On the morning of June 17, the Tulalip Real Estate department, as well as volunteers from the Planning department, were hard at work cleaning up the Silver Village neighborhood. The clean-up is the department’s second and biggest beautification project to date, where they perform basic maintenance upkeep such as landscaping and trash and debris removal at Tulalip housing developments.
“Today we’re doing a much-needed clean-up to show the community that we care about the condition of the neighborhoods,” said Larry Bergstrom, Interim Executive Director of Property Management. “We’re cleaning up common areas where we know people need help with the grass and we’re basically doing all the gutters along the street. We also provide large dumpsters and let the people know that they are going to be here, and that they’re free to come load it up with anything they got in their house that they need to get rid of.”
After a successful community clean up last year at the “Y-Site” neighborhood, the Real Estate department took on the bigger challenge at Silver Village and partnered with Tulalip Public Works, utilizing their mowers and weed whackers.
“These little things help,” stated Desiree Michael, Asset and Real Estate Manager. “Making sure we don’t have leaking oil, fluids, rusty metal and overgrown grass everywhere is a good start. We want to make sure that oil isn’t seeping into the ground because that eventually seeps into the water supply for the salmon. We’re really just doing our part, helping the environment because it needs to be done. It looks better, it’s better for drainage and it’s better for the development as a whole.”
The Real Estate and Planning departments organized a lunchtime BBQ to feed the local residents who helped out with the clean-up project. Unfortunately, the picnic was only enjoyed amongst coworkers as the team received no volunteers or assistance that morning. The department was happy, however, that many people were using the dumpsters as well as placing large unwanted items on their curbside for the Real Estate department to pick up and deliver to the dump.
“We encouraged the residents to help but we haven’t gotten any volunteers yet,” Larry said. “But we’ll be back on Friday (June 21) because this is a big site and hopefully we’ll get more participation. We’re really just hoping to instill a little more pride in the neighborhood for the people.”
“I wish that the residents would come out and participate too,” added Desiree. “We posted fliers, we knocked on doors, we tried to get them involved. It’s Larry’s goal to do these clean-ups at each of the developments, I just hope the residents will jump in, help us out and get involved in their neighborhoods.”
In the Orca ballroom of the Tulalip Resort and Casino, elders representing many different tribal nations gathered on June 13 for an afternoon of gab, grub and gifts. An estimated 1,200 Indigenous wisdom keepers journeyed to Tulalip for the Tribe’s popular annual Elder’s Luncheon.
Laughter was shared throughout the event as Tulalip Board of Director Mel Sheldon provided witty jokes and tidbits while on emcee duty. Elders from near and far enjoyed each other’s company for hours. Several vendor stations were set-up across the hall, in the Chinook ballrooms, selling a variety of items including beaded jewelry, blankets, artwork and accessories.
“We come here every year,” exclaimed Kalispel tribal elder, Wilma Bowman. “We actually got here a day early and spent the night, we’ll stay again tonight. I love this luncheon because they have vendors, very good food and this is my favorite tribal hotel. I just love how it’s designed to represent their culture outside and in. There was a time where you couldn’t do this because it wasn’t a fast paced world. You could only really visit with neighboring tribes but now you can travel a long ways and visit with elders from other tribes.”
The elders were fed a delicious salmon lunch while they listened for their raffle ticket numbers to be called. This year, the Tribe raffled off a number of giveaway items including 32” & 55” TVs, KitchenAid mixers, cash, mini refrigerators, Keurig coffee makers and gift baskets donated by several Tulalip tribal and TGO departments.
The Marysville Strawberry Festival Tulalip Senior Royalty, Mark Brown and Pauline Williams, were crowned as King and Queen during the Luncheon. With their crowns held high and their sashes proudly on display, the couple happily accepted their naming and showcased their graceful, royal waves to their fellow elders.
“It’s an honor,” expressed Queen Pauline. “Especially because my mother was once up on that stage, in about 2001, 2002. Her name is Florence Gladys McKay and she received the same honor. I haven’t lived here all my life. I left when I was about seventeen and ended up in Texas and met my husband. Now I’ve come full circle and came home. This luncheon is always great because you get to meet people from all over. We try to go to a few other luncheons too, at different tribes, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.”
After the grand prize, the 55” Smart TV, was gifted, the elders said their goodbyes, exchanged information and shared hugs. Many of the elders who were staying another night made plans for dinner and gaming after a fun afternoon at the luncheon.
“I think it’s important for the elders to come together every year,” said Elisha Stewart, Elders Service Case and Program Manager. “It seems like the only time our communities come together is because of a loss or tragedy. So coming together to celebrate them is important, their presence is good medicine and when they bring that to our community, it’s priceless.”
