“We want to make sure the youth have a place, a space, and a voice if they are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson. “This is a super important event to bring community awareness to the two-spirit population at Tulalip and the surrounding area. It’s important to make sure that they feel comfortable in our community. This is the big kick-off event, it ought to be great and lots of fun.”
Years in the making, the highly anticipated Pride Everyday BBQ at Tulalip is scheduled to take place on August 13, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Don Hatch Community Center. Since the successful, and Tulalip Youth Council organized, Pride Walk in 2018, members of the LGBTQ+ community at Tulalip were inspired to create a yearly Pride celebration on the reservation.
Aiming to embrace, uplift, support, honor and help individuals create new friendships within the local two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, and ally community, the Pride BBQ promises nothing but great times, good summertime grub, and fun for all.
Phoenix Two Spirit (Cree) is a well-known member of the Tulalip community, as well as the self-proclaimed ‘instigator’ of this project. Phoenix presented the idea for the get-together as well as helped organize the event. Phoenix shared, “This event is great for community awareness. It’s part of the decolonization process, recognizing that two-spirit people have been in the Indigenous community since time immemorial. And it’s time to recognize that, indeed, there is a place for two-spirit people in the tribal community, that they hold a special place. This is not new. This is reclaiming our past.”
Originally planned for 2020, the Pride BBQ was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the tribal government re-opened, following the first initial wave of the novel coronavirus, the Pride BBQ was rescheduled to take place last summer. That is, until a large spike in the number of COVID cases at Tulalip rose once more prior to the event, causing another postponement. Now, nearly a year later, the Pride BBQ is happening for the very first time.
Said Phoenix, “I’ve been in the Tulalip area for a few years and thought that this a very-needed event. I’ve been part of the pride celebrations in Seattle and Snohomish County, and I have been noticing announcements locally for Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Lummi, who are having pride celebrations. There has been much interest by the Tulalip LGBTQ+ TS community to have an event, but COVID put a damper on creating one. So, now is the time to bring us together and celebrate our community.”
The Tulalip Pride BBQ will feature music by DJ Monie Ordonia, as well as several icebreaker games and activities, which helps create opportunities for people to meet and build connections while celebrating their true selves together.
The event is sponsored by the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program, Tulalip Family Wellness Court, and the Tulalip Community Health’s Youth Wellness program. With the promise of high 70-degree weather on Saturday, the Pride BBQ is sure to be a day to remember for all involved, so be sure to mark your calendar and come show your pride and support!
“I want everybody to know that everyone is welcome to come,” expressed Phoenix. “Whether you define yourself in the LGBTQ+ community, the two-spirit community, if you are friends, family, allies, or tribal members, I want everyone to feel welcome to come.”
A fire was ignited in the heart of downtown Minneapolis on the morning of July 8. Over one hundred Indigenous youth, hailing from tribal nations throughout the country, approached that fire adding their choice of sage, cedar, or tobacco, and guided its smoke over their bodies head-to-toe while saying a prayer.
“We ask every one of you young people to stand in prayer. Vocalize a prayer. Join us in prayer,” said the UNITY Fire Keeper, Sleepy Eye LaFromboise (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota). “We’re going to send out a spiritual energy here in Minneapolis. We’re going to unite today. Each and every one of you relatives, we’re going to ask you to pray for our water, to pray for our fire, for the air we breathe, for Mother Earth, to pray for our medicines – the plants, the animal kingdom. We come from a long line of people who knew the fire, the water, the earth. No matter who you are, where you come from, it’s in us. We’re asking you all to unite in prayer as we sing this song and start the fire. We’re going to keep this fire burning. We’re going to bring healing to our nations, to our communities, to the world.”
A group of Ojibwe women carefully brought out a basin of water and gathered near the fire. They carefully placed the basin on a drum bag and offered a song in their traditional Anishinaabemowin language.
“The song we’re going to sing is for the water ceremony,” explained Little Spruce (Cecilia Stevens). “There are so many different ways to honor and celebrate our water. As we’re singing that song, we’re petitioning to that water spirit and we’re praying for it. This water song comes from Doreen Day and her grandson. They would sing ‘water I love you, I thank you and I respect you.’ It’s honoring the directions but it’s also honoring the different realms we live on, the earth, the sky, the universe and what’s beyond there.”
The honoring of the elements ceremony officially kicked-off a five-day conference designed to uplift, inspire, and provide young Indigenous leaders with all the tools, support, and encouragement to be strong and impactful leaders of their respective tribes. The United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference, more popularly known as UNITY, is held every summer in different cities throughout the country and is open to tribal youth councils and Native youth who are between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four.
Amongst the crowd witnessing the water ceremony and the lighting of the UNITY fire, was Tulalip Youth Council’s Vice-President, Faith Valencia. After a day of travel and waking up early in a different time zone, Faith was glad that she attended the ceremony.
Faith stated, “That ceremony made me feel better. It was really cool hearing other Natives speak their languages. I witnessed a lot of young Native people listening and being respectful to the elders who had a lot to share and say.”
UNITY was originally established in the late 70’s and has played a big role in shaping young Indigenous leaders ever since. Traditionally, the UNITY Fire remains lit throughout the entire duration of the five-day conference and acts as a safe space where conference attendees can visit and offer prayers. However, due to Minneapolis laws and fire regulations, the UNITY Fire was to be extinguished following the opening ceremony.
