The future of Tulalip literacy is in good hands

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over the last five weeks, a group of Tulalip youth with a shared interest for writing met at Hibulb Cultural Center to embrace their creative sides, while improving their intellectual skills for the upcoming school year. Led by local author and Cascade High School teacher Steve Bertrand, the Youth Writer’s Workshop came together Monday mornings for two-hour sessions. 

“Our workshop was open to students between 5th and 12th grade. Every week focused on a different form of creative writing, from short stories to letters to songs and poetry,” explained Steve. He brought a wealth of experience to the workshop with over 40-years of teaching experience and more than 35 books published.

“From brainstorming and idea development to rough drafts and the editing process to final publication and sharing with the group, I’ve been really impressed with the kids and how much material they developed in such a short amount of time,” he continued. “Throughout my career I’ve taught both middle schoolers and high schoolers, and it’s always remarkable to witness the creativity and openness of younger people. The students I was fortunate to teach here were eager to learn and embraced all the forms of writing.” 

Every day kids experience events that are new to them. In doing so, they learn new words that expand their vocabulary and have new ideas that help them develop a creative and curious mind to understand the world around them. By encouraging children to write from a young age, they can develop critical emotional skills that are beneficial at any age. Channeling emotions, being able to manage a difficult situation, and understanding how others feel are just some of the skills invoked through creative writing.

A group of middle schoolers giving up precious hours of their summer break to develop their writing skills seems farfetched, that is until you talk to the students in question. Then it becomes clear you’re dealing with the kind of academic achievers who don’t require encouragement to explore their imaginations, nor are they bashful about conveying their personal experiences and emotions through written word.

“I enjoyed learning new ways to write,” said soon-to-be 6th grader Allyea Hernandez. “Learning how to properly write a poem was my favorite part of the class. Poetry isn’t something I’m really interested in, but it was still fun learning how there are so many ways to create a poem. Did you know they don’t have to rhyme? They can be about mood and emotion. I wrote a poem about happiness that my mom really liked.”

“It’s been fun. There were way more types of writing than I thought, but Steve is a really good teacher and made learning about the different writing forms enjoyable,” added future 7th grader Kileea Pablo. She mentioned writing with a focus on imagery, rhyme, metaphor and personification would help her in English and Literature classes she’ll be taking next month. “I know I’ll be doing a lot of writing in 7th grade and wanted to get a head start practicing and learning new writing skills by coming here. It was worth it. I’m more confident expressing emotion in my writing now.”

In a world where text speak and emojis are so common, creative writing helps to develop writing skills that are being forgotten about. If a youth cannot communicate effectively through written word, the problem may only become worse as they grow older. Encouraging creative writing can help a young person, better yet anyone of any age, to communicate effectively.

Middle schooler Allyea put it best when she proclaimed, “Writing is something you need to know how to do well, otherwise you can’t really get far.” 

Concluding their fifth and final writer’s workshop, the wordsmiths in training proudly displayed their certificates of completion in front of the latest Hibulb exhibit ‘The Power of Words: A History of Tulalip Literacy.” If these Tulalip writers have anything to say about it, the future of Tulalip literacy is in pretty good hands, too.


Friendship is the best.

Everyone knows that friends last.

That’s why I stick with mine.

– Amaya Hernandez 


Happiness is as yellow as a lemon on a hot summer day. 

Sounds like a bumblebee buzzing or a bird chirping.

Tastes like sweet vanilla ice cream. 

Smells like your mothers homemade cookies out of the oven. 

Looks like a cozy bed after a long day. 

It makes you feel joyous. 

– Allyea Hernandez

Honoring Officer Charlie Cortez

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It has been nine months since the tragic accident occurred on local waters, claiming the life of a young, Tulalip tribal member. At the age of 29, Charlie Cortez was pronounced lost at sea, paying the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty as a Tulalip Fish and Wildlife Officer. 

On the afternoon of August 17, Charlie’s family and friends, as well as both the tribal and law enforcement communities, gathered at the Angels of the Winds Arena in Everett for the fallen hero’s memorial service. 

“Charlie was a kind man who always greeted you with a smile,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “He was so sweet. When I think about Charlie as a child, I think about all the memories that the family has of him growing up, all of his adventures. I think about how he grew up to be such an honorable young man. He made his family, his ancestors, and his community very proud. Charlie was not only a motocross rider, that’s where he spent a lot of his youth, they were always on the road having a blast with the family, but he was an avid hunter and fisherman. He was also an awesome father, son, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend.” 

With each day that passed since that stormy night on November 17, when Charlie’s vessel capsized, the family remained optimistic and hopeful that the beloved officer would be found and brought home. When the heartbreaking news first broke, volunteers from near and far dedicated their time, scouring the sea and shoreline in search of Charlie. 

