“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
In early August, over fifty Marysville School District administrators toured their neighboring reservation to receive an enriching glimpse into Tulalip culture and lifeways. Among the group included every principal and assistant principal in the District. The highlight of their day-long venture was a powerful face-to-face sit down with four thriving Tulalip Youth Councilmembers.
Treasurer Marisa Joseph,12th grader at Marysville Pilchuck, social media coordinator Evelyn Vega-Simpson, MP junior, secretary Shylah Zackuse, 10th grader at MP, and chairman Kaiser Moses, Marysville Getchell junior, each shared details of their unique experiences as young culture bearers and excelling students of the public school system.
They sat front and center while speaking their truths in response to a series of questions their school administrators asked them. Between the four inspiring, high-achieving students are multiple honors classes, instruments played, languages spoken, and an overwhelming desire to be seen for their well-earned accolades that break commonly held stereotypes of Native American youth. The following is an edited transcript of that Q&A.
Q: What are three awesome facts about yourself?
Kaiser: “The fact I’m able to live so close to the Tulalip longhouse, be able to actively participate in my culture through traditional gatherings, and I enjoy hosting and traveling to powwows.”
Shylah: “I’m Indigenous. Half my school classes are either A.P. or honors level. I’m really good at multitasking.”
Evelyn: “I’m able to play five instruments, I’m fluent in three languages, and I am an advocate for other kids who do not have a voice.”
Marisa: “I’m Indigenous. I participate in my culture and love my culture. My cumulative G.P.A. is 3.96 and my goal is to go to Harvard and study law so I can represent Native people on the federal level.”
Q: What do you love learning about?
Marisa: “History, especially Native American history. However, in my U.S. History class this past year we only spent a brief part of one week where we watched a video about Native Americans. I think we can improve upon that and definitely spend more time learning an accurate Native history.”
Kaiser: “I love learning about our traditional longhouse history. It’s really easy to go over and talk to a bunch of elders and learn from them, so you all here can incorporate their teachings into the school curriculum.”
Shylah: “I love learning about my culture. This summer I participated in Canoe Journey and have been learning my traditional language, Lushootseed. I’ve learned how to formally introduce myself and look forward to becoming fluent in Lushootseed so I can teach my future children.”
Q: What do you most look forward to this school year?
Evelyn: “Band. I’ve been playing instruments since I can remember. Music is a big part of my life and obviously my culture as well. I’m also taking Running Start classes right now during the summer and look forward to continuing to take college classes during the school year.”
Kaiser: “My mom says when you go to school you’re building a bridge to society. We get teachings from school and teachings from the longhouse. I’m excited to develop that bridge even more so it’s easier to navigate back and forth.”
Q: What is something you wish your teachers knew about you?
Shylah: “I want my history teacher to know the history of my ancestors. When we’re in the classroom they don’t teach about the genocide of Native Americans or the boarding schools our ancestors were forced to attend. My ancestors weren’t allowed to be Native American. They couldn’t speak their language or practice their dances and songs. My history teachers should know this.”
Marisa: “I want my school teachers and peers to be educated about our culture, traditions, and way of life. If they knew what our ancestors went through, then they’d have a better understanding of our daily lives and what we go through as Native people today.”
Evelyn: “The Tulalip Tribes donates a lot of money to the school district. I know that can be a touchy subject, but I’d like to see a public ‘thank you’ from the Marysville School District. The money the Tribes donates helps not just Native students, but all the students.”
Q: What is the importance and role of education in your life?
Evelyn: “Education has always been a top priority in my life. I grew up in Snohomish with a wonderful pair of foster parents. They taught me to embrace music and to love school because they can take me so far in life. I dream of attending Oxford to become a surgeon. I have a high G.P.A. and plan on getting my Associates Degree as a high school student. Those things shock people because I’m Native, but I’m not a stereotype. I am better than any stereotype and will always be better.”
Marisa: “I’ve always taken my education serious and put it first always. I’ve sacrificed a lot of time with my friends in order to study and get good grades. My goal is to attend an Ivy League. I will be successful and not let myself be a statistic.”
Shylah: “I come from stereotypes. The stereotypes I come from are we don’t graduate, we’re drug addicts and alcoholics, and we’re teen moms. Well, I’m none of those. I get good grades, I’m not a drug addict, and I’m not a teen mom. I come from a drug addict dad and a single mom. My mom is going to college now with four kids and a fulltime job to prove to her kids we can go to college, too. Through my education I will go to college and have a successful career.”
