It’s for the kids! 24th Annual B&GC Auction raises over $560,000

Chairwoman Gobin and Josh Fryberg pose with an autographed Bon Jovi guitar that went for a pretty penny during the live auction. 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During the evening of Saturday, May 14, the Tulalip Resort Casino’s orca ballroom was home to the 24th Annual Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Auction. The signature fundraising event of the season was all about giving gracious donors and committed community members an opportunity to paint a brighter future for Tulalip kids.

Kenzie Thompson-Sheldon entices someone to bid $5,000 for a Tyler Lockett jersey.

“As a former club kid, I personally know the positive impacts of having a Boys & Girls Club in my community,” shared auction chairwoman Belinda Hegnes. She also serves her tribe as executive vice president of Quil Ceda Creek Casino. “The club was a safe place to meet friends, hang out after school and during the summer. As a child, there was always something fun to do. One of my earliest memories was learning to shoot a basketball by then club director, Terry Freeman.

“We wanted this year’s auction theme to send a positive message to our youth that even when times are tough to keep moving forward and focus on the future,” she continued. “This past year the pandemic continued to impact our communities and our youth. We all at some point experienced a little fear, uncertainty, social restrictions and isolation from loved ones. Tonight, we finally get to come together to paint a bright future and make a positive impact for the children!”

‘The Club’, as it’s affectionately been dubbed by the hundreds of children who attend daily, is a safe place where kids can just be kids. While there, children are routinely exposed to healthy food choices, learn many useful skills, create an abundance of happy memories, and make relationships that last a lifetime.

A cohort of Tulalip tribal members welcomed auction attendees with a prayer and traditional song. 

The Club is the first of its kind to be built on tribal land in Washington. Established over twenty-five years ago, 2022 marks nearly three decades worth of commitment to the community. Through before and after school programs, our local club aims to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem, developing core values, and teaching critical skills during opportune periods of growth.

“What an amazing evening to be together with all of you for our signature event that supports the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “The funds raised from this one event truly makes a huge impact on the lives of so many of our kids. We have so many leaders who grew up as club kids and now are professionals working in management positions at both our casinos, Quil Ceda Village, and in many departments of our tribal government. That’s a significant impact the boys and girls clubs has had on our people, and that’s the impact we are all here to support.”

Club Director Shawn Sanchey sharing details of an all new golf academy available to our kids.  

Serving as a model for those working to improve the lives of young people in the surrounding communities, the Club is the primary beneficiary of the annual fundraising auction. With each auction building off the success of the previous years, the Club has not only been able to sustain services, but to complete much needed campus expansions that add additional learning and activity space. 

Funds raised from the annual actions are dedicated for capital improvement, not operating costs. Previous auction funds have paid for a state-of-the-art music studio, a multi-media room with twenty-plus computers, several transportation vehicles, roof repairs, upgraded kitchen equipment, and even a 4,000-square-foot technology-filled extension to better accommodate an ever-growing teenaged membership. This teen center was invaluable over the past two years. In such a tumultuous time, local teenagers were able to depend on access to this tech-driven space to meet their computer access and internet needs to complete schoolwork.

Mother/daughter trio Natosha, KT and Lizzie, wearing 
matching ribbon skirts, were excited to bid on a number of silent auction items.

“It’s so funny looking back because I didn’t realize how much the Club meant to me as a kid, but really it was everything,” shared Club Director, Shawn Sanchey. The 26-year-old Tulalip tribal member has come full circle after he himself grew up a Club kid and now manages the same facility so many kids depend on every day. “It’s amazing being able to witness these kids learn and grow in the same way staff once did for me. It really is unique how dedicated our staff are to the youth in our community.

“Thanks to our generous supporters we are able to alleviate costs associated with team and individual sports, which anyone who knows anything about Tulalip can tell you, we have a ton of aspiring athletes,” he added. “Some highlights from the past year are having 150 kids play tackle football, 70 kids playing select level basketball, and we started an exciting golf academy that already has 25 kids actively participating. Our dedication to give our kids access to high level sports goes hand-in-hand with our mission to let our kids know we care about them and we care about their future.”

In total, there were over 600 generous individuals in attendance at this year’s 24th annual auction. Many of the attendees have never been inside Tulalip’s reservation-homed boys and girls club. However, the uplifting faces of Club kids were ever-present on actual table centerpieces and projected onto screens bordering the ballroom. There were also a number of Club teenagers who volunteered at the auction and helped generate support by sharing their stories.

One such teenager was 17-year-old Kenzie Thompson-Sheldon who, during the live auction segment, strutted on the main stage with an autographed Tyler Lockett jersey. When auctioneer Mark Schenfeld asked her how much she thinks the Seahawks wide receiver jersey should go for, Kenzie said nonchalantly “Five-thousand dollars.” And $5,000 it went for.

Malory Simpson shows off a beautiful skirt she won. 

With such an amazing turnout to support the kids came some delightful fundraising numbers. A record $104,200 was raised exclusively for Kids Kafé, which is an essential part of the Club’s services. Kids Kafé addresses the very basic fact that often the meals provided to club members are the most nutritious part of their daily diet. This year, our club transformed into a virtual school site and during this time provided breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack. Over the course of the last year, Kids Kafé served an astounding average of 1,280 meals a day.

When the 24th annual action finally came to an end, a whopping $563,646 was raised between the silent and live auctions, including the enormous amount of support for Kids Kafé. There are so many generous contributors who played a critical role in making the 2022 auction one for the history books.

“The auction is really about building relationships with the community and continuing to build upon the strong foundation of support we have with the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County, the school board, and the Tulalip Resort Casino,” explained Terry Freeman, Assistant Director of Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. “For twenty plus years now, our goal has remained the same – to create more and more partnerships off the reservation to achieve our goals on reservation. Thanks to our tribal leadership team, we continue to meet and exceed this goal.”

Local legend Terry Freeman is embraced by James Madison after gifting
him a paddle and many kind words. 

