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

Annual Cedar harvest proves tradition perseveres despite challenging times

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since time immemorial, Native peoples have lived in an interdependent relationship with the green forests and 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 Mother Nature’s many gifts. 

These teachings have survived genocide, colonialism, forced assimilation and untold traumatic experiences. Even now, amongst a global pandemic, many tribal members look to their cultural foundations for hope and strength. Armed with ancestral knowledge, they know regardless of the adversary, tradition will always persevere.

“I love being in the forest because it’s my second home,” said Tulalip tribal member and virtuoso weaver, Jamie Sheldon. “As Tulalip, nature is our number one priority. Being in the forest gives me calmness and all the sights and sounds bring 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 yearly Cedar harvest coordinated by the tribe’s Forestry Division and Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

“Tulalip Forestry has initiated and continued to nurture an ongoing relationship with Washington’s DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, and private industrial timberland owners for over ten years now,” explained Ross Fenton, Tulalip Forestry. “We collaborate with State, Federal, and private landowners in order to ensure treaty rights as they pertain to gathering.

“Different ownership and property boundaries are also of great importance; we don’t want people accidentally pulling on adjacent properties that could affect successful working partnerships,” he continued. “These particulars are where meticulous communication and collaboration with outside agencies take place, often months in advance before the annual Cedar events are announced to Tulalip membership.”

Although the circumstances may be different in summer 2020, the expectations are the same – those whose lifeblood is woven with Cedar must have their time in the forest to harvest.

After extensive time and resources invested into finding the ideal setting, Ross and his colleagues notified the tribe of this year’s harvesting details weeks ago. The location was a woodland oasis located in Startup, between Kellogg Lake and Wallace Falls. 

A 45-minute drive southeast of the Tulalip Reservation, a caravan of tribal members eagerly made the most of their harvest opportunity on the weekend of June 27th. Amongst the spirits of the trees, the culture-bearers found refuge from fearmongering news cycles and the pervasive clutches of social media.

“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 rustle the tree leaves, and the birds chirping just calms my spirit and makes me be able to continue on,” described Sara Andres. She plans to use her harvested materials for future naming ceremonies and as donations to Hibulb Cultural Center’s weaving Wednesdays. 

The relationship Coast Salish peoples have with Cedar cannot be understated. Their ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, the powerful cedar provided generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. Those teachings have not been lost.

Master weavers, elders, and youth alike all echo the very same Cedar harvesting technique employed by their ancestors. With a small axe and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from designated trees. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth tan inner layer. After harvest, the Cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for a year before being made into baskets, hats, or ceremonial regalia accessories like capes, skirts, and headbands.

“To witness tribal members performing an ongoing cultural activity that has taken place over millennia is like stepping back in time,” reflected dedicated Natural Resources employee, Ross Fenton. “There is much singing, drumming, teaching, and praying all throughout the woods. This is immensely important, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.” 

Those who replenished their sprits in the luscious green forest and grounded themselves among the 120-160 foot tall, towering Cedar trees were sure to offer many thanks for the gifts they provided. 

“It’s eco-therapy. Being connected to the Earth is so good for our mental and spiritual health,” shared 24-year-old Kali Joseph. She harvested while bonding with her siblings Jay Anderson and Tisha McLean. “As Native people, it’s necessary for us to accept the gifts of the land and say thank you to the trees. Harvesting is an activity that is both culturally responsive and healing, especially during these challenging times.”

The weekend-long reprieve from contemporary life proves cultural teachings and tradition still triumph over all.

Tulalip rain garden saves the day

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Sometime during the night of March 9, a main water break occurred directly above the Tulalip Senior Center causing a water outage at the senior center, the senior apartments, as well as the entire Battle Creek neighborhood and all along Totem Beach Road. Water gushed into the newly extended parking lot and threatened damage to the recently remodeled senior center. 

According to Tulalip Natural Resources, the pipe burst is believed to be caused by a combination of cold weather and frequent vehicle traffic over the pipeline. The line break proved to be an inconvenience to many surrounding residents and elders who rely on the waterline, as they went without water for the majority of the following day. However, the Senior Center, Tulalip Utilities, the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department, and most importantly local marine life, are a bit relieved in the fact that a bad situation didn’t take a turn for the worse thanks to an implementation of a natural filtration system to the senior center remodel.

