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. 

So, have you heard about World Day?

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

You’ve heard of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Wait, you haven’t? No, it’s not Earth Day. It’s more like Earth Day’s illegitimate step-child. 

Every year on May 21, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (we’ll just call it World Day) is celebrated around the globe. Every year since 2002, in case you’re wondering of its inception. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard about this glorious global holiday though, because you’re in the super majority. 

There are plenty of reasons this particular day isn’t well known, most of which have to do with it being a legitimate attempt to accept and recognize cultural diversity. 

“Celebrating cultural diversity means opening up new perspectives for sustainable development and promoting creative industries and cultural entrepreneurship as sources of millions of jobs worldwide – particularly for young people and especially for women. Culture is a sustainable development accelerator whose potential has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations,” said Irina Bokova, former Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

World Day was created by UNESCO in December 2002. Wondering what the heck UNESCO is? It’s a specialized agency of the United Nations. Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights. 

So, why the need for a World Day? Maybe because three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Because bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability, and development throughout the world. 

On the micro-level, as Native American people we are pretty experienced with cultural conflicts. Seems like every month, every week, and every day even, we are fighting some kind of cultural conflict; either externally with the U.S. government to enforce our Treaty Rights, internally between sister tribes squabbling of traditional fishing areas, or on some level in-between. Locally, there are never any shortages of cultural conflict stories to be heard when it comes to the city of Marysville and the Tulalip Tribes…and we’re neighbors. So it’s easy to see why bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for stability and development. 

One way that culture gap can be bridged is by the implementation of Since Time Immemorial (STI) curriculum in the Marysville School District, amongst other school districts in the area. The ground-breaking initiative intends to teach the details of tribal sovereignty, Tulalip history, and contemporary tribal culture to students of all grade levels. 

Imagine young children of all backgrounds and experiences growing up learning of, experiencing first-hand, and seeing through welcoming eyes the depth and beauty of Tulalip culture. The alleviation of so many misbegotten fears and nonsensical stereotyping would create spaces for a clear exchange of accurate ideas and stories that reflect the strong and vibrant Tulalip of today. The dream of a full implementation of STI curriculum in all Washington schools echoes the mission of World Day; to openly accept and acknowledge cultural diversity as a driving force of development with respect to personal growth and as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional and spiritual life. 

We know that cultural diversity should be promoted not just some of the time, but all of the time. Cultural diversity is an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development. That is why World Day deserves to be known about and celebrated.

In recognition of World Day’s mission, the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission shared how the county is undergoing an explosion of diversity with profound social and cultural change. With an increasingly diverse population base, 15.6% of Snohomish County residents are foreign-born. They also noted that just a short 20-minute drive from Tulalip is the city of Lynnwood. What’s so interesting about Lynnwood is it has become a dense urban landscape in which nearly 50% of its residents are people of color. Making Lynnwood similar in demographics to the Tulalip Reservation, where nearly half are Tulalip citizens and the other half non-Natives.

All this is to say our local area, Snohomish County, is rapidly growing in diversity. However, we know that being diverse isn’t the same as recognizing and appreciating diversity. That’s why a day like World Day is important to acknowledge. The hope is that by talking about and honoring cultural diversity, as an inclusive and necessary framework for our very survival, we can bring about a more peaceful community and nation.

There are issues facing humankind – such as global warming, eradicating poverty and access to clean water – that will take all of us working together with a sense of unity and shared responsibility to solve. 

While Earth Day is more like a club that you can join and say that you are part of, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development forces you to take responsibility for your actions and actually walk your talk. This assertive stance is part of the reason it isn’t as popular with mainstream America. It calls for raised awareness about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion. It calls for people to build a world of community rather than remain solitary individuals. It calls for commitments to support diversity with real and everyday action. 

Now that you know about World Day, take a moment to think about its importance and what it means as a product of this world to help spread cultural diversity. Perhaps you’ll consider making a resolution to follow through with one of ten simple things you can do to celebrate this year’s World Day.

Ten simple things YOU can do to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development:

  • Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  • Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  • Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  • Invite people from a different culture to share in your customs.
  • Read about great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Chief Seattle, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi).
  • Next weekend visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  • Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from.
  • Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China.
  • Explore music of a different culture.
  • Spread your own culture around the world through the UNESCO Facebook page and learn about other cultures.

Celebrating Tulalip Wetlands

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

May is American Wetlands Month. A time to celebrate one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. Join us as we take this opportunity to give our readers a gentle reminder to take time to recognize the wonderful way wetlands enrich the local environment and our Tulalip way of life. 

There are many types of wetlands, including coastal wetlands, potholes, vernal pools, bogs, and swamps, and each provide unique ecosystem benefits. Unfortunately, wetlands face numerous challenges, such as global warming and rising sea levels, as well as drainage, fill and excavation. These factors and more drive the critical need for wetland conservation and restoration.  

In fact, wetlands are among the most valuable but least understood of all natural resources. They provide rich habitat for wildlife. They are place in which many animals and birds build nests and raise their young. Migrating birds stop over in wetlands to rest and to feed. We unknowingly celebrate wetlands each May when they are teeming with new animal and plant life.

Wetlands benefit our communities as well. They replenish and clean water supplies and reduce flood risks, provide recreational opportunities and aesthetic benefits. They serve as sites for scientific research and education, and provide massive benefits to our beloved Salmon runs.

Unfortunately, wetlands have been misunderstood for many years, often viewed as wastelands to be drained and converted to other uses. But if wetlands disappear, water will not be as clean, fish and bird populations will suffer, and the frequency and severity of floods will increase. In recent years, there’s been a push by the scientific community and environmentalists to get mainstream America to recognize the value of wetlands.

Fortunately, for the Tulalip community, we have a dedicated Natural Resources team working diligently to protect and preserve our wetlands for future generations through various programs. One such member of that team is wetland biologist Michelle Bahnick. She recently spoke with Tulalip Media & Marketing’s resident documentarian, Justin Salva, at length about the importance of celebrating our Tulalip wetlands.

