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.

Heartwork: Donna Chambers rekindles love for Native tradition

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“I bead pretty much every day,” said Tulalip tribal member, Donna Chambers. “I really want good energy to go out to the people through the gifts I make. I don’t make anything sad, mad or upset. I do everything with good spirit in my heart and I just go by what my heart says to do.”

Sometimes life gives you a sneak peek into your future when you find something you absolutely love, care for and are deeply passionate about. For some it’s sewing, drawing, carving, singing, dancing, photography – you name it. You know instantly when your passion finds you. And it matters little if you practice every day from that point on or if you acknowledge that connection and agree to revisit it later on in life. When your soul and your life’s passion align, that bond cannot be broken, not even by the hands of time, especially when your culture has significant ties to your calling. 

This was something Donna knew when she fell in love with her passion at the age of 18. When she picked up a thread and needle to bead her first pair of earrings, she couldn’t tear herself away from her newfound traditional hobby for months on end. She also knew it when she no longer had enough time in her day to continue her practice while raising a young family and working a full-time job. When she set down her beads only one year later, she knew it was temporary and that she would return to her art one day in the future. Over thirty years later, after living a fulfilled life, watching her kids grow up and caring for her parents until they transitioned to their next journey, Donna’s passion found its way back into her life and has brought her endless joy and good vibes, which she in turn cycles back into her artwork and therefore, into the Tulalip community. 

“I originally started when I was young just to get involved with our culture, to try to get in-tune with my heritage,” she said. “I didn’t live here on the reservation during my childhood. I was born and raised in Oregon, so I pretty much lived away from the area until I was about the age of 12 when I moved back here. At the beginning, I did bead a lot and made a few things for myself like my dangly earrings, just learning the basics. I was beading before my kids were born and I put it away because I was busy with the kids and the family all the time. I decided to pick it back up after I lost my mom and dad. I’ve been going for about three years now and I’m now 56.” 

Donna’s kids knew little about her passion and her heart’s desire to bead. In fact, her daughter, Alicia Budd, is the person who reintroduced her back into the world of beading. According to Donna, Alicia attended a beading-circle over a long weekend, returned home and immediately told her mom ‘you should learn how to bead, this would be really good for you’. 

“I like to do things with my hands, I also like to crotchet,” Donna expressed. “I’ve made lap blankets for my family and the kids who’ve come into my life, so that they have blankets when they are reading their books or watching TV. My daughter sat down with me and showed me what she learned. She refreshed my brain because I lost it for so many years. I picked it up that day and never set it back down. Now it’s something I look forward to doing every single day.”

Almost as important as the artform itself is the creator’s personal environment, how they set themselves up in order to get into the proverbial ‘zone’ while maximizing production and minimizing distractions. Some artists require certain foods, vices, lighting and people around in order to generate their best work. Donna claims that all she needs is the love of her family and friends, some good tunes (ranging from classic oldies to Hip Hop and R&B, all the way to heavy metal), and her beads. She goes into each project with good intentions and sans game plan, letting her heart freestyle the design and guide her until the work is complete. Her workstation includes her late father’s comfortable chair, her work materials meticulously arranged all around her and of course, a variety of vibrant beads. 

When asked what type of items she creates today she replied, “Oh just about everything! I still occasionally make my dangly earrings, but most of the things I make now are lanyards. Somebody at the clinic saw the lanyards my daughter and I wear and asked where they could get them, so some of the nurses at our health clinic ended up buying a lot of lanyards from me. I make sure to make a lot of them because lanyards are something that people can always use. The other things I make are keychains, earrings, headbands, medallions, bracelets, barrettes, broaches, bolo ties. I made an entire wallet from scratch once. I also made Seahawk medallions for myself and my grandson, JD Rinker, and I made him a full-length tie that he can wear at Youth Council meetings and gatherings where they have to dress up.”

She continued, “I’ve also beaded center pieces for the headbands that some of our youth wear with their regalia during salmon ceremony. And I’ve made bracelets for the guys, I made three of them, one I gave to Louie [Pablo], it had Eddy’s name on it, he was Louie’s brother who passed away. I gifted him one because it felt like it was the right thing to do at the time, something to remember his brother by.”

Several times Donna expressed that she allows her heart to lead when it comes to her art. And my oh my, Donna has quite the big heart. Not only does she bead cool custom pieces for family or bracelets to honor loved ones, Donna also gifts a lot of her work to our local heroes including police officers, judges, firefighters, and the men and women who bravely serve in the US military.  

“My daughter works at the courthouse so I surprised everybody at her work with a gift,” Donna said. “All the judges got something from me, as well as the clerks and the secretaries. I’ve done work for some of the funerals out here, I made their families keychains and necklaces. I also make a lot of pieces for police officers. I made these little medals, shaped like a police badge, and I beaded around them and put them on a necklace. I’ve given about twenty away so far. I just give them to any police officer that I see and feel like that’s the one. I’ve given some to our Tribal police officers and three to Marysville police officers. I usually carry some of my work in my car, so if I do see a police officer, a fireman, or somebody serving in the army or the military, I can offer it to them as a way to thank them for their service and everything they do. I’ve gifted pieces to [TPD] Officer Jeff Jira and just completed something for our Chief of Police.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, Donna was presented with the opportunity to focus more on her beadwork. In addition to beading, she also poured her efforts into a new project, creating masks. She explained that after she saw the need for more masks in the community, and the demand for something a little more aesthetically pleasing than the standard surgical mask, she started sewing immediately, creating clothed masks with Native, floral and paisley designs. Whenever she leaves home and is headed to the local grocer, she is sure to grab a handful of masks, which are often distributed to the store’s employees and shoppers before she even checks-off the first item of her shopping list.  

Donna strongly believes that beading is an essential tradition to the Native American culture, noting that it is an artform that is easily identifiable and synonymous with the Indigenous way of life and teachings. The relationship between Indigenous people and beadwork dates back generations prior to colonial times to when our ancestors crafted beads from bone and stone. Beads were worn as a status symbol of wealth and beaded items were featured on traditional regalia, jewelry and artwork. Due to the introduction of glass, metal, crystal and various beads through trade, the colorway and pattern possibilities for Native beadwork holds no bounds. 

Donna is doing her part to keep the tradition going, teaching the future generations of Tulalip all of her tricks of the trade, ensuring the art of beading extends well past her children’s children. Since returning to the bead game, she has shared her knowledge with many Tribal and community members, including Facebook friends, and many of the kids from her neighborhood. Donna also has some future classes with the Tribe in the works and plans to conduct Facebook Live tutorials in order to help aspiring beaders with the fundamentals.  

“I just hope the more I bead, the more kids around me will want to pick it up,” she said. “Sometimes it does show. Louie’s three little kids were over here last summer, watching me bead. They kept saying they wanted to learn how to bead. They were persistent, so I made them each a beading packet with all the tools and showed them how to do it. They sat here for over two hours with me and they picked it up really fast. They each made something that day. When they were done, I told them they couldn’t keep it and they looked at me kind of sad because it was their first piece. I explained that since it was the first thing they ever made, they had to give it away in order to get good vibes back. They decided to gift them to their mom and grandpa so their very first pieces could stay in the family.”