“The rain garden saves the day!” exclaimed Valerie Streeter, Tulalip Natural Resources Storm Water Planner. “They said the water went underneath the pavement and some went into the storm drains, but it was too much. So then it went into the rain garden and the overflow was stopped by a silt fence that caught all the silt – the water and mud pulled out of the bank.”

By design, rain gardens collect storm water runoff from rooftops, nearby streets, lawns and driveways, absorbing and filtering out harmful pollutants like oil, metal, paint, pesticide, and fertilizer. Rain gardens effectively remove 90% of chemicals and 80% of sediments from storm water runoff, preventing those containments from entering our ecosystem, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“It would’ve been bad if that water would have made it to the bay,” Valerie said. “It’s kind of by luck that the burst happened there. But even before this incident, with all the rain we’ve been getting, the rain garden has been taking that water and managing it, acting like the sponge it needs to be, and sending that clean water out to the bay.”

Over recent years, the Tribe has taken proactive measures by building several rain gardens and bioretention swales throughout the reservation, including at the Tribal Administration building parking lot and along busy roads. Throughout the senior center’s remodel planning stages, the rain garden was said to be a touchy subject and debated if it was an immediate necessity. Thankfully the decision to include it in the first phase of renovations proved to be, in hindsight, beneficial to the fish and aquatic life who frequent the waters of the bay.  

Valerie explained, “If you want healthy fish and good water, not just marginal water, you want that water to go through the plants and the soil because that’s what naturally happens; it goes through the soil, cleans it, makes organic carbon and heads out, and then you’ll have water that really supports fish.”

“A lot of the pollution is car related,” she continued. “There’s zinc on the tires, and zinc is a heavy metal that will kill either fish or their food. And then you have copper in the brake pads, and that affects the smell of the salmon. The salmon use their sense of smell to find their way back to the home stream, and if they see a predator they secrete this chemical and the other fish smell it and sink down in the water to the avoid the predator. You add copper, even a little bit above the baseline of it, it doesn’t work. The other fish don’t get the message, they don’t sink down and the predator eats them. And then you also have the oil drips that coats gills and eggs so they don’t get oxygen. 

So the sediment, had the rain garden or the silt fence not have been there today, and that waterline breaks, it would’ve gone into the building and the bay. It probably would’ve smothered things. If it had been a stream or where salmon eggs were, all that sediment would cover it and then you couldn’t have that oxygen exchange and the eggs would die. It would clog the gills of anything living out there.”

In addition to preventing irreversible harm to the waterways, salmon and aquatic creatures inhabiting Tulalip Bay, the rain garden also lent a helping hand to the Utilities and Public Works departments by gathering all the excess water from the burst, allowing the crew to quickly work on fixing the busted pipe and reconnecting the waterline for the community. Unfortunately, the water break did cause damage to the center’s parking lot, but the recently remodeled building did not receive any large water damage from the burst. 

Although in its infancy stage, the native plants still have yet to be planted, the rain garden came through in a big way for Tulalip by halting mass pollution to the bay. Valerie believes that once complete, the garden will be a beautiful and purposeful addition to the senior center. 

“It’s going to be really pretty once it’s planted,” she expressed. “The other idea is they’re going to have a bench so the elders can sit, relax and enjoy the rain garden. There will be all kinds of birds and animals that come to visit. Benches, berries, the bay and a beautiful landscape that’s functional for the environment. That sounds like a wonderful scenery.”

Learning the medicine of Native plants

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“Each of these plants, they all have different purposes,” said Tulalip tribal member Shane McLean. “The sage is good for individual work, for personal prayers, and the cedar is good for clearing out bad energy. Understanding the medicine that these plants carry, and building that connection with those plants is important work. All of these medicines have an everyday use and now I have a deeper relationship with these plants and the healing that they can bring.”

For hundreds upon hundreds of years, the Salish tribes of the Northwest have thrived off of the land’s natural resources, always sincerely repaying Mother Earth for her generosity by nurturing and protecting those resources and ensuring they remain accessible to their people for years to come. In fact, many Native communities base their decisions of today by how it will affect their tribe seven generations in the future. Several of the teachings we learn and practice today are to preserve the Indigenous way of life, so our children’s children can experience the essence of the culture in its entirety and understand how everything is connected. 

