Ballin’ with a Braid

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

November is Native American Heritage Month. A time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures and traditions, and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and presently, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to overcome these challenges.

Most people should know Native peoples aren’t a monolith. That is to say each of the 574 federally recognized tribes is unique, each with their own set of traditional teachings stemming from treaty rights, connection to regional lands and resources, and level of economic freedom to express tribal sovereignty. 

Encompassing each tribe is a beautiful diaspora of tribal citizens who live their lives expressing their own sense of personal identity according to a unique set of cultural values, whether that be traditional or contemporary or some combination of both. For young Tulalip phenom Charlie Contraro, the answer may be both or, better yet, simply something as unique as she is. 

For starters, Charlie isn’t just a girl who plays basketball. She’s a hooper. Meaning she has the offensive range to shoot a deep 3-ball just as easily as she could beat her defender off the dribble and score a lay-up. And defensively she’s even better. Willing to dive on the deck for a loose ball, defend her opponent’s best or biggest player, and really, like for real, really looks forward to someone attempting a shot within her vicinity so she can swat that thing outta there like Dikembe Mutombo. 

“I’d rather have a game saving block than a game winning shot,” said the defensive minded Charlie as she detailed her October basketball tournament in New York. “Because when my team is up or we’re already winning, then I can really get after it [defensively] and get lots of blocks. Yeah, I like blocks instead of shots for sure. I got lots of blocks in New York. So many that my mom started calling me Charlie Mutumbo.”

Measuring in at 4-foot-11-inches, Charlie is typically one of the tallest girls on the court when she’s playing within her own age group. That level of verticality, plus her swift movement, allows her to soar through the air in pursuit of her coveted blocked shots. However, the recently turned 10-year-old often plays multiple years up against competition older and more physically mature. It’s a welcomed challenge that gives Charlie plenty of opportunity to play her favorite position – point guard. 

“Charlie’s been a baller since the womb,” said her mom Annie Jo Parish proudly. She’s well known as Miss A.J. from her years of teaching at Tulalip Montessori. “I played ball until I was at least six months pregnant with her. Then as a toddler she would watch from the sidelines as I coached her older sisters at the boys and girls club. She was at all their practices and at a certain point she started participating in their drills and conditioning exercises.  So, really, Charlie has always been immersed in basketball culture, but she had to be patient and wait her time to play because, generally, competitive teams for girls don’t start until 4th grade.”

Now, after years of watching and learning from her sisters, the Jackson Elementary 4th grader has been unleashed to play to her heart’s desire on select level travelling teams. She’s also a regular on the Native tournament circuit, playing with older competition and against the boys. 

No matter the competitive setting, whether it be on concrete or hardwood, Charlie is impossible to miss on the basketball court because of a Native asset she’s been growing her entire life, her hair. 

Charlie’s near body length, beautiful black hair is a form of cultural expression naturally woven all the way back to her earliest ancestors. There are many teachings and practices that vary from tribe to tribe and generation to generation, but one that is near constant since time immemorial among all the tribes is the importance of hair to cultural identity. A Native American’s hair is considered sacred and significant to who they are as an individual, family, and community.

In many tribes, it is believed that a person’s long hair represents a strong cultural identity. For young people especially, a strong cultural identity promotes self-esteem, self-respect, a sense of belonging, and a healthy sense of pride. For Charlie, the constant chatter about her hair from teammates and competition is something she uses to elevate both her game and her culture. In fact, a few of the gyms she’s showcased her budding basketball talents at thus far, she’s been referenced as the baller with the braid.

“Some of the things I hear all the time on the court is ‘Wow, your hair is really long!’, ‘Can I have some of your hair?’, ‘Your braid is so big. I wish I had hair like that’ or even ‘You’re like Rapunzel except your hair is black’,” reflected Charlie with a huge smile. “It’s cool to get compliments about my hair from my teammates and people I’m playing against, too. My mom tells me all the time that my braid is my signature.”

How we as Native Americans relate to our hair is a constant reminder of our connection to our culture and a distinct worldview grounded in the sacredness of relationships. Braiding a child’s hair is the beginning of establishing an intimate and nurturing relationship. For Charlie, it’s her father Mike Contraro who braids her hair before basketball games and practices.

“It makes me so proud to watch her playing the game she loves, running up and down the court with her braid trailing behind her,” said Mike during an intermission between Charlie’s tournament games. “It’s funny, too, because if you watch her, Charlie has a habit of rubbing the end of her braid in between free throws or during timeouts. Almost like it’s a lucky charm.”

