By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; photos by Matika Wilbur
It’s been nearly a decade since Tulalip tribal member and celebrated visual storyteller Matika Wilbur made the bold decision to sell nearly everything she owned to begin an unprecedented journey of collecting the boundless beauty of Native American culture. Her journey is known as Project 562, a multi-year national photography project dedicated to photographing over 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States.
To unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues and the magnitude of tradition, Matika travelled 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 depths of her travels reflect her steadfast commitment to visit, engage, and photograph at least 562 federally recognized tribes, while also revealing her passion to 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High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative. It’s an incomplete story that perpetuates an American historical amnesia. It’s a story that’s romantic and dire…it’s the story of extinction,” she recalled of the circumstances that led to her life changing journey.
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, stoic Natives who are “leathered and feathered”.
“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,” she explained.
And so began her multi-year mission to photograph and collect stories of contemporary Indigenous citizens from the hundreds of sovereign nations that make up Native America. As her photography portfolio continued to expand, so too did her realm of possibility.
Today, the now 37-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 photographed close to 1,000 different tribal communities.
In a respectful way, Matika has been welcomed into one tribal community after another because they not only support her project whole-heartedly, but also because they desire to see things change. From media coverage to Google Images search results to what’s written in history books, Native Americans deserve an accurate portrayal of their vibrant, color-filled imagery and oral histories that have been passed down for generations.
Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, holistic wellness, historical trauma, decolonization of the mind, and revitalization of culture accompany the vast collection of photographs, videos, and audio recordings Matika has diligently collected. This creative, consciousness-shifting work will be widely distributed through national curricula, artistic publications, exhibitions, and online portals.
Melding powerful storytelling with video, photography and song, Matika expanded on her experiences photographing Native American women across the hundreds of sovereign nations she has visited for nearly a decade during her special guest appearance at the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham. Her captivating June 3rd presentation was at a social distanced max capacity. Upon concluding the audience showed their respect for the evening’s eye-opening and heartwarming cultural exchange with a loud standing ovation.
“So far I’ve had the opportunity to share my journey with audiences at museums, universities, conferences, and galleries across the United States,” stated Matika. “I strive to share stories and photographs of contemporary Indigenous people as the positive role models I know them to be.
“The most amazing part of the journey has been the generosity, kindness, and knowledge that Native people have offered me. I have met activists, educators, culture-bearers, artists, and students. The topics of their stories vary – from tribal sovereignty and self-determination, to recovery from historical trauma and revitalization of culture. They have transformed and inspired me, and I want to do my part to share their stories.”
Here are just a few of those riveting stories accompanied by stunning photos that were shared during Matika’s Mount Baker Theatre presentation – Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women.
By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Dom Joseph
The gift of gab is a skill, a highly coveted technique that has been perfected over time by the Indigenous Nations of America, who have historically shared the knowledge of their people, by means of oral tradition, to each passing generation. Years upon years, tribes have utilized the art of storytelling to convey important life lessons such as minding your elders, taking care of Mother Earth, and hunting, fishing and foraging for nuts, berries and medicinal plants. Not to mention intertribal ceremonies like namegivings, powwows, potlatches, canoe journey, as well as many other lifetime achievements and celebrations. Stories are an integral piece to the Coast Salish culture, which each new generation continues to builds upon, keeping the traditions and lifeways of the people strong and alive for years to come.
During a modern era where information and technology seem more disposable than ever, Native communities are finding new methods to highlight their way of life and are exploring new ideas to document their stories, that otherwise would have been handed down vocally to a select few. The presence and access to a tool such as the internet, allows the word of the tribe to reach the masses. Anyone inquiring about the culture of a specific tribe are essentially just a few clicks away from learning about that Nation’s true history – of the treaties, the relocation, boarding schools, traditional diets, and in some cases even the ancestral languages and songs are accessible to those who are looking. And what makes it even more exciting is that information is often put out directly from the source today, and isn’t heavily relied upon one-sided history textbooks and ill-informed school districts as it once was.
Tulalip tribal member Dominick (Dom) Joseph’s passion for this traditional skill has led him to the forefront of a new movement that is taking the internet, and therefore the world, by storm. The media format of podcasting has been gaining momentum since the late aughts and has blossomed over the past decade. More and more people are catering to their niche fanbases by creating their very-own platforms to discuss topics that are nearest and dearest to their hearts, whether that stems from a love of music, movies, current world events, self-help, or even exhilarating true crime stories.
Dom has a strong love for his people, his culture and rez comedy which he effortlessly showcases on-air. His unique journey with storytelling and podcasting perfectly displays his adoration and pride for his tribe, his family and his cultural lifeways. When he speaks, he uses his good-natured humor to open up about issues that he is working through, as a young Native college student experiencing life off the reservation for the very first time. The aptly self-titled project, officially known as the Dom Joseph Podcast, provides a space where other Natives can relate, gain perspective, and join-in on a good old-fashion laugh-your-ass-off session with a natural emcee who shares his unfiltered thoughts, jokes and stories on a weekly-basis. His podcast continues to gain momentum as each day passes, and more youth, elders and everyone in between are tuning-in to find out what the Dom Joseph Podcast, often referred to as the DJP, is all about.
Tulalip News: Why don’t we just dive right in? Let’s talk about your background and who your family is.
I’m Dom Joseph; I’m Tulalip. I have one little brother, Lukas Williams. My mom is Chena Joseph and my grandpa is Kenneth Joseph.
What led you to podcasting?
My background really came from editing. I went to Marysville-Getchell and I went to Tulalip Heritage. I started editing at a young age, making funny videos. I started getting into podcasting about three-and-a-half years ago. It all kind of started when me and my grandpa would meet every week and we would talk about football. He’d call and say, “alright grandson, who do you think is going to win?” and we’d sit on the phone for about 20 minutes every week. I thought why don’t I turn this into a podcast, so I can be prepared to talk my grandpa every week. And so, I started my first podcast, which was called ‘Weekly Take’, about three years ago, and that was all sports related. I ran that for about a year and I started really falling in love with the whole process of podcasting. I liked having something to be creative about every week.
