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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
“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.