Sure enough, during Charlie’s next game she was spotted at the free throw line holding the end of her braid before she swished one in. Maybe its muscle memory from a lifelong relationship with her hair and her parents braiding it before sports, or maybe it’s a continuation of her family’s grounding practices they do during travel. 

“When we travel, my older daughters and I practice grounding or what’s sometimes called Earthing,” explained momma bear A.J. “This is something Charlie does, too. We’ll go barefoot in a safe space and take time to ground, reflect and reconnect with the Earth. The intention is to allow the Earth’s positive charges to enter through our feet and reconnect our bodies to our natural world.” 

The inspiring 10-year-old hooper and her family have recently returned from a Nike Phenom camp in the sunshine state. Charlie’s mom shared that shortly after landing in California they went on a hike near the Golden Gate Bridge, where they were able to take in the iconic view while grounding themselves.

Her stellar play in California resulted scoring high in all her player evaluations and an exclusive invitation to Phenom National Camp in 2023. Her parents’ dedication to their youngest child, from the countless miles driven to her practices along the I-5 corridor and east side near Issaquah to the hours in the gym rebounding tirelessly as their daughter shoots jump shots, continues to bolster Charlie’s love for the game. She looks forward to filling out her skill set and working on her step back 3-pointers like she sees her favorite Seattle Storm players, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, routinely hit on the game’s biggest stage.

“Charlie is a scorer, a defender and an extra point guard. And she can play big. She can pretty much do everything on the court,” said 5th grade Nike coach Chris Nolen. Charlie plays a year up to play on Nike’s Tree of Hope team. “She’s been a huge addition for us. She’s a starter and gets a lot of minutes. 

“Any time you have a player playing with older competition that means they have a huge competitive spirit. I can always count on Charlie to compete on both ends of the floor,” her coach continued. “Tree of Hope is an AAU type program and under the Nike banner. We are part of the national recognition level which is really competitive. We want to prepare our players for the next level, and we want to win. Charlie definitely helps us win.”

Winning comes in many forms. There’s the score of the game and the game of life. For Charlie, when asked what some of her favorite basketball memories are, she responded with the most whimsical tales from shooting in the wrong basket once to seeing huge flocks of pigeons while in New York. 

However, ask her about being challenged in basketball by boys at her school and her tone changes dramatically. “Oh, they always want to challenge. Most of the time I’m the only girl they’ll pick to play with them, even though others will watch from the side. One time this boy who is a bully tried guarding me and I dribbled between my legs, crossed over and then between the legs again into a jab step…he went for the fake and fell to the ground. Then I made the basket. Everyone watching started cheering and saying things like ‘OHHH!’ That was a pretty cool.

“Some boys say girls can’t play basketball, but they’re wrong,” she added defiantly. “Just look at woman’s college basketball or the WNBA. Those are professional girls getting paid big bucks to play basketball. Hopefully, that’ll be me one day.”

Charlie dreams of playing for one of the biggest college programs after graduating high school in 2031 before moving onto the WNBA. Which WNBA team? The Seattle Storm of course. Her mom is also planting seeds through all the travel basketball that she could continue her ball is life dream in far off lands like Europe or even China where they have huge followings for professional women’s basketball.

Until that dream comes true, Charlie and her signature braid will continue to work on perfecting fundamentals, beating the boys whenever possible, and being a beacon of inspiration to her Native American peers.

Bet On It: Tulalip sportsbooks officially open

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Terry Gobin, Tulalip Tribes Board member Hazen Shopbell, Seattle Mariners legend Randy Johnson, and DraftKings representative Johnny Avello cutting the ribbon at the Tulalip Sportsbook opening.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“When we decided to go down this path of sports betting, we knew it was going to be a long and grueling process in Olympia. Our lawyers worked hard finding the right legislation and gaming compact language so we could bring our goal to fruition,” explained Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “With all the Washington tribes working together, we earned our legislative victory a year ago. It did take a while to make our vision a reality, but in the end we did it the Tulalip way. And as you can see, it’s a grand way.”

Moments later, Chairwoman Gobin beamed with excitement as she stood next to fellow board member Hazen Shopbell, Seattle Mariners legend Randy Johnson, and DraftKings representative Johnny Avello for a ceremonial ribbon cutting. While the red ribbon fluttered to the floor, a sweeping thrill of energy radiated through the largely Tulalip crowd, announcing Tulalip’s sportsbooks are officially open for business.

