Mix Master Monie: Beauty in the beats and in the breakdown

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“One of the primary joys I get from DJing comes from knowing that I can bring people out of what they’re going through,” expressed Tulalip Disc Jockey, Monie Ordonia. “If they’re worried or stressed, they can come and get lost in the music. They can release and be in the now moment, and not think about the later, because when you’re dancing, you’re not thinking about any of that.”

Like many Native American musicians, Monie has a special relationship to the rhythm, bassline, and drum beats. Traditionally, Natives are brought up with a deep respect and love for music as certain songs and chants are held in high regard and are only brought out for special occasions. This practice is embedded in the DNA of countless tribal members. Over the years, music has served as good medicine that has helped many through heartbreak, grief, and battles with addiction. On the flipside, music has also amplified the joyous times, and people often tie happy memories to songs of that specific moment in time.

DJ Monie developed a strong connection, a thorough understanding, and an undying passion for music at a young age. Growing up off-reservation, in the central district of Seattle, Monie’s appreciation and respect for music has always been on par with her ancestral ways. 

Even though she had yet to be introduced to the traditional songs of the sduhubš, the sheer knowledge that music is sacred medicine was something that she cued in on early in her journey. And coming from a line of healers and medicine men, Monie found a way to use this particular medium of beats and breaks in such fashion when she found her home behind the turntables in the early 90’s. 

“It’s all about beats,” she exclaimed. “Beats are the biggest thing for DJs. I am self-taught, for the most part, because I can hear beat patterns when I listen to music. Because I know what other song would flow with it, I could be like ‘oh, that part would work really good with that song.”

She continued, “Growing up in the hood, I grew up with a lot of black folk, so I listened to a lot of R&B and Motown in the 70s. And of course, my older sisters, Esther and Muffy, were a huge influence. They loved music. When we would go buy gifts for each other, the majority of the time we ended up at the record store. In the late 70s, I was into Earth, Wind & Fire, The Commodores, Cameo – all those big musician groups where they all played real instruments, that was a huge influence on me.”

While attending Garfield High School, Monie chased her passion and joined the school’s band program. She set out to master the piano, and with natural talent and a great ear, she was content with learning just enough to get by in class. The temptation of a thrilling adolescence was too strong, and she put off learning how to read music in favor of a fun teenage social life. But her escapade with music was far from over. 

During this time and through her early college years, Monie perfected the technique of curating playlists, a skill that would come in handy when she found herself in the DJ booth a few years down the line. Now keep in mind, this is the 80s, a time before mixtapes were popularized and cut together on the regular by the masses. After relocating to downtown Los Angeles in 1984 and running with a crowd of USC students, Monie started receiving numerous requests for her tapes. She dedicated time to creating the perfect mixes for her group of friends and the parties they would host. That was until 1989, when she decided to take the next step in her journey with music and invested in some professional equipment. 

“One day, one of my buddies said we should have a party. And I was like, ‘I’ll go get a mixer and some turntables and play the music for the party,” recalled Monie. “I bought this Gemini mixer for like $70, it had all these little sound effects and everything on it. Next, I bought turntables for around $60, you could change the speed on it, but they were still belt driven. And last, I bought some headphones, and I started practicing.

 “I had a couple of friends that already had some DJ experience. One of my friends from Compton taught me a trick on how to rig my turntables, so I wouldn’t burn my motor out while trying to rotate the vinyl backwards or scratch, so it would slip really easy. Once I learned how to do that, I started spinning it back and holding the vinyl to where I could find the beat, to drop it right into the other song. I practiced that a lot and started getting really good at mixing and blending.”

Monie shared that her decision to purchase equipment and DJ her friend’s party ultimately led to more opportunities. The same friend that suggested they should host that party put Monie on game when a resident DJ at a local club announced she would be leaving her post for other endeavors. 

Now, this wasn’t just an average run-of-the-mill club. No, this was the historic Jewel’s Catch One Disco Club, one of the first black discos in the US, and officially the longest running black gay bar in LA. In its heyday, Catch One hosted live performances from the likes of Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Janet Jackson, Rick James, Madonna, and Tulalip’s own DJ Monie.

With some encouragement from her friend, Monie earned a residency at Catch One following a killer audition that left the club owner stunned. She started DJing regularly during the club’s weekly Ladies Night event on Thursdays, as well as during Friday’s Happy Hour spot at their downstairs bar.   

At a time where music genres hardly ever clashed, when house was house, grunge was grunge, hip-hop was hip-hop, and R&B was R&B, Monie dared to blend, which brought people to the dancefloor in droves. 

“That feeling – there’s nothing like it,” she exclaimed. “When a dancefloor is going crazy, that’s my high. I was different from all the other DJs because I would move in between genres. I’d play the popular R&B and hip-hop at the time, but then I’d mix in stuff from the 70s and 80s that I had in vinyl collection. Whenever my sister would get rid of her music, she gave me her vinyl records, so I had built a huge collection over the years. When I mixed in the old school – Prince, Cameo, Teena Marie, – the response I would get was crazy. The crowd would put their arms in the air, they’d be screaming and dancing crazy. That to me is the biggest compliment.”

Monie quickly built a name for herself, and the dancefloor would be packed each time she was on the ones and twos. She found herself in popular demand and was so well-known that she added additional sets throughout the weekends to appease frequent club-goers, while still maintaining a full-time printing job during the day. She became more comfortable and confident during her sets and perfected her craft by means of real-time experience.  