It wasn’t until one of my family members was like, “I love your podcast, but I don’t really listen to sports.” I thought, Oh yeah, I guess some people don’t really listen to sports. So, I decided to start another one.
Who are some of your inspirations in the podcasting world today?
Joe Rogan. Theo Vaughn. A lot of the comedians in L.A. who have their own podcast, I think are hilarious. I’ve gotten to actually do some work for Joe Rogan and Theo Vaughn in an internship in L.A. I’ve been doing that remotely because of COVID.
When you were first starting out, did you have an idea of what the Dom Joseph Podcast would be, or a direction in which you wanted to take it?
You know it’s funny, I sat there for about two days thinking about a name. I was like, ‘man, I can’t think of a good name or a logo.’ Eventually I just said, why don’t I make it my name, something easy and then the logo will be my favorite color, which is red, and we’ll just go from there. And ever since then, it’s just been the Dom Joseph Podcast.
You have a pretty awesome backdrop in your videos, is that a Pendleton blanket?
Okay, so the first episode, I didn’t even have video. And then the next episode, it was just my face. And then finally I was like, why don’t I put a Pendleton behind me? But I had the fisherman Pendleton, and that’s the Puyallup designed one. But I’m not Puyallup, I’m Tulalip. I get how that could be a little confusing, so then I had a Tulalip flag up for one episode. When I came back home, my mom was like, “hey, that’s mine.” So, I didn’t get to take that one back home to Pullman, where I go to school and I record at. Eventually I was like, why don’t I just get a blanket that I know everyone has? The latest one behind me, I think I got at a powwow, it’s like the ones sold at Billy’s Blankets in Tulalip.
And so, I went with that blanket because more people have that one, and I thought it was kind of cute. If a little kid wanted to make their version of the Dom Joseph Podcast, I know they have that blanket at home and they could just put that behind them and make something fun. And I also just thought it was funny, it looks like I’m getting a photo taken for a tribal ID.
Were there certain stories that you initially wanted to talk about?
Growing up I’d hear crazy stories about my cousins all the time. Through word of mouth or at basketball tournaments and canoe journeys, just laughs and crazy experiences my cousins lived through. I thought, why don’t I do something like that for my little cousins to have? Maybe if – say I’m out doing something away from home or I pass away, they at least have that piece of me, of my memories to listen to. I think that’s really important, especially as Native people, to have a story we can to listen to and relate to.
So, what you’re doing is, in a sense, traditional. It’s storytelling! That’s how we shared and passed on knowledge through the generations. And now you’re doing that for the future generations through podcasting.
Yeah! You know, the storytelling aspect didn’t really hit me until the middle of the podcasts. I was like, ‘Man, this is actually storytelling.’ I’m out here telling jokes and discussing what I’m going through. And that’s how people learn right? Through the experiences of other people.
Not a lot of us go to school. I mean, the statistic of Native Americans who go to school isn’t really that big compared to much other [ethnicities]. If I could story-tell and just kind of make it sound fun, or make the college lifestyle sound great, that’s important messaging for me, for us. That’s a big part of it, especially for other tribal members. The whole podcast is me – I’m Tulalip and grew up on the rez, so it’s going to sound Native. A lot of people think that I’m pigeonholing myself down to just be the Native guy. Dude, that’s who I am. That’s not a problem for me. Storytelling is a big aspect of my podcast and it’s something that I’m proud to do.
What are some topics that you’ve discussed so far, that you really enjoyed talking about? And what do you wish to talk more about in the future?
Basically, the topics just kind of come up. It’s about what people are going through. For instance, I just had Jared Parks on and he shared about his kettle corn experience, about my little cousin and autism awareness. My favorite thing is to share everyone’s experiences.
Other topics I’d like to talk about are whatever makes people laugh. I haven’t really touched upon the culture or tradition as much as I would like to, so eventually, I’d like to delve more into that. One of the next guests I want to have on is my grandpa. But with elders, I want to make sure it’s a comfortable conversation. I don’t want it to sound forced, I want us both to be comfortable. I really want to have him on just to talk and hear about what it was like at Tulalip back then. Like the stories I used to hear when he’d tell me, ‘grandson, that Admin building wasn’t even there before’ or ‘Boom City used to be on the water.’ Some in-depth stories like that would be really cool to touch upon.
You are essentially bridging the gap between generations, that’s super important in today’s fast-paced society. What are some other reasons you believe hosting a weekly podcast is important?
I think it’s important just for myself, it keeps me busy. I keep myself busy in other ways too, through sports or Xbox or hanging out with friends. But having a creative outlet is really good too. A lot of people have different creative outlets such as making drums or going to sing, I feel like this is a really good outlet for me because I was used to it – I was used to being on my computer and editing around all the time. So, if I was doing it for all these other people and providing value for them, why couldn’t I do it for myself?
For kids just starting out, who want to explore podcasting and use it as a creative outlet, can you talk about some of the equipment that is needed to get started?
I’m actually in the process of making a total course on how to do it, and I’m not going to charge for it, I’m just going to post it. But what kids should do first is just record themselves on their phone. That’s where you can really start, that’s what I started with. But if you want to get into it more, you’ll need a mic, you’ll need a computer, and something that connects your mic to the computer. You can record it on software such as Audacity, or GarageBand if you have a MacBook. There’s a lot of recording software you can use but really all you need is a mic, a computer and the internet.
And this is where I get a lot of questions. I upload it to Soundcloud and when you go to Soundcloud and you upgrade to Soundcloud Pro, you can get an RSS feed. And when you get that RSS feed, that’s how you can feed it to other platforms such as Apple Podcast or Spotify. But having an RSS feed is pretty key if you want to post it to other platforms.
Yeah, I actually heard the DJP on Spotify before I saw any footage.
Spotify is probably my favorite platform that it gets posted to. That and YouTube, because YouTube is video. But yeah, Spotify is definitely my favorite platform because I could see a lot of the analytics easier.
You mentioned your episode with former Tulalip BOD Jared Parks, have you had other Tribal members featured on the pod?
Yeah, I’ve had Darion Joseph on. I’ve had Breland Joseph on. I’ve had my brother on. I’ve had my girlfriend, she’s from Tuscarora. I’ve had my buddies from Yakima on. So yeah, I’ve actually had quite a few Native Americans on the podcast. And I kind of want to keep that key. I’ve also had almost every race of people on there, and I think that’s what makes it open. I want anyone on who wants to come and share.
One of my guests, I met at a sweat. It was my girlfriend’s uncle’s brother, and he was telling me he is comedian. And I was like, let’s record this conversation and it just started from there. You know, we meet people every week and we don’t know whether that person is going to be in our life for that moment, another week or another year. I think if I’m able to capture that conversation for other people to hear, and get insight or experience from, I think that’s really important.
You have a rising listenership forming locally at Tulalip. People on Instagram and Facebook share your podcasts to their stories and timelines regularly. Where do you see the DJP taking you and how do you plan to continue to grow your audience?
My five-year goal is to stay consistent and see where it takes me from there. I see a lot of these successful podcasters right now, in Native America and also the L.A. comedy scene. I keep referring to them because that’s where I’ve been working, just seeing how they’re getting sponsors, or how they book really cool guests. That’s the most important thing, I want to have a platform where I can communicate with cool people, some of my biggest inspirations. And maybe eventually get on their podcast and have conversation. I want to be a voice for Tulalip, that’s a big key for me.
Do you have a certain ritual or anything that you must do before you record the podcast?
Kind of. Every week is different. I wish I had a quirky thing or ritual I did beforehand like eat a lemon or something. But sometimes just getting in front of the mic is the ritual, just to get into that mode as soon as the camera’s on.
What days are the episodes typically released?
I like to release them on Sundays or Mondays. That’s usually the time people don’t really have class. I like to have them recorded by Wednesday or Thursday, and that’s usually the solo episodes. People enjoy the solo episodes because it’s just me, but a lot of people like to also hear from guests. I like to think I’m kind of interesting, but sometimes if you’re listening to me for four episodes in a row, I get how it could be refreshing to hear from others. Like, who’s Dom talking to this week?
For our readers who have yet to check out the DJP, do have any episode recommendations to start with?
Oh, my goodness. That is a very good question. Yes, actually. If I were to recommend any, my little brother’s episode is a really good one, which is titled Lukas Williams 2, Dom Joseph Podcast episode 51. We made this big bracket of animals and we put them against each other, like a March Madness bracket. And the bracket wasn’t necessarily the interesting thing, it was more of the chemistry me and my brother have. And I’ve had some episodes where I have people on and I don’t really mix well with them and that’s okay too.
Another good one was Powwow Judge, episode 65. They get better as they go. And then I believe Powwow Menus is also a good one, which is Episode 77. And then Movie Pondering, which is 76. They’re all pretty good but those ones come to mind.
Right on. I have a feeling a lot of our followers are going to go through and binge a few episodes now.
If people start from the middle, that’s okay. It’s not like a series. I made it so you don’t have to listen to every one sequentially, in order.
Do you see the Native market for podcasting growing in time as well? Do you see other tribal members expressing themselves through the art of podcasts in the near future?
Oh yes, of course. I actually think I heard this in high school, but we were the first people ever to get our pictures taken. The first camera was used by some guy who went to a reservation and took pictures of Native Americans. I think this podcasting platform, for all Natives, is a really big thing that’s going on. I think it’s only going to get bigger. I think eventually, it’s going to get to a point where some individual is going to create a platform that is strictly for Native podcasting. Personally, I think we’re the greatest type of people to do it and I think we deserve to get our voices out there. I believe a lot of Native Americans, especially Tulalips, could story-tell for days and they can make you laugh through it, they can make you cry through it. I definitely do see a lot of Native Americans in podcasting.
It is definitely exciting and filled with possibilities. What fuels your passion for this new form of media?
Mainly, I’m happy with where it is right now with just for my family to hear. As long as I never lose that fun part of it, I’m going to keep doing it. And I think anyone who likes to story-tell should definitely get into podcasting, because it’s a really fun thing to do and everybody has something they could share.
Right now, I don’t have the degrees, the reputations, the following that I would like to be at, but that comes through consistency and contributing my time. That’s what’s going to get me to the end goal, which is to have our people here.
There’s a lot of focus going into mental health today. And of course, as Natives, we deal with generational trauma and work on trying to break those cycles. Do you think that podcasting could help us work through some of that, by talking things out and gaining perspective from others?
When I first started DJP, it kind of started from a place of – I needed to talk to someone. And to be honest it was a hard breakup, that’s what it was. I didn’t know who to talk to. So, I started reaching out. It was a little bit more comfortable for me to talk into a mic than to go meet a total stranger from somewhere I wasn’t from, because I wasn’t home at the time. If I were to recommend anything, I would recommend doing a podcast because it does definitely help with that. But seeing a professional also helped me.
I think podcasting does help with mental health though. It’s something that I can go and talk to for forty-five minutes. Some people talk to their journals and they write for thirty minutes. Me, I kind of go in and vent. And sometimes there are recordings that I don’t even post because it’s really impactful. Or maybe it’s too deep to post, or I say someone’s name and they don’t want me to post it.
Mental health is something I really support. I think in the past ten years, it’s definitely gotten a lot more awareness. And I think with podcasting, it could help bring even more awareness to that, especially for Native kids. Native youth in general, is who I do this for. If someone younger than me from the rez listens, and they are able to get away from that bad thought, that bad experience, by hearing me say something or just telling a funny story they’re able to laugh and just get away from that bad cloud or that bad test grade, that’s what it’s all for.
Alright, last question. Is the podcast suitable for all ages?
Um – sometimes I swear on there. I know that is a big thing, so that’s why I’m hesitant to say it’s totally kid-friendly. Because sometimes I do bring up some 18+ stuff, which is to say I swear like a fisherman on there, and I’m working on that. So, I would say definitely more PG-13.
The Dom Joseph Podcast is available to stream on Apple Podcast, Spotify and YouTube. Next time you need a good laugh, have a long commute, or simply need something to listen to while you run errands, workout or clean the house, be sure to check out an episode of the DJP!
Edmonds Historical Museum is working to support local Indigenous people and culture. The latest Native art instillation to call Edmonds home is ‘Marsh Life’, a mural carved by Tulalip tribal member, Ty Juvenil.
Using thick planks of cedar, Ty describes the piece as, “A carved depiction of what summer life may have looked like pre-contact, with various marsh animals, crane, frog, and humpy salmon, also some fishermen with some catch in their nets. At the top is the hills behind Edmonds with some spirits of the hills showing. On the sides of the main panel are two guardian posts, both finger-painted as it was done long ago. One female salmon and one male salmon. Finally watching over the marsh in glass is a frog design. Frogs are known across many native communities as powerful creatures, in the physical realm, as well as the spiritual.”
Ty explained that the salmon are blue because his kids helped with the painting. “They kept saying they need to be blue so I listened to them and it worked out amazing.”
The mural rests at the front of the museum in the Reflection Plaza. According to the Museum, ‘honoring the land and the Coast Salish tribes who came before, ‘Marsh Life’ is an artistic depiction and window into what life may have been like for Coast Salish communities living in the area. The piece demonstrates how the biodiversity and natural resources of the marsh were an important part of Coast Salish traditions and way of life.’
“The whole project should have taken less than a year, but due to Covid we had to wait,” Said Ty of the project’s journey. “This was a wonderful journey, and I’m happy we got it blessed before it left Tulalip; I gave it a tour through Tulalip in the bed of the truck.
He added, “I’m hoping one day I can do something like this at home for Tulalip. Just keep paddling I suppose!”
Also, keep an eye out for upcoming Youtube videos from Ty, on how to carve a paddle and other items.
The Edmonds Historical Museum is located in downtown Edmonds at 118 5th Ave N., Edmonds WA 98020. You can also visit historicedmonds.org.
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Rachelle Armstead
“I’m not exactly sure why it’s my passion,” pondered Tulalip tribal member Rachelle Armstead. “I just know that I have been in love with music since I was very young. I used to love going to powwows, listening to the music and hearing the drums. I just kind of feel like music is in my blood, I really don’t know how else to explain it.”
As is the case in many cultures around the globe, music has played a key role within the Indigenous communities of America. Dating back to pre-colonial times, our ancestors held music in high regard. Songs were viewed as a form of medicine utilized in traditional ceremonies to spread stories, as well as life lessons, healing prayers, love and joy during celebratory times, and of course, the knowledge and lifeways of our people.
“I grew up near Tulalip,” she recalled. “We lived in Marysville for a while, I think we lived on the rez for a small amount of time, and then we moved up to Camano. In school, I participated in the choirs. Music is my passion and it’s something that I kind of always knew I loved and something that I gradually gravitated to.”
The steady drumbeats that reverberate from our elk and deer hide hand drums have helped the Coast Salish tribes keep time across the generations. The words sang in the tongue of our ancestors kept tradition alive and upheld the beliefs and values of each Washington State treaty tribe during the United States Government’s attempt at assimilation. And through our music, our people were able to heal wounds that were passed down through the recent decades following the destructive and hateful era of the Indian boarding schools. Whether at canoe journey, a community gathering, family potlatch or tribal ceremony, we sing loud, with prideful booming voices that resonate back to the ears of our elder’s elders as well as to our future generations. To us, music is resilience. Music is our medicine.
“I feel like music is a way to connect with people,” Rachelle expressed. “It’s about human interaction and community. Even if you’re the only one playing, like a solo performance, you’re still exchanging with the audience in a good way.”
Modern day storytellers who are passionate about music are finding an abundance of inspiration, influence and direction in traditional songs. Musicians such as A Tribe Called Red are sampling and remixing songs that were originally composed by our ancestors and turning them into a contemporary bop, which rez kids throughout the nation bob their heads to. Throughout the years, a number of Indigenous rappers have carved a name for themselves in the music scene such as Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, Supaman, Litefoot, and several local favorites which include Tulalip’s own Deama (previously known as Nathan Kix) and Komplex Kai.
Said Rachelle, “I’d say my biggest influence is the traditional music. My music isn’t very traditional, but I feel like in its heart, it has some of those same elements, just in my own language musically. I also really like the acoustic, folk-ey, indie type music. I think because my grandpa liked it a lot; it kind of grew on me. Hip hop too. My mom listened to a lot of hip hop.”
Rachelle’s passion for music may just be in her blood as she suggested, embedded into her DNA from generations prior. Although she cannot pinpoint the exact moment she realized it, her love for the rhythm and harmony of music is everlasting and cannot be measured, it has been growing over time into a perfect crescendo. Rachelle is mapping out the music, hoping the future generations who share her passion can sight read her notes and learn from her cues while putting their own spin on things during their solo journey between the treble and bass clef, which is fitting as she is currently putting all her efforts into learning the ways of the composer.
“When I grew older, my grandpa got me a guitar,” she stated. “I picked up the guitar and the violin, and a little bit of piano. But I feel like my passion is really writing the music and not so much practicing the instruments. Violin is probably my favorite instrument, it has a really wonderful, versatile tone – there’s so much you could do with it. The violin became my main instrument up through my sophomore year of college, before I really started to transfer more into composition.”
She continued, “I started at Presbyterian College actually, majoring in violin. But I got kind of tired of violin and moved on to composition and transferred to a different school, the University of South Carolina because I wanted to work with some of the teachers at the University. And then life got kind of hectic, so I had to drop out for a while. Later on, I found Full Sail University. I wanted to finish my degree and there weren’t a lot of online composition options, but Full Sail had the audio production degree and it seemed like a great idea. And it was, it was very useful. I learned a lot about making music on the computer. And as a part of program, they give you a full home studio setup so I’ve been able to make music from the comfort of my office. Now I’m back at University of South Carolina working on my master’s in composition.”
With her schooling nearly complete, Rachelle is intentionally taking on projects where she can lend her expertise to help strengthen the relationship between the culture and modern-day music. And with more and more Indigenous youth showing an interest in the artform, she hopes sharing her story will inspire young creative Natives to follow their dreams as well as receive a well-rounded education on the fundamentals of music, to equip themselves will all the necessary tools and skills of music creation, so they have solid foundation that sets them up for success in whatever they wish to accomplish through their music.
One of Rachelle’s first projects is a song partnership with the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department. She explains, “When I was young, I loved language camp. Every summer we would sing and make our little paddle [clappers], that was always fun. I really love our language. I think it’s so joyful and beautiful. I want to promote it in any way that I can. The more people speak it, the more they enjoy it. Because COVID has been so discouraging for a lot of people, and since we can’t all get together and sing together, I thought people would enjoy this. Even though we aren’t physically singing together, this was a way to hear all of our voices together, in our own language.”
The idea behind the project was to create an opportunity for community members to collaborate on an original choir song, sang entirely in lushootseed. Rachelle reached out to Tulalip Lushootseed Warrior, Sarah Miller, who wrote the lyrics for the song and Rachelle arranged and composed all of the music. Rachelle then created a website, where the lyrics and music were posted, and asked Tulalip tribal members to record themselves singing one section of the song. When complete, the song would’ve featured a variety of Tribal voices on the track. However, due to pandemic, many people couldn’t fit time to record into their busy schedules by Rachelle’s deadline of March 1. Wanting to see the idea through, Rachelle intends to sing the original choral piece in its entirety and also hopes that it finds its way to the Tulalip Lushootseed website, featured alongside many traditional songs that are posted for educational purposes.
Rachelle expressed that tying-in the cultural aspect into her music is important to her craft. She believes that music is a good way for Native America to spread awareness and bring attention to matters that are affecting us a community, including the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign.
“Music is a great medium for sharing stories, sharing our lives and bringing awareness to important issues or problems that are happening in our lives. When I first saw the MMIW movement on social media, I felt really inspired by it. It reminded me of an older story that I read once called Dancing Outside. There’s a movie that is pretty interesting and the book is a short story – it’s really heart wrenching. So, I wrote a song about it. I feel like it was a way for me to express grief about the situation, and hopefully other people could feel that too, and understand. I think other people who also feel these emotions can express it through music in a safe way, lots of issues can be expressed and addressed through music. And we can also comfort each other through music and kind of let the world know what’s going on in our community.”
Rachelle encourages anybody with a love for music to continue to pursue their passion and hopes to collaborate with the Tribe in the near future to begin a music program for tribal youth. To stay updated on Rachelle’s musical career path, be sure to visit her professional website, https://www.rachellearmsteadmusic.com, and don’t forget to check out her tunes on her Soundcloud artist page at https://soundcloud.com/rachelle-armstead.
“If you like something, go for it,” she said. “Really practice and find your personal style. Music, for Native communities specifically, I think it’s just that element of human interaction – our music brings people closer together, it’s something that makes us feel proud. When we sing it’s like, this is our music, this is what we do. This is how we express our joy and our love and our sorrow.”
Traditional teachings spanning countless generations and highly detailed craftsmanship are imbedded within the foundation of Native American artwork. These fundamental aspects continue today much as they did thousands of years ago, even as today’s Native artists continue to evolve in response to social changes, new markets, and a desire for unique, personal expression.
The resurgence of canoe carving teaches youth how to strengthen body and spirt by working together, while increasing importance on tribal food sovereignty assists healers combat modern diseases in a traditional way. Like so many aspects of their vibrant culture, Native artists have an important dual role of simultaneously creating works for their family and community celebrations, but also for public consumption via private sales, art galleries and educational displays.
Think of how far Indigenous representation in the greater Seattle area has come in just the last several decades. Thirty years ago, you couldn’t find a map using the term ‘Salish Sea’ for the Puget Sound region. Present day, the term ‘Salish’ is a part of local vernacular and commonly understood as describing tribal culture spanning the Northwest Coast.
Through the efforts of many, a vision of authentically produced flowing formline to represent its homelands has come to fruition. The characteristic sweeping lines and subtle patterns of Salish art is now recognizable and emblematic of the Northwest Coast, as it was always meant to be.
We bring you now a collection of Indigenous artistry that evokes traditional ties to the land and sea, while showcasing innovation and a look to the future. Today’s artists aren’t afraid to push boundaries nor experiment with non-traditional materials. Instead, they welcome the challenge to display the beauty of Salish culture across all mediums.
“I bead pretty much every day,” said Tulalip tribal member, Donna Chambers. “I really want good energy to go out to the people through the gifts I make. I don’t make anything sad, mad or upset. I do everything with good spirit in my heart and I just go by what my heart says to do.”
Sometimes life gives you a sneak peek into your future when you find something you absolutely love, care for and are deeply passionate about. For some it’s sewing, drawing, carving, singing, dancing, photography – you name it. You know instantly when your passion finds you. And it matters little if you practice every day from that point on or if you acknowledge that connection and agree to revisit it later on in life. When your soul and your life’s passion align, that bond cannot be broken, not even by the hands of time, especially when your culture has significant ties to your calling.
This was something Donna knew when she fell in love with her passion at the age of 18. When she picked up a thread and needle to bead her first pair of earrings, she couldn’t tear herself away from her newfound traditional hobby for months on end. She also knew it when she no longer had enough time in her day to continue her practice while raising a young family and working a full-time job. When she set down her beads only one year later, she knew it was temporary and that she would return to her art one day in the future. Over thirty years later, after living a fulfilled life, watching her kids grow up and caring for her parents until they transitioned to their next journey, Donna’s passion found its way back into her life and has brought her endless joy and good vibes, which she in turn cycles back into her artwork and therefore, into the Tulalip community.
“I originally started when I was young just to get involved with our culture, to try to get in-tune with my heritage,” she said. “I didn’t live here on the reservation during my childhood. I was born and raised in Oregon, so I pretty much lived away from the area until I was about the age of 12 when I moved back here. At the beginning, I did bead a lot and made a few things for myself like my dangly earrings, just learning the basics. I was beading before my kids were born and I put it away because I was busy with the kids and the family all the time. I decided to pick it back up after I lost my mom and dad. I’ve been going for about three years now and I’m now 56.”