Many experts agree that adolescence, the process of growing up from young, bashful kid to stubborn, head strong teenager, is a critical period for determining future employment success. It’s during this stage the average youth constantly tests boundaries and rules while striving for more and more independence. With every new experience comes a change in perspective, including their general response to the always imposing question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Most will answer that question with an “I don’t know, but whatever it is I want to make a lot of money doing it.” What they are then placing the highest priority on is gainful employment. That is, a career path that provides consistent, long-term work while paying a livable wage. Those kinds of jobs usually take some combination of education and proficient skills, while placing an emphasis on self-management and productivity. In sum, learn your job, do your job right without being constantly managed, and strive to get better over time.
Sounds simple, right? But how does a young person, better yet an early adolescent, even begin to learn about a job so they know which skills to hone and perfect? The best answer is always through hands-on experience. That is why a new tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been introduced to the Tulalip community and is already making an impact on a select group of Native youth.
“The 477/TANF Program has a new employment opportunity for Native American youth within our community known as the Youth Employment Preparation Program or YEPP,” explains Krisan Fryberg, 477/TANF Training Coordinator. “The idea of this program is to prepare our tribal youth for future employment. Our mission is to implement progressive thinking with a goal of empowering youth to obtain and maintain successful employment. Not only for employment within our tribe, but any industry they choose.”
YEPP is a six-week program that incorporates several aspects of employment preparedness and provides opportunities for adolescent youth to connect with the various departments and entities that make up a Tulalip government and enterprise. YEPP also serves as a perfect introduction for kids who will be participating in the tribe’s Summer Youth Program in the future.
Over the past several weeks, fifteen YEPP participants between ages 11-13 years old have dove deep into drug prevention by discussing the effects of drugs and alcohol as a huge obstacle to personal sovereignty. They went deeper into the subject while touring and meeting with representatives of Tulalip Police and Tulalip Bay Fire. Exploring the concept of healthy living and its impact on gainful employment and overall wellbeing, the group had many diabetes prevention discussions while harvesting native plants with Health Clinic staff at the Wellness Garden, visiting a local U-Pick farm, and working out at Tulalip Bay Crossfit.
Skill building exercises have also been a top priority for the YEPP program. One cannot expect to be gainfully employed without the necessary skills of time management, ability to set and reach goals, know how to respect others’ cultures, and understanding how to maintain healthy relationships in the work environment. Because it’s the digital age they were also schooled in the art of social media use, especially its many traps that can derail a potential career long before it even starts.
A definite highlight of this inaugural YEPP program was the contribution to the community by collaborating with the TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) to build and donate two cedar planter boxes to Youth Services. On August 13, TVTC provided the materials and instructors for the YEPP kids to receive a crash course in construction basics. For most of them it was their first time handling actual construction tools, let alone the powered variety like a nail gun or circular saw.
“We learned how to take accurate measurements and cut wood to specific sizes,” said 12-year-old Navaeh Gray. “I was scared at first to use the nail gun, but after using it I realized it was super easy. There’ve been a few experiences with this YEPP program that have taken me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned when you believe in yourself anything is possible.”
“We learned how to use power tools and then got to test how good we were with them in a few activities,” added 13-year-old Gary Fryberg while still holding onto his favorite tool, the hammer. “I’ve never used any tools before, but realized I’m pretty good with a hammer. Maybe I’ll work construction when I’m older because it’s fun to build things.”
Members of TVTC spoke at length about the many benefits of a career in the construction and trades industry. Even if it wasn’t for all of them, for some a spark could have been lit to a whole new future. At the very least they each can say they played a role in creating planter boxes they will surely see often outside of their commonly frequented youth center.
“Our program spent two days with the youth staff at TVTC where they learned how to utilize equipment properly and worked hand-in-hand with the youth staff to build planter boxes,” remarked Krisan. “I enjoyed seeing both programs work together to create a generous gift to be donated within our community. They all seemed to appreciate the time spent with one another.”
Collaboration and the value of team work is just another key skill that should be practiced over and over again, not just for gainful employment prospects but to ensure a future generation that knows how to work alongside one another for the betterment of everyone.
“Sqʷəbayʔ,” exclaimed young Lushootseed Language Warrior, Andrew Contraro. “That means dog. Dogs are cool, so sqʷəbayʔ is my favorite word that I learned this week. I also learned the welcome song, I like that one a lot. I had lots of fun, I made my first cedar mat and I’ve never done weaving before, it was new to me. I learned a bunch about Lushootseed and all the different stories, and I enjoyed it because it’s keeping Lushootseed alive.”
The Tulalip Lushootseed Language department recently wrapped up another successful Language Camp, celebrating its 24th year. The week-long camp, held in two sessions every summer, instills the traditional vocabulary of the Snohomish people into the young minds of their direct descendants. With over sixty participants during the first week in July and nearly seventy-five campers during the second week, well over one-hundred kids assisted in the preservation and revitalization of the sacred language this year.