Said Sleepy Eye, “We’re going to be using the water throughout the conference. We’re going to have the rooms near the convention center where we’re going to keep this bucket of water. We’re going to have teachings, songs, dances, and stories around the water. We’re going to carry a flame from this fire. We’re going to light a candle and we’re going to keep that candle burning throughout this entire conference. At the last day of the conference, we’re going to come back here and going to start the fire again. This is a whole new way that we have to do this, but our people are resilient. Our people always find a way to make things happen. We never turn our back to the water. We never turn our back to the fire.”
Although there was close to two hundred in attendance of the water and fire ceremony, that was nothing compared to how many were registered for the event. In total, there was close to 2,000 young Indigenous leaders who signed up for UNITY. At the first major gathering of the conference, the youth were asked to wear their traditional regalia and take part in a Grand Entry. Youth Council members entered the main auditorium of the Minneapolis Convention Center draped in shawls, jingle dresses, headdresses, cedar hats, and beaded jewelry. Some youth councils proudly carried their tribe’s flag as they circled the auditorium.
Following the grand entry, the youth took their seats and were welcomed by Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, recorded a special video massage which was received with thunderous applause and whistles from the youth. The first day of UNITY closed with the star-studded Indigenous Actors in Film Panel which featured Kiowa Gordon (Hualapai) of the Dark Wind TV Series, Stormee Lee Kipp (Shoshone-Bannock and Blackfeet) of the upcoming Predator movie Prey, and Mato Wayuhi (Oglala Lakota) composer of the TV series Reservation Dogs.
Chance Rush (Hidatsa), a longtime motivational speaker in Indian Country, was one of the main emcees of the conference and dropped many jewels for the youth throughout the week. “I know a lot of you hear that you are future leaders. You are not future leaders; you are our leaders of today. You’re our leaders right now. There are people who are having a great time. There are individuals here who are striving to put themselves on another level. There are individuals here who are trying to figure out their purpose. There are some individuals here who are struggling, and this is their hope. They came to Minneapolis to sit amongst 1700+ relatives.”
The next morning, the youth arrived at the auditorium wearing their ribbon skirts and shirts. Before the morning’s general session began, the youth were invited on-stage to walk the runway in true model fashion. Many young leaders relished the spotlight and took the opportunity to strike a pose for our camera.
Arawyn Dillon of the Yakama Nation expressed, “That was really beautiful. It was amazing to see everyone’s ribbon skirts and shirts and all the different styles. This is new for me and it’s beautiful that we’re all gathered here in this space and we’re not the minority for once. Seeing everybody here makes my heart happy. These are my people, and this is truly an amazing experience.”
The keynote speaker on the second day of UNITY was none other than Chef Pyet DeSpain (Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian Nation), who was the first winner of the national TV Series, Next Level Chef. She shared her journey of becoming a chef with the youth as well as some great advice on finding your path in life.
Said Chef Pyet, “Remember that it’s okay to be your true authentic self. It’s okay to show the world you’re brown and proud. It’s okay to take a risk, even if it might look scary, you never know where it leads you. Most importantly, it’s so crucial that you don’t forget your roots and you don’t forget your whys at the end of the day. Every day from this point forward, when you wake up, I want to challenge you to ask yourself ‘who do I want to be?’ Not just in the future, but who do I want to be today. Do you want to be the best daughter, the best brother or sister, do you want to be the best version of yourself? Really think about it because that’s what’s called setting an intention. When you start showing up as your best self every single day, and you’re brown and proud, things will start falling in to place for you.”
Every year, UNITY hosts a three-on-three basketball tournament during the conference. This year’s tournament was held at a local high school gym. The tournament’s sign-up sheet filled up quickly and over thirty teams competed for the title of UNITY champs.
It was all smiles, even after an early round knockout, for young Korban Bennett. “We played against the bear team, and they did pretty good,” he shared. “We end up losing to them, but it was still a lot of fun. Traveling from California to Minnesota to be among my people, and playing basketball with them on top of that, is just so awesome!”
The second day of UNITY was jampacked with fun and it did not end with the three-on-three basketball tournament. After a dinner intermission, the large group of young Native leaders reconvened at the main auditorium once more for the UNITY talent show. Over twenty young adults showed-off their creative side on stage and delivered an entertaining evening for their peers. The crowd cheered loud for the talented acts and even danced and sang along to a couple of numbers. There were many singers, who sang everything from traditional songs to modern country, pop, R&B and hip-hop. There was also a guitarist who shredded, a comedian who told some great dad jokes, poets who shared their powerful messages, a speed painter who brought awareness to the MMIWP movement through her art, a boxer who showed off her jabs and uppercuts, and a traditional dancer who moved about the stage in full regalia.
The showstopper of the evening was a young singer from the Spokane Tribe of Indians named Isaac Tonasket. Isaac, who lives a completely sober lifestyle, sang the popular country hit Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton. He captivated the spectators with his vocals, and immediately people left their seats to rush the stage and share a slow dance while Isaac brought down the house.
“I told my auntie that by the end of this conference everyone was going to know my name,” Isaac exclaimed. “That was such a cool experience because I’ve only sang in front of a decent crowd twice. That talent show, though, as soon as that beat dropped, everyone went crazy. Then I started singing, and they all went crazy again and everyone started dancing. That makes me feel good, like I’m doing my job, I’m making these people happy and that’s what I love doing.”