Donna’s kids knew little about her passion and her heart’s desire to bead. In fact, her daughter, Alicia Budd, is the person who reintroduced her back into the world of beading. According to Donna, Alicia attended a beading-circle over a long weekend, returned home and immediately told her mom ‘you should learn how to bead, this would be really good for you’.
“I like to do things with my hands, I also like to crotchet,” Donna expressed. “I’ve made lap blankets for my family and the kids who’ve come into my life, so that they have blankets when they are reading their books or watching TV. My daughter sat down with me and showed me what she learned. She refreshed my brain because I lost it for so many years. I picked it up that day and never set it back down. Now it’s something I look forward to doing every single day.”
Almost as important as the artform itself is the creator’s personal environment, how they set themselves up in order to get into the proverbial ‘zone’ while maximizing production and minimizing distractions. Some artists require certain foods, vices, lighting and people around in order to generate their best work. Donna claims that all she needs is the love of her family and friends, some good tunes (ranging from classic oldies to Hip Hop and R&B, all the way to heavy metal), and her beads. She goes into each project with good intentions and sans game plan, letting her heart freestyle the design and guide her until the work is complete. Her workstation includes her late father’s comfortable chair, her work materials meticulously arranged all around her and of course, a variety of vibrant beads.
When asked what type of items she creates today she replied, “Oh just about everything! I still occasionally make my dangly earrings, but most of the things I make now are lanyards. Somebody at the clinic saw the lanyards my daughter and I wear and asked where they could get them, so some of the nurses at our health clinic ended up buying a lot of lanyards from me. I make sure to make a lot of them because lanyards are something that people can always use. The other things I make are keychains, earrings, headbands, medallions, bracelets, barrettes, broaches, bolo ties. I made an entire wallet from scratch once. I also made Seahawk medallions for myself and my grandson, JD Rinker, and I made him a full-length tie that he can wear at Youth Council meetings and gatherings where they have to dress up.”
She continued, “I’ve also beaded center pieces for the headbands that some of our youth wear with their regalia during salmon ceremony. And I’ve made bracelets for the guys, I made three of them, one I gave to Louie [Pablo], it had Eddy’s name on it, he was Louie’s brother who passed away. I gifted him one because it felt like it was the right thing to do at the time, something to remember his brother by.”
Several times Donna expressed that she allows her heart to lead when it comes to her art. And my oh my, Donna has quite the big heart. Not only does she bead cool custom pieces for family or bracelets to honor loved ones, Donna also gifts a lot of her work to our local heroes including police officers, judges, firefighters, and the men and women who bravely serve in the US military.
“My daughter works at the courthouse so I surprised everybody at her work with a gift,” Donna said. “All the judges got something from me, as well as the clerks and the secretaries. I’ve done work for some of the funerals out here, I made their families keychains and necklaces. I also make a lot of pieces for police officers. I made these little medals, shaped like a police badge, and I beaded around them and put them on a necklace. I’ve given about twenty away so far. I just give them to any police officer that I see and feel like that’s the one. I’ve given some to our Tribal police officers and three to Marysville police officers. I usually carry some of my work in my car, so if I do see a police officer, a fireman, or somebody serving in the army or the military, I can offer it to them as a way to thank them for their service and everything they do. I’ve gifted pieces to [TPD] Officer Jeff Jira and just completed something for our Chief of Police.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Donna was presented with the opportunity to focus more on her beadwork. In addition to beading, she also poured her efforts into a new project, creating masks. She explained that after she saw the need for more masks in the community, and the demand for something a little more aesthetically pleasing than the standard surgical mask, she started sewing immediately, creating clothed masks with Native, floral and paisley designs. Whenever she leaves home and is headed to the local grocer, she is sure to grab a handful of masks, which are often distributed to the store’s employees and shoppers before she even checks-off the first item of her shopping list.
Donna strongly believes that beading is an essential tradition to the Native American culture, noting that it is an artform that is easily identifiable and synonymous with the Indigenous way of life and teachings. The relationship between Indigenous people and beadwork dates back generations prior to colonial times to when our ancestors crafted beads from bone and stone. Beads were worn as a status symbol of wealth and beaded items were featured on traditional regalia, jewelry and artwork. Due to the introduction of glass, metal, crystal and various beads through trade, the colorway and pattern possibilities for Native beadwork holds no bounds.
Donna is doing her part to keep the tradition going, teaching the future generations of Tulalip all of her tricks of the trade, ensuring the art of beading extends well past her children’s children. Since returning to the bead game, she has shared her knowledge with many Tribal and community members, including Facebook friends, and many of the kids from her neighborhood. Donna also has some future classes with the Tribe in the works and plans to conduct Facebook Live tutorials in order to help aspiring beaders with the fundamentals.
“I just hope the more I bead, the more kids around me will want to pick it up,” she said. “Sometimes it does show. Louie’s three little kids were over here last summer, watching me bead. They kept saying they wanted to learn how to bead. They were persistent, so I made them each a beading packet with all the tools and showed them how to do it. They sat here for over two hours with me and they picked it up really fast. They each made something that day. When they were done, I told them they couldn’t keep it and they looked at me kind of sad because it was their first piece. I explained that since it was the first thing they ever made, they had to give it away in order to get good vibes back. They decided to gift them to their mom and grandpa so their very first pieces could stay in the family.”
Donna hopes that by sharing her story and her passion for beadwork, she can garner enough attention to reach the representatives of one Ellen DeGeneres, stating “I have an Ellen DeGeneres piece. My dad was really into Ellen, he faithfully watched her show. When he passed, I felt like I needed to bead her name on a medallion. I have not yet been able to gift it to her because I don’t know how to go about giving it to her or getting it there.”
With a new and fully-restored love for beadwork, there is no project that Donna is afraid to tackle. In fact, she is happily welcoming any challenge that comes her way because, as she said, all she needs is her beads and her beats. All of Donna’s work comes with a guarantee, as she tells all of her customers that if anything happens to a piece you purchase from her, she will fix it for free. If you are interested in purchasing any of Donna’s work, please contact her via Facebook for more information.