“Language Camp started in the mid-90s,” explained Lushootseed Language Teacher, Natosha Gobin. “That was while the program was under the direction of Hank Gobin. Shelly and Joy Lacy were vital in the beginning of Language Camp; we give a lot of thanks to them for the vision that they had bringing the camp together. We still bring the kids together as a group to open with an message each day, reminders of our core teachings.”
At any given moment during the day camp, the language could be heard throughout the entire Don Hatch Youth Center. Through a number of interactive stations, the kids practiced words and phrases. Not only did the campers play games like stick games, they also participated in a variety of art projects.
“My favorite part was painting clamshells,” said camper Zaylen Veliz. “I painted mine blue and it looks really cool.”
“I’d have to say my favorite activity was art,” added young Jada Smith. “We painted, beaded, made tie-dye shirts, I made some clams with rocks in it and a necklace made of Devil’s Club. It really was fun because you want to keep the teachings of the past going and going.”
The kids rotated throughout the stations each day, spending time and absorbing knowledge from every Lushootseed instructor. Singing songs with Michelle Myles, learning about the many uses of Devil’s Club with Natosha, weaving with Shelbi Hatch and Sarah Miller, and tie-dying t-shirts with Celum Hatch. Along with creating clamshell art with Maria Martin and Nikki St. Onge, playing outdoor games with Oceana Alday, Shawna Reeves, and Danika Hatch-Auguilar, and reciting stories and jamming with Thomas Williams.
The students also spent time utilizing modern technology, following along a series of visual lessons on tablet computers. The kids enjoyed throwing on a pair of headphones and watching animated videos of traditional stories each day. By utilizing the Acquisition of Restored Native Speech (ACORN) app, Lushootsed Media Developer, David Sienko, customized the tablets to include teachings with cartoons, videos and games. According to Zaylen, the tablets were ‘one of the most awesomest parts about the camp’.
Mid-morning of August 16, the students entered the Youth Center gymnasium proudly drumming, dancing and singing. As they took their seats in the bleachers, Natosha welcomed the many friends and families of the young Language Warriors and explained the inspiration behind the teachings of the 24th Annual Lushootseed Camp.
“This year we dedicated the 24th Annual Lushootseed Camp in memory of Elizabeth
‘Lizzie’ Krise,” she said. “Many of the children who are participating are descendants of Lizzie, whether they’re great grandchildren of hers or if she was their great auntie, she has a lot of connections within this group of kids.”
The highlight of the performance was when the entire group stood up and recited Lizzie’s Clam Digging story together in Lushootseed as one voice. After sharing Lizzie’s story, camper Tashina Cortez provided an English translation.
“Lizzie paddled in her canoe to Camano head with her dog, Rover, and she dug up some clams. When she went home her mom was surprised about how many clams she dug up. Her dog sat in the back of the canoe and he was a good captain.”
“For passing on the language, I think it was very powerful to hear all of the kids tell the story together,” Natosha stated. “Usually we’ll pick a traditional story and we’ll figure out who will be the characters, who will speak, how many narrators we will have. This year, since the story was short, we decided to have them recite it together. It was powerful and it kept everybody engaged. It really helped the ceremony flow together and I feel that the kids are going to take a lot home from that experience of being together as one.”
The language campers received a standing ovation from their families after the ceremony came to an end.
“It felt amazing to not just see my boys learn their culture and be fully immersed in it, but to hear there was seventy-five kids who participated was incredible,” says Tribal parent, Dinesha Kane. “I loved watching their growth this week, from the beginning of the week where they didn’t know what to do or how to speak the language, to proudly singing and sharing stories. I believe it’s important for any Native child to follow in their traditions and teachings to not lose our culture. Our children will be here long after us, and their children well after them. I want them to know where they came from, I want them to know what we stand for and I want them to pass on our teachings.”
Tribal member, Tony Hatch, prepared a lunchtime clambake for the campers and their families. Additional cooks provided salmon and desserts. The Language Camp students passed out gifts such as beadwork and artwork to everybody in attendance, wowing the crowd with their crafty art-making abilities.
“Without our language, we lose a vital part of our culture,” Natosha explained. “We have a lot of documents that are still in our language, untranslated. They are critical pieces of who we are, where we come from, what’s important to us, our sovereignty, that is still connected within our language. Quite a few years back we started empowering the kids by calling them Language Warriors. We try to empower our staff by calling each other Language Warriors because we really are fighting for the language, the culture, the history, everything that makes us who we are.”
For more information about the Annual Lushootseed Language Camp, please contact the Lushootseed Language department at (360) 716-4499, or visit their website at www.TulalipLushootseed.com.
About a dozen Seattle-area youth gathered at Bitter Lake Community Center on a recent Saturday afternoon for a day of studying the journalistic process. The students, ages 12 to 18, have spent part of their summer break learning what it means to produce news in a digital era, during a time of significant change in how people consume media.