He continued, “It feels so good coming out here and seeing all the kids willing to learn and make a change for their ways and all our people. I really want to promote staying sober. Most kids, especially out on the rez, start drinking and smoking at a super-duper young age. When I tell people that I never drank and don’t do drugs, people are always so impressed. That’s one big thing that I really want to promote because drugs and alcohol has such an impact on our Native communities.”
UNITY held their first day of workshops on the third day of the conference. The youth received the opportunity to engage and learn in classes such as Plants: Our Sacred Medicine, Poetry Changes the World, Runaway Toolkit and Must-Knows, Bringing Language and Culture into Our Youth Council, Food as Medicine, Native American Storytelling through Performance, Talking Circle: Centering 2-Spirit & LGBTQ+ Identity and Experiences, Drum Beats and many others.
After the first-round of workshop sessions, the National UNITY Council Business Meeting was held. All the youth council reps from each region met to give reports about the work their youth council has done in their respective homelands over the past year, as well as vote on the new UNITY Executive Committee Members. Jonathon J. Arakawa (Elwha) was re-elected as the UNITY NW Region Rep. The third day of UNITY ended with a Gala night. The young adults were dressed to the nines for an evening of entertainment, a delicious multi-course meal, and dancing.
More workshops were scheduled for day four of UNITY, but before the kids dispersed to the conference rooms, a Native Activism Then and Now panel was held on the main stage. Seated next to each other were three iconic and powerful Indigenous matriarchs – Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe), Madonna ThunderHawk (Oohenumpa Band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), and Judith LeBlanc (Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma) who all shared their stories and a bit of their wisdom with the youth. After an insightful and riveting conversation, the Tulalip Youth Council gathered at the side of the stage to offer the Honor Song to the ladies before they exited the stage.
That moment was the first time that many tribal youth witnessed the traditions of a Coast Salish tribe, which set the stage and built some excitement for later that evening during UNITY Culture Night.
Fashioned once more in their traditional attire, about thirty tribal youth councils showcased their songs, dances, stories, histories, and games during culture night. The cultural exchange provided the opportunity for young Natives from other nations to experience the teachings and traditions that are upheld on different reservations. Many dances that were shared during culture night were social dances and everybody in the crowd was invited to join in. Tulalip was among those who participated in culture night. offering two songs. NW Region Rep, Jonathan joined Tulalip during their time slot. The crowd was fully engaged and whooped-it-up when the Tulalip youth dancers hit the floor.
On the fifth day of the conference, James Anderson (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe) held the honor as the last keynote speaker of UNITY ‘22. He reminded the young leaders to always bring high energy to everything they do each and every day. Juanita “Moonstar” Toledo (Pueblo of Jemez) closed the conference with a powerful and lyrical performance and had the youth out of their seats and waving their hands in the air. The UNITY Fire was lit once again, and people bid their farewells after saying their prayers and offering their cedar, sage, or tobacco to the fire. Filled with optimism and inspired to create change on their reservations, the Indigenous youth parted ways with promises of meeting next summer at the 2023 UNITY Conference in Washington D.C.
“It felt heartwarming seeing everyone gathering in a place where we all felt comfortable with each other, knowing that we all struggle with the same things,” said Tulalip Youth Council member, Arielle Valencia. “We all went through genocide. I felt comfortable being around people who understand me. Just knowing that everyone here will be there for you, it felt good. It was awesome.”
In the next couple issues of the syəcəb, Tulalip News will continue providing stories from the UNITY Conference including a conference recap with the Tulalip Youth Council. Also, Tulalip’s very own social media influencer, Faith Iukes, attended UNITY this year and worked behind the scenes to create social media content for both her channels and UNITY’s official pages. Stay tuned as we catch up with Faith and talk about her experience at UNITY.
For over 25 years, the Lushootseed Language Camp has helped create a better understanding of our language within Tulalip youth. This popular two-week venture allows tribal youth ages 5-12 the opportunity to learn Lushootseed, implement it in their daily lives, and understand more of the history behind the language and the culture that surrounds it.
Lushootseed teacher Natosha Gobin said, “The past three years we’ve been developing curriculum that is being implemented at the Early Learning Academy, and that’s based on the four seasons in the year. We’ve been excited for this because we want the language that the kids learn to be relevant to their daily lives. This year’s camp is inspired from that curriculum. In the summer, when they look out into the water, they can identify things in our language like seeing our fishermen, the boats heading out to go crabbing, and the hustle and bustle of the marina. We want to make sure that they can use the language year-round, and that they are recognizing what they’re learning with things that take place in the community.”
The camp provides daily groups, consisting of learning the language and basic words, weaving, accessing tablets with Lushootseed based apps, art projects, language games, traditional teachings, Lushootseed songs, building drums, and prepping for a Lushootseed based play that they will perform at the end of the week.
You can feel the energy in the room, and the excitement in the kids’ spirits as they learn their native language and honor their ancestors before them. One of the kids in attendance said, “I love camp, I’m getting really good!” That same enthusiasm has carried on for many years, as some of the camp’s volunteers, and staff like Maria Rios, used to be students that attended the language camp long before.
Other than language, the camp also focuses on building up tribal youth through teachings. “We circle up first thing in the morning and we pass on traditions of being respectful. Teaching them the words for ‘listen’, ‘pay attention’ will reinforce everything within the classrooms and at home” Natosha said.
Natosha added that the goal is to outreach to as many tribal youths as possible so that Lushootseed will be integrated more in everyday life at Tulalip, “We want everyone to know the language. These little seeds that we’re planting within all of the kids, that’s what we look forward to – watching the language survive.”
The camp will continue its second week July 18-22 at the Kenny Moses Building. If you know any tribal children 5-12 that would be interested in being apart of the camp, please sign up and contact Natosha Gobin at email@example.com or Michele Balagot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For nine consecutive years, the Tulalip Tribes hosted an annual Stick Games Tournament at the start of every summer. Typically held during the first weekend of June, the tournament takes place at the Tulalip Amphitheater and attracts tribal members from all throughout the Northwest region, including many families hailing from First Nation Bands in British Columbia.
The worldwide pandemic put most social gatherings and events on-hold to limit the spread of the communicable disease. And to the dismay of many lifelong stick games players, the tournament was canceled in both 2020 and 2021. The cancellations, however, made the return of the tournament all the more exciting as hundreds of Natives showed out for this year’s competition during the weekend of June 3rd-5th.
“It’s nice to visit with family who I haven’t seen in forever,” exclaimed Spokane tribal member and Tulalip community member, Marsella Gonzalez. “I played all weekend. I used to play every year before COVID happened, so I haven’t played in a long time. It’s fun and enjoyable to gather together again and play against one another, as well as getting to know more people from other tribes. It’s great to see everybody out and about and enjoying each other’s company.”
Stick games, also known as bone games, hand games, slahal, and lahal, is a traditional game that was gifted to the coastal people in ancient times. The game was taught to the people by the animals of the region as a means to settle a multitude of intertribal disputes regarding hunting and fishing grounds, as well as to prevent warfare between tribes. For generations tribal nations have passed down the knowledge of how to play the game, which requires the skill and mastery of deception and distraction.
Gameplay requires two opposing teams, consisting of three to five players, to face-off against each other. The game pieces, which includes a set of bones and sticks, are discreetly distributed amongst the players on one team. The opposing team must correctly guess where the bones are hidden and how many pieces the player has concealed in their hands. The sticks are used to keep score. The team with their bones in-play, sing traditional family songs in an attempt to distract the other team from seeing who the bones are given to. The team that has the most correct number of guesses wins the game and advances to the next round.
There are a number of unofficial game pieces as well that helps teams immensely during a stick game tournament, such as foldable lawn chairs so that teams can quickly set-up against their opponents and move and play about the grounds; pull-over hoodies so a player can hide the bones in their front pockets, and also bandanas for the same reason. And finally, traditional hand-drums so your team can sing loud and distract the opposing team while the bones are passed amongst the team.
Said Marsella, “I love hiding the bones. It’s nerve-racking but it’s exciting because you’re trying to keep them hidden so well. I was taught not to look people in the eyes when playing, and I did it twice this weekend and got caught each time. The game is amazing to play. Next, I have to learn more songs.”
Another highlight of the tournament is shopping and supporting local Indigenous artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs as numerous vendors set-up shop at the amphitheater each year. Several Tulalip tribal members were in attendance this year, selling their trademark goods to event-goers including Josh Fryberg and family who sold hoodies and smoked salmon, Jared Parks sold his signature sweet-and-salty kettle corn, Natosha Gobin had natural salves and balms available for purchase, and Winona Shopbell-Fryberg and Santana Shopbell-Proehl had a selection of beadwork for sale.
The participants of the Tulalip Stick Games Tournament compete for the chance to take home a cash prize. This year many cash prizes were awarded, including the grand prize of $50,000. In addition to the main competition, several mini-tournaments are held throughout the weekend such as the three-man tournament and the kid’s tournament, and many rounds are also played during open-games on the opening day of the weekend-long event.
“I am a 5th generation stick game player, it’s been a part of my family since the beginning of time pretty much,” said young Lummi tribal member, Tavis Washington Jr. “It feels great to come out after the pandemic and see all the people I usually see at these kind of events, and to meet new people too. My favorite part of the game is winning! Shoot – I like when my team or my family wins a lot. But it feels like it’s been forever since we last played and I am just happy to be back here playing at Tulalip.”
It has been an amazing journey following the Tulalip community as they prepared for the annual Salmon Ceremony over the past several weeks. Throughout this time we learned of the ceremony’s revival, led by Harriette Shelton Dover and a number of elders in the mid-70’s, as well as all the spiritual work that goes into the special honoring. We revisited a fabulous retelling of the traditional Tulalip story, Salmon Man, by Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin, and we took a deeper look into the ten songs, chants and prayers that are offered at each Salmon Ceremony.
Another highlight of this mini-series was getting to know the participants, who showed time after time why this cultural event is important to them, as they left their all on the floor during each practice. The participants also helped raise awareness for the MMIP epidemic during a special candlelight vigil following a practice session. And of course, we shared the significance of traditional regalia and the role that shawls have in the longhouse.
With only two practices remaining, June 2nd and 9th, this will serve as the last installment of the series before the event takes place on June 11th. We couldn’t think of a better way to bring this series to a close than sharing a selection of photos from the practices leading up to the day when yubəč, the king salmon, arrives at Tulalip Bay. As a reminder, the last practice will begin at 5:00 p.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. The Salmon Ceremony will be held at the Tulalip Longhouse as well, on June 11th, starting at 10:30 a.m.
Tribal leaders are inviting the entire community of Tulalip to the last two practice sessions, where a complete walkthrough of the event will take place so that the participants can connect and learn the power behind each song and dance.
Said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin, “We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.”
Aside from the important spiritual work that is conducted at the Tulalip tribe’s annual Salmon Ceremony, one of the most captivating and spectacular aspects of the event is viewing all the regalia. Donning cedar hats and headbands, ribbon skirts and beautiful Indigenous accessories such as cedar-woven cuffs and beaded earrings, tribal members showcase their traditional gear at the ceremony, in which the local fishermen are blessed for a safe and plentiful season and yubəč, the first king salmon to arrive at local waters, is honored in a good way, as a means to pay respect to the entire species for providing nourishment for the people of Tulalip.
Much more than a fashion statement, the regalia serves an important role in the Salmon Ceremony. Shawls, which display family crests and colors, are visible as the dancers enter the longhouse. As the singers bellow songs and chants in traditional Lushootseed, the dancers depict the stories within the songs to onlookers.
During a number of songs, including the Eagle/Owl Song (Tribute to Kai Kai), the Happy Song and the New Beginning Cleansing Song (Glen Gobin’s Song), the dancers utilize their shawls to perform the traditional work. Spreading their arms out wide as if soaring through the air, while turning in complete and semi-circles, the fringe of their shawls swooshes in the air to the drumbeats as the dancers work their way around the longhouse. During the ceremony, the boys and men wear vests. Similar to the shawls, the vests also showcase family emblems and often times, miniature cedar-carved paddles are arranged in multiple rows and dangle from the vests.
Creating your own regalia is an important experience for tribal members, whether it’s your first time participating at Salmon Ceremony or if you are returning to the tradition from a personal hiatus. Deciding the color and designs that your regalia will display helps create a strong connection to the official attire of the ancestors, and from that point on, a sense of pride is created each time you wear your regalia.
Traditionally, regalia was made exclusively from materials found locally in the natural world, namely cedar and the fur from the now extinct wooly dogs. A lot of time, attention and detail goes into crafting regalia and because of the effort put into making the shawls, headbands and vests, the regalia holds a special place in the hearts of each drummer, singer and dancer.
Although most tribal members craft their regalia within their families, there are numerous first timers this year, and like big chief yubəč, several returnees. Many of these Salmon Ceremony participants do not own any regalia whatsoever, and for this reason the Tulalip Tribes Events Manager, Malory Simpson, decided to host a weekly crafting circle.
Held every Tuesday at various locations throughout the reservation, but mainly at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, the crafting night allows Salmon Ceremony participants the opportunity to learn how to make their own shawls and vests. Malory explained that the budget, specifically for regalia, was quite a small amount, considering all the materials that needed to be purchased in order to make the regalia. She reached out to her community and recruited a small group of people to help raise funds to purchase fabric and all the tools needed to create shawls and vests for those in need of regalia.
“We decided to do a fundraiser because it frees-up money to be spent more freely on other items we may need such as shells, smaller paddles, or maybe a vest or velour dress for different options of regalia,” Malory explained. “I was approached by a few different people about when we would be hosting a culture night or regalia making night. It was my understanding that the Events Manager never really coordinated that, but I felt the need to reach out to those who I knew were savvy in sewing and creating regalia. I have never done something like that before, so I knew I needed help. After a Salmon Ceremony practice, it was brought up by Glen Gobin that we needed to get a craft night going. Tuesday seemed to work for the majority, so we went with that day. We have ten shawls made as of now and I think twenty more to go.”
With only a few weeks before Salmon Ceremony, it is important for dancers and singers to have their regalia ready to go for the special day of honoring. Tribal leaders are inviting the entire community to come out to the remaining practices, held at 5 p.m. every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, to learn about the revival of the ceremony and its importance to the tribe, as well as to immerse in the culture and learn the meaning behind the traditional songs and dances that are offered at the Salmon Ceremony. The last practice on June 9th will be held at the Tulalip Longhouse, where the Salmon Ceremony will also be hosted two days later on June 11th starting at 10:30 a.m.
In a Facebook post following the first regalia crafting circle, tribal member Lena Hammons shared, “Awesome night of making shawls for Salmon Ceremony. I got two done and had to learn [how to operate] this sewing machine. Awesome dinner and great company! Much needed community time after two years of isolating.”
If you are interested in crafting regalia for this year’s Salmon Ceremony, please contact Malory at (360) 716-4399 for more information.
During the evening of Saturday, May 14, the Tulalip Resort Casino’s orca ballroom was home to the 24th Annual Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Auction. The signature fundraising event of the season was all about giving gracious donors and committed community members an opportunity to paint a brighter future for Tulalip kids.
“As a former club kid, I personally know the positive impacts of having a Boys & Girls Club in my community,” shared auction chairwoman Belinda Hegnes. She also serves her tribe as executive vice president of Quil Ceda Creek Casino. “The club was a safe place to meet friends, hang out after school and during the summer. As a child, there was always something fun to do. One of my earliest memories was learning to shoot a basketball by then club director, Terry Freeman.
“We wanted this year’s auction theme to send a positive message to our youth that even when times are tough to keep moving forward and focus on the future,” she continued. “This past year the pandemic continued to impact our communities and our youth. We all at some point experienced a little fear, uncertainty, social restrictions and isolation from loved ones. Tonight, we finally get to come together to paint a bright future and make a positive impact for the children!”
‘The Club’, as it’s affectionately been dubbed by the hundreds of children who attend daily, is a safe place where kids can just be kids. While there, children are routinely exposed to healthy food choices, learn many useful skills, create an abundance of happy memories, and make relationships that last a lifetime.
The Club is the first of its kind to be built on tribal land in Washington. Established over twenty-five years ago, 2022 marks nearly three decades worth of commitment to the community. Through before and after school programs, our local club aims to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem, developing core values, and teaching critical skills during opportune periods of growth.
“What an amazing evening to be together with all of you for our signature event that supports the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “The funds raised from this one event truly makes a huge impact on the lives of so many of our kids. We have so many leaders who grew up as club kids and now are professionals working in management positions at both our casinos, Quil Ceda Village, and in many departments of our tribal government. That’s a significant impact the boys and girls clubs has had on our people, and that’s the impact we are all here to support.”
Serving as a model for those working to improve the lives of young people in the surrounding communities, the Club is the primary beneficiary of the annual fundraising auction. With each auction building off the success of the previous years, the Club has not only been able to sustain services, but to complete much needed campus expansions that add additional learning and activity space.
Funds raised from the annual actions are dedicated for capital improvement, not operating costs. Previous auction funds have paid for a state-of-the-art music studio, a multi-media room with twenty-plus computers, several transportation vehicles, roof repairs, upgraded kitchen equipment, and even a 4,000-square-foot technology-filled extension to better accommodate an ever-growing teenaged membership. This teen center was invaluable over the past two years. In such a tumultuous time, local teenagers were able to depend on access to this tech-driven space to meet their computer access and internet needs to complete schoolwork.
“It’s so funny looking back because I didn’t realize how much the Club meant to me as a kid, but really it was everything,” shared Club Director, Shawn Sanchey. The 26-year-old Tulalip tribal member has come full circle after he himself grew up a Club kid and now manages the same facility so many kids depend on every day. “It’s amazing being able to witness these kids learn and grow in the same way staff once did for me. It really is unique how dedicated our staff are to the youth in our community.
“Thanks to our generous supporters we are able to alleviate costs associated with team and individual sports, which anyone who knows anything about Tulalip can tell you, we have a ton of aspiring athletes,” he added. “Some highlights from the past year are having 150 kids play tackle football, 70 kids playing select level basketball, and we started an exciting golf academy that already has 25 kids actively participating. Our dedication to give our kids access to high level sports goes hand-in-hand with our mission to let our kids know we care about them and we care about their future.”
In total, there were over 600 generous individuals in attendance at this year’s 24th annual auction. Many of the attendees have never been inside Tulalip’s reservation-homed boys and girls club. However, the uplifting faces of Club kids were ever-present on actual table centerpieces and projected onto screens bordering the ballroom. There were also a number of Club teenagers who volunteered at the auction and helped generate support by sharing their stories.
One such teenager was 17-year-old Kenzie Thompson-Sheldon who, during the live auction segment, strutted on the main stage with an autographed Tyler Lockett jersey. When auctioneer Mark Schenfeld asked her how much she thinks the Seahawks wide receiver jersey should go for, Kenzie said nonchalantly “Five-thousand dollars.” And $5,000 it went for.
With such an amazing turnout to support the kids came some delightful fundraising numbers. A record $104,200 was raised exclusively for Kids Kafé, which is an essential part of the Club’s services. Kids Kafé addresses the very basic fact that often the meals provided to club members are the most nutritious part of their daily diet. This year, our club transformed into a virtual school site and during this time provided breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack. Over the course of the last year, Kids Kafé served an astounding average of 1,280 meals a day.
When the 24th annual action finally came to an end, a whopping $563,646 was raised between the silent and live auctions, including the enormous amount of support for Kids Kafé. There are so many generous contributors who played a critical role in making the 2022 auction one for the history books.
“The auction is really about building relationships with the community and continuing to build upon the strong foundation of support we have with the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County, the school board, and the Tulalip Resort Casino,” explained Terry Freeman, Assistant Director of Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. “For twenty plus years now, our goal has remained the same – to create more and more partnerships off the reservation to achieve our goals on reservation. Thanks to our tribal leadership team, we continue to meet and exceed this goal.”
In an emotional moment shared by all that know him, Terry was honored by artist James Madison with a hand-carved, WSU inspired paddle. Terry has dedicated more than 50 years of his life working on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, where he’s impacted the lives of countless Tulalip tribal members. His limitless energy and enthusiasm for making the lives of today’s youth better is downright contagious, which is why he’s been the perfect behind-the-scenes organizer of twenty-four straight auctions.
“I’ve known Terry since I was just 8-years-old and he ran the Everett Boys and Girls Club. He’s always been a stand-up guy and looked out for us Tulalips, making sure we had what we needed to thrive,” said James. “Now, as an adult, I’m fortunate to call Terry a friend. He deserves all the accolades and more for what he’s done for us. It meant so much to make sure he got his due respect and admiration in front of all these people he brings to our land every year to benefit our kids.”