Aside from fishing, hunting and partaking in cultural ceremonies, a large piece to the Coastal Native identity is the gathering aspect. Many Natives have perfectly encapsulated the feeling of that spiritual work through a number of creative mediums. The sensation of balance that occurs when you know you are serving your life’s purpose, i.e. the prayer before the harvest, the songs and stories that occur when filling your basket with various foliage, and the laughter, energy and good intentions you set while collecting those plants from the natural world, knowing your efforts will be of service to, and appreciated by, a member of your community.

In today’s world, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to learn, feel and share that cultural experience of gathering. Due to the conveniences of supermarkets and pharmacies, it may seem easier to purchase cold medicine than it is delve into the science of ethnobotany when feeling ill. 

“It was an eye-opening experience, for sure,” expressed Tulalip member Bradley Althoff. “Now that I’ve come to the realization that these plants are all around me, all of these trees are literally surrounding my house, I’m definitely seeing the world a little differently now. I want to learn more so I can incorporate more of these traditional medicines into my life.”

A delightful outdoorsy aroma permeated the Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) on the evening of February 10. Approximately fifty Tulalip tribal members showed up for some fun, hands-on learning during this year’s first Native Plants class led by the HCC and Natural History Preserve’s Rediscovery program. 

“The Rediscovery program has been providing first aid kits for a few years now, for participants who go and travel on Canoe Journey,” explained the Native Plants Instructor, Virginia Jones. “In some of these classes we’ll focus on building those kits to give people more exposure to Native plants so they can really get an understanding of how they work and begin to incorporate them into their lives. Hopefully they’ll be able to replace some of the other items that they typically buy, and find more natural methods to provide some healing. Some of that healing happens by just coming and getting your hands on the plants and spending a little time with them, learning what you can do with them and then going home to share that knowledge with your family.” 

Multiple harvesting stations were setup throughout a HCC classroom and were designated by the type of plant that was being extracted including cedar, fir and lavender. The harvesters filled large bowls with leaves, flowers and nettles and exported them across the room where they were carefully measured and mixed into Ziploc baggies labeled ‘smudge blend’. In addition to the sacred potpourri, the students also worked on creating a concoction to cure headaches and provide relief from sinus pressure with oils extracted from assorted plants such as lavender, rosemary, peppermint and birch. 

“I’m just thankful that I can help those people going out on the water this summer for Canoe Journey,” stated Shane. “Working with the different plants, I know a little more about the medicine they contain and I know that it will be helpful for the people at Journey. The cedar alone has many, many functions that are beneficial to us as a people.”

For three hours, the group worked together in high spirits, knowing their energy and thoughts would be forever intertwined with the work they were conducting, all while gaining new skills and first-hand knowledge about local trees, flowers, shrubbery, and herbs, as well as the history of the plants indigenous to the Sduhubš territory. Whether by burning, extracting or consuming, natural plants like cedar, stinging nettles, sage, Nootka Rose, horsetail, blue camas, devil’s club and huckleberries, have long served as traditional remedies for ailments like the common cold, as well as provided relief from inflammation and numerous diseases for coastal Natives since time immemorial.  

“It feels good to see the people show up and want to do the work,” Virginia said. “It’s nice to see people from each family come together and pick up different parts of this knowledge. Some people will be drawn to learn from the cedar, others will be drawn to work with the fir. Whatever they’re drawn to, they’re picking up what they want to learn from the class, and collectively everyone has different knowledge that they walk away with. As a community, all of that knowledge together is powerful. One of the main teachings we want to emphasize this year is the importance of reciprocity within a tribal community. Although they come to spend a little bit of their time with us, a lot of the work they do is going to go a long way. And in turn, that work spreads through other communities while on Journey because they all receive those gifts [at each landing].”

After all their hard work, each harvester took home one smudge blend and one sinus and headache oil, in addition to their newly acquired knowledge of Native plants. The Rediscovery program plans on hosting at least one Native Plants class per month leading up to this year’s Tribal Canoe Journey: Paddle to Snuneymuxw 2020. For more information, please contact the Rediscovery program at (360) 716-2634.

EPA disregards science to rescind Clean Water Act regulation

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

You are water vapor rising high up to the atmosphere. With thick moisture in the air, other vapor molecules began to attach to you and you begin to grow. It’s mid-winter and the cold temperature causes you to freeze to ice crystal form and now nearby crystals also cling to you, all while attaching to particles like dust and pollen in the air. And as this process continues, a cloud is formed around you and shortly you’ll begin your descent back to the Earth’s surface. Once you are heavy enough, it happens; you fall quickly to the ground. Your voyage is short lived, however, as you fall to the top of a mountain and now you wait once again, but this time for warm weather while more snow gathers around you.