“There’re things that I make to sell, but there are a lot of things I make simply because my heart tells me to do it,” Donna said. “I gift them to all types of different people because it feels like something I need to do. But I do enjoy selling items when I can because it does put extra money into my funds so I can continue to bead more. It gives me good energy, that’s why I like to put good energy back into it. It makes you feel good that you’ve accomplished something for the day. All I can say is if you’re interested in beading, try it out, pick it up. I bet you’ll like it because I definitely do.”
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Walter Moses
“Cedar is a sacred tree to the Tulalip Tribes, there are numerous stories behind the cedar tree,” said Tulalip Artist, Walter Moses. “I’ve been in the lumber industry for a decade and I’ve seen and worked with all types of cedar and learned a lot of history behind the cedar tree. Every piece has a specific grain to it, all the grain is not going to be the same. Some of them will have different shapes and different lines. To me, that piece of cedar is actually telling a story. Sometimes you’ll see little waves inside the cedar. At that time in the tree’s life, there was a lot of turbulence and a lot of stress on the tree. When you see someone wearing a pair of my earrings, they’re actually wearing something that came out of a 200, 300-year-old tree, a tree that has been here longer than the country itself. What they’re wearing is a piece of history.”
Long before colonists arrived to this sacred land, the Indigenous people of the Northwest took great care of the region, living and thriving off the land’s natural resources. As Walter stated, the cedar tree played a significant role in the lifeways of the Salish people. The cedar was used for a number of means in all aspects of our ancestors’ everyday lives. Some traditional items created from cedar include bentwood boxes, paddles, rattles, totem poles, baskets, hats, masks, headbands and canoes. Whether it was for fishing, hunting, gathering, ceremonial, medicinal or spiritual purposes, the cedar tree could be fashioned into a number of tools by way of weaving or carving techniques, teachings that have been passed on generation after generation.
“My dad is a carver and his father was a carver, it just runs in the family,” Walter proudly expressed. “As far as I can remember, my dad’s always been carving stuff like masks, paddles, totem poles, just a large variety of traditional things. When I was about 11 years of age, he sat me down to teach me how to carve, how to use an adze and the simple techniques that we use in carving. My first project was a shovel-nosed canoe, that’s a traditional mountain canoe, not like the sea-going ones that you see on the canoe journey. It’s the ones our people used to go up and down the rivers in the mountains, and they look quite different than the ones you see out on the Puget Sound, they have thicker hulls and are in the shovel shape. I still remember the lady who bought it from me, she bought it for $40 and I spent the money at the Marysville Strawberry Festival.”
Walter is quick to point out that his personal journey with art, however, did not begin with carvings. Although he observed his father and Tulalip Master Carver, Kelly Moses Sr., perfect his craft from a young age, Walter initially fell in love with drawing, often sketching scenic pictures, animals and whales. He was encouraged daily by his father and teachers. His art was showcased at the front of his classrooms at school and he also received ‘A++’ reviews from Kelly Sr. on the regular.
Walter said, “I actually started drawing when I was about 5. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing. Drawing is one of the main fundamental skills that I had to master in order to become a carver. There are multiple skills when it comes to carving, that isn’t carving itself. You’re talking about blueprinting everything out; you have to be a good drawer, you have to be able to look at something and draw it down. You have to know the cedar type, the grain, how to get the cedar. So, it’s not just carving, there’s a story and you have to know how to tell those stories. There’s a multitude of things you have to learn over time.”
Historically, carvings are integral to traditional ceremonies. Songs, dances and stories are shared utilizing cedar carvings; singers shake rattles, dancers pull paddles and stories are commonly re-enacted with masks. Today, Walter took that knowledge from generations prior and found a way to honor the traditional art of carving and blend it with his own unique style, creating modern day jewelry such as bracelets, pendants and his highly popular and extremely limited earrings.
“Nowadays I’m creating a lot of jewelry which would include earrings, pendants, bracelets, and I can still do some masks and paddles,” he said. “The reason I’m doing earrings and pendants is because masks and paddles are something for the home, something to showcase on the wall when guests come over. With jewelry, it’s art you can take with you. It’s a piece of history that you’re taking with you, that you can adorn your body with because the spirit lives in the body, so why not adorn the spirit with a piece of history.”
For two-years, the full-time family man and lumberman dedicated his weekends to his passion. He explained that the decision to follow this journey just may have been his destiny as his grandfather, on his mother’s side, also handcrafted jewelry, specializing in beaded necklaces.
Walter originally stumbled across jewelry-making while raffling paddles and masks at local Indigenous gatherings. When he noticed the majority of people who purchased his raffle tickets were women, he began to take requests, one of which happened to be for earrings. Walter accepted the challenge and upon seeing the positive response after posting his first set of earrings online, he decided to pursue this path and dedicated his time and energy to making jewelry and regalia crafted from cedar.
“It’s just a natural thing,” he said. “I think about art like all the time. At work I’m thinking about art. If I see a certain shape on a piece of wood, I go wow that would make a really cool piece of art. My dad helped me develop a photographic memory. If I see something awesome, I build off that. I have an art disease in my brain that causes me to think about art all the time.”
Through his artwork, he still gets the opportunity to express his love for drawing, incorporating formline by hand-painting and micro-engraving Indigenous designs into many of his earrings. And because each piece is hand carved and painted, the earrings are in high-demand and extremely limited, often selling minutes after Walter adds them to his social medias. It is also very important to him that he does not replicate any of his past work, that each new pair of earrings, pendent or bracelet is an original one-of-one creation. Walter also incorporates modern-day meme-culture into his artwork, recently creating Baby Yoda and Bernie Sanders earrings which were a huge hit on his Instagram profile.
