Still Alive, Not Petrified

“Gooch” Wolf Mask. Red cedar, acrylic paint, cedar bark. 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the art world is undergoing a profound transformation. Artists, once limited by traditional mediums, are now free to embrace modern tools and digital platforms to push the boundaries of their creative mind. 

Tulalip citizen James Madison is one such artist who isn’t simply embracing this challenge of adapting to an ever-evolving art market, he’s actually empowered by culture and tradition to forge forward and demonstrate to the next generation what’s possible. A mindset he inherited from his grandfather Frank Madison.

Self Portrait “Triptych.” 
Limited edition case bronze, carbon fiber backing, lexan base.

“I started learning how to carve at 5-years-old,” shared the now 49-year-old James in a recent episode of Hibulb Conversations. “Some of my earliest carving memories are from when I’d be dropped off at my grandma Lois and grandpa Frank’s house every day during elementary. I’d basically receive my culture teachings from them in the morning, before going to school at Whittier Elementary, then continue the culture teachings with them after school. Back then, my grandpa would carve around the kitchen table. He’d sit me down with my cousin Steven and we would watch and learn.” 

James comes from an artistic family that spans multiple generations and includes both Tulalip and Tlingit forebearers who were deeply rooted in cultural traditions and storytelling. They used a variety of tools and elements that were at their disposal at the time to preserve their culture through art. 

Whale Mask. Hand carved yellow cedar.

Today, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and technology-driven, James and his contemporaries are finding ways to evolve their craft by blending traditional techniques with new mediums that require a functional knowledge of the latest techno wizardry. Welcome to the competitive art scene of 2023. Where true master’s of the craft must push themselves to learn exciting and innovative methods to preserve their cultural heritage like those before them.

“I always dreamt of being an artist like my grandpa and father before me,” admitted the Tulalip master carver. “There was a Haida artist named Bill Reid, who I never actually met in person, but he had a profound impact on me through his books filled with northwest coastal art and stunning sculptures that were 15 to 20-feet large. When I was young, his books were accessible to me and I’d look through them constantly; studying his technique and visualizing what I’d do if I had the ability to create things larger than life.”

Thunderbird Blackfish Panel. Hand carved red cedar, acrylic.

As his portfolio grew, so too did his public commissions; to the point that his previous childlike visions of one day creating larger than life carvings and sculptures came to fruition. James has created stunning 10, 20 and even 25-foot installations that are easily visible all across Coast Salish territory. From his home reservation (at Tulalip Resort Casino, Hibulb and the Admin Building), to Mukilteo’s Lighthouse Park, Stanwood’s Kayak Point, Arlington’s Centennial Trail, and Everett’s Evergreen Arboretum. 

Now in his first solo exhibition with Stonington Gallery, located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, James mastery of the latest artistic mediums is on full display. His unique cultural expression fills the gallery space and allows onlookers to explore complex themes, while immersing themselves in the awe-inspiring creations developed by a master at work. 

“I know it’ll sound kinda goofy, but I don’t look at myself as a Native artist. I look at myself as an artist,” reflected James while reviewing his latest gallery collection. “My grandpa always told me, ‘we need to not just carve things out of the books, but look to create new things to show that we’re still evolving. We’re not petrified. We’re still alive.’ That was his mantra and I’ve incorporated into my life by always pushing myself creatively to create something new. To show that we’re not petrified. We’re still alive and still evolving.”

“Eclipse” Moon Mask.
 Hard carved yellow cedar, carbon fiber.

Fittingly titled Still Alive, Not Petrified, his Stonington Gallery exhibition embodies what an artistic mind can achieve when experimenting with different techniques, collaborating across disciplines, and creating groundbreaking works that challenge conventions, while intending to inspire new ideas from the next generation of artists.

“I’ve been so enthralled by not just the level of mastery James routinely exhibits, but the sheer diversity of his mediums as well. It was his carvings and public works that really caught my eye, and why I initially contacted him over Instagram,” explained Jewelia Rosenbaum, director of Stonington. “In my 24-years with Stonington, we’ve made it a mission to spearhead the connection between this region and Coast Salish art. In 2005, we were the first to put out a wide-ranging, largescale exhibit of only Coast Salish artwork. This went hand-in-hand with our partnership with University of Washington Press to publish a book titled Contemporary Coast Salish Art.

Stonington Gallery exhibit display. 

“We are so honored to feature a James Madison solo exhibition because he truly encapsulates contemporary Coast Salish art,” she added. “From metal sculptures and glass woven panels to intricately carved cedar masks and paddles to even molded carbon fiber weaves that contrast beautifully with a carved cedar panel backdrop, he represents everything one might want when coming to the art form.”

As he continues to evolve his use of traditional storytelling through new mediums and digital tools, James is actively revitalizing the Coast Salish art scene by injecting innovation, vibrancy, and relevance into the creative process. By leveraging technological advancements to preserve and showcase his culture, he’s also bridging the gap between generations and diverse backgrounds to create a collective understanding of what it means to be alive, not petrified.

25th Annual Auction raises record-breaking $595,000 in donations for the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Since the late 90’s, the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club has created a positive impact in the hearts and lives of countless young tribal members and local children as they progressed through adolescence. It is not a farfetched statement to say that the first-of-its-kind reservation-based Boys and Girls Club has helped shape many of its ‘club kids’ into the upstanding citizens and respectable adults that they are today. 