A large contingent of Tulalip culture bearers were on-hand to open the event in a traditional way. The voices and thumping drum beats of adults and children echoed through the casino gaming floor, reminding everyone they are guests on Indigenous land.

“I’ve opened a number of casinos and sportsbooks in my career and want to thank the tribal members for their songs and prayers because I’ve never encountered that before. That was fabulous,” said Johnny Avello, DraftKings director of race and sportsbook operations.

Tulalip Resort Casino and Quil Ceda Creek Casino both celebrated their grand openings simultaneously on Tuesday, September 20. The much-anticipated events featured celebrity guests – former Mariners pitcher, the towering 6’10” baseball hall of famer Randy Johnson at the Resort and Seattle Seahawks former wide receiver and hall of famer Steve Largent at the Q. 

The retail sportsbooks feature live in-game sports betting and other engaging wagering options, with viewing of a multitude of sporting events at the same time possible via jumbotron-like LED screens. The Resort’s sportsbook is over 5,000 square feet and offers sporting enthusiasts the opportunity to watch up to 10 live sporting events while placing bets at 20 touch screen kiosks and 4 over-the-counter ticket windows. Another ten sports betting kiosks are located throughout the Resort’s gaming floor.

The state-of-the-art sports betting venue is managed by Tulalip citizen Brandon Jones. Impressively, the 35-year-old has 17 years of gaming experience. He started his gaming career in the cage at just 18-years-old and hasn’t looked back since. 

“Gaming and the casino life are all I know, it’s all I’ve ever done,” shared Brandon, sportsbook manager. “It means so much to be a Tulalip tribal member and be able to build something all-new from scratch that adds so much value to the reservation, from both a business and community perspective.

“We’ve designed this sportsbook for the new generation. A lot of people my age and younger aren’t interested in bingo or keno, but are super engaged in all forms of sports entertainment, whether it be professional or college level,” he continued. “We’ll continue to evolve our sports betting and are already working towards facilitating e-gaming betting in the near future. To my fellow tribal members, this venue offers a new place to gather and enjoy the Seahawks, Mariners, or Huskies and Cougs games with all the high energy of a local crowd.” 

Meanwhile, the Q’s new sportsbook features 20 sports betting kiosks and 3 over-the-counter ticket windows located on the gaming floor. The four video walls in The Stage, the Q’s entertainment venue and nightclub, span nearly 900 square feet, comprised of 13 million pixels that can also display up to ten different games simultaneously. Both of the sportsbooks are outfitted with a variety of betting resources, including odds boards, scrolling tickers with live-score updates, statistics, and player information.

In development with Tulalip’s newest partner, DraftKings, a digital app is in the works that will allow gamers of either casino sportsbooks to place bets from their mobile devices while on casino property. Future announcements are planned when the app is ready for launch. 

After the grand opening ceremony ended, several tribal members eagerly waited for a picture opportunity with former Mariners, the Big Unit and Bucky Jacobsen. Others quickly took to one of the new sports-based kiosks to place their first-ever sports bet. Father/son duo Cyrus Fryberg Sr. and Jr. were spotted putting their combined sports knowledge together for a wager or two.

“As an avid sports bettor, I know this is going to be huge for Tulalip. The atmosphere around sports is different than our other revenue streams because the younger generation is so involved with sports,” said Bubba Fryberg. “We can definitely anticipate many new people coming to Tulalip on Saturday for college football, Sundays for NFL games, and throughout the weeks for marquee matchups and primetime games. Also, it’s cool for everybody to have a new spot where family and friends can come together to root for their favorite teams.”

Both of Tulalip’s sportsbook offerings are open 24/7. All sports bets are cash only, so there’s complete anonymity. Unless, you were one of those attending the grand opening and wanted to share your sports bet ticket, like councilwoman Marie Zackuse who placed a $10 wager on the Mariners money line. 

Salute to Native American Night

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The annual Salute to Native American Night hosted by the Seattle Mariners was a great success, once again. So many proud Natives from across the Pacific Northwest journeyed to T-Mobile Park on August 23 to celebrate the Puyallup Tribe canoe family as they shared their songs and dance on the immaculate baseball field.

“This event gives us an opportunity to build our tribal community and develop must-needed awareness for the thousands of non-Natives in attendance. For many of them, this is may be their first time witnessing our songs and dance or have the opportunity to have a conversation with an actual tribal member of one of the surrounding Tribes,” shared Puyallup Tribe culture director and elder, Connie McCloud.

