Stock up on holiday spirit at Tulalip’s own Native Bazaar

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

 Hundreds of visitors journeyed to the Tulalip Reservation on Sunday, November 17 to browse handmade gifts, purchase one-of-kind items made by local artists and stock up on holiday spirit at the annual Native Bazaar. The Tulalip Youth Center hosted the place to be for those in the market for truly unforgettable gifts and Native décor. 

The Bazaar was jam-packed with unique goodies galore including beaded jewelry, cedar creations of all varieties, custom artwork and much, much more. Filled to the brim with a variety of vendors, all of whom were Tulalip tribal members, customers had no shortage of buying options just in time for the holiday season.

Coordinated by Tammy Taylor, who has organized the event for ten years in row, the annual shopping experience combines traditional Tulalip culture with the best of the holiday season. There was something for everyone, even those who simply wanted to fill their bellies with frybread and smoked salmon. 

“This is such a great event,” said Tammy. “We have over 30 vendors setup. I try to find young artists who are willing to sell their art, and encourage them to participate. Teaching our people to be entrepreneurs at a young age has so many benefits.”

Eleven-year-old Jaylynn Parks is a prime example of what happens when an energetic youth is filled with the entrepreneurial spirt. With her grandmother’s help, she baked about 60 mountain huckleberry and pineapple cupcakes that were a major hit as they quickly sold out. Jaylynn also came prepared with her classic Roosevelt Popper and switched up her vending style from cupcakes to freshly popped popcorn.

“Everyone really liked my cupcakes. [So far] I’ve sold like 150 bags of popcorn,” beamed young Jaylynn while also sharing she has big plans with her Bazaar profits. “I’m going to redecorate my bedroom. If I can buy anything it would be a big pink bed!”

Another spirited youth who made the most of her passion for art and crafting was Catherine Velasquez. “I made hair barrettes with little flowers and bells and bows,” she said while sharing a station with her family. “I sold, like, quite a few. My first few I made took like 10 minutes or so to make, but once I got going I was able to make them really quick. I helped make cookies, muffins, and ferry ornaments. The best part of being here is hanging out with family.”

Several stations at the bazaar showcased tradition teachings that have been passed down from one generation to the next. One such example was Keeta Sheldon and her daughter Jamie who are well-known in cedar weaving circles. Their expertise with gift giving cedar is as boundless as their artistic imaginations, exemplified by their innovative creations. 

“Weaving is a good hobby because there are so many styles and so much that can be made that you won’t ever be bored,” said Keeta. She’s passed on her passion for weaving to all of her daughters and together they teach classes in the local area. “I’ve been teaching off and on now for 17 years at the college and museum. We like to teach what we know so that it stays in our culture.”

The 2019 Native Bazaar will return to the Youth Center on December 7 and 8, from 9:00am – 4:00pm, providing yet another two-day opportunity to enjoy delicious holiday treats while stocking up on holiday gifts. All visitors are welcome to support their local artists.

“I want to thank the community for coming out and supporting all of our tribal artists,” said coordinator Tammy Taylor. “It’s so beautiful to witness because we don’t have many places available to sell our stuff, but here we have a good mixture of Native and non-Native visitors who truly appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that goes into authentic Native art.”

Tulalip poles preserve and continue ancestral teachings

William Shelton pole in Everett, Wa. Photo courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On display in public buildings throughout the Tulalip Reservation are beautiful works of traditional Tulalip art. Paintings, drums, paddles, masks and carvings created by Tribal artists cover the walls of government offices and local schools. Some of those establishments are also home to large wooden sculptures carved from cedar that depict insightful stories passed through the generations, many welcoming guests to their space of business, healing or learning. At certain places, such as the Tulalip longhouse, you may even spot a carving with a family crest or symbol in the design. 

Kelly Moses Story Pole at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary opens a conversation for Tulalip youth and provides an opportunity to learn about the culture while attending school.

