It’s so strange that nearly all that can be named or sold has at some point been named or sold with an Indian word or image. If this seems normal, that’s because it has become normal. It started before the United States was colonized and continues today.
American Indian images are everywhere. From consumer products to Hollywood big screens to local high school, collegiate, and professional athletics mascots. American Indian names are everywhere too, from state (e.g. Alaska, Dakotas, Oklahoma), city (e.g. Seattle, Tacoma, Snohomish) and street names to the Tomahawk missile. And familiar historical events such as Pocahontas’s life, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn remain popular reference points in everyday conversation.
Americans, a major exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, highlights the ways in which American Indians have been part of the nation’s identity since time immemorial. It delves into the power of story, surrounds visitors with images, and invites them to begin a conversation about why this phenomenon exists.
The images accompanying this article are worth a closer look. What if they are not trivial? What if they are instead symbols of great power? What if the stories they tell reveal a buried history and a country forever fascinated, conflicted, and shaped by its relationship with American Indians? Pervasive, powerful, at times demeaning, the images, names, and stories reveal how we have been embedded in unexpected ways in the history, pop culture, and identity of the United States.
As American Indians, we are estimated to comprise just 1% of the entire U.S. population. Yet everywhere you go in the United States, you can see images of us. Why?
How is that Indians can be so present and so absent in American life? One reason is that the land of the free and home of the brave is still trying to come to grips with centuries of wildly mixed feelings about us. Are we the merciless Indian savages described in the Declaration of Independence or are we the noble Indians who strive to be stewards of the Earth? Domestic dependents granted special privileges by the U.S. government or sovereign nations free to govern ourselves? The answer to both questions is somewhere between nether and both.
We have been seen as both authentic and threatening, almost mythological yet deeply appealing. In present day America, citizens of all cultural backgrounds can surround themselves with dream catchers, have Pendleton accessories, and describe a football game as a trail of tears because they know that Indians are in the country’s DNA. They know we have shaped this nation from the beginning and have convinced themselves that the best way to honor us is by filling the void left by cultural genocide with cultural appropriation.
The objects, images, and stories shown here are not just what they seem to be at the surface level. They are insistent reminders of larger truths and an empathic refusal to forget our shared history.
When the Tulalip Tribes issued their Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate and the governmental entity placed many of its programs on hold and staff on furlough, due to the coronavirus, the Diabetes Care and Prevention program was among the few that momentarily halted all services.
“One of the things you hear on the news is about the people who are at high-risk of contracting the virus, and they always mention diabetes,” said Veronica ‘Roni’ Leahy, Diabetes Care and Prevention Program Coordinator. “I started thinking about what was happening with our patients, what they must be going through, how they are feeling. They must be worried and scared.”
Although there has been a general decrease in the total number of Indigenous people diagnosed with the disease over recent years, Native communities still have an alarmingly high amount of people who are diabetics and pre-diabetics in comparison to any other race nationally.
Diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, is a complex disease that unfortunately, due to deviating from our traditional diets and the lack of access to healthy foods, has affected many of our loved ones and altered the way they live. Managing diabetes is not exactly a walk in the park, considering the amount of medication and insulin one must take in order to just eat a meal. If you are a diabetic and miscalculate the amount of insulin you need to take, or eat too much or too little, you can potentially be in life-threating danger if your blood sugar spikes or drops dramatically.
With the health of her patients in mind, Roni pleaded with management at the Tulalip Health Clinic, asking for clearance to come back and figure out a way to reach those patients living with diabetes. Receiving the okay to return, Roni immediately got to work by calling and checking-in on those diabetics who receive care through the program. Able to reach 121 out of 225 patients, Roni asked them a series of questions to get an understanding of how they were doing and what services they required amid the COVID outbreak.
Like many Tribal programs and departments, the Diabetes Care and Prevention program was gearing up for an exciting 2020, aiming to reach more of the community who have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes by planning classes, field trips and a number of fun projects including a fitness expo, complete with exercise workshops and activities, in partnership with Youth Services. With those plans no longer in-play, Roni had to readjust her approach to reach those who needed the program’s resources and services.
“Every month we send the patients a mailer to their homes; something that can provide them with information about COVID,” she explained. “The first one we sent had a thermometer, information on COVID-19 and safety guidelines. This way they know wearing masks are important; we sent them one set and in the next mail-out they’ll get another set of masks.”
In addition to reliable information, Roni is also making sure her patients have the necessary equipment to monitor their health, including blood pressure monitors, thermometers, spirometers and fingertip oximeters, in order to accurately report to their doctors during scheduled telehealth appointments. The program has also been working with other departments within the tribal health clinic that provides services to their diabetic clients. For example, optometry provided Roni with eye health information handouts and eye drops, while the in-house physical therapist offered resistance bands and exercises, so the diabetics can stay active safely from the comforts of their homes.
The mail-out program is a monthly initiative to help those living with diabetes navigate through these corona-times safely. The Diabetes Program also assembles themed-care packages that are sent to their clients quarterly. Last quarter, those diabetics who live on the reservation received a cold care package, filled with immune boosting essentials, at their doorstep. The care packages are hand-delivered by the Diabetes Program Admin Assistant, Brooke Morrison. And for those diabetics who do not live on the reservation, they are able to scoop one up at any time from the health clinic. The next care package will be a naturopathic kit.
During Roni’s telephone assessment, she asks the patient if an emergency situation occurred, do they feel comfortable calling the clinic or the medics, whether it was a diabetic or corona related issue. Many of those patients voiced concern.
“I want them to know that if they have worries or anxieties about calling the office for care because they’re afraid of getting sick, they can call us. A lot of people don’t want to call because they are afraid they’ll have to go to the hospital, and if they go to the hospital their family can’t be with them. That’s part of the conversation I have with them and let them know that you can talk to our nurses, to our clinic and they can help you. Maybe you don’t have to go to the hospital, but you do need to call somebody.”
When reaching out to her patients, Roni quickly learned that a phone call goes a long way. In fact, she recalled numerous phone conversations that resulted in tears. Many of her clients expressed fear about the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, as well as loneliness caused by isolation. Roni shared that one gentleman told her that she was actually the first person to call and check on him since the pandemic began.
