According to the World Health Organization, over 800,000 people die by suicide annually, representing 1 person every 40 seconds. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years old, and suicide among males is 4x higher than among females.
Taking one’s own life is the result of a convergence of risk factors including psychological and social risk factors often combined with experiences of trauma and loss. Although an often taboo subject, one of the best preventative measures is breaking the silence and encouraging those in distress to tell their own story in their own way and at their pace.
Tulalip is all too familiar with suicide, especially among the younger generation. By engaging in active listening and reaching out to those who are vulnerable we can build a more resilient and stronger community. On September 10, more than 150 supportive individuals came together to observe and publicize National Suicide Prevention Day with a community strengthening Warrior Walk.
Wearing bright yellow shirts, the symbolic color for suicide prevention, with bold text that read ‘I am alive and strong’, the group convened at the Dining Hall. While there, all concerned citizens had an opportunity to create signs with positive affirmations and empowering messages, such as ‘believe in yourself, ‘help others succeed’, and ‘you are loved’. While most signs were uplifting in nature, some were more heartfelt by being dedicated to the memories of loved ones taken too soon by suicide.
“[This] walk is a suicide prevention walk in honor of prevention month. We named it Warrior Walk because we are warriors,” explained youth councilmember Marisa Joseph. “It was attended by tribal members and family members who have been affected by suicide.
“This is important to me because suicide has affected the Tribes and my life, personally,” she added. Marisa walked with a sign that read ‘in loving memory of Michael Lee Joseph, 34’.
In collaboration with Community Health, Education, Youth Council and other departments, all were welcome to attend the powerful walk for suicide prevention and awareness. Whether an individual’s reason was in memory of loved ones lost, in support of those who struggle in silence, or to showcase strength and empowerment, the yellow tidal wave that started at the Dining Hall and ended at the Early Learning Academy’s gymnasium meant a great deal to those who needed it.
“To me, the Warrior Walk meant healing, not only for individuals but for our community,” shared walk participant Shawn Sanchey. “It’s bringing our strength together to help uplift one another. It showed our youth and our people that they’re loved and the community is always there for you. It’s important to me our younger generation understands that we are always here for them.”
Reaching out to those most at risk in the community is critical to preventing self-harm. If you are worried about someone, please reach out and ask them, “are you okay?” By simply checking in with them and offering non-judgmental support you can make a difference. It is important to know that people in distress are often not looking for specific advice, but merely to be listened to with compassion and empathy.
“Walking together in strength and support for the youth, our elders and community members in need of healing is unity,” said Seilavena Williams, patient support executive assistant. “[There are] so many departments and divisions working together with our community in mind. By coming together the community members could feel that they are welcomed, supported and loved.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 is a crisis resource that provides free and confidential support 24/7. Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives together.
“We are honored to be on the ancestral homeland and waters of the First People of the Salish Sea. Thank you Coast Salish for allowing us all to call this beautiful place home,” was the opening statement made by Salmon Homecoming Alliance staff as approximately 500 fourth and fifth-grade students from local tribal schools arrived outside the Seattle Aquarium on the morning of September 12.
The gathering was a pre-celebration known as Salmon Homecoming School Days. A public event at Waterfront Park where interactive presentations and displays attract interest and attention on how to explore ways that support the cooperative spirit of salmon restoration and protection.
For the fifth consecutive year all Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary (QCT) 5th grade classes were active participants. The students were excited to spend a day out of the classroom at the Seattle waterfront where they were given an opportunity to experience everything the Aquarium had to offer, while enjoying a variety of salmon-based learning activities.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our students to continue learning about other people’s cultures and to identify with other tribes in the area,” explained 5th grade teacher Ms. Hansen. “Not a lot of schools get invited here, so it means a lot for us as a school to continue to have a role. This is a unique event that lets our kids be proud and true to who they are.”
Interesting fact, the Seattle Aquarium is the ninth largest aquarium in the United States by attendance and among the top five paid visitor attractions in the Puget Sound region. Bolstering those stats were an additional 100 or so Quil Ceda students, accompanied by teachers and chaperones, who made the mini journey to the region’s premier resource for hands-on marine experiences.
“The coolest thing I learned was octopuses huddle up in a corner when its bed time,” said 5th grade Charlee Martin. “I got to see a bunch of baby sharks and even a blow fish. What I’ll remember most is touching a star fish and sea anemones.”
During their day-long excursion, they students wondered from exhibit to exhibit eagerly looking for aquatic friends similar to Sponge Bob and Nemo. And when they found them, the tech savvy 10-year-olds were quick to pull out their cell phones and take the all-important selfie.
Being salmon are often viewed as the traditional food source of Coast Salish peoples, and the Tulalip Tribes moniker is ‘People of the Salmon’, it is only fitting that the cohort of 5th graders got to learn much about their cultural icon on the trip.