In an emotional moment shared by all that know him, Terry was honored by artist James Madison with a hand-carved, WSU inspired paddle. Terry has dedicated more than 50 years of his life working on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, where he’s impacted the lives of countless Tulalip tribal members. His limitless energy and enthusiasm for making the lives of today’s youth better is downright contagious, which is why he’s been the perfect behind-the-scenes organizer of twenty-four straight auctions. 

“I’ve known Terry since I was just 8-years-old and he ran the Everett Boys and Girls Club. He’s always been a stand-up guy and looked out for us Tulalips, making sure we had what we needed to thrive,” said James. “Now, as an adult, I’m fortunate to call Terry a friend. He deserves all the accolades and more for what he’s done for us. It meant so much to make sure he got his due respect and admiration in front of all these people he brings to our land every year to benefit our kids.” 

Thanks to everyone who contributed and gave generously, the 24th annual action was a major success. The generosity and heartfelt support received each year from sponsors and volunteers is overwhelming. As in years past, all funds raised will ensure the local Club continues to provide and improve upon quality programs in a fun, safe and positive environment for our kids.

Red dresses raise awareness for MMIWP epidemic 

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos by Sarah Jean Hart and Monie Ordonia

Red dresses and shirts hauntingly waved in the wind on MMIWP Awareness Day throughout the reservation of Tulalip. Hanging up on road signs, fences, and even on the Tulalip reader board, the red garments were placed in highly visible areas for local traffic and pedestrians to see, bringing attention to the nationwide epidemic.

“I felt like it was work that had to be done,” said organizer and Tulalip tribal member, Sarah Jean Hart. “I started last year and knew it was something I wanted to do every year. I feel like today, May 5th, is more than just the education piece and the prevention piece, but more so an opportunity to uplift our families and let them know that we’re here for them and that we love them, and to honor the ones who have not come home.”

Inspired by a 2010 art exhibit, called the REDress project, red dresses have become a nationally known symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement. The empty articles of clothing provide a powerful image. The dresses are often displayed in an upright position, giving off the illusion that they are in current use, but the people wearing them appear to be missing. 

Since their first art exhibit, the REDress project helped raise awareness about the devastating epidemic over the past decade, while also providing a new and creative way for the Indigenous population to bring attention to the MMIWP movement in their respective tribal communities throughout Canada and the U.S. 

Sarah first brought the project to Tulalip in 2021, and after multiple people approached her and inquired about the dresses, she decided to make this an annual tradition in commemoration of MMIWP Awareness Day. With the help of fellow tribal member, Monie Ordonia, Sarah spent over six hours the day beforehand hanging the dresses and shirts along Marine Drive and in Tulalip neighborhoods. 

The red dresses and shirts were accompanied with hand-painted signs that read messages such as: No More Stolen Sisters & Brothers, Rise Up and Protect Our Brothers and Sisters, Remember Them and Say Their Names. A few pieces of clothing also displayed messages – in white paint were the names of those individuals who fell victim to this MMIWP epidemic and called Tulalip home – including Kyle Van Jones, Jr. Lacy, Bridgette Simpson, Jessica Jones and May Ellen Davis. 

Sarah shared, “A few years ago, it started to really hit home – how many of our own women, not only our women but our brothers too, started going missing. There was no justice for my cousin and so I just knew that we needed to do something. For me to light a candle wherever I put a dress, that’s me letting them know that this is your way home and we’re here waiting for you and we love you.”

In a Facebook post following MMIWP Awareness Day, Sarah also shared, “Our hearts are always in prayer for our MMIW & MMIP. Our loved ones taken too soon. We remember, honor and love you always.”

Following the Salmon Ceremony part 4: MMIWP Candlelight Vigil

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Another week closer to this year’s Salmon Ceremony, the Tulalip community met once again on Thursday May 5, to practice their traditional songs and dances before the first yubəč, or king salmon, arrives at local waters. The festivities for the honored guest will be held on June 11 this year, beginning at 10:30 a.m., at the Tulalip Longhouse. 

The Tulalip Gathering Hall’s acoustics highlighted the fact that the drumbeats were louder and the vocals were stronger this week, as the number of participates continues to grow with each practice. In addition to more drummers and singers, there are notably more shawls and vests on the floor while dancers utilize the entire space of the hall, dancing along to the Tribe’s ancestral songs. Nearly everybody at the third practice session wore red this week, and a couple of people showcased a painted red handprint across their face. 

During the weekly gatherings, the people practice an entire walkthrough of the Salmon Ceremony, taking time to explain each song, dance, chant, and blessing. After the revival in 1976, the tribe makes sure to teach the upcoming generation about how Harriette Shelton Dover and a number of Tulalip elders brought the ceremony back following the boarding school era. Almost completely wiped away from existence due to forced assimilation, the Salmon Ceremony is now celebrated at the start of every fishing season.

The ceremony honors the salmon for providing nourishment to the tribal community, while also blessing the local fisherman before they begin harvesting salmon for their families and community this year. 

“We honor the gift of our visitor, yubəč, Big Chief King Salmon,” said Tulalip tribal member, Glen Gobin. “We’re harvesting from nature again, it’s how we honor and respect that, to ensure 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.”

As a reminder, Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, beginning at 5:00 p.m. The last practice, on June 9th, will be held at the Tulalip Longhouse. Several tribal leaders, including Chairwoman Teri Gobin, wish to extend a warm welcome to the entire community of Tulalip to the practice sessions to learn about the Salmon Ceremony and all that the traditional event entails, so it can be passed on to the generations of tomorrow.

Said Teri, “We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.”

Before the last song was performed, Glen explained that this week’s practice was scheduled to end a little bit sooner than usual, while also inviting those in attendance to stay behind for a special candlelight vigil, in remembrance of all the missing Indigenous women and people. The majority of Salmon Ceremony participants did not leave after this week’s practice, but instead spread out from the drum circle in the middle of the floor to seats, also arranged in a circle, placed along the outer edges of the Gathering Hall. 