“We’re keeping really busy with diabetes education that keeps people active and on track with social distancing and keeping things sanitized. Our biggest concern is their safety and we want them to know that we’re here for them,” Roni expressed. “When it comes to diabetic care, sometimes it can be a lonely walk and filled with a lot of uncertainty. We want them to understand that they’re not alone. The mail-out program is a great way to keep interacting with our patients. One of the things people enjoy about our classes is that connection of being together as a group, so we still need to keep those relationships alive and growing and we do that by making sure they have everything they need at home.”
For more information, please contact the Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention Program at (360) 716-5641.
In the ancestral language of this land, Lushootseed, the phrase sgʷi gʷi ?altxʷ means House of Welcome. More than just a name, the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen State College in Olympia being officially dubbed sgʷi gʷi ?altxʷ gives credence to a reciprocal relationship that is both open hearted and open minded.
Created in 1995 as a public service center, the Longhouse’s mission is to promote Indigenous arts and cultures through education, cultural preservation, creative expression, and economic development.
In the beginning, the cultural center’s focus was on six local Puget Sound tribes and their ever-evolving artists. Today, the Longhouse collaborates with highly talented Indigenous artists throughout the Pacific Northwest region, across the nation, and distant lands spanning the globe. Through residency programs with master artists, culture bearers are inspired to develop their abilities while expanding their imaginative capacities in pursuit of creating entirely new boundaries for what defines ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ designs.
“Art allows us to sing without a song, to give our true spirit into something we create out of something nature has given us,” explained Master artist Bruce Subiyay Miller (Skokomish). “Our people create with the natural elements of wood, plant fibers or native plants. Through these acts of creation, our culture continues to live today. That is important at a time when many of us have lost our languages, our customs, and many of the things we look upon as comprising a complete culture.
“We still have our artwork!” he added. “Through that, all the ancestors that lived on this Earth from the beginning of time in our tribal lineages, still exist as long as we have the art. That is what art means to me.”
To celebrate the House of Welcome’s 25 years of groundbreaking work we examine an art exhibition that truly captures the essence of what it means to facilitate cross cultural exchange. Building Upon the Past, Visioning Into the Future showcases cultural concepts and next level skillfulness from over 70 Indigenous artists with whom the Longhouse has built relationship, from the early days, right up to the present. Many of the featured artists have received a grant, taught a workshop, exhibited work, been an artist-in-residence, or otherwise participated in Longhouse programming.
Curated by Longhouse staff members Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) and Linly Logan (Seneca), this one-of-a-kind exhibition features beautiful artistry from tribal members that call this land home. Local tribal representation include Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Puyallup and many other Coast Salish tribes. Tribes from across the nation are also represented, from Alaska to the Great Plains, and across the Pacific Rim, including Native Hawaiians and Maori artists from New Zealand.
“This exhibition reflects the [twenty-five years] of building relationships with artists locally, regionally, nationally and internationally,” stated exhibition co-curator Erin Genia. “Each of the artists you see here in the show has in some way worked with the Longhouse through one of our programs. Native artists are using so many different methods for expressing themselves and we really wanted to display as many of those methods as possible. The result is we have close to ninety beautiful pieces of art, treasures really, that make up this exhibition.”
The subjects and techniques exhibited by the Longhouse artists draw from a diverse range of stylistic traditions, which arise from cultural teachings, ancestral lineages, and each artist’s unique experience as Indigenous peoples. Works on display include paintings, drums, carvings, beadwork, photography, baskets, and jewelry.
Glass vessels created using basket designs demonstrate the way traditional design can beautifully translate into new media. Other sculptural forms created in clay, bronze and wood, alongside two-dimensional prints, paintings and drawing spotlight the mastery of mediums that Longhouse artists are fluent in.
“As a curator of this exhibition it’s such an awe-inspiring experience to hear from the artists themselves as to the perspective and inspiration behind their artwork,” added fellow co-curator Linly Logan. “We have artists who are very traditional and roots oriented; artists who use the natural resources around them to showcase their creativeness.
“As Native and Indigenous people we’ve always used the resources around us,” he continued. “In a contemporary lifestyle in nature, we’ve continued to use the resources around us which now include materials other than natural materials. We’ve come full circle in our intent to build upon the past and vision into the future creatively and intellectually as Indigenous people.”
The House of Welcome graciously allowed Tulalip News staff a private tour of the exhibition so that we could share a glimpse of the amazingly creative and exceptional Native art with our local community. These artists are luminaries of their cultures, lighting the pathway back into the far reaches of history, and leading the way into the future with their creative vision.
“The first time I got out on the canoe and went outside of Tulalip Bay, I felt a deep connection not only with the water, but with the canoe,” expressed Tulalip tribal member and Canoe Puller, Monie Ordonia. “I felt my ancestor’s gratitude for me being on the water, the silence of serenity is palpable. It was like an interconnection meditation for me. Every time my paddle digs into the water, it’s like a prayer for my people, the community, and for the water with all that live in it.”
The people of the Northwest have been enjoying beautiful sunrays during the late weeks of July. Although safely partaking in outdoor adventures may be a bit more challenging with the threat of contracting the coronavirus, many people are still finding ways to safely soak up some sun such as family bike rides, scenic car trips, or lounging out on the patio. It’s safe to say the sunshine has brightened up spirits across local Native tribes during a dark time period. And although it’s understandable that we all must make necessary adjustments to protect ourselves and our people, many can’t help but miss the yearly summertime journey across the Salish Sea.
“It was one of those things that was hard to believe,” expressed Tulalip Canoe Family Skipper, Andrew Gobin. “We were getting our canoes ready, we set the practice schedule and we were all planned for journey. We we’re ready to go and all this happened.”
If it were not for the coronavirus, many Natives would be in a cedar dugout canoe this very moment, coasting through the Salish waters and pulling in unison with their canoe family, perhaps offering a traditional song to the sea while enroute to Nanaimo B.C., visiting with different tribes and creating lifelong friendships along the way.