Whether it played the role of asylum for kids seeking an escape from a chaotic or busy home life, or just a place where children could hang out with friends after school, the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club has been consistently available to the youth of the community throughout the years and can always be counted on as a safe space where they can get lost in the joys of being a kid. Not only is the club a spot for endless amounts fun, but it’s a place where kids can learn a vast amount of social skills, and where many lifelong bonds and friendships are created. 

Each month is jampacked with activities and outings, and therefore provides parents and guardians peace of mind during their work day, with the assurance that their children’s time is being utilized responsibly in an entertaining and constructive manner, especially during summer and holiday school breaks. And on top of all of that, the club ensures that every kid who walks through their doors is served nutritious meals and snacks.

Servicing hundreds of kids on a daily basis is no easy feat, and when you factor in the funding that it takes to accommodate all of their necessities, it becomes all the more challenging. Thankfully, a quarter century ago the club organized a fundraising event that has become a popular tradition known as the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club ‘It’s for the Kids’ annual auction. 

May 13th marked the 25th year of the annual auction, and boy was it one for the books. Shattering records across the board, this year’s gathering had an all-time high 750 attendees show out for the kids. The formal event was held at the Tulalip Resort Casino and people arrived to the party dressed to the nines and ready to dig deep into their pockets. 

Prior to the night’s headlining festivities, a silent auction was held in the conference rooms of the resort. Row upon row of donated prizes were on display, including several Indigenous themed items such as a ribbon skirt by Morning Star Creations, as well as beaded jewelry and Native designed blankets and goods. Auction goers placed their bids through their smart phones and the winner of each item was notified via text message. 

The main attraction took place across the hall, in the Orca Ballroom, and that auction was far from silent. While attendees enjoyed a fine dining experience, complete with a surf and turf meal, as well as top shelf wine and champagne, a professional auctioneer rattled off the dollar amount placed by each bidder at a rapid pace. 

The items up for bid included numerous art pieces donated by Tulalip artists, from the creative minds of James Madison, Kelly Moses, Michelle Myles, and Martin Napeahi. Other items up for grabs were Seattle sporting event tickets and memorabilia, vacation packages for several destinations around the world, and all access passes to a handful of upcoming concerts and live events. 

Addressing the packed ballroom of donors, the It’s for the Kids Auction Chairwoman, Belinda Hegnes, shared, “Because of your generosity and your unwavering support, we are here tonight celebrating 25 years of memories. As former club kids, we all know the positive impacts of having a Boys and Girls Club in our communities. The club is a safe place to meet friends, and there is always something fun to do. We have made great progress over the past 25 years, however, meeting the basic needs of our children is still a challenge. By raising your paddles tonight, we can meet those needs and make a positive impact for our children.”

The funds generated from each auction go towards the improvement and expansion of the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club. Over the past 25 years, the club has kept up with the times in a technology forward society and has routinely upgraded their computer systems. A number of modern and advanced technologies, based on both the kids needs and interests, include a complete music studio and the new multimedia teen center. Additionally, auction funds assist with the upkeep of the club such as building repairs, remodels, and daily transportation for the kids.

Shawn Sanchey, Director of the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club and a former club kid himself, detailed the club’s current projects which are funded exclusively by auction donations. He said, “I want to share some big things we have coming up in our club. We are currently in the process of remodeling our kitchen. The goal of this project is to make it last another 15, 25 years to feed our kids every day. We feed our kids three times a day.

“Our other project we have coming up is a new security system throughout our club – new camera locations, updated technology. That’s really exciting because at Tulalip Boys and Girls Club we preach safety, it’s our number one thing. The next project we have coming up is our immersion room where the kids learn biology with technology. Last go-round we had Dr. Ballard, the man who found the Titanic, come and run this program, under the sea, with our kids. That’s a great program that we’re excited to get up and running. The last thing is we’re getting new vans. This will help transport our kids to and from practices from the club. Some of the kids might not have transportation, so we’re trying to alleviate that.”

One of the many highlights of the night was a special video presentation from Tulalip college hooper and future NBA prospect RaeQuan Battle, who shared, “Every time I play basketball and step onto the floor, I think of where it all started, and that’s the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club. The club was like my second home, it provided a safe space for me to go, it’s where I started playing a lot of basketball and really found myself.”

Altogether, the auction raised over $595,000, which is the highest amount donated throughout the 25 years of the fundraising event. And though attendees surely enjoyed the glitz and glamour of the extravagant get-together, their foremost priority remained intact,  Tulalip’s club kids, and a hope they receive amazing childhood experiences. 

  Following the successful auction night, Shawn took to Facebook to share his gratitude and expressed, “Huge thank you to everyone involved who donates, helps, and supports our kids in the community! Such a great night at our auction, our team behind the scenes does such an amazing job!”

Art Festival elevates emerging artists

Audrielle McLean, 10th grade.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District wandered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday, April 20 for the 2023 Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and educators, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Festival patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative creations that centered around a shared Tulalip culture and modern day mediums of artistic expression.

“Our annual Art Festival is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a unique and creative way,” explained positive youth development lead advocate, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. 

Samara Davis, 12th grade.

“Each year our expectations are surpassed because we receive hundreds and hundreds of submissions,” he added. “For me, I look forward to seeing what new ways our kids find to express their Native culture or even developing their own way to retell a traditional story. There’s always something new and eye-catching that they come up with. That’s pretty cool.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by so many emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Festival gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbon. Plus, all the bragging rights that come with.

Odessa Taylor, 8th grade. 

Such was the case with 11-year-old Braiden Kane. He radiated pure joy while leading cousins and classmates to his multiple 3rd place winning submissions. Young Braiden collected three white ribbons for his hand-made cedar headband, seat turtle painting and an alligator habitat structure. 

“This was my first time ever creating a cedar headband. My mom took us to culture night and we learned how to make it. Working with cedar felt great and made me feel calm. The sea turtle painting is covered in swirls. The swirl represents my family’s favorite colors,” shared the very happy 5th grader.

5th grader Braiden Kane displays his award-winning Cedar headband and sea turtle painting.

Braiden and his fellow student culture bearers were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.

“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” shared Art Festival judge Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

Jazmyn Foster, 1st grade.

This year’s Art Festival received about 600 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. In her final year of eligibility, twelfth grader Samara Davis continued her dynastic run of 1st place creations by adding several more blue ribbons to here resume. Seventhgrader Cora Jimicum also continued her run of consecutive years collecting top honors in the painting category.

“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while posing for a picture with her variations of pink paint drip canvas. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.” 

New to this year’s art fest gala was the addition of several interactive tables, each led by an established adult artist. Representing possible career paths for the children to aspire to, or simply to have the young ones recognize art doesn’t have to stop when student life does. Tony Hatch, Dinesha Kane, Ty Juvinel, Melissa Gobin and others did their best to engage Festival visitors and drop knowledge about their creative cultural know-how.

Pure heart icon Sean-Paul Mace and his LEGO Star Wars collection.

An additional, newly minted adult had his very own table as well. Pure heart icon Sean-Paul Mace displayed his LEGO Star Wars collection. He dazzled with his depths of dark side knowledge and could even tell you which cinematic scenes his figures could be found in. 

“He’s been working on this particular collection for about a year,” said Sean-Paul’s mother, Veronica Iukes. “Tracking down each model needed to complete his collection has been quite the endeavor. From finding them online to visiting shops we’ve heard about to reaching out to private collectors, it’s been quite the journey. With his autism, we’ve found that building LEGO figures and other types of hands-on, highly focused needed activities has a calming effect. We love buying Sean-Paul LEGO sets because it’s therapeutic, like a form of medicine that settles him.”

Kaeson Robinson and his grandma Jennifer with a hand-made sun catcher.

Interwoven through many of the thought-provoking youth creations were both subtle and not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. From artistic renditions on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, to declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, to a heartfelt poem by ballin’ with a braid all-star Charlie Contraro invoking the ancestral power of her body-length braid.

My hair connects me to my Ancestors; Like the roots of tree. My braid is the strong trunk; From where I gather my STRENGTH. I am my hair; And my hair is me. – Charlie 

Whether it was from reading written words or interpreting the depths of color and images on display from our inspiring adolescent artists, a message being conveyed loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and understand how their shared culture is viewed nationally. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their traditional teachings and spiritual strength into pure artistry.

Rajalion Robinson, 4th grade. 

“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” said Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development Manager.

“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars like Billy Frank Jr. is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational figures in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary aged children. It’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”

Without a doubt, the 2023 Native American Art Festival showcased a wide-range of artistic skills among our Tulalip students. While once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art created by the next generation of emerging artists.

Weaving together with Cedar Roses

Indigenous Beginnings shares traditional teachings across multiple generations

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

When the Native-led, local nonprofit Indigenous Beginnings launched in July 2021, the mission was simple: to freely give and share traditional teachings through in-person, hands-on cultural workshops taught by inspirational knowledge keepers. 

Created by Tulalip Court executive administrative assistant Stephanie Cultee, herself a Nooksack citizen and a dedicated employee of the Tulalip Tribes enterprise since 2008, Indigenous Beginnings has hosted 44 workshops thus far. Each intricately designed workshop is intended to help spread the cultural teachings of Coast Salish tribes, while sharing the diversity of knowledge from Native culture bearers in both urban and reservation-based settings. 

The culturally appropriate nonprofit continues to be dedicated to teaching tribal and nontribal participants how to sustainably harvest, prepare traditional foods, and how to weave, carve and otherwise transform natural resources into utility-filled items. Hosted events have included making delicious jelly from fireweed, harvesting devil’s club and mountain huckleberry, weaving cedar into baskets and headbands, carving canoe paddles, making traditional round drums, and even how to clean, fillet and smoke salmon. Workshops have primarily been led by Tulalip, Nooksack, Lummi and Quinault citizens. 

“With Indigenous Beginnings, all of our workshops are for all ages,” explained Stephanie. “There was a whole generation that couldn’t practice or learn their ways from their grandparents because of the boarding school era. So for those older generations who want to learn, they can attend our workshops which is just as much designed for them as any adult or youth. This way we can not only keep our elders involved in their culture, but have them set that example for the young ones that it’s okay to ask questions and admit there’s always more to learn.  

“I am from Nooksack and moved down here when I was 15-years-old,” she continued. “I have three daughters who are Tulalip, and I want them to learn their Tulalip heritage and Nooksack’s as well because they are descendants from Nooksack, too. I didn’t know much about my tribe, because I moved away when I was young, and I thought this could be a way that I could teach them the traditional ways of their people, while also learning myself.”

It was in that spirit of cultural understanding and community building that Indigenous Beginnings hosted an awe-inspiring workshop at the Hibulb Cultural Center centered on created cedar roses. Lushootseed teacher Maria Rios instructed the full classroom in the basics of cedar weaving 101, which included at times having her infant son Enzo harnessed belly side.

The diverse group of eager learners spanned multiple generations. They sat intently as Maria detailed how Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave their people cedar as a gift. Cedar was the perfect resource, providing tools, clothes, baskets and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. After being harvested and stored for future use, the highly sought after golden inner bark is separated into strips and intricately shredded for weaving. The processed bark can then be used as a malleable material, similar to wool and other synthetic fibers, and crafted into baskets, clothing, or, as in this particular case, long-lasting roses.

Among the workshop participants was Tulalip mother/daughter duo Carlotta and Cheylah. After receiving a few of the finer weaving pointers from Maria, they quickly found a groove and feverishly created a couple dozen cedar roses. Of course, in the traditional way, Carlotta gave away her first made rose to elder Rebecca Hunter.

“I’ve wanted to relearn how to make cedar roses for a long time now. I was originally taught by the late Tara Taylor over twenty years ago, but unfortunately I lost the teaching by not practicing enough,” shared Carlotta. “My daughter Cheylah is 13-years-old and kind of at the hardheaded phase, so I wasn’t sure if she’d want to come with me or not at first. But then she was so excited to join after I told her Miss Maria was the instructor. I’m so happy we got to participate and learn together. We had a lot of fun.” 

The memorable afternoon was filled with a type of whimsical family bonding that was once common place among tribal villages. With babies, teenagers, adults, and elders all sharing in a unified experience of weaving with yellow cedar. Some for the first time. Others for the first time in a long time. And still others who had only dreamed of one day having the opportunity to create cedar roses in a similar fashion as their ancestors once did.

Such is the case with Seattle resident Shyanne Steele of the Colville Confederated Tribes. She shared having memories of being a little girl and watching her grandma, also a language teacher, weave all kinds of items. When she came across a flyer for the cedar rose workshop on Facebook she jumped at the opportunity at attend. 

“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get more connected with traditional art forms because it’s so difficult for me given my tribe is far away. Then, just a few nights ago, I actually dreamt about harvesting cedar,” said the 24-year-old University of Washington student. “Being able to attend and interact with so many welcoming tribal members here was amazing. It really grounded me to the teachings we have about cedar. Beyond being a super cool and strong material to work with, it’s been central to Indigenous life in this area for countless generations and really helps us connect with our ancestors.”

By bringing tribal citizens of different generations together in an atmosphere of learning and sharing, the Indigenous Beginnings cedar rose workshop allowed participants an opportunity to connect with Natives of neighboring tribes and form meaningful relationships based on shared interests and experiences. 

Whether it’s to learn new skills or refine existing ones, the active participation in our shared culture is how we help maintain a strong connection between the past, present, and future. Ensuring that important cultural knowledge and traditional knowhow is preserved and passed on to future generations.

Smoke Signals: Local teens use creativity to combat vaping

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of the Tulalip Community Health Department

This past February, the Tulalip Community Health (TCH) department announced a month-long art contest which was open exclusively to Native American students who attend either a middle or high school within the Marysville School District (MSD). Leading up to the contest, Community Health visited each of those Jr. and Sr. high schools and dropped some important knowledge on the tribal students about the dangers of vaping and smoking e-cigarettes. 

After establishing trust with the students, to ensure their anonymity, the department learned some key details about the usage of the electronic nicotine sticks and ‘vape juice’ within the community – the how, where, and why. 

TCH Community Resource Coordinator, Kelly Prayerwarrior, shared, “We created a safe space at the very beginning, and let them know that we are not going to tell people who said what, we just want to get an idea of what’s going on. And they opened up and told us that kids are smoking at school in the bathrooms, on the bus, and that they basically are smoking everywhere.”

Over the past decade, numerous studies and reports were conducted by the likes of the CDC, FDA, the Surgeon General, and the American Lung Association about the relation to teens and vaping. An eye-opening statistic comes from the Truth Initiative about how widespread vaping has become in recent years. You may recognize the organization’s name from anti-vaping ads and commercials that air on both cable and YouTube. Their 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that among teens nationwide, 42% admitted to using an e-cigarette within the thirty-day time period of which the study took place, while 46% of high schoolers confessed to vaping frequently.

When asked about the appeal of vaping to the youth of our community, Kelly shared her insight and stated, “I think it’s because they are able to get ahold of it, they have easy access to it, it doesn’t smell. The kids who I talked to said that they are getting it from their family members who vape, and also their friends at school. I think it’s also the flavors and because it’s something new. And they’re seeing their community members and family members doing it, so they think it’s okay because everyone else is doing it.”

She continued, “It is an addiction. I see people walk around the store smoking their vape and many of them don’t know that they are inhaling lots of chemicals into their bodies, a lot of those same chemicals are used in cigarettes. There’s a term called popcorn lung, that’s caused from when the water of the vape gets into the lungs. It also fogs people’s mind, it raises their blood pressure, and it can cause irritability in the people who are addicted to it. When they don’t have it, they get irritable.”

Upon chatting with the students about the harm vaping can cause an individual’s health and wellbeing, TCH announced the Anti-Vape Art Contest. The teens were asked to create a poster to combat the growing trend of vaping on the reservation and within the MSD. The kids were informed that the winner’s artwork would be the visual for a new campaign against vaping and that their work would be shared all throughout Tulalip and Marysville. Fifteen students took on the challenge and were motivated not only by creating a smoke-free environment locally, but also by a number of prizes including a Nintendo Switch bundle and Apple AirPods. 