What followed next was a moving tribute held in honor of national MMIWP Awareness Day. Powerful words and heartbreaking stories were shared during the special candlelight vigil and the ceremony provided a safe space for the families of survivors, those individuals missing and those who have passed on, to open up about the national epidemic. 

Multiple survivors of domestic violence took the opportunity to warn the young people about the dangers of an abusive relationship, noting that toxic relationships can escalate quickly to unsafe situations. Many of these survivors expressed the difficulty of leaving a dangerous relationship. They also stated that they felt that if they didn’t leave when they did, they might not be here today.

Tribal member, Shawnee Sheldon shared, “Everybody who was in domestic violence, brought awareness tonight. Even though I didn’t speak, I’m a victim of domestic violence. At the age of 17, I was abused by my boyfriend. He isolated me and I was beaten pretty bad. I feared for my life. And at the time, I called my best friend and told her to come and get me and bring me home because I was all the way down in Muckleshoot. She came and got me and I’m forever grateful for her. If she didn’t come for me, I don’t think I would be alive. It sometimes still triggers me. I don’t speak publicly about it, but I can talk individually with people about it, because I know there are people who are put it in the darkness. So just bringing that awareness is huge.”

A number of speakers also urged the youth to be aware of their surroundings at all times, and to reach out for help when it’s needed. Several speakers reiterated to the future generation to be safe and communicative with their families about where they are going, who they are with, and how they are doing because the rate at which Indigenous people go missing continues to climb throughout the nation. 

Tribal member and QCT teacher, Margie Santibanez shared, “I came out for the MMIW vigil because I have friends who started out in domestic violence relationships and two of them almost lost their lives to it. Some of my students were murdered, as I worked at the school which is now known as Heritage. My heart has always been heavy. This is my way of being a voice for them, helping the families heal if I can by doing the prayers and teaching the kids what it is to be respectable to each other. That’s my goal, that’s why I came.” 

As the candles were lit, the people held an extended moment of silence for the survivors and those we lost due to the epidemic. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and prayers and songs were offered as the community gathered with heavy hearts on National MMIWP Awareness Day and took an important step towards healing. 

Showcasing the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District sauntered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday May 5 and Friday May 6 for the 2022 Art Fest. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Fest patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative works that centered around a communal Tulalip experience.

“Our annual Art Fest is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a creative way. We increased the event this year, going from one day to two days, to provide a more family friendly environment that was both safe and welcoming,” explained event coordinator, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. The end result surpassed all our expectations because we got over 900 total submissions. That’s more than double what we’ve averaged the last couple years.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Fest gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place blue ribbon and all the bragging rights that come with it.

Such was the case with Northwest Academy 1st grader Ellie Fryberg. She radiated pure joy while leading her family and multiple peers to her 1st place winning drawing of a rose. Delicately drawn in colored pencils and shaded with red and green, Ellie took one picture after another with her adoring fans in front of her framed art piece. She shared roses are her favorite flowers because rose is her middle name. “It took me a day to draw it at school. My teacher helped me a little bit. I draw roses all the time on the weekends,” shared the very happy 7-year-old.

Ellie and her fellow student culture bearers were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.

“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” shared Native Advocate Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

This year’s Native Art Fest received over 900 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Eleventh grader Samara Davis and sixthgrader Cora Jimicum were two such powerhouses that claimed top honors in multiple categories.

“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while pointing out all her art pieces that earned ribbons. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.” 

Meanwhile, Art Fest veteran Samara has wowed event attendees for years with her established creative talents. She routinely collects a handful of blue ribbons for entering one-of-a-kind art in as many categories as she can. She admitted to challenging herself more this year by trying mediums she hadn’t in the past, like sculpting and delving into mixed media. For her efforts she was once again rewarded with a number of 1st place ribbons and a stack of prize money. Her little sister, Abigail, has been biding her time, watching and learning from her big sister, to develop her own creative style. 

“Growing up and watching my sister and brother both create all kinds of art for this festival, it has made me a better artist because I do try to compete with them, sometimes,” shared 14-year-old Abigail who was most proud of her mixed media ceramic nail set she won 2nd place for. “For me, art is all about expressing yourself and having a creative outlet to process whatever you are going through emotionally. I recommend all students, not just the Native American ones, take art classes because you never know which medium or category you may be super talented at and develop a real passion for.”

Interwoven through the thought-provoking pieces were not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. There was a definite spotlight on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, and a poem by a young boy that pulled at the heart strings as he detailed his experience of growing up without a dad.

The message being sent loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and culture related protests. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their inner turmoil and personal experiences into unique art products.

“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” said Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development manager.

“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars like Billy Frank Jr. is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational figures in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary aged children it’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”

Overall, this year’s two-day Art Fest showcased the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students, while once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art brought created by the next generation. 

Matthew War Bonnet shares boarding school experience

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Decades after the catastrophic existence of residential boarding schools, tribal communities continue to mourn and feel the trauma from their elders’ past. There are few remaining tribal elders who lived through this period, and even fewer who feel comfortable enough to tell their stories. Matthew War Bonnet (Lakota) is one elder who has been on the frontlines at community events, sharing his eight-year experience of being in a boarding school, and demanding apologies from the churches involved. 

On Saturday, April 30, Tulalip community members gathered at the Hibulb Cultural Center to hear Matthew tell his story.

Matthew shared that he was around 11 years old when he was first taken from his home and forced into a boarding school in Michigan. These schools were meant to hold Native children up through the 12th grade, force European colonization, and deplete all tribal culture. He spoke of going away nine months at a time, living far from his family, to schools where he could no longer speak his language, no longer sing or drum, or carry out any actions that reflected his culture. Now required to follow a new religion, and partake in confessionals, he was often threatened if he didn’t have anything to repent for.