During a colonial celebration, Washington State’s 100th centennial in 1989, Quinault tribal member Emmett Oliver organized an historic moment-in-time, famously known as the ‘Paddle to Seattle’, by calling upon a number of fellow Northwest Treaty Tribes and First Nations bands to participate in a traditional canoe pull into Elliot Bay.
The Paddle to Seattle sparked a cultural revitalization. Once experiencing the medicine offered by the sacred waters, as well as feeling the power of unity amongst coastal Nations, tribal leaders planned the first Tribal Canoe Journey in 1993 with the paddle to Bella Bella. And each summer since, Canoe Journey has been hosted at different villages, helping tribal members reconnect with both their people and ancestral lifeways, while also providing its participants with a lifetime’s worth of memories and healing.
“The first time I did Canoe Journey, there were only ten pullers with our Skipper,” Monie reflected. “No relief pullers, and we didn’t use our support boat to tow us at any time. It was just us pulling to Swinomish. It was a long 10+ hour pull. We were making our final turn to pull up the river to land on Swinomish grounds, we started singing a tribal song and an energy of renewal just came over all of us. We were pulling strong and hard. As soon as we got near the bridge that takes you onto Swinomish land, I became very emotional.
“I couldn’t sing anymore and my eyes were full of tears,” she continued. “My sister Muffy had been the only one of my family who ever done canoe pulling, and she had just passed away in December of 2015. She was the one who inspired me to pull canoe. My grandmother Dora Hilliare Wyakes is buried in Swinomish, so to see that we were pulling up to the bridge that leads to the cemetery where my grandmother was laid to rest, it made me feel like I was honoring both my grandmother and my sister Muffy.”
From ’93 until present day there have only been two instances when the Tribal Canoe Journey celebration did not occur, a hiatus in 2015 after no Tribal Nation volunteered for hosting duties, though several tribes did hold small gatherings that year, allowing the canoes the opportunity to still travel the waters. The second instance is this year.
“Before our Tribe even closed, Nanaimo already canceled journey,” explained Andrew. “I thought, like a lot of people, that COVID was just going to be a lot of hype and that it would pass. I was a strong proponent of keeping plans in place and coming up with secondary plans in case journey started up again.”
For Tulalip, Canoe Journey season begins long before their canoes leave the Tulalip Bay shores and extend far past the last song at protocol. In fact, many tribal members dedicate their time months in advance, preparing for journey by harvesting traditional plants and making salves, oils, balms and herbal blends to gift to other tribes during the near month-long experience. The canoe journey participants also take time to practice their traditional songs and dances so when it’s Tulalip’s turn at protocol, their voices are strong and each dance precise, providing medicine while proudly representing the sduhubš way of life.
With the absence of this year’s event, many Tulalip canoe family members continued with the work that goes into preparing for journey by harvesting traditional plants and foods within their households and gifting those medicines to local elders as opposed to neighboring tribes. Tulalip singers, dancers and pullers are also staying connected via social media, sharing songs, updates and stories online. Andrew extended his many thanks to the crew who have taken it upon themselves to give back to the community such as Thomas Williams and Dean Pablo.
“I see a lot of people from the canoe family gathering, using this time to harvest, taking advantage of slowing down and taking part in those traditional practices,” Andrew said. “Some of the people on Canoe Journey are turning back to fishing as way to feed their family and their community. People are smoking fish and giving it to our elders. And some of the younger ones are using social media to stay connected this year. The gifts of our people are coming back into the community during this time. When we prepare for Canoe Journey we gather those things and we give them out when we travel. Since we can’t travel, people are taking it on themselves to put it back in their own community.”
Another tradition of the canoe family is a ceremony that takes place at the beginning of Spring where they formally wake the family canoes, Big Brother and Big Sister, by cleansing and singing songs in their honor, as the canoes are living spirits that come from sacred cedar. The canoes are then taken out on the water twice-a-week until Canoe Journey in order to build up the endurance of the canoes and its pullers.
“I really enjoy practice,” Monie stated. “Getting out on the water as well as the comradery that goes with it. When you practice with mostly the same people every week, they truly become your canoe family. You pull together and sing songs. You encourage each other, so when journey actually begins there is a sense of teamwork, because not one person can pull the canoe by themselves. There is something about sharing your energy on the water in the sacred canoe.”
Though the annual summertime paddle offers healing in many ways, whether it’s pulling on the water, camping and visiting with people from other tribes, or proudly representing your Nation during protocol, many will agree that coming together as a people and forging bonds based on Indigenous culture is one, if not thee, most important aspects of Tribal Canoe Journeys.
“My favorite part of the journey is that togetherness,” said Andrew. “When we leave Tulalip and travel, we all help each other. We don’t leave anybody behind. If someone needs help, everyone is helping. Everyone is looking out for each other and it really reminds us of the best part of our community and what it means to come together.
“The time on the water, every day is a different adventure. It could be the same crew, same canoe, same paddle, but there’s different jokes and things that happen. Last year, one of the canoes jumped a wave, now those people who were on that canoe all joke about that, they have that unique story they get to reflect on. It’s all about building that community trust and accountability. When we camp and hold circle, everyone is equal, everyone is accountable, everyone has the same responsibilities. Big Shot (Cyrus James) would say, to uphold one another, to care for one another.”
Recently, Nanaimo officially passed the torch to the Tla’amin Nation who plans on hosting the 2021 Canoe Journey festivities in their homeland of Powell River B.C. For more updates, be sure to follow the ‘Tribal Canoe Journeys’ and the ‘Tulalip Canoes’ Facebook pages.
Masks seem to be at the center of many heated debates in today’s society. Conspiracy or not, the Tulalip Tribes passed a ‘no mask, no service’ resolution at the beginning of July, requiring individuals to wear masks in all public spaces within the Tulalip reservation, including tribal establishments, gaming and government, as well as at local businesses. The decision was made in response to a recent rise in COVID-19 cases on the reservation after a long period with zero reported cases after the initial outbreak, as the Tribe acted swiftly to prevent the virus from spreading any further.
“I think right now with COVID-19 being as serious as it is, social distancing and the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) are important,” expressed Marysville UniFirst Branch Manager, Justin England. “I think if everyone has enough PPE then they can stay safe and keep their families safe.”