In what seemed like a few short months, you patiently stood the test of time and, due to the damaged ozone layer, the sun heats up the Earth sooner in the year and at a much faster pace. You leave your frozen state, slowly transforming to liquid and begin a journey through nature. Traveling down the mountainside, rushing through rivers, flowing through streams, passing through culverts and even trickling through underground soil corridors, you eventually find yourself at a standstill. With no wind and not nearly enough water to form a stream, you’re left to wait again either for rain or evaporation. 

A nearby farm just received the okay to utilize fertilizer and pesticide on their grounds, and unfortunately for you, they are no longer required to worry about any body of water that is located in close proximity of their agricultural business. When the rain comes, your journey will continue but this time you’ll be accompanied by new pollutants. Wherever your journey ends, whether it’s through consumption by humans, fish, bird, animal, insect or plant, those byproducts will be intertwined with you, and thereby can negatively impact the health of the consumer, and the Earth itself.

In 1972, the Clean Water Act was established to protect the waterways of the United States from harmful pollution. Since then, a political debate has taken place about the verbiage in the act, specifically the term ‘navigable waters’. The divide stems from the lack of a clear definition of which bodies of waters exactly are protected by the Clean Water Act. 

Many farmers, land developers and capitalists argue that small creeks, ditches and streams shouldn’t be considered navigable waters and have little to no impact on the environment since they are not directly or constantly flowing through the waterways and ecosystem.  Environmentalists and scientists have conducted countless studies, proving that all water eventually feeds back into the ocean, causing further disruption in the food chain and endangering the health of Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants if that water is contaminated. 

“Prior to a decision that was made during the Obama administration there was some confusion about what the ‘Waters of the United States’ are,” explains Ryan Miller Environmental Liaison Program Manager of the Tulalip Tribes Treaty Rights Office. “Those are the waters that are protected by the Clean Water Act, which in general terms states you can’t pollute waters of the United States. In 2015, the Obama administration defined the waters in a way that protects the environment, which was the intent of the Clean Water Act in the first place, protecting ephemeral streams or waterways, commonly referred to as seasonal waterways, or wetland that isn’t wet all year round that, during a wet season, feeds into a creek or stream. Essentially their definition stated that anything that feeds into these permanent waterways are considered Waters of the United States because it contributes to a stream or river that flows all year round.

“That benefited tribes because it helped protect the trust resources that are guaranteed to tribes in their treaties,” he continued. “It helped protect water quality for all the different salmon species. It helped protect against the release of toxins which build up in southern killer whales as they consume fish species, it helped protect Native people and all citizens against toxins that build up in shellfish and finfish that we consume. Obviously that’s important for Native people because we consume higher rates of shellfish and finfish than non-Indian people do.” 

On January 23, the Trump administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the repeal of the Waters of the United States rule, the evidence-based amendment to the Clean Water Act made by the Obama administration. The EPA rule, also known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, not only removes protection from ephemeral streams and wetlands, it also allows landowners to deconstruct and build over ponds, wetlands and watersheds, which in turn can lead to polluted waterways. 

But there’s more. Since the start of his campaign to presidency, Trump has promised the removal of the Waters of the United States rule. He took it a step further by lifting restrictions for landowners and farmers which prohibited them from dumping hazardous chemicals directly into the waterways. 

The removal of federal protection from these streams and wetlands could have some serious effects on our health and our drinking water. And the water that is consumed by the food we eat, i.e. animals, plants and fish, is now more than ever susceptible to pollution. 

“The repeal was proposed last year and of course the way that these types of processes legally have to take place, they had a public comment period,” Ryan said. “Lots of tribes, environmental groups, states, counties, submitted comments and expressed their concern about what this would do to the protection of waterways and the natural resources that depend on them. The reality is that this administration places a significantly higher priority on making it easy for businesses to make as much money as possible, to extract resources, to damage natural resources. Their priority is that over the protection of the environment, watersheds and even human health.”

With the salmon population already irrevocably damaged by pollution and an endangered southern killer whale population as a result, the Salish Sea cannot afford any setbacks or any more pollution. Unfortunately, this new rule sets the stage for years of struggle as we prepare for a long fight against the government and EPA to protect our natural resources. That fight began when the repeal of the Waters of the United Stated was put in motion last Fall, and fourteen states took initiative by filing lawsuits against the EPA. 