“There are several different types of poles,” said Tulalip Carver, Tony Hatch. “Story poles, house posts, spirit poles, family crest poles. There’s clan poles; if you belong to a bear, wolf, seal, otter clan, they all have their own symbol and that’s what they put on their house posts. The house posts are the ones you see if you went into our longhouse, on the inside. Each one of those poles mean something different.”

Kaya, an Elder Salish woman holds a cedar basket filled with clams, welcomes guests to the Hibulb Cultural Center by James Madison.

The Tulalip people have a long, rich history with the cedar tree. For centuries, the Tribe’s ancestors utilized the tree’s resources by carving canoes, paddles, rattles and masks as well as weaving baskets, headbands and clothing from the sacred cedar. Although today Indigenous art is admired for its beauty from an outsider’s perspective, most pieces were intentionally created as tools for everyday necessity and for cultural and spiritual work. 

 Family and clan crests have been carved into house posts since time immemorial, specifying designated areas at the longhouses. An easy-to-spot indicator of a house post is the grooved indent at the top, intended to support the beams of the longhouse as house posts were initially apart of the building’s infrastructure. House posts are a common carving amongst Northwest tribes and can be viewed in person at a number of locations on the reservation such the Hibulb Cultural Center, the Don Hatch Youth Center and the Tulalip Longhouse. 

Also widely constructed by the tribes of this region are welcome poles. These sculptures are generally placed at the entrance of buildings, extending a friendly invite to visitors. They typically feature an Indigenous person in the design, highlighting a certain aspect to the tribal way of life. Welcome poles are prominent throughout Tulalip, with pieces at the entrance of the Tulalip Administration Building and the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy. 

The Storytelling Poles at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning  Academy was a collective project by the Tulalip Carvers and tells the story of the salmon people.

“Those are storytelling poles at Early Learning,” stated Tulalip Carver, Steve Madison. “We put those there for a purpose, for the little kids. The poles are carved in the shape of a salmon. On the salmon there’s a woman and a man and they are both storytellers. That’s why they were carved, so our kids will always know the stories about our people, the salmon. Because the salmon encompasses the spirit of our people.”

Perhaps the most recognizable welcome pole is the monumental post, created by Joe Gobin, which stands in the lobby of the Tulalip Resort Casino. With arms reaching out to the people, the pole welcomes newly arrived guests to the elegant hotel; a great photo opportunity for those receiving the Tulalip experience for the first time. Located directly at each side of the welcome pole are two story poles; a gambling pole representing the traditional game of slahal, also created by Joe Gobin, and a story pole that features an eagle and a seawolf designed by James Madison. 

The Tulalip Story Pole, by James Madison, located at the entrance of the Tulalip Resort Casino, features spiritual Northwest animal figures such as the bear, sea wolf, half-man half-wolf, and the eagle.

“There’s differences between house posts and story poles,” explains James. “A lot of people don’t know where a totem pole came from, or a story pole. They don’t know that we didn’t do that here, traditionally. But we continue it because William Shelton created it for our people, to keep our culture alive. They’re the stories of our families, about our people, and they hold the information of who we are and what our people went through; the history, knowledge and spiritual side of it. Joe Gobin and I decided to follow that William Shelton look but modernize it, refine the carvings and bring it up to date. You’ll see that high relief in our carvings. It’s a unique style and something that Shelton created, he was a pioneer in that way. It’s our way to pay respect to him as a carver.”

At a time when the Indigenous population was enduring assimilation efforts by the U.S. government, the last chief of Tulalip, William Shelton, made it his mission to preserve the traditional Salish way of life. By cunningly requesting approval to formally honor the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot, Shelton received permission to construct the Tulalip Longhouse on the shore of the bay. Due to his dedication, the people were able to gather once a year at the longhouse to take part in a night of culture as well as reflect and continue the teachings of those ancestors who came before them. 

