. The flavor won’t be confirmed until the fall when the honey is ready for harvest.
“It would be pretty cool to incorporate Lushootseed into the name of the honey,” said Mary Jane of using the traditional language of her Coast Salish people. “Haven’t decided how just yet, but it makes sense because everything my bees use to produce their honey is given from the Tulalip land.”
Lessons and valuable teachings offered by beekeeping is something Mary Jane looks forward to passing on. Recently, her 10-year-old niece Jada has shown an interest and joined in on the veiled activity. Overcoming a fear of being stung is already quite the accomplishment for a fledgling helper, and with more time maybe her curiosity will lead to becoming a nurturer of bees like her aunt.
Until the ‘stay home, stay healthy’ order is lifted and Mary Jane returns to the normalcy of her day job as an assistant director at Seattle’s Burke Museum, she will continue to enjoy her gifted time sitting on the porch watching her young pollinators perform their dance between surrounding flowers and blackberry bushes. She can’t help but beam with happiness witnessing her bee babies play their critical role in managing our ecosystem. Her decade old dream now fully realized.
Like the Idle No More movement in Canada, and the No DAPL movement in Standing Rock, the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by women. In response to the 2012 murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi issued a call to action for the Black community. They wanted to address the anti-Black racism that manifested throughout Zimmerman’s trial, one that seemed more interested in placing Trayvon on trial for his own murder, and that permeates throughout society.
In their own words, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Black Lives Matter gained international attention following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, where they helped raise the issue of police violence and brutality and its impacts on the Black community both historically and currently.
Also, like the Idle No More movement, the Black Lives Matter message spread globally via savvy use of social media and on-line networking as localized protests and demonstrations under the banner Black Lives Matter began appearing in cities and towns across the nation.
As a Lakota, as an Indigenous person, I fully support the organizing efforts and messaging of Black Lives Matter.
With the wave of attention on the issue of police violence, Native communities were able to draw attention to high rates in which Native peoples are also killed by the police. On a per capita basis, Native peoples are the most likely to be killed by the police.
More broadly, the message that “Black Lives Matter” is one in which resonates within Native communities, in that we understand the pain, anger and frustration that comes with feeling our lives are somehow less than others, especially when coming to being victims of both state sanctioned and white supremacist violence.
In the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, where over 300 unarmed mostly women, children and elders were murdered, the U.S. government awarded 20 soldiers the Medal of Honor the highest award that can be given to military personal. For decades, Lakota activists have worked to have those Medals of Honor rescinded, but to no avail. To not rescind the Medals of Honor affirms the 500 year colonial narrative that not only is the only good Indian a dead Indian, but that our lives simply do not matter.
During the height of lynchings throughout the South, a time period in which thousands of Black men were murdered, hordes of White people would picnic around the body of a hanged Black man. The concern over the rampant injustice of murder being committed did not matter to the crowds as the life of a Black person did not matter to them.
Since 1492 for Native peoples and since 1619 for peoples of African descent, history is rich with horrific and barbaric acts of sheer brutality at the hands of the European colonizer, settlers, and later US citizens. From mass rapes, torture, lynchings, murder, and enslavement to the restricting of movement, employment and racial classifications, Native peoples and peoples of African descent have endured a constant state of being looked and acted upon as being less than.
The fact that over the course of the past decade thousands of Native women across Turtle Island have gone missing or murdered, and that more Black people are incarcerated today than were enslaved at the height of slavery, and that these issues receive little to no attention let along national outcry, not only suggests, but affirms that neither Native peoples or Black people’s lives matter in the eyes of the colonial settler society.
Reservations and the inner-city have long being the nations dumping grounds and areas designated for the citing of hazardous and toxic waste facilities. In doing so, generations of Native and Black peoples are being born into and living lives crippled by negative health outcomes such as higher rates of repertory illnesses, cancers, and lowered life expectancy. Again, our lives and our children’s lives are affirmed as not mattering when local, state and federal agencies allow for corporations to pollute our communities despite knowing the negative health outcomes in doing so.
Unemployment in the Black community ranges between 11%-19%, in some inner-cities unemployment for Black youth runs as high as 40%. On reservations unemployment runs between 40% to a staggering 90%. Native peoples living in cities fair little better.
Much attention and policies were enacted to address the impacts of the recent global recession. The attention and policies though rarely, if ever, addressed the crippling unemployment and poverty impacting Native peoples and the Black community. Does unemployment and poverty only “matter” when it impacts peoples of European descent?
