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, 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

Tulalip Natural Resources – Climate Change Page

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.”