During the session, they learn about the intersections of mainstream and tribal news media.
“How does this look different from a regular newspaper like The Seattle Times?” asks journalist Micheal Rios, holding up a recently published issue of the Tulalip Syeceb newspaper. The students take notice of the front page’s text, which isn’t in English.
“So this is Lushootseed, the traditional language of Tulalips,” Rios says. “Some would say its Northern Lushootseed,” he continues, heard in “the Coast Salish area that runs from about Nisqually to Vancouver, B.C. It’s a shared language.”
Now serving its second cohort, this multiday teen journalism workshop is hosted by the Urban Native Education Alliance as an extension of its Clear Sky Native Youth Council program. Participating students represent a number of tribes, including the Muckleshoot, Lakota, Arapaho and Yakama.
The two-week series is aimed at increasing news media literacy and imparting journalistic skills to a rising generation of Native American storytellers.
Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction convened a task force in 2016 to advise school districts on how to integrate media literacy and digital citizenship teachings into curricula. Several Puget Sound schools, including those in Seattle, Kent, Auburn and Edmonds, have implemented such lessons to varying degrees.
But mentors with Clear Sky are hoping to take this kind of education a step further. Their goal, in part, is to prepare students to amplify underrepresented Native voices and communities.
“We’re hoping they walk away with better reading and writing skills … as well as some knowledge on how you can use media to help your community,” says A.J. Oguara, Clear Sky program coordinator and former student. “Even if [an activity] helps them interpret an existing idea that they’re already kind of familiar with, to understand it better, it’s pretty valuable.”
Beginning in 2016, a group of researchers and advocates with the Reclaiming Native Truth Project at the First Nations Development Institute set out to uncover the impact of negative portrayals of Indigenous people in the media.
Among the team’s findings were that the voices of present-day Native peoples are overwhelmingly missing in school curricula, news media, pop culture entertainment and the legal system. That absence, according to a 2018 report, has contributed to a general lack of understanding of and attention given to Native issues, as well as misconceptions about the Native population shrinking.
Participants in Clear Sky’s journalism workshop don’t shy away from tough subjects. The epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in North America and the effects of gun violence on Native communities are some of themes in multimedia stories the students are developing.
“I think this is really important,” 12-year-old Chante Remle, a student at Edmonds Heights K-12, says of the workshop. “To spread, you know, awareness [about] the things people don’t really care too much about.”
Taleah Vaomu, 17, doesn’t necessarily aspire to have a career in journalism; she sees going into youth counseling as a better fit. But what she’s learned at the workshop has been no less beneficial, she says.
“It does help me out with school and everything,” says Vaomu, soon to be a senior at the Muckleshoot Tribal School in Auburn. “There’s a lot of things I could take in that I wouldn’t really know until later on in school. So … if I go back into school, I can be like, ‘Oh, I know this, or know this’ and things like that.”
Before the youth complete their own, collaborative stories, they go through a crash course on journalism ethics and principles: what does it mean to present information fairly, how do you separate fact from fiction and how do you approach difficult subject matter in your reporting?
A 2015 study in the Journal of Media Literacy Education suggests that adolescents who demonstrate higher news literacy — marked in part by a keen understanding of current events and a greater scrutiny of news sources — tend to be more selective and proactive about the news they consume. That is to say, they are better able to filter news in a useful way.
The days of readers flipping through broadsheets and tabloids are dwindling. Young people, like the workshop students, are overwhelmingly getting their news from nontraditional platforms such as Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.
“You can find out information about people in places you’ve never been to, you might never go to,” Rios tells them. “But you’re able to access that information like never before.”
But with that boundless access to information comes a greater responsibility for separating fact from fiction, he points out.
“There’s a lot of blurred lines between what is news and what is not news,” Rios says, asserting how quickly false news stories can pick up steam on social media.
A key element of the workshop is teaching students how to discern the veracity and bias of the content they engage. They also learn interviewing techniques and how to compile research from literary sources.
Upon successful completion of the workshop, which is sustained through grants from King County and the Discuren Charitable Foundation, the participants will receive a $500 stipend.
“Technology is the key to the future,” said Matthew Collier, Certified LEGO Robotics Instructor and Co-founder of Robotic.How.com. “If you look at your hand, you’re the only one with that hand, those fingerprints. You were born to leave your fingerprint somewhere. And if we can teach you, help you find what you’re supposed to put your hand on and leave your print, then you’re going to be more motivated, you’re going to have a purpose in life. We can teach these kids a purpose in STEM, it’s important because that’s the future.”
For the fourth year in a row, Matthew and his wife Kathy brought a week’s worth of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fun to the summer school students of the Tulalip Tutoring and Homework Support program. Known by the local kids as ‘robot camp’, the Colliers teach students going into grades kindergarten through twelfth, basic computer coding, programming and design by building robots with LEGOS.
The students split into three groups based on which grade they will be entering at the beginning of the school year; kindergarten through second grade; third through fifth grade; and sixth through twelfth grade.
“Kindergarten through second graders are doing science experiments using the LEGO WeDo robots,” explains Kathy. “They are doing simple coding; they can actually explain to you the function of each LEGO piece. The third through fifth graders are using the EV3 Robots, which is actually being used by first year college students at MIT. And the sixth through twelfth grades are programing their robots to make a directional decision at each turn.”
The youngest group programed a number of LEGO robots to drum, dance, and roar throughout the week, building alligators, lions, monkeys and airplanes. The third through fifth grade students worked on an EV3 rolling robot during STEM week, coding it to move throughout the classroom. The older kids were challenged to create a robot that can move without wheels.
Young Catherine Velazquez focused intently on completing her challenge, continuing to work on her bot during the free time portion of the day. Catherine was onto something as she gave her bot two long LEGO pieces as legs and used trial and error until her robot was walking through an obstacle course in the classroom.
“It’s fun and pretty easy once you get into it,” Catherine proudly exclaimed. “I liked messing with it, programming it to walk and make turns. I liked making my robot move forward and backwards and it can use its sensors to detect when its centimeters away from hitting something, so I programmed it to make a turn when it gets close to anything. I’ve had lots of fun here at robotics camp.”
“Today I uploaded this narwhal music video to my project and I’m listening to it,” said STEM Robotics camper, Mason Jefferson. “I’ve never done anything like this before, it’s all new to me. I’m learning a lot, how to program robots and remix projects on Scratch.”
Along with learning how to code videos and program robots, the kids also explore a variety of scientific principles by conducting a series of experiments as well as constructing telescopes and making tie-dye t-shirts. With wide smiles on full display, the kids happily soaked up knowledge from each lesson and were eager to continue learning each day.
“I believe when a child is given the opportunity, support and encouragement, they will travel as far as they can go, we always tell them to reach for the stars,” expressed Margarita Huston, Tutoring and Homework Support Program Instructor. “We had two particular students who were able to reprogram their computers, so they did more with them when they were building their robots than the actual instructions required.
“We have one student who has been given a label by the schools as a troublemaker. He was one of the two to reprogram his computer. He was so focused. There was no trouble, no reacting in a negative manner; he was ready to come in and learn. In fact, he was impatient to get started every morning. He told me, ‘here I’m not dumb’.”
After four successful years teaching at Tulalip, the couple plans on expanding their program to reach an older demographic. Although the amount of participation has seen an overall increase over the years, more young kids attend the camp than high school students. Matthew explained that he understands that the high school age group has a much busier summer schedule than the little ones, but he intends to draw the older kids in by hosting a Unity camp during the summer of 2020. Unity is a licensed game engine used by amateur designers and professional software developers alike to build video games.
“Next year we want to come in with solid stepping-stones for these kiddos,” says Matthew. “We want to keep building that excitement. There’s a new robot kit coming out so we’re going to be upgrading all the different robots we’re working with. We’re also reaching out to the older kids, incorporating more tech and design by teaching them the Unity program. Unity is what a lot of the big games are made with. As educators, we can get it and teach the kids how to build their own games. You can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year if you know how to program in unity.
“I guarantee in the next twenty, thirty years there will be autonomous cars everywhere because they’re safer,” Matthew continued. “That is going to affect everybody, no matter where you live or what country you’re in, it’s going to change the face of communities everywhere. We need these kids to have that information embedded in their DNA or else they’re going to be lost. We want to plant a bunch of stuff in front of them and say, look what you can do.”
Margarita stated that because of STEM Robotics Week’s popularity and success, the Tutoring and Homework Support Program looks forward to a ‘bright’ future with Colliers.
After saying goodbye to all her summer school friends and making sure to hug all of the instructors, STEM student, Tashina Cortez, fondly shared what she learned after attending her fourth robotics camp with the summer school.
“At robotics camp we learn how to program and build robots,” she explained. “I built a robot that could move, dance, do the moonwalk and speak. It was really cool making it speak; it can also do mazes and turns. I learned that people can make robots that can help people with disabilities. When I’m older, I might become an engineer and maybe invent something that will help people with their disabilities.”
For additional details please contact the Tulalip Tutoring and Homework Support Program at (360) 716-4646.
