‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ felt at Potlatch Fund gala

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Potlatch Fund is a Native-led nonprofit that provides grants and leadership development in tribal communities throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Fund’s driving mission is to expand philanthropy within Northwest tribal nations by inspiring and building upon the tradition of giving. From potlachs to powwows, building community and sharing wealth has always been a part of Native peoples’ way of life.

On November 2, the Potlatch Fund held its highly anticipated annual fundraising gala. With venue location and theme changing every year, the one constant the gala promises is attendees will  be inspired and given ample opportunity to show their generous side. This year the location was Little Creek Casino Resort and the theme: ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’. 

“This gala brings together people of many different tribes, from many different communities, from many different organizations, and unites us in the common goal to raise money to help us meet the needs of Northwest Indian Country,” said Dr. Charlotte Coté, Potlach Fund board president. “Our theme ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ really captures the essence of our organization’s mission to expand philanthropy for and among tribal communities, while empowering community leaders with the tools they need to succeed.

“We have gathered here in the spirit of the potlatch tradition with the sharing of song, dance, art, and of course delicious food,” Dr. Coté continued. “The support we’re so thankful to receive allows us to keep alive the spirit of reciprocity. I raise my hands to everyone who joins our Potlatch Fund canoe and helps us paddle to our fundraising goals.”

Since 2005, Potlatch Fund has re-granted over $4.5 million in the support of tribes, tribal nonprofits, Native-led nonprofits, Native artists, and Native initiatives in their four-state service area. Through a focus on youth development, community building, language preservation, education and Native arts, they are building a richer future for all that they serve.

The Potlatch Fund’s annual gala is their major fundraising event and brings together people from a variety of neighboring tribes, organizations, corporations and communities. Close to 20 Washington State tribes were listed as event sponsors, including the Tulalip Tribes listed as a Raven-level sponsor.

At the gala, Native community impact makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how other like-minded individuals and groups are striving to make a positive difference for the benefit of Indian Country. This is an invaluable benefit for up-and-coming leaders and organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

“At Potlatch Fund, we recognize the importance of bringing people together to share our stories and experiences,” added Dr. Coté. “Our intent is to generate deeper connections and conversation among Native professionals and our extended community. All are welcome to attend and build relationships with our Native communities.” 

A dynamic and truly benevolent event that brought together tribal leadership, representatives and impact makers from all across the Pacific Northwest, the fundraising gala also had additional benefits for guests. In a setting befitting those who strive to make the world a better place than they found it, the mostly Native gathering took in the sights of Squaxin Island Tribe drummers and dancers, heard the enchanting violin sounds of Lummi musician Swil Kanim, and perused a silent auction filled with unique Native art.

“Potlatch Gala is the most fun event of the year,” shared Suquamish Foundation Director, Robin Little Wing Sigo. “Not only does it raise money, but it raises spirits, energy and excitement. Everyone gets to get dressed up and connect with people they may only see once or twice a year. Also, so many incredible artists donate their artwork for the silent auction that gives us a good opportunity to purchase wonderful Native bling.”

 “We lovingly call it ‘Native Prom’ because it’s one of the last gatherings of the year and we all get dressed up to celebrate being Native,” added Colleen Chalmers, program manager at Chief Seattle Club. “There is representation from so many different tribes yet we’re here as an Indigenous community proving we are still here and we are thriving.”

The ‘Spirit of Reciprocity’ gala provided the opportunity to share culture through song and dance performances, to support and celebrate Native art and artists, and to assist Potlatch Fund with its fundraising efforts as it continues to undertake important work throughout Northwest Indian Country. The evening centered on generosity and was a success as pre-   and post-dinner networking receptions brought people together to create future impact opportunities, while close to $60,000 was fundraised that will ultimately go to where it’s needed most, Native communities. 

27th annual Raising Hands celebration

Lifting our hands to those that make our communities stronger

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On the evening of Saturday, October 26th, the Tulalip Tribes recognized and gave thanks to more than 482 Washington nonprofits and community groups who made a significant difference over the past year at the annual Raising Hands celebration. Held in the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom, the always stylish space was filled to max capacity as representatives of these high-impacting organizations came together to create an atmosphere of appreciation, while sharing their common vision to make our communities better.

“In the Tulalip tradition, we raise our hands to show appreciation to the numerous organizations whose good works help to make our communities strong,” stated Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “It is truly remarkable how many of our citizens, non-profits and community organizations are involved in efforts to improve the well-being of our communities. [We] hold this event every year to let these individuals and organizations know we value their contributions.”