Donna hopes that by sharing her story and her passion for beadwork, she can garner enough attention to reach the representatives of one Ellen DeGeneres, stating “I have an Ellen DeGeneres piece. My dad was really into Ellen, he faithfully watched her show. When he passed, I felt like I needed to bead her name on a medallion. I have not yet been able to gift it to her because I don’t know how to go about giving it to her or getting it there.”

With a new and fully-restored love for beadwork, there is no project that Donna is afraid to tackle. In fact, she is happily welcoming any challenge that comes her way because, as she said, all she needs is her beads and her beats. All of Donna’s work comes with a guarantee, as she tells all of her customers that if anything happens to a piece you purchase from her, she will fix it for free. If you are interested in purchasing any of Donna’s work, please contact her via Facebook for more information. 

“There’re things that I make to sell, but there are a lot of things I make simply because my heart tells me to do it,” Donna said. “I gift them to all types of different people because it feels like something I need to do. But I do enjoy selling items when I can because it does put extra money into my funds so I can continue to bead more. It gives me good energy, that’s why I like to put good energy back into it. It makes you feel good that you’ve accomplished something for the day. All I can say is if you’re interested in beading, try it out, pick it up. I bet you’ll like it because I definitely do.”

Tulalip Transit: Getting you where you need to go

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Need a lift in a pinch? Did your ride bail on you at the last second? Too young for a license but you need transportation to a local Tulalip event or family gathering? Or are you in need of the vaccine but have no wheels to the scene? Tulalip Transit has your back! From 8:50 a.m. to 4:33 p.m., Monday through Friday, you can catch the transit at any one of their various stops throughout the village including the neighborhoods of Silver Village and Mission Highlands as well as at the Admin building and the Tulalip Health Clinic. 

“Tulalip Transit has been operating since January 2011 and we have provided nearly 69,000 rides,” explained Tulalip Transit Supervisor Mary Hargrove.

Celebrating a decades-worth of providing rides to the Tulalip citizenship this year, the Transit department has been an important facet of the Tribe, helping elders, youth, and everyone in-between reach the destination of their choosing around the reservation. 

“The Transit is public transportation, meaning it’s for everybody in the community,” Mary stated. “There’s only one route. It’s primarily in the Tulalip Bay area, and it circulates the main human services; the Administration building, Health Clinic, the Boys & Girls club, the gym, Family Services, beda?chelh.”

After nearly ten years in service, the two transit buses that are known throughout the community, with the blue and white tribal graphics, are getting a well-deserved rest with the introduction of a brand-spanking new bus that is loaded with features to accommodate the needs of the local populous. 

“We have three buses total including the new bus,” Mary stated. “They’re called cutaways, or 12+2’s, seating twelve ambulatory passengers and two wheelchairs. We were trying for about five years for a new bus. When we finally got it, it was ready to be picked up right as we got the stay-at-home order. So, it didn’t actually get delivered to us until August. It took me a good length of time to get all of the protective equipment installed, and we started operating at the end of October.”

She continued, “The new bus features front boarding and seating for wheelchair passengers, destination signs, pull cord stop requests, onboard cameras, StabiliTrak system, Telma transmission retarder, and engine fire suppression system. 80% of the money came from a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) competitive grant opportunity. Everybody that has seen it loves it. Even people who aren’t getting on to ride; people driving about the community have actually stopped the driver to take a look at the bus.”

Lead Transit Operator Darlene Pittman, a driver for Tulalip Transit from the very start, is at the helm of the new bus, navigating the streets of Tulalip while also connecting with her riders on a personal level, learning each person’s first name and their story, upon entry to the bus. Darlene admitted her excitement for the new vehicle, stating the bus’s new toys have already come in handy. 

“I haven’t had a rider that is in a wheelchair yet, but I have had people who are handicapped who needed to use the ramp,” Darlene stated. “The seatbelts strap in and we have these little black bags on the side by the wheelchair spaces, those are wheelchair tie-downs. They tie down at four points, so you don’t put any stress on it or break it if you stop suddenly. Another new feature that we didn’t have before, and I think people will really like, is the bike rack located at the front of the bus. I also have the marquee board up in the front and on the side, it says ‘Tulalip Bay’ and ‘Masks Required’. When I have to go get fuel, it will read ‘Out of Service’ and if there is an emergency on the bus and I don’t want somebody to know I’m calling 9-1-1, I can change the marquee board to flash ‘Emergency, call 9-1-1’.”

Initially, when the pandemic hit, the transit services came to a complete halt. But as months went by and more information was learned about the virus, the department was able to open operations, with a great amount of emphasis on safety for the driver and the rider alike. The Transit department took several precautions and set forth new rules to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The department also received access to funding through the CARES Act, funding granted to help the Tribe withstand the global outbreak. 

Said Mary, “The buses are equipped with a protective driver shield, sanitation supplies, reduced seating with availability to socially-distance, and we are requiring that masks be worn. All of this is for us to do everything we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19. I would also like to mention that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that if you have COVID-19 to avoid public transportation, ride-sharing or taxis. Our driver is masked, the passengers are required to wear masks, we have signage posted on the bus, we disinfect the bus, and we have masks on board in the event somebody wants to board but doesn’t have a mask.”

Mary explained that the Transit adheres to a strict, set route but the driver is able to deviate from the route up to 3/4 of a mile, depending on the drivers schedule and if proper arrangements are made at least one day in advance. 

“We have a fixed route but we also provide route deviation for registered passengers,” she stated. “We will do deviation upon request. We’re making efforts to provide more personalized services to the community. For instance, we had an elder who was at her friend’s house and she needed to get home. Her friend didn’t want her to walk down to the bus stop. The bus stop was just down the street from where she was, so we picked her up at her friend’s door and took her directly to her home. But like I mentioned, we can only deviate up to 3/4 of a mile off the route.”

The Tulalip Transit is currently running on a reduced schedule due to COVID-19, operating with one driver throughout the business week. The Transit does not offer services on the major holidays, so please keep that in mind when planning your travels.  Please refer to their current schedule and the map provided to determine the closest bus stop in your area. For more information please visit their webpage at TulalipTransit.aspx or dial 360-716-4206.

Darlene reflected, “I’ve been here for eleven years and it’s exciting to see how we grew in everything that we do, and how we can make it better. I’m glad we finally got a new bus. The Tulalip Transit is important because what if you were stuck at home and needed to get to the Tulalip pharmacy but you didn’t drive, how would you get there? We’re here to serve the public and I think we’re hitting it on the mark pretty well. We just want to continue to let people know we’re here and we’d be happy to get them where they need to go.”

New Quil Ceda Creek Casino offers ‘more to love’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“What a beautiful day!” marveled Chairwoman Teri Gobin to hundreds of Tulalip citizens, elders, and anxiously awaiting gamblers who attended the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino’s grand opening on February 3.

