The stands were electric, without concern for the rain, thanks to the newly covered bleachers at the Alpheaus “Gunny” Jones, Sr. ball field in Tulalip. The Tulalip-Marysville Hawks Midget and Peewee football leagues faced off against the Golden Eagles from Ferndale on Saturday, September 23.
First up was the Midget league consisting of boys and girls 10–12 years old. The Hawks were off to a slow start and fell behind early in the game as Ferndale took the lead 14-6. After some halftime adjustments, the Hawks battled back with two touchdowns in the 3rd quarter due to a couple of fumbles by Ferndale, giving the Hawks the lead heading into the fourth. With another fumble in the fourth quarter by Ferndale, the Hawks recovered the ball, drove down the field, and put the game out of reach with a 6-yard touchdown, extending their lead to 18. The final score of the contest was Tulalip-Marysville 32, Ferndale 14.
A tough fought contest; ultimately, the several turnovers Ferndale endured in the second half, mixed with some great runs by the Hawks, gave Tulalip-Marysville the win and brought their record on the season to 2-2. Coach Marshall Guthrie said, “It started slow, but we ended up doing good. The kids did great and fought hard out there, and we got the win.”
Next up were the Peewee League kids from 9 to 11 years old. Coming off a 3-game losing streak, the crew from Tulalip-Marysville were looking to turn things around. The Hawks offense started on high cylinders, bouncing off defenders and bursting across the field, scoring early in the first quarter. Their defense ran a shutdown performance, holding the Golden Eagles scoreless in the first half. Looking in control on both sides of the ball, the Hawks extended their lead 19 to nothing in the fourth quarter. Looking like a shutout, the Ferndale Golden Eagles managed to break free for a long run, scoring a touchdown as time ran out, leading to the final score of Tulalip-Marysville 19, Ferndale 6, giving the Hawks their first win on the season and bringing their record to 1-3.
Catch the Hawks on their home field, Saturday, September 30th; kickoff starts at 10:00 a.m.
The Seattle Seahawks logo is that rarest of birds: a culturally accurate sports icon directly inspired by a Coast Salish masterpiece — and one seemingly universally embraced by the Coast Salish people who inspired the original formline design.
A design that is making a long overdue and welcomed return during the 2023 NFL season after the Seahawks announced details of the team’s official throwback uniform set to debut this fall. Over the summer, the Seahawks released photos of the Kingdome-era threads on all their social media pages and official team website to much excitement amid the fanbase.
“I’ve always been a big fan of these jerseys just seeing pictures around the building, so to put this on is pretty cool,” quarterback Geno Smith said via the team’s website. “I think fans are going to love it. It’s cool that they’re bringing it back, and it’s cool that we get to be the team that brings them back. Hopefully, the fans will love it, and we’ll go out there and kick a lot of butt in these things.”
For some fans, this was a reintroduction to the team’s traditional uniforms worn from 1976-2001 that Hall of Famers Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Walter Jones wore on game days. For other fans, it was a history lesson as they viewed the royal blue, Northwest green, and metallic silver color combo for the very first time.
But beyond the traditional colors of the ‘70s is the return of the original Seahawks logo, which is generally considered a highly stylized spin on classic, Pacific Northwest formline.
Origin story unmasked
Not so breaking news! There is no such thing as an actual Seahawk. Ornithology experts theorize the term Seahawk refers to a combination of an osprey, which is a bird of prey native to coastal North America, and a skua, which, in the Pacific Northwest, we usually call a seagull. If there isn’t an actual “Seahawk” found in nature, then what inspired the professional football team’s original logo?
The consensus is that in 1976, the NFL commissioned a logo for the newly formed Seattle football team. Then-General Manager Ted Thompson wanted the Seahawks’ logo to reflect “Northwest Indian culture.” He and his team of concept designers must have been Native culture enthusiasts who stumbled across a truly remarkable piece of Indigenous Northwest Coastal art. That artwork in question was a Kwakwaka’wakw (pronounced: KWA-kwuh-kyuh-wakw), a transformation mask from northeastern Vancouver Island.
In September 2014, the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus learned of the mask’s whereabouts and launched an online fundraising campaign to bring it back to Coast Salish territory. Raising the money needed to conserve, insure, and ship the mask across the country didn’t take long. Within weeks of arrival, the hidden history of the mask was unveiled, and the origin story of the Seahawks logo went public.
Even though the exact inspiration behind the Seahawks’ logo remained a mystery for decades, what has always been certain is its positive celebration by Coast Salish tribes. All along the Salish Sea, citizens of sovereign Native nations have used the logo to empower contemporary artists who have re-appropriated the Seahawk’s iconic imagery into our culture.
“Great things inspire imitations. In the same way that so many Native people and white people and Asians are inspired by hip-hop, an art form created by Black people, many people are inspired by our beautiful art,” said Native advocate, criminal defense lawyer, and Seattle resident Gyasi Ross. “Native people have some beautiful artwork; of course, it inspires people to want a piece of it. The Seahawks logo is a perfect example of that. And we love it.
“But also, the Seahawks are actually active and respectful of the huge Native community here in the Pacific Northwest,” he added. “From speaking at graduations to speaking out against the [old Washington] Redskins mascot, the Seahawks have a great relationship with the Native community here, both urban and reservation-based.”