“We have over 500 wetlands on the Reservation, alone, and they make up approximately 20% of the Reservation,” explained Michelle. “We have wetlands connected to rivers, lakes, estuaries along the shorelines. We have depressional wetlands that just kind of may appear in your backyards. We have forested wetlands. We have wetlands that are predominately shrubs. We have ones that are basically grass fields that get wet. 

“Wetlands are important for a bunch of different reasons. One easy one is that they recharge about 8% of the wells that are on the Reservation. Additionally, they provide habitat for anything from butterflies and birds to salmon and all sorts of insects. They also clean water by acting as sponges during storms and flood events. They help capture a bunch of water, hold onto it for a while, and then slowly releases the water back into the ground table or into streams and rivers. They also serve to help the water nice and cool during the summer for the salmon, as well as keeping river and stream flows consistent for salmon, too. 

“Historically, in Washington State alone, over 50% of the wetlands have been diked or drained for the purpose of letting people use those areas for agriculture, for production and for developing housing. Luckily on the Reservation we’ve actually done a really good job, and since 1974 we’ve only lost about 2% of the wetlands. But we are still losing wetland area, and every time we lose wetland area we’re losing the flood protection, we’re losing water quality, and we’re losing habitat.

“Hopefully, in the future, we’ll have opportunities to create more wetlands or find ways to expand and enhance the existing wetlands that are here. Having a month dedicated to protecting wetlands is a good way to show that they’re beautiful areas and they are worth protecting.”

For more information on how you can help protect America’s wetlands, please visit https://www.epa.gov/wetlands Or if you’re interested in learning more about  how our local Natural Resources team is working every day to sustain our traditions and culture, please visit their website: https://nr.tulaliptribes.com

Indigenous Beginnings brings the culture to the people

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Across the land, and within each tribe, many Native Americans are fortunate and blessed to grow up surrounded by the culture. Learning the ways of our ancestors who came before us, tribal members are often gifted knowledge at numerous intervals throughout our lives, whether that be our traditional languages, the importance of ceremony, or how to live and thrive of the land, several teachings are passed through the generations. Countless tribal members develop a strong cultural identity at a young age, and that foundation helps keep our way of life alive and is in-turn taught to the future leaders – a beautiful cycle. Which is amazing considering that our traditions were once outlawed with the intention of being completely erased and stripped away during the era of forced assimilation.

However, there is a percentage of Natives who aren’t raised within the culture, especially in today’s modern society. Maybe they grow-up away from their homelands, and only visit their reservations every so often. Or perhaps, with the everyday hustle, their families can’t attend local cultural happenings as often as they would like. And of course, there are those who simply haven’t gravitated to their traditional lifeways just yet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they do not want to get involved at some point in their lifetime. 

For those individuals who are ready to learn their ancestral teachings, where do they begin? How do they attain that foundation, that base of knowledge to the point where they can practice their traditions with confidence in both a group and personal setting, without feeling awkward, embarrassed or looked-down upon? These are common concerns for urban Natives and others who grew up outside of the culture, especially at large gatherings when you are expected to just jump-in. 

The answer comes in the form of a newly established, non-profit organization called Indigenous Beginnings. Founded by Nooksack tribal member and Tulalip community member, Stephanie Cultee, Indigenous Beginnings hosts a variety of cultural workshops and helps tribal members connect to their traditional lifeways.

“Indigenous Beginnings started after COVID happened,” explained Stephanie. “All the programs were kind of shut down, and I thought that it was possible to host a workshop in a safe environment while still practicing our ways. The organization is geared toward passing down the knowledge, so it stays alive and preserving it. There was a whole generation that couldn’t practice or learn their ways from their grandparents because of the boarding school era. And there are a lot of programs that happen at each tribe, but they are all kind of geared towards the youth, and I always felt left out. What about us who aren’t youth? It would always feel weird to attend those events and programs.”

She continued, “With Indigenous Beginnings, all of our workshops are for all ages. For those older generations who want to learn, they could come and don’t have to feel weird about it. I am from Nooksack and moved down here when I was fifteen. I have three daughters who are Tulalip, and I want them to learn their Tulalip heritage and Nooksack’s as well because they are descendants from Nooksack too. I didn’t know much about my tribe, because I moved away when I was young, and I thought this could be a way that I could teach them, and a way that I can learn as well.”

Officially established in the late summer of 2021, the non-profit has already hosted numerous workshops over the past several months. Over ten in fact, and each project is different, so the participants are always learning something new or receiving a fun and interactive refresher. So far, Indigenous Beginnings has hosted harvesting classes, and gathered devil’s club, fireweed and mountain huckleberries, as well as a number of carving classes where participants crafted canoe paddles, fish sticks and cedar earrings. Other classes included a two-part beading seminar, a drum making workshop, and a salmon canning lesson. 

For their most recent gathering, a stinging nettle harvesting workshop, the organization enlisted Tulalip tribal member Thomas Williams to lead the class. On the frosty morning of March 6, approximately a dozen participants met at a clearing in a nearby forest, a local area known as Arcadia. 

After teaching the group Lushootseed words for several local Indigenous plants, Thomas shared, “I arrived early in the morning as the birds were still waking and I prayed for the work we are doing today. Before you start harvesting, I ask that you get yourself in a healthy state of mind and let the plant know that you’re a good person and that you come in a good way. That’s part of why I feel that it doesn’t sting me as much, because I have a relationship with this plant and I’m learning how to protect it. 

This is our land, and it’s our responsibility to protect it. If we’re coming here and utilizing the medicine, it’s our responsibility to also use our ability to speak and stick up for these resources. We need your help protecting this area so that future generations can continue to come here and utilize that medicine.”

Thomas then demonstrated harvesting techniques while informing the participants what and where to look for when harvesting the stinging nettle plant, indicating that they grow in families and can be seen along the tree lines. Equipped with gloves, buckets and a pair of scissors, the group spent two hours scouring Arcadia for stinging nettles and discussed amongst themselves how they would utilize the plant after the day’s bounty was collected. During this time, the group also shared stories, laughter, prayers and songs, providing each other with the medicine of good company while they worked.