“We had so many of our people join the canoe family in the last year or so that we were really excited for just how many we’d have potentially for this special presentation,” she continued. “We had between 100 to 125 show up to the stadium. During practice we gave regalia to those who didn’t have any. There was such a huge sense of pride from knowing we are representing our Tribe, our families, and our community in such a good, positive way. And to do this in front of such a large audience only reaffirms the power of our culture and traditional teachings to the young ones. They are growing up in an era where they can truly embrace their culture and not be afraid to wear traditional clothing and ceremonial items in public.”

Official attendance of the Tuesday night game was a whopping 38,254 fans. Amongst that huge number was an estimated 200 Tulalips, many of whom were gifted free tickets and bussed to the game as one of our youth enrichment program’s summer activities.

On the field pre-game with the Puyallup canoe family was powwow circuit legend and Tulalip’s own Jobey Williams. He was accompanied by his 4-year-old son Dahnahhi as they both pounded their circular hand drums and sang in unison with their Puyallup brothers and sisters.

“First, I’d like to say just how appreciative I am for Puyallup to call and offer me and my son the opportunity to drum and sing with their canoe family,” said Jobey. “As Native people, we share the same spirit. Even if our songs and dance vary from tribe to tribe and region to region, the same spirit powers us all. To share in that moment with our neighbors from Puyallup was so amazing. 

“Being in front of such a huge Mariners crowd and offering them just a sample of what we do as Native people – our songs and dance, our beautiful children in their regalia, and the power of our community – as a Tulalip, I’m just so thankful,” he added. “Us old ones remember that long before basketball became the most popular sport on the Rez today, it was baseball that was number one. Previous generations loved baseball because for a long time it was the only sport broadcast on the radio. No internet, no tv, but they had baseball on the radio. Families would huddle around the radio and listen to the games. Hard to imagine today, right?”

Families huddled around a radio listening to any sports today is hard to imagine. But what’s not hard to imagine is just how significant the Mariners yearly tribute to Native Americans is. Look at all images accompanying this article that demonstrate pure pride and joy, full of smiling faces, multi-generations dancing together, and a larger sense of community for what it means to be Native in the Pacific Northwest. 

More impressive than the 430-foot bomb hit by third basemen Eugenio Suarez or the 7-strikeout gem pitched by Robbie Ray or even the Mariners 4-2 win over the Nationals, was the stunning display of Coast Salish culture that filled the ball park. Serving as a simple reminder to the tens of thousands in attendance and even more watching at home: we are still here and we are thriving!

Canoe Races return to Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

With binoculars at the ready, numerous spectators sat in lawn chairs near the edge of the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay on a sunny August afternoon. “Back it up” a voice instructed over a loudspeaker, as sleek canoes began to slowly creep forward in anticipation of the air horn which signaled the start of the race. Four canoes, each guided by eleven Indigenous athletes, were guided back to a line of floating buoys. As soon as the long canoes were behind the starting line, the airhorn blasted and echoed across the bay, and forty-four paddles simultaneously struck the water. 

Moving at high speeds through the local Salish waters, the competitors pulled the entire length of Tulalip Bay, and passed through the inlet before journeying out into the sea. For a while, the canoes were out of sight, and then they came back into view, and raced back to the Hermosa side of the bay before making the last stretch of the race back toward the longhouse.

“Tulalip has always been one of our favorite races,” said Karlie Kinley (Lummi) of the Merisa Mae Canoe Club. “It’s one of the newer courses to the circuit, and it’s on the US side. A lot of times we have to travel far away, because many of the canoe clubs are from Canada. Tulalip is close to home, and we can bring more of our families. The hospitality and everything is always really good here. And it’s saltwater, and we’re saltwater paddlers so we get a little bit of advantage in the water – it’s definitely one of our favorite places to come.”

For the first time since the pandemic hit, the annual Canoe Races returned to Tulalip Bay during the weekend of August 20. The tribal athletes were excited to get back out on the water and visit with friends and family hailing from other nearby tribes. 

“We started in 2015 at the direction of one of the elders of our family,” said Natasha Fryberg, Tulalip Canoe Races organizer and hostess. “They thought it was very important to bring it back to Tulalip, we used to host it many years ago. We really wanted the canoes back on our waters, on our land. My favorite part of the races is everyone coming here, seeing everybody who we haven’t seen in a while, hearing all the laughter and stories, and seeing the participants on the water. You get to see so many different athletes who bring so much to the canoe circuit.”