The Tulalip-Seahawk connection
Their commitment to Native communities distinguishes the Seahawks from so many other organizations that claim to honor Native culture with their logos and mascots, yet contribute little or nothing to their local tribes. In fact, the Seahawks have a history of significantly impacting the Tulalip Tribes.
Back in 2008, Seahawk Bobby Engram collaborated with Home Depot, the Kaboom! Program, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County to build a 50-by-50-foot playground at the reservation’s ‘Club.’ In 2014, following the tragic Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting, the Seahawks hosted tribal member Nate Hatch and his family at CenturyLink Field (now Lumen Field), where they received VIP treatment from both players and coaching staff.
Additionally, Seattle Seahawks legend Michael Bennett hosted a once-in-a-lifetime football camp for Tulalip community youth in June 2019. Nearly 250 participants, ages 7 to 18, had an opportunity to catch a pass from and do drills with the Super Bowl champion. Afterward, Bennett stuck around to sign autographs and take photos with every single one of his adoring fans.
Most recently, former Seahawk players Cooper Helfet and Jermaine Kearse landed a seaplane in Tulalip Bay in exciting fashion before spending an afternoon with 30 Tulalip youth at the local youth complex.
Empowerment through representation
A history of positive impact. Countless moments to uplift Tulalip youth and inspire them to always dream big. Promoting healthy lifestyle choices and physical fitness as a means of self-discipline to achieve long-term goals. The reciprocal nature of the Seattle Seahawks organizational respect for local tribes and the empowering, prideful Native fandom they’ve garnered in return continues to manifest itself in truly imaginative ways.
For starters, it’s common to see the Seahawks logo reimagined via eye-catching Coast Salish craftsmanship via all possible mediums. Native American artisans have reimagined the formline-based Seahawk as blankets, clothing, beaded earrings, attention-grabbing medallions, wooden panels, furniture, flags, face masks, and even six-foot chainsaw carvings that come together to celebrate the evolution of art, ingenuity, and true fandom.
“The Seahawks have given back to our community in so many ways and really made a difference in the lives of our youth,” shared Youth Services manager and lifelong fan Josh Fryberg, whose large family buys new Seahawks jerseys representing their favorite players every year. “As for the connection between the Seahawks and Coast Salish art, the roots definitely run deep. For my family, we have a lot of Seahawks-themed artwork created by very talented Native artists, both from Tulalip and other tribes. More than the art, though, the Seahawks mean family togetherness. Every Blue Friday, we rock our jerseys, and every game day we gather as a family to cheer on our Seahawks.”
The unique partnership between the Seahawks organization and Coast Salish tribes, who comprise part of the devout 12th Man fan base, took on a whole new meaning after the surprise announcement of a 10-year partnership deal with the Muckleshoot Tribe. This partnership is embodied by a Muckleshoot-created installation at Lumen Field’s north entrances. Dubbed “Muckleshoot Plaza,” this Indigenous space features a massive, reimagined Seahawk, two salmon, a canoe, and even Lushootseed text. The impossible-to-miss architecture designed by Muckleshoot artists reminds all who pass by that they are guests on Coast Salish land.
“This artwork will not only inspire our communities but also educate them on the important history of the Native Americans in this region,” said Chuck Arnold, President of the Seattle Seahawks. “We look forward to a long and meaningful partnership for many years to come.”
2023 throwback and beyond
Whether the Seattle Seahawks contend for this year’s Super Bowl or not, in the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of Coast Salish tribal members, they will always be champions. Not because they’ve hoisted a Vince Lombardi Trophy, but because our professional football team respects their local Native American communities off the field – where it matters most.
Merging the past with the present while paying tribute to tradition is embodied by those who dawn the Seahawks throwback jersey. This is why the iconic logo can be seen so vividly on Blue Fridays, worn by casino patrons as they wager on the home team, and throughout Coast Salish territory by proud members of the 12th Man Army.
It’s impossible to know how many Native Americans attended the Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics baseball game on August 28. But what we do know is the official attendance for the Monday night game, dubbed ‘Salute to Native American Heritage’ night, was announced as a whopping 37,434 people.
And a nice chunk of that thirty-seven grand were citizens of Pacific Northwest tribes who journeyed to the Emerald City hours before first-pitch to get their hands on a highly coveted, limited-edition jersey created by Muckleshoot tribal artists. It was impossible to miss the intricately detailed beaded medallions, always striking cedar woven hats, and various forms of turquoise jewelry that visually proclaimed, “Our culture is alive and thriving!”
Lines wrapped around the multiple stadium entrances with anxious fans who wanted to be wrapped in a navy blue and Northwest green colored Mariners jersey that featured Coast Salish form line. Only the first 10,000 fans received the first-of-its-kind jersey.
Prior to first pitch, the Muckleshoot Canoe Family took to the always stunningly manicured green grass of T-Mobile Park and shared their culture through dance and song accompanied by traditional hand drum beats.
Throughout the evening, the Mariner’s 11,000-square-foot scoreboard routinely displayed facts about Indigenous tribes of Washington. One example read: “There are more than 30 tribes throughout the state of Washington and over 140,000 Native American citizens in the state alone.” Another read: “Chief Sealth or Chief Seattle was a Suquamish and Duwamish chief respected for his peaceful ways and is the namesake of the city.”