The amount of abuse that he and his classmates endured was astronomical and dehumanizing. He remembered being stripped of their clothes at a moment’s notice, being slashed with razor straps and struck with cattle-like prods. And often, his classmate’s ears were cut off. 

Not long after his departure from the school, Matthew talked about seeing the toll that it was taking on the survivors. Years of torture led to lifelong scars not only on their bodies, but on their memories and hearts as well. Matthew shared how the people that survived boarding schools never truly walked away from it all. He spoke of the all-consuming anger that the survivors felt, never feeling any sense of peace. Many turned to drugs and alcohol and sometimes suicide to cope with the torment of their past. Some would even take their anger out on their families and children. 

But, sympathizing with what they have been through, Matthew said, “it’s not fair to blame them, with not understanding what they’ve been through. What can you say that will actually help take away their anger?”

Many people in the Tulalip community speak of generational trauma. It is the concept that a shared communal trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next. This can ultimately can lead to generations of mistrust, sensitive fight or flight responses, depression, low self-esteem, and more. Generational trauma can quickly take over a community, and devour people’s abilities to heal. 

When asked if he has spoken to other survivors in the area, and what similarities they might have with him, Matthew explained, “I never want to speak for anyone else’s experience. All I can do is make myself available to people, and tell my own story.”

Matthew’s son spoke about how he didn’t quite understand what his father had gone through, “as a kid growing up, I noticed my aunts and uncles didn’t trust my teachers at our school, and white people in general. For a long time, I didn’t understand it. But they (the survivors) were truly broken as children. I look at my son today and can’t imagine not being in control and being able to protect him.” 

With the recent discoveries of Indigenous remains from the works of boarding schools, tribal communities are coming together and finding strength in conversation. As well as that, the voices of our people have begun to force the churches’ recognition for their doings. 

“The church needs to acknowledge what they’ve done. These survivors of mission schools are suffering every day, and apologies don’t cut it. They should be making attempts to make things right, and help find the bodies of our people”, Matthew said. 

It is the duty of our people to protect our elders, and create a better future for the generations after us. The more discussions had around residential boarding schools will only further heal tribal communities. Uniting together, and creating a safe shared space for Native Americans to discuss our dark past, and ultimately how we can move forward together. Generational trauma can stop with us.

Raising awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“First of all, thank you all for being here and taking part in this movement to raise awareness. Together we will make our voices heard. Today, as we honor missing and murdered Indigenous people, I want to mention the importance of building up our young people and being sure they have a voice. Some of us adults are still looking for ours.

“We have been historically underrepresented. Our people have been oppressed for far too long. We have to work to address the white, colonized, patriarchal systems that this country is founded on. We have to make sure that we count at the local, state and federal levels. We cannot tolerate being underrepresented any longer. We have to show up to spaces and represent for those who do not have a voice. Times are changing and evolving. We are strong, resilient and have a foundation that we have to hold onto and carry with us. The foundation of being Native; Indigenous to this land.

“Rematriation is a fairly new word. So new it’s not even in the dictionary, yet, but it is the opposite of patriarchy. Rematriation means to return the sacred to the mother; it’s a means to restore balance to the world. We will continue to reclaim and restore our natural and traditional ways of knowing and being in order to help strengthen our roots for future generations. We need to be sure that our children can walk firmly in their identity, be proud of their culture, and know where they come from. We need to be sure they know the importance of protecting one another. That’s what it means to be a tribe.

“We need to be sure that women, children and all Indigenous people have a safe space to own who they are. I believe we can do it, but its going to take every single one of us working together. Only together can we protect our communities and ensure we have no more stolen sisters and brothers.”

Those eloquent, heartfelt words were shared by Tulalip’s own Jessica Bustad as she welcomed some two-hundred community members as they assembled in the bleachers and courtside seating of the Youth Center’s main gymnasium on Tuesday, May 3. Friends and relatives from both near and far respectfully dawned an assortment of red clothing, red regalia, and red handmade signs in a united effort to recognize the national crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).

 Our women, girls, and young men are being taken from us in an alarming way.  As of 2016, the National Crime Information Center has reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls. Strikingly, the U.S Department of Justice missing persons database has only reported 116 cases.  The majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. The lack of communication combined with jurisdictional issues between state, local, federal, and tribal law enforcement, make it nearly impossible to begin the investigative process.

Sobering Statistics

  • Indigenous women are murdered and go missing at a rate higher than any other ethnic group.
  • Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10x higher than all other ethnicities.
  • Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death for Indigenous women.
  • More than 4 out of 5 Indigenous women (84.3%) will experience violence in their lifetime.
  • More than half of Indigenous women experience sexual violence (56.1%).
  • More than half of Indigenous women have been physically abused by their intimate partners (55.5%).
  • Nearly half of all Indigenous women have been stalked in their lifetime (48.8%).
  • Indigenous women are 1.7 times more likely than white American women to experience violence. 
  • Indigenous women are 2x more likely to be raped than white American women. 
  • Murder rate of Indigenous women is 3x higher than white American women. 

*source: National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

To understand the complex and ongoing MMIP crisis one must first admit the current systemic response to violence against Native people is immensely inadequate. Then one must realize the rate at which Tribes are losing their life-giving women is devastating to not just the tribal communities, but to the entire nation as a whole. Insufficient resources on the state level and lack of clarity on jurisdictional responsibilities on the federal level combine to severely hinder efforts to locate those who are missing. 

Furthermore, the current legal framework for persecuting crimes committed on Native citizens by non-Natives is exceedingly complicated and creates many barriers for victims and Tribes working to protect their membership. 

Despite a federal trust obligation to protect Native American communities, violence against Indigenous women in the United States continues at epidemic proportions. It greatly exceeds that of any other demographic of women across the country. While many issues need to be addressed to confront this human rights issue, it is clear that limitations placed on tribal government jurisdiction by the federal government are a contributing factor. Often resulting in non-Native perpetrators falling through the cracks in the system time and time again.