“When you harvest nettles, you talk to them and let them know who you are, who your family is, and that you’re there with good intentions,” said young Tulalip tribal member, Kaiser Moses. “You let them know that you care about the plants, and you care about the environments that the plants exist within. This is important to me because it makes good tea, it’s good in stews and it has good practical benefits, but it also connects me to the environment that I exist in. The forests I drive-by every day, I walk in them and have a connection to them. That plays a big part in my life, because I need the grounding that it provides.” 

Many participants echoed Kaiser’s sentiment about feeling connected, not only to the culture, but also to the natural world while taking part in the Indigenous Beginnings workshop. Tulalip tribal member Kali Joseph noted that this work is important for our people going forward and continuing to learn and pass on the knowledge of our ancestors. 

Said Kali, “It was so cool, and it was super healing. I felt very connected to the land today. It was an honor to be a part of this. It makes me so thankful for Stephanie’s organization because it brings the culture to the people. This was my first-time harvesting stinging nettle. I’m really looking forward to using the medicine further and maybe making a pesto and dehydrating some for a tea. I know that sometimes it’s hard to get connected to your culture when life is so busy, with work and school and other things. So, just to take some time, where everything is set-up for you, where she facilitates it for you, and your instructor teaches you how to harvest and how to use what you harvest further. I think it’s awesome to be a part of.”

She added, “It’s important, the work that we do to sustain and revitalize our culture, because as Native people, we have lots of healing to do and I think that we could utilize this type of work to collectively heal. Indigenous Beginnings is thinking about what’s in the best interest for the next seven generations. Everything we do today has a ripple effect down the next seven generations. And since this my first-time learning, and my little sisters first time learning, we’ll be able to pass those teachings on to many generations down the line.”

There are many fun and exciting events and classes planned for Indigenous Beginnings that the people can look forward to over the next couple of months as the weather warms up. In addition to more harvesting workshops, rose hips and morel mushrooms are due up next, the non-profit is in the process of coordinating a cedar-pulling workshop, as well as a cedar weaving lesson. 

It is Stephanie’s goal to host workshops on different reservations, in addition to both of her homes at Tulalip and Nooksack, and get other local tribes involved in the organization. She also has aspirations of starting a hiking club, where participants can journey, by foot, through their ancestral homelands. Indigenous Beginnings also commissioned a cedar strip canoe from Canadian Native carver Neil Russell, which should be completed before the end of spring. They will teach participants how to pull the canoe out on the open waters.

Stephanie shared, “I want this to be a model, the framework, so other tribal members can form their own branches of Indigenous Beginnings, like Muckleshoot Indigenous Beginnings workshops. Or maybe Alaska, because there’s a lot of Alaskan Natives here in Washington and they could start their own. This is also a great way for our teachers to get funding, to compensate them because they are teaching our traditional ways. It’s mind blowing that there are still people who hold that knowledge, those teachings, and we just want to help pass that knowledge on.”

Indigenous Beginnings is currently looking to add a board member to their team who can advocate for the organization, build connections, assist in fund raising opportunities and attend all of their meetings. If you are interested, or if you would like to find out more about the non-profit, please visit their Facebook page for more information.

Tsunami & fog advisories over MLK weekend

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Following the two-week holiday snow storm that led us into the new year, the Pacific Northwest’s forecast has consisted of nearly all the different types of weather since. From our typical overcast and rainy days to clear sunny skies, Washington state residents have experienced just about every type of precipitation imaginable as well as felt the various degrees in temperature, ranging from below freezing to as warm as the low 50’s. 

On an early evening last week, many people were compelled to reach for their smart phones and open their camera apps to snap a shot of the sky, which was a scene filled with gorgeous and vibrant colors of pink, purple, blue and golden hues. Multiple areas throughout the state also dealt with extreme flooding as this winter’s snowfall began to melt after steadily compiling for several days in a row. 

Starting out, 2022 has already seen snow, rain, hail and sunshine, not to mention cloudy and windy days. And over the three-day weekend, in which we take to time to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, local meteorologists predicted that we were set to have our first encounter with some morning fog throughout the Puget Sound region this year.

Although the weather specialists did predict fog in the forecast, they also thought it would only occur in the early hours of Saturday January 15, and sunshine would prevail for the rest of the long weekend. As we know, however, that was not the case as heavy condensation hung in the air, and coastal communities experienced limited visibility as a dense fog advisory was put into effect, extending through both Sunday and MLK day. 

Amidst the fog and the mist, many of us woke to urgent alerts and notifications on Saturday morning, stating that we, along with California, Oregon, B.C., and Alaska, were under a tsunami advisory. The underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’api volcano erupted in the South Pacific on the evening of January 14, covering the isles of the Tonga nation with ash and smoke, as reported by CNN. The tsunami waves caused from the volcanic eruption first hit the shores of Tonga, flooding several homes of the island community. 

The initial waves were reportedly several feet high and traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean and eventually reached the Salish Sea on Saturday morning. The National Weather Service warned local residents to stay away from the beaches and coastlines as the tsunami waves arrived, claiming that the waves could be as big as three feet and could potentially drag people out to sea. 

At Tulalip, the reservation was covered with a thick layer of fog. It was suggested on Tulalip News Facebook that the fog was brought on because of the volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami waves. But as it turns out, the two bouts of weather, which both called for advisories, were indeed separate. 

The eruption did in fact impact the fog. However, an 820-mile-per-hour shockwave traveled nearly 6,000 miles to our local region and actually cleared some of the fog temporarily, and for a moment blue skies and sunshine could be seen in certain areas of the northwest. 

The effects of the volcano eruption and tsunami waves have yet to be seen and many are wondering if it will impact the climate, sea-level rise or marine life. Scientists and specialists are still studying the natural phenomenon. And with the recent tsunami threat, many coastal communities are updating their tidal wave and evacuation plans. 

With the somewhat extreme and unpredictable weather occurring throughout this winter, it is important to stay up-to-date with the current forecast. Be sure to follow the National Weather Service on your preferred social media platform and set-up a few weather alerts on your phone to be best prepared for whatever weather may come our way. 

You can also text STORM to 844-962-3985 to stay up to date on the latest information about storms and emergencies on the Tulalip Reservation. 

Damming the West: Northwest tribes battle the legacy of energy colonization

Tribes and supports hold ‘Free the Snake’ flotilla to protest Snake River dams. Photo by Idaho
Rivers United

By Rae Rose of Last Real Indians

“The Indian will be allowed to take fish. . . .at the usual fishing places and this promise will be kept by the Americans as long as the sun shines, as long as the mountains stand, and as long as the rivers run.” Treaty of Walla Walla, June 9th, 1855, spoken by Isaac Ingalls Stevens 

One hundred years later, after the Treaty of Walla Walla was signed, tribes watched their sacred rivers and waterfalls being dammed one after another.  The fishing wars had begun as the American government tried to take away treaty rights from Northwest tribes.  

Today, the fish are dying and no longer able to return home navigating through mass pollution, warming waters and massive dams that block their only way home to spawn.  Spawning grounds have been built over.  Many of the great forests have been clear-cut, destroying precious spawning grounds. Another broken treaty.  

Here, in the Northwest, short-termed thinking of American policymakers mutilated and deformed the beautiful Columbia Basin as they pursued the energy needs of the settler colonizers at the expense of Tribal communities and the environment by constructing dam after dam. 

President Roosevelt called those who objected to the dam’s construction, short-sighted. He referred to our great rivers as a ‘national possession’, disregarding the Tribal communities that lived along these rivers and their treaty rights to fish in those rivers. The ensuing construction of these dams led to mass destruction of habitat, loss of traditional tribal fishing grounds, ones that were promised in treaties. It was sold to the American public as progress.  Anyone who spoke against destruction caused by the dams were labeled as unpatriotic by America pro-dam policymakers.

Mother Earth, a living, breathing planet, her life allows us to live, yet to a small, but powerful, corrupt few who see the disfigurement and destruction of Mother Earth as progress.  To me, any disfigurement or destruction of our beautiful planet can only be seen as reckless destruction of our children’s future.  This idea of ‘progress’ at the expense of destroying the planet, is achieved by the direct manipulation of the American public through the spread of mis-information by energy companies and their government puppets.  

Behind the propaganda, lies the underlying true cost of America’s industrial “progress.”  The destruction and the death of our beautiful river systems, loss of plant and animal species, loss of tribal lands and broken treaty agreements. These dams leave a legacy that speaks volumes for their cruel disregard for the original peoples, the land, our waters, and certainly our other animal and plant relatives.  What strikes me as the saddest fact, is it also speaks volumes to pro-dam backers’ blatant disregard of their own children.  They don’t care if anyone, including their own children and grandchildren, have clean water, food, or a living planet to live upon.

A Native American family is show standing near Celilo Falls, a longtime fishing and trading spot for Native Americans, on the Columbia River in this undated photo. The falls were flooded when The Dalles Dam was constructed in 1957. (Yakima Valley Museum, courtesy photo)

Addressing the legacy of dams 

In NOVA’s Planet Earth the Undamming of America by Anna Lieb, Frank Magilligan, a professor of geography at Dartmouth College explains. “Over 3 million miles of rivers and streams have been etched into the geology of the United States, and many of those rivers flow into and over somewhere between 80,000 and two million dams. “We as a nation have been building, on average, one dam per day since the signing of the Declaration of Independence,” 

The first peoples, who have lived in these lands since time immemorial, have a history of co-existing with the land and waters.  We lived, hunted, worked, and navigated the mighty rivers, forests, hills, and valleys.  It frustrates me that there are people who use clean water, who eat food that is grown from the land, but advocate for destroying and depleting our precious, finite resources.  It hurts me because these are the same people who seem to hate and ridicule those of us who do cherish the waters and land.  I have never understood why they hate us for loving the land that also cares for their loved ones too.

As a guest in the lands of the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest, I have seen elders speak to the loss, the death, and the desecration of land and water by the corrupt mentality of ‘progress’.  These brave elders talk about what was once there, how life once was, and the heartbreaking loss when it was stolen away. 

In speaking about the damage done after the loss of Celilo Falls, Elmer Crow, Nez Perce had this to say in the Damnation documentary. “Celilo Falls is gone. I knew what was there, and I knew what they had done.  The wind changed because of the flat surfaces coming up the Columbia, the temperatures of the water changed.  The dead water makes it harder for the fish.  It means nothing to me. All it means is what they took away.  What these dams have done; they completely tore my country apart”.

Celilo Falls after construction of the Dalles Dam.

In speaking with elders from Coast Salish tribes, I have heard over and over again how the health of the people, the salmon, our land and our waters are all connected.  Each important in their own right, but always a reflection of one another.  If the salmon are suffering, so are the people.  When the waters are cut off and polluted you will see it reflected in the lives and health of the people, of the salmon.  We are all related, never separate, always connected.

It is indisputable that dams have damaged habitat placing natural fish runs and animal habitats in danger.  Over 80,000 dams have altered or completely destroyed Indian Country.  Each dam should be reconsidered, re-evaluated and removed. We have no excuse not to re-evaluate these invasive and costly structures.  There is enough solar, wind, and other new clean renewable energy sources to create real energy needs solutions. It is inexcusable to not reconsider each, and every dam built in America.

While there are numerous dams throughout the Northwest, there are specific dams we need to address, ones that are causing more harm.  This article targets four dams on the Snake River.  The Little Goose, the Lower Monumental, the Lower Granite, and the Ice Harbor dams.

The Columbia Riverkeepers are working to save the Snake River, revitalize the salmon runs, while building a better economy for the surrounding communities.  They reached out to Last Real Indians to help advocate for the removal of the Little Goose, Lower Monumental, the Lower Granite, and the Ice Harbor Dams.  The Columbia Riverkeepers are a collective of tribes, activists, and professionals who have all come together for a healthy river system and a return of our salmon.

In an Interview with Miles Johnson, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, he admits that there is a lot of information to process when you are talking about the large-scale energy companies. Taking down all dams is not immediately possible and that is not their goal. Columbia Riverkeeper is asking for the removal of the above-named dams on the Snake River.  

In their efforts to remove the dams, Johnson is adamant that Columbia Riverkeeper is taking into consideration all populations living alongside or by the Snake and Columbia rivers.  Columbia Riverkeeper envisions subsidies for farmers, hope for commercial growth, and economic stimulus, the return of tourism, all alongside the return of our rivers and salmon.