Years ago, while presenting at a workshop on undoing racism, a fellow panelist and I were discussing the ways in which internalized racism manifests itself in our communities when she remarked to me that, “Blacks commit homicide, Natives commit suicide.” A blunt and stark, yet true observation that the legacy of genocide, land theft, programs of assimilation, slavery, segregation, and lynchings combined with the current issues of environmental racism, police violence, mass incarceration, and efforts of dehumanization has embedded the belief not only to the boarder settler society, but deeply within ourselves, that our lives do not matter.
Settler society reacts swiftly and often violently whenever our respective communities rise up and confront issues from police violence and violations of treaty rights, to demanding that we are not costumes or mascots to addressing the impacts of environmental racism. We are shouted down with statements like “all lives matter”, or “you should be honored”, or “we are all human”.
For our communities, we must understand and accept that the goals of the colonial settler state today, are the same goals of the colonial settler state of yesterday, which is to remove Indigenous populations to access their lands and resources, bring in low wage to slave labor to work those lands accessing the resources in order to benefit the colonial settler elite. This narrative is a global narrative.
Our struggle is not one to have equal rights with the colonial elite, but rather to (re)live as children of earth who understand that we are connected and related to all of creation with defined roles and responsibilities to that of all creation. Original instruction. We live, so that all may live.
To those of African descent, yes your lives matter, as do your homes, communities, children and children to come. It is upon us to stand together as peoples with a shared history of oppression in this colonial settler state called “America” so that our relatives know, see, feel, and understand that they are loved, that they are beautiful, and that they matter.
Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks.
Last night the Tulalip Reservation was the target of vandalism and looting under the pretense of a protest. Based on the tone of the social media posts that encouraged this incident, it seemed likely that violence, rather than a peaceful demonstration was the goal. With that in mind, Tulalip citizens, community members, and law enforcement mobilized to meet the potential threat and closed down the parameters of Quil Ceda Village, along with the Tulalip Resort Casino and the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.
In addition to the Tulalip Tribal Police, our local law enforcement partners, including Snohomish County Sherriff’s and their SWAT team, Washington State Patrol, Everett Police Department, Stanwood Police Department, and Marysville Police Department assisted in ensuring Tulalip stayed safe.
“Our community came together, and as we always do, shared wisdom, unity, and teachings. We stood in defense of our lands, along with our local law enforcement.
“We stand with George Floyd’s family and the families of every person who has been a victim of racial inequity and violence,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Our people have lived through oppression; we know this pain. My heart breaks for anyone who has lost a loved one due to racial violence. His death did not need to happen, someone should have stopped it, and they should be held accountable. We raise our voice and drums in solidarity with you.”
We understand that protest is sometimes necessary to create change. But we will not stand for those who come to pillage and perpetrate even more violence on our people.” The people who came to Tulalip last night were not here to change the system. This was an attempt to loot and only targets the innocent.” I do not understand why anyone would want to target Tulalip, a sovereign nation that has suffered generations of historical trauma.
After approximately 40 people converged on Tulalip in an attempt to vandalize and loot businesses within Quil Ceda Village, several suspects were arrested for criminal trespass, while others fled the property. Tulalip and our partners will continue to secure the boundaries of the Reservation. Property damage, rioting, and looting will not be tolerated; those who are responsible will be apprehended and booked into jail.
“This has got to stop. We can’t go on this way, destroying even more lives,” said Gobin. “There are so many good people taking the brunt of this,” she continued. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ I believe those words, and that is what I witnessed last night.
By SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator, AnneCherise Jensen
Spring is here, now is the perfect time to grow your own food! If you want to eat local, know where your food comes from, save money and reap healthy rewards, try starting a home garden. Gardening is a fun physical activity, providing you with great tasting produce and, ultimately, saves you trips to the store. Not to mention there’s a harvest of benefits when you involve kids in the process.
Research shows children living in a home with a garden eat significantly more vegetables than those without access to a home garden. Gardening as a family is the perfect opportunity to acquire an active hobby, get some fresh air, learn more about plants and become self-sufficient. Gardening can be overwhelming if you haven’t had much experience, so here are 8 simple tips to help get you started.
Calculate your space. Before buying plants or seeds, calculate how much space you have (ground or container) that gets adequate sun. Most vegetable plants require at least six hours of light each day. Some plants require more space than others, such as squash, others require much less space, such as spinach and lettuce. Herbs can also be grown with very little space, even inside. You can purchase plant starters at most garden stores such as Lowes, Home Depot and Walmart.
Know what grows. When buying your plants, ask what varieties will do best in the conditions you have to work with. For example, several compact tomato plants do particularly well in containers, and some plants are easier to grow, such as potatoes, strawberries and snap peas. If you have friends, family or neighbors who garden, ask them what has grown well in their yard. There are multiple online resources, magazines and books that can help guide you through the details of this process.