This year’s Raising Hands recognized the prior year in community achievement stimulated by an astounding $7.2 million in tribal support to more than 482 nonprofits and community groups. Since 1992, the Tulalip Tribes charitable giving program has donated over $98.8 million in critical support to the community and, indirectly, to their own membership by supporting regional efforts to improve education, health and human services, cultural preservation, public services, the environment, and the economy.

But the Raising Hands event isn’t all about dollars and cents. At the annual celebration, our community’s change makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how others like-minded charities are striving to make a difference for the benefit of so many. This is an invaluable benefit for organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

“Each and every one of the organizations represented here truly do make a difference. Their dedication is not just to our Snohomish county area, but to the entire Puget Sound region,” stated board of director Mel Sheldon who co-emceed the event.

The theme of this year’s event highlighted the Orca and its importance to the Tulalip Tribes and the region at large. Prior to guests and attendees enjoying a delectable five-course dinner, the Tulalip Honor Guard presented the flags, a prayer was given by Lushootseed teacher Maria Martin and a traditional welcoming given by Tulalip drummers and singers.

For 11-year-old tribal member Amaya Hernandez, the greater concept of showing thanks and giving back was why she volunteered at the celebratory event. “My mom raised me to know that volunteering is important. I volunteered today and wrote out peoples name tags and handed out gifts,” she smiled. “It feels good to give back.”

For the 27th Raising Hands, six standout non-profits received special recognition for their exceptional creativity and effectiveness. Spark Northwest, March of Dimes, Lhaq’Temish Canoe Journey, Operation Homefront, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Friends of the San Juans were each highlighted for their innovative work serving local communities. 

“When you see people coming together to have these amazing, positive conversations, that is when we know we are helping make a difference,” asserted Marilyn Sheldon, manager of Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund. “We try to show respect and honor these charities that give so much of themselves for this community. We want them to feel like the red carpet got laid out, and that it’s just for them.

“Each year, as soon as the event is over, we ask ourselves how we can help make the next one better,” continued Marilyn. “Giving people the opportunity to work together is priceless. We are so fortunate to be able to work with these amazing organizations in Snohomish and King Counties, and throughout Washington State that do so much good in our communities.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 allows tribes to conduct certain types of gaming if they enter into a gaming compact with the state. Tulalip’s tribal-state gaming compact, like most, includes a provision to donate a percentage of gaming earnings to organizations impacted by gaming, as well as other charitable organizations. From this provision the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund was created.

The Charitable Fund, also known as Tulalip Cares, provides the opportunity for a sustainable and healthy community for all. The Tulalip Tribes strives to work together with the community to give benefits back to others to help build a stronger connections to local neighborhoods. That’s why, in Tulalip, it is tradition to ‘raise our hands’ to applaud and give thanks to the numerous organization in our region that strive to create a better world through positive action. 

Nonprofits and community groups are encouraged to apply for quarterly awards through the Tulalip Cares program. For more information, visit the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Funds website at www.TulalipCares.org 

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“The Lhaq’Temish people are the people of the sea. Our relatives are up and down the coast and throughout the Indigenous territory of the American continent. What we’ve been able to do with the funds we received from Tulalip’s Charitable Contributions are to provide hospitality and appreciation for our many guests at the Paddle to Lummi. In addition, we provided services to our community with the Stepping Stones project that helps the homeless. 

This year celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Canoe Journey that has been brought back to our communities. This is really who we are from the elders to the young ones. With the Paddle to Lummi we continued to hand these teachings down to the next generation, to the next seven generations, so they have something to celebrate and honor in a good way.”

– Candice Wilson, Lhaq’Temish Foundation executive director

“Spark Northwest is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing locally controlled, clean energy across Washington and Oregon. We make planned community solar projects and have cooperatively owned wind turbines. The idea is the local community decides what they need and we help them achieve that envision. 

For so many years, our economy has depended upon burning fossil fuels for our wealth. We’re facing rising seas, ocean acidification, increasing wild fires…all of these threats to our wellbeing and it’s because of this legacy of polluting energy. We’d like to change that story and have people use clean fuels, like solar and wind.” 

– Linda Irvine, Spark Northwest program director

“The future of March of Dimes is really fighting those issues that are stigmatized. People don’t like talking about opioid addiction, especially talking about opioid addiction in mothers. There’s a lot of judgment that comes with it and so we are really advocating to start the conversation and be supportive of those women, to find them the help they need so that they can then help their babies.

One of the other ways we are really breaking down barriers is looking at ethnic disparities. In Washington State, Alaskan Native and American Indian women have significantly higher risk of having a premature baby because they don’t have the health care access. We are excited about increasing the access to group prenatal care. If we can create the opportunity for every mom to have access to that resource, then we can literally save thousands of babies every year from being born premature.”