Drawing inspiration from Alaskan Natives, as well as incorporating his own heritage, Shelton created the very first story pole in 1912 that was later erected at the Tulalip boarding school in 1913. The unique pole caught the attention of the masses and Shelton story poles began to pop up in local communities. The city of Everett, Seattle Yacht Club, Washington State Capitol, Woodland Park Zoo, and a number of parks throughout the nation commissioned his story poles and as time moved forward, colonizers eventually switched from condemning Native artwork to collecting it and his work was in high-demand.

William Shelton’s gas station and Totem Pole Camp. Photo courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center.

 In 2013, a William Shelton story pole returned to the Pacific Northwest after standing at Krape Park in Freeport, Illinois for almost seventy years. The pole was taken down due to damage from weather over the years and the thirty-seven foot pole was sent to the Burke Museum. Today, the pole is in possession of the Burke and contained in storage off-site with plans of restoration in the near future.

“The William Shelton story pole is an important piece of Salish, and more specifically, Tulalip history,” explained Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse, Burke Museum Curator of Northwest Native Art. “Shelton’s story poles brought oral histories and valued stories into monumental form, anchoring Tulalip history into these permanent markers. He did this during the years in which governmental and educational policies were aimed at erasing Indigenous languages, customs, and knowledge.”

William Shelton and family. Photo courtesy of Hibulb Cultural Center.

In his lifetime, Shelton constructed a total of sixteen story poles that were raised at various locations to help educate newcomers about Tulalip culture. His efforts helped bridge the gap between Natives and non-Natives. Shelton found ways to feed the non-Indigenous population knowledge about the heritage of his people in small doses, subtly squeezing in traditional stories, language and songs through his art. In addition to the story poles, Shelton gifted the world two publications and a better understanding of the Coast Salish lifeways. 

Tessa Campbell, Lead Curator of the Hibulb Cultural Center has been on the search for Shelton poles since the museum’s opening. Tessa and her team have recovered and restored, or are in the process of restoring, several poles after successfully tracking them down through Shelton’s correspondence letters. Unfortunately, due to decades passing by, a few poles were taken down, only to never be seen again. However, she intends to continue pursuing the poles until all sixteen are accounted for. 

“We credit William Shelton for coming up with the idea of the story pole,” Tessa expressed. “There weren’t story poles around before William Shelton, but there were welcome poles and house posts. He saw the story pole as a way to preserve our history. I compare it to a book; people preserve their family history by writing, he did it through carving. For his first pole, he went to the elders and got their stories, and he carved each story into the pole. So, each figure is like a chapter of a book.”

 Another set of carvings that held significant value to the people of Tulalip were the gateway poles. Over forty years ago, the entryways to the reservation were marked by two story poles and connected by a canoe carving overhead. Now fondly missed by the older generations of the community, the carvings were cut down by non-Natives of neighboring towns who were upset with the Boldt Decision in 1974.  

“I remember my grandpa (Frank Madison) used to talk about the poles that were out here, the two upright poles and a canoe over the top and everyone used to drive underneath it,” James reflects. “That was an identifiable icon for our tribe way back when. A long time ago, something happened between the people of Marysville and some people of Tulalip. The Marysville people came over and chopped it down with a chainsaw. It’s a harsh story but its history – it’s what happened. I always had that story in the back of my mind. My grandpa always wanted to recreate it. I’m on that same path, so hopefully some day they let me recreate that out of a different material, out of bronze or cement. That way our people can have that to be proud of because we were all raised knowing that arch was there back in the day, the two of them one at the beginning of the rez and the one at the end.”

William Shelton and every Tulalip artist since his time have excelled at preserving and continuing their ancestral teachings. By passing on the tradition and the knowledge that comes with it, they have carved quite the story for the future generations of Tulalip as well as the history of the generations who came prior. 

Tulalip Pole at Tulalip Heritage H.S., by Kelly Moses.

“Starting the little ones out while they’re young is important,” said James. “People like me; we don’t know any different. I was doing this before I can remember. Starting the youth early is important to keeping this part of our culture alive. Anybody can just pick it up and learn, but the knowledge of the work to go along with the skill is important. I was very fortunate to have my grandpa and my dad there to teach me that information. Honestly, you can teach anybody to carve or draw, but it’s the information that goes with it, putting your spirit and soul into it, making it come alive, making it Indian – that’s what I think is important.”

‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ felt at Potlatch Fund gala

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Potlatch Fund is a Native-led nonprofit that provides grants and leadership development in tribal communities throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Fund’s driving mission is to expand philanthropy within Northwest tribal nations by inspiring and building upon the tradition of giving. From potlachs to powwows, building community and sharing wealth has always been a part of Native peoples’ way of life.

On November 2, the Potlatch Fund held its highly anticipated annual fundraising gala. With venue location and theme changing every year, the one constant the gala promises is attendees will  be inspired and given ample opportunity to show their generous side. This year the location was Little Creek Casino Resort and the theme: ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’. 

“This gala brings together people of many different tribes, from many different communities, from many different organizations, and unites us in the common goal to raise money to help us meet the needs of Northwest Indian Country,” said Dr. Charlotte Coté, Potlach Fund board president. “Our theme ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ really captures the essence of our organization’s mission to expand philanthropy for and among tribal communities, while empowering community leaders with the tools they need to succeed.

“We have gathered here in the spirit of the potlatch tradition with the sharing of song, dance, art, and of course delicious food,” Dr. Coté continued. “The support we’re so thankful to receive allows us to keep alive the spirit of reciprocity. I raise my hands to everyone who joins our Potlatch Fund canoe and helps us paddle to our fundraising goals.”

Since 2005, Potlatch Fund has re-granted over $4.5 million in the support of tribes, tribal nonprofits, Native-led nonprofits, Native artists, and Native initiatives in their four-state service area. Through a focus on youth development, community building, language preservation, education and Native arts, they are building a richer future for all that they serve.

The Potlatch Fund’s annual gala is their major fundraising event and brings together people from a variety of neighboring tribes, organizations, corporations and communities. Close to 20 Washington State tribes were listed as event sponsors, including the Tulalip Tribes listed as a Raven-level sponsor.

At the gala, Native community impact makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how other like-minded individuals and groups are striving to make a positive difference for the benefit of Indian Country. This is an invaluable benefit for up-and-coming leaders and organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

“At Potlatch Fund, we recognize the importance of bringing people together to share our stories and experiences,” added Dr. Coté. “Our intent is to generate deeper connections and conversation among Native professionals and our extended community. All are welcome to attend and build relationships with our Native communities.” 

A dynamic and truly benevolent event that brought together tribal leadership, representatives and impact makers from all across the Pacific Northwest, the fundraising gala also had additional benefits for guests. In a setting befitting those who strive to make the world a better place than they found it, the mostly Native gathering took in the sights of Squaxin Island Tribe drummers and dancers, heard the enchanting violin sounds of Lummi musician Swil Kanim, and perused a silent auction filled with unique Native art.

“Potlatch Gala is the most fun event of the year,” shared Suquamish Foundation Director, Robin Little Wing Sigo. “Not only does it raise money, but it raises spirits, energy and excitement. Everyone gets to get dressed up and connect with people they may only see once or twice a year. Also, so many incredible artists donate their artwork for the silent auction that gives us a good opportunity to purchase wonderful Native bling.”

 “We lovingly call it ‘Native Prom’ because it’s one of the last gatherings of the year and we all get dressed up to celebrate being Native,” added Colleen Chalmers, program manager at Chief Seattle Club. “There is representation from so many different tribes yet we’re here as an Indigenous community proving we are still here and we are thriving.”

The ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ gala provided the opportunity to share culture through song and dance performances, to support and celebrate Native art and artists, and to assist Potlatch Fund with its fundraising efforts as it continues to undertake important work throughout Northwest Indian Country. The evening centered on generosity and was a success as pre-   and post-dinner networking receptions brought people together to create future impact opportunities, while close to $60,000 was fundraised that will ultimately go to where it’s needed most, Native communities. 