Tulalip Vice-Chairman, Glen Gobin shared, “Nobody thought we’d be at this point when we got that call, that we had a boat tip over and there were people in the water. When the call went out, many people answered. Many of our local sister tribes, local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, Navy, Coast Guard, and our tribal fisherman. And they came out in weather conditions that they normally would’ve not went out for. When the call came out, they freely went out in the storm to search. In hopes of a different conclusion, many stayed out there 24-36 hours straight searching, only to go home to take a nap and continue on. For weeks that took place. It was really hard this past nine months, for the family, for the community. For the family, it felt like unfinished work we need to conclude here, but can’t yet.”

Charlie’s family was embraced by the law enforcement community over the recent months. His name eternalized on memorial walls in Spokane, Olympia and Washington D.C., and also displayed upon medals and plaques, honoring the man who died while defending tribal treaty rights. Although the family is very appreciative of those accolades and acts-of-recognition, they still remain deprived of closure as his remains have yet-to-be recovered.

“It means a great deal to our family that we’re finally able to have a service to honor our Charlie,” tearfully expressed Charlie’s cousin, Casey Woods. “We were never expecting this type of tragedy to happen, especially to him. Charlie, you give me strength. I was so hopeful in the beginning. I miss you, Charlie. I tried to make the most meaning of your absence, a constant battle between denial and acceptance. I just couldn’t believe someone as good as you could be taken from us. I know your spirit is alive and well in all our hearts. Charlie, you are truly one of a kind and that is the hardest part, to go on without you.”

The beautiful and moving ceremony opened with a performance of the National Anthem by Tulalip tribal member Cerissa Kitchens. An acoustic guitar cover of Go Rest High on the Mountain was performed by Tribal member Andrew Gobin. Lieutenant Governor Danny Heck spoke to the family, offering encouraging words while he also presented them with the Washington State flag. The family also received the Tulalip Tribes flag from the Chairwoman and the U.S. flag from Tulalip Chief of Police, Chris Sutter. 

“Charlie, as a tribal member, grew up learning and hearing the stories of tribal elders and leaders who fought the battles to uphold and preserve tribal sovereignty and treaty rights,” stated Chief Sutter. “As a fish and wildlife officer, he took his duty seriously and understood the higher significance of his work, which was to protect the sovereignty and treaty rights and preserve the way of life for tribal hunters, fisherman, gatherers and future generations of tribal members. Charlie always had a smile as you can see in his photos. Charlie was kind. He was well-liked by all. He was always was willing to help and give assistance.”

He continued, “To Charlie’s two children Dominic and Peyton, his parents Alan and Paula, brother Moochie, grandmother Sandra and all the aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and loved ones, on behalf of the men and women of the Tulalip Tribal Police Department, no words can adequately express our sorrow and grief. We offer our heartfelt condolences and send our support, love and prayers that you may receive God’s peace and comfort in this time of loss and remembrance.”

In addition to the heartfelt words shared by cousin Casey, Chief Sutter, Teri and Glen, TPD Commander Robert Myers and TPD Sergeant Chris Gobin both fondly recalled their time spent with Charlie as members of the Tulalip law enforcement agency. Father Pat Twohy provided the service with an opening prayer, cedar blessing and the benediction. A slideshow celebrating Officer’s Cortez’s life, filled with pictures from his youth and selfies with his children, had the entire arena in tears. Margie Santibanez read the eulogy on behalf of the family and Tulalip drummers and singers provided medicine by way of traditional songs. The Seattle Police Pipes and Drums ensemble performed Amazing Grace on bagpipes, which was followed by a 21-gun salute. 

The stage was decorated with all the things that Charlie loved, from hunting to motocross to protecting and serving his community, Charlie’s certificates, uniforms, medals, accolades, trophies, and family portraits were on display, celebrating his legacy. Because he has yet to return home, a traditional bentwood box was donated and then customized in Charlie’s honor. The box was filled with personal items by his loved ones, and utilized as a way for the family to say their good-byes.

“As you all know, we never did recover Charlie,” said Glen. “In the box, the family has placed mementos, things of importance to them, things that were important to Charlie, in a way to continue to pass down his memories. The family, at various times if they want to, can open the box and they can go through and talk about the items in there with Charlie’s children, Charlie’s grandchildren when they come, other family members. I encourage each and every one of us to not be afraid to talk about Charlie. Don’t hold back. Share the memories, share the stories, share the feelings. Charlie’s life was not about the end, it was everything up to it. That’s what we carry within us, that’s what gives us strength to continue on and that’s what keeps his memories alive.”

The family indicated that although his memorial service took place, the search for Charlie will continue. After the service, Charlie’s family turned to the crowd outside of the Angels of the Winds Arena and raised their hands to everyone in attendance, thanking them in traditional Tulalip fashion for their love and support during their time of need. 

Thank you for keeping Charlie’s family and the Tulalip Police Department in your prayers. As always, please send any potential evidence, information or your own informal searches to us by texting 360-926-5059, or emailing, or leaving a voicemail at (909) 294-6356.

Monitoring Water Quality at Mission Beach

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

It has been a hot summer at Tulalip this year, with record-breaking heat during the last week of June reaching over 100-degrees, and multiple 80-degree days so far, people are getting out and having fun in the sun, taking advantage of weather that comes very seldom to the Pacific Northwest.

