Columbus Day and the evolution of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Tulalip Tribes Salmon Ceremony, 2021. Photo by Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Columbus Day was first declared a national holiday in 1934 and became a federal holiday in 1968.  But as the country continues to develop a better understanding for Native history and culture, the movement to instate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a holiday continues to grow across the nation. Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to honor and celebrate Indigenous people in our society, the wrongs that have been done upon them, and commemorate their history as being the first inhabitants of North America. A group of Native Americans first proposed the day at a United Nations conference in 1977. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 1989 that South Dakota became the first state to switch Columbus Day to Native Americans’ Day and celebrated it for the first time in 1990. Berkeley was the first U.S. city to transition from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. However, for many years, the government and our education system has failed to recognize the dark history that took place in order to construct America.

Since 1934, this is the first nationwide recognition, where we have seen governors, school-board leaders, and institutions unite and acknowledge this day. President Joe Biden recently released a statement saying, “We must never forget the centuries long campaign of violence, displacement, assimilation, and terror wrought upon Native communities and Tribal Nations throughout our country”. 

Many Native Americans are still in pain over this holiday, and over America’s history of treatment towards Natives. They feel Columbus Day fails to acknowledge the genocide and the violent colonization of Indigenous people, and rather only focuses on the perspective of celebrating Christopher Columbus’ journey. 

“We are really strong people. We have gone through genocide and racism, and we are still here. The strength in our culture, strength in our community, and in our families, are all really strong protective factors against so much of the darkness.”

– Amanda Boyd, WSU associate professor, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Logs that were written by Christopher Columbus are seared into the brains of natives, “They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned … They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome feature … They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane … They would make fine servants … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” 

Many similar horrific statements by Christopher Columbus were documented and illustrated the derision he had towards Indigenous people and the covetousness towards the land that belonged to them.

For many Native Americans the question remains, why do we still recognize Columbus Day? For some Americans, they believe it is important to honor the courage and determination that the immigrants had to seek freedom in what is now known as America. For others, they view the holiday as a way to commemorate their Italian-American ancestors, and recognize a time where Italian-Americans were receiving mistreatment. 

Across the nation, it remains a debate of whether to celebrate one versus the other, or whether it is okay to celebrate both. In any case, it is widely discussed that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be recognized as a federal holiday. 

Amanda Boyd, a WSU associate professor for the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, and Métis and Dane-zaa tribal member from Treaty 8 territory in Canada, talked about how Indigenous Peoples’ Day benefits students, “I would love to see every American on Indigenous Peoples Day take some time to understand whose land they’re on. To learn something about the history of the people who lived here and learn about our past, even if there’s darkness there. But also, to learn about our resiliency. It’s one more day. One more step to recognition, and to understanding our past.”

Boyd went on to say, “We are really strong people. We have gone through genocide and racism, and we are still here. The strength in our culture, strength in our community, and in our families, are all really strong protective factors against so much of the darkness.”

At a time when the world is awakening to the devastating history of America, Indigenous people are joining together. And even though for many Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an important first step, many people believe there is a long way to go.

A day of rembrance, a day of healing: Orange Shirt Day run raises awareness

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Following a downpour of rain on a Thursday afternoon, approximately twenty young adults met at the gravel lot overlooking Mission Beach. Everybody in attendance wore orange shirts, designed by Tulalip artist Marysa Sylvester, with a hummingbird and a flower in traditional formline. The message on the t-shirt read Every Child Matters. Circling up, the group shared a prayer together, thanking the Creator for temporarily pausing the wind and precipitation, so that they could perform important work on a day of recognition, a day of remembrance and a day of healing.  

“When you guys are running, your ancestors are with you,” said Tulalip Youth and Family Enrichment Manager, Josh Fryberg. “It’s something bigger than us, it’s sending strength the best way that we can to the other side. We are running for our kids. Running for our ancestors. Running for our future generations.”

Kicking-off a moving ceremony hosted by the Tulalip Education Division on Residential Boarding School Awareness Day, the collective of Tulalip youth laced up their sneakers and held their banners high, as they set out on a 1.7 mile run through the reservation from Mission Beach to the Tulalip Dinning Hall. 

The descendants of boarding school survivors, the runners ran with purpose, delivering a message to the world that we as Native Americans and First Nations people are still here despite the government’s attempt to erase our identity, traditions and culture. 