It is important to note that at the end of 2019, the Scientific Advisory Board of the EPA, comprised of many officials handpicked by President Trump himself, stated that the regulation repeal and its replacement ‘neglects established science’, is ‘failing to acknowledge watershed systems’, and also there was ‘no scientific justification’ for stripping the protection from the smaller bodies of water. And still, even with those findings, the final decision was made by ‘political management’ within the EPA. 

“I believe that there are numerous states who already filed suit over this issue,” Ryan stated. “Washington, I’m sure is one of them. We had conversations with the department of ecology, which regulates toxins in the waters in Washington State, and I’m pretty sure they already filed suit against the federal government over this. It’s probably going to play out in court like many of these things do and hopefully we’re going to have a better outcome. In the long run, this could end up being a good thing if we can get a clear court decision that defines the Waters of the United States in a favorable way, which we really didn’t have before. But, for right now it limits the protection that these ephemeral streams and seasonal wetlands have under the Clean Water Act. Essentially, they no longer have any protection.”

So what can you do to help ensure the waterways are protected and clean? In addition of limiting your single-use plastic products and recycling your plastics and metals, you can also safely dispose of any harmful chemicals including paint thinner, pesticides and fertilizer at the Snohomish County Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Station in Everett. They are open Wednesday-Saturday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. You can participate at local beach clean-ups and utilize your voice to help raise awareness about the fading salmon and orca populations at rallies and gatherings that occur regularly throughout the year. 

“My recommendation on anything like this is always, call your representatives; state, county, federal and let them know that you don’t like this and you want them to do something about it. The reality is, for elected officials, there are only two things they respond to; money and pressure from the people who vote for them. And as regular citizens, most of us don’t have the money to influence political outcomes or political campaigns, so what we can do is vote with our voice and tell our elected officials that this is an issue that matters to us and that we want them to do something about it.”

Camas meadow a teacher for future generations

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tribal elders led a planting ceremony that included University of Washington students, faculty, and visitors on the afternoon of December 3. In the spirit of growing partnerships and sharing the importance of land cultivation, the memorable gathering occurred near the new Burke Museum’s entrance. Home to a future Camas meadow.

“This garden here will be a witness and teacher to something that is very important and sacred to all people, but especially to this land,” said Wanapum tribal elder Rex Buck. “The land has longed for these foods to come back and call it home. And so this is our way, the Burke’s way and the community’s way to recognize this planting as important. It represents a teaching for our children to maintain something sacred in a good way.”

After receiving proper instruction on how to plant budding Camas bulbs, all those in attendance were encouraged to plant multiple bulbs that will transform into stunning purple-blue flowers in a few short seasons. Once fully bloomed, visitors to the University of Washington and Burke Museum will find themselves walking by a Camas meadow, as were once in great abundance in the area prior to colonization. 

A utilitarian plant, food source and medicine, the multi-purpose Camas was and continues to be one of the most important root foods of Indigenous peoples in western North American. Except for choice varieties of dried salmon, no other food item was more widely traded. People traveled great distances to harvest the bulbs and there is some suggestion that plants were dispersed beyond their range by transplanting.*

The part of the plant most revered is actually the bulb. Traditionally, Camas bulbs were pit-cooked for 24-36 hours, which was necessary for the inulin in Camas to convert to fructose. The sweetness of cooked Camas gave it utility as a sweetener and enhancer of other foods, making it highly valuable for trading purposes. The plants stalks and leaves were used for making mattresses. Additionally, Coast Salish tribes used Camas as a cough medicine by boiling it down, straining the juice, and then mixing with honey.

“Camas is medicine that our people have known and understood for thousands and thousands of years,” explained Cedar Moon Woman, Connie McCloud, cultural director of Puyallup Tribe. “The Creator put this plant here for us to nourish our bodies as food and to heal our bodies as medicine. The land knew this medicine would return here today so it would be an educator for our children. If our future generations do not understand their relationship to the Mother Earth, to the trees and to the plants, then they cannot be the protectors she desperately needs.”

The long-awaited planting ceremony and gardening activities have been years in the making, since design plans for the new Burke were first being drawn up. Ultimately, the museum’s surroundings will feature some 80,000 native plants of 60 different species representing different parts of Washington State, ones genetically tied to the region. The spring bloom of purple-blue flowers should be spectacular. This is yet another way to bring the region’s natural history to the public.

