For quite possibly the first time ever, the red, white and black colors of the Tulalip Tribes are flying overhead at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Tulalip’s iconic orca was raised up on June 7 by tribal member and student representative Desmond Valencia during a celebratory gathering of M.P. students and staff, as well as a coalition of Native representatives with drum-in-hand.
“The moment was surreal and there’s really no words to describe it,” said Desmond after he raised the flag to a traditional drum beat. “I was super nervous, but stepped out of my comfort zone to seize the opportunity to represent my people and my family. It’s a huge honor to be the first person to raise the flag and it felt good to see it flying as I walked to class today. It was definitely a good day to be Native.”
It’s no secret that Marysville and Tulalip have a history rife with conflict and misunderstanding, especially when it comes to the subject of education. However, raising the Tulalip flag is a symbol of hope for the future. It’s an action that intends to create a better partnership between the two communities.
“ This is a step in the right direction,” declared cultural specialist Chelsea Craig as the gathering’s first speaker. “Marysville and Tulalip, we are one community. We stand on the traditional lands of the Snohomish people right now, and by raising this flag we are healing the story of education for our community.”
Principal Christine Bell made it a mission of hers to make this day happen. Seeing this united effort through from start to finish, in collaboration with Native advocate Doug Salinas and Native liaison Matt Remle, allows a more diverse student body to feel accepted and proudly celebrate their culture.
“It’s very important to me as a principal that all of our students see themselves in their school and for as long as I’ve been here we’ve worked hard to make it that way,” shared Principal Bell. “My thanks go out to the Tulalip Tribes for allowing this to happen. We share a desire to have our students feel accepted for who they are. School culture is what you celebrate and choose to reinforce. If we’re not celebrating our Tulalip students, then we are doing this wrong.”
For all Principal Bell has done to uplift Tulalip students and culture during her M.P. tenure she was blanketed in true Native fashion.
“What a blessing to be honored and blanketed in that way. It means the world to me to be able to make this flag raising happen. This is a day I won’t ever forget,” she said. She also announced that in addition to the flag at the entrance of the school, there will be two more used for display during school events.
Among the crowd of event observers was a beaming Tulalip tribal member, 18-year-old Martelle Richwine.
“As a former Tomahawk, it warms my heart to see Marysville Pilchuck open their eyes to our Native community,” said the class of 2021 graduate. “When I was a student I felt that I wouldn’t be accepted as a Native American, but to know that M.P. now cares means the world because current and incoming Native students can feel comfortable in their own skin.”
“After this defining moment, I believe that the Marysville/Tulalip partnership can only go up from here,” added Desmond, a fellow graduating senior who plans on attending WSU in the fall. “One of my goals is to get more involved in tribal events and do my part in bettering our community. After I finish college, I would definitely love to come back and continue to see the relationship thrive.”
By adding the Tulalip flag to the same pole that holds the United States and Washington State flags, Marysville Pilchuck recognizes Tulalip’s sovereignty as an Indigenous nation and acknowledges that the best way forward is in partnership, one step at a time.
Apps play a key role in today’s technology-led society. Whether you are catching up with your pals on social media, staying up-to-date on current world events and local news, killing time with addictive smart phone games, or listening to some good tunes, audiobooks or podcasts, as the now trademarked-by-Apple-saying goes, there’s an app for that.
In Tulalip, apps are important to the modern-day Indigenous business owner, artist, musician, and student. Tribal casino or government employees can easily swipe through a selection of apps to complete their everyday tasks, increase productivity, practice good communication skills by means of e-mails, text messaging, social media posts or Zoom meetings, and can even keep up with the latest community happenings by checking out Tulalip News on the Facebook app or the Tulalip TV app.
The youth of today are masters of technology. Learning how to navigate phones and tablets at a young age, kids are now utilizing apps to enhance their educational journey, and often use a number of apps to complete their school projects from research to creation to presentation. Apps are proving to be essential learning tools. A newly released app was created with the kids in mind, to engage the future generations of Tulalip with the traditional language of their ancestors in a fun, exciting and interactive way.
Now available, wherever you download your favorite apps, is a software application like none-other, known as Our Table. Brought to you by a collaboration between the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department and the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the app is set-up in a game-style format to teach Tulalip’s youngest generation the dialect of Lushootseed that was known throughout the Snohomish territory since time immemorial.
“Culturally, that’s one of the things that’s always been done,” explained Dave Sienko, Lushootseed Media Developer. “Things are done around the kitchen table, families get together and they talk and share. That’s kind of what the app is trying to convey.”
The first-of-its-kind language learning app, Our Table is centered around one of the major traditional lifeways of the Tulalip people, nourishment. Bringing ancient words and phrases into the modern world, the kids are not only able to hear the pronunciation of words like spiqʷuc (potato), biac (meat), qʷagʷəb ləpəskʷi (cookie), as well as many other tasty foods, they also learn the names of immediate family members such as tsi sk̓ʷuy (mother) and ti bad (father).
The object of the game is to share food with your family. At the start of the game, you choose two different foods and one family member. The family member then asks for one of the two items, and it is up to you to deliver the correct plate of food to the table.
“All too often we talk about our kids having too much screen time,” Dave stated. ”Most of the time, screen time is considered by oneself, but this app encourages the connections between family members; between grandparents and grandkids, parents and kids, siblings – just sharing the culture together.”