“We got to look at all kinds of fish and even touch some of them!” beamed 5th grader Noi Sisanga. “I learned about fish’s lifecycle, like how they start as eggs then learn to camouflage themselves as kids. Then when they become spawning adult fish they swim home to make babies.”
Inside the aquarium, a number of Salmon Homecoming learning stations were setup and made as kid-friendly as could be. Marine biologists, aquatic experts, and salmon advocates did their best to keep the energetic youths attention while explaining salmon lifecycles and ecosystems, while adding in the cultural importance of their habitat protection and restoration.
Concluding Salmon Homecoming School Days was a pair of tribal song and dance groups from Lummi Nation and Muckleshoot who shared their teachings with everyone in attendance. Several of the Quil Ceda students could be seen singing along while Lummi performed a song very similar to one sang every morning at QCT.
“My favorite memory of the trip is when our students got to sit and listen to other Native youth drumming and singing as part of the Salmon Homecoming festivities,” said student advocate Malory Simpson. “It is always a beautiful thing to see our students witness other Native students practicing their traditional teachings. It helps to reinforce the ideas and values that our students are being taught at Quil Ceda Tulalip.”
After nearly a two decade hiatus, the Lushootseed language has finally returned to the classroom as an official program taught at Marysville Pilchuck High School for the 2019-2020 school year.
The tireless dedication of longtime Indigenous education employees and Native student supporters Matt Remle and Ricky Belmont, who made it their mission long ago to bring the Coast Salish language to the high school, has brought a swift sense of excitement to the MP campus.
“For years my co-worker Ricky Belmont and I worked to find ways to bring Native language learning opportunities to Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the stars finally aligned when we reached out to our administration about developing a Lushootseed class on campus and they agreed,” explained Matt Remle, lead Indigenous education liaison. “When it came time to register for classes this year, Ricky and I reached out to our current students and incoming freshman and told them they better sign up after all that hustling.
“Because demand was high we now have the amazing Natosha Gobin teaching two classes on campus,” he continued. “Students are already being [heavily] influenced. Yesterday, I was speaking to a senior about her post high school plans and she said she wanted to be a Lushootseed teacher!”
A Tulalip tribal member, Natosha has spent the last 19-years learning, teaching, and helping to revitalize the traditional language of her ancestors. She has come full circle after graduating as an MP high school student 20 years ago to now reentering the MP halls as a certified teacher and Lushootseed instructor.
“Toby Langen and Tony Hatch taught Lushootseed classes at MP in the early 2000’s, which were the classes that I sat in on along with Eliza Davis when we first started in the language department,” recalled Natosha. “It is exciting to be back on the campus as the lead teacher. I hope that I can keep the students engaged and speaking, giving them tools to use the language daily both in and out of the classroom.
“The work that Michelle Myles has done the past two years at Heritage has sparked the interest for high school youth to start learning and speaking our language,” she continued. “We have high hopes that the youth taking these classes will be able to see themselves as the next group of teachers to keep the work moving forward.”
The Lushootseed course was offered to all interested students from all grade levels and quickly filled up. It comes as no surprise that the majority of her students are Tulalip tribal members who jumped at the opportunity to learn their traditional language and history from an actual Tulalip culture bearer.
“It’s already one of my favorite classes,” shared 10th grader Shylah Zackuse (Tulalip). “After finding out Lushootseed would be offered, I planned my daily schedule perfectly in order to take it. Being taught by a tribal member, there’s a real connection because Natosha is family.”
Currently offered during 2nd and 3rd period only, 34 out of the 52 enrolled students are either Tulalip tribal members or have lived in the Tulalip community their whole lives. The remainder of the students are a mixture of other Native and non-Native students who are eager to learn about the traditional lifeways of their neighboring Tulalip people.
“I don’t know a lot about my Native culture, so taking Lushootseed is a new opportunity to learn about my background,” explained 9th grader Jesse Lamoureaux (Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska). “This class teaches me about my past. What we are learning is thanks to our ancestors from way back who documented their teachings on audio tapes. My favorite phrase so far has to be ηαʔɬ δαδατυ (Lushootseed for ‘good morning’) because we can say it every day.”
The Lushootseed coursework will focus on relevant conversation lessons that can be used throughout the day. These include talking about daily routines, weather, describing feelings and states of mind, as well as many more topics to keep students engaged.
The course will also feature a great many references to Tulalip ancestors and elders who laid the foundation for where the Tribes are today, such as Harriet Shelton Dover, Martha Lamont and Lizzie Krise to name but a few. And best of all the MP students won’t be reading about these iconic individuals from colonial textbooks either, instead they will be hearing their powerful words spoken from a combination of archived video and audio resources.
“Some of my greatest inspirations are the speakers who had the foresight to document and record our language, enabling us to speak and teach it today,” said Natosha. “We want to ensure our community is aware of the ancestors who played key roles in preserving the language. Through passing on their stories, some of our youth are able to recognize their connection to the speakers and deepen their desire to participate.”
With both Lushootseed classes at full capacity and a waiting list with students hoping to transfer in if the opportunity arises, Marysville Pilchuck is already looking to build on the early successes of having more culturally relevant classes available for their diverse student population.
“It’s so wonderful to be able to offer Lushootseed to our students,” explained Principal Christine Bromley. “We have Native students, non-Native students and students with disabilities all taking Lushootseed. From all perspectives of this, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships.
“Partnering with the Tulalip Tribes to bring Lushootseed here to the high school is a critical piece to build upon the relationship between the school district and the Tribes,” she added. “I can’t wait to see us grow Lushootseed into a level 2 and 3 program to get more and more students involved.”
Future plans also include offering a Native art class, such as an introduction to carving taught by a tribal member. The class space is currently available and only requires a willing artist to teach it. Until then, Natosha and her collection of Indigenous wisdom intend to teach and inspire the culturally oriented young minds of Marysville Pilchuck High School.
On the morning of August 21, a large crowd of families gathered, forming a line that extended from the Don Hatch Youth Center gymnasium to the sidewalks along Totem Beach Road. In the warm overcast weather, the families visited in anticipation while Tulalip Youth Services prepared for a busy morning during their annual Back to School Bash celebration.
At twelve-noon, on the dot, the gymnasium doors opened and students rushed in, hoping to get first dibs on the backpack of their choice. Rows upon rows lay a large variety of stylish book bags. The kids received one ticket upon entry and, when finding the backpacks designated for their grade, picked the bag that best suited their personalities. While the preschool through elementary school students gravitated toward character bags, featuring the likes of the Paw Patrol and Marvel crew, the older students went for the trendy fashionable backpacks from Jansport, Adidas and Vans.
“My backpack looks like fishes in the water, red fish,” exclaimed KaLesa Comenote. “I’m going into third grade at Quil Ceda. I’m not ready for school to start quite yet, but the new backpack makes it a little better.”
Altogether, Youth Services purchased over 1,500 backpacks for young Tulalip learners, as well as for students of the Marysville School District who are enrolled at another tribe. Within the first hour, hundreds of backpacks were distributed, ensuring the students start their first day of school well-prepared. Prior to the event, the department held a breakfast social for local special needs students and their families. After breakfast, the kids had the first opportunity to select their backpacks before the gymnasium doors opened to the community. Youth Services also set 77 backpacks aside for the youth who are in foster care.
“The Back to School Bash is one of our favorite events of the year because we get to see the students get excited for school,” said Youth Services Positive Youth Development & Leadership Manager, Jessica Bustad. “We’re also happy to see the kids because we don’t get to see most of them during the summer. It’s a great time for the students and families to get together, have fun and celebrate the new school year.”
Youth Services also stuffed each bag with a school supply kit filled with notebooks, paper, folders, crayons, makers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors.
“I think it’s cool that they do this for us,” expressed high school sophomore, Charles Guss. “It shows support for all the kids. Throwing on our new backpacks gives us something to look forward to when going to school, especially on those early, early mornings. I got an Eastsport and a bunch of supplies too. I’m ready to go back to school now for sure.”
To help get the kids more excited about their upcoming academic year, Youth Services enlisted the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. The students and their families were able to sign up for library cards and also check out a number of fun, kid-friendly stories to read together.
“The biggest thing we want to share with our families is to read with your students, invest in books, get a library card and promote reading,” stated Jessica. “Make sure your students read every night, even if it’s just twenty minutes, because reading is important, it creates the foundation for their academic success. And also, we need parent community volunteers for everything going on at the schools, it helps the students thrive when they know they have caring adults there supporting them.”
With their backpack straps fittingly fastened, the kids hurried to enjoy a number of carnival rides stationed at the Youth Center parking lot. A number of departments joined the festivities, including the Lushootseed language teachers who ran a face painting station, as well as the Tulalip Bay Fire Department who gave the kids tours of their fire engine. The Seattle Pacific Science Center taught an interactive physiology mini-exhibit titled ‘Blood and Guts’, giving the students an up-close look real organs from both animals and humans, including the human brain.
“I have two second graders and this is so great because there’s a lot of families who need this,” said parent Sheena Robinson. “We’re really thankful that the Tribe does this event and it keeps getting better every year. My kid’s look forward to this at the start of each school year. They know they’re going back to school, but they at least get to have this day together before they do.”
“There was not a stronger woman than Pilchuck Julia,” expressed Tulalip Natural Resources Special Project Manager and Tribal member, Patti Gobin. “To me she exemplifies a true Sduhubš, or Snohomish, woman who we all descend from. We believe that when you speak the name of Pilchuck Julia, even though that was not her traditional name, that she’s here with us. From this day forward she’s going to be here, amongst us forevermore because we are honoring her in this special way.”
A historical Native woman was commemorated in the town of Snohomish on August 27, during the naming ceremony of the Pilchuck Julia Landing. Snohomish community members and Tulalip tribal leaders gathered at a boat launch on the Snohomish River on the warm summer afternoon. Tulalips sang the Welcome Song in front of a large black and white photo of Pilchuck Julia, a woman who has significant, historical and influential ties to both the town of Snohomish, as well as the direct descendants of the Snohomish people.
“This site is a little over nineteen acres, we called it the twenty-acre boat launch before, now it’s officially Pilchuck Julia Landing,” exclaimed Snohomish City Council Member, Linda Redmon. “We had a number of parks that needed to be named in the city and we went to the community to ask what they wanted to name the parks. And the overwhelming consensus was that they wanted to name this park after Pilchuck Julia.”
Pilchuck Julia’s memory is a favorite story amongst the citizens of Snohomish. Born circa 1840, she lived her life on the banks of the Pilchuck River, both in her adolescence and adult life, after marrying her husband Pilchuck Jack. In her teenage years, she witnessed the signing of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. And during her elder years, she was beloved by the Snohomish community, known for walking about the town selling salmon and shellfish to support her family after her husband’s life was claimed by smallpox and her son passed away following a falling accident.
“Pilchuck Julia lived in a time when it wasn’t easy to be an Indian woman in a non-Indian community,” said Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “She made great strides to make friends with the people of the community, people of all nations. The times were tough back then and even tougher for an Indian woman who was alone, but she made great strides in the community, the predicting of the weather to making those friends. She made a beautiful day for us today to honor her, one of our ancestors.”
Some believed Pilchuck Julia was a traditional meteorologist and could predict the forecast after she warned the citizens about an upcoming snow storm in 1917. Perhaps it was because she was in tune with the land and waterways due to her ancestral teachings, but Julia’s predictions were often reported to be right on the nose and were featured in a number of newspapers in order to reach a large audience of local farmers.
Pilchuck Julia was also quite the icon of her time. She was often photographed, depicting the strong Indigenous woman she was, in photos that were shared in publications and on post cards around the nation. At the naming ceremony of the boat launch, Pilchuck Julia’s great, great descendants Celum and Shelbi Hatch proudly posed for a picture with Julia’s image in the background, agreeing that they should recreate her infamous ‘stoic’ pose.
The idea to name the landing after Julia was well received throughout the city of Snohomish and by reaching out to Tulalip, the sentiment helped further strengthen a well-established connection between the Tribal government and the city. The Tribe and Snohomish City Council worked together to immortalize Pilchuck Julia’s legacy in an area she called home for generations, pre and post-colonization.
“Where we’re at right now is just above the confluence of the Snohomish and Pilchuck Rivers, which are two of the main rivers in the Sduhubš territory,” explained Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison and descendant of Pilchuck Julia. “Right now we’re standing in place where Pilchuck Julia spent the majority of her life and this is ground that will certainly recognize her.
“We’ve been talking with the City Council of Snohomish as well as some of the citizens of the town for about nine months,” he continued. “The Tribe has been lucky enough to have a good relationship with the town of Snohomish for quite some time and it’s continuing to build. The town of Snohomish gifted us the property where the Pilchuck Dam is, that we are now working to remove to open up thirty-seven miles of habitat for salmon above that dam.”
The City of Snohomish is currently working with the Tulalip Tribes to gain additional knowledge of Pilchuck Julia’s life and times from her family members. Together, the city and Tribe will write the verbiage to post on interpretive signage at the landing site that shares the story of Pilchuck Julia.
“This is one of those things that’s so special,” said Ryan. “I don’t think there’s a lot of places in this country where towns are willing to do stuff like this, to think about naming a place after someone who was part of the original inhabitants of this land. Julia represents, to all of the Tribal members, our grandmother, our great grandmother. She is to us what Sduhubš is, what a Coast Salish woman is. I think it’s amazing the City of Snohomish was willing to do that and to do it in the right way, by contacting the Tribe and making sure it was okay with us, respecting our process and having us here to sing some songs to let Julia know we are here.”
Pilchuck Julia Landing is located at 20 Lincoln Ave, Snohomish, WA 98290.
History was made on August 19 and 20 at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum as eleven presidential candidates took part in a first-of-its-kind political convention focused entirely on concerns of Native Americans.
Originated by the Native American voter engagement organization Four Directions and hosted by Four Directions and Native Organizers Alliance, the Forum was named to honor Frank LaMere of the Winnebego Tribe. LaMere was a well-respected and beloved civic rights leader and member of the American Indian Movement who passed away in June.
“Frank always said, ‘nothing changes unless someone is made to feel uncomfortable.’ Well, the Native people of America have an opportunity here to share our issues and it’ll get uncomfortable for the candidates, but that’s how change is made,” said O.J. Semans executive director of Four Directions. “We are here representing many tribes, but speaking as one Native voice. The topics and history we’ll be discussing here aren’t taught in history books or schools. This is Indian Country 101 for America.”