There are many ways Western Washingtonians can enjoy the clear skies and warm weather and some of those summertime activities include hiking and exploring nature, taking a scenic cruise with the windows down and good tunes blasting, visiting a zoo or a waterpark, catching a Mariners game, floating the river, or enjoying a cookout with your closest friends and family members. 

Tulalip tribal members have additional options to connect with their culture, traditions and people during the summer months such as huckleberry picking, cedar-harvesting, fishing, canoe-pulling, participating in the Salmon Ceremony and Spee-Bi-Dah festivities, and of course you can’t forget, spending the day at Mission Beach. Whether swimming, exercising, relaxing, or simply creating good times with good friends, Mission Beach is a staple destination for the local community, especially when blessed with gorgeous weather.

To ensure the safety of the public, Tulalip Natural Resources has monitored the waters at Mission Beach every summer since 2016, with the exception of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The local waters are integral to the Tulalip people whose ancestors traveled upon and procured nourishment from since time immemorial. With each passing generation, memories are made at Mission Beach by Tulalip youth who splash amongst the waters and laugh along the shoreline. By monitoring the bacteria present in the Mission Beach waters, the Natural Resources department is making sure the kids, elders and everyone in-between can safely continue swimming at the beach. 

“We do the Mission Beach sampling every year during the summer,” said Tulalip Natural Resources Storm Water Planner, Valerie Streeter. “We’re catching the times that people are out in the water and we take a sample in the areas where people will swim.”

Samples are taken from three separate spots along the beach when the tide is in and the average bacteria level is calculated and recorded based on those samples. 

Valerie stated, “If we get too much bacteria, people start to get sick. I heard stories of people who contracted a stomach illness, some had diarrhea or they got a skin rash. Sometimes it can be more serious like typhoid fever. If it’s not healthy, it basically means there’s a lot of sewage in the water and that’s what we’re measuring. We use one particular indicator that the EPA said correlates with human sickness, so that’s why we chose that and that’s really why we’re monitoring the water, trying to protect us humans.”

Over the years, Mission Beach has had great water quality, and the bacteria level never once rose over the 104 bacteria threshold limit. Twice in 2016, during the first year of testing, the bacteria levels reached 80 or above. There were three readings in 2017 that showed the bacteria level exceeded 20. But other than that, all the measurements from 2018, 2019 and 2021 have been low and the bacteria level remained under 20. In fact, the highest it has reached this summer is 14. 

The water samples are collected and recorded by volunteers of the WSU Beach Watchers. Every year prior to summer, Valerie and the Beach Watchers hold a training over the course of one day to teach volunteers how to take accurate bacteria level samples. Samples are taken on a weekly-basis for the duration of summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After the volunteers collect the water sample, they deliver it to the Tulalip Water Quality Lab, based at the Tulalip Fish Hatchery, where Harvey Eastman, the Water Quality Program Manager, grows the bacteria to get an accurate reading of how much bacteria is actually present in the three samples. 

With low bacteria readings so far, the water quality at Mission Beach has been great all summer long. Valerie encourages the community to have some safe, healthy fun and to enjoy some of the remaining days of summer down in the waters of Mission Beach. The volunteer WSU Beach Watchers will continue collecting samples through Labor Day, so be sure to give them a friendly wave and ask any questions if you are feeling inquisitive about the local water quality.  

Valerie shared, “If you’re interested, come out to our training next year and learn how to collect water samples and measure it’s temperature and salinity. It’s not that hard and every time you collect a sample, you get to enjoy a beautiful morning at Mission Beach.”

For more information, please contact Valerie at (360) 716-4629.

The Long Run: Catching up with the Tulalip Marathon Man

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Tribal member, Tyler Fryberg is an inspiring young man. Whether participating in the Special Olympics, raising profits for Leah’s Dream Foundation by participating in the Miracle Mile, or simply running about the reservation and crushing his own personal goals, Tyler’s heart is always on the right track and he is constantly making strides to improve each and every day. Tyler uses his passion for running not only as a means to stay in peak-physical form, but to also raise awareness and bring attention to issues that matter to him the most. 

Tyler has been running for the majority of his life, picking up the sport in junior high and continuing all the way to present day, taking time off only to recover from injuries, and then he was right back at it again. Known throughout the community as the Tulalip Marathon Man, Tyler has medaled nearly every time he was invited to compete in the Washington State Special Olympics, and also held the honor of carrying the Torch of Hope for 18 miles in 2012. 

The last time we spoke with Tyler was after he logged his 1,000th mile in 2020 for Leah’s Dream Foundation’s Miracle Mile Challenge. After completing that challenge and helping raise awareness and funds for the local non-profit organization, Tyler kept on running because, as the saying goes, the marathon continues. Last year, the Marathon Man created new social media pages so his fans and supporters can stay up-to-date on his running journey as he continues to collect miles and medals left and right. In order to properly recognize all the hard work and effort that he has put in over the past year, Tulalip News took a moment to catch up with Tyler Fryberg, the Tulalip Marathon Man. 

