Curating culture in the City of Kenmore

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Slightly less than an hour’s drive from the Tulalip Reservation, going southbound on I-5, one can find the City of Kenmore. A relatively small city with an estimated 24,000 residents, it’s a suburban town that occupies the land where the Sammamish River joins Lake Washington.

Native Americans were the only people living in what is now the Kenmore area as recently as two hundred years ago. They lived on the waterway that later became known as the Sammamish Slough. It’s not difficult to imagine these Coast Salish ancestors establishing multiple villages in such a pristine fishing and hunting area, with each village having one or more cedar-plank longhouses to hold village families.

According to the Kenmore Historical Society, it was a great place to live, to fish, and to hunt. Migrating salmon entered the lake from the sea and swam to the mouth of the Sammamish Slough. Ducks and geese were abundant, landing in nearby marshes and the estuary on their annual migrations. Game was plentiful, and the area supported large populations of otters, beavers, muskrats, and other animals.

Flash forward to 2023, and that stunning Coast Salish identity that once thrived on those pre-colonized Kenmore lands is actively being curated once again by modern-day culture-bearers. The latest example of this reclamation process occurred just this summer as a special story pole awakening ceremony kicked off the city’s 25th anniversary celebration. 

Installed in the heart of the town square and unveiled during a city-wide celebration is a towering 12-foot story pole created by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel.

“I get asked the question often, “What is a story pole?” because people think we only made totem poles. When, in fact, our Coast Salish ancestors of this region made story poles and house poles,” shared Ty. “The difference was that a house pole was kept inside, while story poles were placed outside and were of utmost importance in acknowledging a nearby longhouse.

“I’ve been told there used to be a longhouse where the town hall used to be,” added the 36-year-old culture bearer. “The meaning behind this story pole actually explains the meaning of why Tulalip’s logo is the killer whale. The inspiration comes from the traditional story Seal Hunter Brothers as told by Lushootseed legend Martha Lamont. Further inspiration for this pole’s design and carving style was to intentionally reflect the style of [last hereditary chief of the Snohomish Tribe] William Shelton and the story poles he created.”

Ty spent hundreds of hours over the course of months to create this awe-inspiring story pole that started as a 12-foot tall by 30-inch wide single Cedar beam procured along the peninsula.

At their core, story poles are cultural storytellers. They are meticulously carved from large, straight cedar logs – chosen for their durability and resistance to decay – using various handheld tools. The intricate designs and figures adorning the poles are then carefully painted with earth tone or Medicine Wheel pigments.

Each story pole narrates a unique story, most often detailing a tribal village’s history or an iconic narrative that’s been told for millennia. They are central to preserving and spreading traditional teachings passed on via the oral tradition, a key aspect of Coast Salish culture.

In that vein, it’s become an artist’s signature for Ty to welcome members of the local community to leave a lasting mark on his story poles to both solidify allyship and serve as a reminder that they heard the pole’s story and can be held accountable to pass on the teaching. He achieves this by inviting all those in attendance at the story pole’s awakening to leave their painted thumbprint on a dedicated panel at the pole’s base.

“It solidifies the story pole being welcomed into the community. There isn’t a lot of opportunity for people to engage with art or our culture, making it much more memorable for those who leave their fingerprint,” said Ty. “Twenty years from now or even longer, those who were here might return, and when they do, they’ll be able to spot their print and, hopefully, remember what they witnessed and tell others about it.”

Coast Salish story poles are so much more than wooden sculptures, they are living embodiments of Indigenous history, culture, and spirituality. With their roots stretching back millennia, they stand as a testament to the resilience and enduring traditions of the region’s first peoples. As they continue to be celebrated and respected, their stories, like Martha Lamont’s Seal Hunter Brothers, will echo through the ages, ensuring that this tradition remains alive for generations to come.

TeePee Creepers take over Bite of Seattle

“If if there is a secret ingredient, it’s love. The love I have for my people, my culture, my family, and my customers who keep us in business.”

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

One of Washington’s most iconic culinary traditions, The Bite of Seattle, made a historical 2023 return after being shut down the previous three years for various Covid-related concerns. The weekend-long food festival took place July 21 – 23 at its usual and accustomed grounds located in the heart of Seattle Center. 