– Kristen Miller, March of Dimes development manager

“The San Juans Islands are in the center of the Salish Sea. We’re home to critical habitat for southern resident Orcas, 119 federally endangered species, and over 8 million residents that call the Salish Sea home. Tulalip has been an advocate for the Orca since time immemorial, so to work together on the legal and cultural spectrum to represent our ancestors from the deep has been so wonderful.

To be honored by the Tulalip Tribes for the work our organization does is so uplifting and fuels us spiritually. To be celebrated with so many worthy recipients that share a deep love for the Salish Sea that we all do is amazing. The awareness that this event gives to the greater community is truly a gift.”

Tulalip ballot drop box to amplify Native vote

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A number of signs with red arrows are currently placed throughout the Tulalip Reservation, all pointing toward the direction of the Don Hatch Youth Center. In large text above the arrow, the signage reads: Ballot Box. 

Across the country, Native Americans of all nations have a long and complicated history in regards to voting in local, state and congressional elections. In a move that seemed to benefit the assimilation agenda, the United States granted Indigenous Peoples U.S. citizenship in the 1920’s. This, however, did not allow Native people the right to vote. In fact, the government left it up to each individual state to determine if tribal members could cast a vote come Election Day. 

For approximately forty years, the tribes fought for the right to vote. With Utah guaranteeing voting rights in 1962, Natives could legally participate in many, but not all, voting events within their cities, counties, states and country. But, the fight was far from over.

From the sixties to present day, Native communities often face a number of obstacles during voting season. Making national headlines in the fall of 2018, North Dakota received a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state to enforce a voter ID requirement upon its citizens in order to register to vote. The voter ID requirement asks voters to show an identification card with a residential address at polling stations, noting that tribal status cards are not an acceptable form of ID. Being that most reservations adhere to the P.O. box system and generally don’t have physical street addresses, thousands of voices were silenced in result of the ruling. 

Another barrier Native voters have to overcome is distance. More often than not, polling places and ballot boxes are located miles away off-reservation. 

Unfortunately, due to the many hoops Native people have to jump through in order to have a say, a lot of them feel discouraged from voting, resulting in record low turnouts and thousands of unfilled ballot choices each year. 

In a Nation that appears to be deliberately suppressing the Native vote, Washington State passed Senate Bill (SB) 5079, also known as the Native American Voting Rights act, this past February. 

“Voter participation is not a partisan issue; it is the foundation of our democratic system and must be protected by all sides,” stated Senator John McCoy, Prime Sponsor of SB 5079 and Tulalip tribal member, on the Senate floor.

The bill passed with a 34-13 vote and addresses Native American voter suppression by allowing voters to register online with a tribal ID, use a tribally designated building as a mailing or residential address, as well as place one ballot box on each reservation, at the tribe’s request. The bill was officially signed into law by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee on March 14. 

Just in time for Election Day, a new ballot box was recently established inside the parking lot of the Don Hatch Youth Center. An approved amendment to the bill states the location of the drop box must be accessible by way of road to the county auditor. The location must also be central and accessible to all tribal members.

“Historically, the Tulalip gym was a voting place for many years,” said Democratic National Committee Native American Political Director and Tulalip tribal member, Theresa Sheldon. “The Tulalip community would come to the gym every year to cast their vote by machines. Once we moved to mail-in elections, Tulalip lost our voting place. Since then, we have been aggressively requesting from Snohomish County to be an official ballot drop off location. This didn’t happen until Senator John McCoy passed a bill in the State legislature stating a ballot box must be located on every reservation to ensure access to voting.”

A few days after Governor Inslee signed the Native American Voting Rights act into law, he also signed a universal voter registration law, which automatically registers Washington State citizens, who are obtaining an ID card or driver’s license, to vote. This law of course eliminates the issue of utilizing your tribal status card as a form of identification when registering to vote. 

“I’m very thankful for any law that makes voting more accessible,” expresses Theresa. “We all live such busy lives so having a designated place to drop your ballot off, any time of day, is very much appreciated. Washington State’s new voting laws also make it so everyone over the age of 18 years old is automatically registered to vote. They use your address from your driver’s license. 

If you need to update your address or did not receive your ballot, please contact Snohomish County auditor’s office if you live within Snohomish County. Their phone number is (425) 388-3693, they have an actual human being who answers the phone and is very helpful.

If you misplace your ballot, you can always go to the County office to vote in person. Also, if you would like help with your ballot and the massive amounts of issues, here is a great resource, https://progressivevotersguide.com/Washington/.”

The new ballot box is accessible 24 hours a day, until 8:00 p.m. on November 5, Election Day. 