UniFirst is a nationwide corporation that specializes in providing uniforms and safety gear for businesses at 260 locations. With cases spiking throughout the entire country, UniFirst began a corporate initiative to assist business owners during the global pandemic.
“We’re taking part in a company-wide initiative, partnering with businesses in our local communities across the country,” explained Justin. “UniFirst is donating 10,000 masks in a lot of communities. I was approached by someone at our corporate office asking if we’d like to be a part of this with our community and I said I’d love to. When they asked who I’d like to partner with, being in Marysville, my first thought was the Tulalip Tribes. That’s when I reached out, hashed out the details, partnered up and made this happen.”
On the afternoon of July 22, Justin hand-delivered several boxes filled with blue surgical masks to the Tulalip Tribes Office of Emergency Management team at the Tulalip Administration building.
A misunderstanding occurred when UniFirst revealed they would be distributing the masks to the Tribe as a local news team announced that Tulalip was handing out masks to the public. The announcement sent many on a course headed to the Tribe’s admin building. And though explaining the kerfuffle to them, Tulalip’s Emergency Preparedness Manager, Ashlynn Danielson still provided those who made the journey to the rez with one mask each for their troubles. The majority, save for the few handed out that afternoon, will be distributed to business establishments throughout Tulalip and Quil Ceda Village.
“The thought concept behind these masks were to support our local businesses, the smaller mom and pop shops,” Ashlynn stated. “They can reach out and we can provide them with masks to have on-hand. In the event that their patrons come in and either forgot their masks or don’t own a mask, the company can provide them with a free mask and still do business with them.”
“We’re also planning to give the Tulalip police officers masks,” she continued. “As the officers come in contact with civilians who aren’t wearing a mask, they could ask them if they’d like to have a mask and request that they wear one, and also expand on why it’s important to wear masks.”
The Center for Disease Control recently issued a press release urging Americans to wear face masks to slow the spread of the virus throughout the Nation. There are some, however, who feel that governmental entities that mandate its citizens to wear a mask is a violation of their constitutional rights and t refuse to wear one.
The Tulalip Office of Emergency Management will be distributing the masks to local businesses in the near future. To stay updated on all the latest COVID-19 info, please follow Tulalip News on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit the Tulalip Coronavirus Response website.
“We are in unknown territories,” admits Ashlynn. “COVID-19 is not something you plan for; it didn’t exist. Knowing that we have groups coming together and that our tribal membership and community members are listening about wearing masks, recognizing that what we’re telling them is true – you need to mask, it helps protect everyone, you and your loved ones – I would say that this donation really warms my heart.”
“I really want people to know that they can reach out in any capacity at any time,” said Tulalip Legacy of Healing and Child Advocacy Center Manager, Jade Carela. “And remind people that though things might be slowed down and we might be doing things a little differently, we’re still here for you.”
For years the Tulalip Legacy of Healing (LOH) and Child Advocacy Center (CAC) have represented safety, healing, hope and new beginnings for many Tribal members looking to escape sexually abusive or violent relationships. Typically, the LOH and CAC staff are busy year-round raising awareness for the victims of DV and survivors of sexual assault.
For instance, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and that month alone is jam-packed with a number of seminars, panels and classes aimed to provide a safe space for victims to speak, express their emotions and begin the healing process. The month also is held in part to educate the community about what sexual assault is, how often it occurs and how to identify warning signs. But with the presence of the pandemic, the LOH and CAC team was met with a number of challenges that they were forced to quickly overcome in order to ensure their clients, and anybody in need of their services, could access them.
“When COVID first happened, we moved everything to tele,” Jade explained. “Tele just means that we’re providing that service from home. And the therapists are also doing mental health services from home. We really don’t see anybody in-person anymore. I took on our lead advocate’s phone, so we still respond to emergencies and anything that comes up.”
Last month, Tulalip Child Advocate, Sydney Gilbert, hand-delivered fliers to businesses located on the reservation out of concern that people, especially children, are less likely to report due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re really trying to focus on the fact that we have to rely on everyone, on each other, right now to look out for the safety of kids,” Sydney stated. “Because they are not with their teachers on a regular basis, they’re not with other kids, they aren’t even with other family members who they can disclose that information to. There are a lot of kids stuck at home with their abuser, with no access to a mandated reporter, no way to escape that environment that they’re in.”
A decision was recently made to close the Tulalip Legacy of Healing Safe House indefinitely, but Jade wants to ensure the community the LOH department still has plenty of resources and can help direct individuals seeking refuge to a nearby shelter or safe house.
“The Legacy of Healing is still there; we just don’t have a safe house anymore, but we have other places that we know of where there are shelters,” said Jade. “If you are Native, we work with a place in Seattle that provides assistance when it comes to needing a hotel or things like that. Even though we don’t have our safe house, there’s other Native safe houses within Washington State that we have a good relationship with, and there’s also other shelters that we have good relationships with. We still have the advocate and attorney right now who’s able to help with our cases.”
In addition to passing out informational fliers, the Tulalip LOH and CAC recently launched their Facebook page where they plan to share various articles and educational pieces surrounding heavy topics such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“This information is important because the abuse is still happening, whether we’re seeing it or not,” said Jade. “We need to be there for them, even if it’s just one child or one adult that comes forward with something that’s been going on. They need that support, they need someone there, and they need a service that’s going to be thinking of their best interest while going through this process. We’re always here, so reach out. We can be on the court calls with you and connect you with the attorneys. We can talk with you, we can offer other resources to you, we are here for you.”
For more information, please contact the Tulalip Legacy of Healing at (360) 716-4100 or the Tulalip Child Advocacy Center at (360) 716-KIDS (5437), and be sure to also give their new Facebook page a follow.
May 25, 2020 the world was shocked, outraged and heartbroken. The murder of George Floyd was captured on camera and circulated the internet for all to see. A black man unjustly and untimely taken from his loved ones at the hands of four law officials, exposing many to a reality that is unfortunately all too familiar within black communities across the country.