“I’d like to thank everyone for being here today. This has been a long project. It’s been four years since we broke ground, but what an awesome finished product we have now,” she continued. “There really is so much more to love with this new facility.

“Tulalip’s gaming revenue funds our tribal government and tribal services, so for us and many other Native communities gaming is an essential business. Our gaming organization brings economic development to not only us, but to our surrounding communities and local businesses that benefit from our visitor overflow.”

The highly anticipated new casino spans 126,000 square feet – nearly twice the size of the property it replaced across the street. The new “Q” will spotlight a beautifully designed and greatly expanded main casino, a contemporary food hall and additional dining options, an innovative entertainment venue and a six-story parking garage. The $125 million casino and parking garage is situated on 15 acres of Tulalip land located directly off I-5 at exit 199.

Following a traditional Tulalip prayer and ceremonial blessing, each Tulalip Board of Director offered words of encouragement for the future and reflection for past leaders and ancestors whose vision and sacrifice made present day accomplishments possible.

“It’s been a long journey for Tulalip to get to where we are today,” said Board of Director Glen Gobin. “From our humble teachings to our humble beginnings to being an economic powerhouse in Snohomish County, we hope this continues to strengthen us as we go forward in a positive way and provide for the needs of our growing membership. We’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”

“I want to acknowledge everyone who participated in this project,” added Board of Director Marie Zackuse. “It was our ancestors and elders before us who had the vision to set aside land for their future generations. All [the success] of Quil Ceda Village and our casinos is thanks to them. We thank our ancestors for this opportunity and our elders who are here in attendance today to support us.”

The new “Q” features a radiant gaming floor with 1,500 gaming machines and 16 table games. Millions of high definition pixels span the walls for patrons to view rivalry weeks galore and competitive matchups across the sporting spectrum. A state of the line air filtration system combined with vaulted ceilings keeps the air fresh and atmosphere desirable. Just as it was previously, the new casino will operate as a 100% smoke-free, vape-free property. 

For thousands of Tulalip Reservation residents, the prospect of having more local dining options, especially top notch quality meals at reasonable prices, is the real jackpot. Inside the new “Q” is a food lover’s dream – a food hall dubbed The Kitchen offers seven cooked-to-order food venues. Menu items will spotlight fresh, local ingredients from Northwest suppliers prepared with the latest green cooking techniques. The Kitchen provides a tasty lineup including freshly prepared pizza and pasta, steaks, seafood, breakfast all-day, sandwiches/soups, global cuisine, frybread and more. 

“I hope the Tulalip membership is proud of the new facility because this is our future,” said Belinda Hegnes, the Q’s interim executive VP. “I’ve had the opportunity for 28 years now to be a part of the Tulalip Gaming Organization family. We’ll continue to provide the friendly, casual guest experience we’re known for, but now in a larger casino with more room to enjoy all that we offer. We mean it when we say there will be more to love in gaming, dining and entertainment. More slots, more jackpots, more food venues, more fun, and more exciting times to celebrate as we move forward together.”

The Quil Ceda Creek Casino will continue to safeguard the health and safety of guests and team members with multiple programs: limited capacity, guests and team members are required to wear properly fitting masks, no-touch temperature checks performed upon entry, social distancing, aggressive deep cleaning procedures, and entertainment areas closed based on COVID-19 guidelines. For more information on sanitation, health and safety measures visit the casino’s website:

Cedar Creations: Walter Moses continues family tradition of carving with a modern twist

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Walter Moses 

“Cedar is a sacred tree to the Tulalip Tribes, there are numerous stories behind the cedar tree,” said Tulalip Artist, Walter Moses. “I’ve been in the lumber industry for a decade and I’ve seen and worked with all types of cedar and learned a lot of history behind the cedar tree. Every piece has a specific grain to it, all the grain is not going to be the same. Some of them will have different shapes and different lines. To me, that piece of cedar is actually telling a story. Sometimes you’ll see little waves inside the cedar. At that time in the tree’s life, there was a lot of turbulence and a lot of stress on the tree. When you see someone wearing a pair of my earrings, they’re actually wearing something that came out of a 200, 300-year-old tree, a tree that has been here longer than the country itself. What they’re wearing is a piece of history.”

Long before colonists arrived to this sacred land, the Indigenous people of the Northwest took great care of the region, living and thriving off the land’s natural resources. As Walter stated, the cedar tree played a significant role in the lifeways of the Salish people. The cedar was used for a number of means in all aspects of our ancestors’ everyday lives. Some traditional items created from cedar include bentwood boxes, paddles, rattles, totem poles, baskets, hats, masks, headbands and canoes. Whether it was for fishing, hunting, gathering, ceremonial, medicinal or spiritual purposes, the cedar tree could be fashioned into a number of tools by way of weaving or carving techniques, teachings that have been passed on generation after generation.

“My dad is a carver and his father was a carver, it just runs in the family,” Walter proudly expressed. “As far as I can remember, my dad’s always been carving stuff like masks, paddles, totem poles, just a large variety of traditional things. When I was about 11 years of age, he sat me down to teach me how to carve, how to use an adze and the simple techniques that we use in carving. My first project was a shovel-nosed canoe, that’s a traditional mountain canoe, not like the sea-going ones that you see on the canoe journey. It’s the ones our people used to go up and down the rivers in the mountains, and they look quite different than the ones you see out on the Puget Sound, they have thicker hulls and are in the shovel shape. I still remember the lady who bought it from me, she bought it for $40 and I spent the money at the Marysville Strawberry Festival.”

Walter is quick to point out that his personal journey with art, however, did not begin with carvings. Although he observed his father and Tulalip Master Carver, Kelly Moses Sr., perfect his craft from a young age, Walter initially fell in love with drawing, often sketching scenic pictures, animals and whales. He was encouraged daily by his father and teachers. His art was showcased at the front of his classrooms at school and he also received ‘A++’ reviews from Kelly Sr. on the regular. 

Walter said, “I actually started drawing when I was about 5. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing. Drawing is one of the main fundamental skills that I had to master in order to become a carver. There are multiple skills when it comes to carving, that isn’t carving itself. You’re talking about blueprinting everything out; you have to be a good drawer, you have to be able to look at something and draw it down. You have to know the cedar type, the grain, how to get the cedar. So, it’s not just carving, there’s a story and you have to know how to tell those stories. There’s a multitude of things you have to learn over time.”

Historically, carvings are integral to traditional ceremonies. Songs, dances and stories are shared utilizing cedar carvings; singers shake rattles, dancers pull paddles and stories are commonly re-enacted with masks. Today, Walter took that knowledge from generations prior and found a way to honor the traditional art of carving and blend it with his own unique style, creating modern day jewelry such as bracelets, pendants and his highly popular and extremely limited earrings.

“Nowadays I’m creating a lot of jewelry which would include earrings, pendants, bracelets, and I can still do some masks and paddles,” he said. “The reason I’m doing earrings and pendants is because masks and paddles are something for the home, something to showcase on the wall when guests come over. With jewelry, it’s art you can take with you. It’s a piece of history that you’re taking with you, that you can adorn your body with because the spirit lives in the body, so why not adorn the spirit with a piece of history.”