“A huge thank you to each and every one of you joining us in the circle here today. We know that we come with our prayers and that’s the strongest medicine we have. The thoughts we have in our mind create reality,” previously shared Deborah Parker, board of director for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. She is nationally renowned for her critical role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “When I was a young girl I witnessed violence in our community, and I said a prayer then that when I get older I’d like to be a person to help change the laws to protect our people. 

“If we speak forward with our voice and with our truth and with all of our strength, then we can move mountains. And truly there are others who believe in our words and will stand beside us,” she continued. “These are our lands. We’ve been taught we are caretakers of these lands. That’s a big responsibility for us as Indigenous people. Each and every person in this circle, from youth to elder, can fulfill this responsibility and bring about change that benefits us all. We need our women to be safe. We need our young people to be safe. We need our future generations to be safe. By standing together and working together we will make this prayer a reality.”

By learning from the experiences of surviving family members, the MMIP movement can work to achieve the changes needed to safeguard the lives of Indigenous people and strengthen the authority of Native nations to protect their citizens. Exemplifying this notion are Tulalip tribal members Udora Andrade, Veronica Jimicum and Lynette Jimicum who sat unified at Tuesday night’s MMIP awareness event. They serve as constant reminder of the ongoing search for Mary E. Johnson, a Tulalip woman who went missing on December 1, 2020.

Police Chief Sutter expressed to Mary’s family and those gathered in community, “We are very actively working on Mary’s case. We want to bring her home and give her justice. Its grassroots activism and events like this happening all across the country that put immense pressure on the legislators in Washington, DC. Here in Tulalip we’ve developed a tribal response plan with four components to help curb this crisis locally. It includes a victim’s liaison that strengthens family support and opens better lines of communication, tribal-led community resources spearheaded by concerned Tulalip citizens, use of local and regional media to increase awareness, and developing better protocols to serve our community as best as possible.”   

Following a series of speakers from all levels of Tulalip leadership and enrichment programs, Josh Fryberg and Antone George led a large contingent of singers and drummers in coming together for a spirit enriching coastal jam, which well into the twilight hours.

“Our hands go up to each and every one of you who attended and helped make this moment possible,” said event coordinator Josh Fryberg. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all in need. It will take each and every one of us to continue to be the difference, not just for us but for our future generations. By living in a good way that honors our ancestors we will continue to bring unity, to raise awareness, and strengthen our culture, together.”

Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 3: The Salmon Man

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

“The reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years – It tells us something, that’s been told a long time: to conserve and keep things and honor all things because they’re alive. The trees are alive. Everything we eat was alive at some time. And we should give thanks and respect these things as living spirits and show them respect appropriately. And if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything as we know it today.”

The statement above, and subsequent story below, were spoken by the late Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin nearly thirty years ago, back in 1993. An influential leader of his time, Kai Kai provided this re-telling of the traditional Tulalip story, Salmon Man, for the Marysville School District. The story has been passed on throughout the years since time immemorial, and Kai Kai credited Harriette Shelton Dover for passing it on to the generations following the boarding school era. 

The Salmon Man story is important to the tribe’s way of life and is the reason why Tulalip and nearby tribes gather once a year to participate in the Salmon Ceremony at the start of the fishing season. During the Salmon Ceremony, the people pay tribute to the salmon for providing sustenance for the tribal community, while also taking time to traditionally bless the tribal fisherman before they journey out to the Salish waters to harvest salmon for their families. 

Due to the cruel assimilation period, the traditional ceremony was outlawed for several decades. That is until 1976 when a handful of Tulalip elders, led by Harriette Shelton Dover, revived the ceremony by recalling what traditionally took place at the special honoring, thereby teaching the upcoming generations the songs, dances and the story of the Salmon Man, also known as the Salmon People story. 

Dancers, drummers and singers are currently preparing for Salmon Ceremony which will take place this year on Saturday June 11th, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Leading up to the ceremony, the participants are meeting every week to collectively walk through the Salmon Ceremony start to finish, so the people can build a strong connection to the dances and songs as well as a cultural understanding of the stories about the Salmon People and of the Salmon Ceremony’s revitalization. 

Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, has participated in the ceremony since it’s revival and extends a warm invite to the entire community, stating that everybody is welcome to come and participate in the weekly Salmon Ceremony practices, which begins at 5:00 p.m. every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. The last practice on June 9th, however, will be held at the Tulalip longhouse.

In commemoration of the upcoming Salmon Ceremony, Tulalip News is featuring a weekly mini-series focused on the important cultural and spiritual work that goes into the ceremony year after year. Last week, we explored the significance of passing the tradition onto the next generations and asked a number of participants two questions, when were they introduced to the ceremony and why it was important to them individually. Although we received a variety of great answers, numerous people listed two aspects as reasons to the latter question – practicing the traditions and passing those traditions to the youth. 

The revival has already been carried across five decades, and one look into a practice session would show that the Tulalips are doing an incredible job of keeping their traditions alive by passing their teachings to the next generation. In fact, Kamiakin Craig, the grandson of Kai Kai, who shares his Indian name, attends every practice and participates at each Salmon Ceremony every year. 

An integral part of the Salmon Ceremony is learning about the Salmon Man story, which is the basis of the ceremony itself and explains a great deal about Tulalip traditions and the importance of preserving their way of life. We’ll let Kai Kai take it from here, as his re-telling of the story is truly fantastic, and if you are like us, hearing and revisiting teachings from elders and elders who’ve passed on, is quite an amazing, eye-opening and enjoyable experience. 

Kai Kai:

This is one version of the Salmon Man. You might have heard about the Tulalip Salmon Festival. The Salmon Festival was something that was practiced for hundreds of years by the Snohomish people, the sduhubš people. They are also called ‘the salmon people’.  And the story’s extremely important because it links to the present day.