Tulalip Resort Casino Chefs Are Nutty for Hazelnuts This November Dishes to Celebrate the Resort’s Third Annual “Hazelnut Holidays”

Tulalip, Washington — Tulalip Resort Casino chefs are excited to whip up their newest filbert-filled creations for their dining guests. From breakfast and salads to seafood and tempting desserts, these seasoned chefs have rounded up some creative hazel-nutty recipes. Tulalip’s third annual “Hazelnut Holidays” will run from November 1 through December 1, 2019.

Local hazelnuts from Hazel Blue Acres will be featured throughout the Resort’s restaurants. What makes Hazel Blue Acres hazelnuts so special? These nuts originate at a local family farm in Silvana, Washington, near the Stillaguamish River. Tulalip’s commitment to curating top local ingredients in all of their dishes is highlighted with their partnership with Hazel Blue Acres.

“Hazelnuts are not just for dessert,” shares Executive Chef Perry Mascitti. “Hazelnuts and chocolate are a match made in heaven and their rich, nutty flavor can turn any dessert into a masterpiece. Roasted hazelnuts (chopped or whole) can impart a buttery savoriness to everything from salads to meat dishes, and can transform an otherwise simple dish into a satisfying, hearty plate. We can’t wait to share this year’s Hazelnut Holidays with you!”

The Tulalip chef team invites all Resort guests to enjoy the following hazelnut-laced selections during November’s Hazelnut Holidays.

Blackfish Wild Salmon Grill and Bar’s Chef David Buchanan loves cooking with hazelnuts because they add a sweet, nutty flavor to his Hazelnut Pesto Sea Bass. The Sea Bass is encrusted with the hazelnut pesto, served with a Havarti polenta, and autumn succotash of corn, roast butternut squash, asparagus, zucchini and red onion. And for the finale to dinner, guests can enjoy Pastry Chef Nikol Nakamura’s Sutell Stuffed Beignets. They are stuffed with Nutella hazelnut spread and served with praline ice cream, which should not be missed.

Is breakfast your favorite meal of the day? If so, then head over to Cedars Cafe, where Chef Brent Clarkson will be preparing his Cedar’s Café Grilled Hazelnut Coque Madame. Served on a grilled hazelnut crusted egg bread, layered with Havarti cheese, prosciutto, ham and two cook-to-order eggs, topped with the Chef’s Sauce Mornay. This hazelnut special will be offered seven days a week during November from 6 am to 4 pm. To fulfill your sweet tooth, indulge in their Chocolate and Hazelnut Pudding served with Frangelico cream, toasted hazelnuts and fresh raspberries. The perfect way to start any morning!

Join Chef Jeremy Taisey for Tula Bene Pastaria + Chophouse’s house-made Garganelle pasta served with braised pork, toasted hazelnut ragu, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, parmesan cheese and pickled peaches. And to end the meal with a slice of pure sweetness, try Pastry Chef Nikol Nakamura’s Gianduja Tart made with creamy mascarpone and a rich, deep chocolate hazelnut filling.

For a quick bite on-the-go, make a stop at either the Carvery or theHotel Espresso fortheir Toasted Hazelnut Chicken Salad. The salad will be served with a roasted chicken breast, toasted Hazel Blue Acres hazelnuts, and red grapes on a bed of crisp Bibb lettuce.

As part of this year’s Hazelnut Holidays, Chef Lil at Eagles Buffet will be sharing her signature Roast Pork Tenderloin. It will be served with a house-made mustard hazelnut sauce, which is part of the daily buffet offerings. For menu information and pricing, visit here

At The Draft Sports Bar and Grill, it’s all about the Hazelnut Chicken Bites. Chef Susan is serving these golden brown hazelnut crusted chicken bites with their house-made bleu queso dipping sauce. 

Tulalip’s Blazing Paddles Stone Fired Pizza and Spirits are showcasing their Hazelnut Fig and Pear Pizza this November: a tempting pizza layered with fig jam, arugula, red and Bartlett pears, brie cheese, prosciutto and topped with hazelnuts. 