For two-years, the full-time family man and lumberman dedicated his weekends to his passion. He explained that the decision to follow this journey just may have been his destiny as his grandfather, on his mother’s side, also handcrafted jewelry, specializing in beaded necklaces.

Walter originally stumbled across jewelry-making while raffling paddles and masks at local Indigenous gatherings. When he noticed the majority of people who purchased his raffle tickets were women, he began to take requests, one of which happened to be for earrings. Walter accepted the challenge and upon seeing the positive response after posting his first set of earrings online, he decided to pursue this path and dedicated his time and energy to making jewelry and regalia crafted from cedar. 

“It’s just a natural thing,” he said. “I think about art like all the time. At work I’m thinking about art. If I see a certain shape on a piece of wood, I go wow that would make a really cool piece of art. My dad helped me develop a photographic memory. If I see something awesome, I build off that. I have an art disease in my brain that causes me to think about art all the time.”

Through his artwork, he still gets the opportunity to express his love for drawing, incorporating formline by hand-painting and micro-engraving Indigenous designs into many of his earrings. And because each piece is hand carved and painted, the earrings are in high-demand and extremely limited, often selling minutes after Walter adds them to his social medias. It is also very important to him that he does not replicate any of his past work, that each new pair of earrings, pendent or bracelet is an original one-of-one creation. Walter also incorporates modern-day meme-culture into his artwork, recently creating Baby Yoda and Bernie Sanders earrings which were a huge hit on his Instagram profile. 

Walter explained, “I’ll look at something and think, ‘hmm, I can make something out of that’. I use a lot of rulers, rulers are very important. Fractions are also very important for measuring the wood, making sure each piece is measured and the thickness is correct. I’ll go from there and just build. I don’t blueprint, I just make them up as I go along. For my masks I’ll do a blueprint, but for the earrings I do the first design that comes to me. Even though there is a lot fine detail that goes into them, I’ll leave defects in there just because it shows the human spirit in it. You know, not everything is perfectly identical, it’s unique in its own way. Sometimes I’ll leave little scratches or dings on there because it adds character to it, its own uniqueness.”

Walter also does his part in sharing the knowledge of his craft, prepping the next generation of Tulalip artists, not only by involving his own kids in his work, but also by teaching classes at Tulalip-Heritage High School as well as sharing stories at a handful of elementary classrooms in the Bellingham School District. 

“Last year, before COVID broke out, one of the Native liaisons reached out to me and asked if I was interested in teaching at Tulalip-Heritage. I used to go out there twice a month and teach them how to carve, how to make earrings and about our art in general, just to get them involved and get their hands moving,” he said. “My dad always told me to keep your hands busy all the time. That’s a lesson that I teach and practice. I also talk at the elementary classes in Bellingham, telling them some of our stories. I speak in front of the class for about an hour, a lot of its been online though, not in person. When we pick back up, I’ll actually share in-person. Kids should know the history of the people in this area and not think of us just as people who own casinos and live on the reservation. They should know we have a unique background, that there were people here before their ancestors came and that we’re still here and will always be here.”

Walter is proudly continuing in the footsteps of his bloodline, building upon what his father and ancestors passed on through the generations and continuing the Moses legacy of carving. And it appears as though his journey is just getting started as word about his work continues to spread across the social media platforms. 

“My work is not just a piece of wood with a Coast Salish design on it, it’s also a piece of me – a bit of my teachings from my father and his father, a bit of my meditation, prayers and good-thoughts. My dad taught me that as sduhubš people, we all have a special gift, something that we are meant to do to help our people out,” he shared. “And the younger people might not know what it is yet, but they will find their way to help our people. Our special gift is something that we get from our maker. Not everyone is going to be a carver, storyteller, leader, spiritual worker, everybody has their own special gift that will help them. Mine has helped me through some tough times growing up. When I was younger, I knew that I could always fall back and count on my art to help me out.”

A gallery of Walter’s carvings can be viewed on his personal Instagram account, @WalterM2213. Walter also does special requests on a case-by-case basis, depending on his time available. Be sure to send him a direct message if you are interested in purchasing any of his handmade cedar jewelry.

“It’s important for me to carry this on because it’s a part of us, part of my family. I don’t really even consider it my art, I consider it our art. I carry it on because it’s a statement that we’re still here. I read somewhere that the revolution will come in the form of contemporary art. I like how that sounds, so I continue to do it.” 

Marysville School District staff made a high priority, given Covid-19 vaccine by Tulalip Tribes

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip Tribes

During the week of January 27, an incredible act of graciousness occurred as the Tulalip Tribes leadership chose to offer every single teacher and support staff of Marysville School District (MSD) an opportunity to circumvent Governor Inslee’s priority list and receive the potentially lifesaving Covid-19 vaccine. Tulalip understands the invaluable role educators play in the lives of our youth and as such exercised tribal sovereignty in deeming all MSD staff a high priority.

“After taking care of our own tribal members, we thought it was appropriate to take care of our teachers because they take care of our kids,” explained Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “We know the value of taking care of the community, especially those entrusted to educate our youth. This is awesome being able to help out local communities and Marysville School District. 

“To offer the vaccine to the teachers is phenomenal because it means our students will be able to get back to school and their teachers will remain safe,” she added. “By offering the vaccine to our teachers and other [essential service workers], we’re making our entire Tulalip community safer. It’s a means to get through this time together, so that we can again gather normally, have our traditional ceremonies and celebrate life again, together instead of apart.”

It’s been over a month since Tulalip received the much heralded Moderna vaccine. Over that time resources were directed at getting as many Tulalip tribal member households vaccinated as possible. Then emphasis was put on employees of Tulalip’s essential businesses. Now, the tribe is committed to its local educators as they prepare to reopen select grade levels in the coming weeks and hold in-person learning once again. 

When the tribe reached out to MSD and informed them of the vaccination opportunity, the school district surveyed every staff member asking if they wanted the vaccine. Nearly 90% responded with ‘yes’. 

From Wednesday, January 27, thru the following Friday, school district personnel travelled into the heart of the reservation to visit the makeshift vaccination distribution center that was the Tulalip Youth Complex. Highly excited and appreciative teachers formed a socially distanced line that wrapped around the building and went down Totem Beach road while waiting to be vaccinated.

“Today exemplifies the amazing partnership that Marysville School District and the Tulalip Tribes have,” said school district superintendent Jason Thompson shortly after receiving his Covid-19 vaccination. “It’s difficult to not get emotional because I’ve personally witnessed so many teachers come into our offices to fill out their necessary medical forms for today and they were in tears. They couldn’t believe they were getting this opportunity. We’re so fortunate and it’s simply amazing the tribe is doing this.”