DJ Monie put in four-years at Jewel’s Catch One before the gig began to lose a bit of its luster, before the dream began to feel more like a job where she was getting underpaid for her work. When this happened, Monie was also doing some personal healing following a breakup. For these reasons, she decided to take a step away from the booth and focus on her wellbeing. During this time period, which turned out to be a one-year hiatus, Monie’s presence was missed by many. Whenever she was recognized in public or caught unwinding at a nearby club, she would leave many disappointed once they found out she would not be performing a set that night. 

This made her return to the game even sweeter for the 90’s LA club scene. Although, this time around she decided not work the clubs at all. It was by her roommate’s request that Monie found herself once again comfortable inside her sacred space – behind a mixer and a set of turntables. Upon agreeing to DJ her roommate’s backyard birthday party, the word spread like wildfire. On the night of the party, over 400 people were in attendance and the line to get into the party stretched around the block. Amongst all these attendees were some big-name celebrities such as MC Lyte, Meshell Ndegeocello, Teena Marie, as well as women’s basketball legend and Monie’s personal friend, Cheryl Miller. 

“I didn’t even get to see Meshell Ndegeocello because the place was so full,” shared Monie. “I was DJing from the back bedroom, looking through the windows out to everybody in the backyard. And that’s how I started my revitalization with DJing. That party lasted ‘til five in the morning. After that, I made everybody breakfast and my friends were still hyped up about it. So, I decided to start throwing parties. I spaced them out two or three months apart, so people would anticipate it and get excited. I averaged 300 people per party. After about a year-and-a-half, people started hiring me to DJ at their gigs. I was even throwing yacht parties at the marina. It was awesome. Those were some good times.”

DJ Monie’s sets were so epic that she once received one of the funniest requests of all time. She shared, “There was a party for one of my buddies. I was there spinning away, and everybody packed the dancefloor and was having a good time. I had someone come over and she was dancing right by me on the floor, because there wasn’t a booth set up there, we just had tables.  She came over was like ‘honey can you play a messed-up song?’ And I asked, why do you want me to do that? And she said, ‘I’ve been on the dancefloor for the last six songs, and I can’t get off the dancefloor because you’re jamming too much. Play something whack!’”

Cracking up at the memory, Monie continued, “I never heard a request like that in my life. It blew my mind when she said that. I told her I couldn’t play something whack, but I’d slow it down a bit so she could make her way off the floor.” 

Monie would go on to have a long and fruitful career as a LA DJ, one of few women DJs in the area. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Monie’s mother, Janice Wyakes, also lived in the greater Los Angeles area. However, Janice would return to Tulalip in the late 90s following a family reunification when they got in touch with Monie’s sister, who was adopted at a young age.  When the time came for Monie to return to LA, it was decided that it would be in Janice’s best interest, health wise, to stay in Washington under the care of Monie’s sisters. 

A few months after celebrating her 75th birthday, Janice made her transition to her next journey in March of 2012. It was at this point when Monie began to contemplate moving home to Tulalip. 

Said Monie, “I loved LA. I had been there for like 28 years. But when my mom passed away, the energy shifted so strong. I knew that I would be moving back here. And around the time when my mom passed away, my sister Muffy just started doing chemo for cancer. So, it was time for me to come back.”

Monie mentioned that she felt an energy shift. Now many of you who know Monie, also know that she is intuitive as heck. The universe did in fact begin to work its magic, preparing Monie for a return to her ancestral homelands. In phase one, Monie was laid off from her printing job, and since she was eligible for unemployment, she was able to save up for a possible move. On her sister’s advice, Monie put her name on the list for tribal housing. Phase two kicked off with a phone call, which informed Monie that a house became available on the reservation and was move-in ready. 

She would soon discover that her new home was on a hill overlooking her sister’s neighborhood, which was the icing on the cake. In the summer of 2014, Monie’s permanent address officially included a 98271 zip code. But by her standards, Monie initially kept a low profile in her first few years back at Tulalip, as her sole focus was spending time and caring for her sister throughout her battle with cancer. When Muffy made her journey to the afterlife, Monie found comfort and support in her community. 

“The first couple years, I had to get acclimated to the change in weather, and because LA is a big city, I had to get used to it being so quiet except for when they have coastal jams or longhouse stuff,” she stated. “I remember the first time I ever experienced the longhouse, but it was not literally down at the longhouse. I was here at home; it was summertime in the evening. I thought who the hell is doing construction work at this time? I called my sister Muffy like, ‘who’s doing all that banging outside?’. So, she went outside, and I could see her in her driveway listening. Then she looked at me while still on the phone, and she said, ‘oh that’s the longhouse!’. I never heard that in my life. So, it took me awhile to adapt from city life to rez life.”

In her past 10 years of residency on the rez, Monie made strong efforts to be there for her people, especially when it matters most. Whether you were introduced to her at a cultural gathering, community event, on the frontlines at local rallies tackling social injustice issues, or perhaps at one of her art classes for community members in recovery, Monie has become a source of good energy, and many find themselves gravitating toward her for stimulating conversation and a hearty laugh. 

Somewhere along the lines, word got out that Monie was nice on a set of turntables. Over the past few years, the local dances and community-wide celebrations have been slappin’ thanks to her music expertise. Event goers already know that it’s going to be a smash if they’re able to spot Monie and her signature setup of her MacBook Pro and her Numark digital DJ controller at the function. Her personality bleeds into her performances and her good vibes are contagious whenever she’s in her DJ element. 