By learning the Lushootseed word for each of relative, the kids can ask a member of their family to play along in the app’s two-player ‘Talk to Your Partner’ mode, where they can properly address the other player and share the correct food item that they are requesting – entirely in Lushootseed. You are rewarded one star for every correct food item that is shared and once you reach ten stars, you unlock a hidden-bonus-round where you command your character to collect as many berries as fast as they can and place them in a cedar-woven basket.
Said Dave, “That was one of the things that was the primary focus of the app, make it very interactive and fun so it’s not just a click-and-listen. You physically need to do something, drag items here and there, and you need to do it correctly, that’s how you get points. It has a reward element to it too, especially for the younger kids, but it’s fun for all ages, you hear the fun, light music and you have to get the different berries. That’s one of the things that’s fantastic about the app is that yeah, you’re getting the different berries, but it’s also telling you what type of berries they are as an award, whether that’s t̕aqa (salalberry) or stəgʷad (salmonberry).”
This recent app development is just the latest endeavor from the two programs who have collaborated many times in the past to ensure the kids are hearing and learning the vernacular of their people. The academy invited the Lushootseed Language Warriors into their classrooms to share words, songs and stories with the students on a regular basis, in what is known as the academy’s Language Immersion Curriculum. The kids become familiarized with the verb-based language at a young age, and can further build upon that foundation throughout their entire educational experience.
“I believe that our children need to know from the youngest ages who they are,” said Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “Research says, if they are totally connected to who they are as birth to five children, they’re going to be more successful in their lifetime because they have that solid sense of self. We really want to build that connection between our language and culture. We want to share that value; I think that the Lushootseed Department does a great job of sharing that value. We want our families to have an opportunity to learn Lushootseed too, with our kids.”
The app was officially released on Google Play (previously the Android Market) in September of 2020 and on the Apple App Store in February of this year. Dave explained that the app took over a year-and-a-half to create and would’ve been here sooner, had it not been for the challenges presented by the global pandemic. However, he assures that this is just the start of Our Table and hopes to routinely update the app and add on additional features and realms outside of the kitchen. Dave also wants to provide in-app links that forward the user to the Tulalip Lushootseed website, where the kids can hear traditional songs and stories that correlate to the round in their current game.
Many Lushootseed Warriors can be heard throughout the app as several of the teachers leant their vocals to the project, enunciating words and phrases for the kids to hear and practice. Dave also wanted to mention that Marysville School District faculty member, David Court, played a major role in the app’s development, as well as TELA director Sheryl Fryberg and Lushootseed Manager, Michele Balagot.
“To me, the language means that we are speaking what our ancestors used to speak. We are bringing it back,” exclaimed Tulalip Lushootseed Manager, Michele Balagot. “We thought we should be teaching them young because this is when they are developing their brains. If they start hearing Lushootseed from the beginning of their education, they’ll learn the sounds and know some of the words. It’s a very hard language to learn, so it’s rewarding to hear the students speaking it. It’s very important for the kids to carry it on so we don’t lose it.”
Our Table is available to download on all smart devices and is the perfect app to engage the little ones with the Tulalip culture. Be sure to give-it-a-go at the next family game night or get-together.
The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) has a long-standing relationship with one Peter Cottontail, famously known as the Easter Bunny. For the past six years, the bunny has journeyed to the sduhubš territory to celebrate his favorite holiday with the Academy’s students. For a while, the bunny hosted the Easter Egg-travaganza which featured an egg-hunt and a photoshoot with the kiddos. Recently, beginning over the past couple years, the Easter Bunny and TELA began a new holiday tradition together by gifting the future generations of Tulalip a Native American-themed storybook they can enjoy with their families while learning the lifelong skill of reading.
“Literacy is important because we want our children to start reading,” said Katrina Lane, TELA Family and Community Engagement Coordinator. “They aren’t able to read on their own right now but if we read to them, they will learn to read even sooner. We also add-in the Native element, so they’re able to see a piece of our culture in reading.”
Talk about a fun way to get children between the ages of birth to five excited about reading! On the morning of April 1, the last school day before Easter weekend, the bunny began to make his rounds, hopping through the Academy’s hallways and visiting over twenty classrooms.
The kids could not contain their joy upon seeing the bunny, shouting, ‘Hi Easter Bunny!’ and the, ‘Easter Bunny is here!’ while jumping up and down and rushing to their classroom windows to interact with the famous holiday character. The bunny, who was masked-up, showcased the importance of social distancing by taking health and safety precautions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which prevented his annual trip to Tulalip last year when the school and Tribal government temporarily shut-down operations.
Moments prior to the book-delivery, Katrina shared, “Because of COVID we are masked-up and practicing social distancing and so is our bunny. This year he is able to bring them a book and remind them it’s important to wear a mask and to social distance during COVID.”
The children were delighted to receive their gift from the bunny. Some kids immediately began to flip through the pages and others held the book up-high over their heads, thanking the bunny for their new story, which is filled with fun traditional illustrations. This year, the kids took home Black Bear, Red Fox: Colours in Cree by Julie Flett (Cree- Métis) while the infants of the Academy received Black and White: Visual Stimulation Images for Babies by Morgan Asayuf (Tsimshian). TELA purchased the books at the Salal Marketplace giftshop at the Tulalip Resort Casino through a grant awarded to the Academy by the Tulalip Charitable Fund.