These four dams are all over 100ft high making it virtually impossible for salmon to maneuver home to their spawning grounds.  These dams besides being no longer needed are taking away taxpayer’s money from our communities and the programs we need to survive.  The water does not flow, locked up behind concrete gates the water dies. When the water dies, so do the fishing, and recreational boating, kayaking, that go along with healthy waterways.

It is a simple truth, the blood in our bodies circulates to maintain healthy tissue and muscle while cleaning and disposing of waste.  Mother Earth’s system of rivers is much like the blood in our bodies. When our blood is unable to flow tissue dies and you risk losing that part of your body, or even death. When the blood of our Mother Earth dies or is forcefully pooled, the land and life surrounding that dead body of water are also lost to us.

The first study, Lower Snake River Feasibility Study, cost taxpayers 35 million dollars and was done by the Army Engineering Corporation.  It highlighted the fact these four dams only produce 4% of the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest in the spring.  This 4% is easily replaceable using wind and solar resources, resources that constantly renew without any harm to the environment, economy, or habitat.  Jim Waddel, former Army Corp. Engineer lost his job to blow the whistle on this study’s findings.  

The second study was done by an independent source, the Lower Snake River energy replacement study. This study also shows the inefficiency of keeping these dams in place.  Just the tax dollars for its upkeep would go a long way to revitalizing the communities by the Snake River.  I could find no reason in either study to keep these dams operating.

Both studies found the dams to cause detrimental harm to salmon habitat, and to the outlying economies, while not even producing enough energy to be necessary or in any way beneficial.  Washington and Oregon taxpayers are footing the bill for these dams upkeep, but we are not receiving any benefits for the money taken.  The cost is too much. It is a waste of taxes to continue paying into these outdated and unnecessary relics of “progress” at the cost of environment, habitat, and restoration of our Mother Earth’s beautiful river systems. 

There is so much propaganda and deliberate manipulation of the facts, it is hard to wade through all the information to finally get to the simple and honest facts regarding these four dams.  The first misleading fact comes from the Bonneville Energy Company.  As soon as you open their website, the first thing you will see is a picture of a dam with big bold words stating “NATIONAL HYDROPOWER DAY!” above this reads, “Half of the region’s power comes from hydropower,” beside it, “HYDROPOWER FLOWS HERE.”

To someone like me, before researching this issue, this ad makes dams look pretty “damn” good.  “More than half of the hydropower generated in the region is made by federal dams and marketed by Bonneville Power Administration.” In the first paragraph Bonneville Power admits this is a business and much like Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light, they are harnessing our natural resources, using our tax dollars to pay for and to maintain, for these power companies to monopolize and to profit from.  

Lower Granite Dam, one of the four dams on the Lower Snake River that are driving all remaining Snake River salmon toward extinction. Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch/ EarthJustice.

Our rivers, the extinction of wildlife are all resources that have been perverted by power companies to control outcomes, profit from natural resources, and justify their destruction of natural habitat.  It is a man-made disaster; we have to correct these mistakes before it is too late.  

The areas of dead water, near-extinct species, and the amount of taxpayers’ dollars wasted should be enough to relook at and rethink our current energy crisis.  Big energy companies like Bonneville Power Company, Puget Sound Energy, and Seattle City Light tell consumers there are no other natural solutions.  They put millions into making the public believe our only choices are to rape our Mother Earth for fossil fuels or to disfigure Our precious Mother Earth for hydropower.  

Even beyond the moral issues, switching to renewable non-invasive power solutions is more efficient for long-term stability.  These dams are not solutions, they do not produce enough power to even be considered necessary. These four dams being marketed as clean renewable energy is misleading and irresponsible.  

Crippling our planet and downplaying the importance of natural habitat creates dangerous illusions. Even beyond the fact that it is wrong, detrimental, and divisive, it is taking away from every American citizen and all of our generation’s right to a future.  Not to mention it is only feeding an already corrupt existing system of power and wealth monopolies for the few at the cost of us, the many. 

Columbia Riverkeeper is fighting to remove these 4 ineffective and environmentally harmful dams. More importantly, the National Congress of the American Indians and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians also support comprehensive legislation to remove these dams for the greater good.

Miles Johnson, attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, was kind enough to speak with me about the dams, what they are trying to restore, and why it is important.  He estimates before the dams were built there were 10 to 15 million salmon returned to the Columbia River basin every year.  You could hear the salmon from the shore. There were so many.  The salmon created an economy for Native and then non-native settlers, the communities thrived when the rivers ran free.

 Miles continues to tell me about the loss of pink salmon in the Columbia River entirely, beloved rivers, great falls all gone.  In less than a century of damming our waterways, we have cut off, and we have destroyed great areas of habitat necessary for salmon, trout, steelhead, and countless other species to thrive.  To Native Americans who have been here since time immemorial, these rivers and falls are sacred.  The blood of a mother who has provided and cared for them always.  To see the damage inflicted upon mother earth is the same as watching a loved one maimed, tortured, and injured for no reason.

Even beyond the love for our lands and waters lies a brazen truth.  Taking down these four dams will allow the Snake River to heal.  A beautiful and powerful river flowing free will attract tourists creating an economy to help the communities around the Snake and Columbia Rivers to prosper.  As the river heals the fish and wildlife will return creating opportunities for fisheries to reopen, family farms will also be able to prosper from returning tourists.  

We have also seen several dams removed successfully.  It has been a powerful testament to the natural world’s ability to heal and persevere.  “I got to watch what happens when a river gets its teeth into a dam, and in about an hour, I saw what would otherwise be about 10,000 years of river evolution.” Grant a hydrologist spoke about what happened after the Marmot Dam was removed in the Undamming of America article

We have seen the recovery of nature, habitat, and the return of salmon.  To me, who fell into this research on a request, it is a simple solution we owe to our Mother Earth, the fish, wildlife, and to our future generations.  