After much deliberation, due to the all the amazing artwork submitted, TCH announced the winner of the contest. Tribal member, Heaven Jones, brought home the grand prize thanks to her informative design which depicts all the negative effects that vaping has on the human body. Her impressive anatomy artwork pinpoints exactly where the damage of vaping takes place, and around her subject’s wrist are handcuffs. Heaven cleverly uses the technique of steganography to display the word ‘addiction’ as the links in the handcuffs. 

“I’m proud of how the artwork turned out and I’m glad to know that people will learn from my poster,” expressed Heaven. “Hopefully it will help change how they think about vaping and realize what it could do and how it affects their body. I am very grateful. This contest was important to me because I have people in my family who vape, and I’ve seen them try to stop and seen how hard it is. What they have to go through when they aren’t vaping, and how they act, it makes me want them to be able to stop.”

Heaven shared that she also submitted four original pieces to the upcoming Native American Student Art Festival, that is organized by the Tulalip Education Division and the MSD Indian Education Department. 

Lorina, Heaven’s mother, proudly stated, “She is a very talented artist. She really wanted to take part in this contest because of her family members and others in the community who do vape. She worries about everyone who does it.”
Heaven’s artwork will soon be plastered on the walls and hallways of several tribal department buildings in the near future, as well as at the Tulalip Administration Building, the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, and various places throughout the MSD. 

Said Kelly, “Everyone made really great art and I want them to get credit for participating in the contest. And I really wanted to highlight our winner because she put a lot of effort into her artwork and that’s the piece we are going to be using. It was heartwarming to see how many young leaders stepped up, because each one of them showed leadership by creating their art and making a statement with their work.”

Easter Run delivers smiles across Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With a pocket full of treats and sweets and an armful of plastic Easter eggs, a local kid from Tulalip beamed with excitement on the afternoon of April 2. Still in awe from a visit with the Easter Bunny, the young man’s mom spoke on his behalf, “He told me this is the best Easter ever! He met the Easter Bunny and gave him a hug.” As the mother and son made their way back to their home, the boy looked behind his shoulder every now and again, stealing glances at the Easter Bunny, in hopes of giving him one last wave as the bunny continued his tour through Tulalip. 

“It’s always good to see the joy on the kids’ faces, and the parents too. They are happy to see that their children are being thought about in our community,” shared Malory Simpson, Founder of Together We’re Better, the local non-profit that organizes the yearly Easter Run.

Time and time again, as the Easter Bunny arrived at different neighborhoods of the reservation, children jumped with joy, and many of the kids ran to the bunny with their arms wide open to receive a big hug from the loveable character. 

Together We’re Better has been delivering smiles across the reservation over the past decade. Every year the organization hosts a number of fun community-based events, such as the ever-popular Halloween gathering Trunk or Treat. 

One of the many good things about Together We’re Better is the fact that each of their events has amazing turnouts and unites hundreds of Tulalip brethren together for a good time. And between the number of volunteers who commit to working the events and all the donations of food, candy, toys, and sometimes cash, it goes without saying that Together We’re Better is for the community, by the community. 

Malory expressed, “Giving back to the community always feels really good. This is all community effort, so all of the donations were by Tribal members – Tribal members who are putting time and effort into stuffing eggs and buying prizes. Bags of candy were [regularly] dropped off on my porch. It makes my heart happy to see the community coming together to take care of each other.”

The Easter Run is a fairly new event, and this was the third year that Together We’re Better held the springtime celebration. In previous years, the organization hosted an Easter egg hunt for the people of Tulalip. However, the non-profit made the pivot to the Easter Run during the worldwide pandemic to eliminate the threat of spreading the virus.  

Malory recalled that despite COVID, she wanted to continue with an Easter event, and she was inspired by the Tulalip Bay Fire Department’s annual Santa Run. The kids and families who live within the Fire Department’s district look forward to the Santa Run each year for a chance to meet St. Nick and also to donate non-perishable goods to the food bank at the Tulalip Church of God. 

Malory reached out to Tulalip Bay Fire and formed a partnership with the department. So, in addition to the volunteers of Together We’re Better, several volunteer firemen join in on the fun and help deliver goodies to the kids every Easter. And as an added bonus, the fire department recruits the nationally known fire prevention mascot, Sparky the Fire Dog, who dishes out high-fives and daps a plenty to the children during the Easter Run. 

Captain Shockley of the local fire crew stated, “We’re always eager for any opportunity to get out and create a positive impact, and to have more of that human connection with everybody in our community. It’s a great way to see all the kids and all the extended families. We’ve been doing the Santa Run for many years, and the Easter Run is another way for us to get out and show our faces more. It’s important for us to build those relationships because at times, we show up on not the best day for a lot of families. And if we’ve already formed those relationships of trust,  that’s huge for us. And also, we love taking part in an ongoing positive event.”

The Easter Run has become so popular that Together We’re Better has decided to stick with the event, even after gathering limitations were lifted on the reservation. And with all the smiles displayed on the little one’s faces over the years, it’s easy to see why the non-profit made that call.  

Throughout the day, the group of volunteers walked the Y-Site, Battlecreek, Larry Price/Ezra Hatch, Silver Village, and Mission Highlands neighborhoods. They delivered Easter eggs to well over one hundred children. The Easter Run is quickly becoming one of the more popular events at Tulalip, and after each visit, the children are sure to leave with a good amount of treats and happy memories. 

“I just love it,” Malory exclaimed. “Their smiles and laughter make you feel really good inside. Just seeing their excitement was one of the best things about the event today. It’s pretty fun to see all of their reactions and see how happy the kids are to spend some time with the Easter Bunny and Sparky the Dalmatian.”