Last time we spoke, you just completed the Miracle Mile for Leah’s Dream. What have you been up to since then? Have you taken on any new challenges or participated in any new running events?

I just completed my second 1,000 miles ran-in-one-year back in July 2021. During COVID I’ve been able to run a race, and that was a community race in Arlington for St. Patrick’s Day. It was a 5k road-race and I won first place with a time of twenty-three minutes. As of right now, I am training for my very first marathon. For people who don’t know, it is 26.2 miles. The race I will be doing will be virtual due to COVID, but it’s called the virtual New York marathon.  

What fuels your passion for running and what do you love most about it?

What I love most about running is that I just love being outdoors. But, I also use it for mental health also. If I am upset or stressed, I can always go for a run to calm me down. If I set a goal for some event, it makes me keep going. Also knowing that I have people in my life who support me with my running like the Tulalip Tribes, community, and my family and friends. 

What does your running schedule look like – how often do you run a week and do you prefer early morning runs are afternoon runs?

I am running six days a week, and two days of strength training. I like running in the morning the best because I can go outside with no distractions and I feel my best in the morning. 

How many miles have you ran so far this year? How many more do you hope to run before the year ends?

As of right now, I am at 1,111 miles and the goal I hope to get to is as close to 2,000 miles as possible.

How do you track your progress and miles?

I track my miles and runs with my favorite running app called Strava. I also use the 1,000 mile log app to count miles that I have already done. 

Do you have any new gear that you love, and are there any must-have accessories that you need when running?

The gear I have is the AONIJIE hydration vest, a Garmin watch and sunglasses. I make sure to bring the AONIJIE hydration vest and gel packets. Also my cell phone to count miles. 

Do you listen to music while running – and if so what are some of your favorite tunes to run to? 

Yes, I listen to music when I run. I listen to anything from Native American powwow or flute music to hip hop, pop and country. It all depends on my mood for the run.

Your journey is very exciting and inspiring! Do you have any advice for new runners and those who want to start but don’t know where to begin?

For new runners, set a goal because then you will have something to motivate you to run. Also, never set your goals too high or you will not achieve them. 

Why do you believe getting good exercise like running is important?

Getting good exercise will help with people who are diabetic and with a lot of other health problems that Americans face every day. It also gives you the Vitamin D that you need. If you just walk thirty minutes a day, that is still great on your health. With running, there are so many great health benefits as well, like it helps with weight loss and [controlling] blood sugar and so many others. 

What’s next for the Tulalip Marathon Man? Any personal goals you wish to accomplish or any exciting news you would like to share?

Running the virtual New York marathon (26.2 miles) on October 23rd. A goal I have is to run a 10k race (6.2 miles) under 50 mins. 

For the Special Olympics, I took a training class to become a health messenger and athlete leader. And, I just got first in the 2021 Special Olympics virtual community challenge competition in 2020. I also finished third in the North America move challenge, and now on September 13, 2021, I get to represent Washington State in the 2021 North America move challenge as a health messenger.

How can people follow you throughout your running journey?

People can follow me through Facebook – Tyler Fryberg (Tulalip Marathon Man). Also, I have Instagram @TulalipMarathonMan. And, I make YouTube videos, for health and fitness, called Tulalip Marathon Man.

Tulalip Remedy Celebrates 3rd Anniversary

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

August 9th marked year three since the Tulalip Tribes held a ribbon cutting ceremony and opened the doors of one of the very first tribal cannabis retail shops in Native America. Originally drawing as much criticism as excitement, Tulalip Remedy has won over most skeptics over the years, introducing many to an alternative medicine to help with every day ailments and conditions while building a solid following and loyal clientele.

“As a Tribal member, it’s just so awesome to see,” exclaimed Tulalip Remedy Purchasing Manager, Carmen Miller. “I’ve been here since the very beginning and I remember when we first start talking about it years ago. And seeing what it used to be, the perception people used to have on cannabis, it’s completely changed. It’s nice to see people are more accepting and understanding that it’s not just a drug, it’s something that helps people. It’s a medicine and that’s what we’re here for, to help people live happy and healthy lives.” 

For many, marijuana serves as an actual remedy, helping individuals manage diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, epilepsy, cancer, among many other diagnoses. There are endless reports on the benefits of cannabis, but what most researchers are looking into today is if and how the medicinal herb can help recovering addicts escape the grip of opiates for good. 

“In the beginning there were a lot of folks who were super skeptical about if Remedy was going to cause any more issues with any other drugs in our area, but it seems that we’ve seen more people turn away from those other drugs and start using cannabis instead,” said Carmen. “I think Remedy has honestly helped the community. It’s brought in more Tribal (PD) around the area, so it keeps the area a lot cleaner because Tribal (PD) are around more often. If anything, it’s done all good things for Tulalip.”