During actual gameplay, the Mariners, who recently took 1st place in their division for the first time in 20 years, gave their adoring fans much to cheer over 9 full innings. Center fielder J.P Crawford hit a 394-foot homerun in the Mariners’ first at-bat of the opening inning. The home team jumped out to a 1-0 lead and never looked back.
Franchise phenom Julio Rodriguez added to the excitement by crushing a two-run, 420-foot bomb in the 4th inning. He finished the game 4-5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBI. During a postgame interview, Julio said, “It’s really good. I feel like everybody is playing like we all know we could,” Rodríguez said. “It’s been really good seeing everybody having fun, seeing everybody getting good at-bats and getting on base and passing the baton, and getting the big hits when we need them.”
Ultimately, the M’s won a memory-filled, 7-0 shutout in front of the largest Monday crowd they’ve had all season. Adding to the legendary game that was, ‘Salute to Native American Heritage’ night.
A Native American hoops legend, Rise Above founder Jaci McCormack (Nez Perce) has lived a fascinating life. So much so that a feature-length film is currently underway that will bring her story of triumph over adversity to the big screen. Executive producers include NBA Hall of Famers Gary Payton and Lenny Wilkens, Hollywood icon Danny Glover, and civil rights activist Gus Newport.
While some may recognize her from her previous work as a victims services coordinator in Tulalip’s Prosecutor’s Office, most know her from her bucket-getting prowess on the hardwood. Whether it was taking down championships in the always competitive Native tournament circuit, or being named an Idaho State player of the year, or her 2005 game-winning jump shot that propelled Illinois State University to a Missouri Valley Conference championship and resulting NCAA tournament appearance.
“My story demonstrates that while it isn’t easy to break barriers, it is possible. Representation matters when it comes to Native youth because my story is their story,” Jaci said in an interview with Deadline. “I feel extremely grateful to have found filmmakers and producers that I can trust to tell this story. [They] understand the importance of Indigenous representation in film, and wholeheartedly believe in the social movement this project will support.”
Best known for her role as an executive story editor on the award-winning tv series Reservation Dogs, writer Erica Tremblay (Seneca Nation) has teamed up with Jaci to tell her real-life story of overcoming and rising above the odds in movie form.
“Jaci’s story is an incredible example of Native empowerment, and I was drawn to her personal journey,” said Erica in the same Deadline interview. “There is a real lack of Indigenous representation in film and television and Jaci’s story is exactly what is needed. We need to see members of our communities achieve greatness.”
While the film is currently in development, Jaci continues to instill in the next generation of Native youth the many benefits of both striving for and embracing greatness through her nonprofit, aptly named Rise Above. Through this authentically Native-led organization, young Native boys and girls are empowered to lead healthy lives despite the challenges.
Rise Above is capable of delivering education, prevention skills, and mentorship through culturally sensitive programs tailored to their needs. It’s also capable of delivering memory-making moments through basketball clinics that have become legendary for having clinic coaches and fitness experts who themselves are Native Americans that the kids can point to as shining examples of their dreams manifest.
Such was the case on Saturday, August 19, when an estimated 200 youth from across the Pacific Northwest journeyed to Rise Above’s sports fest 2023 hosted at Seattle University’s Redhawk Center. The list of clinic coaches included Freddy Brown III (Makah), who played collegiate basketball for the University of Montana, and Analyss Benally (Navajo), who played collegiately at San Jose State University and professionally in Europe.
Among the basketball camp participants were several young Tulalip ladies with hoop dreams, such as Charlie Contraro, Shawna Cortez, and twin sisters Cali and Chloe Iukes. Together they represented a Tulalip wave amongst a sea of aspiring ballers intent on sharpening their handles, perfecting their jump shot, and improving their defensive skills to become two-way players effective on both ends of the court.
“Basketball means everything to me,” said Shawna. “I love it so much. Making new friends is one of my favorite parts, and so is having fun during training drills. For me, I’m really small, so I can steal the ball easier when players are dribbling around me; that makes me a good defender. Some players like making passes, others like scoring, I like being a defender because I’m really good at it.”
“My siblings love sports so much. We go to the Marysville YMCA every day, whether to practice to get better or just for the fun of shooting hoops,” added Chloe and Cali’s big sister, Faith. “I hope in time they’ll understand how meaningful this Rise Above camp was, especially with how much work went on behind the scenes from Jaci and her team to make this all possible. But as far as basketball goes, I think my sisters can accomplish anything they set their minds to, as long they continue to put the work in and stay focused on their goals.”
Traditionally seen as a male-dominated sport, basketball is undergoing a transformation as more and more woman-led sports camps rise to prominence. With current and former women collegiate athletes or actual pros at the helm, camps like Rise Above sports fest are rewriting the narrative and proving that the court knows no gender bounds. Native American girls who once felt sidelined are reclaiming their voices and their game, thanks to the guidance of empowered women like Jaci McCormack who walked the same path.