And the story goes that there is a tribe of Salmon People that live under the sea. And each year, they send out scouts to visit their homeland. And the way that the Snohomish people recognize that it’s time for the salmon scouts to be returning to their area is when, in the spring, a butterfly comes out. And the first person to see that butterfly will run, as fast as they can, to tell our chiefs or headmen, or now they are called the chairman. One of the other ways they recognize that the salmon scouts are returning is when the wild spirea tree blooms. The people call it the ironwood tree, and that’s what they use for fish sticks and a lot of other important things, like halibut hooks. It’s a very hard wood. So, when they see either one of these, a tribal member will tell the chairman, and he immediately sends out word to the people and calls them together in the longhouse for a huge feast and celebration to give honor to the visitors that are coming.

The salmon scout will arrive out in the middle of Tulalip Bay there. And the people send out a canoe to meet him. And they put the salmon scout inside the canoe, where a cradle is filled with fern leaves and other soft leaves for a bed for him to come in on and keep him fresh. And he’ll come in by canoe to the cliff right below our longhouse, and there, the whole tribe will be there on the water to greet him. And they’ll walk him in with songs of honor and just greet him in a special way. Then, he’ll be carried on that cradle up into the longhouse, where he’ll be taken around the fires three times and special songs will be sung in his honor. And they will show him the proper respect he needs as the high chief visitor from the Salmon people. And they will go through some different ceremonies there. Then, they will go up into what is now the tribal center and prepare the feast. Before the feast, everyone will share in a tiny piece of the salmon and drink a glass of water with it, a little water.

That’s what is done. And then, everyone sits down and feasts and enjoys the salmon and visits with friends and neighbors.

At the end of feast, they get up. Maybe a speech will be made, and, hopefully, it won’t be too long. Then, a song is sung, and they bring the remains that are left of the salmon back into the longhouse and thank him for coming and again honor him for the chief that he is and take him back down to the canoe, follow him back down there. And they take him back out and lay his remains back where they picked him up, out in the middle of Tulalip Bay. And, if they have treated that chief properly and showed him the proper respect, and treated him like the king he is, he’ll go back to the Salmon People that live under the sea and he’ll tell them that, “Hey, they greatly honored me. They treated me like I should have been treated. They gave me all the recognition I needed.” And he’ll recommend that the Salmon People return back in abundance.

And the reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years. They gave thanks for many things. One of the things was to honor this great chief from the Salmon People and try to protect his environment and have a place for him to come home to. It’s hard to imagine nowadays this visitor going back and telling them, “Hey, things are all right.” Because he has to tell them, “I’ve been up there, and I entered around Admiralty Head, and I started getting a headache.” And he says, “As I traveled further in I become confused and had a hard time finding Tulalip Bay this time.” And he says, “Worse than that. When I went up the Stillaguamish River my home was gone. Where I was born and raised, it’s not there.” 

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 2: Carrying the revival to future generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“My father was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”

Close to one hundred tribal members met at the Tulalip Gathering Hall on the evening of April 21st for the first Salmon Ceremony practice of the year. Revived nearly 50 years ago, the annual event pays homage not only to the salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community, but also to all the local fisherman who are preparing for a season out on the Salish Sea. 

This year, Salmon Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 11th beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. At the height of the pandemic, the Salmon Ceremony was canceled for the very first time since it’s revival in 2020 to limit the spread of the infectious disease. And although the people were excited to see the cultural event return in 2021, many lifetime Salmon Ceremony participants still felt as though something was missing. 

Every year, with the exception of the past two, tribal members engage in a cultural immersion experience, weeks ahead of Salmon Ceremony, when the community begins preparations for the event. During Salmon Ceremony practice, tribal members get an opportunity to get reacquainted with the songs, dances and stories of the annual event, so when the day comes to pay respect to the first catch of the season, everything is executed precisely in honor of the salmon. 

Each week, a walkthrough of Salmon Ceremony takes place at the practice sessions, allowing the chance for the people to learn the significance behind every song and dance that is performed and offered at the ceremony. This is also the perfect time for newcomers to learn about the proceedings that take place inside the longhouse and alongside the bay when the first king salmon of the year returns to local waters. 

Although the turnout for the first practice was great, Teri stated that there is still plenty of room at the large Gathering Hall for more people to attend the practices, and invited the community to come out and take part in preparations of the ceremony. Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., where a meal and good company is promised to each participant. All of the practice sessions will take place at the Gathering Hall except for the last practice on June 9th, which will be held at the longhouse. 

As practices continue, Tulalip News will feature a weekly mini-series, leading up to Salmon Ceremony, focused on the traditions and hard work that goes into the cultural event each year. This week, we asked a handful of participants what the Salmon Ceremony means to them personally and received a number of great responses from youth to elders. 

Said Tulalip tribal member, Andrew Gobin, “It’s about taking time out to recognize the old teachings and carrying them forward. That’s what the practices are about. We talk about the old teachings here and how you conduct yourself in ceremonial spaces, what’s expected of you. The practices are just as important as the day.”

Salmon Ceremony participants

Left to right: 
Kamiakin Craig: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was a baby. Probably around 18-19 years.
Why is it important to you?  It was very important to my grandfather who passed away, Kai Kai. I share his Indian name and I really try to hold up what he was trying to do here with Salmon Ceremony. He loved this and I can remember having fun with him here too, so it’s important to me. 

Andrew Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? 32 years.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for a lot of reasons – just the basic teachings about respecting the salmon, remembering to take care of the salmon and respect those things in nature that sustain our culture and lives. I take Salmon Ceremony very seriously when it comes to the blessing and the spiritual side of it. It’s something that was instilled in me my whole life. I feel like it’s my responsibility to carry and pass down as it’s been given to me.

Arielle Valencia : How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? About a year and a half.
Why is it important to you? I find it important because this was taken away from us and it’s good that we’re reclaiming it and getting back together. Especially since COVID, it kind of struck natives a little harder from our traditional teachings. I feel like this is a good chance to get it all back.
Left to right: 
Lizzie Mae Williams: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was a baby.
Why is it important to you? It’s fun and part of my culture, and I get to hang out with family.

