Coast Salish swag takes over T-Mobile Park

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It’s impossible to know how many Native Americans attended the Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics baseball game on August 28. But what we do know is the official attendance for the Monday night game, dubbed ‘Salute to Native American Heritage’ night, was announced as a whopping 37,434 people.

And a nice chunk of that thirty-seven grand were citizens of Pacific Northwest tribes who journeyed to the Emerald City hours before first-pitch to get their hands on a highly coveted, limited-edition jersey created by Muckleshoot tribal artists. It was impossible to miss the intricately detailed beaded medallions, always striking cedar woven hats, and various forms of turquoise jewelry that visually proclaimed, “Our culture is alive and thriving!”

Lines wrapped around the multiple stadium entrances with anxious fans who wanted to be wrapped in a navy blue and Northwest green colored Mariners jersey that featured Coast Salish form line. Only the first 10,000 fans received the first-of-its-kind jersey.

Prior to first pitch, the Muckleshoot Canoe Family took to the always stunningly manicured green grass of T-Mobile Park and shared their culture through dance and song accompanied by traditional hand drum beats. 

Throughout the evening, the Mariner’s 11,000-square-foot scoreboard routinely displayed facts about Indigenous tribes of Washington. One example read: “There are more than 30 tribes throughout the state of Washington and over 140,000 Native American citizens in the state alone.” Another read: “Chief Sealth or Chief Seattle was a Suquamish and Duwamish chief respected for his peaceful ways and is the namesake of the city.”

During actual gameplay, the Mariners, who recently took 1st place in their division for the first time in 20 years, gave their adoring fans much to cheer over 9 full innings. Center fielder J.P Crawford hit a 394-foot homerun in the Mariners’ first at-bat of the opening inning. The home team jumped out to a 1-0 lead and never looked back. 

Franchise phenom Julio Rodriguez added to the excitement by crushing a two-run, 420-foot bomb in the 4th inning. He finished the game 4-5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBI. During a postgame interview, Julio said, “It’s really good. I feel like everybody is playing like we all know we could,” Rodríguez said. “It’s been really good seeing everybody having fun, seeing everybody getting good at-bats and getting on base and passing the baton, and getting the big hits when we need them.”

Ultimately, the M’s won a memory-filled, 7-0 shutout in front of the largest Monday crowd they’ve had all season. Adding to the legendary game that was, ‘Salute to Native American Heritage’ night. 

Ending Summer in Wild Style

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Summer break came to a screeching halt for many local students who returned to the classroom for the 2023-2024 school year. Fortunately, those who participated in the Tulalip Tribes annual Back 2 School Bash had one final opportunity to let loose with their friends and make some wild memories.

An energetic horde of eager to have fun youth descended on the youth center campus from 12:00pm – 5:00pm on August 23. While their parents and caretakers toured the many resource tables within the gymnasium to learn about services and programs intended to help their students succeed academically, outside the kids ran loose on the asphalt as they dashed from one activity to another. 

Rock climbing, inflatable slides, an obstacle course, face painting, carnival rides, and games galore made the bash live up to its name. However, some very exotic visitors chauffeured in by a reptile man stole the show for those desiring a true, memorable tale to tell their new classmates.

Overlooking Tulalip Bay, a large line of students from all grade levels formed to either hold a bearded dragon iguana, wear a four-foot-long boa constrictor as a scarf, pet a tortoise, or even hold a baby crocodile. The people-friendly reptiles made for quite the scene, and will no doubt make for unbelievable stories told by the youngsters who fire a quick response to an unwitting classmate asking, “Do anything fun this summer?”

Annual Salmon Bake raises $51,000 to benefit Hibulb Cultural Center

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Kaya, an elder Salish woman with a basket full of clams, has welcomed thousands of people to the Hibulb Cultural Center since the museum first opened its doors in 2011. As a twelve-foot cedar carving known as a welcome pole, Kaya serves as each visitor’s first introduction to a beautiful experience of Tulalip’s culture, history, traditions, and artwork.

Since its establishment, the cultural center has imparted a vast amount knowledge about the Tribe’s ancestral traditions and teachings to the wider community. While providing their guests with interactive exhibits, the museum shares the Tulalip way of life, from present day all the way back to pre-colonial times, through an astounding display of visuals including artwork, photos, documents, and artifacts. 

In addition to their exhibits, there is a gathering space that resembles a cedar longhouse, as well as a wall dedicated to all of the Tribe’s military veterans. The cultural center also has three dedicated classrooms where cultural workshops take place throughout each month. And they have an impressive gift shop that often features the works of Tribal artists. 

“Over the past 13 years, we have welcomed more than 120,000 guests; 150,000 if you were to include special events,” said Hibulb Cultural Center Manager, Mytyl Hernandez. “That’s 120,000 opportunities to educate people on our culture, our true history, and how much Tulalip does for our outside community. We have had more than 1,500 events here, that includes workshops, lectures, films, private events. 1,500 opportunities for us to invite in our own community and outside communities to learn a little bit more about our culture, our history and about us.”

Now an award winning museum, and a top field trip destination for nearby schools, the Hibulb Cultural Center has provided insight and a tribal perspective on issues such as colonialism and assimilation while taking time to celebrate the teachings, values, beliefs, stories, and lifeways of the Tulalip people. 

Because the cultural center has grown in popularity and offers new exhibits and workshops on a regular basis, the Tulalip Foundation organized a silent auction and salmon bake to raise funds for the museum’s exhibits, events, and workshops back in 2017. 

The Tulalip Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports tribal programs and projects based on five support areas – culture and natural resources, education and workforce, law and justice, community and development, and health and social. The Foundation has made a positive impact on the tribal community and has become well-known throughout the region. Many local companies and nationwide corporations have donated thousands of dollars for the betterment of both Tulalip’s governmental programs as well as community-led and focused projects. 

The inaugural salmon bake brought in approximately $25,000 from the silent auction and a number of sponsors. Since then, the Salmon Bake has continued to grow and has become an event that many look forward to each summer.  Funds from previous Salmon Bake benefits went toward fan favorite exhibits such as Interwoven History: Coast Salish Wool, Vibrant Beauty: Colors of our Collection, and The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy, as well as a number of events and workshops including the museum’s annual film festival. Although it’s been seven years since the first event, the Foundation hosted its 5th Annual Salmon Bake this year, after two events were canceled due to the pandemic. 

“For all your loving energy and support for the Tulalip community, we raise our hands to you,” said Tulalip Foundation board member Rochelle Lubbers at this year’s salmon bake. “We’re able to celebrate and share our living culture throughout all of our business days. We are not a people of the past. We are here, we are present, and we are thriving.”

The 2023 Salmon Bake Fundraiser happened on the evening of August 19, and over a hundred of people were in attendance and dressed to the nines. The event was held outdoors, behind the cultural center’s classrooms, where tables with formal settings and a stage were set. About halfway between the stage and the last line of dinner tables, three tribal members were busy behind a smoke screen of traditional deliciousness as the smell of cooking salmon emanated from a rectangle fire pit. As always, the salmon was prepared in real time for all to see by Lance and Tammy Taylor and their grandson Jared, who demonstrated not only the art of a traditional salmon bake, but also the act of passing down ancestral teachings to the next generation. 

Showcased in the middle classroom of the museum, were rows of artwork donated by over 20 Tulalip artists. Next to each donation was a sheet of paper which detailed information about the art pieces and their creators. At the bottom of each paper were several blank lines where the attendees could place their bids. Included in the vast array of traditional artwork were weavings, paintings, carvings, beadwork, paddles, ribbon skirts, a hand drum, and a flute.

Once the silent auction placed a last call for bids, the guests took their seats at their respective tables. The event began with an opening prayer and the presentation of colors by the Tulalip Honor Guard. Attendees were entranced when Flutist Paul Nyenhuis played a welcome song to kick off the entertainment for the evening. While the sponsors and silent auction bidders enjoyed their fresh king salmon dinners, the youth of the Red Eagle Soaring collective performed a read-through of a play written by one of their young and talented members. It was an emotional and relatable story of aging told from both the youth and elder standpoints of the same few characters. 

To close out the salmon bake, Mytyl thanked all of the sponsors. And with the help of her teenage daughters, who were babies when the museum first opened, she blanketed each sponsor in attendance. The blankets featured orcas pulling cedar canoes through the Salish Sea and were designed by Tulalip artist James Madison for the summertime tribal canoe journey. 

“Thank you for supporting the Hibulb Cultural Center,” Mytyl expressed. “We always have an ask to keep funding our programs, curriculum, efforts, workshops, events, and our new exhibit that will open at the end of October. Our goal for the exhibit, just like it is throughout our museum and in everything that we do, is to make culture accessible to our community.”