Local Q13 Fox News affiliate reported the Bite reeled in more than 75,000 people on the first night alone. This year’s event easily shattered previous attendance records, attracting diverse attendees and vendors.

Among the vibrant spirits and culinary diversity among 100+ food vendors was Tulalip’s own master fryer Lynette Jimicum. She journeyed to the Emerald City’s three-day food extravaganza with her dedicated family crew, who helped operate rez-famous TeePee Creepers.

“We were told by coordinators that we are the very first Native Americans to have a food stand at the Bite of Seattle,” asserted Lynette, the 57-year-old teepee creeping proprietor.

At the behest of her sons, nephews, and cousins, who enjoyed her food on the regular and suggested she enter the food market, she debuted her frybread concoctions at Tulalip’s 2015 bone games. Her debut was so successful that she followed up with another appearance only weeks later at Boom City, again with great success. The rest, as they say, is history. 

“I was truly surprised by my early success…that the people loved my cooking and simple, homemade chili, salsa, and jam to add even more flavor to my frybread,” reflected Lynette. “Since then, I’ve been doing big gathering events, especially cultural events hosted by local tribes from Lummi to Muckleshoot. Everywhere I go, people love my food. I keep a very simple menu with all local ingredients, but if there is a secret ingredient, it’s love. The love I have for my people, my culture, my family, and my customers who keep us in business.”

Known best for its mouthwatering, extra fluffy, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, golden-colored frybread dishes, TeePee Creepers brought out all sweet and savory hits. The O.G. standard frybread and jam, Indian tacos with homemade chili, two hands required rez burgers, and delicious frybread shortcake. 

While the record-setting Bite attendance overwhelmed many vendors, resulting in extra long lines and wait times, Lynette’s thirteen-person frybread wrecking crew banged out order after countless order with ease. TeePee Creepers stood out for having an open cooking area in full view of spectators to take pictures and videos as they witnessed, perhaps for the first time ever, actual Native American cuisine being cooked up by actual Native Americans. 

“We’ve been asked a lot of questions by people who have never heard of nor seen frybread before. It’s been nonstop, questions about frybread or them asking to take our picture,” said Charissa Sigo after posing with freshly made frybread for a Venezuelan customer.

“It’s been a lot of fun. We got a good team going on here,” added Carla Hillaire while kneading dough destined for a sizzling oil bath. “Our vibes have been so good that we added another item to the menu: smiles! A side of free smiles comes with every order.”

Bite of Seattle 2023 lived up to its reputation as a community-driven event that fosters connections. The festival provided a platform for local businesses like TeePee Creepers, and food artisans like Lynette to showcase their unique, homemade offerings. Offering a new way to experience a cross-cultural exchange, one bite at a time.

Native Americans have found empowerment and community-building opportunities through making and selling frybread in several ways:

  • Cultural Preservation: Frybread serves as a symbol of Native American cultural identity and resilience. By making and selling frybread, Native Americans are keeping their culinary traditions alive and passing them down to younger generations. This act of cultural preservation helps instill a sense of pride and connection to their heritage.
  • Economic Independence: For many Native American communities, economic opportunities can be limited, especially on reservations and in rural areas. By selling frybread at powwows, festivals, and other events, individuals and tribal groups can generate income to support themselves and their families. This economic independence can help reduce reliance on government assistance and foster self-sufficiency.
  • Community Bonding: Making and selling frybread often involve community efforts and collaboration. Families and tribal members come together to prepare and cook the bread, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose. This communal activity strengthens social ties within the community and reinforces a sense of belonging.
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses: Some Native Americans have turned frybread-making into small businesses. They may sell frybread from food trucks, roadside stands, or even establish restaurants that feature traditional Native American cuisine. Through these entrepreneurial ventures, individuals can contribute to the local economy and create job opportunities for others.
  • Cultural Exchange and Education: Selling frybread at public events provides an opportunity for cultural exchange. Native Americans can share their heritage, traditions, and history with non-Native customers, fostering understanding and appreciation for their culture. This can also combat stereotypes and misconceptions about Native American communities.
  • Funding for Tribal Initiatives: Revenue generated from selling frybread can be reinvested in tribal initiatives, such as educational programs, healthcare services, infrastructure development, and cultural events. By using the income strategically, tribes can address various needs and challenges faced by their communities.
  • Advocacy and Awareness: In some cases, frybread sales have been used as a platform for advocacy and raising awareness about Native American issues. Activists and community leaders may use these opportunities to discuss the history of frybread, its connections to colonial oppression, and advocate for healthier food options and cultural preservation.