The call for justice was immediate. In the middle of a pandemic the Nation’s obvious divide split even deeper and a lot of people’s ethics and morals were voluntarily put on display, for better or for worse. Whether it was marching at Black Lives Matter rallies or spewing emotions over keyboards, the world began to see exactly where people, companies and businesses stood on heavy topics such as police brutality and systemic racism.
Since accepting the position of Chief of Police for the Tulalip Police Department (TPD) back in 2018, Chris Sutter has designed a community-driven police force, prioritizing the safety of the tribal community at large. At a time when local police departments are under the watchful lens of their towns and cities, Chief Sutter’s main objective of creating a strong bond between officer and citizen has never faltered and his motives never changed.
“I feel it’s very important, especially in our tribal community, to build relationships and get to know the community members,” expressed Chief Sutter. “A big part of that is building trust and working with the community to help solve problems. I try to model that behavior by taking up opportunities to go to local Tulalip community events. I also work closely with the Tulalip Citizen-Police Advisory Board, which is comprised of Tulalip citizens who are elected to provide important oversight and recommendations to the Chief of Police.
“One of the areas that we build trust is through accountability. I’ve implemented a system that says all complaints will be received, reviewed and investigated. And every complaint is logged and tracked. Shortly after I arrived here, we implemented a citizen feedback form on our website. Citizens can complete the form, they can call on the phone or come in person, we’ll accept all feedback. These are internal systems that we’ve put in place to hold ourselves accountable to the community, and to also help the officers in our department improve and establish trust and credibility.”
Following the George Floyd killing, millions nationwide took to the streets calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officer who committed the murder by strangulation, as well as the officers who stood by and watched as a man who pleaded ‘I can’t breathe’, had his last breath stolen. Although most events were organized to be peaceful marches, many were taken over by radicals with intentions of raising tension. And some, under the guise of ‘protecting their towns’, openly toted assault weapons and waved the confederate flag.
During the early days of protests, riots ensued in many cities and businesses were targeted and looted, by whom was hard to say although both political parties seemingly agreed to blame the damages on extremist groups whose views more aligned with the opposite party, depending on who you asked.
After a chaotic week in Seattle, the alleged radical groups began organizing lootings via Twitter and high on the list was the Seattle Premium Outlets which is located in the city of Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip Reservation.
Alongside the Sacred Riders and Tulalip land protectors, Chief Sutter and crew defended the sduhubš home base by quickly shutting down the entire city, which included large corporations that were still in operation during COVID-19 like Walmart, Cabela’s, and Home Depot, as well as a handful of small businesses. All roads and overpasses leading into the city were also swiftly closed and TPD officers were stationed at blockades throughout the reservation to prevent any destruction or theft from the outlet mall. For nearly five entire days, the TPD stood side-by-side with their community, protecting the land and its people with minimal arrests and damages occurring.
Days following the looting threats, TPD participated in a rally against racism organized by the Marysville YMCA. Chief Sutter and multiple police officers marched along with Tulalip tribal members and the local populace through the Marysville streets, from Jennings Park to the Ebey Slough Waterfront.
“The Marysville YMCA [director] asked us to participate with the Tulalip Tribes in a peaceful rally and march in support of anti-racism, and in support of Black Lives Matter. I was honored to speak at the beginning of the rally and march with the Black Student Union, community members and Tulalip tribal members. I want the community to know I stand united against racism. I stand united against police misconduct and abuse.
“When the George Floyd murder occurred in police custody – death at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, I was, as the rest of the world, shocked, saddened and disgusted by watching a human being’s life taken on video at the hands of police. I find that reprehensible and inexcusable and totally unacceptable in any context. There’s no excuse for that type of behavior. I fully support both the firing and the criminal prosecution of those officers. My goal is to never have that happen here at Tulalip.”
Many people who come from a community where police misconduct is practiced regularly, often reference a glaring disconnect between their police department and the people they are hired to protect and serve. Whereas at Tulalip, Tribal PD attend a myriad of events throughout the year, whether it be sporting, cultural, or scholastic, the officers take the time to build personal relationships with the people of Tulalip.
In addition to taking a stance against racism, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and protecting Tulalip territory, TPD has helped out immensely since Tribal government shutdown during the outbreak of COVID-19. Over the past few months, the department has assisted at a number of Tribal member grocery and food distributions, as well as lending a hand to the Tulalip Senior Center to assemble and deliver care packages to local elders, which included masks and gloves.
Another aspect to Chief Sutter’s stronger together plan was the development of the Professional Standards Unit in which he intentionally placed a qualified Tribal member, Angela Davis, whose duties are to thoroughly vet potential recruits, investigate and manage both citizen and internal complaints, as well as help update and revise TPD’s policies and procedures.
“I think it’s really good that we have a Chief who is willing to stand alongside the people and allow them the space to express their freedom and be heard in a peaceful way,” Angela reflected. “Especially for us as Indigenous people, and everything that happened to us, it just makes sense that we would support another minority group that things are happening to that shouldn’t. I think it helped bring the African American and Native American communities closer together. I think the Chief is going in the right direction, there’s some changes taking place to be more organized and more accountable. We’re getting bigger and a culture change is much needed.”
Angela and the Chief both explained that in the wake of the George Floyd murder, they are currently revising the TPD’s use of force policy, specifically prohibiting neck choke holds like the tactic used to execute George Floyd. Additionally, Chief Sutter is amping up trainings on de-escalation, stating he doesn’t want his officers to get involved physically unless its reasonably objective as well as necessary for the safety of the individual, the officers and the public.
“I brought in an expert, a master instructor in the use-of-force, to consult with me on that policy revision,” said Chief Sutter. “I am also looking nationwide at the best practices on de-escalation and use-of-force. I want every reasonable opportunity to de-escalate a critical situation to minimize the amount of force an officer has to use to bring that situation under control.
“We will integrate communication and de-escalation tactics into every call we go to. I want our officers to be communicators, problem solvers and peacekeepers,” he continued. “I subscribe to the guardian philosophy, the guardian versus warrior mentality. Our officers are not at war with our community. We are here to protect our community and to safeguard them, it’s a mental mind shift. And when force is necessary, ensuring that we’re using only the appropriate level of force. Something that I’ve implemented is a critical incident review process form. Every time force is used in this police department, it will be reviewed through the chain of command.”
To round out the mission of unity between the Tribe and the police, Chief Sutter’s latest task is getting more Tulalip representation on the squad. He will be making a focused effort to bring more Tribal members onto the force during the next round of recruitment.
With a few adjustments and revisions, the police department is heading in the right direction, working to ensure the tribal society that they can depend on local law officials through both the good and difficult times as we venture into a future of uncertainty and unknown. Even when a good chunk of American municipalities are currently at odds with their local police, and many of those departments will likely be defunded (funds redirected to other qualified professionals), TPD and Tulalip stand in unity.
To show the police department that the Tribe returns the love and support, approximately twenty tribal members recently surprised Chief Sutter and squad with a ceremonial blessing, providing the medicine of song and sage.
“My highest goal is that everyone in this community is treated respectfully,” the Chief said. “I was personally touched to see Tulalip members come one evening and offer their prayers and blessings, singing on behalf of our police department. In addition, one tribal member made personalized hand sanitizers for every member of the department, we enjoy very strong support from our Tribal members. I believe there’s a lot of work to do though, and we have plenty of opportunities for improvement in how we build relationships and how we provide exceptional service. I just want our community know how grateful I am to have this honor to serve the Tulalip people.”
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos by Natosha Gobin
“Doing this work has always meant a lot to me,” expressed Tulalip Lushootseed Language Warrior, Maria Martin. “I got to learn when I was at Montessori at a young age. Growing up, I committed myself to learning everything I could with the language; summer camp, anytime they had an event I could attend, I’d always check out the website. I took it on myself to be a part of it. And being able to share that now, it’s awesome because I have direct relatives that put in work to save the language. And it’s an honor to inherit that.”
The traditional language of the sduhubš is strong in modern day Tulalip and COVID-19 can’t do a thing about it. When Tribal government shut down daily operations to help flatten the curve and decrease the spread of the novel coronavirus, many people were glued to their smart phones, searching for updates about the disease, learning how to adequately protect themselves, and adapt to a more slow-paced, Zoom-led world.
During the very first week of the Tribal government closure, when the number of deaths by COVID-19 were spiking, good news was hard to come by. An evening scroll through the timeline was often accompanied by despair and a general fear for the health of you and yours. And then one day a slew of videos began to pop up and take over people’s newsfeeds.
“With everybody being forced to stay home, we still wanted to connect with our community so we had to get creative,” said Natosha Gobin, Language Instructor. “I knew that a lot of people were on social media, so we decided to throw some language out there. At such a time of unknown, here’s something positive, let’s take the opportunity to learn a couple words or hear a story together, connect with your kids, connect as a family. Most of the videos were geared to be just a couple minutes long. If a parent is scrolling through Facebook and their child is right next to them, then it’s as easy as ‘boom, let’s listen to this or let’s look at this real quick’. We really viewed it as a not only a way for us to stay connected with the community, but to reinforce that relationship with a parent and child learning together.”
Over the course of the school year, the Lushootseed language warriors develop a strong connection with their students as they are in the classrooms weekly, some teachers daily. When schools began to close, naturally the instructors began to miss their students, as well as preparing lesson plans and growing the minds of future Tulalip. When Lushootseed Program Manager, Michele Balagot, instructed her team to produce online language videos, they wasted no time. Videos of language warriors singing traditional Tulalip songs, sharing popular Salish stories and providing lessons in counting, colors, animals and shapes flooded the social media timelines of Tulalip families and citizens.
“That was new to us, we started with one person doing a video and then we built off of that,” explained Michele. “A week later we decided we needed to do some interaction, so the kids could practice and identify a shape or a color in the language. And then we started doing traditional stories, so the kids could still hear Lushootseed while they’re at home and be able to speak it, be interactive with it.”
A majority of the Lushootseed speakers work with younger children, thanks to a partnership with the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA). The idea is that kids are more susceptible to pick up the language during the early childhood development stages. Out of a shared interest of providing Tulalip children with a strong cultural foundation and understanding, TELA developed the language immersion curriculum in which Lushootseed Warriors frequent the classrooms of the Early Head start and Montessori and pass on the language through fun activities, songs, and interactive stories.
“They [videos] were originally for TELA, but we posted the videos on Facebook and soon found out that the TELA kids weren’t the only ones watching,” Michele said. “We knew that kids of all ages were watching it because we kept getting all kinds of replies saying, ‘thank you my child sat down and watched it and was speaking the language along with the video.”
Maria, who mainly works with Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, has made a handful of videos for her students during the pandemic that inspired not only the parents who are at home learning with the kids, but also many of the QCT teachers.
“We went over greetings, feelings and their letter pronunciations, I tried sticking to the basics that the kids would know,” she stated. “I’m not sure how many of my students were able to watch it but I did see that it was being posted to the [QCT] Facebook page. I’ve been able to catch some of the parents in passing, and even some of the staff members, who have watched the videos and they really appreciate them and greet me in Lushootseed, so having that feedback is heartwarming for sure.”
Getting creative during the coronavirus outbreak, Natosha put a little extra pizzazz into her videos by incorporating other Indigenous lifeways into her lessons. For example, when participating in cultural activities as a family, such as harvesting berries, cedar or seafood, Natosha reached for her phone, hit record and watched the magic unfold.
“It’s natural for me to take my kids out with me and pass that knowledge onto them,” said Natosha. “We’ve harvested berries and harvested cedar, we also went out and harvested fireweed. A big part of what I’m teaching about is harvesting and making medicines. Involving my own kids was an important part for me because kids respond well to other kids learning. My daughter, Lizzy, she’s the one that I put on the spot the most. That’s because she’s the closest in age to those kids at TELA. She’s six years old, so it’s easy for me to say, ‘hey Lizzy, let’s record this, or let’s go for a walk and I’m going to ask you these questions.”
One visit to the Tulalip Lushootseed Facebook page and you’ll see a charismatic Tulalip youth effortlessly leading and narrating videos in the official language of her ancestors. Lizzy, her siblings, as well as the children of language warrior Michelle Myles, have unofficially become the new faces of the verb-based language and many tune-in weekly to catch their adventures with Lushootseed.
“She’s really taken on the role of teaching without fully understanding it. I’ve taken Lizzy out fishing and she did an entire fishing video. That video was probably the one that got the most attention, over 2,000 views. The viewers got to hear everything through her voice and it was repetitive so that you can easily learn from it. We want to take her out to dig clams and have her retell her great, great, great grandma Lizzy’s clam digging story, that’s one of the most popular stories that Lizzy Krise told. Lizzy Mae is actually named after Lizzy Krise. Grandma Lizzy is the one that we base a lot of our language after, we utilize everything that she passed on to us. She’s one of the people that we model a lot after, along with Martha Lamont. Lizzy will retell her grandma’s story through her own experience of clam digging for the first time. So, really just connecting it to what kids will respond to, what the kids will find interesting.”
In addition to the lessons for tribal youth and the students at TELA and QCT, the Language Warriors also teach a college-credit course for those looking to enhance their Lushootseed skills.
“We normally have community college classes this time of year, but with COVID we can’t do those,” expressed Michele. “So Natosha Gobin, Michelle Myles and I started an online Intro to Lushootseed class through Zoom. We had sixty-four participants and it was a seven-week course. We had Tribal members, other Natives, students from previous years, teachers, a good mix of everybody.”
We are currently living in an era where the Lushootseed language revitalization revolution is in full effect. And just like in previous eras, such as forced assimilation, the Tulalips are taking it upon themselves to ensure the language and the culture prevails long past the present threat of the global COVID pandemic.
“We hope that our community can look at these videos that we create and the online learning opportunity as a means for them to learn at their own pace during these difficult times,” said Natosha. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing, we want to reach our community by whatever means necessary. We’ll provide the tools, we just really want to encourage our community to utilize them.”
“At first, I thought nobody’s going to watch this, because people are at home and COVID is happening,” admits Michele. “But then everybody started sending in messages asking if we can do certain lessons or stories because a lot of parents are doing the homeschool thing. We have people telling us that when they go out, their child is naming the colors and shapes they see, and they are singing our songs. It’s important for the kids to learn their language. If you don’t keep hearing it and keep speaking it, then you forget it. By having these videos available, it keeps it fresh in the kid’s mind.”
For more information, please visit the Tulalip Lushootseed Facebook page or contact (360) 716-4499.
“Can I get one bag of apples, two bags of cherries, and if you still have them, some apricots too?” inquired a local man of the Maryville-Tulalip area.
Simply nodding yes, Hugo Sanchez-Garcia began to scoop plump, ripe cherries into paper bags while making friendly conversation with the customer as he fulfilled his request.
“Will $60 work?” the man asked.
“Yes, absolutely. Thank you,” Hugo graciously replied as he handed him his order.
Only two short orders behind this gentleman, a lady ordered nearly double his order, three bags of apples, four bags of cherries and two punnets of apricots.
“I have a big family,” the woman said while offering a smile that was ever-so-slightly visible underneath her mask. “This will all be gone by tomorrow.”
This time, however, when the currency-produce exchange occurred, the lady stated she only had $12.
“That’s perfect,” Hugo said sincerely and kindly. “Thank you.”
Nobody was prepared for the curveball that the year 2020 had in store for us. The presence of COVID-19 has caused many people to reevaluate their lives in terms of health concerns and also their line of work, as businesses are beginning to lay off employees nationally, and in some cases permanently close altogether.
Hugo found himself in a predicament that many Americans are currently facing; continue searching for employment in his most recent line of work, or start anew. Hugo chose to pivot.
“After COVID hit, it was kind of hard for me to find a job doing what I was doing before,” Hugo explained. “And my dad has been kind of nagging me for a while to bring fresh produce here because there’s a lot of fruit in Chelan, which is where we grew up. So I thought, let’s give this a shot and see how it goes.”
Filling up his pickup truck with freshly picked fruit from orchards at Chelan, Hugo becomes his alter-ego, better known as the Apple Guy, when making weekly deliveries all through Western Washington. Originally, the Apple Guy was taking online orders and making home deliveries. That is until he got in contact with Tulalip tribal member, Natosha Gobin, who helped him establish a base at the parking lot of the Tulalip Market.
“He has different stops up and down I-5,” Natosha said. “He sets up shop and sells bags of apples on a sliding scale – $5, $10, free. If you show up and you say you don’t have the means to buy apples, but you would love a bag, he’ll give you a bag of apples. He’s also done some pretty big donations to our community. He’s donated apples to me knowing that I know a lot of people in Tulalip, so we put those apples on the doorsteps of some of the elders and the seniors.”
With Natosha’s assistance and rave reviews all over Facebook, word about the Apple Guy’s produce delivery service has the town buzzing.
“My wife, she’s always on Facebook so she tells me when he’s around and what he’s got,” said Tribal member Kurtis Enick. “He posts every week, which is a great for my family. When I go home with this, I know that they’re going to be so happy with me, because my daughter is just now starting to get her teeth and she loves eating apples. My wife likes the apricots and the cherries, and my son is a vegetarian and only eats fresh produce.
“It feels really good knowing everything is local, everything is coming from Chelan or somewhere in Washington,” Kurtis continued. “It feels really good to taste that fresh-off-the tree fruit, that good stuff. And it’s a whole lot better than going to the store and looking through all the fruit that they say is fresh but it’s not really that fresh, nowhere near as fresh as this.”
Although it is important for Hugo to profit off of these deliveries to cover costs as well as living expenses, money is not his main objective. In fact, currency is sort of a miniscule aspect to this project compared to the reason he decided to ‘give it a shot’.
“I do operate on a sliding scale,” he said. “There are two guiding principles that I set when I first started out. One of them being that access to food is a human right. The second one is that we’re all occupants on Tribal lands, so it’s important that we move as guests, it’s our responsibility.