Smoke billowed from the Tulalip Longhouse on the overcast morning of June 15. On the inside, a circle of traditional dancers moved in a counterclockwise motion to the sounds of strong drumbeats and melodies sang in the traditional Lushootseed language. As the singers began the final chorus, a young man rushed out of the longhouse, asking people who were outside, “is he coming, can you see him?”
Two younger kids joined the youth’s quest as he ran to the edge of the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay.
“There he is,” he exclaimed and then ran back into the longhouse to report that the honored guest was nearby.
Moments later, the Tulalip singers and dancers emerged from the longhouse and began walking toward the shore of the bay. Draped in Coast Salish garb, tribal members continued to drum and sing, welcoming the visitor to the community.
Transported on the sacred Tulalip cedar canoe, Big Brother, the guest laid upon a bed of cedar branches.
Every year, the Tulalips continue to uphold a tradition that was revived by Harriette Shelton Dover during the late seventies, after it was nearly lost due to years of forced assimilation. The Salmon Ceremony, is an annual event that welcomes the first yubəč, or king salmon, of the fishing season. The honoring is held not only to ensure that Tulalip fisherman have a safe year on the waters, but also to thank the salmon for graciously providing the Tribe with sustenance since time immemorial.
“We honor the gift of our visitor, yubəč, Big Chief King Salmon,” said Tulalip Board of Director and Salmon Ceremony leader, Glen Gobin. “We’re harvesting from nature again, it’s how we honor and respect that, to en sure that he’s always going to be there. Him and his people will always be there, returning to take care of our people as they always have.”
The king salmon is brought ashore from the Salish waters as tribal members offer a welcoming song. The yubəč is carried into the longhouse where the traditional singers and dancers perform a blessing for the guest.
When the blessing is complete, the festivities continue at the Greg Williams Court where Salmon Ceremony participants and spectators are treated to a delicious salmon meal. Once everybody is well-fed, the visitor is sent back to the water to return to its community and tell its people of the Tribes’ hospitality. In return, many salmon will journey to Tulalip’s waters throughout the season to feed the community because of the honor and respect shown during the ceremony.
After another successful honoring, Glen reflected on this year’s ceremony, proudly beaming about the amount of participation from local youth.
“It’s important that our young ones understand our teachings, our traditions and where they come from,” said Glen. “So much has been lost and taken away that we’re not left with what was originally there, but we do the best we can. It’s really encouraging to see the smiles on their faces when they come and they’re wanting to participate. Nobody makes them do anything, they come here out of a desire within themselves. I liken it to when I was young and heard the beat of a drum, I was just drawn to it. I see that in these young ones. When they see bits and pieces of our culture and then they get to participate in it, they understand what ownership of it means. If they have that, then we’re ensured for the next generations.”
Outside the front entrance of Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary is a flag pole that, since its inception, had one purpose and one purpose only – to fly the red, white and blue United States flag. As of June 14, that singular purpose is no longer and a once lone U.S. flag is now joined by the resilient and bold orca symbolizing the Tulalip Tribes.
“Beginning today, the Tulalip Tribes flag will be flying at QCT every day, right along with our American flag,” said Assistant Principal J.J. Jensen during the school’s morning assembly. “We want our community, our students and their families to know that when they are here, they are on sovereign Tulalip land.”
“We are very unique in that we are a sovereign nation,” added Tulalip tribal member and Cultural Specialist, Chelsea Craig. “Our flag is so important because it represents our people who make up the Tulalip nation. Our flag also honors our veterans, those who chose to serve and those who sacrificed their lives so we can all be here today.”
On May 30, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14. The day commemorates the adoption of the stars and stripes as the official flag of the United States. Fast forward 103 years to the Flag Day celebration at Tulalip’s on-reservation elementary, where staff, students and Tulalip veterans assembled to recognize not only the importance of U.S. nationhood, but tribal sovereignty as well.
Led by students proudly holding the Tulalip flag, and followed by young drummers and singers sharing their culture through song, the school assembly routed via the gymnasium to the main entrance’s flag pole. The student body remained respectfully silent as the honor guard raised the U.S. and Tulalip flags while a trumpet rendition of ‘Reveille’ played.
“It was the first time we’ve ever been asked to do a flag raising ceremony here at Tulalip. It was a great honor,” said William McLean III, Veterans Coordinator, standing beside fellow veteran Rocky Renecker following the assembly. “For the students here, we hope today introduces them to the fact that flags mean something, they aren’t just pieces of cloth floating in the air. Both these flags are near and dear to our hearts and represent why we chose to serve in the military.”
For the hundreds of students that pass by the school’s flagpole every day, the Tulalip Tribes flag waving in the wind over Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary serves as a subtle example of sovereignty in action.