After another successful Easter-themed book-gifting event, TELA is excited to get the literary holiday tradition back on the bunny trail, promoting the magic of reading and hoping to engage their children in the activity both at home and in the classroom to set them up for a bright future.
Said Katrina, “Most Easter Bunnies deliver candy, our Early Learning Easter Bunny delivers cultural reading books to promote literacy because we feel it’s important to share the love of a good book!”
A long-practiced tradition in many Native American cultures has to do cause and effect, decision-making and understanding how an action taken today can have an impact on the quality of life for our people in the future. Through the seven-generation principle, tribes nationwide are making positive changes within their community whether it be educational, economic, cultural, financial, or health-based, keeping in mind our children’s children. And for as far back as many can recall, the ancestors of the Tulalip people have always had their descendants’ best interest in mind, keeping the lifeways of the people alive during a time when cultural identities were being stripped away by forced assimilation.
“The babies are the future of this community, of the world in general,” expressed Michelle Cooper, Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Infant/Toddler Specialist. “I think it’s important to make sure that we’re supporting them as best we can, as well as their parents and their families. We want to make sure everybody feels comfortable and knows we’re a team. Like they say, it takes a village; and I think it’s important to continue that on.”
Keeping true to the seven-generation principal, several departments within the Tulalip Tribes have provided services for the youth of the community for years, starting from birth and extending past high school, ensuring the children are presented with many opportunities to learn about the traditions of their people as well as succeed in their journey from adolescence into adulthood. But what many may not know is there are multiple departments within the Tribe that also help soon-to-be Tulalip tribal members, offering services to expectant mothers before, during and after the birthing process.
For instance, Tulalip Family Haven hosts a weekly hangout specifically for the mothers at Tulalip called Mom’s Group. Pre-COVID times, the group sessions allowed local moms the space to reflect, share ideas, create crafts with their children, take part in a clothing exchange and receive incentives such as car seats and diapers in bulk. Mom’s Group also warmly welcomed first-time pregnant mothers to discuss what to expect as a new mom and express any emotions they may be going through so other moms could in-turn relate and offer words of advice to help her work through any struggle she may be facing. Throughout the past year as we navigated the pandemic, Mom’s Group continued to gather on a weekly basis via the Facebook messenger app.
“We are a support group that allows mothers and women raising kids the opportunity to come together,” said Sasha Smith, Tulalip Family Haven’s Family and Youth Support Coordinator and Mom’s Group moderator. “We wish to provide a sense of belonging, a sense that there’s other women in our community to support each other, a place where we can come and just talk about motherhood and ask questions that are hard to ask your doctor or anybody in your family. They’re able to open up and just have a healthy discussion about childbirth and raising your children.”
She continued, “We are still continuing on with Moms Group, virtually. We’re able to do it over Facebook, we still meet every Tuesday from 11 (AM) to Noon. We just drop-in for about 5-10 minutes, we make sure there’s some kind of lesson. It’s amazing to see that they still have those strong connections with each other and that they still really enjoy showing up every Tuesday and having that time with their friends on Zoom.”
The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, commonly referred to as TELA, has also stayed in touch with their students and families throughout the pandemic. During normal school years, the academy routinely held workshops for expecting parents that focused on the importance of early childhood development and worked with the parents, helping them get situated and ready for the new baby. TELA recently resumed in-school instruction again, but are not back to full capacity as of yet, and are still offering Zoom lessons to a handful of students.
Said TELA Director, Sheryl Fryberg, “Right now, TELA is doing a lot of Zoom meetings with our children and families. We are only providing direct services to up to 75% of our students, I think we maybe have, more realistically, about 60-65%. And then with the rest of the students, the teachers do Zooms with them and provide activity packets, so they’re still receiving educational services from us. We want to provide all the support that we can, and especially with our young moms and just moms in general, they need support when they’re isolated and not seeing their families. We want to always make sure that they know that we’re here for them.”
Another department that assists pregnant mothers and new families is Tulalip Community Health, through the birth equity grant.
“I am a Community Health nurse, as my primary role, and I have an background in OB,” explained Morgan Peterson, Tulalip Community Health Nurse. “I’ve been a part of the birth equity grant which is focused on improving birth outcomes for pregnant women and the young children that they have. So, in my role, I try to focus on the nursing portion of it, case management of at-risk pregnant women and those young babies that have had NICU stays, being a hospital liaison for them.”
Added Shayleigh Tucker, Tulalip Community Health Advocate, “I really like to call it a doctor translator. We are able to be the in-between, between the community language and the language that providers are using, and explain what they’re doing. We also work with people’s care teams to get them the best suitable care available. We were going to medical appointments with people before COVID. Right now, patient advocacy looks a lot more like helping our community members feel empowered in their prenatal care, it’s a lot more text and call-based.”
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, these departments have remained readily available to expectant mothers and have continued offering their services and resources. And now, taking it a step further, they are combining forces to reach even more people within the community who may not know what they have to offer new moms and young families, as well as to better serve their current clientele.