“I think it’s also important to recognize that fresh food isn’t as easily accessible on certain reservations. I think a lot of people, and especially a lot of communities of color, don’t have access to a lot of fresh fruits. So, what is the point of bringing it all the way out here if folks couldn’t afford it? I think ultimately every individual knows what they can and can’t afford. So, I trust their judgment to pay what they can.”
Hugo is currently selling a variety of apples including Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith. His selection of cherries right now are Rainier, Bing, Sweetheart and Lapin. Hugo also has apricots and will have peaches in the near future.
Be sure to follow The Apple Guy on Facebook for his complete list of produce for sale as well as his weekly scheduled stops.
As many will recall, when the elusive coronavirus first struck the U.S., panic ran rampant throughout the nation. Perhaps in anticipation of self-quarantine or lockdown, people rushed to the supermarket to stock up on their essentials needs. Although this particular moment will go down in history as the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, TP wasn’t the only shelf left empty by panicked consumers. In fact, most home cleaning supplies were also completely sold out including disinfectant wipes and spray, paper towels, multi-purpose sprays and hand sanitizer.
“There were a lot of call outs on Facebook from people in the community, especially elders, saying they had no sanitizer, no masks or gloves,” explains Tulalip tribal member Sarah Hart. “I immediately went to the store thinking, I’ll just go pick up a bunch of hand sanitizers, I don’t mind paying for it. And then I got there, there was literally nothing. That’s when I knew I had to make something happen.”
Solely out of concern for her fellow Tulalip community members, Sarah began to brainstorm ways to keep her loved ones as safe as possible during the pandemic, ultimately deciding to dedicate her stay-at-home hours to producing hand sanitizer.
“For two days straight I YouTubed videos on how to make your own sanitizer and went on the CDC website to make sure it was strong enough. I felt the need to do something for the community because a lot of people didn’t have any hand sanitizer. I figured I could make a few bottles for when people go out to the store and they touch something like the carts, at least they could have one of my bottles on-hand and it could potentially save their life.”
While organizations such as the CDC (Centers of Disease Control), FDA (Food and Drug Administration, and WHO (World Health Organization) maintain that washing your hands with warm soapy water for at least twenty seconds is key in limiting the spread of COVID, they also state that an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will be effective in a pinch or on-the-go until you are able to properly cleanse your palms and digits.
Sarah wasn’t the only person manufacturing hand sanitizer out of the comfort of her own home, in fact several DIY hand sanitizer step-by-step guides were released during the early months of COVID. Around the world people were making sanitizer with the intention of personal use or financial gain. Unfortunately for many, due to cutting corners for profit or not using the proper ingredients, their homemade hand sanitizers were either rendered ineffective or caused unpleasant side effects such as burns and rashes.
This was something Sarah intentionally avoided from the start, claiming that cheaper products would not come at the expense of her people’s health. So when the CDC recommended an alcohol base of at least 60%, Sarah went out and purchased 190-proof Everclear, 30% stronger than the CDC recommendation, essentially telling COVID that she is not messing around.
“It took me a good two weeks to get the consistency that I felt was safe enough. When I make a batch of one-hundred bottles I use Everclear, aloe vera, hydrogen peroxide, witch hazel for the skin so it doesn’t dry out and tea tree oil. If you go on Etsy or anywhere online 90% of the people that make it cut it with distilled water or rose water, something to make it cheaper.”
Once she had her recipe down, she recruited her youngins to lend a hand and assist with creating the concoction as well as bottling and distributing the product. Eventually over time, their passion for the family hand sanitizer project grew perhaps even larger than Sarah’s.
“My kids have been amazing,” she expressed. “It makes me happy that my little ones are into helping. For the first two months we were making it every day and every morning they would wake up and were like, ‘let’s make hand sanitizer!’ They’ve helped tremendously.
“It has turned into something bigger than I thought it would be. For two months, I delivered hundreds and hundreds of bottles. And now, a few days out of the week I’ll make a batch of a hundred bottles and put them at the end of my driveway on a table and tell people to be safe and come and grab how many ever they need. And when I put them out, I spray them down all down, just in case because what if I’ve been in contact and unknowningly pass it to an elder or someone in the community.”
In addition to delivering the hand sanitizer, on two separate occasions Sarah and her kids assembled care packages for the elders of Tulalip by pairing two masks, two pairs of gloves and two hand sanitizers in Ziploc bags, on which they included a personal drawing or message for the recipients. Those care packages in turn inspired Sarah to help out a fellow Indigenous nation who have been hit hard by the pandemic, sending 200 care packages filled with masks and sanitizer to the Navajo Nation. You can also spot the employees of the Marysville Safeway, Albertsons, and local coffee stands utilizing Sarah’s sanitizer as she drops off dozens of bottles to local businesses during her weekly delivery rounds.
High quality product requires a big budget and typically generates enough revenue for additional production costs as well as labor. Sarah’s main objective, however, is ensuring her people have the necessary supplies to protect themselves against corona and she has no intention of charging for her sanitizer. After emptying her entire savings account, she began to look at different possibilities and ways to obtain funds in order to continue her project.
After organizing a 50/50 raffle and receiving friendly donations here and there, she was able to purchase more supplies. But with COVID not going anywhere anytime soon, she found the demand to be surprisingly higher than she originally expected. For this reason, she took the advice of fellow Tribal member, Natosha Gobin.
“She’s doing amazing work,” says Natosha. “Making hand sanitizer can be really pricey, so I set up an Amazon wish list for her and have been encouraging the community to go on there and purchase and send her materials. To see somebody take the initiative and say, I’m going to learn how to make this, I’m going to put my money into it and I’m not going to burden people with the cost, that shows a lot of heart. She didn’t want anything in return. The recognition wasn’t even something she was searching for, it’s just that desire to serve our community. It’s just in our DNA to take care of each other. It’s a perfect example of what our community is.”
“My main focus with everything is our people,” Sarah states. “Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, making sure they had something because there was so much going on. The smiles on their face makes it all worth it for me. I’ve definitely had my emotional moments; I love my people and community. This is more than sanitizer, this could help save a life and it’s made with so much love in it. I also started making alcohol wipes to hand out, for people to use and keep in their cars. With the numbers growing I feel it’s only necessary to do anything I can to help protect our people.”