Four Directions is the nation’s preeminent Native voter engagement organization and plans to launch the most aggressive voter engagement program in history for the 2020 General Election, focused on increasing turnout among approximately one million First Americans of voting age in seven battleground states with a combined 77 electoral votes.
“We can make a difference in 2020 by making our voices heard by voting, especially in key swing or battleground states,” explained CEO Kevin Allis of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). “As of today, there are 5.2 million Native Americans. We are 1.7% of the total U.S. population, but Indian Country is the fastest growing group of people in the nation. We matter. Our issues matter. Our votes matter.”
Iowa was chosen as an ideal location for its immense political influence during presidential elections and is home to 28 federally recognized tribal nations. The two-day event featured multiple panels of tribal leaders, sovereign tribal nation citizens, advocacy group representatives, and Native youth from across the country asking questions of the presidential hopefuls. Each panel was moderated by Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today.
In April and May, Four Directions invited all major candidates from both parties to participate in the groundbreaking Native forum. No Republican representatives opted to participate.
The candidates who descended upon Sioux City to elevate Indigenous issues included 10 Democrats – Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, author Marianne Williamson, retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, former Representative John Delaney, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. They were joined by Independent candidate Mark Charles, a member of the Navajo Nation.
The 2020 contenders each fielded questions in a series of thoughtful, hour-long discussions with all-Native panelists about traditionally ignored critical issues facing millions of Native American voters. Each candidate was individually questioned by six to eight panelists. They assembled on a stage lined with tribal and U.S. flags, before a theatre filled with tribal members from around the country.
In a sight to be seen and heard, nearly each tribal panelist introduced themselves and offered greetings in their traditional languages. They then shifted to English to ask about topics of much concern to Native people, many related to historic injustices: the protection of sacred sites threatened by resource extraction, protecting Native children’s right to stay in their families and communities, upholding voting rights, importance of federal-tribal consultation and lack of modern infrastructure on reservations. Other high-priority topics were economic development, healthcare, climate justice, and the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis (MMIW).
Tribal leaders detailed the federal government’s long history with failing to honor the government-to-government relationship guaranteed by treaties and denying tribes the right to meaningful consultation on projects that have an impact on tribal land, resources and sacred sites.
Democratic candidate and internationally acclaimed author Marianne Williamson, who was noted as the first individual to commit to the Forum, responded eloquently about the history of injustice.
“For Native Americans there’s the genocide, then there is the cultural annihilation, then there is the geographical displacement, and because of all of this there is a spiritual displacement,” she said. “On an external level there are deep and systemic injustices to be addressed, from unfairly negotiated and broken treaties to MMIW to lack of healthcare. I want to help this country reconcile with a horrific chapter of our past. If I am President, from the depth of my heart and on behalf of the American people, I will apologize and ask you to join in a new era of American history as partners on this sacred land.”
When Navajo tribal member and second-ever Native American citizen to run for President, Mark Charles, hit the stage the crowd erupted seeing a political hopeful who looked like family. When asked a similar question about tribal consultation Charles answered as only a Native person can.
“One of the challenges we face with tribal consultation is our United States foundations were written with the understanding that Natives are savages,” he asserted. “The issue with tribal sovereignty is it defines and has defined the relationship with tribes as domestic dependents. As Native peoples, it feels like we’re sovereign over our lands like a teenaged child is sovereign over their bedroom.
“When land titles are propped up by a dehumanizing doctrine of discovery then white supremacy becomes a bipartisan value,” continued the Independent candidate. “This is why consultation is not taken seriously because the foundation for land titles in this country is still dependent upon us being domestic dependents and savages. If we want to fix this, then we don’t need Presidents who commit to consult with our Native nations. We need a President who is willing to change the basis of our laws so our land titles are no longer based on our dehumanization.”
A perceived media-created tension with Elizabeth Warren and Native people quickly proved to be inconsequential when she opened her candidate monologue with a heartfelt apology. “I know I have made mistakes. I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned,” she said, stopping short of specifically mentioning her widely criticized use of a DNA test to prove Cherokee ancestry. The Native panelists and attendees did not make it a point of contention, instead they greeted her with a standing ovation.
Missing and murdered Indigenous women was a topic that most candidates were asked about. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Native women are 10x more likely to be murdered than the national average, 4 in 5 Native women will experience violence in their lifetimes, and homicide is the third leading cause of death for Native girls between 10-24 years of age. Indigenous women and children have become invisible within American’s landscape, something that Warren spoke passionately about.
“Over and over I am struck by Native women who go missing or who are murdered and it never makes a headline. A problem that is not seen is a problem that is not fixed” she said. “I think of the solution in two ways. First, the importance of the federal government getting serious about collecting data and making that data publicly available so the public can know the scope of this problem. Second, it is powerfully important we have the tribal nations adequately resourced and on the front lines so they can provide the safety and security that our women and children need.
“Under the current administration, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been allowed to lapse,” Warren continued. “We got to be pushing back and make sure that VAWA is reauthorized with adequate and expanded protections.”
In a continuing topic of discussion at the Forum, many candidates were asked whether or not they’d support the “Remove the Stain Act” (H.R. 3467) introduced June 25 to officially rescind 20 Medals of Honor given to U.S. soldiers responsible for the brutal 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. That incident led to the deaths of more than 200 Native Americans in South Dakota.
Audience members listened as one after another the democratic presidential candidates insisted they’d fully support the house bill if elected President. However, Independent Mark Charles took this concept of rescinding medals even further and offered a larger perspective that reaches beyond just Wounded Knee.
“If you research Medals of Honor for battles between 1839 and 1898, you will find that the U.S. awarded 425 Medals of Honor for soldiers who participated in the Indian Wars,” Charles explained. “We awarded 425 medals for the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Native peoples. We absolutely have to rescind those 20 medals for Wounded Knee, but there are 425 Medals of Honor that have no place in our union.
“These medals have no place in a nation that claims to value freedom, equality and diversity,” he continued. “These medals are not only a stain, they are blood dripping from the clothes of this nation.”
Charles’ strong declaration about the Medals of Honor given out during the Indian Wars era emphasized concepts that were mentioned by others candidates as well, and that’s the notions of historical and generational traumas. Indian Country understands well the long-lasting effects of America’s colonization and how it directly resulted in many of today’s most pressing concerns. For those looking for solutions and hoping for change through a Presidential regime change, well they got multiple glimpses at candidates who took the time to listen and understand the Native voice.
In the audience, too, prominent officials and Native elders from communities across the country were able to meet, share ideas, and trade notes on issues of concern to their people. One of the most common subjects talked about was the federal government’s need to uphold treaty rights and fulfill its trust responsibilities. However, a shared cynicism about the current Trump Administration’s lack of effort to respect the tribes’ point of view, let alone uphold treaty rights, gave even more credence to why it’s so important for Native citizens to cast their ballots in 2020.
After nearly two full days of listening and learning by both the hundreds of tribal members who filled the Forum’s seats and 10 presidential hopefuls who detailed their platforms and showcased their knowledge of Indian Country, only one candidate remained, Democrat Bernie Sanders. He was the final candidate to hit the Orpheum Theatre stage on August 20.
The Vermont Senator walked out to a huge standing ovation from a Forum crowd that had grown in both size and anticipation, reaching its largest capacity just to hear from the self-described progressive, democratic socialist. His proposed policies to rescind pipeline permits, combat global warming by restricting the seemingly free reign of oil companies, strengthening tribal sovereignty, and ensuring equal access to voting were all well received by a routinely applauding audience.
“I know how important it is to protect the sovereignty and sacred lands of Native Americans. That is why together we must do everything we can to address the existential crisis facing this planet in terms of climate change,” said Bernie Sanders. “Together we are going to take on the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short term profits are not more important than the future of our planet.
“In my administration it’s not a matter of listening to the Native American people, it’s having you up front teaching us how to work with nature and not against nature,” continued Sanders. “I need you to play a leadership role in terms of sustainably. Native Americans, more than any other people, can teach us about sustainability. Your people did not nearly kill off the buffalo nor have they destroyed countless acres of tress through deforestation because you understand they give us life. We need your wisdom because we need to radically rethink our relationship to nature.”
Voter suppression was a topic each candidate was asked about, since there have been multiple laws enacted under Trump that restrict our democracy by limiting access to voting. This is especially felt on Native American reservations where infrastructure is already lacking and in some areas with a high Native populations one has to travel long distances in order to cast their ballot. Sanders explained how such actions are designed by politicians controlled by wealthy people to suppress voting, particularly by people of color.
“We have a corrupt political system designed to protect the wealthy and the powerful,” he declared. “Voter suppression is happening all over this country. You’ve got a Republican Party that really understands they cannot win elections based on their policies, so they make it harder to vote. They target people of color and young people. The answer to have a President and Attorney General who ensure every eligible voter in this country is able to vote. We are going to take on voter suppression in all its forms.”
With Indian Country’s electoral power growing, the Native American Presidential Forum came at an opportune time and was a huge success. Eleven presidential hopefuls pledged to honor treaties and enact structural change, but most importantly they listened and learned from tribal leaders, elders, and youth who spoke as the Native voice. A history making tribal forum for tribal people that developed a means of communication with, potentially, the next President of the United States.
In early August, over fifty Marysville School District administrators toured their neighboring reservation to receive an enriching glimpse into Tulalip culture and lifeways. Among the group included every principal and assistant principal in the District. The highlight of their day-long venture was a powerful face-to-face sit down with four thriving Tulalip Youth Councilmembers.
Treasurer Marisa Joseph,12th grader at Marysville Pilchuck, social media coordinator Evelyn Vega-Simpson, MP junior, secretary Shylah Zackuse, 10th grader at MP, and chairman Kaiser Moses, Marysville Getchell junior, each shared details of their unique experiences as young culture bearers and excelling students of the public school system.
They sat front and center while speaking their truths in response to a series of questions their school administrators asked them. Between the four inspiring, high-achieving students are multiple honors classes, instruments played, languages spoken, and an overwhelming desire to be seen for their well-earned accolades that break commonly held stereotypes of Native American youth. The following is an edited transcript of that Q&A.
Q: What are three awesome facts about yourself?
Kaiser: “The fact I’m able to live so close to the Tulalip longhouse, be able to actively participate in my culture through traditional gatherings, and I enjoy hosting and traveling to powwows.”
Shylah: “I’m Indigenous. Half my school classes are either A.P. or honors level. I’m really good at multitasking.”
Evelyn: “I’m able to play five instruments, I’m fluent in three languages, and I am an advocate for other kids who do not have a voice.”
Marisa: “I’m Indigenous. I participate in my culture and love my culture. My cumulative G.P.A. is 3.96 and my goal is to go to Harvard and study law so I can represent Native people on the federal level.”
Q: What do you love learning about?
Marisa: “History, especially Native American history. However, in my U.S. History class this past year we only spent a brief part of one week where we watched a video about Native Americans. I think we can improve upon that and definitely spend more time learning an accurate Native history.”
Kaiser: “I love learning about our traditional longhouse history. It’s really easy to go over and talk to a bunch of elders and learn from them, so you all here can incorporate their teachings into the school curriculum.”
Shylah: “I love learning about my culture. This summer I participated in Canoe Journey and have been learning my traditional language, Lushootseed. I’ve learned how to formally introduce myself and look forward to becoming fluent in Lushootseed so I can teach my future children.”
Q: What do you most look forward to this school year?
Evelyn: “Band. I’ve been playing instruments since I can remember. Music is a big part of my life and obviously my culture as well. I’m also taking Running Start classes right now during the summer and look forward to continuing to take college classes during the school year.”
Kaiser: “My mom says when you go to school you’re building a bridge to society. We get teachings from school and teachings from the longhouse. I’m excited to develop that bridge even more so it’s easier to navigate back and forth.”
Q: What is something you wish your teachers knew about you?
Shylah: “I want my history teacher to know the history of my ancestors. When we’re in the classroom they don’t teach about the genocide of Native Americans or the boarding schools our ancestors were forced to attend. My ancestors weren’t allowed to be Native American. They couldn’t speak their language or practice their dances and songs. My history teachers should know this.”
Marisa: “I want my school teachers and peers to be educated about our culture, traditions, and way of life. If they knew what our ancestors went through, then they’d have a better understanding of our daily lives and what we go through as Native people today.”
Evelyn: “The Tulalip Tribes donates a lot of money to the school district. I know that can be a touchy subject, but I’d like to see a public ‘thank you’ from the Marysville School District. The money the Tribes donates helps not just Native students, but all the students.”
Q: What is the importance and role of education in your life?
Evelyn: “Education has always been a top priority in my life. I grew up in Snohomish with a wonderful pair of foster parents. They taught me to embrace music and to love school because they can take me so far in life. I dream of attending Oxford to become a surgeon. I have a high G.P.A. and plan on getting my Associates Degree as a high school student. Those things shock people because I’m Native, but I’m not a stereotype. I am better than any stereotype and will always be better.”
Marisa: “I’ve always taken my education serious and put it first always. I’ve sacrificed a lot of time with my friends in order to study and get good grades. My goal is to attend an Ivy League. I will be successful and not let myself be a statistic.”
Shylah: “I come from stereotypes. The stereotypes I come from are we don’t graduate, we’re drug addicts and alcoholics, and we’re teen moms. Well, I’m none of those. I get good grades, I’m not a drug addict, and I’m not a teen mom. I come from a drug addict dad and a single mom. My mom is going to college now with four kids and a fulltime job to prove to her kids we can go to college, too. Through my education I will go to college and have a successful career.”
Many experts agree that adolescence, the process of growing up from young, bashful kid to stubborn, head strong teenager, is a critical period for determining future employment success. It’s during this stage the average youth constantly tests boundaries and rules while striving for more and more independence. With every new experience comes a change in perspective, including their general response to the always imposing question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Most will answer that question with an “I don’t know, but whatever it is I want to make a lot of money doing it.” What they are then placing the highest priority on is gainful employment. That is, a career path that provides consistent, long-term work while paying a livable wage. Those kinds of jobs usually take some combination of education and proficient skills, while placing an emphasis on self-management and productivity. In sum, learn your job, do your job right without being constantly managed, and strive to get better over time.
Sounds simple, right? But how does a young person, better yet an early adolescent, even begin to learn about a job so they know which skills to hone and perfect? The best answer is always through hands-on experience. That is why a new tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been introduced to the Tulalip community and is already making an impact on a select group of Native youth.
“The 477/TANF Program has a new employment opportunity for Native American youth within our community known as the Youth Employment Preparation Program or YEPP,” explains Krisan Fryberg, 477/TANF Training Coordinator. “The idea of this program is to prepare our tribal youth for future employment. Our mission is to implement progressive thinking with a goal of empowering youth to obtain and maintain successful employment. Not only for employment within our tribe, but any industry they choose.”
YEPP is a six-week program that incorporates several aspects of employment preparedness and provides opportunities for adolescent youth to connect with the various departments and entities that make up a Tulalip government and enterprise. YEPP also serves as a perfect introduction for kids who will be participating in the tribe’s Summer Youth Program in the future.
Over the past several weeks, fifteen YEPP participants between ages 11-13 years old have dove deep into drug prevention by discussing the effects of drugs and alcohol as a huge obstacle to personal sovereignty. They went deeper into the subject while touring and meeting with representatives of Tulalip Police and Tulalip Bay Fire. Exploring the concept of healthy living and its impact on gainful employment and overall wellbeing, the group had many diabetes prevention discussions while harvesting native plants with Health Clinic staff at the Wellness Garden, visiting a local U-Pick farm, and working out at Tulalip Bay Crossfit.
Skill building exercises have also been a top priority for the YEPP program. One cannot expect to be gainfully employed without the necessary skills of time management, ability to set and reach goals, know how to respect others’ cultures, and understanding how to maintain healthy relationships in the work environment. Because it’s the digital age they were also schooled in the art of social media use, especially its many traps that can derail a potential career long before it even starts.
A definite highlight of this inaugural YEPP program was the contribution to the community by collaborating with the TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) to build and donate two cedar planter boxes to Youth Services. On August 13, TVTC provided the materials and instructors for the YEPP kids to receive a crash course in construction basics. For most of them it was their first time handling actual construction tools, let alone the powered variety like a nail gun or circular saw.
“We learned how to take accurate measurements and cut wood to specific sizes,” said 12-year-old Navaeh Gray. “I was scared at first to use the nail gun, but after using it I realized it was super easy. There’ve been a few experiences with this YEPP program that have taken me out of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned when you believe in yourself anything is possible.”
“We learned how to use power tools and then got to test how good we were with them in a few activities,” added 13-year-old Gary Fryberg while still holding onto his favorite tool, the hammer. “I’ve never used any tools before, but realized I’m pretty good with a hammer. Maybe I’ll work construction when I’m older because it’s fun to build things.”
Members of TVTC spoke at length about the many benefits of a career in the construction and trades industry. Even if it wasn’t for all of them, for some a spark could have been lit to a whole new future. At the very least they each can say they played a role in creating planter boxes they will surely see often outside of their commonly frequented youth center.
“Our program spent two days with the youth staff at TVTC where they learned how to utilize equipment properly and worked hand-in-hand with the youth staff to build planter boxes,” remarked Krisan. “I enjoyed seeing both programs work together to create a generous gift to be donated within our community. They all seemed to appreciate the time spent with one another.”
Collaboration and the value of team work is just another key skill that should be practiced over and over again, not just for gainful employment prospects but to ensure a future generation that knows how to work alongside one another for the betterment of everyone.
Census Listers Now Walking Neighborhoods in Evergreen State to Verify Addresses; How Residents May Verify if Contacted
August 20, 2019 (SEATTLE) — Address canvassing in Washington state is now underway in preparation for the 2020 Census. Address canvassing improves and refines the Census Bureau’s address list of households, which is necessary to deliver invitations to respond to the census. The address list plays a vital role in ensuring a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the United States.
“The Census Bureau is dedicated to ensuring that we are on track, and ready to accomplish the mission of the 2020 Census,” said Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham. “We have made many improvements and innovations over the past decade, including better technologies for canvassing neighborhoods and developing complete and updated address listings and maps.”
As a necessary component of address canvassing, Census Bureau listers are now walking neighborhoods in Washington to verify select residential addresses. Those residences chosen for verification will be contacted by a lister who will ask a few simple questions to verify the address and any additional living quarters on the property. Address canvassing is a separate operation from enumeration, which will occur beginning in March 2020 with the goal of counting every person in the United States once, only once, and in the right place.
Listers are identifiable by official Census Bureau badges and those persons contacted as part of address canvassing may request a second form of government-issued, photo ID from listers for cross-verification. Residents may also contact the Census Bureau call center at 800-923-8282 to confirm the identity of persons identifying themselves as Census Bureau listers.
More information on the Census Bureau’s address canvasing operation, including a sample image of a Census Bureau ID badge, is available at census.gov/library/video/2019/address-canvassing-for-2020-census.html.