Upon arrival to the former Tulalip boarding school, the youth prepared for an evening of healing and good medicine through traditional song and dance as the community gathered to honor the residential school survivors and in memory of the thousands of young children who did not survive the horrific boarding school era. 

Reflections in a Medicine Wheel

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

September 30 was Canada’s first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. A recently created holiday to honor the victims and survivors of our First Nations relatives who experienced forced assimilation at residential schools. Truth and reconciliation have been trending topics for months now, as bodies of Indigenous children being found by the hundreds in unmarked graves at previous residential school sites continues to make global headlines.

It started with the remains of 215 children being discovered on the former grounds of Canada’s largest residential school. That was in May. Since then, thousands of unmarked gravesites have been found at similar sites across Canada. A rising tally of these graves – more than 6,500 so far – has triggered a national reckoning over Canada’s residential school legacy.

Here in the United States, Native Americans know all too well the paralleled legacy of forced assimilation, stolen children, and untold horrors occurring for generations at federally sanctioned, church operated boarding schools. 

As historian and Hibulb Cultural Center collaborator Carolyn Marr explained in her Between Two Worlds exhibit, the underlying goal of Indian education from the 1880s through the early twentieth century was to assimilate the Indians into the melting pot of America. The twenty-five, off-reservation boarding schools operating in the United States sought to “bring the Indian to civilization and keep him there,” immersing children in white ways far from the influences of traditional Indian life. 

Reservation boarding schools like Tulalip’s, in operation from 1905-1932, aimed to strip Native children of their language, family, ceremonies and culture.

Doing his part to bring attention to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, while honoring the past, present and future of a thriving Tulalip, elder Harold “Juju” Joseph created a gigantic medicine wheel out of thousands of hand-made prayer sticks. With the assistance of his family, they set individual prayer sticks one by one until they had created the 100ft wide medicine wheel. In the center, the sticks formed the number 6509 in recognition of each Indigenous body uncovered thus far at Canadian residential school sites. 

“My goal was to hold a ceremony in our traditional ways, free of any politics, to honor the kids who were taken from their families, their land, their tribes and never made it home,” explained Juju. “What better symbolizes our connection to each other than the medicine wheel? It’s a symbol used by our people all across the United States and Canada to represent the natural cycles of life and are connection to [Mother Earth]. It means as much now as it did before colonization. Within this circle everyone, no matter your age or background, can come together in ceremony and offer prayer.”

An intimate gather of close to 40 Tulalip tribal members and Native relatives within the local school district joined Juju within the circle. Everyone was encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings with the group. Youth culture bearers Image Enick and Tarynn Fryberg shared a song composed by Antone George in honor of those lost at the residential schools.

Following their song offering, Tarynn said, “I drum today for my ancestors who weren’t allowed to drum when they were alive. I encourage all our young ones to pick up the drum because our ancestors couldn’t. Every time we drum, we honor them. They couldn’t practice their traditions, but we can today. Our ancestors are watching us and they are happy to see us in the circle honoring those who never made it back home.”

In Harriette Shelton Dover’s autobiography Tulalip From My Heart, she goes into great detail of her experience at the Tulalip Boarding School. She describes being just nine-years-old and getting whipped for speaking her own language. It was against regulations for any of the students to speak their Native language. She wrote that anytime a child was overheard speaking in their traditional tongue they’d be strapped; a beating with a horse and buggy harness. The school’s matron would strap the girls from the back of their necks all the way to their ankles for daring to speak their own language. It is of little wonder then as to why Lushootseed reached the brink of extinction after multiple generations of Tulalip students were assimilated to English in such a barbaric way. 

But 100 years after Harriette and countless others of innocent Indigenous children had their language beaten out of them, proud Lushootseed speaker and educator Natosha Gobin led those within the medicine wheel with a prayer, in their traditional language. Her words washed over those in the circle and brought tears of happiness to some as they reflected on Lushootseed’s revival. 