Thanks to everyone who contributed and gave generously, the 24th annual action was a major success. The generosity and heartfelt support received each year from sponsors and volunteers is overwhelming. As in years past, all funds raised will ensure the local Club continues to provide and improve upon quality programs in a fun, safe and positive environment for our kids.
Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District sauntered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday May 5 and Friday May 6 for the 2022 Art Fest. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Fest patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative works that centered around a communal Tulalip experience.
“Our annual Art Fest is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a creative way. We increased the event this year, going from one day to two days, to provide a more family friendly environment that was both safe and welcoming,” explained event coordinator, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. The end result surpassed all our expectations because we got over 900 total submissions. That’s more than double what we’ve averaged the last couple years.”
For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Fest gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place blue ribbon and all the bragging rights that come with it.
Such was the case with Northwest Academy 1st grader Ellie Fryberg. She radiated pure joy while leading her family and multiple peers to her 1st place winning drawing of a rose. Delicately drawn in colored pencils and shaded with red and green, Ellie took one picture after another with her adoring fans in front of her framed art piece. She shared roses are her favorite flowers because rose is her middle name. “It took me a day to draw it at school. My teacher helped me a little bit. I draw roses all the time on the weekends,” shared the very happy 7-year-old.
Ellie and her fellow student culture bearers 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 received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.
“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,” shared Native Advocate Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”
This year’s Native Art Fest received over 900 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Eleventh grader Samara Davis and sixthgrader Cora Jimicum were two such powerhouses that claimed top honors in multiple categories.
“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while pointing out all her art pieces that earned ribbons. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.”
Meanwhile, Art Fest veteran Samara has wowed event attendees for years with her established creative talents. She routinely collects a handful of blue ribbons for entering one-of-a-kind art in as many categories as she can. She admitted to challenging herself more this year by trying mediums she hadn’t in the past, like sculpting and delving into mixed media. For her efforts she was once again rewarded with a number of 1st place ribbons and a stack of prize money. Her little sister, Abigail, has been biding her time, watching and learning from her big sister, to develop her own creative style.
“Growing up and watching my sister and brother both create all kinds of art for this festival, it has made me a better artist because I do try to compete with them, sometimes,” shared 14-year-old Abigail who was most proud of her mixed media ceramic nail set she won 2nd place for. “For me, art is all about expressing yourself and having a creative outlet to process whatever you are going through emotionally. I recommend all students, not just the Native American ones, take art classes because you never know which medium or category you may be super talented at and develop a real passion for.”
Interwoven through the thought-provoking pieces were not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. There was a definite spotlight on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, and a poem by a young boy that pulled at the heart strings as he detailed his experience of growing up without a dad.
The message being sent loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and culture related protests. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their inner turmoil and personal experiences into unique art products.
“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” said Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development manager.
“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars like Billy Frank Jr. is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational figures in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary aged children it’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”
Overall, this year’s two-day Art Fest showcased the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students, while once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art brought created by the next generation.
“My father was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”
Close to one hundred tribal members met at the Tulalip Gathering Hall on the evening of April 21st for the first Salmon Ceremony practice of the year. Revived nearly 50 years ago, the annual event pays homage not only to the salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community, but also to all the local fisherman who are preparing for a season out on the Salish Sea.
This year, Salmon Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 11th beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. At the height of the pandemic, the Salmon Ceremony was canceled for the very first time since it’s revival in 2020 to limit the spread of the infectious disease. And although the people were excited to see the cultural event return in 2021, many lifetime Salmon Ceremony participants still felt as though something was missing.
Every year, with the exception of the past two, tribal members engage in a cultural immersion experience, weeks ahead of Salmon Ceremony, when the community begins preparations for the event. During Salmon Ceremony practice, tribal members get an opportunity to get reacquainted with the songs, dances and stories of the annual event, so when the day comes to pay respect to the first catch of the season, everything is executed precisely in honor of the salmon.
Each week, a walkthrough of Salmon Ceremony takes place at the practice sessions, allowing the chance for the people to learn the significance behind every song and dance that is performed and offered at the ceremony. This is also the perfect time for newcomers to learn about the proceedings that take place inside the longhouse and alongside the bay when the first king salmon of the year returns to local waters.
Although the turnout for the first practice was great, Teri stated that there is still plenty of room at the large Gathering Hall for more people to attend the practices, and invited the community to come out and take part in preparations of the ceremony. Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., where a meal and good company is promised to each participant. All of the practice sessions will take place at the Gathering Hall except for the last practice on June 9th, which will be held at the longhouse.
As practices continue, Tulalip News will feature a weekly mini-series, leading up to Salmon Ceremony, focused on the traditions and hard work that goes into the cultural event each year. This week, we asked a handful of participants what the Salmon Ceremony means to them personally and received a number of great responses from youth to elders.
Said Tulalip tribal member, Andrew Gobin, “It’s about taking time out to recognize the old teachings and carrying them forward. That’s what the practices are about. We talk about the old teachings here and how you conduct yourself in ceremonial spaces, what’s expected of you. The practices are just as important as the day.”
Tulalip Problem Gambling program and Tulalip Healing Lodge residents unveil new mural
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
“This was an amazing experience because recovery is a journey, and it doesn’t always have to be about going to treatment,” said Tulalip Problem Gambling Counselor Robin Johnson. “This was a work in progress and people really put their hearts into this project.”