Soil Matters: Soil is the strong foundation to any healthy garden.Good soil provides access to nutrients, water, air, stabilizes plant roots, and assists plants natural resistance to pests and diseases. Before planting your starters or seeds, make sure your soil is ready to support the growth of your plants. Your soil may benefit from added compost or adding specific nutrients depending on what you’d like to grow. Check out this site for more information about varieties of vegetables that grow well in the Pacific Northwest, and soil nutrients that may be helpful for certain plants. You can also ask an associate at your local garden center to point you in the direction of the perfect soil products, they are a wealth of knowledge!
Start Small. Remember, you don’t have to start with an extravagant space when first starting out. The easiest way to become a sufficient gardener is to start small, slowly building in space and knowledge, there is always something new to be learned year after year! Your new garden can be as simple as a few window boxes of herbs to installing a few garden boxes in the backyard. Think about what produce you and your family will eat the most and try panting those. Salads are a great place to start, plant salad greens, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and even berries — all are kid-friendly and easy to grow. Sunflowers are another fun addition to the garden. They grow quickly and can be dried for the seeds.
Make Kids Part of the Planting and Growing Process. Depending on their age, children take to gardening differently. For example, preschoolers tend to be fascinated with exploring dirt, digging holes, planting seeds and working the garden hose, while older children may be more interested in how a single seed turns into an edible plant. Try a few fun, reliable plants such as carrots, potatoes, squash and lettuce. Ask children which fruits and vegetables they would like to grow. Teach children responsibility by assigning each child a watering, harvesting or weeding task. Allowing children to be involved in every step of the process will get them excited to taste the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
Encourage Taste Testing. Gardening exposes us to a variety of fruits and vegetables, and so encourages taste testing straight from the ground (after a quick rinse to remove dirt) and at the dinner table. Show kids how a tomato can taste delicious from the vine or in dishes such as fresh salsa, marinara sauce or tomato soup to bring the experience full circle.
Go Herbal. Herbs are perhaps the easiest plants to grow and can be a good place to start when gardening. Herbs usually grow easily, so you’ll probably have more than enough. Choose a few herbs to start, such as parsley, cilantro, basil and rosemary. Don’t worry if you have too much by summer’s end. An excess of basil can be made into pesto, frozen in ice cube trays and stored in the freezer to use during the fall and winter. And, all herbs can be dried.
Gardening in Small Spaces. No yard? No problem! Try using large pots placed on the patio or porch to grow foods such as tomatoes, salad greens and even cucumbers. Most herbs can grow in small pots on indoor window sills. No matter how much space you have, there is always room for a few, flavorful plants.
If you’d like to learn more, visit Tilth Alliance for Online Gardening Classes, a Gardening Hotline to answer your questions, and other gardening resources for families during this time of social distancing.
Whether you start a small or a large garden, learning about the growing process is a great educational opportunity for you and your family. Odds are kids and parents alike will enjoy the time they spend together outside while learning something along the way. Gardening is the great opportunity to know where your food comes from, while becoming self-sufficient on your own food supply. If you start now, you’ll be surprised as to how much food you will harvest by the end of the growing season. Not to mention fresh produce and homemade canned goods are the perfect gift for friends and family. Remember to have fun, be creative, and get a little dirty along the way – it’s all part of the process.
**This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Every year, around this time, hundreds of artistically inclined students stroll through the makeshift art gala at Tulalip’s Youth Center to experience the annual Native American Student Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the 1st to 12th grade student-artists wow festival attendees and judges with their imaginative creations.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 completely derailed the 2020 Art Festival. Social distancing protocols and stay-home directives wouldn’t allow for the student showcase to happen. Our emerging Tulalip artists are still worth celebrating, so we now bring you a flashback to the best of last year’s art extravaganza.
“The Art Festival is an opportunity for each student to express themselves in a positive way. It is the largest community event we have where we get to showcase our Native students,” explained Jessica Bustad, Positive Youth Development Manager. “It’s the pride each of the students have in their artwork, their parents and community members coming together to support our children that make this event so great.”
For more than two decades now, Marysville School District Indigenous Education has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene created by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the district. The Festival gives these young people an opportunity to show off their creative talents to the community, while getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place ribbon.
Artists were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category not only received a ceremonial ribbon as recognition for their talents, but a monetary prize as well.
The 2019 Native Art Festival received a whopping 700+ submissions, with the most popular category being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as possible. Taylee Warbus and Samara Davis were two such overachievers who claimed top honors in multiple categories.