Despite the positive aspects, it is also essential to consider potential challenges and concerns related to frybread consumption. The high-fat content and processed nature of the dish have been associated with health issues such as obesity and diabetes within some Native American communities. Thus, efforts to promote healthier traditional foods and food sovereignty continue to be important alongside the celebration of frybread’s cultural significance.

Learning the language at Tulalip Lushootseed Camp

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

With summer in high gear, Tulalip’s Lushootseed Language Camp concluded its first week on July 14. Each week is capped off with a play the children practice throughout the week and then perform for their families. This year’s play is Deer and Changer, which tells the story of how the deer got extra bones in their feet. Through this play, various lessons and teachings are implemented in daily activities during camp.

From bone games, cedar weaving, listening to elder stories on their tablets, and learning the language of the Tulalip people, the children benefit greatly from learning the ways of the past.

 “Teaching the language connects them with the ancestors. These words and the language had existed on this land way before we were even thought of,” said Lois Landgrebe, Lushootseed teacher. “To hear all the kids be able to sing the songs, and for the language to take a front seat instead of always a backseat is a beautiful thing to witness.” 

“Hearing the traditional stories, how the language is spoken, and listening to their elders’ recordings is a big part of what is being taught at the language camp,” said Lushootseed teacher Ni-Ko-Ti St. Onge. “Watching their play and seeing how far they come in such a short time is one of my favorite parts.”

Michele Balagot, Lushootseed Manager, said, “Teaching Lushootseed is beneficial to the youth learning more than one language helps with brain development and opens their minds to more possibilities. Some kids don’t get a chance to learn Lushootseed in school; this is the only chance they get to participate in learning the language. My favorite part of Lushootseed camp is on Fridays. All the parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunties get to come together to watch their child in the program sing, dance, and act in a play.” 

You do not need to be a Tulalip tribal member or Native American to sign up. Everyone is welcome to come and learn about the Native culture. “Bring your kids and volunteer, and we can always use community members, even elders. It is lovely to have an elder come, even for an afternoon,” Lois said as the kids sang in the background. “It is a great time for the kids, keeping them busy and having fun.”

At the end of each ceremony, the children hand out all the gifts they made, and everyone gathers around the tables for a traditional fish meal. Thomas Williams, who also teaches Lushootseed, said, “It is essential after a long week of learning the ancestral ways to participate in eating a traditional meal prepared in a sacred way. Tying the lessons they learned and implementing what they were taught, by letting the elders and guests eat first while they hand out the gifts they made, are special and provide a solid foundation for learning and respect.”

Lushootseed Camp lasts for one week and has two sessions. The second session is July 24 to 28. For more information, please get in touch with Natosha Gobin at or Michele Balagot at

A sduhubš summer: Tulalip community is set for an eventful season

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The sun is out, and the temperature is steadily growing warmer with each passing day, as we officially reached the season of summer. Time that was previously occupied by school work, sports, after school activities, and indoor projects, has opened up and many will be looking to have some fun in the sun. Tulalip is known for planning an entertaining summer each year, which always includes a healthy dose of imparting cultural knowledge to the next generations. 

For tribal members, events and activities are often based around the act of exercising your treaty rights and flexing your tribe’s sovereignty through harvesting cedar, huckleberries, and salmon, as well as selling federally legal fireworks at Boom City. Throw in some summer camps geared toward tribal youth, a golf tournament, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, a salmon bake fundraiser, and a variety of health-focused events, the Tulalip community is set for an eventful summer.

With all the events scheduled to happen over the next two months, it might be easy to overlook and ultimately miss out on any number of the upcoming gatherings. For this reason, we compiled a list of some of the major happenings taking place at Tulalip throughout the summer. We invite you to pull out your red felt tip pens and mark down the following events on your personal calendar.

Boom City 

Open Daily 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m. through July 4

The Northwest pyrotechnic capital is officially open for the holiday season. Tulalip entrepreneurs set up their vibrant and creatively designed stands at the lot located behind the Tulalip Resort Casino. 

