Tulalip youth explore the great outdoors

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

As the year progresses and we sprint towards the end of the first month in 2024, exploring new activities becomes a focus, especially in the cold weather. If you enjoy outdoor activities and revel in playing in the snow, snowshoeing might be worth a try.

Crafted with a broad footprint that disperses the user’s weight, snowshoes offer a unique ability to glide atop snow-covered landscapes. Historical records, including those on Wikipedia, trace the invention of snowshoes back 4000 to 6000 years in Central Asia. Their evolutionary peak, particularly before the 20th century, manifested in the hands of North America’s Indigenous peoples. These communities, with distinct styles tailored to varied regional conditions, ingeniously utilized snowshoes not only for practical purposes such as hunting and travel, but also as integral elements in their cultural expressions, including traditional dances.

On January 20, Melissa Gobin, Tulalip Tribes Environmental and Education Outreach Coordinator, along with colleagues from the education department, and a few members of the YMCA Bold and Gold, an outdoor adventure tour group, invited tribal youth for a snowshoeing trip at Gold Creek Pond near Snoqualmie Pass. The hike would be about 2.8 miles roundtrip and relatively easy on the difficulty level. 

During the hike, Melissa expressed her need for the youth to become more involved and learn how they could be the ones to help shape the future. As the youth trekked through the snow-covered landscapes, the journey wasn’t merely a physical exploration but also a venture into potential career paths. With unwavering passion, Melissa Gobin seized this opportunity to share insights on how connecting with nature could translate into meaningful professions within the tribe. Amidst the captivating beauty of the frozen scenery, Melissa underscored the significance of environmental stewardship and the vital role the younger generation plays in the future of the Tulalip community.

“That was my first snowshoeing trip, and it was pretty easy,” said Melissa. “I think getting the kids out and seeing a different area and that much snow while doing something out of the norm and watching them play and roll around in the snow was my favorite part. I like seeing the kids get excited, especially when they don’t want to go, but end up having fun. That makes me happy.

“I wanted the kids to know and appreciate that this is a beautiful surrounding. Protecting these types of areas is important to keep them safe for our future and our seven generations down the line. Getting the kids to appreciate the outdoors is something that my program is trying to establish. We are looking for kids who want to do these things and to be out in nature as stewards of the land. I want to educate the kids, but I want them to want to be there. I am trying to mold kids into becoming biologists, getting into forestry, and learning our treaty rights. That’s why we are doing this program to educate and get the kids involved so that we have a future in natural resources with our people. We have a lot of people that will be retiring, and we will need people to step up and take the mantle.”

“I have never been snowshoeing before,” said Santana Shopbell of the Tulalip Education department. “I was nervous because the snowshoes didn’t look very durable, but man, are they good. I might need to invest in some because I might not be able to snowboard, but I can snowshoe. It was fun being out there with my mate and all the youth. This is my first week back with the education division, and it’s good to collaborate with Melissa and the YMCA. Hopefully, the trip sparked something in one of the kids to want to pursue a job in natural resources.”

“Never been snowshoeing before, it was nice,” said Tulalip tribal member Luciano Flores. “It was fun and nice walking around the trail. My favorite part was walking across the frozen lake. If you were going, be prepared and have all the right gear.”

For information on future trips or the program, contact Melissa Gobin at mgobin@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

13 moons

“The months our Snohomish ancestors knew are vastly different than the ones we know now. Our seasons were moons. These moons were named after the environment or ecosystem and what was able to be harvested during that time. This was the Snohomish people’s way of staying connected to the earth. The earth would provide for them if they took proper care of it. This meant not overharvesting fish or vegetation but leaving enough for the wildlife living beside them as well as future generations.”

 – Sarah Miller, Lushootseed Language Warrior

By Kalvin Valdillez

On a rainy and dark afternoon, close to thirty people gathered in the longhouse of the Hibulb Cultural Center. With the lights dim low, the group of locals took their seats on either side of the room constructed entirely of cedar. At the front and center of the longhouse, sat Lushootseed Warrior Sarah Miller, fittingly positioned in between four cedar carved story poles. Aided by the relaxing sound of rain hitting the rooftop, Sarah’s natural storytelling ability transported each individual to a time well before the colonization of America, a time where the lifeways of the sduhubš revolved around 13 moon cycles.

After we recently welcomed a new year in the Gregorian calendar, many were excited to learn about how Tulalip’s ancestors observed the concept of time pre-contact. Like most Salish tribes and other Indigenous nations, the sduhubš marked the time of year not only based on weather changes but also by their connection to the natural world. 

Through the traditional story, Star Child and Diaper Child, Sarah introduced the crowd to two important figures to the sduhubš people, the sun and moon. In the Tribe’s ancestral language, the two were known as dukʷibəɬ. 

She explains, “Together, the sun and moon became dukʷibəɬ; the Changer, the Transformer, or the Creator. The Changer was responsible for making the world what it is today. dukʷibəɬ changed animals from what they were to what they are. Before the change, animals talked, walked, and worked similar to humans. dukʷibəɬ also changed humans from what they were to what they are now. Before the change, humans had the ability to morph into different animals, usually their spirit power animals. dukʷibəɬ walked this land, from the east to the west and changed everything. Changer was also responsible for giving all the tribes their different languages. Changer was responsible for naming everything. The Changer was our Creator.”

During Sarah’s hour-long lecture she captivated her audience by sharing the traditions of her ancestors, many of which are still celebrated and practiced today, such as the Salmon Ceremony and the harvest of salal berries. 

With the amount of time and research Sarah put into this presentation, we urge you to attend her lecture in full, as well as any of the Lushootseed workshops that are often held at Hibulb Cultural Center throughout the year. For this publication, we are going to share the thirteen months with you, led by excerpts from Sarah’s lecture.

ƛ̕iq̓s – The time when your stomach sticks to your backbone (January)

The January moon, one of our winter moons, was called ƛ̕iq̓s. In Lushootseed, this meant as period of time when your stomach sticks to your backbone. This is because in the wintertime, food is scarce. 

During this cold time, the people relied on whatever food they had gathered and stored in prior months. 

səxʷpupuhigʷəd – The time of the blowing winds (February)

Once the winds picked up through the area, it was səxʷpupuhigʷəd, which means the time of the blowing winds. During this moon, the area would experience a lot of wind. Food was still kind of scarce, but the wind blew the biting cold around. 

Since these winter moons were scarce of food, a lot of people would fast and quest for their spirit powers. Some people would go out into the forest, away from their villages to find their power. They would bathe in icy cold rivers and lakes.

The Snohomish people would participate in ceremonies of the smokehouse faith; drumming, singing, and dancing to bring out their power. A long time ago, it was said that during the winter months, the physical world was closer to the spiritual world, which is why singing, dancing, and drumming took place.

waq̓waq̓us – The time of the singing frogs (March)

Once the frogs started singing en masse, it signified a new moon or month was starting. Smokehouse ceremonies stopped and it was time to go out into the woods and check on what was starting to bloom. By this point, the winds would start to die down and the earth was warming up a bit. 