If you are looking to get more involved with the community, Together We’re Better is always accepting donations, whether it’s goods, funds, or your personally volunteered time. For more information, please contact Malory at (360) 913-1424.

TV series films at Tulalip Marina

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Recently, an exciting independent TV series showcasing authentic Native American culture and Coast Salish identity ventured to Tulalip to film at the local marina. The undisclosed project underwent a critical rewrite that required a new scene; one in which the always scenic Tulalip Bay and its marina full of fishing boats provided the perfect backdrop for.

“I had been here previously while working with Tulalip tribal member Marjorie James on an iSTEAM project. During that visit we walked from the youth center to the marina and I remember thinking ‘Wow, this reminds me so much of where I grew up in southeast Alaska,’” recalled producer and writer Larisa Koenig (Tlingit/Haida). “So when we were rewriting the end of this season and it felt like the particular place this character would be at is overlooking a marina, I instantly thought of the beautiful views here.

“It’s a priority of ours to honor Native people and Native culture in this project. Part of that is to be intentional about highlighting local Native communities and areas. Where better to shoot a marina scene involving the wife of a fisherman than an active fishing marina on the Tulalip Reservation?” she added.

For decades, Native Americans have been largely absent from the big screen, relegated to stereotypes and sidekick roles in Westerns and other genres. However, in recent years there has been a growing movement within the film industry to tell more authentic and diverse stories from within the Native diaspora. The range of stories, whether told in a modern context or historical, obtainable from the 574 federally recognized tribes can offer an endless supply of creative vision for those behind the camera.

One of the driving forces behind this movement is the increasing visibility and influence of Native American filmmakers, actors, and advocates. From Sterlin Harjo’s (Seminole Nation) FX breakout tv series Reservation Dogs to the Native-centered feature length films Te Ata and Wind River to the upcoming Disney+ superhero crime drama Echo, our voices are finally being heard and celebrated in the mainstream.

But the fight for representation is far from over. According to a 2019 report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Native Americans were the most underrepresented racial/ethnic group in Hollywood, accounting for just 0.4% of all speaking characters in top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018.

That’s why it’s so important for those with studio access capable of reaching the masses to continue to elevate Native American voices and stories. By providing more opportunities for talented Native actors and creatives to tell their own stories on their own terms, film directors and producers can help to challenge and break down the harmful stereotypes and misconceptions that have plagued us from achieving authentic representation for so long.

Which is why it was such a literal breath of fresh air during that picturesque spring afternoon when the TV production filmed actress Amber Cantu (Colville) walking the marina’s familiar wooden docks, while gazing into the heart of Tulalip Bay. 

“The idea for this independent film venture began fifteen years ago when my wife and I were raising our nine children, which included five adopted Native siblings. This really is a family project, with our kids heavily involved in the behind the scenes production,” explained Michael Lienau, founder of Global Net Production and tv series director. 

His extensive film background includes award winning productions like Healing America’s Wounds – highlighting racial strife and the power of forgiveness with John Dawson; Return of the Raven (PBS) profiling a Native American’s stand against the U.S. Government; and Native Apology Resolution – Congressional briefing video distributed to all members of Congress.

“We are so grateful to the Tulalip Tribes for giving us the opportunity to film here,” said director Lienau. “Many movies and TV series have to create fake sets to replicate real places like this. Being able to film on a real reservation with an active fishing marina while Tulalip fisherman practice their Treaty Rights, we’re beyond thankful for that.”

Sacred Breath

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Department of Native American studies at the University of Washington hosts an annual literary and storytelling series titled ‘Sacred Breath.’ Featuring Native writers and storytellers who share their craft at the beautiful wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House on UW’s Seattle campus, the most recent event gave the public audience an opportunity to immerse in the sacred breath of Coast Salish culture bearers Rena Preist and Natosha Gobin.

Rena is a published poet and an enrolled member of Lummi Nation. She was appointed to serve as the Washington State Poet Laureate for the term of April 2021-2023. Her debut poetry collection Patriarchy Blues was published by MoonPath Press and received an American Book Award. 

Rena Preist, Lummi, Washington State Poet Laureate.

Natosha is a homegrown Tulalip tribal member. She has been learning, speaking and teaching Northern Lushootseed for over twenty-two years with her tribe’s language department and as an established educator at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Her passion for sharing Tulalip culture with Washingtonians of all ages is personified best in her expressive storytelling. 

Below: Natosha Gobin, Tulalip, Lushootseed language teacher.

“Storytelling offers a spiritual connection, a sharing of sacred breath,” stated UW associate professor Jean Dennison during her speaker introductions. “Literature, similarly, preserves human experience and ideals. Both forms are durable and transmit power that teaches us how to live. Both storytelling and reading aloud can impact audiences through the power of presence, allowing for the experience of the transfer of sacred breath as audiences are immersed in the experience of being inside stories and works of literature.”

The connection between Native American storytelling and modern poetry may seem complex, yet at their core both forms of expression are rooted in the power of language and the human need to communicate ideas, emotions, and experiences. It’s long been understood that the worldview of Native people is intricately woven into the fabric of language and ways of speaking.

Since time immemorial, our shared histories have been passed from the memories of one generation to the next through spoken word. In this sense the oral tradition connects past, present, and future while strengthening tribal and familial bonds. Those bonds were broadened to include the truly enchanted UW longhouse audience who sat quietly with anticipation of each and every word spoken word by Natosha in the form of traditional Tulalip stories and by Rena in the form of poetic literature. 