“Our plan for the new group, MCHC, is to establish a monthly parent education discussion group,” said Family Haven Manager, Alison Bowen. “Our plan, for now, is Zoom education for the community. MCHC stands for Maternal Child Health Committee and the purpose of this group is to bring together all the different Tulalip entities that are working with families with young children, up to age five. Since we’re all serving these families in different ways, we thought why don’t we all come together, find out what families we’re serving and not serving, what might be some problem areas where we can improve, what additional outreach we can do, as well as using our funds and our knowledge in the best way, so we’re not duplicating services, but building on each other’s strengths.”
Officially kicking-off in February, MCHC will host a class once-a-month through Zoom, offering information to expectant mothers and their families and also providing any resources or services they might require. Originally a concept that formulated in the library of old Tulalip elementary school, roughly six years ago, between TELA and Family Haven, the idea has now come to fruition and MCHC members are excited about the new collaborative venture.
“I’m excited about the cohesiveness between all of us coming together,” Morgan stated. “And also, for the families to also see that we’re all united, working on the same things to support everybody, their children and their families.”
“I like this collaboration that we have going on,” said TELA Birth to Three Assistant Manager, Marci Vela. “There’s a lot of resources that our pregnant moms might not know they have access to, and they kind of lose out on those services. This is a good way to let them know they have the support of all of us as a community.”
The once-a-month MCHC classes will have a new theme every session and each department will take turns with the hosting duties, in which they will include an educational component as well as some fun activities. The participants will also get the chance to receive incentives, ask questions, address any of their fears or concerns, as well as connect with other mothers and discuss the few challenges and many successes that come with being a new mom.
MCHC has a number of ideas for the upcoming classes including a Father’s Day event, doula training, and lactation and feeding education.
“I am a certified lactation educator and provide lactation and feeding support for infants and young children,” said Tulalip Child Health Educator, Erika Queen. “Pretty much any way of feeding an infant and child, I’m happy to help with.”
With the establishment of the MCHC, Family Haven, TELA, Community Health and beda?chelh are creating a better tomorrow for the future generations of Tulalip, not only by taking care of their soon-to-be membership before birth, but also ensuring that the mothers are in a healthy state -mentally, emotionally, and physically during the early stages of the beautiful journey known as motherhood. More details will begin to arrive in the upcoming weeks as MCHC gears up for their very first Zoom event, happening this February. Stay tuned to Tulalip News for more information and help spread the word to those who could benefit from the services, education and resources provided by the Maternal Child Health Committee.
Sasha expressed, “We’re such a close-knit community, most people know each other and everybody’s intertwined in family. I think it’s important to have an additional outlet. Yes, you can go to your aunties and to your grandmas to get advice, but sometimes it’s refreshing to come together and gain that knowledge and support from your peers. To help them understand that they’re all going through similar things and that they can get through whatever it is they’re going through together.”
Each year the Tulalip Education Division honors students at the Annual Graduation Banquet. This year, we did not get the normal banquet and opportunity to honor all of our seniors who worked so hard to finish the last of their high school career during a pandemic.
At the end each school year we give an opportunity for students to apply for Tulalip Senior Boy & Girl of the Year and also just recently, the Indian Education Parent Committee Student of the Year. With delays and organizing during a pandemic, we are happy to close the year out with the official winner’s announcement.
2020 Tulalip Senior Girl of the Year: Chelsea Orr
2020 Tulalip Senior Boy of the Year: Tal “TJ” Severn
2020 Indian Education Parent Committee student of the year: Marisa Joseph
Congratulations to our three students of the year. You are outstanding role models for our community and we look forward to watching your journey of growth, determination and success.
We hope that all of our graduates are doing well and working towards their life goals. Obstacles are inevitable, but possibilities are endless. Honor your roots and never give up. The Tulalip Education Division, Leaders and Community are cheering for you all.
Washington State is home to over one million public school students. According to the Seattle Times, 94.4% of these students have begun the 2020-2021 school year not in the classroom nor with any in-person interactions with their devoted teachers. Instead, nearly all of Washington’s public school districts have gone all-in with a virtual teaching concept designed to minimize spread of coronavirus – Distance Learning.
Defined as any form of remote education where the student is not physically present for the lesson, distance learning is the default safety net for education in the age of COVID. Thanks largely to the power of the internet, educators are able to teach their carefully crafted lesson plans via a computer screen and video cam to their young learners. This type of learning comes with one major flaw; it’s completely dependent on the students having the access and know-how to operate today’s tech gadgetry and ever-updating software and apps.
Welcome to 2020, where the kingdom of social distancing reigns supreme and access to ample bandwidth is the difference between a student achieving and being irritably stuck on a frozen Zoom screen.
Fortunately for Tulalip’s K-12 students, they belong to a Tribe who had the foresight to transform the reservation’s largest two youth activity centers into dedicated distance learning sites. In the weeks leading up to the new school year, the Tulalip Teen Center and Boys & Girls Club received critical network upgrades to ensure a high-demand of bandwidth could be sustained, turned typical activity and gaming rooms into spaces that encourage learning, and instituted COVID guidelines such as temperature checks, mask enforcement, and social distancing.
“The health, education and overall success of our students is our top priority. The Tulalip Education Division and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club are working hard to provide support in the safest environment possible,” stated Jessica Bustad, executive director of education. “Together we can ensure that our students begin thriving during these uncertain times. We wrapped up our second full week of Distance Learning and are improving services provided to our students. We are very proud of our young people who are showing up and doing the best they can.”