“Honestly, when I first started DJing events here I started questioning if Tulalip people actually dance. Because I noticed that people would bob their heads and say they loved the music, but nobody was dancing. And being a club DJ, packing the dancefloor, and having people requesting a whack song so they can get off the dancefloor, that’s what I was normally accustomed to. But one of the most fun parties I worked is when I DJed the Valentines Day party last year. People were dancing at that one. And you know anytime people are dancing, that’s what make me happy. It lets me know that I’m doing my job.”  

You can catch DJ Monie spinning at the upcoming 477/TANF and Child Support program’s Valentine’s Day Social from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Greg Williams Court. 

Monie has also expressed a desire to share her knowledge with any youth interested in learning about the art of DJing. When asked if she had any words of advice for young aspiring DJs, she shared that it’s important to take pride in your work and invest in yourself. 

She expressed, “I take pride in my reputation as a DJ, because I know that’s one of my professions. I take it very seriously. I started with vinyl. Now, with digital controllers it’s a lot easier, everything’s at your fingertips. Pay attention to your crowd and play the music they want to hear, not the music you want to play. And start training your ear and listen to other DJs because there are different techniques going on from one song to the other. Listen to mixes – how people blend, the different beat drops, the backspin to transition to a new song. I also think it’s important to use your money to invest in yourself. And for me, my DJ equipment was investing in my joy that feeds not only my soul, but also sustains my livelihood.”

Be sure to check out DJ Monie’s playlist that she curated to highlight her career as a renowned Indigenous DJ. Add the tracks to a playlist on your Spotify, YouTube, or Apple Music accounts and be sure to hit play whenever you need a good dance session or a pick-me-up. 

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Monie’s Grooves

Curated by DJ Monie, this playlist is packed with feel good beats that are sure to get the party started! Each track also follows Monie’s journey as a DJ, from her early years collecting vinyl to her favorite jams of today!

70s
Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Good Times – Chic
Bounce, Skate, Rock, Roll – Vaughn Mason & Crew

80s
Candy – Cameo
Another One Bites The Dust – Queen

90s 
The Power – Snap
Poison – Bell, Biv, DeVoe

2000s
It Takes Two – Rob Base

Present Day
About Damn Time – Lizzo
Break My Soul – Beyoncé

The artistry of knitting maven, Anita Sheldon

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

In the gentle rhythm of needles and the soft embrace of yarn, Tulalip tribal member Anita “Keeta” Sheldon’s craft unfolds like a rich tapestry of tradition and enduring artistry. Born and raised in Tulalip, Anita, turning 84 this year, has been wielding knitting needles and crochet hooks for nearly six decades, crafting not just hats and sweaters but a legacy of warmth that spans generations. From the tender beginnings of making tiny garments for her babies, Anita’s hands have spun tales of love and comfort through her creations’ intricate loops and stitches. In her words, knitting and crocheting are not merely crafts; they are therapeutic, good for the soul, and a timeless art passed down through familial threads.

Recently, on January 27, Tulalip News sat down with Keeta and talked about knitting/crocheting and what that means to her. 

When did you first start learning to knit and crochet?

I started knitting and crocheting about 58 years ago. I started making hats and sweaters for my babies. Then, I began making Afghans by crocheting. When I’m not knitting, I am crocheting them.

Who was a significant influence in learning how to knit/crochet?

I would watch the renowned Sarah Sheldon knit. When one of my relatives was in the hospital with a broken back for six months, Grandma Sarah was there with a knitting needle and yarn and showed me how to knit. I watched her knit; she didn’t even have to look at her work while talking to you. She could knit nine pairs of socks a day and would sell them in Seattle. She would also raise her own sheep to create her own wool. She had her own spinning wheel and would make her own yarn. She was good. 

What is the difference between knitting and crocheting?

The difference between crocheting and knitting is one has a straight needle, and the other has a hook at the end. You go one knot at a time when crocheting and use the whole needle when knitting. It’s faster to crochet, and the stitches are slightly looser. I like knitting, and it is more relaxing than crocheting. 

Recently, you had a bad fall. How has it been getting back into knitting/crocheting?

It keeps my hands busy, it’s good therapy, and it’s also good for your mental health. Recently I fell and broke my wrist and couldn’t do anything for a few months. Now, I am doing therapy to help heal my hand. My doctor agreed to keep knitting; when I get tired, I put it down and rest, and I can do more each day. 

How long have you been selling your hats?

I just recently started selling my hats when I learned about the bazaar that happens around the year’s end. Before that, I made them as gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and when it gets cold out. They are well made, comfortable, and will last. My husky hat is over 40 years old and still keeps me warm. 

What are some fond memories you have from making hats?

I made the husky hat because I am a Washington husky fan, and I made my husband a cougar one because he likes Washington State. But his was stolen from the boat dock the first time he wore it out. Then I made another, and it was stolen, so I never made him another one and instead made a blanket that he used to keep on his work chair. And when he passed, it was sent with him onto the other side. 

Where did you get the canoe design from on your recent hats?

The design I used on some of my most recent hats was from the canoe that used to be at the old entrance to the reservation. I liked that design and feel like it represents our people.  It can take two days to make a hat like that if you have the right tools and some suitable yarn. 

If you are interested in purchasing or learning more about Anita’s hats or other products she creates, you can give her a call at (360) 653-8163. 

$1.32 Million raised at Tulalip-hosted Festival of Trees

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

          Extravagantly festive Christmas trees and wreaths adorned the Orca Ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino during the 38th annual Festival of Trees. The multi-day holiday fundraiser kicked off November 29 with a free community day and teddy bear celebration. Opportunities to give generously via an online auction accompanied the much anticipated, excitement-filled Holiday Gala and Live Auction held in person on December 1. 