Rena opened her presentation by sharing two of her favorite poems Welcome to Indian Country and To Sing and Dance before reading several offerings from her latest poetry book Northwest Know-How: Beaches. She was gracious enough to allow us to republish some of her poems for the consideration of our readers. 

A common theme in all of Rena’s poetry is the incorporation of her Native American culture and ancestral language. She shared one the greatest blessings of being named Washington State Poet Laureate was being given a platform to help educate on Native ways of life and thinking.

“There is still a lot of secrecy around our spiritual beliefs,” she explained. “I feel like if people knew more about them or had the opportunity to see how things are held sacred…the interrelationships between living things, and to see that and find ways to celebrate that in their own lives, then it would be much easier to muster the collective will toward preservation of species and restoration of habitat and being more responsible stewards of the land.”

After the Lummi version of a poetry slam, Natosha captivated the crowd with traditional tales told in Lushootseed. She shared The Changer, Rattlesnake, Raven Steals the Light, and legendary Basket Lady. With many in the crowd hearing the ancestral Tulalip language brought to life for the first time, they roared with heavy applause following each story. Natosha even received much crowd participation when asking for them to repeat her during thematic elements of her stories.

After sharing her illustrious words, Natosha was asked during the Q&A panel to describe the importance of sharing her traditional stories and language on the University of Washington campus, and how she views this in the greater context of decolonizing education. She responded, “My first thought is land back, classrooms back…taking our space back. Whatever means we can establish our presence and our ancestral knowledge in spaces like this is an act of decolonization.”

The Tulalip language warrior also added, “I’m grateful for me and my coworkers to have the opportunity to do this work. Especially in a space like this one where the audience isn’t just here to listen to poetry or the stories and then leave. Instead, everyone has stayed after to ask questions and ask for additional historical context. It means so much because it shows how much true desire there is to learn about our culture.”

Together Rena and Natosha showed how Native American storytelling and poetry can be deeply connected to local environments and the natural world we all share. The teachings of both their presentations focus on the importance of respecting and living in harmony with Mother Earth, while also striving to share elements of Coast Salish culture that bring diverse communities together as co-stewards of this land. 

Among the Sacred Breath audience was a UW PhD student and Tulalip tribal member, Tessa Campbell. After the event she shared, “Witnessing Natosha represent Tulalip in such a beautiful manner and speak our traditional language was such an empowering moment. I actually got a little teary-eyed during her storytelling presentation because it was a magical moment to have [one of our own] have a strong vocal presence on campus.”

Collection of poems by Rena Preist

(A Poem Is a) Naming Ceremony

What has grown out of what has gone away? The clear-cut patch has grown larger on the mountain. The rivers have grown murky with timber trash,and there’s enough run-off cow manure to grow corn out there on the tide flats. I don’t want to think about what has gone away. I want to meander and play and forget myself until I can grow a new me in place of all this grief—learn the language to see the cotton wood as kwealich ich, the dancing tree;  the killer whales as qwel’ lhol mechen, our relatives under the sea; the whole glorious landscape filled with meaning to end my grieving.

When I was young, I was invited to learn Xwilngexw’qen, the people’s language,  but I said no. I didn’t understand. I thought I wanted to learn how to be rich. I didn’t know that the only way to possess all the wealth  of the world is by naming it—here is bird song,  here is the kiss of a lover, here is the feel of cold water at the peak of summer. I have spent my life with words, trying to name a hint of what I lost by not learning my language. Estitemsen. Tu totest sen. Estitemsen.

1 I’m doing my best. I’m still learning. I’m doing my best.

Remembering Silé at Sxwelisen 2

“We used to say, when the tide is out, the table is set. The earth provided. And if one day it didn’t, the spirit fed us.” The glittering turn of the tide, the arc of the sun in the sky, the call of birds, the sound of waves—to be nourished in this way makes glass doors opening and closing themselves between me and that food on grocery-store shelves seem false, empty.

That food, where does it come from? Whose hands grew it? Was there patience and care? Were there prayers? Think of how it got here— what it’s made of. “When I was a girl, everything we ate came from the earth that loved us, through hands of people we loved.”

2 Sile’ is Grandmother. Sxwelisen is a place name for a land bridge that emerges at low tide. We go there to harvest shellfish.

The Forest for the Trees

I have seen a tree split in two from the weight of its opposing branches. It can survive, though its heart is exposed. I have seen a country do this too.

I have heard an elder say that we must be like the willow— bend not to break.I have made peace this way.

My neighbors clear-cut their trees, leaving mine defenseless. The arborist says they’ll fall in the first strong wind. Together we stand. I see this now.

I have seen a tree grown around a bicycle, a street sign, and a chainsaw, absorbing them like ingredients in a great melting pot.

When we speak, whether or not we agree, the trees will turn the breath of our words from carbon dioxide into air—

give us new breath for new words, new chances to listen, new chances to be heard. 

MSD round dance celebrates Native cultureMSD round dance celebrates

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

A few things about Natives will always stay the same throughout time. One of the most important, we love to surround ourselves with our loved ones while we eat, sing, dance, and rejoice in our culture.

On March 9th, the Marysville School District Indian Education department held its annual round dance. Natives of surrounding tribes joined tribal and community members to embrace the lively cultural evening. The festivities began with a shared meal, followed by singing, dancing, communal conversations, and shopping from local Native vendors and artists selling handmade pieces like ribbon skirts, cedar headbands, and jewelry. 