You may already know that traditional cedar dugout canoes were created as a means of transportation, so that the Salishan ancestors could navigate from tribe to tribe or harvest from the sea. The canoes utilized for the races, however, are much different than those seen every summer at Canoe Journeys. Sometimes referred to as war canoes, this speedy canoe variation is narrower and much lighter in comparison. Developed centuries ago, many traditional stories claim that these canoes were created so that people could travel quickly to and from other tribal nations to conduct raids during wartime between tribes. 

“This goes all the way back to the beginning of time,” explained Willie Jones Jr., Lummi tribal member and skipper of the Lady Rose Canoe Club. “Of course, through the years the stories change. But what these races evolved from is when our ancestors started racing the canoes just for something to do at our potlatches. This is part of our teachings – we’ve been racing canoes for as long as I can remember.”

Participants of all ages pulled in a number of competitions throughout the weekend including singles, doubles, 6-man and 11-man races. Several Coast Salish tribes, bands and canoe families were well represented during the event.

Vivianna Thomas and Kieneshia Dominic James, young pullers from the Scowlitz First Nation, reflected on returning to Tulalip Bay and participating in the races. 

Said Vivianna, “I pulled in the women’s six, thirteen and under six, women’s eleven and thirteen and under eleven. We got fourth in both women’s. And thirteen and under, it was a bunch of little kids and I felt happy to take them out. Coming out to Tulalip is always really fun and I enjoyed everything we did this weekend.

Kieneshia added, “It’s really fun to do, especially throughout the summer. You get to meet and see a lot of people and compete against other kids. And being out on the water gives me peace and a strong mind. And I always send up prayers for all my people in need.”

The Canoe Race circuit consists of several waterway courses located at tribal villages throughout the Pacific Northwest region. As Natasha mentioned, the Tulalip Bay course was recently unlocked during the summer of 2015 and has been a racer favorite ever since. 

“I love the scenery here,” expressed first time puller, Kendra Jefferson who also belongs to the Marisa Mae Canoe Club. “This is my first-year racing and it felt amazing. I really enjoy canoe pulling and being with friends and family. This is something that I grew up with, and it’s been in my family for years. To me, it’s very important and I know it’s important to my mom, my dad, and my grandparents to carry on the tradition, and I hope my kids follow along.”

Passing on the tradition, along with various techniques, is something that every racer looks forward to. In fact, many of the young competitors belong to a longline of canoe racers, and often race alongside their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties during the team races. 

“I like getting to race with my kids,” said Nooksack tribal member, Jeremy Roberts. “I have three kids who are ten and under and it was fun to get to race with them this weekend. This is important to the culture – to keep our traditions going, passing on our teachings, and just getting out there and having fun. It was a great weekend with good weather, good water, it wasn’t rough. It’s been a great season and I am thankful to be back on the water with family.”

In addition to keeping the canoe racing tradition alive, the summertime event serves as a great way to keep the youth away from destructive activities and behaviors, while engaging them in a positive and cultural experience.

“The Canoe Races gives our people a place to go,” Natasha stated. “People participate for many different reasons, whether it’s cultural, or their looking for their own self-healing. This is also a prevention tool for our kids. A lot of different clubs use it as a prevention tool for their club members.”

“These races are important to our people, especially for our youth and younger people nowadays,” Willie agreed. “We’re losing a lot of culture, values, and teachings in our school systems – they’re not teaching it there as much as they should. This is vital to teaching our youth a cultural way of life, showing them a good way of life, and keeping them away from all those things that get kids in trouble. We’re fighting a lot of drugs and alcohol on all of our reservations up and down the coast. Prevention plays a huge role, and this is a good way to keep our kids busy and support our youth.”

The last stop on the Canoe Race circuit will take place during the final weekend of August at Neah Bay. And although there were a handful of young sduhubš racers this year, Natasha expressed a desire to start a canoe club from Tulalip to participate in next year’s circuit. 

For more information, including how to get involved in the races, please follow War Canoe Races page on Facebook. 

Tulalip hosted Jr Nationals a huge success

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over the three-day span of March 11–13, bucket getters from reservations all across the Pacific Northwest journeyed to Tulalip to participate in a thrilling Jr Nationals tournament. The first major basketball tournament in over two years produced stunning nail biters, wire-to-wire victories, clutch time shots, and memories galore for hundreds of Native spectators who cheered on their favorite hardwood hoopsters.

There were nearly a dozen competitive divisions, from 8U up to 18U, filled with boys, girls and co-ed teams. There were so many teams that tournament coordinators reached out to Marysville Getchell and Marysville Pilchuck high schools for access to their basketball courts. Both schools graciously offered their courts for play to give the tournament a whopping seven courts of action, including those at the Youth Center, Boys & Girls Club and Heritage. 