As springtime continued to arrive, there would be many things for the Snohomish people to do, such as prepare to move from their winter villages to their summer ones.

Back in those days, the longhouses were put up in a way that they could be disassembled and reassembled as needed. The winter locations were near bodies of water, but also close to forests for hunting purposes. The summer locations were located near clam beds or accustomed fishing grounds. In the summer, longhouses were erected that also could house many people, however, a lot of times the Snohomish people utilized smaller mat houses, especially when fishing at the river or near the bay. 

Slihibus −The time of the cranes (April)

During this time, you’d hear the songs of cranes and swans as they started their migration. At this time, the earth is getting warmer, and more foods are coming into season. Game might be a little more available. The Snohomish people would journey to the Holmes Harbor area to fish for smelt and herring. 

Throughout these seasons potlatches would be held. A potlatch could be held for any reason such as a wedding, a funeral, births, or even winning a dispute against a warring tribe was a call for celebration.

pədx̌ʷiw̓aac – The time of the whistling robins (13th Moon)

This month is considered the missing month, or the thirteenth month, because it does not appear in the Lushootseed calendar that we know and use today. In order to fit with the Gregorian calendar, this moon was omitted. 

pədx̌ʷiw̓aac means the time of the whistling robins. After the cranes and swans had migrated, the robins would start in with their singing. 

While Harriette Shelton said this moon was the time of the whistling robins, her father, William Shelton called it sɬukʷaləb, which means, “little moon.” This isn’t too far off from the word commonly used for moon, which is sɬukʷalb. Perhaps Harriette and William were talking about two different moons, but maybe that they were talking about the same moon. Whatever the reason, this is technically not even the thirteenth moon; it’s the fifth of the Snohomish people. There is no information on why this month specifically was chosen to be taken out of the calendar. 

pədč̓aʔəb − The time for digging up roots (May)

During this month we start digging up roots. Camas was a popular root amongst the Snohomish. Camas root has beautiful purple blooms but is more akin to being a small onion, though sweet. At this point, most people might have packed up and started heading towards their summer homes.

Nettles were also harvested and used in soups and for various other medicinal needs. Cattail was harvested as well. Snohomish people mostly used them to make mats with. The natives would split some of the shoots and peel layers of them out to weave with. The cattail mat was said to be comfortable to lay on, especially if you piled several of them up. When I talk about mat houses, this is what they were made of. There was a frame or structure made of planks taken from the bigger longhouses and they were covered with many cattail mats to make a little house.

Horsetail was also harvested during this month, it was a good herb to remedy ulcers, wounds, and even kidney problems. Ferns were also harvested. Bracken fern, licorice fern, maidenhair fern, and sword fern were good medicinal ferns. Bracken could be used as a tonic, licorice helped with colds and sore throats, maidenhair helped the respiratory system and sword fern could be used to treat skin sores.

pədstəgʷad – The time of the salmonberries (June)

The next few months are known as the berry months, because of the different berries that grow during the summer. June is known as pədstəgʷad, or the time of the salmonberries. This month typically lasts from May to late June. By now, the Snohomish people were living at their summer village sites, either in summer longhouses or mat houses. 

This month also began the run of King Salmon, or hikʷ siʔab yubəč. The first king would be caught and celebrated in ceremony. There would be songs and dances to welcome the hikʷ siʔab yubəč and its return to the waters.

During these moons, the days were getting longer. There was more time to gather roots, gather chutes, gather berries, gather shellfish, and troll for fish. In the evening, people joined together in the longhouses to share stories and songs. Sometimes there was a potlatch, a wedding, a funeral, or a birth. Sometimes, there was no special occasion. It was just enjoying the full moon with your village. 

pədgʷədbixʷ − The time of the blackberries (July)

The blackberries would bloom during part of July. Once the stəgʷad stopped bearing fruit, it was time for the blackberry bushes to bear fruit. Blackberries would start blooming in July, but they wouldn’t officially be ready to gather until about August. 

Blackberries were good for flavoring soups but could also be used to dye wool or cedar darker colors. Tea could be made from the leaves of the blackberry vine. Blackberry leaf tea could help with illnesses and was also said to be good for the skin.

In addition to harvesting berries, clams were also harvested. After a morning of harvesting clams, someone would start a fire and the clams would be cooked amongst the hot rocks, right on the beach. 

pədt̕aqa − The time of the salal berries (August)

These delicious purple berries ripen during this moon and not only are they good to eat, but they are also medicinal. These berries are a deep purple color, which is where we get the Lushootseed word for purple: t̕aqahalus.

In addition to being a good source of food, these were also a good medicine for the Snohomish people. They helped with colic and diarrhea but also cuts, burns and respiratory illnesses such as colds and tuberculosis.

Our ancestors had a unique way of storing not only t̕aqa but other berries as well to make them last well beyond their harvesting season. Our ancestors used to eat the berries in soups and with salmon or other meals.

pədkʷəxʷic  − The time of silver salmon’s return (September)

September in Lushootseed is pədkʷəxʷic, or the time of the return of the silver salmon. Now, this doesn’t refer to the entire month of September but rather, just the length of time that the silver salmon run. Our ancestors would get into their canoes and along with their tools, go trolling for fish. Each fisherman knew how much strain their line could take. If they were to catch large fish, they knew how to carefully bring them up to the side of the canoe, where they would then spear the fish with a harpoon and put them in the canoe. The harpoon was usually made of ironwood.

Fish wasn’t the only thing on the menu for our Snohomish ancestors, for they also hunted deer and elk. Many Salish hunters were experts at mimicking the sounds of deer and their fawn. They’d set snares and then make a call like that of a fawn or a doe and wait until a deer ran into the snare.

pədxʷit̕xʷit̕il −The time of falling leaves (October)

During this time, of course, the leaves were being shaken from the trees and falling to the ground. The silver salmon runs had ended, and it would be a while before the next salmon would start to run. During this time, vegetation was dying and a different game was sought out to hunt.

The Snohomish people were very proficient duck hunters. Ducks were a very sacred animal in that their spirit power was one of wealth but also, their feathers were collected for regalia, and they were hunted in between salmon runs. 

pədƛ̕xʷayʔ − The time of the dog salmon (November)

Dog salmon, or chum, would start its run in November. This salmon was highly prized amongst the Snohomish people. The way this type of salmon was harvested was different than how the silver salmon was harvested. Silver salmon were biting fish, which meant they would bite at a bait line. Dog salmon were not biting fish, so another method was used. Long ago, the dog salmon runs used to be quite plentiful. Instead of using a bait line, our ancestors used a harpoon or a long spear. Dog salmon was dried and stored in baskets, similar to the ones that stored berries. The Snohomish people were very good at making sure they had enough dog salmon for the entire family or village so that no one went hungry. 