“To speak Lushootseed is to give back voices to our ancestors, the ones who survived and the ones who never made it home,” expressed Natosha. With her fellow language warriors, they’re helping to decolonize the education system by teaching the next generation Lushootseed at TELA, Quil Ceda Elementary, Totem Middle, Heritage and Marysville Pilchuck. “It’s about being able to honor our ancestors by passing on their stories in their language. It’s about empowering our community to honor language, culture and traditions because it all goes hand in hand. Like this medicine wheel we are standing in, we can see how we’re all connected through these sacred teachings. By knowing our teachings and embracing culture and the language we regain the identity that the Boarding School Era attempted to take from our people.” 

Language. Ceremony. Culture. These central tenants to Native American identity thrived inside the medicine wheel as the gathering did their best to honor the 6,509. On National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we know the loss of life claimed by colonization via boarding school assimilation can never be reconciled. The truth is, the best way to honor those who never made it home is to live for them.

Tulalip Tribes declares September 30th as Orange Shirt Day

Remembering the lost lives of Indian residential boarding schools

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

With the recent discovery of over 6,000 Indigenous unmarked graves, the world is finally paying closer attention to the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada and the US, and the many innocent lives that were lost. 

During the 19th to mid-20th century, Canada, the United States of America, and various Christian missionaries established Indian Residential Schools. This system was created to “civilize” and assimilate Indigenous youth to a more European-American culture. Often, tribal members were not willing to submit to these efforts, and schools started forcibly removing children from their homes. Along with major efforts to disintegrate Native American spirituality, and overall culture, Indigenous people had their hair violently cut off, were punished for speaking their language, using their tribal names, and forced to wear European-American style uniforms. Indigenous youth underwent decades of abuse, and often lost their lives. 

Canada became the first to acknowledge and mark its first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th. However, even though the history of residential schools were just as prominent in the US, they have yet to follow suit, and acknowledge the years of dismemberment of Native American tribes.

Tulalip Tribes passed a resolution and decided to move forward, declaring Orange Shirt Day – A day of Awareness & Remembrance for Residential Boarding Schools. On September 30th, 2021, the Tulalip Tribes Education Division put on the first annual Orange Shirt Day.

Jessica Bustad, Executive Director of Education, spoke about what this day meant to her and what she was hoping to accomplish, “This day means the start of something bigger, the start of healing for our community, for our people, for Indigenous people across North America, Canada, and everyone who has experienced residential boarding schools, colonialism, and genocide.” 

“It’s kind of overwhelming. I couldn’t talk about the event for a while without crying,” she contiunued. “I don’t feel like we were really the ones to put out this event. The event was already laid out by our ancestors, and we are just here to do the footwork for them. But this is long overdue, and it’s time to start bringing out the truth of what happened here so we can start to get to that place of healing as a community.”

The night’s festivities started with a youth prayer and run, that began at Mission Beach and ended 1.7 miles away, at the Dining Hall. As many tribal members know, the Dining Hall holds the last remaining remnants of a residential school located on Tulalip. Kaiser Moses who was one of the participating runners, and the elected chairperson of the Senior Tulalip Youth Council, said, “Even though I was never in a boarding school and my parents weren’t in a boarding school, it still has impacts on our elders and our current generation. When I run, I run to clear my mind, to get things off my chest, and to leave things behind me. So, when I was running, I was thinking about that.” 

Once the runners made it to the Dining Hall, Tribal members gathered, and discussed the evening, while looking over old photographs of their ancestors in the boarding schools, and the candles that represented their lost lives. Orange Shirts and meal boxes were also distributed to everyone that attended.

Natosha Gobin and the Lushootsheed youth – otherwise known as the Language Warriors, performed an opening prayer. It was an amazing way to commemorate the language Native Americans fought so hard to keep alive. 

Following, opening words came from members of the Board of Directors. They all spoke of the grief they were feeling and the pain they know our tribe and many others were going through. Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, shared how her father was a member of the schools and hospitals, “The historical trauma lives on, you could see it in my dad.” She sympathized with other tribal members feeling that same pain, and expressed how it deserves to be recognized. “I’m glad that we’re looking at legislation that’s going to be coming forward, that’s going to help do the investigation and find out what happened to our loved ones and to bring them back to their families and to their homelands. But it just touches me. We haven’t gotten the apologies from the government like they did in Canada. We haven’t got them from the churches on what they did to our people.”