“In planning for the new Burke, many of us advocated for having the whole grounds of the museum be a garden to represent the plants that are native to the Pacific Northwest and of value to the Indigenous people who live here,” explained Dr. Richard Olmstead, UW professor and Burke curator. “When Meriwether Lewis came west with the Lewis & Clark Expedition, he was the first European to collect this plant and provide it to western science. In providing a name for it, the Latin name Camassia quamash brings together the two words he had learned in phonetic English that represented the Native American names for this plant species.”

In time, the Camas bulbs planted by environmentally-conscious citizens of all ages and professions will blossom into a sweeping meadow alongside the Burke Museum. The meadow will evoke thoughts of wild prairie lands that once covered much of Washington, during a time when Indigenous people were sole caretakers and Camas was widely known not simply as a flower or plant, but as life giving food and medicine. 

*source: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_caquq.pdf

Tribal youth connect to ancestral lands at Mountain Camp

By Kalvin Valdillez; Photos courtesy of Kelly Finley, Michael Lotan, Ross Fryberg, and Tawnya Baggerly

“You would think it’s just another camp but when you get up there, you realize it’s so much more. You experience living how our ancestors used to; no phones and no technology at all. It was nice to get away, I had a really fun time,” expressed Tulalip tribal youth, Ross Fryberg Jr.

With an abundance of breathtaking views of the natural world, the mountainous lands near the Skykomish Watershed area was once home to the Snohomish people who lived upon its plentiful resources since the beginning of time. As the original caretakers, the connection they shared with the land was strong. For generations, the Snohomish gathered cedar from the tall trees on the mountain side to weave a number of every day tools such as baskets and hats. They gathered a variety of plants for both medicinal purposes and nourishment, hunted elk, and fished in nearby rivers and streams, and most importantly, they cared for the land, honoring the living spirit of the mountains, waterways and trees.

Although times have changed and we now live in a fast-paced, technology based society, the Tulalips, as descendants of the Snohomish, maintain that relationship to their pre-colonial homelands. They perform spiritual work like harvesting huckleberries and cedar, as well as hunting and fishing just as their people had generations prior. 

Five years ago, the Tulalip Natural Resources Department, in partnership with the YMCA, debuted Mountain Camp for the youth of the community, offering a chance to get away from the busy world, unplug and enjoy the great outdoors. Since its inception, Mountain Camp has provided an opportunity for Tulalip youth to get in touch with the Tribes’ origins and gain a new perspective about Mother Earth, learning of the many ways she provides for Northwest tribal people. Mountain Camp was such a success, it inspired Fish Camp, a similar summertime experience that takes place on Lopez Island and teaches youth about marine life and the Salish Sea.

Nine kids, ages 11-13, set out for a five-day adventure to the mountains on the morning of August 5. Meeting at the Tulalip Administration building, they received a weaving lesson from Anita (Keeta) and Jamie Sheldon. The kids assembled a number of baskets, and also bracelets and anklets, before the trip, while Lushootseed Teacher Maria Martin shared traditional stories. 

This year, the Natural Resources department added Tulalip youth and Mountain Camp Alum, Seth Montero, to the crew. After showing an incredible amount of interest in natural resources, Seth returned to camp to continue learning from the natural environment and pass his teachings down to his younger peers.  

“We’ve been trying to work on a program for kids who have aged out and still want to participate in the program,” said Tulalip Natural Resources Outreach & Education Coordinator, Kelly Finley. “Seth went to YMCA camp earlier this summer and learned how they do things at their camps. He picked up a lot of leadership skills so that he could come to our camp this year and be a leader-in-training, and hopefully one day a future counselor.”

The campers loaded onto the YMCA bus and officially set course to Skykomish, Washington, a two-hour road trip along Highway 2. After reaching their destination, the campers strapped on their backpacks and made a mile-and-a-half hike to Barclay Lake where they set up camp for the first few days. During this time, the kids enjoyed the sunny weather by swimming and fishing at the lake as well as identifying a variety of plants and bugs. To get a little shade from the heat, the campers went out into the woods and played Prometheus, a fun version of the capture the flag game, where the players objective is to steal their opponents’ flag without being seen. 