The impact of these camps extends far beyond the bold lines containing 94 ft. by 50 ft. basketball courts. They are nurturing the growth of a new generation of confident young women who carry the lessons they learn into every aspect of life. The skills taught, from teamwork and communication to resilience and time management, equip these girls to thrive both in sports and in their future endeavors.
“This is my second time participating in a Rise Above basketball clinic, and I absolutely love how they operate, especially being so intentional about including us Native youth,” shared JoAnne Sayers (Nez Perce, Tlingit). “It’s so much more than just basketball. They teach us about the power of community, teamwork, and making connections that we can take from here to hopefully add to our support systems when times get tough.
“Living in Seattle, I’m far away from my home reservation, and so organizations like [Rise Above] do a lot for us urban Native kids to bring us together and establish, like, our own tribe through basketball and other sports,” she continued. “Basketball gives us an outlet to maintain good mental health. If you had a bad day, you can find a basketball hoop almost anywhere to go shoot some hoops at and help yourself feel better. And if you had a good day, there’s nothing better than making some buckets and working on your handles. We don’t need alcohol and drugs to relieve stress or anxiety when we’re capable of cleansing our bodies of those things through workouts on the court or in the gym.”
Organizations like Rise Above, and social leaders for change like Jaci, are intent on shattering stereotypes and paving the way for future generations. When young girls witness women excelling as players or leaders, it challenges the long-standing notion that basketball is a man’s world. For example, the weekend’s sports fest was not only simply about teaching basketball skills, but about presenting powerful role models who inspire girls to dream bigger and aim higher.
“For us, its all about the kids. When we can expose our kids to more opportunities, and get them in the same room with folks like a Lenny Wilkens, a George Karl, or a Vin Baker who can share their stories and let the kids know it’s possible to rise above childhood challenges and accomplish their dreams, that’s when amazing things truly happen,” said the Rise Above icon Jaci. “You never know what part of a speech, or a moment of candid care during a sports camp, or witnessing a peer get so excited after learning something new might plant a seed and grow into a lifelong lesson that helps someone down the road to rise above. At the end of the day, I just think the more stories of struggles overcome and challenges conquered heard by our kids by those they look up to strengthen our kids to become more successful in their own lives.
“I feel so blessed to be in the position to show our kids, especially the young girls, that I used to be just like them. I’m just an ordinary rez kid with extraordinary dreams who didn’t give up when times got tough,” added Jaci. “Now, to have lived by hoop dreams and to be able to give back to our communities and see these young girls come to our camps and thrive, it’s incredibly touching. My dream is for them to see what I’m doing for them through support for our people and passion for the game, and that they not only rise above to accomplish their dreams, but they also give back to the generation that follows them. That’s how we break the cycles and rewrite the negative narratives of our people, by supporting each other with a shared vision.”
Rise Above will continue illuminating a new horizon for youth on reservations or within urban communities, like Seattle, who dare to dream of sports greatness. Tulalip lady hoopers like Charlie and Shawna, or sisters Chloe and Cali, are not just learning how to shoot hoops; they are learning how to shoot for the stars. With each dribble, pass, and made basket, these girls are discovering their strength, their voice, and their power to shape the game and their world, on their own terms.
After the Seattle Storm announced its second-ever ‘Storm into STEM Kids Day’ presented by the Pacific Science Center and Department of Health, leadership within Tulalip Education’s division made the decision to add the WNBA game to its lengthy list of summer activities.
Many middle school and high school-aged children are dependent upon the local Youth Center to provide summertime entertainment and memory-making excursions. With the excitement around venturing to Climate Pledge Arena to watch the pros get buckets, an estimated 50 local youth were transported from the reservation to Seattle Center on Tuesday, August 8.
“The kids were so excited for this game! We had 65 tickets total and the ones who came today acted quickly to be a part of the 50 or so kids we brought down,” said activities specialist Cierra Fryberg. “We overheard several of the kids on the shuttle mentioning this was their first time ever attending a Seattle Storm game. For us, it doesn’t get much better than helping them make these memories among friends and family.”
Total game attendance was announced to be a tad over 10,000 for the 12:10 pm tip-off between the Seattle Storm (7-10) and Connecticut Sun (20-7). Over the game’s duration, kids and families were able to engage in multiple activities aimed to boost child interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics available throughout the concourse inside Climate Pledge Arena.
“We love the atmosphere that Kids Day brings to Storm games, and that our Storm platform can provide a fun and educational experience for youth during a Seattle Storm game in the summer,” said Alisha Valavanis, Storm President and CEO. “We are grateful to our partners at the Department of Health and Pacific Science Center for helping create a memorable and meaningful day for these kids.”
Among the many activities planned, highlights from Pacific Science Center included a full-sized model human skeleton that participants could build and take apart, earthquake shake tables to build and test different structures on, and a hand battery, in which kids used their hands to complete a battery circuit.
“We are extremely fortunate to have a leadership team who thinks of our kids and coordinates activities and field trips, like this one, during the summer when our kids are out of school. As adults, we understand that not all kids have opportunities like this, but being Tulalip affords us a lot of benefits, especially as it comes to our children,” said youth enrichment manager Sarah Murphy.