On September 24, 2021, Canadian Catholic bishops released a public apology for residential schools. The Native Women’s Association of Canada called upon the Premiers of all provinces and territories to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Marysville School District, which holds a lot of native children, also released a proclamation to observe “Orange Shirt Day” in remembering the children who died in the Residential Boarding School System. 

Youth and Family Enrichment Manager, Josh Fryberg, followed with, “Tribes need to follow and do the same thing. Pass this resolution to honor our survivors, to honor our kids that never made it home. To create that healing the best way possible for the future generations”.

After hearing from the attending Board of Directors, the night continued with various traditional tribal prayers, drums, songs, and dances. Tribal members spoke of this opportunity, and how our ancestors didn’t have that same privilege during the days of residential schools. One of the songs was a Snohomish War Song, where the elders were sat in the middle, and performers danced around them and sang to protect them. Tony Hatch spoke of his gratefulness that the elders had joined the event, and reminded them that if anyone has any scars, all of Tulalip is here for them, and behind them. 

After hearing from the attending Board of Directors, the night continued with various traditional tribal prayers, drums, songs, and dances. Tribal members spoke of this opportunity, and how our ancestors didn’t have that same privilege during the days of residential schools. One of the songs was a Snohomish War Song, where the elders were sat in the middle, and performers danced around them and sang to protect them. Tony Hatch spoke of his gratefulness that the elders had joined the event, and reminded them that if anyone has any scars, all of Tulalip is here for them, and behind them. 

Though many tribal elders were not able to make it to the event, others that were in attendance were given the opportunity to speak to the tribal community. Some passed along stories of loved ones that were affected, some expressed gratefulness towards our leaders, and others shared wisdom from their experiences, and what they want for the community. Overall, each speaker spoke of the pain that they felt for our community and the hopes for the future. 

Ray Fryberg was one of the speakers. He told stories of how our culture has been mistreated by outsiders through the years and how we can once again become whole. “Teaching language and being able to teach things in our culture that they took away from us, those are the things that are going to heal us. The things that we lost. These are the things that we regain, and that help build self-respect through self-identity, and our own cultural values and our own cultural teachings. To be good to one another. Culture means, how do we take care of each other? One person at a time, that makes up the tribe, and that’s how we move forward. Taking care of ourselves and exercising our sovereignty”. 

The event paid a special tribute to Tulalip, Native American Activist, Deborah Parker. She was a speaker that was unfortunately not able to make it that night. Members spoke highly of her efforts to working towards legislative reform. They spoke of the platform she has made for Native American voices and how she has become a strong representative of Tulalip Tribes. Many were praying for her and were grateful for her tireless endeavors to lift Native culture.

Towards the end of the night, the community heard from two residential boarding school survivors. Each shared the horrors of what the schools and hospitals held. They also talked about how it affected them mentally for the years following, and the demons that haunted them in adulthood. 

Wayne Williams was one of these survivors. He talked about the irony of the title, “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation,” and he quoted something so profound, “there can’t be reconciliation for a relationship that did not exist. This relationship with all the people that forced us into the boarding schools didn’t exist. Because we didn’t choose it. We didn’t choose it”. 

The night concluded with a Costal Jam, with spirited songs, drums, and dance.

For many Indigenous people, this is a difficult time. We grieve the loss of our ancestors and mourn over the endless pain that they had to endure. Very few survivors are still alive to tell their stories and about the tragedies that took place at residential boarding schools. But tribal members can always find support in our community. 

As Jessica Bustad said, “we see you, we feel you, and we’re here for you. We’re all on this journey together, and we will continue to be on this journey together.” And for any tribal youth that are still trying to understand this day, “Learn your history, understand your history, your family roots, and honor your ancestors. It’s going to be such an emotional time. Take care of yourselves, take care of your families, and do what you need to do to heal”.

Preserving the cedar weaving artform

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Every Wednesday, the Hibulb Cultural Center holds a Weaving Gathering from 5-7 PM. It is an open forum for those who are wanting to learn new weaving skills or work on their current projects. It is a time to visit with loved ones, share your works, and learn from community leaders. For any first timers, there are also weaving kits available for purchase. 

Basket weaving and various other cedar crafts is a big part of Native American culture and is one of the oldest arts in the Pacific Northwest. There are different styles of basket weaving, plaiting, twining, and coiling. Each basket and craft serve a purpose, whether to be used for storage, for holding food, rinsing items, or carrying large loads.  