Bill ‘Squall-See-Wish’ Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I’ve been participating since about 1982.
Why is it important to you? Because I am a fisherman and honoring the first salmon that comes back to the bay is very important for cultural reasons. Being a fisherman, I’m the one who wants to catch
that first fish.

C.J. Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was two.
Why is it important to you? Our fish are our people, that’s who we come from. We’re the salmon people of the killer whale clan. Without the killer whales, we wouldn’t be alive, and the salmon helped us survive
for generations. 
Left to right: 
Jackson Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was like one or two.
Why is it important to you? I get to sing songs and it’s really fun. 

Foster Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was seven.
Why is it important to you? Because I can learn new things about our culture.

Teri Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since day one. I was here at the first one when we restarted it back with my father. I was actually here before that when we were sitting around the tables with the elders learning the songs and bringing
it all back.
 Why is it important to you? We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.

Kali Joseph: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Actually not very many years, for like four or five years now.
 Why is it important to you? First of all, it’s so cool being able to gather after all these years of being in isolation and through COVID. It’s important because, like one of the speakers said tonight, salmon is a big part of our way of life. It’s a great way to continue to pass down the teachings and share the meaning of Salmon Ceremony to the youth so it can be around for the next seven generations.
Left to right: 
David Bohme: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I haven’t been in years. This is the first time that I’ve come in a long time.
Why is it important to you? The culture. I’ve been kind of disconnected for a while and the kids are getting older and I want to teach them about the culture, our identity. I brought my daughters down here because I want to get them into it. And I want to get back it into myself, and just keep participating.

Marie Myers: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? It’s been three or four years now.
Why is it important to you? I started participating and getting more involved in my culture since I lost my mom because it helps me feel connected to her. It makes me feel good participating – singing and dancing. I think it’s amazing when the little kids come to the practices, it’s fun to teach them to sing and dance.

Troyleen Johnson: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was 13.
Why is it important to you?  It’s important for me to teach her (Neveah) and my other nieces and nephews about our culture.

Neveah (left): How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? This is my first year!
 Why is it important to you? I haven’t been to Salmon Ceremony yet, but I am excited to learn!
Left to right: 
Image Enick: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Salmon Ceremony was introduced to me when I was a little boy at Quil Ceda Elementary. Me and my friend were introduced to it when we were pretty young. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to peep my head in every now and then, and try to attend the Salmon Ceremony when I can. And if I’m not able to, I try to be at the practices.
Why is it important to you? To understand and learn the songs that have been brought back by the elders, the main songs of the ceremony. It’s also important because I’ve always thought of it as a good way for the young ones to learn the songs and what it is to see and show respect, and to actually see the young ones go out there and dance.

Weston Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Eleven years, since I was two – really since I was born, but I’ve participated as soon as I was able to.
Why is it important to you? Because it’s giving me all the teachings I need and it’s coming from my aunties and uncles. My family is all around me and I am learning all of my teachings.

Josh Fryberg: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
The first time I came to Salmon Ceremony I was probably about nine years old, but the time when I start bringing my family was 2018.
Why is it important to you? The reason it’s important to me is because it’s a part of our culture and we want to preserve it for our future generations while honoring our past generations who kept it alive for each and every one of us. 
Left to right: 
Shoshanna Haskett: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Four years, I used to go when I was little and we’re now getting back into it.
Why is it important to you? It is important for me to be able to teach my kids our culture, our history and I love watching the warriors go out and do their dance.

Shane McLean: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?  Ten years!
Why is it important to you? To pay respects to the salmon that continue to feed us and give us life. To show them respect and honor them the best way we can. 

Ronald Cleveland: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? A couple years now.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for me to pay respect to our elders and the salmon, and I like drumming.

Mother’s Milk: The importance of breastfeeding

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; images courtesy Indigenous Milk Medicine Week

As Tulalip’s membership continues to increase, growing from approximately 3,600 in 2003 to 5,100 in 2022, so too does the number of newborn babies being enrolled into the Tribe every year. This baby boom, estimated at 120 per year, led to the Tribe investing in a whole host of Community Health related programs and services geared towards creating positive health outcomes for our youngest generation.

One such program is Maternal Child Health, wherein we find health educator Erika Queen of Alaska’s Inupiaq tribe. She has been working with moms and babies for nearly seventeen years. A focus of hers is helping our Tulalip mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding. 

With Tulalip’s baby boom in full swing, it’s a critical time to understand just how important mom’s life-giving milk truly is. This may seem obvious to some readers, but recent statistics show the practice of following the CDC’s recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding until baby is six months is in huge decline. In fact, by this standard, just 25% of infants at 6-months-old are receiving the litany of benefits that come from mother’s milk.

Making the issue even more disheartening is the notion Native mothers and babies have one of the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rates at six months of any race or ethnicity in the nation. For our Native communities, breastfeeding is a public health issue. Because of the enduring health benefits breastfeeding provides, community leaders and medical professionals are making a concerted effort to reconnect Native women to the cultural tradition of breastfeeding. This is where Erika’s vital role as a health educator and advocate for both mom and baby comes in.

“The most important reasons for nursing your baby is that you want to. If you don’t want to do it, that is 100% your choice, I only advocate that people make that choice after considering the pros and cons of all your options. I’ve cried along too many parents who were informed that they “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” breastfeed, only to find out that the reason given was due to that person/provider’s lack of understanding or lack of knowledge,” shared Erika.  

  “There is a myriad of reasons that show continuing to grow your baby from your body after birth is important, and that list keeps growing: lower rates of disease for baby, reduced risks of cancers, asthma, type 1 diabetes, ear and tummy infections, SIDS, and NEC (in preterm babies). Lower rates of disease for the birthing parent, too. Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of high blood pressure, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

  Women who practice breastfeeding and meet their feeding goals also have a protective factor against postpartum mental health problems. This means that telling someone to stop a successful breastfeeding relationship for their mental health is actually counterproductive. It also doesn’t completely prevent mental health issues postpartum – it just means it lessens them and removing breastfeeding may actually make those problems worse. 