Change can come into our lives as a result of crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. Being unprepared and resistant to change leads to fear, hostility and a sense of hopelessness. Embracing change and managing all its challenges in a constructive way is key to not only surviving, but thriving in an ever-changing world.
Adapting to change is what the devoted staff of both distance learning sites and the many young minds who attend on a daily basis exemplify. Primarily accommodating Kindergarten – 5th grade students who require much more attention and emotional reassuring, the usual Boys & Girls Club activities specialists are now de facto educators.
“We are no longer a traditional boys and girls club. We’ve become a school-like learning center,” said Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Club. “We have 98 kids registered and average about 70 kids per day. We separate them by grade level, so 1st graders are together, 2nd graders are together and so on.
“As a staff, we feel so needed. We’re all learning to navigate this unprecedented time together,” she continued. “We have five different elementary schools represented among our K-5 kids. We do our best to keep up with each student’s daily responsibilities, but there are so few of us and so many of them. It can be overwhelming at times because we know some kids require more one-on-one time, but we have to use our time effectively to do the most good. At the end of the day, we are making a huge impact by creating a safe place for our community’s kids to learn.”
Adapting to the new tech-centric normal is easier for teens who willingly spend much of their free time with their eyes glued to screens anyway, whether it be a computer, TV, cell phone, tablet or video game. A big obstacle for them is less familiarity with Chromebooks and virtual learning programs and more access to a consistent internet connection. Within the rezzy landscape of Tulalip, stable internet and adequate bandwidth can be difficult to come by under the best of conditions.
Network upgrades and additional Wi-Fi hot spots at the Teen Center make it a quality alternative for homebound teenagers looking to focus on their school work. Plus, there is support offered by both peers and staff, many of whom are recent graduates of the same Marysville School District curriculum.
“It’s been pretty cool because there are people here to guide us with our school work when we’re confused and have questions,” shared 9th grader Image Enick. “For those with working parents, there is no one at home to assist with assignments, but here at the Teen Center there are plenty of people we are comfortable with asking questions. I haven’t had any difficulty with my online classes or getting kicked off because of bad internet either.”
“We are so proud of the kids here,” added tribal advocate Courtney Jefferson. “We’ve been averaging 40 to 60 a day. They have been taking the initiative to prioritize their education and haven’t needed to be redirected to engage in their online classes. They’ve been getting themselves into their learning spaces, taking ownership of their rooms here in the building, and being productive with their time.”
The Tulalip distance learning sites continue to adapt and find creative ways to provide additional support to our students. Both locations are a safe space for students to access the internet, connect to WI-FI, or use a desktop. They each provide daily meals as well. Most importantly, the sites allow students to build a routine, with consistent support and resources that effectively promote scholastic achievement.
The Tulalip Education staff are also available to provide support and resources to students who are not currently attending the facilities. Feel free to contact any of the programs if you have additional questions:
It’s barely been two weeks since the Tulalip Tribes announced the availability of COVID impact funding for its K-12 students, and nearly 800 applications have been submitted already. The $350 school readiness stipend is made available as part of the CARES Act, which was signed into law back in March, and is intended to provide critical relief for students as they prepare to start the new school year learning remotely.
“Our tribes are feeling significant strain,” said Senator Martha McSally. “This legislation provides immediate cash relief and strong assistance to tribal communities impacted by this so workers and families can pay their bills. I will continue to work with the Trump Administration to ensure this relief is administered quickly, efficiently and in a manner that works best for tribal communities.”
With all Washington State school districts either recently starting or set to start the 2020-2021 academic year, the uncertainty of resuming education is no more. It’s certain that the routine of daily education is back, but the details of that routine have changed immensely. As a result of COVID-19, Governor Inslee mandated all K-12 public and private schools remain closed to in-person learning and instead institute distance learning solutions. For the vast majority of Tulalip students this means going all digital, all the time from the comforts of home.
For students and their families lacking in the necessary resources to provide an effective learning environment for distance learning, the unexpected opportunity to receive $350 per Tulalip student can be a significant morale boost.
“Nobody was expecting this money. We’re fortunate the tribe applied for relief funds from a grant to help out our students and it was accepted,” explained Lisa Fryberg, positive youth development advocate. “These funds are intended to go towards school supplies and digital resources to make our children’s learning experience better.”
“Hopefully, all our kids will see this money be used to facilitate a functioning learning environment at their home,” added fellow youth advocate Deyamonta Diaz. “What we hope not to see is this money being viewed as supplemental income and used to purchase items that really don’t prioritize our kids’ education.”
To create a highly effective learning environment at home, here are some basic essentials local school districts suggest purchasing: a desk or mini table dedicated for an individual student, a reliable internet or WiFi connection to support multiple devices, a comfortable desk chair, personal headphones, a printer with a decent supply of paper and ink, and a white board to be used as a student planner to manage class schedule, homework assignments, and any broader academic goals. Two items left off this essential list are a cheap laptop and webcam because Marysville School District and local private schools issued their students Chomebooks with built-in webcam and internet access.
“As a mother of two students, one in 5th grade and the other in 10th grade, I plan on using their stipends to make sure they each have their own work stations,” said Lisa. “The $350 can purchase a lot if used sensibly. There’s no need to buy everything brand new, at full retail price. I’ve been searching Facebook Marketplace and other reselling apps to find work station essentials.”