A Marysville/Tulalip community tradition since 1932, thousands of families filled the sidewalks of State Street over Father’s Day weekend to enjoy the Strawberry Festival’s Grand Parade. Tulalip Resort Casino was recognized as the top-level, Orca sponsor for the 88thannual Strawberry Festival.
The festival took place over the weekend of June 14 to 16. During those days Marysville Middle School and Asbery Field were home to children’s activities, live bands, a talent show, craft making, a large outdoor market, and a fun for all ages carnival. Concluding the festival was the Twilight Grand Parade.
Young children stood with excitement on the sidewalk pavement, while their parents and elders watched contently from popup lawn chairs. During the evening spectacle, attendees watched a flotilla of close to 100 colorful floats, marching bands, bagpipers, drill teams, dancing horses, and other entries add to the merrymaking festivities. Tulalip was well-represented with a variety of themed displays throughout the parade, adding to the spectacle of stunning visuals and raucous sounds.
Tulalip Bay Fire and the police department lent the sirens of their emergency services vehicles to signal the parade’s start. Senior royalty Mark Brown and Pauline Williams rocked regal headwear as they were chauffeured down State Street, while Chairwoman Teri Gobin wore an always stylish cedar hat as she waved to adoring fans.
Beginning at 7:45pm, the parade lasted approximately 90-minutes, ending shortly after sunset. Unlike years past, there was no dazzling firework show to mark the parade’s end because of Marysville’s city-wide ban on fireworks.
The Tulalip Bay waters glistened in the sun as a number of skilled Indigenous canoe pullers sat at attention in sleek canoes, anticipating their signal to go. When the last racer reached the starting position, a loud air horn blew and they were off. From Totem Beach to Hermosa and back, the pullers swiftly moved through the waters, focusing on their timing and spacing. Several canoes were neck and neck as they made the final turn of the course and hit the last stretch. Loud cheers erupted from their families as they watched through binoculars at the bluff near Tulalip Youth Services and the Longhouse. The race ended in a close battle as the first three canoes crossed the finish line within milliseconds of each other.
“Hell of a race,” exclaimed the first place racer as he shook the hands of the second and third place pullers. “It was a close one. It was fun though, great pulling out there!”
Over the weekend of June 8-9, several Coast Salish canoe families gathered at Tulalip Bay for the annual War Canoe Races. The popular two-day event attracts hundreds of Native pullers every year. Participants of all ages competed in a number of contests throughout the weekend including singles, doubles, 6-man and 11-man races. Many Coast Salish tribes, bands and canoe families were well represented during the event as they rapidly pulled through the Tulalip Bay waters for a chance to take home first place trophies and bragging rights until next year.
“This is our first time coming to Tulalip and it’s very peaceful here, it’s a really awesome setting,” said racer, Justin Williams. “I’ve been racing since I was a little boy because it’s been a tradition that has been carried on from great-grandfather to my grandfather to father to me, and I’m now bringing it to my children. I love the family time we’re able to spend together while racing. It’s a great event and I look forward to racing here in upcoming years.”
War canoes are built for speed and are much lighter and narrower compared to traditional cedar dugout canoes. As you may know, canoes are an integral piece to the Northwest Indigenous culture and were utilized to travel to gatherings as well as for fishing and whaling trips for centuries. The canoes used for racing, however, were developed during intertribal warfare as a way to raid each other’s villages. As time passed, the canoes became used for the traditional spectator sporting event that has been passed down within tribes for several generations.
Today, canoe families travel from tribe to tribe every summer, competing in a circuit of war canoe races. The races made a return to Tulalip during the warm months of 2015 after nearly a thirty-year hiatus. Each year the event continues to garner large participation, and the bay has become a favorite course on the circuit amongst the racers.
“We would like to thank the Tulalip Tribes and the race committee for hosting us year after year and inviting all the canoe families to share your beautiful bay,” stated Lona Johnson of the Rikkole Cree Canoe Club. “We paddle to uplift our families and our communities; we paddle for healing and to keep our canoe way of life alive. I think it’s important to keep our canoes on the water because it helps our people live a healthy lifestyle and gives us a healthy outlet. The number one rule is to always have fun and that’s what we strive to do; lead by example, go out and do the best we can and always have fun.”
The Marysville Getchell jazz band kicked-off the event by providing an upbeat mood while guests made the most of a whimsical photo booth setup, chatted with familiar faces and made their way to designated tables.
“Welcome to the 2019 graduate banquet!” opened emcee, Rochelle Lubbers. “We are so happy to have you all in Tulalip, in the heart of our community, on this special night to celebrate our students.”