In total, a whopping 50 teams came together to play over 100 games over the three-day tournament. Giving players and coaches countless opportunities to showcase the free flowing, fast paced brand of ‘Rez ball’ that Native hoopers are well-known for.

“Traditionally, Jr Nationals is one of the first youth tournaments hosted on this side of Indian Country. It kick starts the tournament trail for parents, coaches, and athletes and gives them a long awaited opportunity to showcase all their skills and hard work,” explained Youth Enrichment manager Josh Fryberg. “It’s a great time for us as adults and coaches, too, because we’re able to network and see how we can continue to work together to make our youth and communities better.”

A horde of local Tulalip talent was present throughout the multiple divisions and age brackets, where they tested their dribbling and jump shot making skills against determined defenders from Muckleshoot, Lummi, Neah Bay, Yakama, and Lapwai. 

“It was really good to see all the athletes and coaches on the court again, along with all families that travelled a long way so their athletes could participate,” said Josh. “There was a lot of great competition and even more laughs and smiled shared. The entire tournament went really well and we are pleased with the level of engagement we received from tribes both near and far.”

Among the many proud parents and guardians cheering loudly from the sidelines as their kids dribbled, passed, and put up jumpers to their hearts content was momma bear Sarah Murphy. Four of her sons competed in Tulalip’s Jr Nationals tournament; Gaylan in 16U, Jaylan in 12U, Josiah in 10U, and Zaedyn in 8U.

“It was amazing to see my boys out on their home courts again, playing for Tulalip teams and having so many local tribal members root for them to be successful,” reflected Sarah. “Normally, its our oldest son Gaylan bringing home the championship hardware, but not this time. His little brothers have been watching and learning and this tournament all their hard work paid off. Zaedyn had so much fun playing with the 8U team and taking 2nd place. Meanwhile J.J. brought the ship home for the 12U boys. 

“Our car ride home after the tournament finished was definitely memorable because J.J. kept saying ‘It’s my time!’” she added. “As a mom with boys who dream of playing in the NFL and NBA someday, I was so proud of their efforts and thankful for the Tribe for allowing this tournament to happen. It was refreshing to see so many Natives on our homeland, united by sports once again. My family looks forward to many more tournaments this spring and summer.”

Be sure to keep a look out for flyers and accountments in future SeeYahtSub editions, or routinely check online at https://www.tulalipyouthservices.com/ for information regarding a host of basketball, softball, and other sports tournaments returning to Tulalip in the upcoming months.

A Tale of two Tulalip hoopers

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The weekend of February 19 was filled with Washington State high school basketballers reveling in the elation of sweet victory or the bitter sting of defeat. For many local programs it was their last opportunity to punch a ticket to the Regional round and earn a potential trip to the highly coveted State playoffs. Two such teams featured Tulalip tribal members and well-known bucket getters.

Both inspirational female ballers. Both high school seniors. Both playing for programs outside Marysville School District. Both hoping to end their high school hoops career with a State run. 

Jacynta Myles anchors the Lummi Nation Blackhawks as their starting center, while Tamiah Joseph comes off the bench to ignite the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats’ second unit. They each played on Saturday, February 19, in raucous gymnasiums located in Mt. Vernon.

First up with a noon tipoff was Lummi Nation vs. Muckleshoot in battle of two tribal schools featuring an ensemble of all-Native talent. Before the game, Muckleshoot coach Dora Brings Yellow said, “We know that it’s going to take a complete team effort to box out #32 [Jacynta]. We have no one close to matching her size or height, so it’s up to the entire team to keep her from living in the paint. As two tribal schools, it’s unfortunate we have to play each other in a knock-out game, but our people travel well. We fully expect to hear both teams’ fans throughout the game.”

The Rez ball battle was dominated by Lummi in the first three quarters. Going into the 4th quarter, Lummi led 30-17. Jacynta was making her presence felt in the post by gobbling up every rebound. She routinely fended off double and triple teams to seemingly grab every available loose ball. 

But as outclassed as Muckleshoot was to that point, they refused to concede the game. Instead, Muckleshoot benched their two starting bigs down the stretch and went with a five guard lineup. This change in strategy allowed for Muckleshoot to run an all-out uptempo offense on every possession, wherein they routinely got to the bucket before the towering Jacynta could shutdown the paint. 