Executive Director of the Tulalip Foundation, Nicole Sieminski, officially announced that a grand total of $51,000 was raised at this year’s silent auction and salmon bake. That is double the amount raised at the inaugural event, which speaks volumes to how the cultural center has grown over the years and its significance to the community. 

The following statement was included in this year’s program, “The Tulalip Foundation is proud to host this event for the benefit of the Hibulb Cultural Center as it continues to revive, restore, protect, interpret, collect, and enhance the history, traditional cultural values, and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes.”

The Hibulb Cultural Center is currently gearing up to launch a new exhibit that focuses on the traditional languages of the Coast Salish people. The exhibit is slated to open on October 28, so be sure to follow their Facebook page for any updates, as well as details for upcoming events. 

She Got Game: Empowering Native youth to Rise Above

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

A Native American hoops legend, Rise Above founder Jaci McCormack (Nez Perce) has lived a fascinating life. So much so that a feature-length film is currently underway that will bring her story of triumph over adversity to the big screen. Executive producers include NBA Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Lenny Wilkens, Hollywood icon Danny Glover, and civil rights activist Gus Newport. 

While some may recognize her from her previous work as a victims services coordinator in Tulalip’s Prosecutor’s Office, most know her from her bucket-getting prowess on the hardwood. Whether it was taking down championships in the always competitive Native tournament circuit, or being named an Idaho State player of the year, or her 2005 game-winning jump shot that propelled Illinois State University to a Missouri Valley Conference championship and resulting NCAA tournament appearance. 

Rise Above founder Jaci McCormack.

“My story demonstrates that while it isn’t easy to break barriers, it is possible. Representation matters when it comes to Native youth because my story is their story,” Jaci said in an interview with Deadline. “I feel extremely grateful to have found filmmakers and producers that I can trust to tell this story. [They] understand the importance of Indigenous representation in film, and wholeheartedly believe in the social movement this project will support.”

Best known for her role as an executive story editor on the award-winning tv series Reservation Dogs, writer Erica Tremblay (Seneca Nation) has teamed up with Jaci to tell her real-life story of overcoming and rising above the odds in movie form. 

“Jaci’s story is an incredible example of Native empowerment, and I was drawn to her personal journey,” said Erica in the same Deadline interview. “There is a real lack of Indigenous representation in film and television and Jaci’s story is exactly what is needed. We need to see members of our communities achieve greatness.”

While the film is currently in development, Jaci continues to instill in the next generation of Native youth the many benefits of both striving for and embracing greatness through her nonprofit, aptly named Rise Above. Through this authentically Native-led organization, young Native boys and girls are empowered to lead healthy lives despite the challenges. 

Rise Above is capable of delivering education, prevention skills, and mentorship through culturally sensitive programs tailored to their needs. It’s also capable of delivering memory-making moments through basketball clinics that have become legendary for having clinic coaches and fitness experts who themselves are Native Americans that the kids can point to as shining examples of their dreams manifest.

Such was the case on Saturday, August 19, when an estimated 200 youth from across the Pacific Northwest journeyed to Rise Above’s sports fest 2023 hosted at Seattle University’s Redhawk Center. The list of clinic coaches included Freddy Brown III (Makah), who played collegiate basketball for the University of Montana, and Analyss Benally (Navajo), who played collegiately at San Jose State University and professionally in Europe. 

Among the basketball camp participants were several young Tulalip ladies with hoop dreams, such as Charlie Contraro, Shawna Cortez, and twin sisters Cali and Chloe Iukes. Together they represented a Tulalip wave amongst a sea of aspiring ballers intent on sharpening their handles, perfecting their jump shot, and improving their defensive skills to become two-way players effective on both ends of the court.

“Basketball means everything to me,” said Shawna. “I love it so much. Making new friends is one of my favorite parts, and so is having fun during training drills. For me, I’m really small, so I can steal the ball easier when players are dribbling around me; that makes me a good defender. Some players like making passes, others like scoring, I like being a defender because I’m really good at it.”

“My siblings love sports so much. We go to the Marysville YMCA every day, whether to practice to get better or just for the fun of shooting hoops,” added Chloe and Cali’s big sister, Faith. “I hope in time they’ll understand how meaningful this Rise Above camp was, especially with how much work went on behind the scenes from Jaci and her team to make this all possible. But as far as basketball goes, I think my sisters can accomplish anything they set their minds to, as long they continue to put the work in and stay focused on their goals.”