Following the Storm versus Sun conclusion, the Tulalip group was welcomed onto the court for a group picture. Several of the kids took the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to imagine themselves as professional basketballers and shoot imaginary buzzer-beaters at the Storm nets. Of course, their imaginary shots hit nothing but nylon…swish.
With the sun beaming down on a glorious summer day, golfers from around the Pacific Northwest gathered on Thursday, July 28, at Battlecreek Golf Course to participate in Tulalip’s annual golf tournament. The event, organized by Tulalip’s Boys and Girls Club, promised a day of spirited competition and camaraderie on the green. With over $300,000 raised before the tournament even kicked off, the day would surely be a success for the kids.
Over 20 years ago, the late Francis Sheldon worked with the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club to help create the tournament to raise funds for the children. The event helps the Boys and Girls Club operate and purchase items for events and day-to-day activities. This year’s funds will help with various activities and to update the kitchen.
“This event brings everyone together for a good cause, to raise money for the boys and girls club,” said Mel Sheldon Tulalip, Board Director. “These funds will turn into more activities for our older kids and provide breakfast for the young ones. Coming together like this and building friendships and relationships that benefit the kids is wonderful.”
The 4-person scramble kicked off at noon with a shotgun start. Each team heads out to one of the holes, and every group starts simultaneously. Players play the best ball from the best spot after each turn. At the end of each hole the team scores as a single unit.
When asked how the course was, Mel said, “The course was in good condition considering we didn’t have enough rain, but the staff did a good job keeping the course as green as possible. Although the pin location did challenge us a little bit!”
Along with food and drinks, fun raffle prizes were won, including an outdoor pizza cooker, air fryer, Yeti cooler, trips, and much more. Wrapping up the tournament, a dinner was held where it was announced the 7 Cedars team had won the match.
After a great day of long drives, chipping on the green, and occasionally yelling four to warn the group in front of you, the big winners were the children. With raising $346,286 the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club will continue to provide exceptional food and great care for the kids.
For more information about the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, visit https://bgcsc.org.
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News, photos courtesy A.J. Parish
Were you aware that July 24 is International Self-Care Day? It’s true. Look it up if you don’t believe us.
A quick history lesson: in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a “Self-Care Month” starting on June 24 and ending on July 24 to coincide with International Self-Care Day. This month-long stretch was deemed ample opportunity to allow for regional and national level initiatives by the WHO and its health-conscious partners to be highlighted.
Self-Care Day stresses the importance of self-care as the cornerstone of wellness. On this day, individuals worldwide are encouraged to make self-care a part of their everyday routines and turn it into a priority. It is a milestone and an opportunity to raise further awareness of the benefits of effective self-management of health. The concept of self-care has been around for a while, but it has recently received much attention because of its emphasis on wellness. This can include anything from following a healthy diet and exercising proper cleanliness to developing disease-prevention strategies in one’s daily routine.
Self-care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, exercise), and environmental factors (living conditions, social habits).
In celebration of the upcoming day dedicated to self-care, we caught up with Tulalip’s own Charlie Contraro to discuss her recent accomplishments and the role self-care plays in her life.
As a proud Native American and Tulalip citizen, Charlie was born into a world full of studies, statistics, and reports that attempt to decree that because of her heritage and close residency to her home reservation, she is at high risk for a litany of life debilitating diseases. The most pervasive being diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart failure), substance abuse disorder, various forms of cancer, and liver disease.
To her fortune, Charlie’s parents Mike Contraro and Annie Jo Parish firmly believe in the notion that prevention is the best medicine. In their decade of parenting their youngest daughter to not just know of but actually embody self-care as medicine, young Charlie has become a delightful oddity compared to her peers. She devours blueberries by the handfuls, enjoys chicken breast as a primary protein source, routinely declines processed foods, and her beverages of choice are not sugar-filled sports drinks and pop. Instead, she prefers the standard taste of life-giving water and reaps the rehydration benefits of Pedialyte after her games.
This seemingly simple yet difficult to live by mantra to forego processed foods and refined sugars for more nutrient-dense, vitamin-filled food comes with a whole host of performance benefits for the recent 4th-grade graduate. Measuring five-foot two-inches tall and weighing 97 pounds, Charlie’s physical stature is one of a lean and agile athlete capable of extended peak performance. Typifying that point, her recent performance on the basketball courts of Arizona while competing in the 2023 Native American Jr. Nationals brought her much adoration from teammates, opponents, and top-tier youth basketball scouts.
During a GC3 Hoops live special about the state of tribal athletics, one scout said after watching Charlie’s team Seven Feathers play, “Their star point guard, Charlie, is already my #1 prospect for the class of 2031. You can put her in your database right now.”
George Courtney, Senior Editor for GC3, added, “She played up in the middle school division with the Young Warriors, as well. I’m watching her and taking notes. Then when I talked to her after the game and learned she’s only a 4th grader, I was like, ‘WOW! She’s special and going to be really, really good.’ She has a great I.Q., she handles the ball well, has great feel and anticipation for the game, and has everything you’d want in the foundation for a young athlete. I was very impressed with her. In fact, I had one of the college coaches who was in attendance come over and ask for her information because they want to keep a tab on her.”