During the worldwide pandemic, when most businesses were closing-up shop, Tulalip Remedy altered their business model, creating a contactless point-of-sale service where their customers ordered their favorite products online and paid in cash at the pick-up window when their order was ready. Remedy remained open throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and practically doubled their sales as customers began ordering in bulk to limit their trips outside during the stay home, stay safe ordinance. 

As restrictions lifted, Remedy kept their customers coming back by offering great deals and discounts on the regular. And thanks to a joint-partnership with local distributer and cannabis TV show, The Dab Roast, Tulalip Remedy was able to bring in celebrity cannabis connoisseurs to the recreational retail shop to meet the people of the community over the past year.

“The Dab Roast is a show that is ten dabs, ten questions with celebrities,” explained The Dab Roast Creator, Scott McKinley. “Whenever we bring a guest on, we always hit-up Remedy first and ask if they want us to bring them through their shop and let everybody in Tulalip meet them. We recently brought Tommy Chong here. We also brought Ken Shamrock out here, UFC legend, and while he was here we even brought him to the wrestling team of Tulalip and got him involved in the community as well. Remedy is our go-to spot and all of our celebrities on our TV show all stay at Tulalip [Resort Casino] whenever we bring them through town. It’s pretty cool that Tulalip is doing cannabis, so to be able to support that and celebrate three years of Remedy is amazing.”

With feel-good tunes playing over the speakers and vendors located at the front door, Tulalip Remedy brought in year three by dancing and sharing laughter with customers. They also offered a 30% discount to each of their customers for the duration of their anniversary, attracting a number of THC-ophiles, both new and long-time customers alike.

“I’ve actually just moved back into town and started coming here,” said local community member, Jazmyn Soto. “I really like it here because the people are really nice and it’s a quick, easy in-and-out process. It was cheaper today, that was really cool. Cannabis has taken my anxiety and stress levels way down and it helps me get through my day. I enjoy coming here and think more people should.”

And as Tulalip Remedy celebrated three years in business, Tulalip tribal member Shawn McLean also celebrated a three-year achievement of his own. 

“I’m the customer of the year here, you can even ask them,” he proudly beamed. “I found out it was their anniversary through the website, 30% off! But, I come here all the time and I like to keep updated on the deals and specials. I come here for both the dabs and flower, I lean more towards the indica strains. Cannabis is helping me come off opiates. I’m three years sober off of opiates because of marijuana. It’s a big help. I love it here, dude. I’m trying to get employed here next.”

Surviving a pandemic, changing perceptions and common misconceptions, and providing an alternative medicine to those in need – all while becoming a steady source of income for the Tribe, Tulalip Remedy has accomplished a lot in their three short years of business.  And that was just their first hit, so to speak, as the rec shop plans on taking things to an even higher level as the Tribe’s venture in the cannabis industry continues into the future.

Said Tulalip Remedy Manager, Jennifer Ashman, “I’ve been a cannabis enthusiast for many years and to see it go from illegal to making huge advances in the industry, and using that to provide a form of medicine to our community and create a huge tax revenue for our Tribe, is surreal. I’m reminded every day that the team we have at Remedy has made a great impact and we love what we do. I can’t wait to see what every year after this one holds for us.” 

1st Annual Tulalip Pride Picnic to be held August 22nd

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Sunday August 22, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., mark your schedule as busy because you are not going to want to miss this event! A celebration honoring and embracing our loved ones who identify as a member of the LGTBQ+ community, the first annual Tulalip Pride picnic will be held at the Don Hatch Youth Center and promises nothing but good times, good music, good food and new friendships. 

“This is a super important event to bring community awareness to the two-spirit population at Tulalip and the surrounding area,” said Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson. “It’s important to make sure they have a voice and that they feel comfortable in our community. We also want to make sure the youth have a place, a space and a voice if they are part of the LGBTQ community. This is the big kick-off event, the first annual picnic. It ought to be a great event and lots of fun.”

Over recent years, there hasn’t been many LGBTQ+ community events at Tulalip, with the exception of the Tulalip Youth Council’s Pride Walk in 2018. That one event, however, displayed an overwhelming show of local support as over 150 Tulalip citizens marched along 27th Ave., with the iconic rainbow-colored flag and ‘Love is Love’ signs held high above their heads.  As leaders of the Tribe’s future generations, the Tulalip youth have been calling for more events geared toward supporting two-spirit individuals. Both the Youth and Family Enrichment program and the Youth Wellness program are listed as sponsors and will be involved with the yearly event.

Phoenix Two Spirit (Cree), a well-known member of the Tulalip community, is the self-proclaimed ‘instigator’ of this project, both presenting the idea as well as helping organize the event. 

He stated, “I’ve been part of the pride celebrations in Seattle and Snohomish County and I have been noticing announcements locally for Puyallup, Muckleshoot and Lummi, who are having pride celebrations. I’ve been in the Tulalip area for a few years and thought that this a very-needed event. There has been much interest by the Tulalip LGBTQ+ TS community to have an event, but COVID has put a damper on creating one. So, now is the time to bring us together and celebrate our community.”