In an incredible turn of events, Lummi squandered their 13-point lead in the final quarter and were forced into overtime. Minus three starters who all fouled out in the 4th, Lummi and their rebounding monster Jacynta just didn’t have enough firepower. Muckleshoot and their adoring fans roared as their 47-41 victory went final, while a contingent of Lummi and Tulalip faithful sat stunned in disbelief. 

The 6-foot-3-inch Jacynta finished her last high school game with an incredible career-high 38 rebounds to go with 12 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.

“So many people have asked me this season why I’m playing for a rival and opted to leave Tulalip in order to play for Lummi. My response remained the same every time – I’m Tulalip wherever I go,” shared Jacynta postgame. “I felt playing for Lummi was the best opportunity to reach State, while being able to proudly embrace my Tulalip culture, and in the end we came up just short. I wouldn’t change my decision at all. I never compromised who I was and my Lummi teammates and coaches supported me the entire time.

“Looking to the future, I’m being recruited by colleges to go play volleyball. Some of the college coaches in New York, Maine and Kansas have expressed interest in me playing basketball, too, if I want to go that route,” she added. “What I’ve learned this year more than anything is trying new things, being willing to fail in order to learn how to succeed, is the best confidence builder. I know there’s so much more I can improve upon, but I’m willing to accept the challenge to get better and train with those willing to teach me.”

A mere six-hours after Lummi’s stunning loss, Tamiah Joseph and her Archbishop Wildcats took to the hardwood for a matchup with the Burlington-Edison Tigers. On the line was the NW District 2A Championship and a high seed in the upcoming Regional tournament. 

A 5-foot-9-inch power guard, Tamiah came off the bench to give her team a boost defensively whenever her coach instructed. She guarded the Tigers best perimeter players on multiples occasions and did an admirable job of slowing them down. 

Tied at 13-13 midway through the 2nd quarter, the Wildcats held a slight 2-point advantage at halftime, when they led 17-15. In what would be a season deciding 2nd half, Tamiah provided invaluable energy during her team’s 42-29 outpacing of Burlington down the stretch. While the Archbishop fans cheered from the stands, players and coaches reveled in a 59-44 victory. In traditional fashion, the Wildcat players took turns postgame, one by one climbing a ladder to cut a single strand of nylon from their winning basket. An occasion befitting the NW District 2A Girls Basketball Champions.

“Tamiah’s role all season has been to come off the bench and knock down big shots for us. Clearly, our opponent game planned for her shooting tonight, but she still managed to make an impact on this game with her defense,” said Archbishop head coach Ebany Herd after her team’s Championship performance. “She does a really good job of grabbing offensive rebounds and staying patient on offense, usually being ready to shoot the 3-ball when she has the opportunity.”

“I’ve been friends with Tamiah since our freshman year and I just love her to pieces,” added Archbishop senior and starting point guard Jojo Chiangpradit. “She’s such a good shooter. If she’s open, she’s gonna knock down her jumpers. We’ve always been able to count on her to hit a clutch 3 when it really matters.”

Next up for Tamiah and her Wildcats is a Regional round matchup with W.F. West High School out of Wenatchee on Friday, February 25. Tipoff is set for 8:00pm at Tumwater High School. Regardless of the outcome, Archbishop with their District Championship is guaranteed a State appearance and at least one game in the Yakima Valley SunDome in early March. 

Elders, veterans head to LA for Super Bowl experience

By Micheal Rios; Photos by Malory Simpson

Over 112 million viewers tuned in to watch this year’s Super Bowl clash between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. Among the sold-out 70,240 person crowd that travelled to L.A. to witness the big game in person was a very lucky group of Tulalip tribal members.

Made possible by a recently announced partnership with DraftKings, Tulalip leadership raffled off exclusive suite tickets to tribal elders and veterans. The lucky benefactors were Maurice “Hammer” Alexander, Rocky Renecker, John Ancheta, Nancy Koehler, Sara Andres and Patricia Balderson. Plus their official escort, events manager Malory Simpson.

“The experience was definitely once in a lifetime!” shared Malory. “We were able to attend some events hosted by DraftKings, one on Saturday night and a tailgate party the day of the Super Bowl game. There was tons of free food and drinks, as well as a concert by Wyclef Jean, which was absolutely amazing. It was great to hear live music after COVID, you know?! 

“The suite was immaculate and filled with lots of food, drinks and hospitality,” she added. “The group of elders and veterans made my job easy. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with each of them. Big thank you to the Board of Directors for the tickets, to our Travel Department for booking our flights and shuttles, and the CEO staff for thinking of me to escort our elders to Super Bowl LVI.” 