Are you craving a dessert pizza? Order Blazing Paddles Hazelnut Cinnalicious made with cinnamon streusel, green apples and drizzled with a caramel sauce. 

The Tulalip culinary team extends an invitation for everyone to come and experience their “Hazelnut Holidays” for this limited engagement. For more information, visit tulalipcasino.com.

New Burke Museum debuts with grand opening for Indigenous peoples

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

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

Julie’s words were direct and heartfelt as she greeted the hundreds of Native visitors who convened at the Burke Museum’s ‘Indigenous Preview’ on October 10. Nearly a thousand community engaged and local Native culture-bearers RSVP’d to the evening’s event dedicated to relationship building and seeking to preserve the ingenuity, creativity, and complex knowledge of a living and thriving cultural resource. 

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

In honor of its collaborations with Indigenous communities, the Burke invited all Indigenous peoples to see the all-new $99 million, 113,000-square-foot facility before it officially opened to the public. Nearly a decade’s worth of planning and consultation went into the unique redesign of a natural history museum with a massive 16 million object collection. Two highly anticipated exhibitions feature Northwest Native artistry and craftsmanship at its finest.

An emphasis on transparency and treating the hundreds of Native cultural artifacts with the proper respect, while acknowledging their rightful creators, was the topic of many conversations while the gathering of Native peoples toured the museum. Many Coast Salish tribal members found the Culture is Living gallery to be the highlight of the evening. From intricate weaving creations to hundreds of years old traditional regalia to a truly stunning dedication to canoe journey that showcased carved paddles by many of the 29 federally recognized Washington tribes, the gallery offered a very real sense of purpose and awareness to its Native guests. 

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

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

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

During the special Indigenous Preview event, several local tribes had representative of their canoe families share song and dance for the mostly Native attendees. Food was enjoyed and provided by the much hyped Off the Rez café, a permanent outpost spawned from Seattle’s first and only Native food truck. There were a number of hands-on exhibitions that guests were drawn to. Chief among them a weaving setup that welcomed the expertise of Native weavers to showcase their skills with rope, cedar, or ribbon that have been passed down for generations.

“The inclusivity is awesome!” shared 24-year-old Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit) after she made her signature in weave form. “Yes, there are artifacts dating back hundreds of years, but there is so much contemporary art, too. So many young Native artists have works included among the galleries. The voice and presence of the future generations we always talk about is definitely represented.”

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

“Museums have always been colonial spaces and the way the old Burke was structured separated each culture rather than having conversations across cultures that are relevant to our people,” said recent UW graduate Natalie Bruecher (Native Hawaiian). “Here in the new Burke, our knowledge, our ways of being, and even our relationships to each other are really uplifted. This space is a home for our students, our Indigenous communities, and our ancestors that are embodied in every single piece on display.” 

For more information please visit burkemuseum.org or call (206) 543-7907

Global Village adds permanent Tribal Tales exhibit

Artist and storyteller Ty Juvinel (center) with Devin Leatherman and Amy Hale at the opening of Tribal Tales exhibit.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Seattle Children’s Museum is a destination place for people from all around the world. Located at the heart of Seattle Center, the always active and engaging museum sees close to 200,000 visitors every year. With a mission to bring to life the joy of discovery for children and their families through creative, hands-on exploration of the world around them, the museum’s heralded Global Village recently debuted an all-new permanent exhibit titled Tribal Tales.

Created by and inspired from the beautifully diverse and thriving Native cultures encompassing the Puget Sound area, Tribal Tales was development over the past two years in direct collaboration with Native artists from Pacific Northwest tribes. 

“We thought it would be great if we developed a space that helps us create a real relationship with local tribal communities and members,” explained Amy Hale, director of education for Seattle Children’s Museum. “The artists we collaborated with drew from their own individual experiences in order to create culturally relevant representations of their culture.”

Native storytellers who collaborated on the project include John Edward Smith (Skokomish), Roger Fernandez (Lower Elwha S’Kallam), and Tulalip’s own Ty Juvinel. 

“Because of Ty’s trust and active willingness to participate in building up this idea from the very beginning, his efforts had a direct influence on other artists and their willingness to commit,” added Amy. “When I look at this final project, I see not only Ty and his amazing individual pieces, but his influence that led to more artists of other tribal communities working with us and really making Tribal Tales an immersive exhibit.”

Prior to becoming the home of Tribal Tales, the space housed a puppet theatre. The original seed money that created the puppet theatre came via Tulalip Cares, the charitable contributions division of the tribe. It’s only too fitting then that the puppet theatre space was transformed into an interactive, educational exhibit showcasing the richness of Native values and oral tradition, while being co-curated by Tulalip tribal member Ty Juvinel. 

“This exhibit really honors the Indigenous peoples of this land and gives the acknowledgment that our people were here before first contact,” shared the Tulalip storyteller. “Tribal Tales is all about acknowledging the past people that were here while honoring the many Coast Salish tribes thriving today.

“I contributed an original story created for my kids How Puppy Got His Ears, a Salish Sea map detailing all the tribes in Western Washington, a couple house posts, and hand puppets that go along with my story that visiting children can play with,” continued Ty. “The fact the museum got money a long time ago from the tribe and now I’m refreshing the concept for my generation is just awesome.”

Tribal Tales explores the universal art of storytelling through a collective showcase of Native art and culture, curated by the actual artists themselves. “As opposed to white bodies dictating and reflecting back to ourselves what other cultures look like, we gave the artists all the agency to share with us their stories,” added Amy.

The direction and attention to detail is what really makes Tribal Tales stand apart from the many other Global Village exhibits. And for the countless children who visit the museum every day, they’ve already shown a fondness to the exhibit’s bright colors and hands-on puppetry that makes the Native stories easily understood.

“The Children’s Museum shares all kinds of fantastic things, like science, knowledge and culture,” said Roger Fernandes, sharer of the prolific Ant and Bear story. “I thought it would be a good way to get our stories out there. Each of the stories were illustrated by the Native artists, so the children could not just hear the story but see some visuals that would help them remember it. Ultimately, this project was well thought out and as a result now more kids will have the chance to hear our traditional stories.”

With over 18,000 sq. feet of play space designed for kids ages birth to 8-years-old to enjoy with families, the Seattle Children’s Museum is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. First time visitors are sure to be blown away by the hands-on exhibits and open-ended exploration, especially those who experience the richness of Tribal Tales. 

Changing the way we see Native America

Matika Wilbur at Northwest Indian College. Photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News. Photos by Matika Wilbur and Micheal Rios.

In 2012, Tulalip tribal member and visual storyteller Matika Wilbur sold everything she owned in her Seattle apartment and invested the proceeds into a vision: to unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues, the beauty of Native culture, and the magnitude of tradition. Her vision’s name? Project 562.

Reflecting her commitment to visit, engage, and photograph all 562 federally recognized Native American tribes (in 2012), Project 562 reveals a name that serves to both inspire and educate. 

“While teaching at [Tulalip] Heritage High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative,” she recalled. “It’s an incomplete story that perpetuates an American historical amnesia. It’s a story that’s romantic, dire and insatiable…it’s the story of extinction.”

Matika points out the extinction theme often associated with Native America is easily perceived by doing a quick Google Images search. If you search for ‘African American’, ‘Hispanic American’ or ‘Asian American’, then you’ll find images of present day citizens who represent each culture. You’ll see proud, smiling faces and depictions of happy families. 

But if you search for ‘Native American’ the results are very different. You’ll see mostly black and white photos of centuries old Natives who are “leathered and feathered”.  Making matters worse, you’ll also find more images of white people wearing headdresses than of modern day Native families. 

“All of these images and misconceptions contribute to the collective consciousness of the American people, but more importantly it affects us in the ways that we imagine ourselves, in the ways we dream of possibility,” explained Matika. 