The Tulalip Pride Picnic will feature music from none other than DJ Monie Ordonia as well as several icebreaker games, creating a chance for people to build connections and community while celebrating their true selves. 

“It would be wonderful to get community support groups going,” expressed Phoenix. “This event is great for community awareness as well. It’s part of the decolonization process, recognizing that two-spirit people have been in the Indigenous community since time immemorial and it’s time to recognize that, indeed, there is a place for two-spirit people in the tribal community, that they hold a special place. This is not new. This is reclaiming our past.”

He continued, “I want everybody to know that everyone is welcome to come. Whether you define yourself in the LGBTQ+ community, the two-spirit community, if you are friends, family, allies or tribal members, I want everyone to feel welcome to come.”

The event is sponsored by the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program, the Tulalip Tribes Youth and Family Enrichment program of the Education Division, the Tulalip Family Wellness Court and Tulalip Community Health’s Youth Wellness program. 

NWIFC Chairperson Lorraine Loomis Walks On

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Lorraine Loomis, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chairperson and Swinomish fisheries manager, passed away August 10 at the age of 81. 

Loomis became fisheries manager for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community after the 1974 Boldt decision that reaffirmed tribes’ treaty-protected fishing rights. She began working in fish processing in 1970, and thought fisheries management would be easier than working 14 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

She was wrong. For the rest of her life, Loomis worked tirelessly to fight for treaty rights, not only for the Swinomish Tribe, but for all of the treaty tribes in western Washington. 

Loomis served as NWIFC commissioner for more than 40 years. She served as vice chair from 1995 to 2014, when she became chairperson following the passing of Billy Frank Jr. 

“I love fisheries management,” she said at the time. “When we have a fishery opening – and salmon fishing is not open a lot these days – you see the happy faces of the tribal fishermen. You know you have done your job. I live for that. It’s my life.”

In October 2020, Loomis was honored with the Billy Frank Jr. Leadership Award for her decades of work defending treaty fishing rights. The award recognizes initiative, commitment and accomplishment in protecting tribal sovereignty and natural resources in western Washington.

“Our hearts are heavy with the loss of Lorraine Loomis, who dedicated her life to defending tribal treaty rights,” said Justin Parker, NWIFC executive director. “Our thoughts are with the Wilbur family and the entire Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. She also was the matriarch of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission family, leading us for decades in fisheries management.”

In addition to being the lead negotiator for tribes in the North of Falcon salmon planning process with the state of Washington, Loomis was involved in developing and implementing the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty and served on the Fraser River Panel that manages sockeye and pink salmon.

“We have been rocked by another tremendous loss,” said Stillaguamish Chairman and NWIFC Vice Chair Shawn Yanity. “Prayers for the family and all of us. Her powerful leadership, guidance, friendship and presence will be missed.”

“I can’t put in words how much I’m going to miss her spirit in my world,” said W. Ron Allen, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman/CEO and NWIFC commissioner. “She made a difference for all of us just like Billy. Now we have both their spirits to keep us moving forward to protect and restore our salmon.”

In her first Being Frank column after becoming NWIFC chairperson, Loomis wrote: “None of us tribal natural resources managers are working for today. We are all working for tomorrow. We are working to make certain there will be salmon for the next seven generations.”

Native and Educated

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Every time a Native American graduates from a university, community college or vocational school, they become the living embodiment of what it means to reclaim a narrative. For so long Native students were shut out of academic environments where they could tell their own stories and promote their thriving traditions. 

When it comes to being Native American and educated, the dominate narrative is they can’t succeed in a westernized education system. United States Census data supports this notion by showing that while more than 65% of American high school students go to college, just 19% of Native students continue their education after high school. In an age where education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life, only 13% of tribal citizens age 25 and older hold a college degree. 

That narrative is being reclaimed and rewritten by present day Indigenous scholars who are actively working to decolonize education pathways, not just for themselves but for generations to come. On the evening of July 28, thirty-one such proud Tulalip scholars were celebrated for their commitment to higher education and, in the process, breaking the often-cited stereotype that Natives don’t succeed on the college level. 

“You’ve all put in so much hard work and countless hours of studying to earn your degrees. We are so proud of you for choosing to better yourself, your family and your future through education,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin during the higher education graduation dinner. “As a Tribe, we know we need to be better at utilizing your brilliant minds and supports our college graduates. As we continue to grow our business operations and evolve as a tribal government, we want you to feel welcome to build a career with us.”

It was a powerful moment as the words washed over the graduates as they sat with their support system of family and friends in the Tulalip Resort’s orca ballroom. Hopefully many of the graduates will consider finding their place within Tulalip’s enterprise that every year expands larger than both casinos and the Administration Building. 

For some of the graduates, they are already working diligently on carving out a role on their traditional homelands. Homegrown product Adiya Jones attended Quil Ceda elementary, Totem middle school and Heritage high school before venturing off to Skagit Valley College to earn her degree. While attending college, she began working for Tulalip’s Youth Services with a mission to show the youth that they can succeed on and off the reservation. 