“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” marveled Native Advocate Doug Salinas. “Every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”
Native culture and art are often thought of us intrinsically tied together or, in the case of Savannah Black Tomahawk and Lilly Jefferson, sewn together. According to their mothers, neither Savannah nor Lilly had ever sewn before prior to creating traditional ribbon skirts to enter in the Festival. By putting a modern twist on a traditional concept, Savannah’s Disney princess skirt and Lilly’s metallic blue with shimmery pink ribbons both received high praise and earned an additional ribbon – 2nd place and 1st place, respectively.
Definitely worth mentioning is young Emiliano Benavides-Cheer, a 3rd grader at Liberty Elementary, who was well ahead of his time by created an educational digital art piece all about Killer Bees. Who knew that a year later the ominous murder hornet would be a trending topic on national news platforms? Emiliano, that’s who!
“As coordinating staff, we look at every single piece of artwork and recognize how much work each student puts in. Some art pieces show real vulnerability in the students, they are showing themselves and expressing their thoughts, feelings and dreams,” added Jessica. “It is also very gratifying when students are already coming to us with their creative ideas for future Art Festivals.”
Native American men and women have always been defenders of their lives, traditional homelands, and cultural lifeways. The call to serve in the United States military has been strong for Native people since the country’s founding, long before being officially recognized as American citizens in 1924.
In fact, the Department of Defense recognizes that today’s military successes depend heavily on Native Americans. Thirty-one thousand Native men and women are on active duty today, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. In total there are 140,000 living Native veterans. And the best stat of all, Native Americans serve in the Armed Forces at five times the national average while serving in the military at the highest per-capita rate of any other demographic.
While the warrior mentality to protect the sacred has a long and prideful history, simultaneously Native communities have never taken a loss of life lightly. Paying homage to fallen warriors as heroes with reverent memorials filled with ceremonies and prayers is a traditional teaching that unites tribal members of all 574 federally recognized tribes.
On Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, the Tulalip Tribes citizenship didn’t allow a typical Washington downpour nor a coronavirus pandemic stop them from uniting as a community to honor their fallen warriors.
“It’s heartfelt to see all the flags on bedsides of veterans who served, especially for those who paid their life, the ultimate sacrifice,” expressed Tulalip board member and Vietnam veteran, Mel Sheldon. He co-hosted the Memorial Day services at Mission Beach and Priest Point cemeteries along with fellow Tulalip veterans William McClean III and Rocky Renecker.
“Memorial Day means honoring those who have passed or sacrificed the ultimate price for our country,” said Rocky. He represents the third consecutive generation of his immediate family to serve in the military. “It’s a time to reflect on the men and women who have served before me and set the examples.” A parade-like caravan of tribal member filled vehicles rolled through both reservation cemeteries. The caravan allowed families and friends of fallen warriors to pay their respects while still adhering to social distancing protocols put in place by Governor Inslee and tribal leadership.
As he has for nearly every year since 1993, Tulalip veteran Cyrus Hatch III read aloud roll call for the 225 veterans buried on the reservation’s most hallowed grounds.
“I come from a family that has a long history of veterans on both sides that influenced my decision to join the military,” shared caravan participant and Tulalip veteran Angela Davis. “My father, Calvin Taylor, was my first influence because he was continuing to serve while I was growing up. When I would go with him to events like today I remember him standing with the other veterans for roll call. I felt so much pride.
“As a veteran, what Memorial Day means to me is a day of remembrance and honor,” she continued. “It is our community taking the time out of our busy lives to remember the service men and women who sacrificed their life in the line of duty serving our country, and honoring their legacy they left behind by showing the families that their sacrifices have not been forgotten.”
Tulalip veteran Art Contraro was acknowledged multiple times for his heartfelt contribution and method for honoring his fallen brethren. While the majority of tribal government employees are furloughed, the 72-year-old took it upon himself to volunteer time and equipment in order to ensure the gravesites looked their best. Otherwise unattended and left to be covered in weeds and shrubbery, each grave was edged up and treated with the dignity it deserves.
“Art really cares for our veteran’s graves and is setting an example that hopefully we can carry on and pass on to the younger generation,” explained Rocky Renecker. “Art enjoys doing what he can, when he can. He has lots of knowledge of the veterans that have passed on and knows which ones don’t get visitors and which ones do.”
Every veteran tombstone was freed from overgrown shrubbery so they were clearly visible and honored with a new mini U.S. flag to denote their status as honored soldiers. A welcomed sight shared by the many veterans and their non-military family members.
Among the 574 federally recognized tribes, each with their own cultures, traditions, and belief systems, military service remains remarkably consistent. No matter the conflict, Native American men and women continue to risk their lives and make untold sacrifices in the name of freedom.
For the bravery and heroism embodied by each of the 225 Native veterans buried at Mission Beach and Priest Point cemeteries, a 21-gun salute rang out to conclude the Memorial Day services.