In typical round dance style, drummers and singers gathered in the middle of the room while dancers shuffled clockwise in a circle around them. With many tribes represented that night, traditional tribal songs and regalia from throughout Washington were adorned and admired for people to see and hear. 

The round dance even had a surprise guest, newly appointed MSD Superintendent Dr. Zachary Robbins. Several people gathered beside him to teach the basic steps and meaning behind the movements. With a smile, Dr. Robbins quickly picked up the moves and danced alongside community members for a few songs.

Other than the many rich cultural elements demonstrated at the event, was pure comradery between the people who attended. MSD Native American Program Coordinator Matt Remle said, “The round dance was a beautiful evening of bringing together our families, youth, elders, community members, and district staff to enjoy and celebrate life. It was good to see the smiling faces, laughter, and sharing in our cultural ways of life.” 

Tulalip prepares for a cultural summer

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Nothing quite says summertime for Pacific Northwest tribes more than cedar dugout canoes on the Salish Sea and the return of the king salmon. For as far back as many can recall, the sduhubš people have engaged in cultural activities to celebrate their way of life, immersing into the natural world during the season of sunshine and adventure. 

Notably, a time for harvesting traditional foods, plants, and medicine such as huckleberries, cedar, salmon, and shellfish, summer is filled with an abundance of teachings that are important to the tribal nation of Tulalip. The act of exercising their inherent treaty rights and gathering these items is a significant aspect of their culture. And it is frequently celebrated on the reservation during the summer at a number of events including the yearly clambake known as Spee-Bi-Dah and of course, the Salmon Ceremony.

Revived nearly 50 years ago, Salmon Ceremony pays homage to the king salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community. The ceremony also provides an opportunity for the Tribe to bless the local fisherman who are ready to begin a new season out on the water. During this cultural experience, the people don their beautiful regalia of shawls, vests, ribbon skirts, cedar headbands, and beaded jewelry, and they share traditional songs and stories all in tribute to the king salmon. 

Canoe Journey is another major cultural event that takes place in the late summer months, and it is a beloved gathering celebrated by numerous coastal tribes and first nation bands. For over three decades, tribal families have navigated the local waterways, traveling to handful of reservations before reaching the hosting tribe’s village. The final destination changes annually, as the tribes take turns hosting the event. This year’s paddle ends at Muckleshoot, where a weeklong protocol will ensue, and each tribe and band will offer their traditional family songs and dances to commemorate another successful Canoe Journey.

Equally as important as the teachings that take place at these summertime events is the preparation for those gatherings. In anticipation of this year’s Salmon Ceremony and the 2023 Canoe Journey, Tulalip tribal members of all ages joined together for the Tribe’s first Cultural Night of the year on the evening of March 7. Numerous families attended Cultural Night where they received a shawl kit and bundles of cedar to craft their own regalia. 

During Cultural Night, Tribal member, Melissa Gobin was on hand to assist the people with their projects. She stated, “We’re trying to get more people involved in Salmon Ceremony and Canoe Journey and ensure that they have regalia to dance. We’re also trying to get more elders to volunteer to talk to the little ones, and help the people understand the importance of why we come together in this way as a community. It really makes me happy to see everybody working on their projects. And, you know when you make your own regalia, it makes you that much more proud when you’re wearing it.”

She continued, “Tonight, we’re doing shawls, headbands, and cedar belts. So, we’re trying to incorporate as much of our traditional teachings as we can for the regalia. We’re also going to be doing some ribbon skirts in the future, and vests for the men.”

Occupying all three classrooms of the Hibulb Cultural Center, there were close to seventy-five people in attendance. In fact, there were so many participants at the gathering that the Tribe is considering bigger venues to host the remaining eighteen Cultural Nights this year. It was beautiful to see Tulalip’s ancestral teachings passed down to the younger generations in real-time. Many families attended the event together and were happy to share time and conversation while working on their traditional attire. 

“I have a daughter who was born in 2020, so I really want her to be able to access community in a way we haven’t since she was born,” shared Shayleigh Tucker. “I am making my shawl and we’re waiting for the baby sized shawls, so we can make one for my daughter as well. My sister is working on her shawl, and she’s going to grab some cedar and start cedar belts.”

Everywhere you looked, it was bright smiles and plenty of laughter as the community caught up with each other during the two-hour event. Tulalip pride was on full display as many of the participants shared their excitement to wear their handmade regalia at both the Salmon Ceremony and also along the Canoe Journey’s Paddle to Muckleshoot. Newcomers quickly picked up on the techniques of weaving and sewing, and are already eager to learn more and take on new projects. 

Said Melissa, “Seeing my nieces, my friends and new faces, and seeing a dad who brought his daughter out to make a shawl, makes me so happy. I think that in this new generation, some of them don’t even know what a shawl is, and so we’re bringing the teachings to them. And we’re telling them that we are going to teach you these things so that you know what to do when we’re having our ceremonies and what it means to be Tulalip.”

Cultural Nights are planned for every Tuesday, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., leading up to the Canoe Journey this July. The Cultural Night gatherings are also exclusive to Tulalip tribal members. And make sure to keep an eye out for a location change as more people confirmed on Facebook that they will be attending Cultural Nights in the upcoming weeks.

While working on a cedar belt, which she plans to gift upon completion, Tulalip Youth Council Vice-Chair, Faith Valencia, expressed, “It’s important to keep the culture alive so we can pass it on to future generations to keep it going,” 

For additional information about Cultural Nights, please contact Malory Simpson at (360) 716-4399.