“I think it’s so important to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and motivate you to continue growing into your best self,” said Adiya. “I was fortunate to have those kinds of people in my life and now I want to be that person for others. With the right support system, our kids can dream bigger and brighter. My advice to my fellow graduates is to consider working for your people. The best thing about the Tulalip Tribes is they’re very welcoming to their own people and the higher practices are set up for us to succeed and allow us to transition to other departments in order to find what we’re passionate about.”

The class of 2021 higher education grads included 9 Associate’s degrees, 8 Bachelor’s degrees, and 3 Master’s degrees. Six vocational diplomas, 4 high school diplomas, and a GED recipient rounded out the 31 Tulalip honorees. 

Native graduate stories are as complex and diverse as the students themselves. It’s often a longer, tougher road for Tulalip adults pursuing their education, which is all the more reason to celebrate their accomplishments. Such is the case with 42-year-old Santana Sheldon-Thompson who managed to balance her family life with multiple kids, working a fulltime job, and going back to school to fulfill an educational dream.

“To be truthful, I was a little embarrassed at my age receiving my Associate’s degree. Then I realized everyone has their own path,” shared Santana, now a Columbia College graduate, who was embraced by both her teenage daughters before taking the stage. “My path was to raise my two girls, give them my full attention and pause on my education. My advice to both my daughters is it’s never too late to go back to school and you’re never too old to learn new things. My grandpa Francy once told me, ‘You never stop learning’, and those words are always in my heart.”

The importance of recapturing the story about Natives and education requires telling it anew with bold new characters and captivating subplots. Unquestionably, it will take a new generation of Native storytellers who have the cultural knowledge and digital knowhow to film, photograph, and document history as it unfolds on reservations across Native America.

Tulalip tribal member Chalet Alexander shares in the mission to recapture the story of her people and armed with a Master’s degree from Seattle Film Institute, she intends to do just that. For her incredible work to date and courage shown to overcome severe mental illness enroute to her degree, Chalet was chosen as the student speaker and wrapped in a 8th Generations blanket.

“It’s so difficult being a Native American and telling the story. It’s difficult being a woman and telling the story. What drives me is knowing how difficult it is and yet choosing to overcome all of it by saying ‘I’m important. My people are important. And our stories are worth telling’,” said Chalet. She hopes to continue her educational journey first, with her goal toward a one-of-a-kind experiment media Ph.D. offered by Western Washington University. “Ten years from now I will be telling stories in a unique, ever-changing way that will evolve as our technology continuously improves.”

Tulalip Higher Education staff are eager to help new and returning students find their path to academic success. They can assist with FAFSA applications and finding scholarship opportunities, as well as simply reviewing the Tribe’s current policies regarding paying for college. For those tribal members who are empowered to help reclaim the narrative, please contact Higher Education at (360) 716-4888 or email 

Family Wellness Court, strengthening and reuniting families

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Nearly five months ago, The Tulalip Tribal Justice Department introduced a new program for Tulalip parents who are struggling with an addiction. It’s a structured plan for the parent who is ready to kick their habit and regain custody of their children for good. 

Tulalip Family Wellness Court is, in many ways, modeled after the success of the Healing to Wellness Court, only the new program is voluntary-based, without the criminal, mandated-court element. And in addition to helping tribal members get clean and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle, the Family Wellness Court focuses primarily on one goal, reunifying parents with their children in an effective, timely and responsible manner. 

“We’re one of the first in the nation to be doing this as a tribe because we want our people to be healthy, happy and successful,” said Melissa Johnson, Family Wellness Court Coordinator. “We want people to understand it’s different than the standard dependency proceedings that parents involved with beda?chelh go through. With more frequent review hearings in the drug court model, they get a chance to show their progress in real-time. 

“They tend to get their kids back faster in this type of program because of the intensive case management and the added support. We are still new and maybe people don’t know about us yet, but the program is 100% voluntary. They have to have an open dependency with beda?chelh. And if they want to work on getting their kids back, they can benefit from our team approach.”

That team approach is a big aspect of the Family Wellness Court. The team consists of multiple professionals including Tribal courthouse officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody meeting regularly and on the same page, the client will stay in-compliance and will make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety if they know exactly what their team expects from them.

Kelly Prayerwarrior, Family Recovery Support Specialist, explained her role as one of those team members in the Family Wellness Court system, “I’m a parent advocate, I help the parent if they need help finding resources for school or housing, maybe visitation with their kids, or whatever they need to help move them forward so they can get their kids back. I think the Family Wellness Court is really exciting. I like the wrap-around services that we offer. We definitely have a system that’s built for success. If the people come in and really work the system, they will see success.”  

As a member of the team themselves, the clients will receive a personalized game-plan to reunification and their success depends on what they put into the program. If they give it their all and follow the plan to a T, clients will more than likely have their kids back much sooner than they would with the standard custody process. 