Each year, thousands of community members take part in the Festival of Trees – including volunteers, sponsors, and attendees – to raise funds for Children’s Services at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. For more than three decades, Providence Children’s Center has been providing comprehensive, family-oriented care and highly specialized therapies; such as physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy for children with a wide variety of special needs.

    When asked to explain the importance of Tulalip hosting high-impact, community-changing events at our flagship Resort Casino, Marilyn Sheldon said, “Tulalip Tribes has so much to offer our community all times of the year, but Christmas time it becomes magical. Showcasing our Resort Casino in this manner brings to light what Tulalip has: shopping, gaming, restaurants, recreation, and an amazing holiday light display for families to enjoy. It gives Tulalip a different perspective in the eyes of our community. We need that to encourage others to want to visit each and every year. We want to be that traditional Christmas event every year!”

    Beyond hosting the always astounding Festival featuring towering Christmas trees and festive fervor, the Tribe was this year’s presenting sponsor as well. 

    “An event of this scale brings all the movers and shakers of Snohomish County to our house where we can showcase how much we care and want to be a part of the solution; helping youth in their most trying times. But also, being vested in such a worthy organization, like Providence Hospital Medical Center, provides immeasurable goodwill back to Tulalip. We can always use this kind of support for our future endeavors,” added Marilyn, Charitable Contributions Director. 

A highlight of the holiday season, the Festival of Trees provides opportunities for local families and organizations to make a significant contribution to benefit their community neighbors. Not to mention the festive, memory-making opportunities for those seeking a post-Covid experience in a heart-warming atmosphere. Whether it’s a decadent black-tie gala or an afternoon with cookies and Santa, the Festival’s variety of events offer holiday cheer for all.

The tremendously decorated Christmas trees won’t soon be forgotten as their specialized themes like ‘A Night at the Nutcracker’ and ‘All Aboard the Polar Express’ to ‘Candy Land Delight’ and ‘Wintery Dreamscape’ capture the imagination.

During an elegant gala, the dazzling Christmas trees and wreaths were sold to the highest bidders during a frenetic live auction that saw auctioneer Mark Schenfeld’s contagious energy get table after table to lift bidding paddles. Of course, all proceeds raised at Festival of Trees goes directly to Providence to aid, invest in, and expand programs and infrastructure related to Children’s Services. 

The Children’s Services Fund is designed to provide a full spectrum of support for services that benefit children at Providence. Funding supports programs and services such as Pediatrics, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Children’s Center, Boyden Family Autism Center, and Camp Prov, a summer camp for children with special needs. Several of the trees lining the Orca Ballroom were reserved to be put on display throughout the Children’s Center as a special treat for hospitalized kids this holiday season.

Because of the great generosity of various donors, table sponsors, and an astounding 525 gala guests, this year’s Festival of Trees raised a whopping $1.32 Million. This enormous amount of financial support allows Providence to continue growing and expanding specialized therapies, equipment, and educational classes that make miracles happen for children and families every day.

Worth mentioning, during the live auction there were two trees bid on and won with the intention of keeping them right here on the reservation. Both trees have been installed and are on display for the local community to enjoy through the holiday season; one is at the Senior Center, while the other is at the Health Clinic.

For over two decades now, the Tulalip Tribes has been an important partner to Providence in the Northwest Washington Region by helping provide critical funding and support needed to care for the health of our growing community. Contributions made by Tulalip to Providence General Foundation since 2002 have totaled over one million dollars. For their dedication to the Festival of Trees, the Tulalip Tribes were honored with the Spirit of Festival Award during 2018’s Festival.

“The lives of thousands of children, including Tulalip tribal children, will be helped thanks to the generosity received from the Festival of Trees fundraising efforts,” said Board of Director Mel Sheldon, an eighteen-year member of the Providence General Foundation. “We are very fortunate to have a relationship with Providence Medical Center and to support such an amazing opportunity that really looks at the bigger picture. We all want to do our part to create a sustainable and healthy community.”

One of Snohomish County’s largest and most well-attended holiday events, the Festival of Trees has been a beloved community tradition for 38 years. The annual outpouring of community spirit, combined with such a magical setting, delivered a wonderful event that united so many during the holiday season.

Jingle all the way

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Christmas came early for numerous Indigenous families as hundreds gathered at the Francy J. Sheldon Gymnasium for the annual holiday powwow at Tulalip. Holiday cheer was spread through the deep and rhythmic beats from the round drum this year, and also through the captivating and intricate steps of a number of Native dancers. Whether the dance was traditional, fancy shawl, or jingle dress, the gym was rocking throughout the entire three-hour event.

2023 marked the tenth year of the annual powwow which is a community favorite looked forward to each holiday season. The powwow is a collaboration between the Marysville School District Indian Education department and the Tulalip Education Division and features dance competitions for cash prizes. You often hear that this is the season of giving, and this was on full display as several young dancers forewent their cash prizes during the evening and instead gifted the money to elders in the crowd. 

In addition to the drumming, singing, and display of astonishing regalia, the people were also treated to a meal and had an opportunity to peruse and purchase last minute gifts at the mini bazaar located across campus at the Marysville Mountain View Arts and Technology High School. Dozens of vendors set up shop and sold items such as beadwork, clothing, blankets, and cedar weavings.

