Rise of the Ribbon Skirt

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over the past decade, there’s been a shimmering surge in the popularity of Native American ribbon skirt making. These skirts, which are decorated with vibrantly colored ribbons and patterns that hold spiritual and cultural significance, have become an important symbol of Native identity and resilience. For Native American women, ribbon skirts are not only a bold fashion statement but also a powerful tool for cultural reawakening, community building, political activism, and economic empowerment.

At the heart of the ribbon skirt movement is a deep connection to tradition and culture. Ribbon skirts have been worn by Native women for generations and hold deep spiritual significance for many tribal communities across Turtle Island. They were often worn for important occasions such as powwows, weddings, potlatches, and other ceremonies.

Today, a new generation of modern matriarchs are literally sewing together past teachings with a shared identity of culture that isn’t afraid to create new traditions. Such is the case with owner and operator of Morning Star Creations, Nina Gobin. 

“There’s a lot of Natives reconnecting to the culture nowadays because being an Indigenous person in 2023 is much more welcoming than it was for past generations,” said Nina. “Many of our ancestors feared the consequences if they didn’t hide their culture, but now we’re in an era of empowering diversity. Native people can wear something like a ribbon skirt or ribbon shirt and be told, “Oh wow. That’s badass!” just by being proud enough to represent who they are and where they come from.”

The inspiring 23-year-old Tulalip tribal member learned the fundamentals of ribbon skirt making from her regalia making teacher Lisa Powers while attending Northwest Indian College five years ago. Afterwards, she received additional guidance from locally renowned ribbon skirt maker Winona Shopbell. Nina used the teachings of Lisa, Winona, and countless YouTube sewing tutorials to create a ribbon skirt style all her own. 

With each hand-made skirt she made and sold came a boost to her confidence and belief in ability to create something that was equal parts culture, fashion, and art. 

The rise of ribbon skirt making has led to economic empowerment for Native women, such is the case with Nina, who can circumvent typical manufacturing methods by creating these ribbon wonders in the comfortable environment of home. By creating and selling their skirts online or at local vendor markets, they are able to support themselves and their families while sharing their culture with others.

Sharing the gift of her skillset she developed from making and selling 200+ skirts over the last few years is a traditional teaching Nina takes seriously. Which is why she committed a weekend in February to welcome Native women willing to learn the basics of ribbon skirt making into her home and primary manufacturing space. 

Surrounded by fabric galore, ribbon that spanned the color spectrum, and all the sewing essentials they needed, a group of local women received a crash course in ribbon skirt 101. Their instructor, Nina Gobin.

“Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever sewn anything in my life,” shared 31-year-old Britney Craig as she intently sewed metallic pink ribbon onto her floral-patterned skirt. “Learning to make ribbon skirts is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I actually bought a sewing machine five years ago and was intent on learning then, but life happened and I wasn’t able to. When I heard Nina was offering this class, I was so thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.”

Throughout their day together spent sewing machine troubleshooting, learning how to undo simple mistakes and creating vibrantly colored youth skirts, the ladies discussed the significance of ribbon skirts to the greater culture at large. Like how the use of ribbons in the skirts reflects the importance of color and design in the variety of Native culture, from coastal and woodland to pueblo and plains, with each ribbon symbolizing a specific meaning or purpose.

The group also discussed how cool it is to see high profiled Native women like Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota Peggy Flanagan wear ribbon skirts on the national stage. Showcasing the strength of the ribbon is also something Tulalip’s own Deb Parker and Theresa Sheldon have routinely been intentional about when they are visiting various state and tribal delegations seeking support for their boarding school healing coalition. 

“I like how it’s becoming mainstream for all the gals to wear ribbon skirts,” said Teresa Jira while cutting her assortment of ribbon to the desired length. “These skirts are basically a representation of our shared culture and are no longer designated for ceremony only, but instead is like an everyday norm to empower girls and women all across the country. And that’s the point because when the general public sees our culture in the mainstream, whether its expressed through cedar or wool or ribbon, it’s powerful representation that we’re still here, adapting and thriving.”

The rise of ribbon skirts has also become a symbol of political activism for Native women. They have been worn at protests and rallies, representing the strength and resilience of Native women in the face of ongoing struggles for social and environmental justice. By wearing ribbon skirts, they are asserting their presence and voice in the world, while fiercely standing up for the rights of their communities.

Overall, the ribbon skirt movement is a powerful expression of culture and identity. For Tulalip women specifically, the act of making and wearing ribbon skirts is a way to honor their traditions, connect with their community, and assert their presence in the world. As this movement continues to grow and gain momentum, the ribbon skirt will continue to serve as an important symbol of Native identity. 

“Ribbon skirts represent a good balance of traditional practices and the ability to adapt and evolve with changing times,” explained Nina. “A good way to view them is through the same culturally artistic lens we use to view painters, beaders, weavers, and carvers. Our Native artists all have their own unique style that continues to adapt to new technologies and changing buyer markets. The styles and colors and textures may vary, but at the end of the day we all are trying to represent our people and culture in a good way.”

Art from the Heart: Marysa Joy’s Creations brings traditional art into the digital era

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News,; photos courtesy of Marysa Sylvester

Approximately twenty young adults prepared for a 1.7 mile run, beginning at the Mission Beach approach and ending at the Tulalip Dining Hall on the afternoon of September 30, 2021. Although nearly a year-and-a-half ago, this day was significant for the people of Tulalip as they took time to honor and remember their ancestors who endured the atrocities committed during the boarding school era.

The group of young women and men served as the torch bearers to officially kick-off the first annual Residential Boarding School Awareness Day gathering. Collectively, they resembled a flame as they blazed along the trail known as Totem Beach Road, in orange t-shirts, an intertribal symbol that helps raise awareness to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. And everybody who attended the event received their very own orange t-shirt to commemorate the emotional and historic day. 

With hundreds in attendance, there were orange shirts as far as the eye could see, and they all bore a design of a hummingbird and a flower in traditional form line. Many began their healing process that day, from the trauma that has trickled down the generations since the time of boarding schools and forced assimilation. Each person would walk away from that event with something tangible that they can look back on whenever they incorporate that t-shirt into their daily ensemble – a Marysa Joy Sylvester exclusive. 

“I actually started drawing in 2020, right when COVID hit,” said Marysa. “That’s when I got my first iPad and Apple pencil. I was pregnant then and I was just drawing all the time. I was really nervous to share any of my pieces with anyone. Orange Shirt Day was one of my first designs that I really shared with the community. I was honored to be able to share that work, and to see everyone wearing it was unreal for me. It was humbling and exciting, and honestly just a really good moment, because I knew that was the first big event for Orange Shirt Day.” 

Ever since her artwork was introduced to the public, people have been eager to get their hands on the designs created by the Tulalip and Quileute artist. In a year’s time, Marysa went from being hesitant to share her work to becoming a well-known and highly in-demand artist whose digital art has inspired other tribal members to break out their tablets and create designs of their own. If you are able to take a moment to scroll through her Instagram profile, @MarysaJoysCreations, you will be impressed at her ability to incorporate traditional art with modern technology. 

She shared, “When I used to draw, I felt it was not that good. I would start a project with pencil and paper, touch on it and move on. But when I picked up my iPad, it gave me more freedom and flexibility. The app I use is Procreate and it’s pretty similar to actually drawing on pen and paper, but it’s a little bit easier for you to undo any mistake you make. I think that really helped me start again. It was different, it felt good, and I was more inspired to express from my heart, rather than just trying to be good at drawing.” 

Working with the youth for nearly her entire adult life, previously at the Marysville School District and currently with the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, a major driving force behind her art is ensuring that Native kids are able to see themselves in her designs. Furthermore, she takes time to translate words into Lushootseed and incorporates the Tribe’s traditional language into her work to help children identify things like animals, fruit, body parts, weather, and a handful of phrases, all in the dialect of their ancestors. Marysa also utilizes her drawings to bring attention to issues and causes happening across Native America such as Orange Shirt Day and the MMIW/P epidemic.

“When I’m making those MMIW and Every Child Matters designs, I usually start off with a feeling. I’m conveying the feeling that I want other people to experience when they look at it. When I made the Orange Shirt Day design, I remember thinking of the kids, and how important our kids are, and how bright they are in our community. That was something I set out to convey in those pieces – how much they mean to us.” 

She continued, “I did a collection of posters with animals, sea animals, and body parts and had a ton of people reach out to me to ask if they could put them up at their schools or the centers they work at. That was amazing. The first one, the Safe Space poster, was distributed to the whole Tribe and I was really proud of that. I end up creating a bunch of free resources for teachers, because it’s so hard to find those [culture-based] resources as an educator. I remember as a student, when I would see those types of things in my classroom or at my school, I would get so excited. Being able to provide that is really important to me. And personally, I am a visual learner, so I think that will help students – pairing the Lushootseed with the art.”

Although Marysa’s journey with digital art is a fairly new endeavor, she is no stranger to creating Indigenous art pieces. In fact, she grew up learning the art of weaving, a skill passed down from her grandmothers on both sides of her family. And even with her newfound love of drawing, Marysa is still passionate about weaving and enjoys taking on projects such as cedar hats and graduation caps. 

  She explained, “I was always told to put your heart into your work and your good intentions. That is something that I do with my cedar weavings and in my digital art too. I got serious about weaving in 2015. Before that I had done a couple of projects with my grandma, but I really started weaving at the Senior Center. They have a basket weaving group of about six or seven elders, my grandma, her sister, and few other people. I started one of my baskets there, and after that I really got into it. I was making cedar medallions, cedar earrings, cedar caps. But when I got pregnant, I needed to take a break from it. 

“I was weaving a lot up until 2020, and I recently started it up again. I learned a lot about weaving from my grandma Joy and my grandma Mary. It’s been so cool to learn from both sides of my family, and they shared a connection as well and would go to weaving conferences together. And my dad (Harvey Eastman) also weaves. He’s an artist too.”

When picking up that Apple pencil, little did Marysa know that she would turn a COVID lockdown hobby into a full-blown business. Harnessing her genuine love for the work she does, matched with a personable and outgoing  personality, Marysa Joy’s Creations has come a long way from eye-catching Facebook and Instagram posts. Her designs can be seen all throughout the reservation, on water tumblers, sweatshirts, stickers, posters, phone cases, or iron-on patches. 

This past month, she officially launched her very own website, www.MarysaJoysCreations.com, where all her products are available for purchase. On the website you can find free digital Lushootseed posters, and you also have the option to place custom request orders. 

Said Marysa, “Someone actually just reached out to me for a tattoo design, which I was really amazed by. People have reached out about the Senior Luncheon design and the Orange Shirt Day design. So, if anyone stumbles upon me, they can reach out to me on the website if they want anything that is customized or specific to them. I’ve also done a couple logos for small businesses as well.”

You may recognize Marysa’s signature designs on the logos for other tribal member-owned businesses, including Shaylene Henry’s Coastal Sweets and Treats, Kwani Sanchey’s Sacred Skincare, and Nina Gobin’s Morning Star Creations. 

Marysa has a number of projects on the horizon that are sure to showcase her work with the Coast Salish art staples: trigons, ovoids, and crescents. Most recently, she received a shipment of seven colorful bolts of fabric, all of which feature her designs and can be used to create items such as regalia and ribbon skirts. The fabric that is currently available for sale includes dinosaurs, strawberries, moons, bear tracks accompanied with the slogan ‘Land Back’, flowers, and hummingbirds, with the promise of many more designs to come. 

She stated, “I’ve been really working on my repeating patterns, because those can go on anything. They can go on blankets, they can go on fabric, they can go on backpacks. When I make those designs, I try to make them really bright and happy. I try to express my heart through whatever I’m drawing in the moment, and I like things that make you feel happy when you look at them.” 

When asked what her top three favorite designs are so far, she mentioned one of her recent works, a cedar basket-themed piece that includes the message ‘Respect Our Ancestors’ in both English and Lushootseed, as well as the floral tattoo-esque design that reads ‘Honor Your Ancestors.’ And the Senior Luncheon commission that is a re-creation of a photograph of a young Marysa and her grandma offering prayers to the spirit of a cedar tree.  

It is clear to see that Marysa Joy’s Creations is resonating with tribal members throughout the Northwest region. And locally, the people of Tulalip are proud to say that Marysa’s art is a strong representation of the Tribe’s cultural lifeways, which is depicted in every single design that she creates. 

“I honestly draw all the time,” Marysa said. “Any free time I get, I draw. Digital art is now a big part of my life, I find it really soothing, calming, peaceful, and it’s a really good way to express yourself. You’ve got to be in a good place when you’re doing it. Sometimes if I need a break, I’ll step away and recharge myself and wait a bit before I pick it back up. I feel so good about the work that I put out and what it conveys, I am extremely grateful.”

Be sure to follow Marysa on all of your social media accounts to stay updated on her latest art pieces. She can be found on Facebook under the page titled Marysa Joy’s Weaving, and also on Instagram, @MarysaJoysCreations, as well as on TikTok as her Indian name, @Salsalitsa. And of course, her products for sale are available on her website. And as a reminder, that URL is www.MarysaJoysCreations.com.  

She expressed. “Overall, I think the vibe is to create and share resources that we can all use in our community. And I think it’s important to convey all those emotions and feelings with a good mind and a good heart.”

Hibulb diversifies kids’ knowledge through crafts

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On February 11th, like many other weekends at the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC), the classrooms were occupied with invested patrons looking to learn and understand aspects of Native culture. One of the classes consisted of a kids’ craft, creating a heart necklace made of cedar. 

The Hibulb enriches the lives of visitors through demonstrations, workshops, cultural presentations, and lectures. But the kids’ crafts can reach new audiences: families. 

Museum Assistant Braxton Wagner, who taught the class that day, said, “It is so much fun working with kids. I love to see their limitless creativity and their curiosity flourish. They can be so sweet. I feel like kids are so open and receptive to learning about different cultures and experiences of other people, and these classes are a great opportunity to teach them.”

A diverse gathering of parents and their children joined the class, where they each received a bag of cedar strips and other materials to make the cedar-woven heart necklace. The kids’ crafts typically are simple activities that they can finish together as a family within an hour or so. By extending out to families, projects like these can diversify kids’ knowledge about the many communities surrounding them and expose them to new cultures. 

When the families weren’t concentrating on the cedar project, kids played, and parents exchanged stories and smiles with each other. One of the parents in attendance was a Ph.D. candidate University of Washington Law and Indigenous Taiwanese citizen Margaret Tu (Nikal Kabala’an). Along with her studies of Indigenous peoples, Margaret has begun her travels across Washington to immerse herself in the culture of local tribes.

Margaret spoke about the beauty of Indigenous communities connecting, “We all have faced similar struggles. Colonization, forced relocation, laws around our language and culture, etc. But we also know the fight that we have for our people and cultural preservation. I hope to learn from the Indigenous communities around here, see what has been successful for them, and take that back to my people.”

She found it necessary to bring her kids along in her journey and attend the class, saying, “We don’t have this opportunity in Taiwan to connect with other Indigenous communities. There’s a cultural revitalization movement around us, and I want my kids to be a part of it. So I think exposing them to these educational and learning opportunities while we’re here is important. I know they enjoyed it.”

Studies have found great value in establishing diverse environments for youth. In 2019, the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health stated, “We tend to assume that inclusion alone creates respect for differences. However, it is active conversation and support for children’s understanding of diversity that guards against the development of the stereotypes and prejudice that contribute to biased behavior”.

Simple one-hour classes like these provide new exposure, conversations, and knowledge of our people and culture. 

For more information about HCC classes and events, visit their website at: www.hibulbculturalcenter.org/Events.

The Cupid Shuffle

Education Division shows love for the community with Valentine’s Day dance

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The lights were dim, and the music was bumping at the Greg Williams Court on the evening of February 14. Multi-colored strobe lights danced about the room in perfect sync with the music, and added to the aesthetic of both romance and good times on Valentine’s Day this year. 

Tables were stationed around a large space that served as a dancefloor at the head of the gym. While the one and only DJ Monie set the vibes at the start of the evening, families and couples slowly trickled in; some grabbed a plate first, while others lined up at the popcorn and balloon animal lines. And before anyone even knew it, the place was packed, and laughter was shared by all deadly aunties and uncles alike. 

This celebration on the National Day of Love was the first of its kind at Tulalip and was a big success. Hosted by the Tribe’s Education Division, the Community Valentine’s Day Dance had well over one hundred people in attendance, many of whom danced the night away. 

“I danced the entire time,” exclaimed Tulalip youth, Tashina Cortez. “There was Cupid’s Shuffle, Cotton Eye Joe, and I really liked Uptown Funk and the Cha-Cha Slide. I thought this was going to be a regular Valentine’s Day, exchange gifts with classmates and go home. But then I found out it was a dance, and it started getting really fun when people actually started to dance.”

Love birds, parents and children, cousins, and best friends showcased their affection for one another by spending some time and sharing a dance together during the Valentine’s Day gathering. In addition to dancing, there were various activities, including a cake walk and a door prize raffle.

The life of the party was a group of local elders who didn’t miss a step or leave the dancefloor for the duration of the three-hour event. A highlight for many was when a young man and a tribal elder broke the age barrier and joined together in a slow dance while a group of teens circled around them and swayed their phone flashlights back and forth, reminiscent of lighters at a rock concert. And just like that, tribal elders were on the floor with the teens learning how to do the stanky leg, the superman, and the nae nae. 

“We haven’t hosted an all-ages community dance in a long time, so that was really cool to see everyone excited about it,” said Executive Director of the Tulalip Education Division, Jessica Bustad. “It was awesome. It felt so good to see our community in a space together like that, for something positive and for everyone to just have fun. Add to the fact that there were little people all the way to elders dancing, and the elders even outlasted some of the adults!”

This year, February 14th was also Election Day. And as you may know, the Tulalip Education Division was a strong advocate for the levy on this year’s special election ballot, which affects Tulalip students who attend school within the Marysville School District.  Hoping to garner as many yes votes as possible before the 8:00 p.m. deadline, the Education Division took time throughout the dance to remind all eligible voters in attendance to cast their vote. 

Jessica expressed, “Hopefully the levy passes, but aside from the levy, we still have to keep coming together as a community in a positive way to show our children that we can live in a healthy community together.”

Ryan’s REZ-ipes named King 5 ‘Best Food Truck 2022’

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Ryan Gobin. 

It was nothing but love in the comment section of Ryan’s REZ-ipes’ most recent Facebook posts. While some fondly recollected about Ryan Gobin’s early beginnings inside the blue concession trailer in front of Tulalip Bay CrossFit gym, others listed their favorite dishes by one of the most in-demand food trucks and catering services in the Pacific Northwest. “I need me a shrimp n’ steak rice bowl,” said Magdelina Spencer. Jim and Rhenee Florian commented, “We were just there and had your nacho cheese smash burgers, kalbi burrito, fries and cinnamon sugary frybread. SO Good!”. And Melissa Peacock simply shared, “Those smash burgers… heaven!”

Among the hundreds of congratulatory comments, perhaps the most heartfelt came from some of Ryan’s fellow Tulalip community members who beamed with pride about his rise to fame in the food industry. Samantha Rose stated, “So great watching your growth! Great job Ryan!”. “Congratulations! It’s a blessing watching your journey. Keep growing your dreams,” encouraged Sunshine Jess. Elena Wilson, who also cooks on the 2022 Best Food Truck, shared, “Congratulations for all your hard work and dedication to loving the food you serve. [It] means a lot to everyone who shows up to the truck. You earned it, you the best.”

After years of service to his community as a Tulalip Police Officer, Ryan made the courageous decision to follow his lifetime passion in 2016 – a passion that was developed in his adolescent years and inspired by all the cooks within his very own family. After soaking up all the knowledge his family could offer in the art of cuisine, he began experimenting and creating his own recipes. Today, Ryan has thousands of devoted followers hailing from all across the country who love his unique and tasty dishes. 

“I am forever grateful and deeply appreciative for all the support I’ve been given by my family and friends from our Tulalip community for supporting me in my food truck journey,” Ryan shared. “I was recently nominated by King 5 Evening News as the number one food truck in Western Washington. It’s a huge achievement for me, because I’ve worked very hard over the past five years to get where I am today, and I never let anything stop me.”

Now don’t get it twisted, Ryan’s food could easily speak for itself – it is that delicious. However, he has worked his ass off ever since he decided to start his culinary endeavor, not only in the kitchen but on the business end as well. Over the years he went from a local trailer to an upgraded sleek blue food truck that travels around western Washington serving up the likes of frybread, truffle fries, pulled pork sandwiches and tacos, the ever-popular smash burgers, shrimp bowls and a variety of weekly specials and experimental dishes. In addition to investing in a new truck and cultivating a strong following, Ryan has also expanded his services to include catering for large parties to enjoy his food. He has also worked numerous corporate events, baby showers, weddings, and other gatherings. 

Said Ryan, “There have been many hurdles, failures, and lots of sacrifices over the years, but I kept pushing forward in a good way with passion and drive to show my kids and others that you can really do anything you put your mind to. The way I see it is this – if you give up because it gets difficult, it’ll never be a success. Never give up!”

The Tulalip chef and entrepreneur serves as an inspiration to many, and he is quick to share his success and guidance with those on the same career path. He humbly expressed, “To me, other food trucks or other food vendors are not my competition. We are all attempting to achieve the same goals – creating amazing foods and making others happy when they eat it, and also supporting our families at the same time. We should all support and help one another. Recently, I had the food truck at the Tulalip Amphitheater for the Lights and Ice Festival, that was such a beautifully set up event full of Tulalip tribal food vendors and everyone supported one another as a big family. That’s what it’s all about! It was all love and warmth together.”

To get an idea of how amazing it is to receive recognition from King 5’s Best in Western Washington Awards, Ryan joins the likes of PNW heavy hitters such as the best taco award winner, Taco Time, and the best burger award winner Dick’s Drive-In. If you have yet to experience the mouth-watering food at Ryan’s REZ-ipes, be sure to follow his Facebook and Instagram pages for the most up-to-date menu items and all the locations that they plan to visit.  

After winning the Best Food Truck of 2022 award, Ryan took to Facebook and shared, “This just goes to show how far you can get when you have an amazing support system at home, have a great team through the years, and never give up! Cheers to many more years of progress and expansions!”

Congratulations to Ryan and the entire Ryan’s REZ-ipes crew. We are excited to see what’s next up on the menu for his tribal member-owned business.

Holiday Indigenous gift guide

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

Whether you’re looking to maintain the culture within your family or step away from modern gift-giving styles, help make your holidays more Indigenous, one gift at a time.

With so many gift options during the holiday season, getting caught up in materialistic items can be very easy. Consumerism has taken over the holidays and monetized relationships within families. The modern world has stressed the idea that you can show someone how much you love them by showing them how much you spend. And these modern-day ideologies differ widely from our traditional roots. 

So, where do we start if we’re looking to switch up this holiday season? Break it down into four traditional-based gifting categories:

  • Teaching 
  • Time spent together
  • Handcrafted work
  • Indigenous-made products

Teaching various Indigenous crafts and skills has kept our culture thriving for many centuries. Gifting traditional teachings down to the next generation is a wonderful cultural present and is deeply rooted in the people we are. Examples of different teachings could be teaching someone how to hunt or fish, teaching our language, traditional song/dance, weaving, cooking Indigenous foods, storytelling, or creating specific crafts like paddles, hats, skirts, drums, earrings, etc. By doing this, you are gifting them a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives and generations to come. 

Taking a moment with your family and friends to teach them a culture-based skill coincides with the second gift option; spending time together. In the current environment, everyone and everything moves so quickly. Hanging out has turned into text messages exchanged, and face-to-face interactions have significantly dissolved. The hustle and bustle has made it difficult for people to spend quality time together. Being able to disconnect from the outside world and take time away from technology, off the tv, cell phones, social media, etc., allows for more intimate conversations and creates more meaningful quality time. Attending a cultural class, an Indigenous film festival, or an Indigenous-based restaurant are great ways to immerse yourself and your loved ones in culture. One thing that money will never be able to buy is time with the people closest to you. 

For many Indigenous artists, creating a handcrafted gift for a family member is invaluable. The act itself is something that certain Indigenous tribes have done for centuries. It’s how we thank each other, honor one another, and share pieces of ourselves. The different gifts reflect a lot of the artist at hand; the time, dedication, love, and medicine they put into their work and how it moves into the person receiving it. A pair of beaded earrings, some smoked salmon, a woven hat, or simply passing down a family heirloom. Knowing that someone took the time and effort to handcraft a gift specifically for you is something money cannot buy. 

If you are someone who hasn’t narrowed in on their craft just yet, supporting other Indigenous artists and stores is a great gift this holiday season. Not only can you find and give unique gifts this way, but you are also supporting the artist at hand. By purchasing from them, they can continue to buy more supplies, hone in on their craft, continue their work, and uplift our culture. Searching for hashtags like “#nativemade” and “#indigenousart” on Instagram and Facebook makes it easier to explore and find new Native artists and artwork to purchase. Similarly, websites like “eighthgeneration.com,” “indiancraftshop.com,” and “prairieedge.com” allow you to shop online for a variety of art from various Indigenous artists across the US. If you want to support specifically from local Indigenous artists, you can also find in-person Native Bazaars in many tribal territories.

As we navigate this modern world, our people have found creative ways to Indigenize different aspects of our lives. By doing so, culture isn’t just an activity but instead is carried with us in everything we do. We have taken holidays like Columbus Day and reclaimed it as Indigenous Peoples Day, and Thanksgiving and reclaimed it as National Day of Mourning. Straying away from materialistic items and Indigenizing the way our people gift this season is just another example of that. 

Mark Your Calendars: Holiday Powwow happening December 17

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With the arrival of snow, the amazing display of lights at the Tulalip Amphitheater, children on their best behavior in hopes to score big this year, and Mariah Carey blasting from speakers at just about every retail store you visit, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This time of year is special for local Indigenous families and their students who attend the Marysville School District (MSD) because Tulalip is home to an annual gathering where Christmas and culture collide. 

Previously held on a consecutive basis before the pandemic hit, the Tulalip Education Division and the MSD Indian Education Department’s annual holiday powwow makes its official return on Saturday, December 17th. Many are anticipating the sound of jingle dresses and regalia to help celebrate the holiday season, accompanied of course by the deep and beautiful tone of the round drum. 

At holiday powwows of Christmas past, hundreds of people took part in this festive occasion. Whether they hit the dancefloor for the fancy, shawl, jingle or couple’s dances, sang in one of the multiple drum circles, visited with St. Nicholas at Santa’s Workshop, perused the numerous vendor stands for the perfect Christmas gift, or participated in the ever popular cake walk, attendees experienced the Christmas spirit first-hand, Indigenous style. And after the event was postponed for two years in a row, everyone is excited to gather for the holiday powwow in all its splendor once again.

“The foundation of our powwow is to uplift the hearts and spirits of our community,” expressed MSD Native Liaison, Zee Jimicum. “Gathering is a very healing tradition that our people deeply value. Being together keeps us connected. The challenge to stay connected during the pandemic was exacerbated for our communities because we couldn’t gather. We are looking forward to reconnecting with our families and community as we gather to celebrate life. I am not the only one looking forward to our 7th annual holiday powwow, our team is excited to bring our community together again!”

The holiday powwow takes place at the Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium and the Marysville-Tulalip Campus from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Grand Entry is set to begin at 6:00 p.m. This is a catered event and food will be available to all who shows. Arlie Neskahi is locked in as the Powwow MC, Rocking Horse will serve as Host Drum, and the honor of Head Man and Head Woman is held by Devon Bluehorse and Isabelle Jefferson respectively. Since dinner will be provided, there will be no food vendors, but if you are interested hosting a vendor stand there is a $40 fee with a limit of one six-foot table (must bring own table). 

For additional vendor information, please contact Zee Jimicum at (425) 232-0166 or Zenitha_Jimicum@msvl.k12.wa.us. And for further questions, feel free to reach out to Matt Remle at (360) 965-2100 or Matthew_Remle@msvl.k12.wa.us, as well as Terrance Sabbas at (206) 484-6907 or Terrace_Sabbas@msvl.k12.wa.us. 

Indigenous café opens in Seattle

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On November 29, the ?ál?al Café by Chief Seattle Club (CSC) opened in the heart of Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Unlike the other 300+ cafes in Seattle, ?ál?al Café disrupts this metropolitan lifestyle by reclaiming and reintroducing traditional Indigenous foods in a modern café setting. CSC’s ideologies and the basis of their work are to uplift our culture across North America and support unhoused Natives in Seattle. 

In addition to the Café’s full espresso bar, ?ál?al offers quick-serve cuisine highlighting Indigenous ingredients from all over North America. The café strives to use elements that predate colonial descent, including Great Plains’ bison, the Southwest’s Three Sisters, the Northwest’s salmon, etc. These Indigenous foods have been carefully procured by selected indigenous-owned companies and suppliers across the continent. Some ingredients and food products were displayed and available for purchase, along with Indigenous-made cookbooks for customers to take home and try for themselves. 

So often in the modern world, we see restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, and markets covering various cultures, yet Indigenous culture is still often overlooked and ignored. But as many cultures across the US proclaim, representation matters.

The café manager Anthony Johnson agreed, saying, “We want to decolonize the food industry. You look at areas like Chinatown and see a massive district full of vibrant culture and community. We believe that as this land’s first peoples, we should be no different. It is important to have representation and for our people to be seen. We want Native folks to come in, feel like they control themselves, and can call this place a home.”

Along with consuming delicious foods and drinks at their live edge spruce-made tables, patrons also enjoyed the handcrafted and curated Indigenous artworks displayed all over the café. The art is also set to change seasonally throughout the year and feature different artists. Shown on the center wall of the café is a 3-D mural collage of Chief Seattle, an eagle, Mt. Rainier, a canoe, basketry, salmon, etc. Additionally, on the street-facing windows, a display of translucent salmon artwork is visible for bypassers to see.

In the background, customers will hear singing, drums, and various Indigenous music. With this idyllic atmosphere, decolonization expands from food and drink to Indigenous conversations, artwork, and spaces. Their website says, “Connection to traditional dishes goes beyond taste and conversations around the dinner table. Food connects us to our culture; to our Indigenous roots and identity.”

Anthony also spoke about how the storefront acts as a bridge from Native communities to the public, “It opens up a broader conversation for people. If they see some characters, glottal stops, or linguistics marks from our language that they don’t understand or don’t know how to pronounce, it opens up new discussions. People will become more curious about the language of the Puget Sound, how we speak it, and what it means.”

The name ‘?ál?al’ derives from the Lushootseed language that is Native to this land, and the definition of it means ‘home.’ Currently, the café employs an entire Indigenous staff with a few job openings still available. ?ál?al Café is located on the ground floor of their landmark Native urban permanent housing complex that CSC constructed with 80 units in January earlier this year. The residence provides housing for struggling Native Americans to find connections and stability. According to CSC, in 2022, Native Americans face the highest poverty rate than any racial group in King County, with over 15% of the homeless community being American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Being involved with CSC for over 12 years, Anthony said, “A vast majority of Seattleites ignore or turn a blind eye to the housing security crisis. But we want our communities to take action. This is just one of the ways to help. Come in, have a cup of coffee, and think deeply about the issues that the city and our people are facing.”

100% of the Café’s net profit will go back into the 501(c)(3) organization and support the work for unhoused Native people. Private donations are a significant source for the non-profit; they always look for donors and people to get involved. You can visit ?ál?al Café at 122 2nd Ave S. Seattle, WA 98104, Tuesday-Friday from 6:30 AM – 2:30 PM. For more information, please visit their website at: www.alalcafe.org.

Quil Ceda Village presents ‘Lights & Ice’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Millions of dazzling Christmas lights make Quil Ceda Village (QCV) impossible to miss for an endless number of passers-by driving along I-5 this holiday season. The beautiful illuminations, which span the entire color spectrum, provide a timely electric décor wrapping towering trees and ground level shrubbery at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Bingo and Tulalip Amphitheatre properties.

“This is years is in the making,” explained QCV general manager Martin Napeahi. “We’ve been thinking of different events we could have at our Tulalip Amphitheatre for families. Last year, we partnered with Blue Line Entertainment to sponsor a skating rink at the Everett waterfront. After seeing the success of that rink, we decided to bring it here to Quil Ceda Village.

“The atmosphere is electric. It brings added excitement for our customers at the outlet mall and guests at the casino to have another way to experience the holiday season,” continued Martin. “This Ice & Lights event is really geared towards our families and is a fun, festive experience for all to enjoy. Between the food vendors and craft vendors, this is an opportunity for our tribal entrepreneurs to make some extra cash. It’s a really great feeling to be able to bring this to our community and help boost the local economy.” 

An additional boost of excitement invigorated the local community during the debut of an ice-skating rink at the amphitheater, located between the Resort Casino and Seattle Premium Outlets. Tulalip families and friends were afforded the privilege of first skate on the evening of November 21st after a proper opening ceremony held by Tulalip and QCV leadership.

While some ventured around outside in search of the perfect family Christmas photo, others sought their first ever experience at ice skating. The enthusiastic naivety of Elementary-aged children rushing to put their skates on and hit the man-made glacier provided smiles, candid photo moments, and a laugh or two by elders seeing the kids quickly plunk to their butts on the ice.

Present to witness the ceremonial switching on of the lights was Patrick Walker of Gig Harbor, owner and operator of P. Walker Inc. who was contracted to install QCV’s electric atmosphere.

“Tulalip’s entire Quil Ceda Village display entails 3.1 Million lights. There’s two million at the casino, eight-hundred thousand in the amphitheater and another two-hundred thousand at the bingo hall,” said Patrick. “Timeline-wise, we started on October 3rd and worked seven days a week up until November 22nd. I’d estimate it was about six-thousand man hours in total from an average crew of 15-18 hardworking guys. We had nothing but good experiences working with the Tribe, and I can attest to the fact that in the entire state of Washington there’s not another light display bigger.”

Open to the public now until January 8th, QCV’s ‘Lights & Ice’ is set to feature a variety of food vendors, craft vendors, weekend Dickens Carolers, and even cameos by Santa and Mrs. Clause. For more information and hours of specific festivities, please visit www.quilcedavillage.com

Make Tulalip your shopping destination this holiday

Ronnie McClellan.

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

David Fryberg.

The holiday and gift-giving season officially kicked off with the annual Native Bazaar, held November 11-13. The Tulalip community showed up in droves as various tribal vendors sold their handmade crafts, baked goods, and art pieces. 

This year’s event was tied for the largest Bazaar Tulalip has had thus far, with over 50 vendors committed. The event also needed a new place to settle into as the vendor list expanded and their collections grew. Ultimately, event coordinator Tammy Taylor, moved the bazaar from the gym to the Gathering Hall.

Tammy Taylor.

“This year was so successful. We had so many great vendors, and many of them sold out. Many of our membership, customers, and non-Natives were also in awe of how beautiful the Gathering Hall is. There really is no other building like this close to us, it is our sacred spiritual home, and it feels so good to have shared the bazaar there,” Tammy said. 

A highlight of Native bazaars is that you find highly sought-after cultural pieces like drums, rattles, dreamcatchers, beaded jewelry, ribbon skirts, cedar hats, etc. Items like these are sacred to our culture and community that you can’t find in a typical retail environment. Even though the event is open to all, it creates a safe place for Native artists to sell their handmade crafts and keep them within our community. 

Margaret Henry Hayes.

Specialty goods like salves, lemongrass soaps, and local berry baked goods represent our community’s desire to maintain our traditional ways while adapting to a modern world. Some vendors carried out this thinking style by turning dreamcatchers into crib mobiles, adding small cedar roses to store-bought home décor, transforming cedar dolls into Christmas tree toppers, or simply using acrylic and contemporary materials for their craft making.

Ultimately, curating these crafts, goods, and art stems from our traditional ways. As seen at many of the bazaar booths, these traditional art forms are usually multi-generational. They illustrate the ways of our people, passing down a skill and cultural practice from one generation to the next. Some of these pieces become less about the works themselves and more about the family teachings, cultural preservation, time spent together, and bonds built with our people. Elders and master artists hold a special place in our community because of their experience and expertise; learning from them, purchasing their work, and sharing this time with them helps build room for our culture in the future.  

Natosha Gobin.

Tribal member and master weaver Lance Taylor has over 30 years of weaving experience. His work can be found all over the community at weaving workshops, but more importantly, within his home. Lance has shared this art form with his family to preserve weaving and as a part of his legacy. 

“Weaving has been a part of my family for some time; my great-grandmother was a weaver and made baskets out of fern and cedar roots. I’m glad my family could pick it back up and pass it down to our grandchildren. That’s what it’s all about, passing it down to the next generation. There’s a sense of pride looking at our community wear our work,” Lance said. 

The Kane family.

Tribal member Ronnie McClellan was seen selling handcrafted star quilts at the bazaar but gave full credit to his aunt and her friends. Like many other tribal artists, they consider their work a family business. Ronnie’s aunt and friends spend their days making quilts, and Ronnie will sell them for them at bazaars and community events. 

“My family used to buy her quilts as gifts for people. But I wanted to help more. It’s such beautiful work, and there’s a lot of medicine in them. You can feel all the prayer, love, and passion that my aunt and her friends have for their work through the blankets. In our culture, it’s an honor to be blanketed and receive this medicine. It’s humbling, and I feel honored to represent her lifelong work. I love seeing people’s smiling faces when they buy a quilt, and I know they will cherish it.”

If you missed November’s Native Bazaar, don’t fret, you can support these Native artists and more at the next Native Bazaar, December 9-11, at the Gathering Hall. The event will also expand for more tribal vendors to join, so if you have any questions, please call Tammy Taylor at 425-501-4141.