By Kalvin Valdillez; Photos courtesy of Kelly Finley, Michael Lotan, Ross Fryberg, and Tawnya Baggerly
“You would think it’s just another camp but when you get up there, you realize it’s so much more. You experience living how our ancestors used to; no phones and no technology at all. It was nice to get away, I had a really fun time,” expressed Tulalip tribal youth, Ross Fryberg Jr.
With an abundance of breathtaking views of the natural world, the mountainous lands near the Skykomish Watershed area was once home to the Snohomish people who lived upon its plentiful resources since the beginning of time. As the original caretakers, the connection they shared with the land was strong. For generations, the Snohomish gathered cedar from the tall trees on the mountain side to weave a number of every day tools such as baskets and hats. They gathered a variety of plants for both medicinal purposes and nourishment, hunted elk, and fished in nearby rivers and streams, and most importantly, they cared for the land, honoring the living spirit of the mountains, waterways and trees.
Although times have changed and we now live in a fast-paced, technology based society, the Tulalips, as descendants of the Snohomish, maintain that relationship to their pre-colonial homelands. They perform spiritual work like harvesting huckleberries and cedar, as well as hunting and fishing just as their people had generations prior.
Five years ago, the Tulalip Natural Resources Department, in partnership with the YMCA, debuted Mountain Camp for the youth of the community, offering a chance to get away from the busy world, unplug and enjoy the great outdoors. Since its inception, Mountain Camp has provided an opportunity for Tulalip youth to get in touch with the Tribes’ origins and gain a new perspective about Mother Earth, learning of the many ways she provides for Northwest tribal people. Mountain Camp was such a success, it inspired Fish Camp, a similar summertime experience that takes place on Lopez Island and teaches youth about marine life and the Salish Sea.
Nine kids, ages 11-13, set out for a five-day adventure to the mountains on the morning of August 5. Meeting at the Tulalip Administration building, they received a weaving lesson from Anita (Keeta) and Jamie Sheldon. The kids assembled a number of baskets, and also bracelets and anklets, before the trip, while Lushootseed Teacher Maria Martin shared traditional stories.
This year, the Natural Resources department added Tulalip youth and Mountain Camp Alum, Seth Montero, to the crew. After showing an incredible amount of interest in natural resources, Seth returned to camp to continue learning from the natural environment and pass his teachings down to his younger peers.
“We’ve been trying to work on a program for kids who have aged out and still want to participate in the program,” said Tulalip Natural Resources Outreach & Education Coordinator, Kelly Finley. “Seth went to YMCA camp earlier this summer and learned how they do things at their camps. He picked up a lot of leadership skills so that he could come to our camp this year and be a leader-in-training, and hopefully one day a future counselor.”
The campers loaded onto the YMCA bus and officially set course to Skykomish, Washington, a two-hour road trip along Highway 2. After reaching their destination, the campers strapped on their backpacks and made a mile-and-a-half hike to Barclay Lake where they set up camp for the first few days. During this time, the kids enjoyed the sunny weather by swimming and fishing at the lake as well as identifying a variety of plants and bugs. To get a little shade from the heat, the campers went out into the woods and played Prometheus, a fun version of the capture the flag game, where the players objective is to steal their opponents’ flag without being seen.
After three nights at the lake, the campers hiked back to the YMCA bus and traveled up the mountain to about 5,000 feet above sea level. The kids set up camp here, at the sacred swədaʔx̌ali grounds, where tribal members gather huckleberries during the late summer months. The campers were joined by Natural Resources Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, Libby Nelson as well as Lushootseed Language Teacher, Michelle Myles. Libby provided a fun interactive lesson about the plants of the swədaʔx̌ali area, while Michelle shared stories in Lushootseed and worked on traditional introductions with the kids. Libby explained that during past camps the weather was clear at night and you could stargaze and see meteor showers. This year, however, the fog rolled in as Michelle shared traditional stories, providing a cool, yet somewhat eerie, setting.
Before calling it a night, the youth gathered enough huckleberries for pancakes the next morning as they were expecting a number of guests from the Tribe, Natural Resources, the Rediscovery Program and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest department bright and early.
Upon awakening, the kids enjoyed food and company with their many guests before heading to the huckleberry fields to help out with the restoration of the swədaʔx̌ali area.
“The first work was kicked off five years ago by the first Mountain Camp youth,” said Libby. “And we also have Forestry do a lot of work here in September as well. Ross [Fenton] came up from Forestry and led the kids in clearing out some of the area. That’s been our goal, to keep the berries from being shaded out by conifer trees. That keeps the berry patches open, encourages new growth and makes it nicer for Tulalip berry pickers. Since last year, we put up new signs that talk about the elder’s teachings about huckleberries. We had each kid read one of the teachings of the elders and we talked about it a little bit.”
The crew headed back to the campsite where they wove cedar headbands with Tulalip tribal member, Chelsea Craig, and listened to their guests speak about the importance of preserving the resources of the land for future generations.