Materials for weaving like cedar bark, spruce roots, and various types of grasses are are harvested throughout the year, then processed and dried for future use. Sometimes during the process, the materials are naturally dyed to add a pop of color. When the weaver feels like the material is ready, the cedar is rewetted so it can become more pliable.

For some weavers, basket weaving acts as a source of income. For others, it acts as a gift giving method for their family and friends. In any situation, basket weavers hold a high status in our community, just as they did centuries ago.

The September 22nd class was held by Jamie Sheldon, and other members of her family will be guiding future classes.

The Weaving Gatherings at HCC help preserve an artform that can be passed on to our loved ones and promote Native culture. For more information about the next Weaving Gathering, follow the events calendar at HibulbCulturalCenter.org, or call 360-716-2600.

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag – State enforces single-use plastic bag ban

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Restaurants, retailers and grocers across the state of Washington will have to cease all distribution of single-use plastic bags, effective Friday October 1. In an effort to reduce the pollution of Mother Earth, and more locally the Salish Sea, the state has outlawed one of the main culprits causing harm to the environment. 

Plastic carryout bags are handed-out at a high-frequency on the daily. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the average American household accrues over 1,500 plastic bags annually and recycles less than one percent of those bags. The bags were created for the convenience of the shopper, intended to be utilized to transport your goods and purchases home safely. However, they are causing irrevocable damage to the natural world, especially aquatic life as over 100,000 marine animals are killed from plastic bags and plastic toxins each year. 

Single-use plastic bags are non-biodegradable and take hundreds of years to break down into micro-plastics, which ultimately finds its way to the waterways and are consumed by sea-life, and in-turn often consumed by the human population. According to a study performed by the non-profit organization, Plastic Oceans, 100% of the mussels that they tested were contaminated with micro-plastics. Plastic Oceans also estimates that the average person eats over forty pounds of plastic throughout their lifetime due to the pollution caused by plastic bags.  

Single-use plastics are produced by fossil fuels. The process of creating the bags alone emits an enormous amount of greenhouse gasses. In the Pacific Northwest, we are already beginning to see the link between plastic pollution, the food chain and climate change, especially when considering our depleted salmon and orca populations. It is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish. And as the plastic, and all the chemicals and toxins they contain, makes its way back up the food chain, it can start to create major health concerns for humans including hormonal imbalances, reproductive issues and in extreme cases, cancer. 

The ban was originally supposed to go into effect at the start of 2021, but due to supply chain issues caused by the global pandemic, the ban was pushed back to October 1. Stores and eateries will be required to offer either paper bags or 2.25 mil thick-film reusable plastic bags – made with 20% recycled material, at a cost of eight cents per bag. Green or brown compostable bags are also an alternative and the fee for those bags are optional and at the business’ discretion. 

Although this is a big change that consumers will have to get used to, many Washingtonians are already familiarized with a sans-plastic-bag-lifestyle. Nearly forty cities throughout the state have already implemented their own single-use plastic bag ban ordinance over recent years, including Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip reservation. 

Quil Ceda Village is home to a number of businesses and restaurants including the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Bingo, Walmart, Cabela’s, Home Depot and the Seattle Premium Outlets. When the city first implemented the plastic bag ban, they received little pushback and a surprising amount of support. With over 130 retail stores, the outlet mall phased out all of their plastic bags in 2017. In 2018, when the ban went into effect, most stores switched from plastic to paper and some stores even elected to stop offering bags completely. 

“Overall the [plastic bag ban] is going well,” said Quil Ceda Village General Manager, Martin Napeahi. “The only issues I think we have had are from the consumer. Change in habits is tough for anyone, myself included, but I think consumers have adjusted and now bring their own reusable bags when they shop. Generally speaking, all of our retailers are following the ban. Stores like Cabela’s and Walmart offer reusable bags for a cost and Home Depot offers brown bags.” 

Like Quil Ceda Village, neglecting to follow the statewide ban comes with a price tag and businesses that continue offering single-use plastic bags can be fined up to $250 per day. If you’re looking to avoid the 8¢-fee per bag, remember to BYOB on all of your shopping excursions beginning October 1. For additional information on the statewide ban, please visit www.ecology.wa.gov/bagban