Down the corridor of Marysville Arts and Tech, Santa Claus worked his magic and turned a common area of the school into his workshop for the night. Each kid in attendance received a toy of their choosing. There were Nerf guns galore, board games in abundance, puzzles o’ plenty, and countless plastic characters up for grabs. And that’s not to mention the large selection of books that included everything from picture books to graphic novels. 

Once it was confirmed that each child had picked out a toy, there was still a plethora of gifts left over from Santa’s visit. The kids were once again invited to the workshop to add more items to their powwow haul. The event closed with the ever-popular cake walk in which all of the cakes were decorated with Christmas themes such as Santa’s suit, Christmas trees, and Frosty the Snowman. 

Following the wonderful clash of culture and Christmas, MSD Indian Education Dept. Coordinator, Matt Remle, shared in a Facebook post, “Lila wopila tanka to all the families, drummers, singers, dancers, volunteers, cooks, staff, and janitors that came out and together for our annual holiday powwow wachipi. Can’t believe we just held our 10th annual! As always, our only goal is to bring some smiles and joy to the community. Waste po.”

Make it a movie night with Frybread Face and Me

Image: Shelter PR

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News  

A tapestry of tradition, beauty, and heartfelt storytelling unfolds in the latest cinematic gem, ‘Frybread Face and Me.’ Crafted by writer and director Billy Luther, the film narrates the compelling journey of a young Native child thrust from the bustling cityscape into the heart of the Navajo reservation under the care of his grandmother.

As the young protagonist navigates this cultural shift, ‘Frybread Face and Me’ delves deep into themes of identity, family, and the enriching power of heritage. Luther weaves a poignant tale that resonates with audiences, exploring the ties that bind us to our roots. In embracing the Navajo reservation, the young character discovers the beauty of his culture and finds a profound connection to his family and heritage.

Recently, Tulalip News spoke with writer/director Billy Luther about his latest film and what it means to create an authentic Native cinema.

The grandmother is the core structure of the family; can you speak a little about that?

Growing up, my grandmother was always the core of the family, and it was a profound and significant part of my life, not just for me but for my entire family. Making this movie was a tribute to her. 

Who has been your inspiration? 

The film touches on the women in my life: my aunts, grandmother, and mother. They were part of my childhood, all the stories they would share with me and just being the strong matriarchs, they are.

Why is authentic Native representation so crucial in Hollywood right now?

One of the things is we have Natives behind the camera. That makes a massive difference with stories. We don’t have to try to be authentic when we have Natives behind the camera. We have these shared and lived experiences as Indigenous people. We weren’t trying to get it right, we just knew this world. I think that is so unique and different in Native films by Native peoples because you can tell when there’s a movie not made by a Native. 

What do you hope the takeaway is for Native families that watch the film?

I want people to have fun with it. I think it’s something that’s not widely available. I think the first time Natives could go to the theatre and laugh and have a shared experience as a family was 30 years ago with ‘Smoke Signals.’ 

I also wanted to share an experience that resonated with a larger audience. I am meeting a lot of non-Natives who watch the film, and it takes them back to a time in their lives when they were kids. That’s an integral part of my daily life and the humor and joy of growing up. 

What advice do you have for young people trying to enter the movie industry?

It’s tough, it’s tough. I have been in this industry for 20 years. It would be best if you were consistent and not give up because it’s not easy; it’s not easy at all. You must write every day. I’m not saying you need to write a script every day, but you should be writing, reading a lot of books, and watching a lot of films, foreign films, all over in terms of art. That’s a lot of what people miss. They want to make blockbusters, but it’s complex and challenging. I’ve seen many people give up, but if you want to do this, you have to stick with it. There’s a lot of nos. 

What else do you want people to know about ‘Frybread Face and Me’?

I hope people are excited about the story, and seeing all the love we are getting is surprising. You work so hard on a film for so many years; it’s not like it took us a year to write, cast, film, and edit. It’s a long process, and it’s been so rewarding. I’m still trying to process how much it resonates with people; it has been a blessing. 

Whether you’re a fan of heartwarming stories or just looking for a cozy movie night, ‘Frybread Face and Me’ is ready and waiting for your viewing pleasure. Available for streaming on Netflix today.

Heroes and Hoops

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tulalip’s local law enforcement laced up their sneakers and got charitable buckets during the evening of Saturday, December 9. The Tulalip police offers were cheered on by family and friends who enjoyed the spectacle from the Marysville Getchell gymnasium bleachers.

The charity game was intended to give local families wholesome entertainment while pulling at the holiday heartstrings in order to garner support and donations for an always worthwhile cause – Toys for Tots. Cash donations were accepted on-site and online. However, the preferred currency was excitement-inducing toys that could be gifted to children of families in need.

On the Chargers homecourt, twelve representatives of the Tulalip Police Department (TPD) wore black jerseys with the iconic orca whale. They routinely subbed in multiple players at a time and made an intentioned effort to clap hands or high-five as they swapped court time for the bench. The camaraderie was contagious as they rooted each other on through buckets and bricks, alike. 

Sargeant Jeff Jira explained how he and his fellow officers had about a dozen practices to develop team chemistry and build up the requisite cardio. “We got together on Sunday mornings to shoot around and play against each other in order to see what everyone’s skill set was. There were a lot of laughs during those practices because a lot of us hadn’t even dribbled a basketball for years and years. It was all a necessary part of getting ready for this charity game and just furthering our brotherhood as TPD officers.