The stand owners have innumerable types of fireworks available for purchase including cakes, firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, Roman candles, fountains, smoke bombs, pop-its, and many more. Boom City also offers a designated area for people to enjoy their fireworks safely and legally. Several food vendors are stationed at Boom City as well serving up treats such as Hawaiian shaved ice, frybread and tacos.

Tulalip Health Clinic Garden Day

July 8, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

This event is dedicated to pruning the beautiful and serene Medicine Wheel Garden & Wellness Garden Trail, located behind the Tulalip Health Clinic. A fun gathering for the entire family, the community spends time tidying up the trail and garden beds. This is the perfect opportunity for the young ones to learn some tips on planting new crops and maintaining a home garden.

Hosted by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program, the Garden Day events are sure to draw a large amount of participants, who in turn are treated to a delicious and nutritious breakfast, snack, and lunch for their dedication and efforts. Each volunteer gardener is also gifted with a box of fruits and veggies, donated by Klesick Farms, as well as gardening tools and seedlings to transplant into their home gardens.

Special guest: Leslie Lekos from Wildroot Botanicals.

26th annual Lushootseed Language Camp

Week one July 10 – 14, Week two July 17 – 21

Registration for Language Camp is now open!  The camp tends to fill up quick and is limited to 50 kids per week. So be sure to reach out to the Lushootseed Language Department for a sign-up form to get your kiddos enrolled to this cultural enriching day camp. This year’s Language Camp will take place at the Kenny Moses Building from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day and is open to youth between the ages of five and twelve. 

During each fun-filled week, the youth learn several teachings of the Coast Salish culture including weaving, smudging, beading necklaces, and harvesting local plants, like devil’s club, for medicine and ceremonial art. Throughout the five-day camp, the young Lushootseed Language Warriors will be fully immersed in the traditional language, stories and songs of their people through a combination of interactive lessons, including outdoor play and a series of visual programs that are taught on tablets.

Tulalip Education Division Summer Camp

Starts July 10, Daily Hours 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m

The Tulalip Education Division has quite the summer planned for the teens of the community. Open to youth who are in grades 6 – 12, the summer camp has activities scheduled for every day of the week including mini-outings on Mondays, swim days on Tuesdays, Teen Center fun on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Field Trip Fridays. 

Just one look at the schedule for Field Trip Fridays will have your teen excited and ready to sign up for the summer camp as soon as possible. Field trips include excursions to Snow Goose Produce, the Family Fun Center, the movies, Game Works, as well as to a Seattle Storm game and a Mariners game. The camp also planned for a cultural empowerment week during July 17 – 20 with activities such as beading, weaving and ribbon skirt crafting.

Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be served daily. For more info, please contact the Teen Center at (360) 716-4909.

2nd annual Tulalip Recovery Campout

July 13 – 19

A six-day trip to Lopez Island is scheduled for the recovery community of Tulalip. The campout is hosted by the Recovery Resource Center (ODMAP) and was a great success last year. This year promises more fun in the great outdoors. 

Lopez Island is a sacred place for the sduhubš people and is the location where many of the tribe’s ancestors journeyed to every summer to harvest salmon and shellfish.

Said ODMAP Project Coordinator, Kali Joseph, “The Campout will include a variety of activities including hiking, kayaking, camp fire recovery meetings, a coin ceremony countdown, incentives/prizes, team building activities, game nights, and more. This Campout was established to support our recovery community and foster a strong peer support network among those walking a sober life. It is also designed to bring healing to the trauma and grief associated with substance use disorder and addiction. Its mission is to bring forward awareness and to highlight that recovery is possible because we are all connected.”

To RSVP and learn more information about the Recovery Campout, please contact (360) 722-2255.

Leah’s Dream Foundation 9th annual Golf Tournament 

July 15

Beloved by golfers all across the county, this annual tournament provides an opportunity for hundreds of players to hit the links of the Battle Creek course while advocating for inclusion, promoting awareness, and raising funds for the special needs community of Tulalip and Marysville. 

Leah’s Dream Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to empowering children and young adults diagnosed with autism. By hosting events and get-togethers for the local youth living with disabilities, the organization provides a safe space where the kids can simply be themselves and build friendships within the special needs community.

The foundation was established in 2015 by Tribal member Deanna Sheldon, whose daughter Leah Stacy is on the spectrum and is diagnosed with apraxia. The golf tournament is an event that Leah looks forward to every year and she lends a hand in preparing for the event by posting signs of all the sponsors throughout the 18-hole golf course. 100% of the tournaments proceeds goes directly back to the local special needs community for both events as well as for learning tools, resources, and curriculum. 

To sign up for the annual golf tournament, please visit Leah’s Dream Foundation on Facebook for more details. 


July 22, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Connecting multiple generations and families, the summertime potlatch celebrates the lifeways of the sduhubš people. Held on the Spee-Bi-Dah beach, the gathering provides tribal members a chance to socialize with friends and family while traditionally harvesting and preparing the foods of their ancestral diet, including salmon, clams, and crab. 

A main attraction of the day is when the community pulls together, literally, by using the traditional method of seining to capture fresh foods for the salmon and clam bakes. 

Canoe Journey – Tulalip Landing

July 27

While enroute to this year’s final destination at Muckleshoot, canoes from all across the Pacific Northwest will make a quick visit to the tribal nation of Tulalip. Celebrated every summer by Coast Salish tribes and First Nation bands, the canoe journey affords tribal members of all ages the opportunity to connect to their ancestral way of life. By navigating the Salish Sea on cedar dugout canoes, the people are exposed to several traditions, songs, foods, and dances as they journey from one village to the next.  

The Tulalip Family Canoes will take to the waters following the landing at Tulalip Bay. The canoes are scheduled to arrive at Muckleshoot during the week of July 30th. A weeklong protocol will then ensue, and every tribe will get the chance to share their culture with the Indigenous community at large. 

Tulalip is currently holding canoe practices every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in anticipation of this year’s paddle. 

Tulalip Health Clinic annual Health Fair

August 4, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Promoting overall health and wellness, the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic is once again hosting their annual Health Fair gathering this August. During the six-hour event, community members can visit a number of informational booths and learn the importance of prioritizing one’s health, and also pick up new tips on how to manage their medical diagnoses and concerns. In addition to helpful resources, the community can also receive free screenings and donate blood. And of course, the fan favorite fun run/walk will also be occurring at the health fair. 

This year’s event will take place at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. 

2nd annual Pride Everyday BBQ

August 13, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Following last year’s great turnout, the Tulalip Pride BBQ returns with the promise of more fun, more dancing, and more delicious barbeque. DJ Monie will be spinning tunes during the event, so you can be sure to expect some fun dance competitions throughout the summertime celebration. 

The event includes face painting, a ribbon shirt and skirt contest, and a sidewalk chalk art station. All ages are welcome to join the gathering to honor and support the local 2-Spirit and LGBTQ+ community. The Pride Everyday BBQ is set to take place on the teen center campus, at the outdoor shelter between the skate park and the baseball diamond. 

Hibulb Cultural Center annual Salmon Bake Fundraiser 

August 19

The Tulalip Foundation puts together an exquisite night that highlights Tulalip’s rich culture every August 19. While showcasing the songs, art, and history of the tribe, the foundation hosts the Salmon Bake to help bring in funds to benefit the Hibulb Cultural Center’s exhibits, classes, and events. 

During the gathering, the museum opens up its exhibits to all those in attendance. And often times, several Tulalip artists are invited to hold live demonstrations in carving, looming, and weaving. Leading up to the Salmon Bake, the foundation acquires numerous items from around the tribe to put up for bid during the silent auction. Those items include paintings, beadwork, sculptures, and cedar woven pieces, as well as gift baskets and gift certificates for the Tulalip Resort Casino.  

War Canoe Races – Tulalip Bay Circuit

August 19 & 20

A thrilling occurrence for both competitors and spectators alike, the Salish-wide canoe racing event will make its appearance at Tulalip Bay during the third weekend of August. Over a hundred racers take part every year and hit the waters at full speed, making laps from the Tulalip longhouse to Hermosa beach and back again. Designed with swiftness in mind, the war canoes are sleek and narrower than traditional cedar dugouts. 

Racers train year-round in hopes of bringing home the first-place trophy for the Tulalip Bay circuit. This year there will be single, double, six-man, and eleven-man races throughout the weekend. 

Tulalip Health Clinic Farm Tour & U-Pick

August 22, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This summer’s Farm Tour & U-Pick event will be hosted at Hazel Blue Acres, Fuentes Family Farm. The event is organized by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program of the Tulalip Health Clinic and is a great way to learn about the produce you consume and how it is grown and harvested. In previous years, families gathered fresh vegetables and brought them home to incorporate into their meals. 

With a change of location, the community will be excited to learn that Hazel Blue Acres specializes in cultivating blueberries. Tulalip tribal members, their families, and patients of the health clinic are invited to the Arlington based farm to harvest up to five pounds of blueberries per family. 

hikw siyab yubəč: Big Chief King Salmon 

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos by Wade Sheldon and Kalvin Valdillez

Hundreds of Tulalip members stood upon a small bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. Draped in traditional garb, the women and young ladies adorned shawls and ribbon skirts while the men and boys wore vests and ribbon shirts. Cedar woven headbands, hats, and jewelry were the accessories of choice, as well as bandanas, eagle feathers, and beaded medallions. The kids gasped with excitement and pointed out into the distance of the bay. With traditional hand drums and rattles, the people sang hikw siyab yubəč, and greeted the first king salmon of the season to the village as he arrived at the shore on a cedar dugout canoe.

“Today is our 47th annual Salmon Ceremony, that was revived 47 years ago,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “We’re honoring hikw siyab yubəč, big chief king salmon. Welcoming him and showing him how well our community will treat him, so he will go back to the village under the sea and let them know he was treated well at Tulalip. And we’ll have a bountiful season. And it will also bless our fishermen to protect them from the storms and the weather and make sure they come home safe.”

As one of the main staples of their ancestral diet, the relationship between the salmon and the sduhubš is strong. The traditional belief is that Tulalips are descendants of the Salmon People who live in a village under the Salish Sea. At the beginning of every fishing season, the king salmon send a scout to the waters of Tulalip Bay, and it is his duty to report back to the Salmon People about his time spent amongst the tribal nation. 

In the early 90’s, Tulalip leader Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin penned a retelling of the traditional Tulalip story, the Salmon People, for the Marysville School District. Kai Kai shared, “The story goes that there is a tribe of Salmon People that live under the sea. And each year, they send out scouts to visit their homelands. And the way that the Snohomish people recognize that it’s time for the salmon scouts to be returning to their area is when, in the spring, a butterfly comes out. And the first person to see that butterfly will run, as fast as they can, to tell our chiefs or headmen, or now they are called the chairman. One of the other ways they recognize that the salmon scouts are returning is when the wild spirea tree blooms. The people call it the ironwood tree, and that’s what they use for fish sticks and a lot of other important things, like halibut hooks. It’s a very hard wood. So, when they see either one of these, a tribal member will tell the chairman, and he immediately sends out word to the people and calls them together in the longhouse for a huge feast and celebration to give honor to the visitors that are coming.”

Keeping with the tradition that extends across thousands of years, the Tulalip community prepares for the arrival of the scout weeks in advance. The tribe plans a special honoring for the salmon, thanking the local Indigenous species for providing healthy nourishment for the people year after year. 

“This is a ceremony that our people have done since time immemorial, since we were salmon,” explained tribal member, Chelsea Craig. “It was a commitment to our people under the sea that we would carry on this tradition. And when colonizers came and tried to stop us from practicing our ways, it went underground. And our ancestors maintained that knowledge and passed it through oral traditions. And when it was safe for us to bring it back, our elders brought it back. It’s our responsibility to keep that going until there is no more time.”

Along with the practice of spiritual work, the Lushootseed language, songs, dances, hunting, gathering, and traditional ceremonies were outlawed by the US government at the beginning of the 20thcentury. During this time, Indian boarding schools were established, and children were forcibly removed from their families. The kids were to learn the ways of the ‘new world’ and abandon their traditional lifeways. It was a dangerous time to be Native American. 

Decades passed by and the Salmon Ceremony was all but lost. However, thanks to a number of boarding school survivors, bits and pieces of those ancestral teachings were held onto while they endured the tragedies of assimilation. And in the mid-70’s, after the Meriam Report of 1928 helped abolish the majority of Indian boarding schools throughout the country, Harriette Shelton-Dover called upon her community. Forming a small group comprised of Tulalip, Swinomish, and Lummi elders, Harriette ushered in a new era for the sduhubš people with the revitalization of the Salmon Ceremony in 1976. 