New Burke Museum debuts with grand opening for Indigenous peoples

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“The Burke Museum stands on the lands of the Coast Salish peoples, whose ancestors resided here since time immemorial,” said Burke executive director Julie Stein to a growing crowd of 400+ people representing tribal nations from all over the Pacific Northwest. “Many Indigenous peoples thrive in this place. Part of that history is embedded in the museum, and we move forward in a good way so happy you are with us.”

Julie’s words were direct and heartfelt as she greeted the hundreds of Native visitors who convened at the Burke Museum’s ‘Indigenous Preview’ on October 10. Nearly a thousand community engaged and local Native culture-bearers RSVP’d to the evening’s event dedicated to relationship building and seeking to preserve the ingenuity, creativity, and complex knowledge of a living and thriving cultural resource. 

“You all are the first to be invited to tour and experience the all-new Burke Museum,” continued the museum’s executive director. “We are truly honored by your presence. The Burke recognizes our colonial legacy, and we promise to dedicate ourselves to learning from communities and building a more ethical and collaborative future together.” 

In honor of its collaborations with Indigenous communities, the Burke invited all Indigenous peoples to see the all-new $99 million, 113,000-square-foot facility before it officially opened to the public. Nearly a decade’s worth of planning and consultation went into the unique redesign of a natural history museum with a massive 16 million object collection. Two highly anticipated exhibitions feature Northwest Native artistry and craftsmanship at its finest.

An emphasis on transparency and treating the hundreds of Native cultural artifacts with the proper respect, while acknowledging their rightful creators, was the topic of many conversations while the gathering of Native peoples toured the museum. Many Coast Salish tribal members found the Culture is Living gallery to be the highlight of the evening. From intricate weaving creations to hundreds of years old traditional regalia to a truly stunning dedication to canoe journey that showcased carved paddles by many of the 29 federally recognized Washington tribes, the gallery offered a very real sense of purpose and awareness to its Native guests. 

According to the Burke, the Culture is Living gallery breaks down traditional museum authority and brings the expertise and knowledge of communities to the forefront. Cultural objects aren’t tucked away on the shelves. They are alive, embodying the knowledge, language, and stores of people and cultures.

“We wanted to share how diverse our Indigenous cultures are and share the fact that we are still here,” said Sven Haakanson (Alutiiq), curator for North American anthropology. “To us, the cultural pieces we have on display are living. We are representing a hundred-plus cultures in our Culture is Living gallery and to pay them their proper respects we interwove elements of Earth, air, water, our ancestors, children, and community.

“As a curator, one of the things I’m most proud of is we put the Native languages first on every item. Over the next decade, I’m hoping to work with our local tribes to get more item descriptions written in their languages and to add quotes from those communities telling us what the item’s story is from their perspective,” continued Sven.

During the special Indigenous Preview event, several local tribes had representative of their canoe families share song and dance for the mostly Native attendees. Food was enjoyed and provided by the much hyped Off the Rez café, a permanent outpost spawned from Seattle’s first and only Native food truck. There were a number of hands-on exhibitions that guests were drawn to. Chief among them a weaving setup that welcomed the expertise of Native weavers to showcase their skills with rope, cedar, or ribbon that have been passed down for generations.

“The inclusivity is awesome!” shared 24-year-old Stephanie Masterman (Tlingit) after she made her signature in weave form. “Yes, there are artifacts dating back hundreds of years, but there is so much contemporary art, too. So many young Native artists have works included among the galleries. The voice and presence of the future generations we always talk about is definitely represented.”

It’s a new kind of museum with a whole new way to experience our world. The Burke is located on the University of Washington campus and is free to all visitors on the first Thursday of every month. You can expect to be blown away by the attention to detail the dedicated acurators used in setting up each and every item in the six new galleries. And with Native voices prominently featured, there is sure to be an opportunity for learning and reflection.

“Museums have always been colonial spaces and the way the old Burke was structured separated each culture rather than having conversations across cultures that are relevant to our people,” said recent UW graduate Natalie Bruecher (Native Hawaiian). “Here in the new Burke, our knowledge, our ways of being, and even our relationships to each other are really uplifted. This space is a home for our students, our Indigenous communities, and our ancestors that are embodied in every single piece on display.” 

For more information please visit burkemuseum.org or call (206) 543-7907

Former Seahawks bring outdoor fun and leadership skills to Tulalip youth

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A large circle formation of about sixty Tulalip citizens congregated outside of the Youth Center on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. The group, consisting of mostly youth, offered two traditional songs to three tall individuals who were standing at the center of the circle. In the distance was a yellow seaplane sitting on the waters of the bay, which the visitors arrived in moments prior. Leaders of the Tulalip Youth Council and previous Tulalip Mountain Camp and Fish Camp attendees were in for quite the surprise on the chilly fall evening of October 22.

 “We were asked to be here by Jessica, our Youth Council Advisor,” explained Youth Council Secretary, