Teaching Lushootseed to future Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“This is my third year with Lushootseed and I’m now realizing how much healing that the kids are getting from learning the language,” said Tulalip Lushootseed Language Instructor, Oceana Alday. “It’s beautiful to watch because I don’t think they realize that they are ones who are revitalizing the language that our ancestors once spoke.”

For nearly three generations, the Lushootseed Language department has been on a mission to reintroduce the ancestral Coast Salish language back into lifeways of modern day Tulalip. Recently the program made local headlines by helping bring back Lushootseed classes to Marysville-Pilchuck High School (MP) and also instructing those classes. This news is especially important for Tulalip students who wish to continue studying the vernacular of their people. Most present day Tulalip youth began their educational journey with Lushootseed many years ago, around the ages of 3 and 4-years-old at the Tulalip Montessori. 

During the early 1990’s, a seed was planted in the name of cultural revitalization when the development of the Lushootseed Language department came to fruition. With only two staff members initially, Toby Langen and Hank Gobin, the department set out to build a foundation by teaching their community the words, phrases and pronunciation of the language that Snohomish people spoke since the beginning of time. After colonization, forced assimilation and the years of generational trauma that followed, the cultural resurgence appeared to be much needed within the Tulalip community and ever since, the language has served as a great source of medicine for the people.

“To me, the language means that we are speaking what our ancestors used to speak. We are bringing it back,” said Tulalip Lushootseed Program Manager, Michele Balagot. “The program was developed in 1993 and we’ve taught it in schools since. It was one class when they first started teaching. We’ve grown from four teachers and six classes to fourteen language teachers and well over thirty classes; two at MP, two at Heritage, two college level classes. There are four or five classes at Quil Ceda Tulalip [Elementary], and  we teach fourteen, birth-to-three classrooms and ten preschool classrooms at the academy.”

When the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) first opened in 2015, the Lushootseed Language classes resumed for most of the Montessori and ECEAP students. However, over time, as both programs continued to grow, the demand for more language within the classroom rose quickly and resulted in the hiring of new Lushootseed instructors, who are also commonly referred to as Language Warriors.

“We thought we should be teaching them young because this is when they are developing their brains,” Michele explained. “If they start hearing Lushootseed from the beginning of their education, they’ll learn the sounds and know some of the words. On the preschool side, we are focused on teaching them sentences so when they get to elementary school, they can work more on phrases. And in junior high and high school, they’ll be able to have full conversations.”

Perhaps due to the success of the preschool age classes, or simply a desire to ensure the language is embedded into the young minds of future Tulalip leaders, TELA joined forces with the language department in 2017 to implement a new component into their curriculum known as language immersion. Today, every TELA student receives daily language lessons each morning, Monday through Thursday, and for the first time that includes the birth-to-three age group. 

“It’s pretty exciting working with the birth-to-three level,” said Language Warrior, Thomas Williams. “It’s amazing seeing them express what they’ve learned. I’ll hold up a flash card and they’ll quickly respond with the word in Lushootseed. The last couple of weeks we’ve been doing traditional stories. Usually, I go in and sing a handful of songs with them. But we tried something a little more progressive for their age group where we get them to listen to a story. We did a felt board story and for that age, it took two weeks introducing them to the characters with flash cards and mini games. They’ve already memorized the characters. And going through the stories, they are starting to express what the characters are doing and what’s going to happen to them by the end of the story, all in the language.”

While the youngest tribal members get more acquainted with the basics of the verb-based language, the big kids on the preschool side of the academy fine-tune what they’ve learned.  By participating in a language warm-up exercise at the start of each class, they use flashcards to identify a number of animals and marine life before starting their daily lesson complete with songs, stories and games conducted entirely in Lushootseed. 

“We did Lushootseed today,” exclaimed TELA Student, Anastasia Clower. “We learned the words for octopuses, crabs, clams, sea lions. My favorite Lushootseed word is bəsqʷ, which means crab. I don’t like to eat bəsqʷ, but they are still really cool. I’m going to the beach on my birthday and I’m going to look for some bəsqʷ and I’m going to try to catch a sʔuladxʷ (salmon) too. I can’t wait!”

“I know sup̓qs and bəsqʷ, those mean seal and crab!” enthusiastically added fellow TELA student, Elaina Luquin. “I also know Lushootseed songs, not all of them but a lot of them. I sing them at my home too. My mom has the story about the bəsqʷ and we sing it together. I really like it a lot.”

Although still early in the process of the language immersion project, hearing Lushootseed from tribal youth at such young age is incredible. Paired with the Academy’s monthly culture day, which the language department frequently assists with, tribal students are building up a strong sense of pride in their Coast Salish identity and heritage. 

“I’m just so grateful that our teachers and our children are so in love with the culture and the language; we just keep doing the work and it keeps growing,” said TELA Director Sheryl Fryberg at a recent culture day event.

By offering classes to the Academy, the language department is setting the stage for their next generation of Tribal leaders. By partnering with TELA and participating in the language immersion curriculum this is the first time, since perhaps the pre-colonial era, that Lushootseed will be present during multiple stages of a young sduhubš life’s journey, beginning at birth and ideally extending to their college years and beyond.

“We are building a foundation for future speakers,” expressed Lushootseed Language Warrior, Lois Landgrebe. “It makes me feel hopeful when we get them to reply first in Lushootseed instead of in English. It can be a slow process, but it’s bringing our Native language forward in their comprehension, when that happens its promising.”

  The ultimate goal for the department is to have a future generation of language warriors who can speak Lushootseed fluently, and will do their part to ensure the language never dies. Therefore, the Lushootseed department would like to send out a friendly challenge for all Tulalip community members to speak Lushootseed to the youth as often as possible.  

“It’s a very hard language to learn but it’s rewarding to hear the students speaking it,” Michele stated. “It’s very important not only for us adults, but for the kids to carry it on so we don’t lose it. We encourage everybody, when you see the kids, to speak to them in Lushootseed, so they know they can practice the language whenever they wish and that it’s not only meant to be used for school. Greet them in the language of our people and I know you’ll be surprised to hear their response.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Lushootseed Language department at (360) 716-4499 or visit their website www.TulalipLushootseed.com

TELA and Imagine Children’s Museum bring STEM to future leaders

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“I love science a lot because it makes me happy,” exclaimed young Taliah Bradford. “I like doing experiments at school with my friends.”

Every Friday the pre-school students of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) gather in the Deer classroom for Little Science Lab to learn about the wondrous world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Sitting crisscross applesauce, the students give their undivided attention to Ms. Pam, of the Imagine Children’s Museum, as she guides them through thirty minutes of hands-on activities where they learn how the universe operates.

On the morning of January 31, the kids hurried to their seats to learn about one of Mother Earth’s elements, air. As she began her lesson, Ms. Pam asked the students the name of the layer of air and gasses that encompasses the earth, hinting they learned about it during their last class. Once it clicked, the students all called out together, ‘the atmosphere’. 

“It’s amazing to see these young 3 and 4-year-olds use advanced science vocabulary,” stated Teddy Dillingham, Imagine Children’s Museum newly appointed Grants Manager and former Director of Education. “They are using that vocabulary correctly and are remembering everything. That’s really helping set them up for future success in school because it’s building their confidence and their love for STEM.”

The idea of the Little Science Labs began back in 2017 when Tulalip Charitable Fund Director, Marilyn Sheldon, encouraged the children’s museum to apply for funding through the Charitable Fund, and bring some of their experiments to the children of Tulalip. 

“We’re really grateful for the Tulalip Tribes, they’ve been a longtime supporter of the museum and it seemed like a really great fit,” Teddy expressed. “Because of the Charitable Fund, we now have weekly classes here. For the academy’s summer program, we bring out our Museum on-the-go programs and align our lesson with the topics the teachers are covering. For instance, when they had their dinosaur week last summer, we brought our dino class to them.

         “We also have quarterly family nights where the children can bring their families and do some of these similar activities and play at the museum. It’s really fun and the caregivers have shared they are doing some of our activities at home with their children. We have a unit on shells, and when they go to the beach, the kids are identifying the shells that they are seeing. They are finding applications in their daily life and using it, which is the ultimate goal.” 

The kids continued to learn about air by playing with pinwheels, participating in interactive story time, and experimenting with sailboats made of styrofoam bowls and laminated construction paper. Blowing air in all directions, the kids watched its effect take place right before their eyes. 

“I learned that air is everywhere around us,” said TELA student Cameron, as she moved her arms in big circles through the air. “We played with the boats and we blew on them to make wind and make them move. And if there’s no wind for the sail, the boat gets stuck in the same spot. I liked the story today too, it was really good. I was a butterfly!”

Last year, the established partnership between TELA and the Imagine Children’s Museum led to additional funding from the Tribe to offer free museum memberships to all enrolled Tulalip tribal members. This resulted in over 150 sign-ups and approximately 1,000 visits from Tulalip families so far. And due to more and more kids developing a love for STEM in today’s techy world, the Museum is now more popular than ever, and therefore, are working to expand their space by adding another level to their building and extending their base as far as their property line allows. 

“As these students go through school and learn about the atmosphere, they are going to have this memory,” Teddy stated. “I’m a former science teacher and taught junior high. When kids showed up, they already had a vision of themselves as non-scientists, or that science is scary or science is hard. A lot of the grown-ups in their lives also had negative experiences with science. We’re setting up children when they’re young to show them how fun STEM can be, so they feel confident with it. One day they will look back and say, ‘oh yeah we blew on the boats and experimented with the balloons and pinwheels’. And they’re going to feel like, ‘okay, I already know this and can totally do this’.”

For more information about the Imagine Children’s Museum, please visit www.imaginecm.org 

MSD asks you to vote yes

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Through a locked door and down a short flight of stairs is a room that is about twenty-degrees warmer than the rest of Liberty Elementary school. Signs that read, ‘Caution flammable!’ cover pumps and tanks that vary in both size and shape. The boiler room requires the school’s maintenance team to arrive hours early to ensure the school is warm enough for students in the morning. The heat from the boilers is carried throughout the school to several radiators that both retain and omit the heat. 

Not only are the hot radiators a first-degree burn accident waiting to happen, but the entire student body and faculty are in harm’s way of an explosion from pressure or chemical combustion, should someone untrained or curious try to regulate the facility’s temperature. 

The Marysville School District (MSD) is claiming that two of their elementary schools are outdated and well past the point of renovation and are asking for support from their community. Liberty Elementary was built in 1951 and has helped mold young, local minds for nearly seventy years, while Cascade Elementary was established only six years later in 1957. 

Aside from depending on the boiler system as a source of heat, both of the schools are facing a number of challenges due to the advancement of time and technology, which in many instances places their students at a learning disadvantage, including the capability to efficiently support the myriad of electronics of modern day. 

Another issue the schools must address is the lack of space. Students are often seen working on one side of the hallway while cabinets filled with files and supplies line the opposite side. While each school has numerous classrooms throughout their respective buildings, they are merely sectioned off by adjustable walls and contain no doors, leaving the students exposed to danger should there be a need for lockdown, as well as open to distraction from nearby classrooms and kids wandering the halls. 

And to make matters worse, the school nurse’s office at Liberty is located down an empty corridor with a large sheet covering the entryway for privacy.  

“I went to Liberty and I’m 62, so it’s been there for a long time,” said Tulalip tribal member and Chairman of Citizens for Marysville Schools, Ray Sheldon Jr. “The school district is wanting to replace Liberty and Cascade. I’m hoping we can get the amount of support up in the Tulalip area, so when the time comes for Heritage [High School] and Quil Ceda Tulalip [Elementary], it won’t be such a headache.” 

MSD is purposing a six-year capital levy of $1.93 per $1000 of assessed home value, equaling out to approximately $710 for taxpayers per year until 2026. The capital levy will not only provide the necessary funds to demolish and rebuild the two schools, it will increase safety for all schools within the district by paying for security cameras. 

“They used to build schools with bonds, but you had to have 60% plus one in order to get the money,” Ray explained. “So they chose to do the capital levy for the simple reason that you only need 50% plus one in order for it to pass. Of course, you have to wait a few years to start building any of the schools in order for some of the money to build up. It will be a long-term process.

“Tribal members are on trust land so the levy won’t hurt them. If you live on trust land, you don’t pay those taxes if you vote yes. If you don’t live on trust land, the levy averages out to just a little over $700 a per year. What people have to understand is, yes that can be considered a lot but not as bad compared to the bigger cities. When you go to the big school districts, they pay upwards of $3,000 to $4,000 every year.”

The School District assures the community that this is just the first assignment on a list to improve the learning environment at each one of their schools and build a stronger community. Ray believes the next schools to receive a rebuild or renovations will be either Shoultes or Totem middle school, they have also been operating for decades and are in dire need of modern updates. 

Recently, the capital levy has received push-back from families that live within the school district after the MSD school board announced a proposal to enforce feeder boundaries starting next year, which would limit the options of what school a child could attend based on where they live. Both the school district and the levy committee want to emphasize that this particular measure will have no effect on the boundary proposal and encourage you to make your voice heard at upcoming forums pertaining to that issue, whether you are for, or in opposition of, the school boundaries. 

Many young Tulalip tribal members and students from other sovereign nations attend the grade schools. In fact, at Liberty alone Tulalip students make up over 10% of their 426 enrolled kids. 

“The [school board] proposed boundaries for the next coming school year. A lot of people aren’t happy with it and are stating they’ll vote no for the levy, which will hurt overall,” expressed Ray. “The levy isn’t about the boundaries; the boundaries may never happen. The bottom line is these schools aren’t safe; it’s time to make a change. We’re really counting on our people out here. For our children, please vote yes for the Marysville School District capital levy.”

Tulalip Youth and Family Enrichment will be hosting a ballot party from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Don Hatch Youth Center on February 10, be sure to submit your ballot at the party for your chance to win a raffle prize.

Careers in the construction industry are booming, TVTC can be your entry point to a better tomorrow

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Educators, parents and others often place strong emphasis on college preparation and earning an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree by traditional means. But that lengthy and expensive route often means accruing a ton of debt just to enter a highly competitive job market. College degrees may be the preferred goal for many, however there are a growing number of students who see a more hands-on future for themselves. For these individuals, unafraid of getting their hands dirty and learning the true meaning behind a hard day’s work, there is an abundance of opportunity within the construction industry.

Whether it be laborer, carpenter, ironworker, electrician or heavy equipment operator, there are countless positions available for work and advancement within the trades, especially for sought after minorities like Native Americans and women. A major access point for entry into these desirable career paths for tribal citizens and their families continues to be Tulalip’s own TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC).

“Not everybody wants to be a doctor or lawyer. Not everybody wants a desk job. I’m a lifetime fisherman that started a construction company when it became apparent we could no longer sustain ourselves simply by living off the land,” said Tulalip Vice-Chairman Glen Gobin. “Some want to be outside working with their hands. That’s what brings people to our training program, it gives them an opportunity to get exposure to all the different trades, learn how to function on a job site and how to get work. Graduates of TVTC enter a section of the workforce that is in high demand.”

In fact, a quick glance around the greater Seattle area and onlookers are sure to see more cranes than they can count. Along the I-5 corridor, from Tacoma to Everett, construction projects are booming and many on-site jobs continue to go unfilled. While other career pathways may be oversaturated and hard to come by, those within construction trades are thriving. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, open construction positions are expected to increase by more than 700,000 jobs nationally through 2028, a faster growth than any other occupation. In Washington State alone, there are nearly 3,000 unfilled construction jobs that pay much more than the average state wage. 

Brighter horizons and prospects galore were among the reasons so many gathered to celebrate the TVTC autumn cohort’s achievement on a December morning at the Tulalip Resort’s orca ballroom. Fifteen students (including eight Tulalip tribal members and three women) were honored with a graduation banquet for their commitment to building a better future. Nearly 200 guests attended, including trade union representatives, several construction employers, and many cheerful family members.

“Our TVTC program is 100% supported by grant funds,” explained TERO director Summer Hammons. “Our TVTC graduates earned various certifications and college credits, while learning many skills that will undoubtedly make an impact on their future. We thank the Tulalip Tribes, Washington State Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, and the Tulalip Cares charitable fund for always supporting us. These organizations and community partners are ensuring our future leaders have viable career paths.”

TVTC is the first and only state and nationally recognized Native American pre-apprenticeship program in the entire country. The program is accredited through South Seattle Community College and Renton Technical College, while all the in-class, hands-on curriculum has been formally approved by the Washington State Apprentice and Training Council.

The sixteen-week program provides 501-hours of hands-on instruction, strength building exercises, and construction skills that can last a lifetime. In addition, students are trained and awarded certifications in flagging, first aid/CPR, industrial fork lift and scissor lift, 40-hour HAZWOPER, and OSHA 10-hour safety. 

Homegrown Tulalip citizen Demitri Jones opted to retake the class after not being able to complete it his first time around.  To jumpstart an all-new career path as a carpenter, he had to grit and grind. He maintained his full-time position as a security officer working the dreaded graveyard shift, while sacrificing convenience and lots of sleep to take the TVTC class during the day.

“My biggest takeaway is learning the benefits of hard work and dedication,” reflected Demitri. “My advice to those who already have a job but are interested in taking the class, if you really want it then make it happen. Creating a routine was so important, but knowing in the end it’ll all be worth it kept me going.” 

His instructors noted he was the first in his class to gain employment. “I’m a carpenter’s apprentice right now and looking forward to journeying out, becoming a foreman or even superintendent,” added the ambitious 26-year-old.

Along with gaining a wide-range of new employment opportunities via the trades, seven diligent students took advantage of the educational aspect and earned their high school diploma.

Three hardworking ladies were among the graduates, Carla Yates (Haida), Cheyenne Frye (Arikara) and Shelbi Strom (Quinault). Each wanted to acquire a new skillset while creating a pathway to a better and brighter future.

“I really liked the class. I met some really cool people and learned so many new skills that I would have never been exposed to if I didn’t try it out,” said 20-year-old Cheyenne. Originally from North Dakota, her family relocated to the area so her mom could take the TVTC program. After graduating and seeing all the opportunity now available to her, she convinced her daughter to follow suit.

“I had zero experience with construction tools, like the nail gun and different saws. All of that was pretty intimidating at first, but after I learned to use them properly it became a lot of fun using them to complete projects,” admitted Cheyenne. “Both my parents have jobs as plumbers on the new casino project now. Hopefully I can join an electricians’ or sheet metal union and get work on that project, too.”

With hundreds of skilled-trade workers retiring every day across the state, the construction industry is in need of the next generation workforce to help build an ever-growing Snohomish County and surrounding Puget Sound communities. In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area alone, construction employment increased by 6,400 jobs between March 2018 and March 2019, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. These are well-paying jobs that are available to people straight out of high school. It takes some grit for sure, but for those folks with a strong work ethic and can-do attitude, they can find themselves running a construction company of their own someday.

“When our student graduates go out into the world of construction, they can compete on equal footing with anybody,” declared TVTC instructor Mark Newland during the graduation ceremony. “We’re gaining traction with union companies and construction employers all over the region. 

“I just can’t say enough about this class,” he continued. “From day one, they were engaged, helping each other out, and understood what they had to gain by putting their nose to the grindstone. Really amazing stuff! They’ve given me so much as their instructor and I wish them all the best.”

Those interested in being among the next available TVTC cohort or would like more information about the program, please call (360) 716-4760 or email Ltelford@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov 

Hard work is recognized with student of the semester award

By  Cullen Salinas-Zackuse, Tulalip News

When getting awards in academia, typically what people think of is a straight edge, hard working kid that worries about grades and school comes to them effortlessly. Not all students function the same way, some shine differently. When going through the rigorous journey of school these kids did not have the typical ride and with their resilience and efforts they were able to endure their situation and succeed. This semester these are the Native youth that were nominated and recognized for the outstanding work and efforts.

Lenay Chuckalnaskit.

The student of the semester for middle school is 8th grader Lenay Chuckalnaskit. She recently moved from Nespelem Washington, to Marysville and now attends Totem Middle School. She was noticed for her hard work while going through a tough transitional phase in life with friends, grades, and a good attitude. She became a student athlete and participates in track and field 100-meter dash/hurdles, volleyball, and gymnastics. Lenay also participates in the cultural activities by Powwow dancing. With all the activities Lanay is doing she is also able to maintain a 4.0 GPA, as she is driven and has only missed two days of school this year. 

Lanay eventually wants to have a career in the medical field but is not positive where yet. She thanks her parents and family for supporting her along her academic journey. She also looks up to her 19-year-old sister for being her role model and leading by example on how to be successful in school. 

Tristian Hopkins.

The student of the semester for high school was nominated because of his growth as a student. Tristian Hopkins is a senior at Marysville-Getchell High School. He started his high school career at Tulalip Heritage, where he felt comfortable going to school with friends and family. He eventually felt distracted and wanted to branch out and explore a bigger school and that is where he found himself at Marysville-Getchell Highschool. Going from 100 kids who are friends and family to a school that has 1,500 kids usually seems like a tough transition but Tristian looked at it as an opportunity for growth. He was able to find a new crowd and focus better in his academic work. He pulled his grades up to above a 3.0 GPA, but not without sacrificing a year playing football. Choosing to focus on school over football did not diminish his love for the game. His senior year he came back and played for the varsity football team. Tristian was able to rack up 8 tackles his last 3 games and was honorary captain for a couple of those games. 

Looking to the future, Tristian plans on applying to Arizona State University. He wants to become an aerospace engineer and work on building airplane parts. It makes sense when you ask him his favorite subject, he says physics. Academic careers hardly ever go as planned and not all are perfect, but along the journey there is always room to grow. That is what Tristian showed he can do. 

Diamond Medina.

Diamond Medina is a sweet, kind young lady. She a fifth grader at Tulalip/Quil Ceda Elementary where she has grown into a positive role model. She always stays focused and gets her work done. Multiple teachers noticed she is organized and advocates for herself and her learning. Diamond doesn’t get distracted easily as she’s always on time for her groups and utilizes her resources while she is in school. Overall, she keeps her positive mindset no matter her situation at school and is always smiling. 


Former Seahawks bring outdoor fun and leadership skills to Tulalip youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.

 “We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”

Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.

“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world. 

“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”

After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime. 

“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”

Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.

The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources. 

“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.

“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”

Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community. 

“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.

“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”

To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles. 

“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”

Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth. 

“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”

Global Village adds permanent Tribal Tales exhibit

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

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quil Ceda 5th Graders celebrate Salmon Homecoming

Charlee Martin and Bella Hammond get hands-on with various sea creatures.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“We are honored to be on the ancestral homeland and waters of the First People of the Salish Sea. Thank you Coast Salish for allowing us all to call this beautiful place home,” was the opening statement made by Salmon Homecoming Alliance staff as approximately 500 fourth and fifth-grade students from local tribal schools arrived outside the Seattle Aquarium on the morning of September 12.  

The gathering was a pre-celebration known as Salmon Homecoming School Days. A public event at Waterfront Park where interactive presentations and displays attract interest and attention on how to explore ways that support the cooperative spirit of salmon restoration and protection. 

For the fifth consecutive year all Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) 5th grade classes were active participants. The students were excited to spend a day out of the classroom at the Seattle waterfront where they were given an opportunity to experience everything the Aquarium had to offer, while enjoying a variety of salmon-based learning activities.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our students to continue learning about other people’s cultures and to identify with other tribes in the area,” explained 5th grade teacher Ms. Hansen. “Not a lot of schools get invited here, so it means a lot for us as a school to continue to have a role. This is a unique event that lets our kids be proud and true to who they are.”

Interesting fact, the Seattle Aquarium is the ninth largest aquarium in the United States by attendance and among the top five paid visitor attractions in the Puget Sound region. Bolstering those stats were an additional 100 or so Quil Ceda students, accompanied by teachers and chaperones, who made the mini journey to the region’s premier resource for hands-on marine experiences.

“The coolest thing I learned was octopuses huddle up in a corner when its bed time,” said 5th grade Charlee Martin. “I got to see a bunch of baby sharks and even a blow fish. What I’ll remember most is touching a star fish and sea anemones.”

During their day-long excursion, they students wondered from exhibit to exhibit eagerly looking for aquatic friends similar to Sponge Bob and Nemo. And when they found them, the tech savvy 10-year-olds were quick to pull out their cell phones and take the all-important selfie.  

Being salmon are often viewed as the traditional food source of Coast Salish peoples, and the Tulalip Tribes moniker is ‘People of the Salmon’, it is only fitting that the cohort of 5th graders got to learn much about their cultural icon on the trip. 

“We got to look at all kinds of fish and even touch some of them!” beamed 5th grader Noi Sisanga. “I learned about fish’s lifecycle, like how they start as eggs then learn to camouflage themselves as kids. Then when they become spawning adult fish they swim home to make babies.”

Inside the aquarium, a number of Salmon Homecoming learning stations were setup and made as kid-friendly as could be. Marine biologists, aquatic experts, and salmon advocates did their best to keep the energetic youths attention while explaining salmon lifecycles and ecosystems, while adding in the cultural importance of their habitat protection and restoration.

Quil Ceda students pose with a life-size replica of the Tulalip Tribes symbol, the Orca

Concluding Salmon Homecoming School Days was a pair of tribal song and dance groups from Lummi Nation and Muckleshoot who shared their teachings with everyone in attendance. Several of the Quil Ceda students could be seen singing along while Lummi performed a song very similar to one sang every morning at QCT. 

“My favorite memory of the trip is when our students got to sit and listen to other Native youth drumming and singing as part of the Salmon Homecoming festivities,” said student advocate Malory Simpson. “It is always a beautiful thing to see our students witness other Native students practicing their traditional teachings. It helps to reinforce the ideas and values that our students are being taught at Quil Ceda Tulalip.” 

Lushootseed returns to Marysville Pilchuck High School

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After nearly a two decade hiatus, the Lushootseed language has finally returned to the classroom as an official program taught at Marysville Pilchuck High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The tireless dedication of longtime Indigenous education employees and Native student supporters Matt Remle and Ricky Belmont, who made it their mission long ago to bring the Coast Salish language to the high school, has brought a swift sense of excitement to the MP campus.

“For years my co-worker Ricky Belmont and I worked to find ways to bring Native language learning opportunities to Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the stars finally aligned when we reached out to our administration about developing a Lushootseed class on campus and they agreed,” explained Matt Remle, lead Indigenous education liaison. “When it came time to register for classes this year, Ricky and I reached out to our current students and incoming freshman and told them they better sign up after all that hustling.

“Because demand was high we now have the amazing Natosha Gobin teaching two classes on campus,” he continued. “Students are already being [heavily] influenced. Yesterday, I was speaking to a senior about her post high school plans and she said she wanted to be a Lushootseed teacher!”

A Tulalip tribal member, Natosha has spent the last 19-years learning, teaching, and helping to revitalize the traditional language of her ancestors. She has come full circle after graduating as an MP high school student 20 years ago to now reentering the MP halls as a certified teacher and Lushootseed instructor.

“Toby Langen and Tony Hatch taught Lushootseed classes at MP in the early 2000’s, which were the classes that I sat in on along with Eliza Davis when we first started in the language department,” recalled Natosha. “It is exciting to be back on the campus as the lead teacher. I hope that I can keep the students engaged and speaking, giving them tools to use the language daily both in and out of the classroom.

“The work that Michelle Myles has done the past two years at Heritage has sparked the interest for high school youth to start learning and speaking our language,” she continued. “We have high hopes that the youth taking these classes will be able to see themselves as the next group of teachers to keep the work moving forward.”

The Lushootseed course was offered to all interested students from all grade levels and quickly filled up. It comes as no surprise that the majority of her students are Tulalip tribal members who jumped at the opportunity to learn  their traditional language and history from an actual Tulalip culture bearer.

“It’s already one of my favorite classes,” shared 10th grader Shylah Zackuse (Tulalip). “After finding out Lushootseed would be offered, I planned my daily schedule perfectly in order to take it. Being taught by a tribal member, there’s a real connection because Natosha is family.” 

Currently offered during 2nd and 3rd period only, 34 out of the 52 enrolled students are either Tulalip tribal members or have lived in the Tulalip community their whole lives. The remainder of the students are a mixture of other Native and non-Native students who are eager to learn about the traditional lifeways of their neighboring Tulalip people. 

“I don’t know a lot about my Native culture, so taking Lushootseed is a new opportunity to learn about my background,” explained 9th grader Jesse Lamoureaux (Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska). “This class teaches me about my past. What we are learning is thanks to our ancestors from way back who documented their teachings on audio tapes. My favorite phrase so far has to be ηαʔɬ δαδατυ (Lushootseed for ‘good morning’) because we can say it every day.”

The Lushootseed coursework will focus on relevant conversation lessons that can be used throughout the day. These include talking about daily routines, weather, describing feelings and states of mind, as well as many more topics to keep students engaged.

The course will also feature a great many references to Tulalip ancestors and elders who laid the foundation for where the Tribes are today, such as Harriet Shelton Dover, Martha Lamont and Lizzie Krise to name but a few. And best of all the MP students won’t be reading about these iconic individuals from colonial textbooks either, instead they will be hearing their powerful words spoken from a combination of archived video and audio resources.

“Some of my greatest inspirations are the speakers who had the foresight to document and record our language, enabling us to speak and teach it today,” said Natosha. “We want to ensure our community is aware of the ancestors who played key roles in preserving the language. Through passing on their stories, some of our youth are able to recognize their connection to the speakers and deepen their desire to participate.”

With both Lushootseed classes at full capacity and a waiting list with students hoping to transfer in if the opportunity arises, Marysville Pilchuck is already looking to build on the early successes of having more culturally relevant classes available for their diverse student population.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to offer Lushootseed to our students,” explained Principal Christine Bromley. “We have Native students, non-Native students and students with disabilities all taking Lushootseed. From all perspectives of this, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships.  

“Partnering with the Tulalip Tribes to bring Lushootseed here to the high school is a critical piece to build upon the relationship between the school district and the Tribes,” she added. “I can’t wait to see us grow Lushootseed into a level 2 and 3 program to get more and more students involved.”

Future plans also include offering a Native art class, such as an introduction to carving taught by a tribal member. The class space is currently available and only requires a willing artist to teach it. Until then, Natosha and her collection of Indigenous wisdom intend to teach and inspire the culturally oriented young minds of Marysville Pilchuck High School. 

Tribal students receive backpacks and supplies for new school year

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On the morning of August 21, a large crowd of families gathered, forming a line that extended from the Don Hatch Youth Center gymnasium to the sidewalks along Totem Beach Road. In the warm overcast weather, the families visited in anticipation while Tulalip Youth Services prepared for a busy morning during their annual Back to School Bash celebration. 

At twelve-noon, on the dot, the gymnasium doors opened and students rushed in, hoping to get first dibs on the backpack of their choice. Rows upon rows lay a large variety of stylish book bags. The kids received one ticket upon entry and, when finding the backpacks designated for their grade, picked the bag that best suited their personalities. While the preschool through elementary school students gravitated toward character bags, featuring the likes of the Paw Patrol and Marvel crew, the older students went for the trendy fashionable backpacks from Jansport, Adidas and Vans. 

“My backpack looks like fishes in the water, red fish,” exclaimed KaLesa Comenote. “I’m going into third grade at Quil Ceda. I’m not ready for school to start quite yet, but the new backpack makes it a little better.”

Altogether, Youth Services purchased over 1,500 backpacks for young Tulalip learners, as well as for students of the Marysville School District who are enrolled at another tribe. Within the first hour, hundreds of backpacks were distributed, ensuring the students start their first day of school well-prepared. Prior to the event, the department held a breakfast social for local special needs students and their families. After breakfast, the kids had the first opportunity to select their backpacks before the gymnasium doors opened to the community. Youth Services also set 77 backpacks aside for the youth who are in foster care.

“The Back to School Bash is one of our favorite events of the year because we get to see the students get excited for school,” said Youth Services Positive Youth Development & Leadership Manager, Jessica Bustad. “We’re also happy to see the kids because we don’t get to see most of them during the summer. It’s a great time for the students and families to get together, have fun and celebrate the new school year.” 

Youth Services also stuffed each bag with a school supply kit filled with notebooks, paper, folders, crayons, makers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors. 

“I think it’s cool that they do this for us,” expressed high school sophomore, Charles Guss. “It shows support for all the kids. Throwing on our new backpacks gives us something to look forward to when going to school, especially on those early, early mornings. I got an Eastsport and a bunch of supplies too. I’m ready to go back to school now for sure.”

To help get the kids more excited about their upcoming academic year, Youth Services enlisted the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. The students and their families were able to sign up for library cards and also check out a number of fun, kid-friendly stories to read together.

“The biggest thing we want to share with our families is to read with your students, invest in books, get a library card and promote reading,” stated Jessica. “Make sure your students read every night, even if it’s just twenty minutes, because reading is important, it creates the foundation for their academic success. And also, we need parent community volunteers for everything going on at the schools, it helps the students thrive when they know they have caring adults there supporting them.”

With their backpack straps fittingly fastened, the kids hurried to enjoy a number of carnival rides stationed at the Youth Center parking lot. A number of departments joined the festivities, including the Lushootseed language teachers who ran a face painting station, as well as the Tulalip Bay Fire Department who gave the kids tours of their fire engine. The Seattle Pacific Science Center taught an interactive physiology mini-exhibit titled ‘Blood and Guts’, giving the students an up-close look real organs from both animals and humans, including the human brain. 

“I have two second graders and this is so great because there’s a lot of families who need this,” said parent Sheena Robinson. “We’re really thankful that the Tribe does this event and it keeps getting better every year. My kid’s look forward to this at the start of each school year. They know they’re going back to school, but they at least get to have this day together before they do.”