Traditionally seen as a male-dominated sport, basketball is undergoing a transformation as more and more woman-led sports camps rise to prominence. With current and former women collegiate athletes or actual pros at the helm, camps like Rise Above sports fest are rewriting the narrative and proving that the court knows no gender bounds. Native American girls who once felt sidelined are reclaiming their voices and their game, thanks to the guidance of empowered women like Jaci McCormack who walked the same path.

The impact of these camps extends far beyond the bold lines containing 94 ft. by 50 ft. basketball courts. They are nurturing the growth of a new generation of confident young women who carry the lessons they learn into every aspect of life. The skills taught, from teamwork and communication to resilience and time management, equip these girls to thrive both in sports and in their future endeavors.

“This is my second time participating in a Rise Above basketball clinic, and I absolutely love how they operate, especially being so intentional about including us Native youth,” shared JoAnne Sayers (Nez Perce, Tlingit). “It’s so much more than just basketball. They teach us about the power of community, teamwork, and making connections that we can take from here to hopefully add to our support systems when times get tough.

“Living in Seattle, I’m far away from my home reservation, and so organizations like [Rise Above] do a lot for us urban Native kids to bring us together and establish, like, our own tribe through basketball and other sports,” she continued. “Basketball gives us an outlet to maintain good mental health. If you had a bad day, you can find a basketball hoop almost anywhere to go shoot some hoops at and help yourself feel better. And if you had a good day, there’s nothing better than making some buckets and working on your handles. We don’t need alcohol and drugs to relieve stress or anxiety when we’re capable of cleansing our bodies of those things through workouts on the court or in the gym.”

Organizations like Rise Above, and social leaders for change like Jaci, are intent on shattering stereotypes and paving the way for future generations. When young girls witness women excelling as players or leaders, it challenges the long-standing notion that basketball is a man’s world. For example, the weekend’s sports fest was not only simply about teaching basketball skills, but about presenting powerful role models who inspire girls to dream bigger and aim higher.

“For us, its all about the kids. When we can expose our kids to more opportunities, and get them in the same room with folks like a Lenny Wilkens, a George Karl, or a Vin Baker who can share their stories and let the kids know it’s possible to rise above childhood challenges and accomplish their dreams, that’s when amazing things truly happen,” said the Rise Above icon Jaci. “You never know what part of a speech, or a moment of candid care during a sports camp, or witnessing a peer get so excited after learning something new might plant a seed and grow into a lifelong lesson that helps someone down the road to rise above. At the end of the day, I just think the more stories of struggles overcome and challenges conquered heard by our kids by those they look up to strengthen our kids to become more successful in their own lives.

“I feel so blessed to be in the position to show our kids, especially the young girls, that I used to be just like them. I’m just an ordinary rez kid with extraordinary dreams who didn’t give up when times got tough,” added Jaci. “Now, to have lived by hoop dreams and to be able to give back to our communities and see these young girls come to our camps and thrive, it’s incredibly touching. My dream is for them to see what I’m doing for them through support for our people and passion for the game, and that they not only rise above to accomplish their dreams, but they also give back to the generation that follows them. That’s how we break the cycles and rewrite the negative narratives of our people, by supporting each other with a shared vision.”

Rise Above will continue illuminating a new horizon for youth on reservations or within urban communities, like Seattle, who dare to dream of sports greatness. Tulalip lady hoopers like Charlie and Shawna, or sisters Chloe and Cali, are not just learning how to shoot hoops; they are learning how to shoot for the stars. With each dribble, pass, and made basket, these girls are discovering their strength, their voice, and their power to shape the game and their world, on their own terms.

Building up the local recovery community: Family Wellness Court introduces Parent’s Talking Circle

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

On a scorching summer afternoon, four Tribal mothers found comfort inside the courtroom of the Tulalip Justice Center. In a relaxing environment, much different than the typical court setting, the ladies decompressed in the comfort of air conditioning as they joined together at the center of the courtroom and circled up along with the Tulalip Family Wellness Court team. 

Established in 2020, the Family Wellness Court has proven to be an effective method in assisting their clients attain and maintain their sobriety. The program accelerates the reunification process between parents and Tulalip children by way of a detailed plan that incorporates their traditional way of life and culture. 

This alternative path to the road of recovery has been a major success within the Tulalip community and has reunited numerous families over the past three years. The Family Wellness Court design was based on the success of Tulalip’s Healing to Wellness Court. However, the courthouse made many modifications when developing the Family Wellness Court model. 