A majority of MSD faculty would have been forced to wait weeks, if not months, to be eligible for a vaccination at city, county, and state hospitals under Governor Inslee’s guidelines. Being a sovereign nation, Tulalip does not have to adhere to the Governor’s office and has sole discretion over how and to whom it distributes the vaccine. This critical distinction is viewed as a timely miracle that helps protect loved ones within the community.

“I live at home with my father who is high-risk and having this opportunity to get vaccinated to protect him means so much. This means the world to me,” described 27-year-old Tanner Edenholm, a para-educator for Quil Ceda Elementary. “We’re all a family within the Tulalip community, and I appreciate so much how the tribe is protecting its community and saving lives through its vaccine distribution.”

A huge sense of relief and hope for the future was shared by the hundreds of teachers and support staff, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers, who together make it possible to have a safe and instructive learning space for the school district’s young students. Many of whom are eagerly awaiting a return to the class room where they can be reunited with friends and entrusted educators who are viewed as family.

“It’s really important for us to get our students back safely, and part of that is protecting our staff. Getting vaccinated adds that layer of protection so that we can get our students back sooner rather than later,” shared Principal Kelli Miller of Heritage High School. “It’s important for our kids to know that we are doing this for them because we miss them so, so much and can’t wait to see their beautiful faces in real life again. I’m hoping that when we are able to share the same physical spaces again that we all lean in and support each other. Creating that healthy environment where we can all continue learning and growing together is just around the corner, hopefully.”

From inspiration to artistic reimagining, Seahawks logo embraced in Coast Salish territory

This indigenouscreated transformation mask is what inspired the Seattle Seahawks logo.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tampa Bay’s football team is heading to the Super Bowl. And with their participation in what is typically the most watched American television broadcast of the year, an estimated 115 million households will tune in February 7th to see a squad of Buccaneers compete against the Kansas City Chiefs. Not any specific Chief mind you, like say one representing any of Native America’s 574 federally recognized tribes. More like the stereotypical kind of Chiefs that a certain segment of American culture just won’t let go of. 

However, instead of lambasting yet another professional sports team’s name and mascot for clearly misrepresenting Native culture, let’s instead focus on our local football franchise. The Seattle Seahawks; a team that has been embraced by Coast Salish culture and whose logo is directly inspired from an Indigenous masterpiece.

In case you weren’t aware already, there is no such thing as a seahawk. Ornithology experts, people who study birds, theorize the term ‘seahawk’ refers to a combination of an osprey, which is a bird of prey native to coastal North America, and a skua, which in our area we normally call a seagull. So if there isn’t an actual ‘seahawk’ found in nature, then where did the inspiration for the Seattle Seahawks’ logo come from?

The general consensus is that in 1976 the NFL commissioned a logo for the newly-formed Seattle football team. Then-general manager Ted Thompson wanted the Seahawks’ logo to reflect “Northwest Indian culture.” He and his team of concept designers must have been Native culture enthusiasts who stumbled across a truly remarkable piece of Indigenous Northwest Coastal art. That artwork in question was a Kwakwaka’wakw (pronounced: KWA-kwuh-kyuh-wakw) transformation mask from northeastern Vancouver Island. 

Exquisitely hand carved in the finest local wood, it’s easy to imagine the team of contracted designers becoming infatuated with the ceremonial mask depicting a mighty eagle with bold black and red formline accents unique to the traditional Coast Salish region. In its closed form, the eagle appears to be in motion with its wings spread, as if it’s ready to soar. 

According to curators at Seattle’s Burke Museum, long before the Seahawks took the field at the old Kingdome, this hand-carved mask played an important role among the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Transformation masks represented rights owned by individual leaders, often depicting family origin stories or an ancestor’s super-natural encounters. When this mask is danced in ceremony, a pivotal moment in the song calls for the mask to be opened, revealing a stunning human face inside.

Carved in the late 19th century, the mask was purchased by the Fred Harvey Company before 1910 and later came into the collection of Max Ernst. Ernst, Picasso, and other Surrealist artists were fascinated by the aesthetic power of Northwest Coast masks, which they saw as direct expressions of human instinct and unconscious thought. After Ernst’s death in 1976, the mask was acquired by a private collector. Eventually the privately held art collection came to be displayed publically, but always in its open position…meaning its likeness to the Seahawks logo was hidden from view. 

In September 2014, the Burke Museum, located on the University of Washington campus, learned of the mask’s whereabouts and launched an online fundraising campaign to bring the mask back to the Northwest Coast. It didn’t take long to raise the money needed to conserve, insure and ship the mask across the country. Within weeks of arrival the hidden history of the mask was unveiled and the origin story of the Seahawks logo went public.

While the details behind the origin story of the Seahawks’ logo remained a mystery for decades, what has always been transparent and secure is a positive celebration by local Coast Salish tribes. All along the Salish Sea, tribal people have embraced the Seahawks logo and re-appropriated it into our culture.

Dion Joseph (Tulalip) has remixed the Seahawks logo, giving it a more prominent Coast Salish design

“Great things inspire imitations. In the same way that so many Native people and white people and Asians areinspired by hip-hop, an artform created by black people, many people are inspired by our beautiful art,” wrote attorney and Seattle resident, Gyasi Ross (Blackfeet). “Native people have some beautiful artwork, and of course it inspires people to want a piece of it. The Seahawks logo is a perfect example of that. And we love it.

“But also, the Seahawks are actually active and respectful of the huge Native community here in the Pacific Northwest,” he added. “From speaking at graduations to speaking out against the Redskins mascot, the Seahawks have a great relationship with the Native community here, both urban and Reservation-based.”

Their commitment to Native communities is what distinguishes the Seahawks from so many other organizations that claim to honor Native culture with their logos and mascots, yet contribute little or nothing to their local tribes. The Seahawks have a history of making significant impact to the Tulalip Tribes in particular.

Back in 2008, Seahawk Bobby Engram collaborated with Home Depot, the Kaboom! Program, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County to build a 50-foot by 50-foot playground at the reservation’s ‘Club’. In 2014, following the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, the Seahawks hosted tribal member Nate Hatch and his family at CenturyLink Field, where they received the VIP treatment from players and coaching staff.

“It was great to meet Nate,” said Coach Pete Carroll to the Seattle Times. “We’ve communicated a little bit, and we’ve been connected to the whole Marysville-Pilchuck school and the kids. He was really excited to be [on the field]. His mom was there too, so it was really special to have them. I’m sure he had a big day.”

Then in June 2019, Seattle Seahawks legend Michael Bennett hosted a once-in-a-lifetime football camp for Tulalip community youth. Nearly 250 participants from ages 7-18 had an opportunity to catch a pass from and do drills with the Super Bowl champion. Afterwards, Bennett stuck around to sign autographs and take photos with every single one of his adoring fans. Most recently, in October 2019, former Seahawks Cooper Helfet and Jermaine Kearse landed a seaplane right here in Tulalip Bay before spending an afternoon with thirty Tulalip youth. 

A history of positive impact. Countless moments to uplift Tulalip youth and inspire them to always dream big. Promoting healthy lifestyle choices and physical fitness as a means of self-discipline to achieve long-term goals. The reciprocal nature of Seahawk respect and appreciation for local tribes and the proud Native fandom they’ve received in return continues to manifest itself in truly imaginative ways.

For starters, its common place to see the Seahawks’ logo reimagined via Coast Salish designs in all possible mediums. Authentically produced by Native artisans, they’ve created blankets, clothing, beaded jewelry, eye-capturing medallions, wooden panels, furniture, flags, face masks, and even 6-foot tall, chainsaw carvings that celebrate the Seahawks’ Native roots. These items and more can routinely be found at powwows, all-Native basketball tournaments, and other Native vendor-friendly events around the region.

Josh Fryberg (Tulalip) fitted with all Seahawks everything, including a beaded Medallion and face covering.

“The Seahawks have given back to our community in so many ways and really made a difference in the lives of our youth,” said lifelong fan and tribal member Josh Fryberg. His family of eight have a tradition once a year to get new Seahawks jerseys so they’re always repping their favorite player. “I’ve been fortunate to experience most of their events held in Tulalip and witnessed firsthand our youth just light up being able to hang out with and throw around a football with their football heroes. It’s encouraging for a lot of young athletes to know it’s possible to become a professional athlete or future Seahawk through hard work and dedication. 

“As for the connection between the Seahawks and Coast Salish art, the roots definitely run deep,” he continued. “For my family, we have a lot of Seahawks themed artwork created by very talented Native artists, both from Tulalip and other tribes. More than the art thought, the Seahawks mean family togetherness. Every Blue Friday we rock our jerseys and every game day we gather as a family to cheer on our Seahawks.”

So yeah, the Seattle Seahawks aren’t playing in this year’s Super Bowl. Yet, in the hearts and minds of thousands of Coast Salish tribal members, the Seahawks will always be champions. Not because of a Vince Lombardi Trophy, but because our football team respects their local Native communities off the field. Where it matters most.

Tulalip programs unite for expectant mothers and future generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A long-practiced tradition in many Native American cultures has to do cause and effect, decision-making and understanding how an action taken today can have an impact on the quality of life for our people in the future. Through the seven-generation principle, tribes nationwide are making positive changes within their community whether it be educational, economic, cultural, financial, or health-based, keeping in mind our children’s children. And for as far back as many can recall, the ancestors of the Tulalip people have always had their descendants’ best interest in mind, keeping the lifeways of the people alive during a time when cultural identities were being stripped away by forced assimilation. 

“The babies are the future of this community, of the world in general,” expressed Michelle Cooper, Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Infant/Toddler Specialist. “I think it’s important to make sure that we’re supporting them as best we can, as well as their parents and their families. We want to make sure everybody feels comfortable and knows we’re a team. Like they say, it takes a village; and I think it’s important to continue that on.”

Keeping true to the seven-generation principal, several departments within the Tulalip Tribes have provided services for the youth of the community for years, starting from birth and extending past high school, ensuring the children are presented with many opportunities to learn about the traditions of their people as well as succeed in their journey from adolescence into adulthood. But what many may not know is there are multiple departments within the Tribe that also help soon-to-be Tulalip tribal members, offering services to expectant mothers before, during and after the birthing process. 

For instance, Tulalip Family Haven hosts a weekly hangout specifically for the mothers at Tulalip called Mom’s Group. Pre-COVID times, the group sessions allowed local moms the space to reflect, share ideas, create crafts with their children, take part in a clothing exchange and receive incentives such as car seats and diapers in bulk. Mom’s Group also warmly welcomed first-time pregnant mothers to discuss what to expect as a new mom and express any emotions they may be going through so other moms could in-turn relate and offer words of advice to help her work through any struggle she may be facing. Throughout the past year as we navigated the pandemic, Mom’s Group continued to gather on a weekly basis via the Facebook messenger app.

“We are a support group that allows mothers and women raising kids the opportunity to come together,” said Sasha Smith, Tulalip Family Haven’s Family and Youth Support Coordinator and Mom’s Group moderator. “We wish to provide a sense of belonging, a sense that there’s other women in our community to support each other, a place where we can come and just talk about motherhood and ask questions that are hard to ask your doctor or anybody in your family. They’re able to open up and just have a healthy discussion about childbirth and raising your children.”

 She continued, “We are still continuing on with Moms Group, virtually. We’re able to do it over Facebook, we still meet every Tuesday from 11 (AM) to Noon. We just drop-in for about 5-10 minutes, we make sure there’s some kind of lesson. It’s amazing to see that they still have those strong connections with each other and that they still really enjoy showing up every Tuesday and having that time with their friends on Zoom.”

The Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, commonly referred to as TELA, has also stayed in touch with their students and families throughout the pandemic. During normal school years, the academy routinely held workshops for expecting parents that focused on the importance of early childhood development and worked with the parents, helping them get situated and ready for the new baby. TELA recently resumed in-school instruction again, but are not back to full capacity as of yet, and are still offering Zoom lessons to a handful of students. 

Said TELA Director, Sheryl Fryberg, “Right now, TELA is doing a lot of Zoom meetings with our children and families. We are only providing direct services to up to 75% of our students, I think we maybe have, more realistically, about 60-65%. And then with the rest of the students, the teachers do Zooms with them and provide activity packets, so they’re still receiving educational services from us. We want to provide all the support that we can, and especially with our young moms and just moms in general, they need support when they’re isolated and not seeing their families. We want to always  make sure that they know that we’re here for them.” 

Another department that assists pregnant mothers and new families is Tulalip Community Health, through the birth equity grant. 

“I am a Community Health nurse, as my primary role, and I have an background in OB,” explained Morgan Peterson, Tulalip Community Health Nurse. “I’ve been a part of the birth equity grant which is focused on improving birth outcomes for pregnant women and the young children that they have. So, in my role, I try to focus on the nursing portion of it, case management of at-risk pregnant women and those young babies that have had NICU stays, being a hospital liaison for them.”

Added Shayleigh Tucker, Tulalip Community Health Advocate, “I really like to call it a doctor translator.  We are able to be the in-between, between the community language and the language that providers are using, and explain what they’re doing. We also work with people’s care teams to get them the best suitable care available. We were going to medical appointments with people before COVID. Right now, patient advocacy looks a lot more like helping our community members feel empowered in their prenatal care, it’s a lot more text and call-based.”

Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, these departments have remained readily available to expectant mothers and have continued offering their services and resources. And now, taking it a step further, they are combining forces to reach even more people within the community who may not know what they have to offer new moms and young families, as well as to better serve their current clientele. 

“Our plan for the new group, MCHC, is to establish a monthly parent education discussion group,” said Family Haven Manager, Alison Bowen. “Our plan, for now, is Zoom education for the community. MCHC stands for Maternal Child Health Committee and the purpose of this group is to bring together all the different Tulalip entities that are working with families with young children, up to age five. Since we’re all serving these families in different ways, we thought why don’t we all come together, find out what families we’re serving and not serving, what might be some problem areas where we can improve, what additional outreach we can do, as well as using our funds and our knowledge in the best way, so we’re not duplicating services, but building on each other’s strengths.”