Walter explained, “I’ll look at something and think, ‘hmm, I can make something out of that’. I use a lot of rulers, rulers are very important. Fractions are also very important for measuring the wood, making sure each piece is measured and the thickness is correct. I’ll go from there and just build. I don’t blueprint, I just make them up as I go along. For my masks I’ll do a blueprint, but for the earrings I do the first design that comes to me. Even though there is a lot fine detail that goes into them, I’ll leave defects in there just because it shows the human spirit in it. You know, not everything is perfectly identical, it’s unique in its own way. Sometimes I’ll leave little scratches or dings on there because it adds character to it, its own uniqueness.”
Walter also does his part in sharing the knowledge of his craft, prepping the next generation of Tulalip artists, not only by involving his own kids in his work, but also by teaching classes at Tulalip-Heritage High School as well as sharing stories at a handful of elementary classrooms in the Bellingham School District.
“Last year, before COVID broke out, one of the Native liaisons reached out to me and asked if I was interested in teaching at Tulalip-Heritage. I used to go out there twice a month and teach them how to carve, how to make earrings and about our art in general, just to get them involved and get their hands moving,” he said. “My dad always told me to keep your hands busy all the time. That’s a lesson that I teach and practice. I also talk at the elementary classes in Bellingham, telling them some of our stories. I speak in front of the class for about an hour, a lot of its been online though, not in person. When we pick back up, I’ll actually share in-person. Kids should know the history of the people in this area and not think of us just as people who own casinos and live on the reservation. They should know we have a unique background, that there were people here before their ancestors came and that we’re still here and will always be here.”
Walter is proudly continuing in the footsteps of his bloodline, building upon what his father and ancestors passed on through the generations and continuing the Moses legacy of carving. And it appears as though his journey is just getting started as word about his work continues to spread across the social media platforms.
“My work is not just a piece of wood with a Coast Salish design on it, it’s also a piece of me – a bit of my teachings from my father and his father, a bit of my meditation, prayers and good-thoughts. My dad taught me that as sduhubš people, we all have a special gift, something that we are meant to do to help our people out,” he shared. “And the younger people might not know what it is yet, but they will find their way to help our people. Our special gift is something that we get from our maker. Not everyone is going to be a carver, storyteller, leader, spiritual worker, everybody has their own special gift that will help them. Mine has helped me through some tough times growing up. When I was younger, I knew that I could always fall back and count on my art to help me out.”
A gallery of Walter’s carvings can be viewed on his personal Instagram account, @WalterM2213. Walter also does special requests on a case-by-case basis, depending on his time available. Be sure to send him a direct message if you are interested in purchasing any of his handmade cedar jewelry.
“It’s important for me to carry this on because it’s a part of us, part of my family. I don’t really even consider it my art, I consider it our art. I carry it on because it’s a statement that we’re still here. I read somewhere that the revolution will come in the form of contemporary art. I like how that sounds, so I continue to do it.”
A recently finished mural project in downtown Edmonds, spanning two facing walls, portrays the pre-European life of our Coast Salish ancestors. Local residents and visitors can view the large-scale depictions of early encampments, canoes, smoking fish, cedar baskets and garments, and native plants and animals.
Completed in September 2020, the mural project is a collaboration of hard work and cultural understanding between Edmonds artist Andy Eccleshall, and Tulalip tribal member artist Ty Juvinel. The project was organized by Mural Project Edmonds, a committee of Art Walk Edmonds.
“I was approached by Andy because of the carving I am doing for the Edmonds Historical Museum, as well as various exhibits throughout Edmonds,” explained Ty. “Andy needed someone to create a mural that would represent the history of Edmonds and I mentioned the possibility of doing a mural depicting early contact, between fur trading.
“Andy did the amazing painting and I helped with the depiction,” said Ty. For more than a year, Ty shared history and photos with Andy, including a visit to the Hibulb Cultural Museum, to help him gain a better understanding of Coast Salish culture.
Everything from the way huts were constructed, the design and use of canoes, how cedar was used, traditional cooking methods and the inclusion of a woolly dog, were discussed by the two artists.
Ty explained that woolly dogs were bred for their long hair, which was perfect for weaving into blankets and other items.
“One thing I like to mention, is Andy was told by a passerby that the women in the painting were wrong,” said Ty. “The passerby said they were wrong because their hair wasn’t matted and the hair shouldn’t be that nice. Luckily, I was there that day to dispel that claim, and educated them both that the Salish people bathed religiously, sometimes up to three times a day. Even during the winter, with cedar bow’s dipped in water and brushed against the body.”
“That area of Edmonds used to be a marsh land, so I figured it may have been used as a summer camp area; summer foraging and prepping for winter,” explained Ty. “From there it was just trying to close my eyes and go back to those days of beach camps, elders teaching basketry, hunting, fishing, kids doing as they please, everyone is busy with their chores, preparing for the winter. I was hoping the idea of a community would be shown, and Andy shows it. Community is everyone bringing their resources and abilities together for the community. Again, Andy depicts this wonderfully. When I stand in front of this mural I feel like I’m waiting for them to come to life. The men on the water shouting ashore, the scent of the smoke mixed with salmon and gentle tides.”
Ty’s signature can be found, along with Andy’s, at the base of each mural.
“It was a joy to work within the Edmonds community. Every time I visit I’m welcomed as a neighbor and everyone seems very genuine. I look forward to my next visit,” added Ty.
The mural is located on facing walls in the alley between 4th and 5th Avenue in Edmonds, connecting to Main Street.
Tulalip, WA (Dec. 21, 2020) – Readers of Seattle Magazine have picked their favorite places for 2020 – and Tulalip Resort Casino has come out on top once again as the “Best Casino” in the publication’s annual Readers Choice Poll.
It is the second straight year Tulalip Resort Casino earned major kudos from Seattle Magazine readers, who also named their favorite spots for dining, travel destinations and shopping. The survey results appeared in the publication’s November/December issue.
Tulalip Resort Casino has garnered multiple awards and recognition in 2020 from travel organizations, meeting industry professionals, and resort and casino guests.
“We appreciate the recognition by our guests and Seattle Magazine. We strive to provide everyone who visits an exceptional experience, and this award is a testament to our team’s hard work in meeting the high standards we set for ourselves,” said Ken Kettler, Tulalip Gaming Organization COO/President.