Last spring, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program hosted an art therapy class for the residents of the Tulalip Healing Lodge in hopes of bringing a fun and creative form of healing to those in recovery. The Problem Gambling program enlisted Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia to lead the class. Feeding off her good vibes and energy, the participants took a strong liking to her teachings and fully engaged in the art therapy class. During that session, Monie asked the Healing Lodge residents to create from the soul rather than the mind, and that work would eventually become the main fixtures on a living and traveling 7-foot four-panel mural.
“I’m so happy we picked the right person to do the project with everybody. Everyone that knows Monie, knows that her heart is 100% pure and that her spirit is 100% in everything she does. She loves her community, she loves people. I’m really happy this came together the way it did,” shared Problem Gambling Counselor, Sarah Sense Wilson. “It went from us sharing Problem Gambling information with the residents and right into conceptualizing what they were going to create, with the theme that this is about healing, surviving and thriving.”
First established in 2015, the Healing Lodge has helped both Tulalip tribal members and those enrolled with other tribal nations attain and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle. By providing a safe space to reside, away from bad habits and negative influence, the Healing Lodge also offers their residents group therapy and activities, giving their participants the opportunity to build community with others who are striving for the same goal. And, likewise, the Problem Gambling program has become an important resource to the Tulalip community, helping those battling a gambling addiction find their way out of the dangerous cycle byway of an intensive plan to recovery.
The first group of Healing Lodge residents showed such a great amount of interest in the class, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program decided to take it to the next level and asked Monie to lead the residents in the mural project. Monie took the original artwork created by the residents, from the first art therapy class, and transferred them to one side of the four-panel mural. That side of the mural consists of a shark-whale in traditional formline, a star-eyed mask, a portrait of one of the residents, and a Salish woman wearing a cedar-woven hat. The opposite side of the mural features a Tulalip Canoe family coming ashore, with their paddles up, as an eagle soars high above them on the Salish Sea.
Said Monie, “I was really honored to be asked to be a part of the Healing Lodge. I truly believe that we all have the capacity to go beyond our hurt. For this project, the question I asked the residents is, are you surviving? And we know, from our ancestors, we already survived. So, when you think about what’s the next stage after surviving – it’s thriving.”
She continued, “When we came up with the concept, I asked what does thriving look like now that you discovered that you can be a part of the medicine that brings you beyond your addictions? A lot of the members who were here began drawing what that medicine meant to them. I followed through and one of the hugest medicines we have for the Tribe is pulling canoe. Being someone who didn’t grow up on the reservation, to be able to become part of the Tulalip Canoe Family, I knew from experience how magical and mystical it is to pull canoe. To be on the water with fellow tribal members means to be a team, to help each other pull through the water. As we are singing our songs, those are the prayers – and our ancestors are on the water reflecting those prayers and songs back to us. That’s why we made this side so significant. That medicine, if you ever been on the water, you can feel that energy.”
Throughout the past year, Monie traveled north to the Healing Lodge to work on the project with the residents. And although the artwork itself is a form of medicine, the time and energy put into the work was just as much of a healing experience and strong medicine to those working on their recovery journey. During the painting sessions, the artists conversed with one another, got to know each other better, shared laughter and even some dance moves while Monie played music from her DJ sets over a portable speaker.
Multiple studies show that art therapy assists greatly in addiction recovery, boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and stress levels, while also allowing the artist the space to go inward and address and resolve any personal conflicts they may be facing. The amount of time that each resident spends at the Healing Lodge varies as each person’s journey to recovery is unique. That means that since the project originally started, several residents have come and gone throughout the months. Therefore, many recovering addicts had a hand in creating the mural and experienced all the benefits art therapy has to offer first-hand.
One resident, Justine Moses, was involved in the project from start to finish. She shared, “I worked on three areas on the mural: the lady, the whale and the canoe. It makes me feel pretty good, confident and content, about my culture. I’m just happy to be here and glad to be a part of the project. It was healing for me, just putting my mind to it and sitting down and working on it. Monie is a good woman, and it feels pretty good to see it complete. The revealing was my favorite part, showing everybody the beautiful art piece that we all made together as a team.”
The unveiling of the mural was a special and intimate gathering on the eve of March 18, as Monie, the current Healing Lodge residents, the Problem Gambling program and the Healing Lodge staff members came together to bless the mural and view the completed project for the very first time. Many were moved to tears, in awe of the medicine that went into the project and the beauty that resulted from the healing art sessions.
“The month of March is National Problem Gambling Awareness month and so we felt it was really fitting that all of this came together just in time. For a month that is about healing, growth, change, self-discovery and moving forward,” Sarah expressed. “This unveiling ceremony has been a long time coming, we spent nearly a year on this project.”
Now that the project is complete, the Problem Gambling program and the Healing Lodge plan on displaying the mural throughout the reservation so others can see the positive and inspiring work that served as medicine to many while on their road to recovery. The first stop for the traveling mural will be at Problem Gambling’s Reclaiming Our Connections dinner event, happening at the Tulalip Resort Casino on the evening of March 26th, in honor of National Problem Gambling Awareness month.
“This is the Healing Lodge’s message to future generations on how residents who come here have thrived through their voice and art,” said Monie. “To be a part of this, whatever part you have contributed, know that this is your medicine that your grandchildren will see in the future – beyond surviving to thriving.”