Other game harvested during this month were bears. At this point in the season, bears were fattening up for hibernation and it wasn’t uncommon for our ancestors to encounter them. 

Bears weren’t typically sought out for food. During the winter, it was said that bear meat didn’t taste very good because of all the salmon they’d been eating. However, in the summer bear meat was preferred because the bears had been eating berries and that sweetened their meat. 

pədšic̓əlwaʔs– The time to sheath the paddles (December)

During this time, the Snohomish people were settled in their winter villages, and they weren’t traveling so the paddles were put away and sheathed until the weather warmed up. Hunting and fishing were still being done, but mostly the Snohomish people relied on their food stores to get them through the colder seasons. 

Typically, the Snohomish people didn’t like being clothed but, in the winter, it was a necessity. They made moccasins, shirts and pants out of buckskin. Some of these items were painted on or beaded. Back then, the beads were either made of shells, pearls, or bones. Men and women alike would wear fur caps made of bearskin to keep their heads warm. Bearskin was also used to make coats or capes.

During the winter, the Snohomish people would paint their faces bright red or a dark red, depending on the material they used. This paint would be put on every morning and taken off every night. The Snohomish liked using this not only because of the vivid color it gave off but because it kept their skin smooth and free from chapping from the cold. 

Let’s go cedar harvesting

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Under the radiance of a resplendent Monday morning, Jamie Sheldon, a proud Tulalip native and skilled basket weaver, took off to the mountains. She was accompanied by her dear friend, fellow tribal weaver, Wilma Gloria, along with her beloved granddaughter Maddie. This would be the first of two journeys to the mountains for Jamie.  With the car packed, they headed east of Tulalip to the Cascade Mountains to search for some red cedar to harvest for their many pieces of traditional styled baskets, jewelry, and headwear. 

“The best time for harvesting red cedar is from the middle of May to the end of June,” Jamie said. “And the best time to harvest yellow cedar is right after red from the beginning of July to the beginning or middle of August depending on the rise in temperature.” 

 Red cedar has an earlier harvest time as most grow lower in elevation and warm up faster. This causes the sap to separate the inner bark from the outer bark, making it easier to pull strips of bark from the trees. When you cut a piece of bark loose from the tree, then grab it and separate it from the tree, this is called pulling. 

“When harvesting cedar, [we] pray and thank the cedar for providing a chance at keeping the native culture alive. It gives us a source for revenue and is very valuable to the Native people,” said Jamie, “You never want to pull all the cedar as it could kill the tree. Pulling one to three strips of cedar, depending on the size and health of the tree is all you need; while also leaving enough protection for the tree to heal itself.”

You also want to remember that each strip you pull should only be the width of your palm. After pulling a strip of bark from the tree you need to separate the outer bark from the inner. This can be done with a knife by pushing it through the side of the bark, splitting it, then pulling the two pieces away from each other. Using your knees for leverage can help. When done separating the excess pieces of bark you don’t use, put them under the roots of the tree or buried next to the tree so the micro-organisms from the bark breaking down can go back into the soil to nourish the tree. 

Often times, driving down long gravel roads is how many scour the forests for trees to harvest. The forest rangers would like the people who are harvesting cedar to pull from the opposite side that isn’t facing the road. This is to help keep the forests looking well, while also not letting people know that this is a harvesting area so it can recover and isn’t over harvested. You only want to harvest one to two trees in any area so as to keep the forest healthy. 

On her second expedition, Jamie was accompanied by Kaiser Moses, another Tulalip native and cedar weaver. Also joining them again was Jamie’s friend Wilma. The pursuit of yellow cedar proved to be an adventurous undertaking. One that demanded greater patience and a touch more agility, making it a lengthier endeavor than the previous trip. 

“Looking for yellow cedars can take a whole day’s journey, if you’re lucky,” Jamie said with a smile. “A place where yellow cedars grow can be very sacred to a basket weaver, as it is more difficult to find and attain.”  Yellow cedars require a bit more patience, and knowing where to go and what to look for are big factors in locating the right trees. 

When looking for yellow cedar, it’s best to start higher in elevation, as yellow cedars grow from around 2,000 to 5,000 feet. They are often located on very steep inclines making pulling, stripping, and gathering quite the task. Yellow cedars can also be tricky as they resemble red cedars. Here are a couple tell-tale signs to look for when locating yellow cedar. 

The first thing to note is that the branches are a lot droopier and aren’t parallel to each other. Many of the branches are bendy and the leaves hang down toward the ground. The bark is also very different as you can grab the outside bark and peel it off fairly easily. When you pull yellow cedar, as it dries and becomes more yellow, it can take a little longer than red cedar to dry.
After gathering your cedar there are a few important steps to ensure it stays clean and free from mold and other elements that may damage your cedar, like moisture or sunlight. 

“Right when you get home from harvesting, it is of the upmost importance that you hang your cedar,”  said tribal weaver, Anita Sheldon. “You want your cedar to be completely dry before storing it. When storing it, you must make sure it is in a dry area, using a container with a lid and putting a jar or cup of open baking soda to help trap any moisture that may get into your area or container.” 

When you feel like you want to use your cedar, you must soak it until it becomes flexible. This could take a couple of days so prepare beforehand if you have a need or want to create something. Depending on the size and item you are creating, each piece of cedar can be separated multiple times to create the desired width you want your creation to be. 

Anita shared, “Knowing what our ancestors did, and the many uses cedar had, for everything from cooking to diapers for the baby. For their bedding and enclosures for their rooms in the longhouse, shawls, skirts, men used them for pants and hats. Cedar was a way of living for all our ancestors, and it’s a beautiful material to work with.”

Traditionally, cedar has been used for a wide variety of items, such as water tight baskets, baskets for berry picking, or even catching fish, clothing, and dolls for children to play with. Cedar is sacred to the Coast Salish people and continues be used in many ways, keeping the sacred traditions alive and going strong. 

“It’s very important to harvest cedar, because it is a cultural activity,” expressed Kaiser. “Anytime something is cultural, it helps me heal from the stresses of life. It also helps me stay grounded to the earth and stay happy. I keep the cedar in a sacred place. When it’s ready, I am going to use the cedar for traditional regalia pieces to gift to my family.”

If you want to learn more about cedar harvesting, creating cedar baskets, and jewelry, Jamie teaches classes on Wednesdays, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at the Hibulb Cultural Center. For more info, visit hibulbculturalcenter.org.

Decolonizing the Reservation one plant at a time 

By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

Colonization is named the root of numerous ills in Native America. We often forget that while our people and culture suffered the effects of colonization by other humans, our lands were also colonized by non-native plants. Some are easily managed, and others have been wildly out of control since nearly the day they were introduced.