  Mother’s milk is exactly what is needed by almost all babies. Its more than food alone, it aids our immune system in many ways – from the white cells and immune factors fed to baby (such as after baby’s saliva tells their nursing parent’s areola that baby was exposed to a germ at daycare) to feeding very specific gut bacteria that eat only oligosaccharides from human milk (not found elsewhere) – according to UCLA, 70% of the immune system is in the gut. 

  Breastfeeding/nursing can be an outstanding parenting tool.  The act of breastfeeding releases hormones in parent and child that help to calm and connect – the love hormone, oxytocin – which can bring a tantrum to an end, heal more booboos than all the Band-Aids in the world, and build a bond and a relationship that is both strong and durable.

  Science can tell us even more reasons that feeding babies the milk from their parent (or another human) is the ideal, but science doesn’t begin to understand how breastfeeding can connect us back to our ancestors, renew our cultures, and deeply feel human in the face of trauma, and more than anything, it doesn’t explain how it feels to look at your chubby baby smiling up at you with milk running down their chin rolls and think, “I made all of that.”

I think the most important reason to nurse your baby is that you can and you want to,” added the local health educator. “I nursed my baby because I knew it was the best possible nutrition, I knew it was more than just food, and I knew that it is how my ancestors fed their babies for eons.”

If you are a new or expectant mother, or a mom multiple times over with a baby and simply want to ask questions about breastfeeding in a safe place with a health educator dedicated to a successful outcome, then please contact Erika Queen directly. She is here to assist you and eagerly awaits your questions. Her contact info is as follows: Erika Queen, Maternal Child Health Educator. Cell number 360-913-2382 (text OK), E-mail Equeen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Hiring tribal candidates is essential for tribal government employment

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Tulalip Tribes currently has 39 job openings within tribal government, ranging anywhere from work in the health clinic, to law enforcement, education, in-office positions, etc. Some of these positions even offer as much as a $2,500 signing bonus, and yet filling the positions has been somewhat difficult. The Human Resources department and Employment department are working tirelessly to find the perfect candidates and provide the Tulalip community with qualified personnel to take these jobs over.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic, much like many businesses, organizations, and tribal governments, Tulalip Tribes took an economic hit and had to make some difficult financial decisions. While they fought to keep their employees for as long as they could, eventually budget cuts had to be made. Inevitably, Tulalip lost a good portion of its staff, keeping their remaining staff based on seniority, and essential workers. 

Since then, Tulalip has still been trying to maintain their current staff, while still formulating a plan towards rebuilding their employment numbers. 

Executive Director of Human Resources, Amanda Hegnes, spoke about a hiring issue across the nation, and how medical/behavioral health positions have become the most challenging to fill. Tulalip has felt this as well with a Mental Wellness Therapist job opening they’ve had available since 2020.

Though some of the available positions are part of a niche job market, Amanda says that there are some ways to promote yourself as a candidate for these positions. These include earning the highest level of education pertaining to your job market, and expanding your job-related experience. 

The hiring process for a typical position starts with listing advertisements, a screening, testing, interviewing, job offer and paperwork (UA & background checks), and finally onboarding. 

It is no question that tribal members are preferred candidates when applying for positions within tribal government. Amanda talked about Tribal Code – Chapter 9.25 Tulalip Employment, that allows our membership and those who may support a Tulalip household to have first opportunity at an available position. It is because of this code that allows for tribal preference. They screen applicants in the order of Tulalip tribal members, spouse, parent or child of an enrolled Tulalip tribal member, current legal guardian (with court documentation of guardianship), or a domestic partner of a Tulalip tribal member, federally recognized Natives, federally recognized Native spouses, and current employees.

The current hiring process is set up to allow tribal members a better opportunity to obtain government-ran jobs. When publishing an open position, Employment Manager Nicole Zackuse said “the TTT Employment team will post the positions every Monday on their website and tribal Facebook pages. We also share harder-to-fill and niche positions on LinkedIn.”

Based on the latest tribal government employment records, of the 952 employees, Tulalip tribal members make up 450 (47%) of the current staff. 89 employees are either a spouse, parent or child of an enrolled Tulalip tribal member, current legal guardian (with court documentation of guardianship), or a domestic partner of a Tulalip tribal member. 83 employees are Natives enrolled from other tribes and 4 employees are spouses of Natives who are enrolled in other tribes. Lastly, there are 326 non-Native employees.

For more difficult and niche positions, Amanda discussed that if a tribal member does not meet certain job requirements, in an attempt to help them, they will advise the applicant to update their resume with any related job experience and education. This outreach allows tribal members a secondary opportunity to advance themselves in the interview process and further themselves as a candidate.

A misguided mentality that some people like to fall back on is the idea of favoritism in the hiring process. This concept is something that the department does not take lightly, as this would be a major ethical breach. As Nicole said, “the Employment team does not allow for favoritism or nepotism in the hiring process. All those who participate sign an agreement for fairness. If suspicion of bias occurs – the department will evaluate and possibly replace the suspected committee member(s).” Making this idea of favoritism virtually impossible.

For centuries, non-Natives have been regulating and dictating Native Americans on how to live their lives. With this oppression comes years of silence, lack of control, and forced colonization ideologies. The advantage of being a sovereign nation, is that we have the ability to apply tribal preferences for job openings. With tribal members taking on leadership roles, department positions, and overseeing day-to-day operations, we have the ability to use our voices for the better of our people.

As a tribe we value uplifting our Native brothers and sisters. We encourage our people to get an education and training in order give back to the community and work for the various departments in the tribe. This sets a precedence so that members can uphold the standards and cultural preservation of Tulalip Tribes, and establish a strong Native presence for generations to come.

If you are looking to start a new career path within tribal government, please refer to Tulalip Tribes’ employment website, employment.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.