“I’m really glad we opted to participate in such a beneficial cause. We all brought toys to donate before our game. The whole experience brought us closer together, gave us some really good exercise, and hopefully brings some smiles to kids’ faces come Christmas,” added Sgt. Jira.

The actual basketball game turned out to be the best kind of friendly competition. Regardless of the score, opposing players routinely helped each other up and, during one particularly hilarious moment, laughed together after a shooter boldly declared “Kobe!” before shooting an airball.

A back-and-forth affair, that was all tied up at 16-16, eventually saw the TPD officers find their groove offensively. It didn’t hurt that TPD recruit Jay Kupriyanov expressed his desire to join the force by anchoring the basketball team. Jay finished with a game-high 18 points and led the TPD squad to a thrilling 45-38 victory.

After the win, Jay shared, “This is my community. Practicing with them and getting to know each officer even better, just furthers my desire to join the Tulalip Police Department. These guys have been my mentors, and I want nothing more than to join their team permanently.”

If his Christmas wish comes true, Jay’s recruitment process will result in him getting a shiny, new TPD badge. One can only imagine his excitement and pure joy would be similar to those children who will benefit from the charity game by way of opening a shiny, new toy on Christmas morning. 

‘Lights & Ice’ Returns with Festive Flair

 By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The largest holiday lights display in Washington State is back! And there are even more lights than last year, twice as many to be exact. Quil Ceda Village’s massive luminescent lagoon is made up of a whopping six million holiday lights that brighten the winter sky every evening now through January 15, 2024.

Viewing of all the seasonal displays that adorn Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Bingo, and Quil Ceda Village retail center is free and open to the general public.

“We launched this grand event in 2022 and it became an instant favorite with visitors. It is bigger and even more spectacular this year. We encourage folks to add this tradition to their ‘must do’ experiences this holiday season,” said Kevin Jones, general manager for Quil Ceda Village. 

Completing the makeshift winter wonderland is a 40’ x 80’ outdoor ice rink that became a hit for Tulalip families last year in search of a new holiday tradition. A year ago, Tulalip elder Denise Hatch-Anderson brought her then-nine-year-old granddaughter Barbara to the rink. The young culture bearer took a tumble a plenty while learning how to balance and shift her weight around on ice skates, but she was determined to learn and learn she did.

Now, a full year later, Denise again brought Barbara. Accompanying them this time was 12-year-old Francis. While their elder looked on, the two energetic ice skaters went around and around the oval-shaped rink while some of their favorite tunes played over the speaker system. They still tumbled now and then, but each time they went down with a laugh and rose up with a smile.

“I love seeing Tulalip create these events for our families to come together and have a good time. Having an ice rink here makes it possible for my grandchildren, and I’m sure many others, to have the opportunity to actually learn to ice skate and see how much fun it can be. Barbara kept asking ‘Is it back yet? Is it back yet?’ She was so excited to skate again that Francis decided to come see what it was all about. He took right to it, and, for me, when he started pow-wow dancing on the ice, that was everything,” beamed grandma Denise. 

Off the rink, there was a variety of locally-sourced grub available from Tulalip-owned vendors like Ryan’s REZ-ipes, Kirk’s Smoked Salmon, and Jared’s CORNer. These vendors and more will be a fixture outside the rink area located next to the QCV amphitheater. 

Appearances by Mr. and Mrs. Clause will occur every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between 4pm – 8pm through December 23rd. For more information about hours of operation for the skating rink, food vendors, and special guest appearances, please visit quilcedavillage.com

‘Lights & Ice’ is a family-friendly environment with picturesque backdrops perfect for holiday cards, social media posts, and memory-making excursions. Such was the case for local expert ice skater Dana Posey and his family troop he brought to the rink. While his three granddaughters braved the ice, using the assistance of a bright orange helper device when needed, Dana skated frontwards, backwards and in circles around them while offering enthusiastic pointers. 

“We have a growing hockey community here in Tulalip. From fans of the Everett Silvertips to newcomers to the game since the arrival of the Seattle Kraken, more and more people are getting interested in hockey,” said Dana. “Having a rink allows for our kids to get out and experience life on the ice. And I’ll tell ya, ice skating is great exercise.” 

Drone photo courtesy John C. Storbeck

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience ‘Lights & Ice’, even if it’s just to take in the breathtaking, dazzling display of six million holiday lights. 

Fusing Traditions: Culture + Glass

Matriarch (Friday & Singletary)

By Micheal Rios; photos courtesy Stonington Gallery

As November ends, we wanted to offer one more in-depth article in recognition of Native American Heritage Month. Because our people span the color spectrum, it seemed fitting to close out this annual series with a topic that provides stunning, tradition-filled imagery that is as vibrant as our collective culture is. Enter the realm of glass art.

In the vast landscape of artistic expression, the continued evolution of Native artists compels the creative eye to imagine never-before-seen masterpieces that can only be achieved by embracing new technologies and new mediums. Within the realm of glass art, Native creatives are becoming increasingly recognized for their dynamic fusion of tradition and innovation.

Entuk (Skyriver)

Traditionally rooted in naturally harvested materials like cedar, seashell and leather hide, recent access into the glass realm represents not just a departure from the norm but a transformative journey that symbolizes cultural preservation and the collaborative spirit.

“I kind of came into glass by proxy of being in Seattle when I was a mechanic and tow truck driver. One day I walked into a glass factory and that was it for me. I just knew the course of my life would change after that,” shared artist Dan Friday (Lummi). “You kind of get lost in the process, and that’s what I like about glass is sometimes just going through the motions is what opens your eyes to what is possible. I feel like if you just spend enough time with the material, it will show you what’s available through it.

Elderberry basket (Singletary)
Anchor with rope (Friday)

“I’m a master of none, but I try and use all the techniques that I’ve learned,” he continued. “My great-grandfather Joseph Hillaire carved story poles that depicted a traditional story. [Carrying on that legacy], I tell stories that depict the resurgence of Coast Salish culture through my work with glass. As artists, we want to study the work of our ancestors and draw inspiration from them, not just replicate their work. I’m trying to tell my stories in glass, to tell my family stories in this modern medium so they can continue to be seen and appreciated.” 

For millennia, our art has served as an expressive storyteller, weaving tales of cultural heritage through mediums like story poles, basketry, and all forms of regalia making. However, a new chapter is unfolding before us as boundary-pushing artists explore the possibilities of fusing culture and glass with the help of a 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit furnace. 

Hold Fast (Skyriver)

This shift isn’t a rejection of tradition, instead, it’s a harmonious blend of the old and the new. Glass, with its flexibility and luminosity, provides an exciting canvas for artists to narrate their cultural stories with a modern twist.

One striking aspect of this evolution is the deliberate mixing of Salish symbols and Native iconography into the glass medium. Artists draw inspiration from their cultural roots, infusing their creations with symbols representing animals, spirits, and classic Coast Salish formline. The result is a visually captivating artwork that carries a thoughtful cultural significance, forming a bridge between the traditions of our ancestors and the present generation’s unrestricted freedom to express culture in most creative ways.

Two Ravens pole (Singletary)

“I always say that Native culture has a defining historical connection to glass because it came to us through trade beads,” explained artist Preston Singletary (Tlingit). “Glass was something that was special to our ancestors who traded for glass beads or glass shards. Eventually, it was adopted into the culture and used for ornamentation, trade, and other creative means.

“I like the idea of glass having a sense of permanence, but it’s also very fragile, “he continued. Preston is renowned for his unique style of carving glass through sandblasting, which he uses to reveal layers of color and meaning. “When I work with the material of glass, I feel like it brings this new dimension to Indigenous art. It really has an opportunity to draw people in and show them aspects of our culture previously unseen in the contemporary art world.”

Humpback whale (Singletary & Skyriver)

The journey into glass art has been made possible through educational programs, workshops, and collaborative initiatives. Exposure to glassblowing techniques and working with non-Native artists, like Dale Chihuly and his apprentices, has empowered Native American artists to explore new creative horizons. These collaborations serve as crucibles of molten ideas, where traditional knowledge converges with modern innovation.

An admirable aspect of this evolution is the commitment to cultural preservation. Native glass artists, while embracing the newness of glass as a medium, remain committed to celebrating and preserving their cultural heritage. Each stunning piece becomes a flame-cut canvas for storytelling and a luminescent tribute to our surroundings. 

Glass feather (Friday)

“I was born in a house with no water and no electricity on Lopez Island. My childhood was a lot of being out in the woods and playing near the water,” said artist Raven Skyriver (Tlingit). 

“I draw on those experiences as a young kid still to this day as inspiration. My work is almost exclusively derived from the marine ecosystem. I attempt to place the creatures back in their environment by capturing the fluid nature of molten glass and transferring it into the perceived weightlessness of a swimming creature. I always strive to imbue the work with a hint of life.”

As these glass creations find homes in galleries, museums, and the broader art market, a new chapter in the narrative of Indigenous artistry is written. Authored by Native American artists unafraid of accessing their skills of adaptability passed down from generations of cultural creatives who embraced the new to pass down the old. 

Festive finds and entrepreneurial spirit at Native bazaar

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Tammy Taylor 

As the holiday season unfolds, the vibrant spirit of festive cheer found a welcoming home at the annual Tulalip Holiday Native Bazaar on November 17 and 18. Hosted by Tammy Taylor, this lively event provided a bustling marketplace for the talented artisans, crafters, and food vendors of the Tulalip community. 

Throughout the weekend, attendees perused an array of meticulously crafted products, including cozy wool hats and skirts, intricate cedar regalia and baskets, savory smoked salmon, resonant drums, and festive Christmas ornaments. 

Among the myriad of handmade treasures, the bazaar offered more than traditional crafts. For those seeking a glimpse into the mystical realm, tribal member Emmarie Davis, provided tarot readings, adding a touch of spiritual insight to the festive atmosphere. 

For those with a passion for fashion, tribal member Gio Sohappy showcased the latest Jordan sneakers, and Josh Fryberg introduced his distinctive clothing line, Skyn Style. 

Photo courtesy of Josh Fryberg

“We have been making our custom designs, and they have been selling out quickly,” said Josh. “We have some new customs coming out soon with all new styles available. Our family also makes smoked amazing salmon candy.” 

Josh continued, “It was great seeing all the vendors at the Bazaar. Let’s continue to grow and expand our businesses together and show our youth and community that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I also want to thank Tammy, Lance Taylor, and all the staff who helped make the Bazaar happen. I look forward to seeing everyone at the next event.”

There will be another chance to do Christmas shopping at the Holiday Native Bazaar on December 8-9 at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, 7512 Totem Breach Rd. Contact Tammy Taylor at 425-501-4141 for more information. 

Spectacular Vernacular: Traditional Coast Salish languages are the highlight of Hibulb’s latest exhibit

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With the sudden drop in temperature, many are looking for some fun indoor activities that they can enjoy with their friends and families as we approach winter. You are definitely going to want to add the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) to your list of places to visit soon. 