  On the Tulalip Reservation, Poison Hemlock, Scotch Broom, and Japanese Knotweed are some of the most pervasive. The problem isn’t that non-native species are inherently bad. In fact, many beneficial food crops are non-native. The most obvious problem is that invasive species outcompete native species that provide food and shelter for native animals.

  Austin Richard, a Stewardship Ecologist with Tulalip’s Natural and Cultural Resources Division, is part of the team working to decolonize habitats on the Reservation.

  “Part of my job entails invasive plant management and treatment both on Reservation and throughout our usual and accustomed areas,” he explained. “We define invasive species as plants or animals that do not naturally occur in an ecosystem and whose introduction can cause environmental harm, economic harm, or harm to human health.”

The on-Reservation efforts focus on areas where people work or play regularly. The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, the Gathering Hall, and the Health Clinic waterfront. Austin described the three primary species his team is targeting.

  Poison Hemlock, as its name implies, is toxic to people and animals. “We want to make sure it’s not accidentally ingested or harming people,” said Austin.

According to the USDA*:

Poison Hemlock can poison animals who eat the plant, either fresh or dried.

It looks very similar to wild parsnip, which is edible.

Children have been poisoned and died from using the hollow stems as homemade whistles.

Signs of Poison Hemlock exposure include trembling, ataxia (poor muscle control) that affects the lower or hind limbs, salivation, lack of coordination, dilation of the pupils, rapid, weak pulse, respiratory paralysis, coma, death, convulsions and occasionally bloody feces and gastrointestinal irritation.

  Scotch Broom is next on the list. Whether they know it or not, most people have seen Scotch Broom growing alongside the freeway. According to the National Parks Service** it is a member of the pea family. This ornamental was introduced to North America from Africa and parts of Europe. It was also used as erosion control along highways. Its bright yellow flowers are in full brilliant display currently. When the plant is pollinated, it produces pods that dry and twist until they burst, flinging thousands of seeds into the surrounding area.

  “The major problem with Scotch Broom is how rapidly it spreads,” said Austin. “It out shades and outcompetes native plants so that nothing else can get established. It’s really difficult to control because those seed pods explode and release tens of thousands of seeds. Those seeds can last upwards of 60 years in the soil. So even if you kill the plant initially, if you’re not reintroducing native plants in the soil, the seeds can propagate, and you have more Scotch Broom plants.”

  Japanese Knotweed is the third target species. Another escaped ornamental, Japanese Knotweed can grow up to 8 feet tall, spread by seed, tiny plant fragments, and its extensive root system. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as bamboo, *** Japanese Knotweed has reddish brown hollow stems, large leaves, and whitish flowers that grow in clusters. Although it seems like a pretty landscape plant, it can cause some real damage to infrastructure and the environment.

  “Salmon need really specific habitat and conditions,” described Austin. “They need cooler water temperatures and specific gravel types, not too small like sand and silts because that will suffocate their eggs, but not so large that the salmon can’t move them to create the redds (nests) where they lay their eggs. The problem with Knotweed is that it doesn’t allow those conifers to grow and provide shade to the streams.

  Lack of large conifers also impacts the way streams flow, said Austin, “Those large conifers grow and then fall into the water, providing larger woody debris and creating pooling, and more habitat complexity that salmon and smaller fish rely on. Knotweed also grows extensive root systems that spread out – but don’t stabilize the soils. That allows the banks to become eroded and provide more silt and sand that covers up spawning gravel and suffocates salmon eggs.”

  Knowing the damage they do, it still begs the question, why pesticides? Can’t we rip them out and call it good? It’s not that easy, said Austin. Each plant requires a specific chemical treatment administered within a particular time frame to be effective. The team always weighs the benefits and risks before resorting to chemical interventions.

  “We use manual and mechanical means whenever possible unfortunately, some of those natural vinegar-type treatments just don’t work,” said Austin. When used according to the regulatory guidelines and labels, the products we use are very safe for humans and animals. Once they’re sprayed, and the product dries, there is minimal risk to humans and animals.”

  Signage is posted indicating the day and time the area was treated to protect and educate people.  

  “We recommend people avoid the area for 24-48 hours to allow the herbicides to dry on the plants and reduce any impacts. The chemicals we use are all approved for aquatic use by the EPA and Washington State Department of Agriculture.”

  If you want to know more or have noxious weeds from your property, contact Austin at 360-716-4603, or email arichard@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

  • *Source: https://www.ars.usda.gov/pacific-west-area/logan-ut/poisonous-plant-research/docs/poison-hemlock-conium-maculatum/
  •  ** Source: https://www.nps.gov/articles/scotch-broom.htm#:~:text=Native%20to%20northern%20Africa%20and,along%20highway%20cuts%20and%20fills.
  •  *** Source: https://invasivespecies.wa.gov/priorityspecies/japanese-knotweed/

Tree planting preserves tribal wetlands

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On March 21, Heritage High School students were recruited by the Wetland Program to help plant over 100 trees in Quil Ceda Village (QCV) wetlands to sustain the Coho Creek restoration site. The sunny spring day made perfect weather for the students to take on the cool wetlands. With about ten students and some Heritage staff dressed in boots and carrying their shovels, they were well prepared to get the job done.

Kyliah Elliott and Lacinda Moses were just a few of the students in attendance. The girls explained how they were taking this opportunity to observe what an internship would include with the Wetland Program.

“I came today because I like being outside and wanted to be a part of the tree planting because it’s a part of who we are. I want to intern here and maybe learn more. People are ruining the environment every day, and I hope I can make a difference one day to help fix it,” Lacinda said. 

Wetland Program Coordinator Allison Warner’s goal is also to attract more tribal members and Native youth towards environmental work and join different areas of the Natural Resources department. In doing so, she has offered up internship positions to several tribal members already interested in the field and continues to involve Native students in events like tree planting. 

“I would love to help educate and support more Native biologists. I think the Indigenous perspective has more layers to it than non-Natives’. We [non-Natives] can do our best to educate ourselves on Native culture and way of life. Still, a Native biologist would have their unique perspective and cultural connection to represent Tribal resources better.”

The Tulalip Wetland Program has conducted efforts to rehabilitate the area since 2016. With over 4000 acres of wetlands making up approximately 1/4 of the reservation, understanding wetlands is critical to how Tulalip lives and thrives. Wetland analysis, preservation, and potential development projects play a significant role in determining what wetlands can succeed with some assistance and provide tribal resources like salmon, deer, berries, cedar, etc., and what wetlands are best to develop for future tribal projects and endeavors. 

Allison said significant efforts focused around the QVC wetlands have been primarily due to the destruction caused by the US military during World War II. During that time, the US military occupied the land with hiding military equipment and resources. The heavily forested area made for the perfect escape to blend into and hide from any aerial spy surveillance. Along with that, with its quick access to the freeway, the military could quickly import/export and leave at a moment’s notice. 