Local artist Walter Moses created a special piece for the occasion that was gifted to the DraftKings representative by the group at the stadium. “I can tell you she was grateful to be gifted such a stunning piece of artwork. She mentioned to us that she’s never been gifted a piece of art from her clients before,” said Malory.

The football event watched around the world featured a thrilling game that went down to the wire, an exciting halftime show starring hip hop legends, and a $5 billion SoFi Stadium venue in Los Angeles that added a uniquely Hollywood flare. For the Tulalips in attendance, memories were made and experiences had that are sure to last a lifetime. 

“I had an amazing time,” shared Tulalip veteran Sara Andres. “I was super happy to be given this once in a lifetime experience and to be able to share it with the others. I am so thankful the Board of Directors offered the tickets to Tulalip elders and veterans. Having been the third alternate called, I didn’t think I would be going. I am very grateful for the winners that gave up their opportunity for me to be able to attend. I will never forget Super Bowl LVI. GO Rams!”

‘New team, same dominance’ for Tulalip’s Jacynta Myles

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

She’s too humble to admit she’s a dominating low post player on the basketball court. Yet anyone who has been following Jacynta Myles’ high school career knows it’s a simple truth. She’s too big, too strong…simply too much to handle one-on-one for any Northwest 1B high school program. And now playing for Lummi Nation, she’s looking to make one last playoff run before her high school days are over.

During her freshman and sophomore years, Jacynta was a foundational player for Tulalip’s Heritage High School. She was a walking double-double even while still adjusting to her still growing, powerful physique. Then the pandemic hit. She managed to still dazzle her opponents with monster stat lines in her junior year while wearing a Heritage Hawks jersey. But going into her senior season, she was forced to make a change. 

A combination of factors, largely due to the ongoing pandemic, led to Heritage sports being temporarily disbanded. The athletes were granted permission to continue playing sports at other high schools. Most chose programs in Marysville, but not Jacynta. The 18-year-old culture bearer refused to play for a non-Native basketball team. So what did she do? Routinely drive herself from Tulalip, all the way up to Lummi, in order to gain eligibility, that’s what.

“I really hoped we could’ve had a basketball season at Heritage for my senior year, but it wasn’t meant to be,” reflected Jacynta. “I love being Native American and representing our culture through sports, especially basketball. Our crowds are always so passionate and really enjoy seeing us play. So when that all got cancelled, my choices were to play for a school that doesn’t really represent us or play for our on-court rival, Lummi. It was a no brainer for me. I chose the culture.”

Long-time rivals, on the court anyway, Lummi Nation hoops welcomed the towering Jacynta with open arms. Sure, there was an adjustment period, more so because the guard heavy BlackHawks weren’t used to playing with a truly talented post player before. However, once both player and team got used to one anther the results spoke for themselves. 

Fueled by Jacynta’s presence in the paint anchoring their defense and her low post dominance on offense, Lummi reeled off one W after another. Coach Krista Mahle explained by adding Jacynta to the team, her guards were able to play a much more up-tempo style. Four wings who can all dribble, pass and shoot typically share the court with Jacynta. 

“Jacynta has been a game changer for us,” said Coach Krista. “She’s been a leader for my girls and helped them develop really develop their games. We’ve been so happy to have a player of her caliber on our team.”

Lummi’s new style of play with Jacynta at the center spot created havoc for their opponent’s coaches. Do they sell out to slow down the biggest girl on the court or focus on the perimeter ball handlers and let Jacynta have her way in the post? Neither strategy worked particularly well.

The BlackHawks dominated the regular season with a league best 7-1 record. After getting a first round bye, they hosted the Darrington Loggers in a second round playoff matchup on February 5th. The game was the first home game all season that Lummi Nation allowed fans in the stands. A decent sized crowd showed up, including a handful of Tulalip families, to cheer on the all-Native BlackHawks team. 

They made quick work of the Loggers who were clearly outmatched in all facets of the game. Jacynta barely broke a sweat while filling the box score. Lummi gave their excited crowd what they came to see, a 54-39 W.

“It’s been a really fun season, especially having teammates who help me be the best post player I can be, which just makes the wins that much sweeter,” said Jacynta post-game. “My teammates and coach have really embraced me. Now, together, we hope to make a deep playoff run. Personally, I’ve never been to State before, so that’s my goal. How amazing would that be to finally make it happen in my senior year?”

Next up for Jacynta and her Lummi BlackHawks is a matchup with Grace Academy on Thursday, February 10, with a 6:00 p.m. tipoff.