“The goal is to go up there and talk to the kids about natural resources, talk about why it’s important for Tulalip tribal members specifically to work in the natural resources field, what it means to us spiritually and culturally,” explained Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “We try to get them excited about that and get them to have some ownership of it. We tend to bring them up there and teach them as much as we can about the huckleberry restoration and let them know that we pass this on to you, it’s your job to continue to pass this on to the next generation and make sure these resources are here for them as well.
“I forget every year how amazing it is up there,” he continued. “I’m surprised every time I go back, just by the utter beauty of the site. There’s nothing but mountains and clouds around you, you only hear the sounds of nature. These kids have the opportunity to go out there and experience something that is much closer to what our ancestors experienced for thousands of years. It’s almost like you can feel the connection to the earth a lot stronger there.”
The campers spent the remainder of their time playing games and picking berries at the swədaʔx̌ali site. Many of the campers had yet to enjoy the tasty berries grown at high altitude, but according to lead camp counselor Michael Lotan, once their taste buds got a hold of the delicious ancestral snack, they couldn’t get enough.
“A lot of people told the kids they needed to eat the berries to feed their inner Indian,” Michael stated. “So, that’s all they did after that, was roam around looking for ripe berries and eating them. All of them want to go back up and pick more when the berries are ready in a couple of weeks. That’s another good thing this camp does, is show them we have this area that needs to be used otherwise we’ll lose our rights to use it.”
On their last day in the mountains, the youth packed up camp and headed to the river. Ending Mountain Camp with an extreme splash, the kids rafted down the Skykomish River before heading back to Tulalip for a welcome home celebration with their family and new friends.
“I really connected with the land because my ancestors were once there,” expressed first time Mountain Camper, Matthew Hunter. “We picked huckleberries and I even got to bring some home for my mom. The restoration was fun; we cleared some trees out and made a big pile so they can burn them later. It’s important that we grow more berries. This was my first time camping up there and I learned how to weave cedar, harvest huckleberries and connect with the land, campers and counselors. It was totally new experience for me and really fun.”
For more information, please contact the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department at (360) 716-4617.
Imagine having just a single solitary day to impart generations’ worth of Tulalip cultural knowledge, experiences and insight onto a group of seasoned (non-Native) educators. It’s a near impossible task, to say the least. However, the noble pursuit of such a cultural exchange is significant for the glimmer of hope it may offer to deepen understanding of a complex history and thriving culture of a modern day Pacific Northwest tribe. Educators involved would gain tremendously by broadening their perspective on Tulalip related issues, while deliberately resulting in an improved learning environment for their Native students.
On August 8, fifty-three Marysville School District (MSD) administrators, including every principal and assistant principal in the District, convened at a Marysville-Getchell High School meeting space for what would be an enriching journey into ‘Tulalip 101’.
“I thank each and every one of you for this opportunity to share a part of our culture with you. We know the time frame is small, but it is significant,” said Deborah Parker, Indigenous Education Director. “The leaders of MSD have allowed us this time and space to share with you a piece of our culture, a piece of who we are and what we care about traditionally, mentally, emotionally, and physically.”
The Women’s Warriors Song was shared to ground the group with a singular purpose and align the heartbeats for a collective mission…one heart, one mind. What followed as a brief PowerPoint presentation on Tulalip Tribes history, Coast Salish culture, and a lesson on the importance of conducting land acknowledgements in each school.
“By doing land recognition we honor the sacrifices our ancestors made and make a commitment for true healing of the injustice that has been served in the name of education for Indigenous people,” explained Chelsea Craig, Cultural Specialist for Quil Ceda Elementary. “You have to add that second piece and really understand your value and how your equity statement goes with it – thanks for acknowledging that we lost our lands and this is what we’re committed to doing to promote healing.”
Land acknowledgment by itself is a small gesture. It becomes meaningful when coupled with authentic relationship and informed action. But this beginning can be an opening to greater public consciousness of Native sovereignty and cultural rights, a step toward balanced partnerships and understanding. Considering there are an estimated 1,200 Native students attending MSD schools, the importance of conducting land acknowledgements at school functions, like general assemblies or sporting events, can significantly raise mindfulness while promoting healing.
The fifty-three person group of MSD administrators learned two words in the ancestral Tulalip language of Lushootseed prior to a collaborative Tulalip tour – sduhubš (Snohomish) and τ̕igwicid (thank you). With both Deborah and Chelsea assisting in proper pronunciation, the group repeated the words several times in unison to ensure they would be properly used later in the day.