Officially kicking-off in February, MCHC will host a class once-a-month through Zoom, offering information to expectant mothers and their families and also providing any resources or services they might require. Originally a concept that formulated in the library of old Tulalip elementary school, roughly six years ago, between TELA and Family Haven, the idea has now come to fruition and MCHC members are excited about the new collaborative venture.

“I’m excited about the cohesiveness between all of us coming together,” Morgan stated. “And also, for the families to also see that we’re all united, working on the same things to support everybody, their children and their families.”

“I like this collaboration that we have going on,” said TELA Birth to Three Assistant Manager, Marci Vela. “There’s a lot of resources that our pregnant moms might not know they have access to, and they kind of lose out on those services. This is a good way to let them know they have the support of all of us as a community.”

The once-a-month MCHC classes will have a new theme every session and each department will take turns with the hosting duties, in which they will include an educational component as well as some fun activities. The participants will also get the chance to receive incentives, ask questions, address any of their fears or concerns, as well as connect with other mothers and discuss the few challenges and many successes that come with being a new mom. 

MCHC has a number of ideas for the upcoming classes including a Father’s Day event, doula training, and lactation and feeding education.

“I am a certified lactation educator and provide lactation and feeding support for infants and young children,” said Tulalip Child Health Educator, Erika Queen. “Pretty much any way of feeding an infant and child, I’m happy to help with.”

With the establishment of the MCHC, Family Haven, TELA, Community Health and beda?chelh are creating a better tomorrow for the future generations of Tulalip, not only by taking care of their soon-to-be membership before birth, but also ensuring that the mothers are in a healthy state -mentally, emotionally, and physically during the early stages of the beautiful journey known as motherhood.  More details will begin to arrive in the upcoming weeks as MCHC gears up for their very first Zoom event, happening this February. Stay tuned to Tulalip News for more information and help spread the word to those who could benefit from the services, education and resources provided by the Maternal Child Health Committee. 

Sasha expressed, “We’re such a close-knit community, most people know each other and everybody’s intertwined in family. I think it’s important to have an additional outlet. Yes, you can go to your aunties and to your grandmas to get advice, but sometimes it’s refreshing to come together and gain that knowledge and support from your peers. To help them understand that they’re all going through similar things and that they can get through whatever it is they’re going through together.”

A nation underwater: Quinault’s village of Taholah continues fighting inundation issues

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos by Jeff Eison and Shelley McCrory

The mouth of the Quinault River holds a special place in the heart of every single tribal member of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) – and that is no exaggeration. A photo of the river alone can evoke memories of adolescence, whether that is celebrating Chief Taholah Days during each fourth of July weekend, swimming with your cousins in the summertime, or harvesting delicious blueback sockeye salmon from its waters. Long before the days of colonialism, the ancestors of the Quinault people lived and harvested along the banks of the river. And to this day, nearly two hundred households, approximately seven hundred people total, still call the Indigenous village that leads to the ocean, home. 

Present day Taholah can be divided into two sections; the lower village and the upper village (more commonly known as Snob Hill). The upper village consists of a handful of homes, the Roger Saux Health Center and the Tribal administration office. These facilities are relatively new as many of the buildings were established in the 80’s and 90’s due to a need for expansion for the growing tribe. However, during QIN’s early days of self-governance, all tribal operations were located in the lower village and the tribal office itself had quite the view of the mouth of the Quinault River. 

In addition to the many families that occupy the lower village, several departments and businesses still operate near the river including the Quinault Cultural Museum, Quinault Enterprises (a.k.a. the fish house), the Taholah Mercantile, the post office, the community center, the police department, the Nugguam (QIN newspaper), as well as the senior center, shaker church, daycare, head start and the K-12 tribal school. Generation after generation, Quinaults spent their youth learning about their lifeways, traditions and culture, largely centered around the lower village and the Quinault River. 

The Quinault River feeds into the Pacific Ocean and during the 70’s, the Nation installed a seawall extending along the coastline for about a half a mile and roughly ten-feet tall, protecting the town of Taholah from the unpredictable, powerful, and often times dangerous waters of the sea. This proved to be an effective solution to the threat of flooding during high tide and stormy weather. That is until 2014 when the ocean breached the seawall and excessive water poured into the lower village, causing water damage to many homes and establishments. 

The Quinault River feeds into the Pacific Ocean and during the 70’s, the Nation installed a seawall extending along the coastline for about a half a mile and roughly ten-feet tall, protecting the town of Taholah from the unpredictable, powerful, and often times dangerous waters of the sea. This proved to be an effective solution to the threat of flooding during high tide and stormy weather. That is until 2014 when the ocean breached the seawall and excessive water poured into the lower village, causing water damage to many homes and establishments. 

The Nation made an emergency declaration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers answered the call, assisting the tribe with repairs to the ruptured seawall. That incident also forced the Tribe to consider relocating the entire lower village to higher ground and out of harm’s way, from both the inundation of the Quinault River and the possibility of a tsunami as Taholah is located on the Cascadia subduction zone.

Since then, QIN created a master plan to relocate the lower village and even began clearing land and constructing a select few buildings of the new village, the very early stages of a 25-year plan. Ideally, the Nation would like to get everybody uphill as soon as possible, but they have been met with a number of challenges such as funding. The original masterplan estimated the total cost of relocation right around $65 million. 

Although many QIN tribal members agreed that relocation is probably the best solution, several families expressed that they simply would not leave their homes when it came time to relocate, and perhaps deemed the threat of extreme flooding too far ahead in the future. 

The 2014 flood was attributed to climate change, a result of sea-level rise. Rising sea-level is a complex topic that will in time impact the entire planet. Like Taholah, many towns and major cities across the world will experience severe flooding, and in some extreme cases they could be underwater completely. Scientist and environmentalists predict that sea-level will continue to rise at about its current rate until around the year 2050, and then will start to accelerate at even a faster pace after that.

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800’s, the Earth has been rapidly heating up due to the excessive burning of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases. As the planet traps those emissions in its atmosphere, the warmer Earth gets. And as a direct result of global warming, the amount of water in the ocean is increasing because as water heats, it expands. Another contributing factor to sea-level rise are the melting ice caps. 

“Sea-level has risen eight or nine inches in the last hundred years and it’s accelerating,” said Phillip North, Tulalip Natural Resources Conservation Scientist. “Since global warming is happening faster than we expected, the water is getting warmer faster and expanding. We’re getting more sea-level rise than expected. Plus, the warmer ocean is melting the ice faster. Greenland is melting faster, Antarctica is melting faster, all the continental glaciers; everything’s melting faster than we expected. We’ll see a pretty steady progression up until the middle of the century and then it will start to speed up.”

Almost seven years later, amid a worldwide pandemic, ocean waters encroached the lower village of Taholah once again on the morning of January 12. Following a stormy PNW night, that cut out the lights on the Tulalip reservation, the ocean surge met with high tide causing the Quinault river to swell, allowing even more ocean water to enter the village than the 2014 flood. QIN Interim Emergency Coordinator and volunteer firefighter, Desiree Markishtum, explained that they were prepared and prepped 200 sandbags the night prior in case the water threatened to flood the village. However, not many could predict the amount of flooding and water damage that would ensue that morning. 