However, because the area is a wetland, the US military needed to make the land more viable for their efforts to start any building or have access to it. One major course of action was making large ditches that forced all the water from the wetland into one central area. Along with depriving that area of its primary resources, many trees, bushes, and other agricultural species were removed, demolished, and consumed to make the land easier to maneuver around on. Even a railroad was created solely to transport military equipment in and out of the area. Today, a piece of that railroad still exists. 

Soon after the war was over and the military departed, the Tribe and the State determined how damaged the land was. Along with destroying the land’s natural resources, items like bunkers and equipment were left behind, and chemical spills and chemically-affected septic tanks were brought to attention. At this point, the US Environmental Protection Agency was brought in to survey the land and create a plan to clean up the ground.

Since then, much progress has been made, and the area is no longer considered a danger. Significant steps like tree planting have been implemented to rehabilitate the wetland. Overall, wetlands play a substantial role in how the environmental pyramid thrives. 

Allison explained, “With the area’s connection to Coho Creek and Sturgeon Creek, protecting the stream’s water quality and helping the salmon thrive in this area is essential. The area we are planting trees in is the property’s wettest part and is most suitable to feed the stream. As we’ve seen with our efforts, certain species like beaver, deer, and birds have migrated back to the wetland and are helping sustain the wetland.”

Some trees were reintroduced to the wetland, such as Sitka spruce, paper birch, cedar, red osier dogwood, and alder. Other items like pollinating plants, hooker willow, bitter cherry, shrubs, honeysuckle, black twin berry, and wapato are also being planted. All of these are meant to replicate the environment before US military inhabitance. 

So how do trees benefit a stream? Allison described trees as the structure that keeps the bank from eroding. They also provide the organic matter that insects eat, which in turn, other species will eat, and so on. Therefore, trees and shrubs act as the foundation of food webs. Additionally, they provide shade to keep the stream and salmon cool. Ultimately, salmon cannot live in water more than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. So if the water were too high or hotter than necessary, it would affect the oxygen levels of the creek, and salmon won’t exist in this area.

Currently, a small run of salmon occupies the stream, but they hope it can become a more stable place for salmon to spawn and thrive. Planting trees is only the beginning. Tending to the area, monitoring the new trees and plants, and ensuring its survival against invasive species is the focus for the next ten years. 

If you would like to volunteer your time and efforts to the wetland projects, please get in touch with Allison Warner at awarner@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov. 

“You can move mountains with just a pebble a day”: Tulalip’s newest force in environmental work

By Shaelyn Smead; photos courtesy of Teesha Osias

Protecting Mother Earth is a priority for Native Americans and many environmental justice groups. Tulalip tribal member Teesha Osias is enhancing the Native presence in environmental work by reinventing herself and investing in her future. 

From 1999 to 2022, Teesha overcame many obstacles and worked diligently to receive an education. She earned an Associate of Arts, Associate of Applied Science, and Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science from Northwest Indian College (NWIC). Her education has taught her to uphold treaties and inherent rights by protecting the natural world. She took on holistic training in Native Environmental Science through Indigenous research and content knowledge. After 23 years of sacrificing her time, efforts, and mental state, she achieved something great; an education, a future for her family, and paving a path for future Native biologists. 

However, Teesha didn’t always have the confidence to reach her goals. She shared about her difficult childhood and its lack of stability. Her family moved so often that adjusting to each new school’s curriculum became difficult for her. Eventually in her teens, between falling behind in school and running with the wrong crowd, Teesha withdrew and enrolled with Job Corps. 

“School was never easy for me. I felt like I was always struggling. But I finally felt comfortable with Job Corps and like I could achieve more. It started a little fire in me. They gave me the tools and things necessary to believe in myself again.”

At 20 years old, Teesha decided to return to school and earn her GED. Teesha remembered speaking with a teacher about becoming a Biologist and the unwavering look she received from them. Even though it was clear her teacher didn’t believe in her, she believed in herself. Venturing into the science world always seemed like a forbidden concept, but she knew she would eventually get there by accomplishing small goals at a time.

Unfortunately, Teesha’s struggles didn’t stop there. While in college, she dealt with troublesome relationships, homelessness, and raising three kids. She felt like she was in survival mode. At many points, she wanted to quit and even spoke about ripping up her papers and textbooks out of defeat. Finally, what felt like a light at the end of the tunnel, a friend offered her a job working on their fishing boat.

“I fell in love with the work. It was empowering, and it saved me. I remember hearing other tribal members speak about why our voice is important regarding our land and fish and how we needed more Natives in the Natural Resources department. The experience reignited my passion for biology and reminded me of what I was doing this for. I didn’t want to let my community down. I wanted to continue my education to help my people and not have that ‘what if’ feeling looming over my head. Plus, I had six little eyeballs [her kids] watching me. What would that be teaching them?”

Being a single mom and working full-time, Teesha had a heavy load. Additionally, the NWIC Tulalip satellite location could only partially provide certain science lab technology and tools required for her classwork and had to rely on other sources. With these obstacles, she sometimes took as little as one course per school quarter to keep inching toward her degree.

“Many people would poke fun at me, calling me a ‘professional student’ and would give me grief for taking so long to finish school. But you have to fight for what you want, and that’s exactly what I did. You can move mountains with just a pebble a day.”

Teesha expressed how NWIC helped her find her Indigenous voice. They educated her on food sovereignty, treaty and fishing rights, basket weaving, and other cultural knowledge. She was exposed to new books by Native authors that impacted how she saw the world and the importance of Indigenous mentalities. Concepts that combined modern-day environmental solutions with the Native traditional ways of life.

While Teesha earned her degree, she spent much time interning in different areas within Tulalip Natural Resources. She helped work on lumber management in forestry, collecting milt and acting as a fish technician in the hatchery, measuring and evaluating geoducks by the bay, assisting on the Elwha Dam removal project, spearheading many environmental surveys and projects, and helping Wetland Program Coordinator Allison Warner and Environmental Wetland Biologist Michelle Bahnick on wetland preservation and land development.  

“This work feels a part of me like it’s in my DNA. I know this work’s importance and think this connection manifested through my ancestors. It makes such a difference when you touch your land. We belong out here doing what Indians do.”

Working closely with nature, preserving the environment, and identifying climate indicators have played a significant factor in Native American culture. Even though Teesha grew up in the city, being involved in this field has given her new life. She knows there is still plenty of room to grow and learn and expressed her gratitude to Allison and Michelle for allowing her to take her ‘training wheels’ off. 

Allison spoke of her time with Teesha and her hopes for more tribal members to get involved with environmental departments, “It has been a pleasure working with Teesha. Her story is inspirational. I’m excited to think that in the future, more tribal scientists will be filling these roles in our natural resources departments .”