Although the Family Wellness Court’s game plan mirrors the Healing to Wellness Court model in many aspects, the court wants to stress that the two programs are completely separate from one another. Family Wellness is volunteer-based and works with individuals on their own accord, through either a referral or self-referrals, and is not mandated by the courts. Whereas the Healing to Wellness Court works on criminal cases, where their clients could potentially face jail time if they fall out of compliance. And since the Family Wellness Court is voluntary and does not work on criminal cases, there is no punitive element to the program and the clients do not face jail time if they fall off track.  

Overall, the program is built to support, encourage, and assist tribal parents and/or parents of tribal members as they work toward achieving a clean and healthy lifestyle. By following a personalized plan, put together by the individual and the Family Wellness Court team, the parents are actively fighting to regain visitation and custody rights of their kids and bring a close to their open beda?chelh cases. 

The Family Wellness Court utilizes the wrap-around approach and brings together several different tribal departments to ensure each of their clients has access to the necessary resources throughout their duration in the program. The team approach plays a large role in the Family Wellness Court and in each participant’s recovery journey. 

The team consists of multiple professionals including tribal courthouse judges, officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody on the same page and meeting on a regular basis, the client is apt to stay in-compliance and make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety when they know exactly what their team expects from them.

The Tulalip Tribal Court believes that this collaboration between multiple departments, all with the same intent of helping people attain sobriety, is the key to success with Family Wellness Court clients. This helps them establish relationships with the judges and task force members and includes them in the entire process from the moment they accept help from the Family Wellness Court to the moment they are reunified with their children. 

Many people are seeing great results with the Family Wellness Court model thanks to required ‘give back hours’. Not only does this afford tribal parents the opportunity to get reacclimated into the community, but also provides them with the chance to return to their ancestral teachings and traditional way of life through cultural engagement at local tribal events and ceremonies. Over the summer, the Family Wellness Court took this notion a step further by implementing the Parent Talking Circle into the program.

“We really wanted to incorporate the culture, especially in the Talking Circle,” explained Family Wellness Court Coordinator, Erika Moore. “We have a lot of parents who are non-tribal, and this is a good way to get our tribal members teaching the non-tribal members, so they in turn can teach their children more about their culture. It gives [tribal members] more confidence in getting back into their culture. And when we see them get back into their culture, they grow exponentially.”

Said Chemical Dependency Professional Arla Ditz, “The Talking Circle is more second nature to tribal members because it’s along the lines of the cultural teachings they were raised with. And it’s not just the culture, it’s that spirituality in general. One of the key things in successful recovery is the spiritual piece, no matter what you believe in or where you come from, it’s a really important part of recovery. And so, when we come into our circle, that really helps support that, and it brings the netting together to be more supportive for the people participating in the program. I think the Talking Circle helps people figure out their goals and achieve them much quicker, and maybe even better.”

Held at the beginning of each month, the Parent Talking Circle allows the clients to connect with each other and share their story, struggles, successes, and goals with the group. In this traditional and no pressure setting, the parents are more open to share and relate to one another’s journey, as well as express any hardships they might be encountering. 

During the most recent Parent Talking Circle, the tears were rolling as the participants recounted their lifestyle prior to enrolling in the Family Wellness Court. To see how far each of them has come since the height of their addiction is heartwarming and inspiring. And hearing the moms talk about their daily interactions with their children was quite moving, considering all the adversities they had to overcome to share time and space with their kids once again. 

“The Talking Circle has helped me stay accountable and encouraged me to keep going,” shared Tribal member Corrina Gobin. “It’s much more than just a circle. Today, I learned about the four sacred medicines, and it gave me the opportunity to learn something new with the whole group. Each person in the circle, you end up having a close and personal relationship with. We’re all available to help each other, whether it be rides to your kids, or back and forth to treatment, UAs, whatever it may be, they play a significant role in getting us through all the things we need to get through in order to get our kids back. They give me recognition when I’m doing things that are good, and they also call me out for not doing things that are good. I actually look forward to coming to court now because they give me that motivation.”

Tribal member Kerri Deen added, “I feel like it’s been helping me spiritually. Like the discussion today, it was about how to properly use sage and sweetgrass. The Talking Circle helps when we’re at a standstill and we’re struggling to meet our goals. No matter the situation, the team helps us get through those obstacles to get our lives back. It’s amazing and I love it because you don’t feel attacked. It’s more focused on helping each other get everything done so we can get our kids back.”

Though still in its infancy, the Parent’s Talking Circle shows nothing but promise in helping build up the local recovery community and reunify tribal children with their parents in a timely and responsible manner.

If you or a loved one are ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification with your child, please contact the Family Wellness Court at (360) 716-4771.

Strong winds, and even stronger competition

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

The day was mighty gusty as canoe pullers from all over the Pacific Northwest and Canada battled waves in Tulalip Bay on August 18 during Tulalip’s Annual Canoe Races. The two-day event pitted the young and old in different canoe races. Although the waters were choppy, each competitor gave forth an outstanding performance. 

Starting at 9:30 am, Saturday’s competition was fierce. Not only were the competitors battling the strong winds and waves, but also each other to take home a trophy and some prize money. 

From single-person canoe races to 11-person teams, events for all levels of racers, male or female, gave many a chance at competing. There were races for kids nine and under to races for adults 19 and older, including a special race Saturday evening between co-ed partners of two. This consisted of one male and female partner who had to run with a paddle for about half a mile, then jump into their canoes and paddle for about a two-mile journey. 

In the face of wind gusts reaching up to 15 mph, creating turbulent waters, dedicated pullers demonstrated unwavering determination, securing victories by multiple boat lengths. A few pullers would find that the seas were not playing around as some rolled over due to being off balance when the wind and the waves hit their canoe. 

“You need to do a few things to prepare yourself to be out there on that rough water,” said Buddy Gray, from Cowichan, racing with Lummi. “You’re going to be tired; you’re going to get fatigued. You can’t quit. You paddle out, so you have to paddle back. Having that mental and physical strength is very important, as is healthy eating and keeping yourself hydrated so you don’t cramp up out there.” 

Buddy continued, “I’ve always had a different mindset on just paddling to win. I have kids now and have that mindset of being there, showing them a good way, and setting a better example for the next generation, as they are always watching. The more you train, the more you race, the better you get.”

One of the teens who won a few different events in the 16 and under category, Elias Mamac of Lummi, said, “Eat lots of French toast, train, and get some rest to be able to race your best.” When asked why he loves canoe races, Elias said, “Makes me feel good.” 

Although the waters were rough and the air was a little smoky, canoe pullers who braved the seas for the chance of victory took home the thrill of competition and great memories. 

Celebrating Tulalip’s LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It was blue skies and good vibes on the afternoon of August 13, as dozens of Tulalip citizens joined together to celebrate the local LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community. 

While DJ Monie performed a set of all the feel-good summertime anthems, the people couldn’t help but groove to the beat. As they sang along and hit their best moves, infectious smiles and contagious energy spread, lifting everybody’s spirit at the annual Pride Everyday BBQ. 

The vibrant colors of the rainbow flag and the transgender flag were the official colors of the event, and they could be seen everywhere – from face paintings to tie-dye shirts, as well as on balloons, cupcakes and cookies. The beautiful gathering took place at the area between the skate park and baseball diamond of the teen center campus. The dance floor was under the shade of the concession stand’s canopy, where several generation-based dance-offs transpired throughout the three-hour event. 

In addition to the epic dance battles, a number of fun competitions were held, including two runway showdowns for the titles of best ribbon skirt and best ribbon shirt. And a crowd favorite, the cutest baby contest, in which all participants crawled away with a blue ribbon pinned to their onesies.

Randy Vendiola served as the MC of the event and ensured everything ran smoothly and according to schedule. Tapping into the teachings he picked up as an MC on the powwow trail, Randy had the people engaged and hyped from start to finish. Sage Vendiola was named Grand Marshal and exhibited some impressive hosting skills while assisting Randy throughout the day. 

When asked about the significance of holding an annual Pride event at Tulalip, Sage shared, “I think it’s really important to showcase that we’re individuals as well. We have feelings and should be treated like everyone else. Two Spirit individuals make up such a small percentage of the population, and yet we face tons of discrimination. With all the transphobic laws being passed, and the fearfulness in general, we really have to stay strong and stay together. Anybody who feels worthless, you’re not. I understand and know exactly what you’re going through.”

Throughout time, many tribal nations have held space for their Two Spirit membership, and after years of trauma and forced assimilation, those individuals have felt left out of their respective communities thanks to the structure and mindset of our modern and colonized world. 