“On January 12, high tide was expected around 11:00 (a.m.),” she stated. “I received an email from Bob Shale in Utilities Maintenance at 11:23 stating that his department would be needing a lot more sandbags and that the water was coming in fast. His office building is located on the end of First Ave. Immediately afterwards I received a call from [QIN COO] Andrea Halstead asking that I get an eye on that as soon as possible. I showed up on scene to see our ambulance’s, and other first responder vehicles, tires about 1/8 of the way underwater which is unusual. 

She continued, “next I see Lisa Hall, the Nation’s lead paramedic, about mid-shin in the water observing the scene. At 11:53, I was given the orders to evacuate the residents of First Ave by Chief of Police, Mark James, and began evacuating the most vulnerable, our elders and our children. At that time, public safety began the evacuation of Pine and Cedar Street, both impacted by the flood as well. Evacuees were placed at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores and at the Ocean Crest in Pacific Beach until conditions were safe, which was two days total.”

Once again, QIN declared a flooding emergency and released a statement claiming that the excessive water inundated the tribal police station, court house, multiple homes and essential infrastructure. The statement also warned the tribal membership of the possibility of landslides on the only safe and reliable road out of Taholah, SR-109, that could prevent or hinder evacuation efforts. 

“As a tribal member it was a very scary feeling seeing so many homes being impacted by the flooding,” expressed QIN Tribal member, Tootie James. “Desiree Markishtum, current acting emergency management coordinator, did an awesome job evacuating the elders and community members in need. I brought my mom, a tribal elder, for a ride around the village after the storm. She said she’s never seen anything like it before. The flooding has never been this bad.”

With lower village residents safely evacuated, QIN was not in the clear just yet. With much of the town still covered in about a half-a-foot of water, the Nation still needed to prepare for yet another challenging day as a king tide was set to make an appearance the following morning. 

Said Tootie, “the Tribe issued leave time for [employees] to utilize work-hours to fill sandbags so we would be ready. There was probably about fifty or more people filling empty sandbags working to beat the tide. By the time we were finished, it was almost noon and the tide had already pushed us back. For me it was really scary being around a large group of people due to COVID, but it felt like it was work that needed to be done.” 

Added Desiree, “coming from a close community like Taholah, a big thing to take away from this event is the importance of knowing your community, what their capabilities are, and also knowing their needs.”

After a great show of community, QIN President Fawn Sharp issued a statement to Quinault membership and expressed, “On behalf of the Quinault Business Committee, we want to publicly thank all those who stepped up to help in our moment of disbelief as we all witnessed the ocean breach into our village.  The line of volunteers who dropped everything to answer our call to action to fill sandbags was a testament to our strength, resiliency, and love for each other.  No matter how crazy the outside world becomes, there’s one thing for certain – in times of need and emergency, we are Quinault Strong, always have been and always will be.”

President Sharp also shared that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were on their way to the reservation to assess the damage of the village, while also calling on ‘federal and state partners to work with [QIN] to better prepare for inevitable future flooding’. 

QIN tribal member, Nancy Underwood, lives in the lower village and was evacuated the day of the flood. She stated that luckily there was no structural damage to her home, but it did cause damage to her plumbing and electrical systems. And if there was any skepticism about relocation before this event, she now sees the idea in a whole new light.

“It was an eye opener for sure,” Nancy exclaimed. “It gave us all a real fear of the elements. We are now in emergency preparedness mode and wondering what the next storm has in store for us. This most certainly gave us a greater respect for Mother Nature, our family and belongings. After that experience and how fast everything happened, I firmly would relocate my family. You can replace material things, but you can’t replace your family had something worse happened.”

For now, QIN is continuing with their relocation master plan that places their membership and residents of the lower village 120-feet above sea level, out of the tsunami flood hazard zone. With the recent declaration of disaster caused by the tribe’s largest flooding catastrophe to date, hopefully the Nation can now find additional funding to help speed-up the process of relocation to ensure the safety and well-being of the tribe’s membership and future generations. 

“Our tribe is currently working as fast as they can to move the village to higher ground,” explained Tootie. “There are plans for new homes; the senior center, daycare and head start are going to be opening soon so they will be safe from flooding and out of the tsunami zone. It’s a hard but necessary decision for people to leave their homes and move to higher ground.”

Medicine Wheel mural honors essential employees

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Medicine Wheel, sometimes referred to as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions – often interpreted as the four aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical – all of which come together to symbolize the cycle of life. For healers, the Medicine Wheel often represents an omnidirectional perspective on health care. A perspective known as holistic healing, which considers the whole person – mind, body and spirit – in the quest for optimal wellness. 

During the midst of a global pandemic, the Tulalip Tribes shut down all non-essential departments for several months, but the quest for wellness continued at the local health clinic where nearly one hundred health care workers and support staff were deemed essential. These employees carried out their daily responsibilities to the Tulalip community while COVID-19 steadily penetrated the reservation. Their commitment to uplifting health opportunities and bringing about wellness to their patients is now immortalized in a remixed Medicine Wheel mural. 

 “After COVID hit us here locally, I was inspired to cheer people up and boost our sense of team accomplishment here at the clinic. This mural is to honor all our essential staff who worked tirelessly during the tribal-wide shut down,” explained muralist Mark Dewitt, facility maintenance supervisor. “From administration to dental to medical, even some behavioral health specialists, and all my maintenance and custodial crew, together we made sure the Tulalip Health Clinic remained open and available for all its patients.”

The mural is a can’t miss feature along a back hallway of the health clinic. Eighty-two vibrant handprints represent unique signatures from the clinic’s essential employees. Dewitt said it was a process tracking down each employee and finding time for them to leave their proverbial mark on the mural, but the final product was well worth it.

“Everybody loved it. From the leadership staff down to maintenance, it was a great team building exercise that let everyone know it took each and every one of them to make this place function smoothly,” said Mark. He also noted the wheel’s center hub, a beaver, represents the maintenance team. Beavers build, they maintain, they’re always busy and they’re dam good.

As the number of confirmed cases in Tulalip peaked in late November and steadily decreased since, in addition to an enthusiastic embracing of the Moderna vaccine by Tulalip tribal members and employees, there is a renewed sense of optimism for the future. On the business side, the Tulalip enterprise is back to business as usual, albeit with social distancing and mask-wearing protocols now in place. 

One wall in the health clinic will always serve as a striking reminder of the essential hands that worked together to ensure the quest for wellness never came to a halt. Like the Medicine Wheel, the community’s dynamic self was prioritized and continues to be treated holistically.

While adding the finishing touches to his mural, Dewitt reflected back to March 2020 and an unprecedented tribal-wide shut down. “We stuck it out, we were here for the community, and together we fought this battle and survived,” he said. “And these are the hands that did it all.”