“It’s an alternative to the current dependency proceedings,” said Melissa. “I think there is an advantage to the team approach, recognizing the successes, strengths and any issues that may arise in real time, other than waiting. Because with the current dependency proceedings, months can go by between hearings. I think with Family Wellness Court, the courtroom becomes a therapeutic environment. You see that relationship with the judge and the team, it’s not adversarial at all. It’s so much different from when you go to court and everything seems scary. The judge comes off the podium and sits with us.” 

Judge Michelle Demmert presides over each case and builds a strong connection with the clients. She previously mentioned that the Family Wellness Court model is important to the tribal community and that the program is special to her personally. As a recovering addict, Judge Demmert has seen both sides of the coin, and she often goes out of her way to let the client know she understands how hard recovery can be, making her support and encouragement that much more authentic to the parent throughout the hearings. 

“To me, personally, I’m 33 years in recovery,” expressed Judge Demmert.  “I think it’s really important for people to know that about me so that they don’t think I’m judging them like I’ve never been in their situation, when most likely I have. I want them to know that there’s hope, that I believe in them and that I love them.”

So far, the Family Wellness Court has helped multiple parents begin the reunification process. In the very first court hearing, Judge Demmert explained that the clients should expect setbacks and that it’s important to learn from any relapses that may occur.

Melissa explained that up to this point, though there are many clients who are ‘super-compliant’, there are those parents who aren’t in-compliance but she believes that in time, the program will prove to work for them as well.

She stated, “Even the people who aren’t 100% in-compliance, I see them still showing up every week, and that is progress. Just showing up is progress and realizing that we’re still here for them no matter what. We’re all working together, working toward the goal of reunification and for the kids to stay home, to stay out of the system and to stop that cycle. We can help strengthen families and get families reunited faster. All the parents want their kids back, but sometimes it seems so far out of reach. We try to help people with that and bring that support.”

The Family Wellness Court is currently taking on new clients. If you, or anybody you know is ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification, and are ready and willing to take on the intensive, but evidence-based, model in order to regain custody, please contact Melissa at (360) 716-4764.

National Night Out 2021

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With a scenic view of Tulalip Bay on a hazy August evening, Tulalip families and the local community gathered to celebrate National Night Out. Showing support for the Tulalip Police Department in a good way, laughter filled the air for the duration of the two-hour event as the people enjoyed good company and created memories with the local police force. 

For the past 38 years, National Night Out has helped strengthen the relationships between law enforcement agencies and their respective communities all around the country. This year, approximately 100 Tulalip citizens of all ages participated in the summertime event while getting to know those officers who vowed to protect and serve the tribal community. 

Said Tulalip Chief of Police, Chris Sutter, “I am so happy to see the community come out and support National Night Out. This is an event that occurs across the country on the first Tuesday of August each year. To have all the other Tribal departments and the Tulalip Bay Fire Department here to provide information and do some community outreach is really great. Of course, as a police department, we are all about building a positive relationship with the community and enhancing the trust and opening lines of communication.”

Said Tulalip Chief of Police, Chris Sutter, “I am so happy to see the community come out and support National Night Out. This is an event that occurs across the country on the first Tuesday of August each year. To have all the other Tribal departments and the Tulalip Bay Fire Department here to provide information and do some community outreach is really great. Of course, as a police department, we are all about building a positive relationship with the community and enhancing the trust and opening lines of communication.”

Multiple Tribal departments were in attendance, including the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, TERO, Family Haven, the Legacy of Healing and the Child Advocacy Center, Behavioral Health, Higher Education, Problem Gambling, the Tulalip Bay Fire Department, TOCLA, Youth & Enrichment of the Tulalip Education Division, and the Tulalip ODMAP program, all providing resources and information about each of their programs. 

“We’re here to support the community and the police department,” stated Robin Johnson, Problem Gambling Counselor and Chemical Dependency Professional. “We have information on the Problem Gambling program and offer educational material for chemical dependency and also for the healing lodge. This event is important for us because we need to get that information out to the community and let them know that we have resources and opportunities and that we’re here if they need us. And plus, there’s always lots of fun giveaways.”

The cookout event was especially exciting for the kids, who collected swag from all of the departments, received Junior Police Officer sticker badges, tried-on tactical gear and handcuffs, and got an up-close look at the TPD squad cars, all while spending some time with their local heroes in blue.

“It’s a beautiful community event,” expressed Marysville School District Instructor, Diane Tillman. “I am a teacher and I thought it would be nice to come out, show support and see some of my students having fun and enjoying time with their families and the police department. I’m really appreciative of National Night Out because it’s good for the police to have a positive influence on the kids.” 

The people left the gathering with filled tummies and swag bags, as well as a better idea of who those TPD officers are behind and beyond the badge. National Night Out continues to be a fun and positive community-building event, helping establish personal and individual connections between the Tulalip Police Department and the Tulalip public.

And as Chief Sutter put it, “This is a great night just to come together and be friends and get to know each other.”