With so many applications turned in thus far, and many hundreds more expected in the coming weeks, Youth Services staff request patience and understanding that it takes about two weeks from application processing to stipend mail out. Each check is made out to the individual student and no receipts are required to be submitted after the fact. The deadline to submit a stipend application is October 31.
“I always felt like we took our public school system for granted. Like, there are those who are consistently critical of what public school doesn’t offer or what they lack, but now we get to experience what it’s like not to have this resource and already a lot of people miss what they took for granted, ” reflected Deyamonta, who serves Totem Middle School as a student advocate. “We need the school districts as much as they need us. At least for the next several months, we’ll see how our families and students are able to adapt to a more independent learning environment.”
With many schools across the country closed and operating under remote learning or a hybrid model to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students and their families alike are bracing themselves for a fall semester unlike any other. This makes for quite the back-to-school shopping shakeup. Fortunately, the school readiness stipend can help curb costs and ease the transition to an all-digital, distance learning landscape.
“I think music is important because I feel like it can have a message and it can help people through a hard time. I feel like music lifts people up,” expressed Tulalip tribal member, Tyler Fryberg.
Music is a universal language. Spoken through drum patterns and chord progressions, music helps communicate how you feel – happy, sad, angsty, dance-y, nostalgic or smitten. And whether you are the songwriter or a carpool karaoke master, music helps you emit that emotion that you might otherwise bottle-up or bury. Many people often tie emotions to music, so when they hear a song on the radio or on their shuffle, they are momentarily taken away to a certain era in their lifetime.
For Indigenous people, music played a significant role in our ancestor’s spirituality and culture. Offering songs to the Creator, the earth and the water is a common practice that is held prior to gatherings across Native America. Songs that tell stories and offer blessings are sung in traditional languages and passed on through the generations. Some songs are so sacred and powerful that they are only performed during ceremony. And that connection Natives feel when hearing those drums and singing those songs with your fellow tribal members is indescribable.
When speaking of emotional and mental health, music can help alleviate extreme feelings and give you the courage and confidence to get some serious healing work done. More and more people are coming to realize what Native people have known for generations; music is medicine.
The Snohomish County Music Project (SCMP) is continuing to have a meaningful impact on the Tulalip community in the wake of a worldwide pandemic. With services offered at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) and Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT), as well as several other schools throughout the Marysville School District (MSD), the music project assisted close to 500 tribal students either enrolled Tulalip or with another sovereign nation.
“We’re a music therapy organization and we’re here to support individual and collective well-being,” explained SCMP Music Therapist, Vee Fansler. “We have an anti-oppressive approach and a trauma informed approach, so everything we do is coming with an awareness of the bigger context that shape our internal health.”
Added Colby Cumine, Music Therapist, “We are a non-profit and we provide music therapy services to the greater Snohomish county area. We have a lot of different programs and people we work with ranging from infants to adults; adults with dementia, adults and kids with disabilities, kids with trauma, veterans and in-patient psych hospitals.”
Natives withstood years of violence as the U.S. Government attempted to erase our culture and identity. The forced assimilation era, and the unspeakable acts that happened at the boarding schools, were traumatic experiences that involuntarily trickled down through the generations. And without a complete understanding of how generational trauma affects one’s well-being, many people’s mental state went untreated for a number of years and certain cycles continued or in some situations, escalated.
SCMP has taken an approach to help people heal and work through traumatic life events by using music therapy. For the past several years, Vee’s voice has become widely recognizable amongst the youth as they built a strong bond together through the common language of music. Colby is another positive influence on the Tulalip youth as he also hosts music therapy sessions, both individual and group, with TELA and MSD elementary students and the weekly ‘yoU ROCK’ rock band rehearsals, which have become quite the social happening amongst young adults living with special needs.
The music project was in perfect rhythm, reaching a large volume of people and providing them with the necessary tools, resources and outlets to heal after life altering events. But then the team reached a caesura, a short abrupt break in the music, when the coronavirus struck and the SCMP was forced to switch tempos.
“There are so many needs that are present in our communities, we needed to make ourselves available to support people’s mental health, in the context of the pandemic, and not put people at more risk,” expressed Vee. “We did a lot of outreach to children and families because we usually contact people through schools, especially at Tulalip, most of our work happens in the schools.”
Opting to continue providing services to their clients during the pandemic, the music project decided to go completely digital and since the beginning of the pandemic, their clients have grown their knowledge about music by working on arrangements that they are familiar with and that appeal to them. The music they work on, both individually and as a group, crosses barriers and multiple genres ranging from classic Disney sing-a-longs to old school hip hop and even country-western.
“We created a series of YouTube videos. Some of the therapists recorded songs to send out to people in the community who are stuck at home for the first time and maybe in need of things to do or activities,” said Colby. “I started a weekly livestream on Facebook, we have a YouTube playlist that families can use at home to interact with their kids, and we will be having these weekly livestream jam sessions. And in addition to that, reaching out to everyone I typically see in a small group setting or in a one-on-one capacity, for me that was mostly kids in the behavioral program, and seeing if they would be able to do telehealth.”
Vee explained that initially the SCMP attempted to transfer all of their services to an online format, but quickly learned that Zoom and teleconference music sessions come with a whole new set of challenges, such as timing.
“We can’t do live music very well with another person over the computer,” Vee stated. “That [timing] lag has been a struggle, and doing music with very young children has been a struggle. Prior to the pandemic we had a lot of individuals we saw at early learning that involved a lot of moving through space together and playing instruments together, and that is so different on a computer screen. The programs that have really translated the best have been with older children, ages 10 and up, who have a lot of experience with technology and interest in planning out sessions and practices for themselves.”
One key emphasis the music therapists are focusing on during this time period is how to navigate through these COVID-19 times safely, and how to process those emotions in a healthy, productive manner.
“There were a lot of folks who were grateful and happy we were able to continue to meet over Zoom,” Colby said. “They were overjoyed to interact with their peers again. Initially there was confusion in terms of what things were going to look like, because we still didn’t know if school would be coming back anytime soon. So in those therapy sessions, the focus was working through those feelings of confusion and sudden change in routines and schedules. And also working through those anxieties and uncertainties of the school year ending, and people expressing sadness of not being able to say goodbye to their friends who were graduating or moving on to a new school.”
When MSD canceled in-person lectures for the safety of their students and faculty, they in-turn provided their students with Chromebooks in order for them to continue their education online, which included music therapy sessions.
“The Chromebooks gave us access to kids and families,” said Vee. “For us to know the families had the necessary tools and technology for telehealth sessions, we were able to do instrument loans during the pandemic.”
“I am learning the ukulele with Colby,” happily reported Tyler. “I am learning how to play ‘You Got a Friend in Me’, and I have learned how to play happy birthday songs. I may not practice every day but I do practice between thirty minutes to one hour when I do practice.”
The music project has also continued with the rock band project, holding weekly rehearsals in which bandmates can catch up, converse and create.
“The rock band has grown in size since the pandemic,” Vee said. “That’s our group with young adults with developmental disabilities. The goal of that group has always been giving people the opportunity to connect with their peers. Especially since we know that disabled children tend to be separated from their peers a lot. And when they get out of the school system, all of those social supports that were built sort of just fall away. I think that’s a group where their top priority was just wanting to see each other, and they didn’t care as much if the musical product was perfect in terms of the timing. They mainly just wanted to chat, share their songs, listen to things together, and laugh. That has translated really well into telehealth.”
During a time when many are self-isolating, the unknown that tomorrow may bring weighs heavy on a lot of minds. Many are experiencing loneliness and that’s why it’s important programs like the SCMP are available to those seeking assistance with their mental health.
“It feels great to have Colby and the music project because I still get to do music class on Zoom during this time,” Tyler expressed. “I still feel like it is the same no matter how we have to do the music. It is rewarding and you get to have fun and be around people and learn music. Rock band sessions really help with social skills and being confident with yourself. I had a hard time feeling confident but with Colby’s help, it made me feel better in myself.”
The Snohomish County Music Project is currently accepting new clients. If you or your children are interested in learning a new skill, while equipping yourself with the emotional tools to navigate the coronavirus and end trauma cycles, please reach out to the music project at (425) 258-1605 or visit their website, Facebook or YouTube pages for more information.
“I enjoy working with these kids and their families,” said Colby. “I enjoy their personalities and who they are. I appreciate being able to work and interact with them. This is a very difficult, confusing and challenging time but we will be able to work through it together. I’m happy there is a strong community and that we’re able to be a part of it with the Tribe.”
Vee added, “The main thing I hope the people know is we are here for anyone in the Tulalip community who has any difficulties that are coming up in terms of mental health, in feeling connected with their children or needing resources in continuing to care for children, in dealing with the trauma that comes with the pandemic and other traumas that have layered on top of that. I’m really thankful that we’ve been able to stay connected with this community and to keep having the relationships with the kids that we really care about.”
The Marysville School District (MSD) recently announced their plans to begin the school year online. With the coronavirus pandemic still looming overhead, many businesses, institutions and organizations are finding themselves at a crossroads, having to decide whether or not to return to ‘business-as-usual’ and the way of life we grew accustomed to pre-COVID-19, or hang tight for a few more months to see if the nation’s current state improves.
On the education side of the coin, a strong debate could be made on behalf of the students who thrive in group settings and benefit from in-person interactions between both their teachers and peers. Another point could be made for Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) students specifically who also learn about Tulalip culture, in addition to their basic educational foundation, as many songs, stories and teachings are interweaved into the lesson plans and activities at the elementary school.
“With the news that the Marysville School District is going to be doing a remote learning start, we want to prioritize student safety, community safety, staff safety, family safety above all else,” said QCT Principal, Sarah-Marie Boerner. “We recognize it’s a difficult decision and that it is going to create challenges for everyone. What we’re looking at, at this point, is identifying what are our priorities and what are the things we can learn from our spring experience and do better; refine, polish, adjust, change, so that we are better meeting the needs of our student population and our families. That isn’t to say we don’t have an incredibly dedicated staff that put in their all last spring, but a huge part of being an educator and being a part of a learning institution is recognizing that we also have to learn and grow.”
The virus outbreak occurred before the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year began. When Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order and people went into lockdown mode, MSD handed out over 1,000 Chromebooks to their student body in order to finish out their school year amidst a world-wide pandemic. The students held on to their Chromebooks during the summer months, and with school starting in a few short weeks, they are already prepared for what the district is dubbing ‘Continuous Learning 2.0’.
Continuous Learning 2.0, Principal Boerner mentioned, will be a more detailed approach to distance learning, or the online learning experience that occurred at the end of last school year, with a strong emphasis on garnering more engagement from the students and their family.
“These times right now are very difficult for our families,” said QCT Assistant Principal Yolanda Gallegos-Winnier. “Businesses are closing; people are getting laid-off from work – people are figuring out what’s next for their family. Unintentionally school can be put to the wayside, so how do we think outside of the box and develop opportunities for learning?”
She continued, “A lot of our kids come from traditional fishing families. My husband is enrolled Yakama and we fish on the Columbia. As a teacher, my mind started thinking about how can we model this for staff; how do we learn more about Indigenous ways and teachings. I started taking photos of my daughter fishing, I was inspired by Natosha Gobin’s videos. I’m going to narrate as my daughter pulls fish up and uses the net, and while she is cleaning and cutting we’ll talk about math and how many fish she caught for the day. If we can get to a point where we can disseminate that information to the Tribal parents, maybe we can do something together similar to the online powwows where we incorporate those teachings into our lesson plans and involve the community. Perhaps we have a kid who is crabbing narrate the process– that is essentially writing an essay about what it means to crab for his people and bring food to the table. Kids out here are so smart, they know about the seasons and the specific crabs, they know about fish; blueback from a sturgeon to a steelhead. We have to connect those things quickly so we can have more engagement.”
A lot of conversation, debate and intention went into planning for the upcoming school year, both at the individual school level and at the district level. Several sub-committees were created, as well as task forces who sent out numerous surveys via e-mail and phone calls, trying to get a better idea of how to best serve their students and community during such trying times. Continuous Learning 2.0 is actually just the first phase in a three-step plan that will ultimately help kids transition back into the classroom by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year. The first phase is strictly online, while phase two is a hybrid model that will require participation both in the classroom and online. In phase three, lessons will be ‘100% in-person instruction’.
Bearing all of that in mind, there are many checkpoints that must be made along the way back to the classroom to ensure both staff and student guardians are on the same page. Which brings us to the five key areas that QCT plans on prioritizing during the first quarter of the year and will likely extend into the long-term planning for the elementary.
“Priority one is thinking about our model for distance learning,” Principal Sarah-Marie explained. “We’re thinking about how we can have clear consistent guidelines to make the schedule easily accessible and easier for families to navigate. We’re also thinking about the essential standards that we need to identify for student learning, so our kids are still getting those core foundational pieces that are going to serve them well all the way through, in both this distance model, the hybrid model and going back to a traditional schoolhouse at some point.
“Priority three is about the engagement of students and families. One of our biggest areas of growth and possibility is better engaging our students on the online format. Because honestly, many of us haven’t done this before. We have professional learning resources we’re engaging in with our staff.
“We’re also thinking about equitable access and our kids who are furthest from educational justice. Not only identifying who those students might be, but also thinking about tailoring some additional support for those families. And the final priority is recognizing we need to step up our communication. We aren’t going to have as many opportunities through person-to-person contact, so recognizing that we need to be planning how we’re going to communicate consistently, regularly and provide two-way communication with families.”
Aiming to keep the lifeways of the Tulalip people a central focal point of their teachings, QCT plans on sticking with some of the traditions put in place many years ago to continue highlighting the Tribe’s culture such as Lushootseed lessons, and continuing to start each day with a traditional Tulalip song, famously known by the students as ‘the morning song’. The school is also making an extra effort to ensure that at least one Indigenous staff member sits on the various committees, guaranteeing that the Native voice is heard, valued and considered during decision-making processes.
“We’re moving forward with a thoughtful three to five-year plan,” said Assistant Principal Gallegos-Winnier. “Our vision and dream for the school is following the Tribe’s voice and the Tulalip people’s expectations for their children. Lushootseed is absolutely a part of that. We as Indigenous people have always had traditional ways of knowing, learning and teaching. School walls don’t define education for our people or our children. Our schooling and education have always been developed in our families, in our community and with the knowledge and teachings of our elders and ancestors.”
“Although school is online, we will continue to fish, hunt, sing, and support each other within our families and overall community as a people,” she continued. “There is writing in our hunting experiences. There are speech and math opportunities in our knowledge and skill set of our young fishermen and women who have been fishing and crabbing with their families.”
QCT is reaching out to you, the Tulalip parents, family, students and community, for any feedback on how to better engage the students at the start of the school year to ensure they are receiving the knowledge of the Tulalip people and implementing it when necessary into their daily teachings.
“I miss the kids; the staff misses the kids,” Yolanda expressed. “There’s a lot of grief in not being able to have those one-on-one class relationships. Just walking through the hallways, it’s so quiet and empty, wondering when will we be safe to open up and have the kids back. Right now, my hope is that as a community we can come together and figure out how to be able to make a successful online educational program for our students here at Quil Ceda Tulalip. In closing, the question is, how do we tie all of that into online learning and make the connection between school and home for your student. We need your help in this process, we can’t do this without you. Please call or email us for ideas, suggestions and feedback.”
For more information, please contact Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary at (360) 965-3100.