Teri recounted, “My father [Stan Jones Sr.] was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost. It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”

Tulalip’s future, some merely a few weeks old, were fully immersed in the ceremony, with their regalia and ancestral knowledge on full display. Accounting for over half of those in attendance, the youth put on their sduhubš warrior faces and treated the gathering with the utmost importance and sincerity. Each time they entered the sacred space of the Tulalip longhouse, they went in focused on the work taking place and beamed with Tulalip pride. 

“It felt so good in the longhouse,” exclaimed Chelsea. “It felt like we were bringing pride to our ancestors. It felt like a longhouse full of love. It felt good today. And to see all the kids, I was sitting down watching them, and it overwhelmed me with pride. Our young ones are taking up this culture with their full selves.”

Tulalip youth Rajalion Robinson expressed, “This was my first year at the Salmon Ceremony. It was really nice to learn more about my culture, especially during the practices. My favorite part of the ceremony was dancing to the Welcome Song.”

Upon witnessing the youth arriving at the year’s ceremony, Teri said, “It’s exciting because what it brings is all this culture and knowledge to the children so they can pass it on. I’m really excited about how many youth we have involved. We actually almost need a longer longhouse to accommodate all the children.”

In total, ten songs and blessings are offered at the Salmon Ceremony. And those powerful chants were amplified by all the voices of the young people this year. From start to finish, the kids were engaged and sang with booming voices that echoed out of the longhouse and rippled across the bay. The ten songs are offered in the following order:

  • The Welcome Song
  • Sduhubš War Song
  • Eagle/Owl Song (Tribute to Kai Kai)
  • Blessing of the Fisherman
  • Listen to our Prayers
  • hikw siyab yubəč
  • The Happy Song
  • Table Blessing Song
  • Canoe Song (Kenny Moses Jr.’s Song) 
  • New Beginnings Cleansing Song (Glen’s Song)

Once the guest of honor is welcomed into the longhouse, he is escorted on a bed of cedar branches to the Greg Williams Court where a feast ensues. The people share the first bite of salmon together as one tribe. 

“This first piece is representative of us all sharing the blessing of the yubəč,” said Salmon Ceremony leader, Glen Gobin, as he addressed the participants at the gym. “I ask that we all eat this piece at the same time together. Now, I’m going to ask that we all take our water and drink it together. This clear water represents the purity of life, and the lifegiving waters in which the salmon come from. Now I’m going to ask that we all eat this wonderful meal together.” 

After the meal, the people return the remains of the scout back to the waters so he can complete his journey back to the village of the Salmon People and tell his relatives about his journey to the sduhubš territory. To show their appreciation to the tribe for the special honoring, the salmon will travel to Tulalip Bay throughout the season to continue providing sustenance for the people. 

Derek Prather, Tulalip member and parent shared, “It’s a beautiful ceremony and I’m grateful to be able to share it with my kids, help cook the fish, and take part in the ceremony with the community. I’ve been doing it since I was my son’s age, 5 years old. My uncle was Stan Jones who helped restart the Salmon Ceremony, so it’s important to pass this on to my kids. I’m really grateful to see so many kids show up today. It warms my heart to see that.”

The following message is an excerpt from the 2023 Salmon Ceremony program:

This year’s Salmon Ceremony is dedicated to Donald ‘Penoke’ Hatch Jr. He was on the Tulalip Board of Directors for 27 years. And for every year he served on the board, he fought to keep the Salmon Ceremony and any activity for our youth alive here at Tulalip. Penoke was also on the Marysville School Board for 16 years to help keep our children in school. For all his hard work supporting our children, the Tribe named the new youth center gym after him. Our hands go up to him for all he has done for our tribe.