Something we need to address dam by dam.  We also need to push for new power companies to stop the monopoly of power by big business companies like Bonneville Power Company, Puget Sound Energy, and Seattle City Light.  Instead, I would love to see community organizations led by diverse community groups bring forward large-scale conversion operations to revitalize long-term energy changes especially centering on wind and solar-powered solutions.

Community-led cleanup crew removes over 2,000 pounds of litter from Tulalip streets

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“The motivation is to bring our Tribe and community together for unity, while creating necessary awareness for a safe and clean environment,” shared Josh Fryberg as he walked along the embankment of a popular Tulalip road searching for litter. “Keeping our land beautiful benefits our youth, elders and greater community. It is up to each of us, as individuals, to have a safe environment, not only for us here today but for future generations as well. We are the land protectors.”

These words resonated with an estimated forty Tulalip residents who volunteered several hours out of their Sunday afternoon to help beautify a 2-mile stretch of Turk Drive. One of the most commuted roads on the Tulalip Reservation because of its accessibility to the Mission Highlands neighborhood, it’s also become a common spot to dump trash or casually toss out litter from passing vehicles.

Brothers Josh Fryberg and Rocky Harrison reside with their families near the end of Turk Drive and see the littered area on a daily basis. They decided to do something about it by coordinating a community cleanup. Calling on local residents who want to see a pristine Tulalip and any other volunteers who are eco-conscious, the brothers organized their first neighborhood cleanup on February 21.

“It’s time to organize and get the job done,” said Rocky. “I want to see a clean Tulalip. I want to see a brighter future for my children. I come from dirty neighborhoods and even contributed to them in my younger years, but I’m mature enough now to realize the error of my ways and am committed to make positive change for our people.

“It’s time to organize and get the job done,” said Rocky. “I want to see a clean Tulalip. I want to see a brighter future for my children. I come from dirty neighborhoods and even contributed to them in my younger years, but I’m mature enough now to realize the error of my ways and am committed to make positive change for our people.

“This is a good turnout for today’s cleanup, almost forty people taking time out of their weekend, but I hope even more people come together for future cleanups,” he continued. “Together we can raise awareness about the amount of littering that happens on our Rez. Maybe people seeing our efforts as they drive by or on social media will help deter others from littering in the future. We can’t forget the true value of our Tribe isn’t money or businesses, our real wealth is our homeland and the strength of our people.”

A community cleanup brings reservation neighbors together to clean and improve public spaces that have been neglected and misused. Members of the Tulalip Youth Council helped restore the naturally green conditions alongside Turk Drive that had become plagued with trash of all sorts. Working with members of Sacred Riders motorcycle club, youth and adults worked side by side to remove litter by the bag load.

Cleanups show that people who use an area care about its appearance. According to the Department of Justice, crime is less likely to occur when a neighborhood is clean and used frequently by residents and their friends. By reclaiming residential areas, eliminating debris from vacant areas and roadsides, or sprucing up public spaces along the street, Tulalip citizens can make the reservation less attractive to criminals and more attractive to the community, which makes everyone safer. 

Promoting safety in all its forms is a priority for both Tulalip Bay Fire and Tulalip Police departments. United by a shared vision with the very community they protect, six of Tulalip’s first responders joined the volunteer cleanup crew. Several tribal members rejoiced at the fact they could count on Tulalip’s firefighters and police to participate in events that really benefit the community.

“It means a lot being able to participate in today’s cleanup,” said firefighter Ava Schweiger. “We love getting out into the community and support local events that make the area safer for everyone. I really enjoy being out with the community because everyone is so nice and thankful for what we do.”

“Tulalip has always done such a good job of making us feel appreciated, so any chance we have to give back and pay forward that mutual respect we’ll take advantage of, “ added firefighter John Carlson, 5-year veteran of Tulalip Bay. “We take a lot of pride in where we work. Tulalip is a beautiful place and is definitely worth the time to make sure it’s natural surroundings are clean and litter-free.”

Litter is more than just an eyesore on Tulalip’s landscape. Litter is costly to clean up, and it negatively impacts quality of life and economic development. Most of all, it has damaging environment impacts. Considering how the ocean waters border Tulalip, it’s an awful reality that local litter eventually ends up in our waterways and contaminates the ocean. 

“A lot of teachings were carried down by our ancestors that tell us we need to protect the earth Creator gave to us. That’s our responsibility,” reflected 14-year-old Image Enick. “For us to carry on those teachings and take care of Mother Earth means picking up garbage when we see it and not disrespecting the land by littering.”

After several hours working tirelessly on a Sunday afternoon to clean up their community, the forty volunteers had collected just over 2,000 pounds of trash. That’s nearly one metric ton!

“Today we are grateful for unity and being able to work together,” said Josh at the cleanup’s conclusion. “We are looking forward to many more cleanups in the months to come.

Our goal is to have a different cleanup site every two-weeks and work on passing a no littering ordinance, along with having signs put up. It will take all of us to create a bright future for our current and future generations. Together we can make this happen.”

The next community cleanup is planned for Sunday, March 7 at 11:30am. Meeting location will be outside Tulalip Data Services, across the street from Tulalip Bingo. Cleanup site will be 27th Avenue, locally referred to as ‘the Quil’. All environmentally conscious individuals are invited to participate. High visibility vests, garbage bags, latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and garbage picks will be provided.

For more information please contact co-coordinators Josh Fryberg at 206-665-5780 or Rocky Harrison at 360-454-6946.

Hazy Skies at Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A thick, smokey haze is currently lingering in the air above Tulalip Bay. Outside, it smells as though the entire community is engaging in a reservation-wide bonfire. That can only mean that wildfire season is back, and unfortunately it has been reported that this season is one of the worst the state has ever seen. In fact, on the afternoon of September 8th, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee reported that in just 24 hours, 330,000 acres of land burned throughout the entire state due to wildfires – more than the past twelve wildfire seasons combined. That’s 2020 for you.

“There are fires burning all over the state of Washington,” explained Jim Reinhardt, Tulalip Bay Fire Deputy Chief.  “There are fires that are involving thousands of acres, there have been mass evacuations in small towns that are in high-risk areas, particularly in Okanogan and Douglas counties. We have two of our fire apparatuses dedicated on the other side of the mountains, protecting homes and fighting fires, and that would be our wildland brush truck and our water tender.”

The Deputy Fire Chief stated that four Tulalip Bay Firefighters have been deployed across state where they are currently assisting other fire departments, in their respective counties, battling wildfires that are threatening their towns and people. Although wildfires have been occurring since the start of the season back in May, Labor Day alone recorded over 80 fires due to high winds, high heat and low-humidity. Deputy Chief Reinhardt said, “when those three factors combine, it makes our state a tinderbox.”

This is also the first year we are seeing a lot of wildfires happen so close to home, as we mostly hear about large fires happening in Eastern Washington. Stanwood has reported at least two fires this season and a wildfire in Skagit, that spread on September 8, burned approximately two acres of land. But the fire in the Sumner-Bonney Lake area has been receiving the most coverage, engulfing over 150 acres, burning down homes, causing power outages, shutting down roads and prompting a level-3 evacuation for the citizens who live in communities along the fire’s destructive path, namely Bonnie Lake and Graham. 

About two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) program, Tribal Healthy Homes, and the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA) teamed up to bring the EPA’s Flag Program to Tulalip, helping their students learn about and identify the colors of the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is a tool used nationally to inform people about pollutants in the air. The index uses both colors and numbers to quantify the quality of the air; Green (0 to 50) indicates good, Yellow (51 to 100) means moderate, Orange (101 to 150) indicates unhealthy for sensitive groups, Red (151-200) is unhealthy for all, Purple (201 to 300) is very unhealthy, and finally Maroon (301 & up) indicates that the air is hazardous. 

Each morning, TELA staff members and a handful of students check the AQI for the day. The kids then select the flag, with the corresponding color of the daily AQI reading, and raise it on a post located at the entrance of the academy. 

“We changed the color of the flag to red today,” said TELA Education Disabilities Administrator, Taylor Burdett. “We changed it to red a couple years ago when the fires were really bad, but fortunately most of the time it’s green. We usually change colors anytime there are wildfires happening to update our families. Stephanie Arnesen started this program at TELA and has since retired. We like the Flag Program because it serves as a visual lesson for the children, so they can learn what each color is. We promote outdoor play, so when they see a green flag they know they can play outside. And when they see the red flag, that gives us the opportunity to have a conversation about why they aren’t going outside to play that day, and to discuss the air quality. We also have a book, [Why Is Coco Orange?] and it’s connected to the Flag Program, it allows the kiddos to have an age appropriate lesson about the flags and what they mean.”

With temperatures anticipated to rise over the next coming days and fires that are projected to continue to spread through the remainder of wildfire season, it’s important to check-in and protect those who are especially sensitive to smoke, including people living with respiratory issues and heart conditions. Children five and under, as well as elders, are also at risk of dealing with health complications due to all the haze and pollutants in the air from burned down buildings and forest fires. And with COVID-19 still lurking in the shadows, one might find it in their best interest to stay inside until the smoke clears, if they are among the vulnerable population. 

“There are red flag conditions going on all over the state,” said the Deputy Fire Chief. “The biggest danger is for those with respiratory problems; people that have issues with bronchitis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, this kind of weather can aggravate those conditions. We recommend staying indoors if you are very sensitive or susceptible to having those types of irritations. If you think that you have COVID, one of the big components of the coronavirus disease is respiratory problems, so try to stay indoors if you can help it, keep your windows closed, stay cool in the heat but try to limit your exposure to the smoke. We’re expecting that later, within a few days, we’re going to get winds coming off of the Pacific Ocean and hopefully that’s going to blow much of this out of our area in Western Washington, but it’s here to stay for a couple days.”

To stay updated on the latest information about air quality for the Tulalip area, please visit TulalipAir.weebly.com, follow Tulalip Bay Fire Department on Facebook, and be sure to check the color of the flag at the TELA Early Learning Center.

Tulalip Tribes Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan: Strong and Ready for Change – ʔəsqʷiq̓ʷ čəɬ čəɬa ʔəsqʷibtxʷ dxʷʔal kʷi sʔləliʔil

By Ben Lubbers, Associate Planner, Tulalip Tribes

When you talk to Patti Gobin in the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department about how a changing climate will impact her people’s treaty rights and how they plan to adapt; it doesn’t take long to realize that the Tulalip Tribes are strong and ready for change. 

After a listening session with Gobin; Tulalip’s Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team learned that for the Tulalip people, adapting to change isn’t something new.  “Since time immemorial Coast Salish people have been dealing with changes that have impacted how we live our lifeways” said Gobin. “Both the coming of western civilization and an economy based society and changing climate have had impacts”. So, for Gobin and the Tulalip people, “Being strong and resilient to change is already a part of who we are and how we live.”  

According to Gobin, their approach comes from a place of strength.  It’s connected to the cultural values that have been passed down through traditional stories, teachings, and songs. “We must be prepared to address the changes coming our way to live the resiliency our ancestors handed down.” said Gobin.  For the Tulalip people, the value of following and upholding the teachings of their ancestors is taught by the traditional story – Her First Basket. 

Stories and values like these guide the work of Tulalip Tribes Government and Tulalip’s Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team. For Verna Hill, Director of Tulalip’s Community Health Department, these values are ingrained in her day to day work.  She and her team know the value of strengthening people, which is one of the core values taught by the traditional story of – Mud Swallow’s House.  

Through their policies and programs the Community Health Department is building a strong and resilient community one person at a time. Are they concerned about vulnerable populations affected by longer fire seasons and poor air quality?  Absolutely, but together with the Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team, Hill has been identifying community health concerns that may get worse as a result of climate change.  That way they can plan ahead and make adjustments to meet the changing needs

In addition to community health concerns, many people consider climate change an emergency!  According to a recent climate change survey, residents in Tulalip are concerned about the negative impacts that environmental hazards might have.  That is where Tulalip Tribes Emergency Manager, Ashlynn Danielson steps into help.  Through the Tulalip Tribes Hazard Mitigation Plan these concerns are being looked at, addressed, and prioritized.  