“Your community, your tribe, and your families are so proud of you all,” added Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “As you take your next step on your journey, whether it’s a path towards college or work, your tribe is here to support you. We look forward to seeing what path you decide to take, who you choose to become, and how you can impact our community. My hands go up to each and every one you.”
Fittingly appropriate for the moment, Tulalip drummers and singers performed a song about remembering you are and where you come from. Then mother-daughter duo Deborah Parker and Kayah George offered a song representing the resilient blackfish.
“Our Tulalip Tribes symbol is the blackfish, or the orca. It represents endurance, strength and determination to make it through tough waters,” explained Deborah. “Looking out into the sea of graduates, that’s what I see. A pod of blackfish with that determination, that strength to navigate tough waters and make it here tonight to celebrate an amazing achievement.”
Graduating high school seniors Arnold Reeves and Kordelle Hammons each took to the podium and offered encouraging words to their fellow graduates. They reminisced over their favorite school experiences, spoke of hardships overcome, thanked their families and Tulalip community for always supporting them, and shared their excitement for great things yet to come.
“I believe we are all prepared for what’s to come next in our journeys, which is to become what our elders and ancestors have taught us to believe since kids – that we are the next great explorers, doctors, scientists, and athletes,” said Arnold, graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School. “We have shown our young siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews that graduating high school is not only possible, but is important for growth and character development. We were once future leaders of tomorrow, but now we have become leaders of the present.”
Becoming leaders of the present may seem like a daunting task to most 18-year-olds who have grown accustomed to a daily consistency and structure provided by their k-12 education. However, for Indigenous youth, they’ve been bucking the trend and blazing new paths to educational success for years now without even realizing it. They’ve beaten the odds that said they would never graduate high school and overcome obstacles that could have easily taken them off their path.
For some students, their education and high school diploma meant not only proving everyone wrong, but also meant earning independence and the opportunity to find happiness in a world of their own creation.
“High school didn’t mean much to me following the MP shooting, but then I realized I had to make my friends that are still here proud,” shared Paul Shay, Jr. A graduate of Heritage High School who, after a rough start refocused his energies on a family of friends and sports, made 1st team All-State in basketball and now wants to become a psychologist to help tribal youth. “The journey I took through high school was very different than most other people. I’ve been through every struggle you can go through and survived to come out on top. My message to the youth is to never give up, no matter what. Always keep pushing and keep trying because at the end of the day living your best life is worth it.”
Following an inspiration keynote speech by Nooksack Councilmember Katherine Romero, the high school seniors reminisced one last time while the memory-filled graduate video played on the big screen project. The graduates then strutted with pride down a red carpet to the loud applause of all in attendance.
Each graduate shook hands with Indigenous Education liaisons and Marysville School District representatives while walking across the stage to be presented with distinctive cultural items. The boys were gifted drums made by Adam Jimmy and Ryan Martin, while the girls received hand-made paddles courtesy of artist Ty Juvinel.
Special honorariums included the highly coveted Tulalip Tribes senior boy and girl of the year award.
Kiley Lakins, a graduate of Marysville Getchell, received the female student of the year honor. Having overcome adversity early on as a freshman, Kiley went on to challenge herself with AP courses in Language Arts and Literature during her upperclassman years. She helped her peers and community by volunteering at the Marysville food bank, Warm Beach events, and through peer tutoring. Her teachers described her as always demonstrating an incredible work ethic and constantly holding herself to a high standard. After getting a 4.0 for her entire senior year, Kiley finishes high school with an impressive 3.6 grade point average. She plans on attending the University of Washington in the fall.
“I really struggled my freshman year, but I refused to give up,” reflected Kiley. “Now, I’m looking forward to the UW and pursuing a degree within the social sciences. Thank you for everyone who has believed me and encouraged me to always try my best.”
Kordelle Hammons, a graduate of Marysville Pilchuck, received the male student of the year honor. He was noted as taking advanced or honors level classes since middle school and always excelled. One teacher said, “He has proven to be a positive role model for others and has constantly demonstrated sincere desire to use his individual talents and abilities in service of those around him.” Kordelle is looking forward to a 6 ½ year medical program at American University of Antigua (in the Caribbean) where he can earn his Associates, Bachelors and Medical degrees.
“My elders and parents have always told me that when you go to college, go far, because the reservation will always be here for you when you come back. When you come back bring the knowledge you have been given and give it back to your people,” shared Kordelle. “This is something I hope to do by becoming a surgeon and coming back to the Tulalip Reservation.”
Congratulations to all those Tulalip students who put in the hard work and dedication to earn their high school diploma. Chasing a dream requires your efforts and passion. The hard work isn’t over now that you have graduated, it’s just the beginning as you now prepare for the new challenges waiting in the next chapter of life. Good luck and congratulations!