Amid everything, Teesha has also taken opportunities to work with Native youth to teach them about the wetlands and will be helping plant trees with Native students later this month. She is impacting Native students by exposing the many paths of environmental work. She’s a living example that scientific careers are attainable for Native youth and inspires them to get involved. She speaks of her dreams where her people come together and play a dominant role in every department to take care of our home again.

Teesha is a great example of how powerful perseverance and patience can be. Despite the many reasons life gave her to quit, Teesha had the tenacity to continue being the force she was and continues to be. 

Tulalip goes dark following windstorm

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

A fall tradition, literally, occurred yet again as towering trees across the reservation were blown over by a November 4th wind storm that brought consistent wind speeds around 50 miles per hour. The mighty wind huffed and puffed and blew countless trees down, with the most impactful ripping through power lines and blocking roadways along Marine View Drive and Fire Trail Road.

There was all the natural splendor of our now traditional Tulalip wind storm: Leaves swirling, branches flying through the air, recycling bins being blown down the road and, of course, a days-lasting power outage. Close to four days this time.

Similar scenes played out across Western Washington as fierce winds from the season’s first major storm ripped through the region, cutting power to more than 300,000 customers from the Olympic Peninsula to the Cascade foothills, according to the Seattle Times.

While Tulalip went dark, its dedicated emergency management team and essential staff from various government departments went to work. The Youth Center was turned into a warming center offering hot showers and warm shelter to charge mobile electronics, the Senior Center offered hearty dinners, and critical needs elders received generators to power their medical devices. 

Teams from Tulalip and Snohomish County operations worked around the clock to clear roadways of downed trees and power lines, maintained generator operated facilities, and maintain a consistent communication structure with Tulalip citizens via government email and Facebook groups. 

Power returned to most of the reservation late Monday, November 7th, while the remaining households left in the dark were able to turn on their lights and heaters the following Tuesday. 

It’s impossible to be prepared for every possible emergent situation or Western Washington storm, whether it be due to excessive winds, rain or snow. However, vigilant minds may take this early November black out as a learning experience to get prepared for the next one. Because, rest assured, there will be more black outs to come this winter. 

As a reminder for all people living on the Tulalip Reservation, you can text “STORM” to (360) 745-1010 for weather, traffic, and closure updates.

Assemble your Go Bags following the 5 Cs of Survival

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“When building a bug out or a go bag, it’s important to get enough supplies and essentials to get you from point A to point B. Point A is the threat of danger and point B is the location that you choose for safety,” said Angel Cortez, Tulalip Emergency Management Director.

The Bolt Creek fire caused a lot of panic and distress for many families on the westside of Washington State. The air quality index at Tulalip reached an alarming 165 during the height of the fire, and people who lived in the nearby vicinity of the wildfire were urged to leave immediately. As many of our readers may know, Sky Valley Fire sent out an evacuation notice via a text message alert on the afternoon of September 10.

Meant for people in the Skykomish region, the alert was accidently sent out to everybody in Snohomish County. Residents of Tulalip, Everett, and Marysville took to social media to get the real scoop, asking their friends, families and local first responders if they needed to pack up and evacuate as the warning advised. And faced with a problem that us western Washingtonians hardly ever have to consider, a lot of people pondered what to grab in that emergency situation.

“It’s good to have a plan that meets the needs of you and the people you care about,” Angel said. “I tell people that preparing for something is basically how comfortable that you want to be in an uncomfortable situation. When people think about creating or building their bug out bag, they’re building them to provide safety, to provide comfort, and to provide the essentials for sustaining you to get to the next destination or a place of safety.”

Eric Cortez builds a Go Bag during a 2018 CERT training.

Go bags, also known as bug out bags or 72-hour safety kits, are personalized backpacks that contain everything you need in the case of an emergency where you need to evacuate your home at a moment’s notice. Prior to COVID, the Tulalip Tribes Emergency Management team regularly held annual CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes for both youth and adults. Among all the fun and important teachings that the CERT trainings offer, including how to triage and help others during a natural disaster, part of the classes are dedicated to teaching people how to build their own go bags. 

Said Angel, “We think of the big disasters as earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, and fires. But here at Tulalip, for the people who live on the cliffs or on the beaches, what about erosion? What happens if the cliff gives way? You might need to leave for that immediately. What if it’s in the middle of the night and you need to just get up, get your clothes on, your shoes on and leave. That’s where the bug out bag comes into play. It’s not being paranoid, it’s good to think of those things beforehand, rather than in the moment during an emergency situation.”

When creating your own bug out bag, Angel recommends personalizing it to your individual needs and stocking it with items you will actually use while in distress, such as tasty snacks that you enjoy as opposed to dry foods that may go to waste. He also advises that each member of your family creates their very own go bag, and to pack comfort items for the kids like stuffed animals, their favorite toys, and their choice of entertainment including tablets and books. 

He said, “I have five kids. So, if something were to happen, each of my kids can grab their own bag, and my wife and I can grab our bags. In my bag, I might have different things than my wife does. But put together, we have everything we need. And then with the kids, it’s about comfort. Maybe it’s their favorite stuffed animal, maybe it’s a small bag of candy, just something to keep them occupied because they’ll be scared and worried about all the crazy stuff that’s happening around them. It kind of de-escalates the situation in their mind and allows them to have some kind of comfort. So, if something happens in the middle of the night, it’s easier for everybody to grab their bags, get in the car, and go.”

Angel offered a few tips that will guide you when assembling your own go bag. First and foremost, he urges everybody to update their bags regularly throughout the seasons, noting that an abundance of warm winter gear will occupy space and weigh you down during the spring and summer seasons. Next, he states that it would be extremely beneficial to learn all the proper techniques of the equipment that you pack. He believes this is especially true if you have young children because it presents the opportunity to learn as a family, and the kids are better prepared if disaster does strike. 

If you are wondering where to begin, Angel said a good place to start is the hunting and camping section of your favorite retail store such as Walmart or Target. In those isles, you are sure to find a number of multi-use items that can be stored in your go bag like paracord, multi-tools, tarps, and flashlights. And as far as the essentials that every bug out bag should have, he encourages everybody to follow the five Cs of survival – cutting tools, combustion devices, cover and shelter, containers, and cordage. 

“Dave Canterbury came up this concept and he’s kind of an outdoors guy,” he explained. “He’s famous in the prepper community. These five things are the basics to help you in any situation. Your cutting tool is your knife, or it could be a multi tool. Combustion is a way to create fire, you never know if you need to start fire. Combustion is big because maybe you need to clean your water, and heat it up, and that’s where your container comes in. Usually, it’s a metal container with a handle or something that you can cook out of, you can boil water, of you can drink out of it. You want all your equipment to be multi-use and your container has to do that as well.” 

He continued, “And then you have your cover, maybe it’s a tarp to get you out of the rain, or maybe it’s a lightweight sleeping bag or blanket. It’s whatever to keep you covered from the elements. In the summer, maybe it’s just to provide shade to keep you from getting sunburned. The other one is cordage, having some kind of paracord, preferably 550 paracord. And 550 means how much weight that cord can handle. Parachute cord and is very thin, very strong, very durable, and it’s lightweight, so you can carry a lot of length in your cord where it doesn’t take up a lot of room in your bag. There’s a lot of uses for cordage, whether you’re tying down your tarp for shelter, or maybe you forgot to bring a belt and your pants are falling down, you know, it’s good for whatever your rope or cordage can do for you.”

Angel went on to explain that Canterbury also curated an extended list of essentials, going from the five Cs to ten Cs of survival. That list includes candling, or flashlights and headlamps, cotton for washing, keeping cool and filtering large sediment out of your water, cargo tape, a.k.a. duct tape or gorilla tape, a compass, and a canvas needle for repairing torn items and assisting with paracord.   

In addition to the ten Cs of survival, Angel also advises people to pack a first aid kit, and any medication you may need such as an epi-pen, insulin, or an albuterol inhaler, as well as batteries and chargers. Another tip is shopping the sales of grocery stores during your normal shopping outings and purchasing extra food here and there to store away in case of an emergency. He also believes that keeping your gas tank at least half-full will be extremely helpful in the event you need to get in your car and get as far away from the disaster as possible. If you have pets, it’s imperative that they each have their own bug out bags as well, and be sure to pack it with food, water, snacks, blankets, medication, and toys specifically for them. 

And finally, he encourages everyone to sit down and map out a plan with your loved ones in case a disaster were to occur. Within that plan you should also assign a third party contact in case cell service is unavailable or disrupted, establish a safe place to meet up in case your party is split up. You should also have additional bags at the ready, such as an Inch Bag for long-term emergencies or a Get Home Bag that is stored in your car and is filled with all the essentials to get you back home in the event of a catastrophic disaster.

  “Our ancestors were preppers,” expressed Angel. “They were always prepping for winter. They went out and caught fish, gathered food, and hunted during summer harvest and put it away for the winter. They created medicines and winter clothing. Our ancestors knew this was important. They knew what it was going to take to take care of their people. They were always thinking ahead about the future, and how to provide for the babies and for their families. We have to think that way too. My goal for the community is I want people to start thinking about it, talking about it, researching it, and doing it now. Because if you wait until game day to do it, you’re already way too late.”

In need of a family adventure? Garden Treasures is a most nutritious option

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Has your household been desperately yearning for some kind of adventure to enjoy the summer weather, but concerns about sky high gas prices and costly food prices prevent this excursion from happening?  Well, a day trip to Garden Treasures may be an ideal solution.

Garden Treasures plant nursery and local farm offers people of all ages and abilities an opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures while harvesting a variety of nutritious food, grown locally and sustainably. This organic u-pick farm is located just over 20 minutes from the heart of the Tulalip Reservation. Conveniently located off exit 208, Garden Treasurers offers the vibes of an everyday farmers market and garden center filled with fresh food for adults, and for the kiddos it’s an imaginative, bio-diverse mini jungle.

Taking the family on a naturally grown farm excursion to pick colorful produce, from delicious red strawberries to refreshing green zucchini, allows children to gain a sense of where their food comes from. It’s also an effective way to explain the process of how simple seeds grow into fresh foods full of life-giving nutrients. And it’s just a fun way to spend a summer day together making memories.

“I really enjoy having elders and kids visit the farm,” said farm regular, elder Dale Jones. “They have big smiles on their faces while enjoying the opportunity to be out in the farm and eat the fresh foods. The kids can see how the food grows and they learn how it’s better for them than fast food and candy. Too many of our people our battling diabetes and obesity because they learned bad eating habits as kids. Making fruits and vegetables a priority at a young age can really make a lifetime’s worth of impact.”

Spending time outdoors while wandering the vast berry fields and green houses at Garden Treasurers is an opportunity to get back to nature, both physically and spiritually. Their seasonal u-pick garden is currently filled with an assortment of flowers, perfectly ripe raspberries and strawberries, and a variety of vegetables, like bell peppers, zucchini, lettuce and garlic. They don’t use any synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, so your u-pick experience is safe, clean, and all-natural.

Recently, Tulalip families, patients of the Tulalip Health Clinic, and Tulalip employees were encouraged to take full advantage of a unique partnership between Garden Treasures and Tulalip’s own award-winning Diabetes Care and Prevention Program. From 10am to 4pm on July 7th, the Tulalip community turned out in droves to visit the farm, enjoy a healthy bite to eat, and receive a tour by Diabetes Prevention staff. Most importantly, each visitor was allowed to pick $30 worth of nutritious produce at no cost.

Unlike overly priced grocery stores and organic shops, $30 worth of fruits and vegetables at Garden Treasures goes a long way. You can easily pick an assortment of sweet and spicy peppers, enough raspberries for the kids to snack on for days, some herbs to season up your favorite meals, and even make a flower bouquet with the $30 credit. Numerous Tulalip citizens did just that. For some, it was their first time ever hand-picking veggies. 

Donna and Jim Furchert brought their daughters, Joy and Patience, to Garden Treasures during a previous community day and came away with quite the colorful harvest. “We’ve never picked fresh fruit or fresh veggies before, so I wanted us to experience this as a family,” explained Donna. “We’re going to incorporate everything we picked into our dinners over the next few days.”

Young Patience said she liked digging for peppers the most and was super excited to stumble upon the strawberry patch. She was seen devouring the bright red, heart-shaped berry straight off the bush at every opportunity.

Michelle Martin was another previous first timer to the Arlington farm. She brought her three young boys Anthony, Brayden and Caiden on an afternoon outing with their grandma and grandpa. “It was our first time out here and we absolutely love it!” said Michelle while perusing the fields. “Never knew we had a u-pick farm this close to the Reservation. This seems like an ideal way to get fresh veggies and fruit. My boys love fruits. They were excited to run around the farm to pick their own berries.”

When 6-year-old Anthony and 4-year-old Brayden were told they could pick out some flowers to make their mom a bouquet, they quickly scoured the spacious flower gardens for a dazzling floral collection.  

For those desiring to eat healthier and escape the sugar-filled, processed foods wasteland, Garden Treasurers is an oasis. Its numerous gardens, greenhouses and sun lit fields offer a variety of essential nutrients and vitamins that can make everyday meals more nutritious. Those who eat more fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of chronic diseases and a better immune system. Plus, eating fresh produce will make you feel better and have more natural energy to take on every day challenges of the 21st century. 

In addition to all the health benefits is the wisdom and positive encouragement the dedicated Diabetes Care and Prevention Program staff imparted on those visiting the farm. They were willing to assist in produce selections, answer any questions, and offer advice about healthy meal making and dietary requirements for those managing diabetes.  

“I am getting to an age in life when it’s important to pass down knowledge and share my gifts with others, especially the younger generation,” explained Roni Leahy, Diabetes Program coordinator. “I love being with the people and listening to them talk about their experiences in the garden or the kids discovering how the plants they eat grow. It is such a precious opportunity to talk about the plants and how important they are in health of our bodies. This truly is prevention of diabetes and other chronic diseases.”

“My favorite part is seeing the community members and their families out at the farm enjoying the vegetables and knowing they are going to go home and prepare a meal they will all remember and enjoy,” added Brooke Morrison, Diabetes Program assistant.

To review, visiting Gardening Treasures u-pick farm to harvest the freshest foods can boost your entire family’s health without creating a dent in your wallet. Bringing the kids can only help them create a lasting relationship with their natural world, while planting seeds of curiosity and excitement about eating a variety of locally-grown, organic food. Who knows, maybe a Garden Treasures adventure will be the inspiration your family needs to plant a garden at home.

During the summer months, the farm offers some of the best produce around. It couldn’t’ be more convenient to try and grow a diverse palette of seasonal products for a single meal, or stock up the pantry for winter. The next few weeks are an opportune time to find sweet strawberries, delicious raspberries and a number of crunchy veggies at your local u-pick farm.

Garden Treasures is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9:00am to 6:00pm, with the freshest fruits and vegetables available daily.

Teachings of the Cedar tree

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since time immemorial, Coast Salish people have maintained an interdependent relationship with the luscious, green forests and powerful, blue waterways of the Pacific Northwest. Treating the natural environment as a shared resource revolving around the needs of community make it impossible not to have a deep respect for cultural traditions and Creator’s many gifts. 

The Tulalip Tribes teach their citizens at a young age how the Creator gave them Cedar to sustain their lifeways. Out of respect for that everlasting connection, prayer is offered to honor the tree’s spirit before harvesting its sacred bark, branches and roots for traditional medicines, clothing, and various crafts. 

“Pray, pull, peel …it’s so peaceful being out [in our traditional homelands]. Being disconnected from the busyness of daily life is refreshing and the silence is healing,” reflected Natosha Gobin after her time spent walking in the shadows of her ancestors in the dense Pacific Northwest woodlands, harvesting cedar. “It’s amazing to watch the experienced ones of the group pull strips and separate them with ease. This is just one of the many ways to stay connected with not only each other but our ancestors. This is how we keep their teachings alive.”

Cedar is an evergreen tree that grows with towering abundance in our local forests. It is viewed as a strong medicine as it nurtures and protects many properties associated with our modern-day ceremonies, such as Salmon Ceremony, Treaty Days and coastal jams. 

For countless generations, Cedar was the perfect resource; providing the means to create tools, baskets, carvings, canoes and, yes, even baby diapers to our ancestors. That’s without mentioning its robust use for medicinal and spiritual purposes, as used to in purifying essential oils, tasty teas, and healing balms. 

The teachings of the Cedar tree have survived genocide, colonialism and forced assimilation. Even now, as our communities are still healing from traumas inflicted by a global pandemic, many tribal members look to their cultural foundations for hope and strength. Armed with ancestral knowledge, we know regardless of the adversary, our traditions will persevere.

“I love being in the forest because it’s my second home,” said Cedar weaver virtuoso Jamie Sheldon. “As Tulalip, nature is our number one priority. Being in the forest calms the spirit, with all the sights and sounds of the forest bringing a peace of mind like no other.” 

After 20+ years of perfecting her basket weaving craft, Jamie still speaks about learning the intricate basket making process from her mom and aunties like it was only yesterday. Similar to a beloved holiday, she and her family look forward to Tulalip’s annual Cedar harvest coordinated by the Tribe’s Forestry Division and Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources. 

Although the circumstances of the past few summers may be unusual, the expectations remain the same – those whose lifeblood is woven with golden strips of Cedar must have their Treaty-protected time in the forest to harvest.

Mid-June to mid-July is ideal harvesting season because that’s when Cedar sap is running with a consistency of water, making the bark pulls easy for Elders and kiddos alike. Tribal members of all ages know the wondering feeling associated with a beautiful 70-foot Cedar pull. 

Master weavers, elders, and youth alike echo the same Cedar harvesting techniques employed by their ancestors. With an axe or saw and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from the tree. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth, golden inner layer that is then further separated into strips or shredded for finely used weaving material. 

After harvest, the Cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for six-months to a year before being utilized for skillfully crafted baskets, hats and other ceremonial regalia, like capes, skirts and headbands. 

“It’s beautiful getting out of the house, getting out into the woods, and listening to the forest. Hearing the rain fall, the gentle breeze as it rustles the tree leaves, and the birds chirping just calms my spirit and gives me energy to continue on,” described Sara Andres. She uses her harvested materials for naming ceremonies and donations to Hibulb Cultural Center’s weaving Wednesdays. 

A contingent of local Natives from surrounding Tribes were given the opportunity to learn the essentials of Cedar harvesting this year thanks to the nonprofit Indigenous Beginnings and their support from Tulalip artists Mike and Rae Anne Gobin. 

Many Native youth also participated in this season’s harvest, gathering Cedar strips for Elders and learning invaluable techniques for separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For some it was their very first trip to gather Cedar, while for others it was another step in the continual journey to reconnect with spirits of past generations.

“So thankful for Natural Resources and the Rediscovery Program who constantly advocate and work hard so we can have access to gathering locations,” said Theresa Sheldon while using a carving knife to meticulously strip her Cedar. “Their work is appreciated and much needed as more and more traditional areas are being gated off and made harder to access. 

“Taking our children out to learn how our people harvested Cedar is a gift,” she continued. “We are able to share with our young ones that our people have always cared for the grandmother Cedar trees and in return they care for us by providing clothing and protection from the elements. Appreciating each other, sharing our energy together, and respecting our ancestors by teaching our children how to value nature is who we are as a people.”

Those same traditional teachings are practiced today and continue to thrive being passed down to from one generation to the next. Teachings of the powerful Cedar tree remain obtainable to the Coast Salish peoples as they continue to journey into their ancestral woodlands and gather red and yellow cedar. 

Our annual cedar harvests are made possible by collaborative efforts between multiple parties and agencies, both internally within Tulalip Natural Resources and externally with Washington State’s DNR. To ensure continued opportunities for the Tulalip citizenry and our local partners, arrangements are typically made a year in advance to properly plan and secure harvesting sites.

Coast Salish tribes’ cyclical relationship with Cedar cannot be understated. Our ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, Cedar trees provide generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. These teachings have not been lost. They are thriving.