During the feast, and moments before taking a generational photo as a member of the king salmon carriers of the ceremony, Penoke shared a few words about the special honoring. He said, “Right now, I’m going through a lot with my health. I’m not feeling too good because of my cancer and the medicine I take. But it makes me feel good when I wake up in the morning to another day. Today was a really special day and it was tremendous for me. My life here on the reservation, all the cultural going-ons and all the things that I’ve done in my lifetime, it’s coming back to me. And I appreciate our people for recognizing me and the years that I participated in education, sports and just in our community. Our tribe has given us so many things that we need to appreciate more. We have to appreciate each other more. We have to love each other more than yesterday. That’s the most important thing.”

Large turnout for Stick Games Tournament 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Several dozen camping tents were set up throughout the northern parking lots of the Tulalip Resort Casino during the first weekend of June. The sound of traditional hand drums could be heard around the gaming establishment and luxury hotel.  The drum beats emanated from the center of the Tulalip Amphitheater where close to 1,000 people gathered for the Tulalip Tribe’s annual Stick Games Tournament. 

According to stories passed down generation after generation, stick games was originally introduced to the Northwest coastal tribes and First Nations Bands thousands of years ago. The traditional game, also known as bone games, slahal, hand games, and lahal, was created as a way to settle intertribal disputes such as the rights to hunting and fishing grounds, and also as a means to prevent warfare between tribes. And while each tribe and band have different stories pertaining to stick games, the origin of the game is consistent throughout the region. Tribal nations agree that the game was gifted and taught to the people by the Indigenous wildlife of our territory. 

Requiring the skill and mastery of deception and distraction, the game is initiated by two opposing teams that consist of three to five players. During gameplay, the team’s alternate turns, and sticks are used to keep score throughout the contest. A set of bones is discreetly distributed amongst the team that is in-play and the opposing squad must correctly guess where the bones are hidden and how many pieces the player has concealed in their hands. While the bones change hands between teammates, the team sings traditional family songs to distract their opponents from seeing who is in possession of the bones. The team with the most correct amount of guesses wins the game and advances to the next round. 

In addition to bones and sticks, there are a number of unofficial game pieces that each team utilizes to their advantage during a stick game tournament. Such items include foldable lawn chairs, so that teams can quickly set-up against their opponents and move and play about the grounds; pull-over hoodies, blankets, and bandanas are used to cover a player’s hands to prevent opponents from seeing where the bones are placed. Of course, traditional hand-drums and rattles are used to distract the rival team while the bones are in-play.

“I’m happy to be back here playing at Tulalip,” said Lummi tribal member, Tavis Washington Jr. “I am a 5th generation stick game player, but it’s been a part of my family since the beginning of time. It always feels great to come out to this event and see all the people who I [know] and meet new people too. My favorite part of the game is winning, I like when my team or my family wins.” 

For observers and players alike, a highlight of the Tulalip Tribes annual Stick Games Tournament is supporting Indigenous owned businesses as local artists and chefs set up shop at the amphitheater throughout the weekend. This year a vast amount of vendors were scattered throughout the amphitheater’s grounds, including several Tulalip entrepreneurs. 

Josh Fryberg’s clan sold their signature smoked salmon as well as a selection of hoodies and t-shirts, Jared’s CORNer was popping as many stopped by the food truck to grab a bag of kettle corn, Winona Shopbell-Fryberg had a beautiful array of her family’s beaded jewelry for sale, and Angel and Amber Cortez’s kids operated the ‘Traveler’s Drinks & Grub To-Go’ food truck to help raise funds for a trip to Washington D.C. this fall. Other items for purchase at the tournament included Indian tacos, snow cones, and Native-designed clothing, blankets, and accessories. 

The participants of the Tulalip Stick Games Tournament competed for the chance to walk away with some scrilla in their pockets. With a total payout of $60,000 this year, many cash prizes were awarded throughout the three-day event, including the grand prize of $25,000. In addition to the main competition, several mini matches were also held during the tournament such as the three-man tournament and the kid’s tournament.

Jennie Fryberg, Tulalip Stick Games Tournament Committee member, shared, “I’m so happy our Tribe hosts tribal events for our people. We hosted 145 teams for Saturday’s five-man tournament and 115 teams for Sunday’s three-man tournament! Congratulations to Martin Hannigan’s (Muckleshoot) five-man team for winning first place in the big tournament Saturday night. It was an amazing weekend full of friendship, good food, and beautiful art by Native vendors. Hands up to my sister Carrie Fryberg for making this event happen. Can’t wait for next year’s event!”

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.