In Arizona, Charlie continued her recent play with a self-described All-Star team with her co-ed team Seven Feathers. Featuring four of her Yakama and Colville cousins, this team has a much more instinctive and free-flowing feel to it than her more structured Tree of Hope team operating under Nike’s AAU umbrella. Charlie and her Seven Feathers all-Native team dominated in Lummi back in April, winning every game by close to 40 points per game. Then they traveled to Mesa, Arizona’s Legacy Sports Complex, for Jr. Nationals last month. Her team again dominated, going undefeated in pool play, bracket play, and ran away with the W in the championship game.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with a team that every player can dribble, pass, and shoot. And defend!” declared 10-year-old Charlie after returning from Arizona with bragging rights for being selected to the All-Tournament team and winning a legit championship belt. “I feel like Rocky Balboa after he became champion.”
After winning it all at Jr. Nationals, Charlie’s parents permitted her to get her first taste of a genuine media day. She was subsequently interviewed by regional coaches and scouts, like those of GC3, and got photographed for Tribal Athletics promotional materials. Of course, the bucket getter had to pose with her Wilson Evolution basketball and championship belt.
As her on-court potential continues to soar with each passing Native tournament and AAU season, Charlie’s consistent discipline with how she fuels her body with water, fruits, veggies, and lean meats remains steadfast. She’s seen the results and knows what works for her self-care routine. However, she also knows there’s always room for improvement.
To avoid burnout with high-level, year-round basketball, Charlie and her family agreed to make the most of short-term pauses between seasons so that she could develop other passions. Knowing that her mom and dad first met when they were frequent competitors on the Native softball circuit, Charlie opted to try her skills on the softball field. Her point guard mentality transitioned seamlessly to the pitching mound, where she most recently competed in Everett Little League for the Orcas.
In softball, she worked towards finding a new routine. One that consisted of warming up pre-game by pitching to her dad after he braided her hair, enjoying her always scrumptious blueberries, and then implementing a series of visualizations. She would visualize her pitches and their ideal locations to each hitter to maximize her opportunities for getting strikeouts.
Charlie didn’t experience the same level of team success on the softball field that she routinely secures on the basketball court, but she admitted it was still a lot of fun to be challenged in new ways. “When I’m pitching and things aren’t going my way, I take time to reflect and replay my pitches in my head between innings. If I can see what I did wrong, then I can make adjustments and get it right the next inning. Plus, there are always more games and more chances to get better,” she said.
At just 10-years-old, Charlie is a true breath of fresh air as it relates to Tulalip’s next generation and their acceptance of prioritizing self-care for a strong mind and body that are capable of not just persevering through physical challenges, but making sound mental adjustments when faced with an obstacle to increase their chances for success. So on this International Self-Care Day, we encourage our readers to be like young Charlie for just one day by drinking only water, eating a handful or two of blueberries, and making time to sit in the peace and quiet in order to visualize what your goals are and what adjustments you can make to accomplish them.
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Deanna Sheldon
When looking back at all the amazing work that Leah’s Dream Foundation has done since its inception in 2015, you may find yourself wiping away happy tears. Beautiful, heartwarming, and life changing are a few words that come to mind when one accounts for all the friendships fostered, resources provided, memories made, and smiles shared through the non-profit’s efforts. Over the past nine years, Leah’s Dream has helped build a strong community for local children who are on the spectrum, and their families as well, by hosting events and activities that are geared toward their needs, while simultaneously providing a safe space where the youth can have fun together and enjoy the thrills of being a kid.
A look through the foundation’s social media pages shows how much of an impact Leah’s Dream has made in the Marysville and Tulalip communities. Their bi-monthly activity nights are a big hit and it’s something the families look forward to, which is evidenced in their event photos that show their participants having a blast and exuding joy. In addition to their activity nights, Leah’s Dream Foundation is a major advocate for inclusion for the students with special needs who attend the Marysville School District. Recently, the non-profit provided funds to install sensory playground equipment, that is wheelchair accessible, at both the Grove and Marshall elementary schools. The foundation also utilizes their funds to provide supplies, learning tools, and curriculum for the special needs classrooms within MSD.
Considering all the good that Leah’s Dream does for the community, it’s a bit surprising to learn that the foundation only hosts one fundraiser each year. And that fundraiser has grown in popularity over the past nine summers in both sponsorship and participants, and therefore, the amount of money received in donations has also grown exponentially since the first golf tournament in 2015.
“This was our largest tournament we’ve had to date,” exclaimed Deanna Sheldon, Tulalip tribal member and Founder of Leah’s Dream. “We had 65 sponsors, 135 players, and in total we raised a little over $39,000. And the weather was great! We’re just really excited, so happy and blessed that people keep coming back to support the foundation.”
From the first to the eighteenth hole, signs were posted throughout the Battle Creek Golf Course displaying the name of each sponsor. And some of those signs even conveyed a special message for young Leah Stacy, Deanna’s daughter and namesake of the foundation.
“If you have a child with special needs, or any type of needs, there’s a grieving process you are constantly going through as a parent, knowing your child doesn’t have the same opportunities,” Deanna expressed. “Leah, she has apraxia so it’s very hard for her speech. When she was diagnosed, a lot of people told me she wasn’t going to be able to do a lot because of her speech, but she’s very intelligent.”