The collective group was split into two and shuttled to the Tulalip Reservation via MSD No.25 school busses. Their first visit was to Hibulb Cultural Center & Natural History Preserve where they enjoyed fresh made nettle lemonade and met with senior curator Tessa Campbell. As they were led on a private tour of Hibulb’s special collections, Tessa explained the special meaning and traditional use of several thought-provoking artifacts.
“We are a certified archeology repository with archives full of collections not currently on display, including some rather large items,” stated Tessa while leading the tour. “We have an ocean going canoe carved by the Edwards brothers (Swinomish) that was used to travel as a family to and from Whidbey Island, Camano Island, and the area now known as the City of Everett. We also have a growing collection of story poles carved by Tulalip tribal member William Shelton. Currently, we have five of his poles with the oldest being a spirit pole carved in 1913.”
Following the guided Hibulb visit, the group’s next stop was the Tulalip Administration Building. They took in the amazing artistry of two story poles that welcome visitors to the Tribe’s central government offices. The Tulalip Youth Council shared a song as everyone took a seat in the largest meeting room.
“Did you know that over 60% of our tribe of nearly 5,000 members is 18 or younger?” asked Patti Gobin, Natural Resources Special Projects Manager. “The importance of the good work going on right now is vital to our young ones because in the most literal sense, they are our future. We’ve been waiting a long time for you to accept, understand, and uplift our people in the area of education. There is a sense of urgency to have our MSD educators know our treaty and to know, that as Coast Salish people, we still live our lifeways out here.”
“As Indian people, we need to have an education to navigate this modern world and build a better future,” added Board of Director Glen Gobin. “Marysville public schools have an obligation to help educate our students. But to do that you need to understand who we are and the social structures we deal with on the reservation. It’s so important we find a way to work together and the only way to do that is to commit to knowing who each other are. There will be struggles, but there will be successes as well. The only way to get through this is to build upon the successes and learn from the struggles, together.”
A powerful exercise in understanding and learning from history was then led by Heritage High School teacher Ms. Ervanna Little Eagle and Quil Ceda Elementary teacher Ms. Gina Bluebird. The lesson was titled Tulalip Boarding School Experience. The goal was to examine how colonized education affected generations of Tulalip people.
Using heartfelt and gut-wrenching testimonials from those who were forced to attend boarding schools in the early 1900s, the group participated in several listening and writing activities.
“I considered what it would be like to lose my identity and it was unimaginable,” shared one MSD administrator.
“The underlying goal was to assimilate the Indians. Boarding school were then a means of committing cultural genocide carried out by the federal government,” stated another.
After taking a few moments to let the full weight of the boarding school era and its historical trauma that affects many of their young Native students today, the group moved quietly from the meeting space, still thoroughly in reflection, and back to the school busses. The assembly of MSD leadership then visited the Don Hatch Youth Center, Tulalip Long House, and Boys & Girls Club. At each stop they chatted with longtime employees and students who were out and about enjoying summer vacation.
Finally, their journey came to its last destination on the reservation when they visited the present day site of the Tulalip Indian Boarding School. The group then formed a prayer circle led by Tulalip tribal member Monie Ordonia on those profane grounds in an effort to bring strength to power.
“For us to stand here is healing for our people because this is a very powerful circle,” said Chelsea. Her grandmother Celum Young attended the boarding school and once recalled being put in an outside jail cell for speaking just one word of her traditional language. “We have an opportunity to change our story in Marysville, not just for Native people. This isn’t just about our Native kids. This is about all of our kids. There are lots of historically underserved children in our district that we need to think differently about. We are growing and hopefully become stronger as leaders to make changes that benefit the entire district.”
There was a shared optimism after a full day designed to help MSD administrators and educators better understand their Tulalip students’ culture and community. Deeply rooted words like ‘healing’, ‘hopeful’, and ‘forgiveness’ were collectively expressed as the group reflected on their opportunities to become agents of change for the betterment of their diverse student population.
“It’s so important that we, as educators, make sure we are doing everything we can to help our Native American students become successful and reach their full potential,” said Eneille Nelson, Principal of Kellogg Marsh Elementary while taking in the Tulalip Bay view. “Being here to see where our students live and come from is very humbling. This space and land is so beautiful, and our students are just as beautiful as their surroundings.”“I didn’t know the history of the tribes and the painful experiences they’ve had with education,” admitted Tara Jeffries, Assistant Principal at Grove Elementary. She moved from Oregon last year to work for MSD. “It was so moving to have the opportunity to experience Tulalip culture in such an authentic way. This experience not only changed our perspective, but it changed our hearts. We now have a deeper understanding and can apply that in a way we couldn’t have before.”
With the 2019-2020 school year starting in a matter of weeks, only time and experience will determine how significant an impact the MSD/Tulalip cultural exchange has on new and returning students. But if all meaningful and lasting change starts on the inside, then a few changed hearts and minds can go a long way.