In some cases more frequent wind storms may cause more frequent power outages. Together with the Public Works Department and Tulalip Utilities Department, Danielson has worked to increase the amount of back-up generators for Tribal facilities like the Tulalip Health Clinic and new police and court buildings.  In addition, Tulalip Public Works has developed a new fuel reserve located on the Reservation to serve as a back-up in case fuel in needed to keep generators going longer. For Danielson and her team they embrace the opportunity to uphold and serve their people, a value that is highlighted by the traditional story – How Daylight was Stolen. 

Similarly, Danielson, and the Climate Adaptation Core Planning know the importance of listening to people.  According to Danielson, you don’t need to be a climate scientists to help your community plan and adapt. Everyone has something to offer in terms of observing and providing information to better understand the changes we are experiencing.  Showing respect and listening to every individual is a cultural value that is identified in the traditional story- Lifting Up The Sky.  Listening to elders, youth, tribal leaders, fisherman, employees, tribal members, and community members is an important part of Tulalip’s efforts to adapt and plan for change.

In November of 2019, the Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team worked with the Tulalip Communications Department and sent out a survey to find out what the community thought about Climate Change and Hazard Mitigation topics.  According to the survey results 44% of survey respondents have noticed more frequent extreme weather events in our community and 88% of respondents have noticed changes in temperature.  In addition, survey respondents said they noticed changes to the environment including 28% noticing more frequent flooding and 26% noticing landslides/mudslides. 

Unfortunately, for many Indian Tribes across the country climate change has had a much larger impact on their way of life.  Reservations are typically more isolated and indigenous people generally live closer and are more dependent on the environment.  Therefore changes to the climate and the environment can impact tribes more directly than other people or communities.  

For the Tulalip people and other Coast Salish tribes this includes impacts to the rivers, forests, and oceans they depend on.  When these areas are negatively impacted access to treaty rights such as fish and shellfish are impacted.  According to the Tulalip Tribes Climate Change and Hazard Mitigation Survey 66% of survey respondents were concerned about how climate change will impact plants and animals like orcas, salmon, and huckleberries.

Because of this disproportional impact, the Tulalip Tribes and other Native American Tribes have taken the lead when it comes to planning for climate change.  According to a database maintained by the University of Oregon, at least 50 tribes across the U.S. have assessed climate risks and developed plans to tackle them. With more than 570 federally recognized tribes controlling 50 million combined acres, Tribal planning and adaptation efforts are building resilient communities throughout Indian Country.  

For the Tulalip Tribes and other Native Nations in the Pacific Northwest the need for healthy rivers, forests, and oceans that can support healthy salmon runs is at the forefront of these planning efforts and has been for decades.  This work includes a larger effort to coordinate with, and in some cases litigate, city, state, county, and federal agencies in order to advocate for and protect tribal treaty rights. A lot of this coordination has to do with sharing scientific information, reviewing data, and talking to Tribes to better understand what the impacts are. 

To better understand the extent of climate change impacts, the Tulalip Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team is closely monitoring the latest regional and global scientific information.  In addition, they are studying and monitoring local conditions right here in Tulalip.  This includes conducting scientific studies as well as gathering information about the local area from tribal members, tribal elders, and other community members. 

In some cases this information includes memories and connections to special places that have been passed down from grandparents to parents.  This information is important to help prioritize and protect these special places both on and off the Reservation. Respecting the community of our elders past and present, and paying attention to their good words is a cultural value that is represented in the story of the – Crane and Changer.

One of the special places that is being impacted by climate change is the shoreline. According to Tulalip’s Climate Change and Hazard Mitigation Survey 28% of respondents have witnessed coastal erosion over the years and 42% have noticed damage to our roads and other infrastructure.  Tulalip’s Natural Resources Department is working hard to determine the extent of the problem. In some cases coastal erosion is natural, but according to observations from Tulalip fisherman coastal erosion seems to be happening more often that in the past. 

To help address this issue the Tulalip’s Climate Adaptation Core Planning Team has been monitoring the science and potential impacts that sea level rise could pose in our area.  One way to do this is to go out in the field and monitor vulnerable low lying coastal areas during annual king tides.  The king tides provide a glimpse 25-50 years into the future to a time when our regular high tides could potentially reach these levels. Monitoring the largest tides of the year helps Tulalip figure out the places and infrastructure that are most vulnerable.  

However, instead of just monitoring and planning for these changes, the Tulalip government and its community also want to reduce the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cutting carbon emissions from energy and transportation sources will not be enough.  The IPCC states that in order to keep global temperatures at safe levels we also need to transform the way the world produces, packages, and transports food.  This will require a sincere effort by individuals, governments, non-profits, local business, and corporations from around the world to change.  Specifically, we need to change how we provide and consume our energy and food. This means changing the way get around, changing the way we heat our homes/work, and changing where and how we get our food.  

Taking doctor’s orders from Mother Earth, isn’t something that everyone is willing to do.  However, according to Tulalip’s Climate Change and Hazard Mitigation survey 84% of respondents are either extremely willing or very willing to change their day to day behavior to help reduce the impacts of climate change.  This could be as simple reducing the amount of beef in your diet or tele-commuting to work.  However, this could also mean encouraging government, tribal leadership, and businesses to take action. Both governments and business around the world have an opportunity to make changes that will help us lessen the impacts of climate change while at the same time protecting vulnerable populations of people while also stimulating the economy.   

Addressing and prioritizing all the issues associated with climate change takes a lot of work.  Work that requires us to educate and communicate with each other.  Work that requires us to monitor, observe, plan, and prioritize mitigation and adaption efforts.  At times the amount of work that needs to be done can feel overwhelming.  However, its times like these that we can turn to the Tulalip Tribes traditional and cultural values for guidance and support. This includes the cultural value of working hard and always trying our best.  This value is represented in the traditional story- How we got the Salmon Ceremony.  It’s through the understanding of these values that we know the Tulalip Tribes are strong and ready for change.  

For more information about Tulalip Tribes Climate Adaption and Hazard Mitigation efforts please visit the following websites.  

Tulalip Office of Emergency Management

https://www.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov/Dept/OfficeOfEmergencyManagement

Tulalip Natural Resources – Climate Change Page 

https://nr.tulaliptribes.com/Topics/ClimateChange