She continued, “I have a niece who has autism as well as a nephew. So, we really wanted to figure out how to give back to our community and what we could do to make a positive impact. Our first annual golf tournament funds went to PECS, which is a picture exchange communication system. When Leah was in developmental preschool, the teachers didn’t know anything about PECS. And we worked with the school district to send some teachers and speech therapists to get training on PECS. And throughout the years, we’ve seen a lot of different inequalities within the school system. It’s more aimed toward the general public and never our kids, it never felt inclusive. So, I love seeing families come to our events and know that we have a safe space for their children.”
Deanna and the foundation expressed a deep gratitude for the sponsors and golfers who show their support by participating in the tournament year after year. Thanks to their contributions, the foundation is able to host those events for the kids, as well as ensure that they are receiving the best experience and care at school.
Coming from a golfing family, Leah has a special connection to the Battle Creek course where her father is the head pro. And according to her mom, Leah loves going for golf cart rides through the scenic course. Deanna explained that Leah’s excitement for the event begins to build when she notices her family preparing for the annual summertime tournament. This is when she realizes that it’s time to post the sponsor signs at the course, which is her absolute favorite.
Said Deanna, “She’s so funny. Every single year, she knows when it’s golf tournament time. There’s nothing more special than the Friday night before the tournament, when she runs to the truck because she knows it’s time to put out the signs. She gets so excited. She loves to ride around in her golf cart, thanking people. Those Friday nights, she has so much fun putting the signs up because she decides what person should go on which hole. And this year, she really tried putting the stakes into the ground.”
While advocating for inclusion, promoting awareness about autism, and raising funds to support the local special needs community, golfers from all over the county come to Tulalip to take part in the fundraiser. Many tribal elders, leaders, and board members tee’d-off at this summer’s tournament, including Leah’s grandpa Ray, Tulalip Board of Director Mel Sheldon, and the Tribe’s Interim CEO, Rochelle Lubbers. Families are also encouraged to hit the links as well. Throughout the day, parents and children are seen putting on the greens while enjoying quality family time and soaking up sunshine.
Deanna stated that although it is a tournament, the foundation’s main objective for the event is for everyone to have fun and not to solely focus on the competitive aspect of the sport. However, there are several mini-competitions that are held at certain holes where golfers can play to win prizes. And each participant also walks away with a swag bag filled with items branded with the Leah’s Dream Foundation logo. And now that this year’s competition came and went, Deanna is already brainstorming ideas to celebrate the tournament’s tenth anniversary next year.
“It’s crazy that we will be hosting our 10th annual tournament,” shared Deanna. “Originally, I’d get excited when we reached 20 teams for the year, and now we are close to tripling that. I love seeing people who come every single year, and the new first-time participants too. It’s a great accomplishment for such a small non-profit and it makes such an impact knowing that all the money goes to areas that are well-needed.”
Early last month, Tulalip News detailed the exciting debut of Tulalip Heritage’s golf team. The eight-person team was intently driving, chipping, and putting their way to success at the well-manicured Cedarcrest golf course, where they were matched up with rival school Grace Academy. While covering Tieriana McLean, the lone female golfer on Heritage’s team, we learned she was routinely matched up with another girl golfer from Grace who also happens to be a Tulalip tribal member.
Emily Hegnes, the daughter of Belinda and Don Hegnes is a sophomore at the K-12 private Christian school in Marysville. And she recently etched her name among the lengthy list of Tulalip athletes to find great success in organized sports. She blew even the loftiest expectations out of the water with a stellar 2nd place finish at Tri-Districts and earned a spot at State.
“I’ve been playing since I was young with my dad and my brother, so golf has always been around in the family. At first, I didn’t really like it, but I’ve gotten really used to it and have fun playing with friends and family,” admitted 16-year-old Emily.
Her mom Belinda shared how her daughter started playing golf at five years old while on the course with her parents. They’d hand her a club between holes and watch her swing. Eventually, she grew increasingly competitive playing so often with her big brother that she could shoot even with him. That’s when everyone around her realized she had an innate skill on the green.
Those skills and more were on full display during her recent sophomore season. Her coach Elizabeth Callaghan said, “Probably the thing that sums up her season more than anything is the impression that she’s left on other golfers. I hear from other coaches and athletes what a joy she is to play with. She’s a kind and compassionate girl, and really in the community of golf, that’s something you want to develop in an athlete. The ability to be a lifelong player with whom others are excited to play is one of the highest compliments any golfer can get.”
High school sports have been known to provide numerous benefits to student-athletes, including improved physical health, leadership skills, and teamwork abilities. While traditional sports such as football, basketball, and baseball have long been popular among high school athletes, golf is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to a study by Axios in 2022, golf has risen to the eighth most participated high school sport, with a whopping 143,000+ participants playing high school golf nationally.
Emily’s consistently low scores at one golf course after another culminated with her Tri-District performance hosted at Loomis Trail golf course in Blaine at the end of May. With her sleeves rolled past her shoulders, she not only looked like she meant business but, performance-wise, was ensuring she had a complete range of motion on all her golf swings. Going into the final three holes, Emily was near the top of the leaderboard. Her clutch ball placement and patient putting earned her an impressive 2nd place finish.