Darkfeather, Eckos and Bibiana Ancheta, Tulalip. Pictured at the edge of Tulalip Bay, they are wearing traditional regalia that was prepared for their annual Canoe Journey. Every year, upward of 100 U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations and New Zealand canoe families will make the journey by pulling their canoes to a rotating host destination tribe. Canoe families pull for weeks, and upon landing, there will be several days and nights of ‘protocol’: a celebration of shared traditional knowledge, ancestral songs, and sacred dances.

And so began her 7-year journey to photograph and collect stories of contemporary Native citizens from tribes all across the United States. As her photographic portfolio continued to expand, so too did her realm of possibilities.

Project 562 has driven her to travel hundreds of thousands of miles, many in her RV dubbed ‘the Big Girl’, but also by horseback, train, plane, boat and on foot across all 48 continental states, Hawaii, deep into the Canadian tundra and into Alaska. The number of federally recognized tribes has risen to 573, according to the Department of the Interior, since the inception of her vision back in 2012, but that fact is just superficial.

Presently, the now 35-year-old Matika has come to realize that Indigenous identity far surpasses federal acknowledgement. There are state-recognized tribes, urban and rural Native communities, and other spaces for Indigenous identity that don’t fall under the U.S. government’s recognition. Astonishingly, she estimates she has photographs that represent about 900 different tribal communities. 

Jon Red Corn, Osage Nation and Waxak’olin district Osage, leads boys to the Zonzolin arbor where traditional values and teachings of the Osage people are celebrated.

In a respectful way, Matika has been welcomed into hundreds of tribal communities, and she has found that people support the project because they would like to see things change. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, decolonization of the mind, and revitalization of culture accompany the photographs in captions, videos, and audio recordings.*

“For the past six-years I’ve been sojourning in my big girl. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, an amazing experience!” beamed the Tulalip photographer who routinely has her brilliant images displayed in museum galleries and college campuses across the nation. 

 Miss Melba Appawara from the Northern Ute Tribe, born in 1932, and Grandma to many beautiful bear dancers.

“I started in Washington and worked my way south through Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico,” she detailed. “I went to all the pueblos, so many places in Navajo Nation, then down to the south and into the bayou. I continued on to the Everglades and then all the way up the East coast into Haudenosaunee country where I learned about the Great Law. I then zig-zagged across through the country until finally making it up to Alaska. Now, I am back home.” 

She’s returned with an unprecedented repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portray present-day Native America. Project 562 will ultimately culminate as an awe-inspiring hardcover, series of exhibitions and online resources filled with a dynamic variety of proud Native Americans telling their stories their way. But until that long-awaited day comes, Matika gave adoring fans and devote followers of her project a glimpse into her 7-year journey during the first weekend of October. From October 3 – 5, she held a four-part project preview at Northwest Indian College, Ferndale Library, Nooksack Community Building and the Deming Library. 

The Project 562 creator spoke passionately at each venue while sharing stories about overcoming historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and silenced Native American voices in mass media. She shared about meeting one of her real life heroes John Trudell, being at Standing Rock during the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and offered powerful stories detailing Native citizens from around the nation rising up from racism and injustice to create a better world for themselves and future generations. 

Swinomish Village. “One of my favorite shots from canoe journey this year. It’s always an epic feeling to watch dozens of canoes paddle up to our shores. I feel grateful that I am among the generation that gets to know this cultural revolution. That we are the descendants of people who refused to let canoe culture go to sleep. We are the generation that gets to see this awaken. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Matika

“If I’m here to bring a message at all, it’s the message that Indian Country is alive and well,” said Matika during her NWIC presentation. “It’s the message of hope and resiliency. It’s the story of Indigenous intelligence. 

“There are still Ghost Dances, Sun Dances and long houses filled with songs and traditional medicines. Our story is worth knowing, telling, and inspiring one another with. Because doing modern things while gathering and encouraging the collective consciousness to uplift Indigenous intelligence is the only pathway forward. That is the dream.”

*Source: matikawilbur.com