We understand that with its beautiful carvings of canoes and welcome poles, it’s informative main gallery that shares the rich history of the Tulalip people, the moving tribute to the tribe’s service men and women, the traditional cedar longhouse experience, and the impressive gift shop, the award-winning cultural center may already be on that list. If this is the case for you, we suggest circling it, hitting it with a double underline and exclamation point, or simply moving it higher on the list because you are not going to want to miss their new exhibit.  

Over the years, the HCC has built a reputation for putting together unique, informative, and interactive exhibits such as The Power of Words, Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool, Tulalip Indian Fair, Vibrant Beauty: Colors of our Collection, Roots of Wisdom, and Coast Salish Canoes. The new exhibit, tabtabəb, follows their signature formula of culture and knowledge sharing and is guaranteed to engage everyone from youth to elders. tabtabəb is sure to have folks talking for days, not only in the traditional languages but also about the exquisite curation of the new exhibit. 

“The goal of the exhibit is to make the language accessible,” explained Mytyl Hernandez, HCC Museum Manger. “We use the language as much as we can, in all the videos, displays and visually too, so people can see it. And even with the name tabtabəb, which the Lushootseed department helped us find. We wanted a word that anybody could look at and give it a go at saying it. Because our languages have so many different characters, more than any other language that we speak, we wanted to make sure people could look at it and get a good sense of how to say it.” 

Upon stepping into the featured gallery, your eyes are immediately drawn to a circular wall that is covered in Salishan words and phrases. All around the exhibit you will see words with various diacritics, letters, and symbols that are specific to the languages of the original caretakers of this region. Very early in the tabtabəb journey, museum guests are informed that there are 23 total languages across all of the Coast Salish tribes. This exhibit focuses on six of those dialects – Klallam, Twana, Nooksack, Northern Straits, Northern Lushootseed, and Southern Lushootseed. 

The idea behind tabtabəb was originally concepted this past July by Mytyl and her team at HCC. After contacting several other tribes, the cultural center quickly gathered information, resources, and artifacts that highlight the languages of each tribe. The result is a collaborative educational and entertaining effort that showcases the words, stories, and the history of those local languages that were once outlawed and almost lost during this country’s era of assimilation.

Said Mytyl, “We are featuring six Coast Salish language groups; because we all really spoke different languages and the most common was Northern and Southern Lushootseed. We were able to form really nice relationships with S’Klallam Jamestown, Nooksack, Upper Skagit, and Puyallup. We worked with all of the tribes, sharing information, letting them know what we wanted to display and how we wanted to display it. We requested pictures and information. We wanted to make sure that their information was portrayed in the most respectful and accurate way possible.”

In addition to the intertribal partnerships, HCC also worked closely with the Tulalip Lushootseed department and the tribe’s TDS crew. When making your way through the exhibit, you will notice that there are a number of digital kiosks in between each section of tabtabəb. These interactive screens include numerous games and stories. They also provide the proper pronunciation of several of the items that are on display including the words for skirts, baskets, beads, canoes, and blankets. 

The exhibit pays homage to the Tulalip Lushootseed department as well and features a dedicated display case that highlights all the work they have done throughout the years. In this case you will find t-shirts from past summertime Lushootseed Camps, and the various tools they utilize to teach kids about the ancestral language such as shawls, slahal game pieces, and a Nintendo DS filled with games and lessons geared toward the children.  

At the center of the circular wall, a video of Lushootseed Language Warrior Lois Landgrebe is on a loop where she shares the traditional story, Star Child and Diaper Child. Along the opposite wall are multiple other traditional stories in print like Bear and Ant and Basket Ogress. These stories and their artwork were developed by the Lushootseed department, and they contain important lessons and explanations about the world around us. 

Mytyl provided an exclusive tour of tabtabəb for Tulalip News. During the walkthrough she shared, “All of the panel displays feature the languages of the tribes that are using them, and what they are doing in terms of language and cultural revitalization. In our cases, we have items on display that are specific to those tribes and those language groups. It could be anything – clothing, books, canoes, you name it. We also have an artifact wall with different items from our community; items that we’ve had in collection and that we secured specifically for this exhibit. And then with the accompanying digital displays, you can hear the word for each of the items in both English and Lushootseed.”

If you were to tour tabtabəb in a clockwise fashion, you will end the exhibit looking at a wall of black and white portraits. Each individual in the photographs played a major role in keeping the Salishan languages alive for the next generations to come. And through their life’s work, like the languages they fought to preserve and revitalize, the legacy of each of those elders who have now passed on will live long into the future. 

“One of my favorite parts of the exhibit is our Warrior Wall,” expressed Mytyl. “We are displaying the pillars of language communities, some of those early elders and ancestors who worked really hard for language revitalization when others weren’t. A lot of these people are responsible for the dictionaries of their languages, and books, and keeping traditional stories and storytelling going.”

The tabtabəb exhibit is on display for the foreseeable future and it’s a wonderful way to expand your knowledge about the Coast Salish people and their spectacular vernacular. The Hibulb Cultural Center is open Tuesday – Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and also Saturday – Sunday from Noon to 5:00 p.m. For more information, please visit their website www.HibulbCulturalCenter.org or contact 360-716-2600. 

“Representation is important,” stated Mytyl. “And representation of language, in outside communities, is not available to our people. We want to make sure that we can put as much as we can on display here and make it accessible to our own people, and also make it accessible for the people on the outside, so they can see that it is still a live language and that we’re still using it.”