“Districts and Tri-Districts were both pretty straightforward for me,” said Emily. “I didn’t feel much pressure. I was a little nervous, but I was pretty confident in my ability to get a good score. Usually, it’s all about fun, but my coach provided some motivation and gave me a goal that I really wanted to accomplish.”
Golf is commonly considered a mentally challenging sport that requires players to stay focused and maintain a positive attitude. The game is often described as “90% mental and 10% physical,” meaning that a player’s mental state largely determines success on the course. High-achieving golfers like Emily routinely showcase unwavering concentration, mental discipline, and resilience. The ability to stay focused and composed under pressure translates into academic success and cultivates a strong work ethic.
“She has a calm confidence,” described Emily’s mom. “That mindset helps her to improve and keeps her motivated. I’m so proud as a mom and a Tulalip tribal member to have a daughter who took up the sport of golf, committed to improving one area at a time, set goals that she reached, and made it all the way to State.”
After her State experience, Emily shared it only made her love golf more because she got to compete with the best girls around and realized how much better she could be.
During the summer of 2022, soon-to-be high school senior Kenzie Thompson Sheldon made the decision to transfer from Marysville Getchell to Lakewood. A seemingly simple enough transfer had major ramifications for the three-time Varsity letter earner for her prowess on the soccer field, as Washington Interscholastic Activities Association — the state’s governing body for high school sports – denied her petition to play soccer at Lakewood during her senior year.
Roughly half the country’s state athletic associations require one year of ineligibility for student-athletes transferring for anything other than “bona fide” family reasons, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. This longstanding restriction is generally an attempt to prevent high school athletic programs from recruiting and thereby gaining a competitive advantage.
With her decision to transfer high schools for her senior year solidified, the Tulalip soccer standout had no other choice but to consider playing another sport to fulfill her competitive spirit. She had previously participated in track and field events while in middle school. Memories of running the mile and doing the long jump seemed like forever ago, but more prominent was the litany of soft tissue injuries that plagued her from year-round soccer.
“It was important for me to play a sport during my last year of high school. Even though I had strained muscles in my back and groin playing soccer and then running track in consecutive seasons in the past, I was confident with the time I had before track started that I could make my body strong enough to withstand the stress of sprinting,” said Kenzie.
And so during the three winter months, she focused her sights on Lakewood’s indoor workout facility and its variety of weight-lifting equipment. Her commitment to an ideal sprinter’s bod required three days a week getting in her routine of Russian twists, pike crunches, box squats, goblet squats, and a whole host of barbell-based lifts.
When spring sports season came around, Kenzie had lived up to her commitment to strengthening her body for track. At a lean, mean 5’1 and 110 pounds she had achieved bench-pressing and squatting well over her body weight for multiple reps. Remarkably, she managed to successfully streamline her body to one of a single-digit body fat percentage that could easily explode out of the runners’ blocks and move lightning quick around the track.
Her competitive fire was reignited once track kicked off. To the point she eagerly accepted the challenge of competing in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, long jump, and 4×100 relay. As the season progressed, she and her coach made the decision to focus solely on the 100-meter sprint and 4×100 relay because of the success they were achieving meet after meet.
“Early on, I knew our relay team was going to be good because every one of us had a good 100-meter time. We just hadn’t all run together as a relay team before, and I was brand new to the team, so our times earlier in the season didn’t really show how good we were,” admitted Kenzie. “But after figuring out which order of relay runners we each needed to be, getting our steps dialed in, and practicing our baton hand-off, oh I don’t know, like, a thousand times, then our time kept getting faster and faster.”
With each passing track meet the Lakewood High School girls 4×100 relay continued to progress. Running the first leg, considered by most to be designated for the team’s strongest runner, Kenzie continued to work on her blazing fast split, which she says topped out at a whopping 11.8 seconds. Her relay team was peaking at just the right time. When they competed in sub-districts and then districts in mid-May, they managed to post a blistering 50.8 second time that qualified them to run at State.
This year’s Washington State track finals took place at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. Kenzie and her relay team were among the top 2A runners invited to race into the record books during the weekend of May 27.
A contingent of family made the trip to Mount Tahoma’s outdoor track and field facility to cheer on their soccer star turned State qualified sprinter. As she does before every race, Kenzie devoured a pack of pink lemonade-flavored sour strips. The 120-gram shot of sugar refuels her glycogen level for the longest 12-second sprint of her life. After she completes her leg and passes the baton to the next runner her time is leading the race and all she can do is wait for the relay to conclude to see where they place.
A matter of seconds later the times are announced and the Lakewood relay team finishes with the 6th best time.
“When the times were announced I was both excited and sad. Excited because of how well we did as a first-time relay team and how much we grew from the beginning of the season, but sad because I know we were so close to finishing 4th. But really, no one predicted we’d even qualify for State, let alone make school history,” reflected Kenzie. “We were told it was the first time in Lakewood school history that a team made it to a State final for the 4×100. That’s a pretty cool achievement.”
With graduation only a couple weeks away, the 18-year-old State finisher admits her athlete days may be behind her. That is unless she manages to make the Hawaii Pacific University soccer team as a walk-on. But if not, she’ll turn all her focus to her studies while pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in marine biology on the gorgeous Honolulu-based campus.