After three nights at the lake, the campers hiked back to the YMCA bus and traveled up the mountain to about 5,000 feet above sea level. The kids set up camp here, at the sacred swədaʔx̌ali grounds, where tribal members gather huckleberries during the late summer months. The campers were joined by Natural Resources Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, Libby Nelson as well as Lushootseed Language Teacher, Michelle Myles. Libby provided a fun interactive lesson about the plants of the swədaʔx̌ali area, while Michelle shared stories in Lushootseed and worked on traditional introductions with the kids. Libby explained that during past camps the weather was clear at night and you could stargaze and see meteor showers. This year, however, the fog rolled in as Michelle shared traditional stories, providing a cool, yet somewhat eerie, setting. 

Before calling it a night, the youth gathered enough huckleberries for pancakes the next morning as they were expecting a number of guests from the Tribe, Natural Resources, the Rediscovery Program and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest department bright and early. 

Upon awakening, the kids enjoyed food and company with their many guests before heading to the huckleberry fields to help out with the restoration of the swədaʔx̌ali area.

“The first work was kicked off five years ago by the first Mountain Camp youth,” said Libby. “And we also have Forestry do a lot of work here in September as well. Ross [Fenton] came up from Forestry and led the kids in clearing out some of the area. That’s been our goal, to keep the berries from being shaded out by conifer trees. That keeps the berry patches open, encourages new growth and makes it nicer for Tulalip berry pickers. Since last year, we put up new signs that talk about the elder’s teachings about huckleberries. We had each kid read one of the teachings of the elders and we talked about it a little bit.”

The crew headed back to the campsite where they wove cedar headbands with Tulalip tribal member, Chelsea Craig, and listened to their guests speak about the importance of preserving the resources of the land for future generations. 

“The goal is to go up there and talk to the kids about natural resources, talk about why it’s important for Tulalip tribal members specifically to work in the natural resources field, what it means to us spiritually and culturally,” explained Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “We try to get them excited about that and get them to have some ownership of it. We tend to bring them up there and teach them as much as we can about the huckleberry restoration and let them know that we pass this on to you, it’s your job to continue to pass this on to the next generation and make sure these resources are here for them as well.

“I forget every year how amazing it is up there,” he continued. “I’m surprised every time I go back, just by the utter beauty of the site. There’s nothing but mountains and clouds around you, you only hear the sounds of nature. These kids have the opportunity to go out there and experience something that is much closer to what our ancestors experienced for thousands of years. It’s almost like you can feel the connection to the earth a lot stronger there.”

The campers spent the remainder of their time playing games and picking berries at the swədaʔx̌ali site. Many of the campers had yet to enjoy the tasty berries grown at high altitude, but according to lead camp counselor Michael Lotan, once their taste buds got a hold of the delicious ancestral snack, they couldn’t get enough. 

“A lot of people told the kids they needed to eat the berries to feed their inner Indian,” Michael stated. “So, that’s all they did after that, was roam around looking for ripe berries and eating them. All of them want to go back up and pick more when the berries are ready in a couple of weeks. That’s another good thing this camp does, is show them we have this area that needs to be used otherwise we’ll lose our rights to use it.”

On their last day in the mountains, the youth packed up camp and headed to the river. Ending Mountain Camp with an extreme splash, the kids rafted down the Skykomish River before heading back to Tulalip for a welcome home celebration with their family and new friends.

“I really connected with the land because my ancestors were once there,” expressed first time Mountain Camper, Matthew Hunter. “We picked huckleberries and I even got to bring some home for my mom. The restoration was fun; we cleared some trees out and made a big pile so they can burn them later. It’s important that we grow more berries. This was my first time camping up there and I learned how to weave cedar, harvest huckleberries and connect with the land, campers and counselors. It was totally new experience for me and really fun.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department at (360) 716-4617.

Mission Beach Water Quality Summer 2019 Report

By Valerie Streeter, Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Dept.

Bacteria levels at Mission Beach are very low this year! Harvey Eastman, Tulalip Water Quality Lab Manager, analyzes the weekly water samples collected by the Beach Watchers volunteers. The highest average so far was 7 mpn. Although previous years had levels lower than the 103 mpn limit threshold limit for swimming, there were spikes of higher bacterial levels at certain times.The first graph below shows the average results from the three beach sampling stations for this year. The red line shows the bacteria threshold limit (103 mpn/100mL) and the blue line is the average amount of bacteria in the water at Mission Beach for 2019. The second graph shows the results from the last three years. If bacterial levels are above the threshold limit, there are more chances for skin infections or stomach illness from too much pollution.