The Pride Everyday celebrations help establish a foundation for the Tulalip Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ community members, and lets those individuals know that it’s more than okay to be who they truly are and to freely express themselves however they choose. Pride focused events, on reservations throughout the country, help reclaim the narrative, the true lifeways of our ancestors, and the space our Two Spirit loved ones rightfully deserve in our tribal societies.

Music therapist and Tulalip community member Vee Gilman stated, “It’s so good to see the different generations of people coming here together in support of queer and Two Spirit people. I’m white, I’m a settler, so I have a different perspective and I’ve had my own experiences on what it’s like being queer in the world in that way. But I do think that there’s a specific intersection, where sometimes queer and Two Spirit people are viewed as less authentic or are not brought into certain experiences and roles because colonization enforced gender, binary, nuclear family and all of these things. Having these events are so important because our communities are really bound up together. Deliberation for any of us must include all of us. When we have space to celebrate Two Spirit people, it builds up all of our queer community and all of our Native communities together.”

The Pride Everyday BBQ is sponsored by the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program and was originally slated to begin in 2020, but to many people’s disappointment, the event was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Although starting two years later than originally intended, the 2022 inaugural Pride Everyday BBQ was a smash, and there was high demand for its return in 2023. 

“This event is important because we want to promote, highlight, and put a spotlight on the LGBTQ+/Two Spirit community and all of the inclusivity that the Tulalip Tribes embodies,” said Problem Gambling Coordinator, Sarah Sense Wilson. “We wanted this also to be a multi-generational family friendly event that really honors and celebrates the area Two Spirit community members who contribute to the broader community. Today is all about celebrating, having fun, coming together, enjoying food, enjoying treats, and lifting each other up.”

A handful of local LGBTQ+ members and allies were honored for their advocacy work at Tulalip and in Native societies throughout the region. Amongst the honorees were Tulalip artist Edmond Anderson who designed the logo for the Pride Everyday flyers and banners, Tulalip and Quileute Artist Marysa Joy Sylvester who created the ‘Safe Space’ signs seen throughout the reservation, Cree member and Tulalip community member Phoenix Two Spirit who helped organize the BBQ, as well as activist and Indigenous DJ, Monie Ordonia.

After accepting her award, DJ Monie took a moment to share, “This is our second year of the Pride Everyday BBQ, and this event is important because it allows our children to be who they are – not being afraid to dance because they love it, not being afraid to love who they love regardless of sexual orientation. Thank you all for being here today and making this another successful Tulalip Pride Everyday celebration.”

Phoenix added, “It’s a blessing to see the allies of the community coming together to support the LQBTQ+ and the Two Spirits on the rez, it’s very heartwarming. It’s such a relief, especially for the young people that are coming out to the community. And seeing them come out, dancing and enjoying a good time here, I think that’s the best part, seeing them comfortable in their own skin.”

The event’s aim is to unite, uplift, show support, recognize, and honor those within our tribal community who identify as Two Spirit, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, or asexual. And for two straight years, the Pride Everyday BBQ has been successful on achieving each of the aforementioned goals in a good way. 

Said Sarah, “My hope for the community is that we continue to shine a light on all of the beautiful people contributing to making this community so much more enriched, colorful, and vibrant. We really do need to take the time to lift them up and recognize them.”

Tulalip storms into STEM Kids Day

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After the Seattle Storm announced its second-ever ‘Storm into STEM Kids Day’ presented by the Pacific Science Center and Department of Health, leadership within Tulalip Education’s division made the decision to add the WNBA game to its lengthy list of summer activities.

Many middle school and high school-aged children are dependent upon the local Youth Center to provide summertime entertainment and memory-making excursions. With the excitement around venturing to Climate Pledge Arena to watch the pros get buckets, an estimated 50 local youth were transported from the reservation to Seattle Center on Tuesday, August 8. 

“The kids were so excited for this game! We had 65 tickets total and the ones who came today acted quickly to be a part of the 50 or so kids we brought down,” said activities specialist Cierra Fryberg. “We overheard several of the kids on the shuttle mentioning this was their first time ever attending a Seattle Storm game. For us, it doesn’t get much better than helping them make these memories among friends and family.”

Total game attendance was announced to be a tad over 10,000 for the 12:10 pm tip-off between the Seattle Storm (7-10) and Connecticut Sun (20-7). Over the game’s duration, kids and families were able to engage in multiple activities aimed to boost child interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics available throughout the concourse inside Climate Pledge Arena.

“We love the atmosphere that Kids Day brings to Storm games, and that our Storm platform can provide a fun and educational experience for youth during a Seattle Storm game in the summer,” said Alisha Valavanis, Storm President and CEO. “We are grateful to our partners at the Department of Health and Pacific Science Center for helping create a memorable and meaningful day for these kids.”

Among the many activities planned, highlights from Pacific Science Center included a full-sized model human skeleton that participants could build and take apart, earthquake shake tables to build and test different structures on, and a hand battery, in which kids used their hands to complete a battery circuit.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a leadership team who thinks of our kids and coordinates activities and field trips, like this one, during the summer when our kids are out of school. As adults, we understand that not all kids have opportunities like this, but being Tulalip affords us a lot of benefits, especially as it comes to our children,” said youth enrichment manager Sarah Murphy.

Following the Storm versus Sun conclusion, the Tulalip group was welcomed onto the court for a group picture. Several of the kids took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to imagine themselves as professional basketballers and shoot imaginary buzzer-beaters at the Storm nets. Of course, their imaginary shots hit nothing but nylon…swish.

Drive-in Delight: A night of fun and entertainment for a good cause

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News

Friends and families gathered on Saturday, August 12, for the 14th annual raise of awareness for Cystic fibrosis (CF). Organized by Kelsie and Dan Pablo of the Tulalip Tribes for their son Keldon, the event raises funds and creates awareness for people suffering from Cystic fibrosis.

The free event, located at the Boom City lot behind the Tulalip Casino, was filled with community members and their families. Hundreds of people showed up to watch The Super Mario Bros on the big screen. With various food trucks and a slew of prizes that could be won in the raffle, the event raised $23,945 while providing enjoyment for all attendees.

 “People love the drive-in; it gives them a feeling of the old Thunderbird drive-in that used to be on the rez,” Kelsie said. “This event is open to the community and outside the community to bring people in to enjoy a movie, food trucks, and a raffle while also learning what CF is and its effects on their families.”

 “The Cystic fibrosis foundation is an organization that raises funds to find a cure and also for different medications for adults and the youth,” Kelsie said. “The importance of this event is to raise awareness for Cystic fibrosis. This has become more of a community event than one geared toward just CF families.” 

Kelsie said, “This event is extremely important to Dan and I, also our family. Our 16-year-old son has CF, and this is our way of doing something that can bring more of a positive light to having a lifelong disease. While also trying to do something to create more of an impact on finding new medications or even a cure, for not only our child but others living with the disease so that they can live a normal life.”

For more information on Cystic fibrosis or to donate, visit

Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Annual Golf Tournament

By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News 

With the sun beaming down on a glorious summer day, golfers from around the Pacific Northwest gathered on Thursday, July 28, at Battlecreek Golf Course to participate in Tulalip’s annual golf tournament. The event, organized by Tulalip’s Boys and Girls Club, promised a day of spirited competition and camaraderie on the green. With over $300,000 raised before the tournament even kicked off, the day would surely be a success for the kids. 

Over 20 years ago, the late Francis Sheldon worked with the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club to help create the tournament to raise funds for the children. The event helps the Boys and Girls Club operate and purchase items for events and day-to-day activities. This year’s funds will help with various activities and to update the kitchen.  

“This event brings everyone together for a good cause, to raise money for the boys and girls club,” said Mel Sheldon Tulalip, Board Director. “These funds will turn into more activities for our older kids and provide breakfast for the young ones. Coming together like this and building friendships and relationships that benefit the kids is wonderful.”  

The 4-person scramble kicked off at noon with a shotgun start. Each team heads out to one of the holes, and every group starts simultaneously. Players play the best ball from the best spot after each turn. At the end of each hole the team scores as a single unit. 

When asked how the course was, Mel said, “The course was in good condition considering we didn’t have enough rain, but the staff did a good job keeping the course as green as possible. Although the pin location did challenge us a little bit!” 

Along with food and drinks, fun raffle prizes were won, including an outdoor pizza cooker, air fryer, Yeti cooler, trips, and much more. Wrapping up the tournament, a dinner was held where it was announced the 7 Cedars team had won the match. 

After a great day of long drives, chipping on the green, and occasionally yelling four to warn the group in front of you, the big winners were the children. With raising $346,286 the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club will continue to provide exceptional food and great care for the kids. 

For more information about the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, visit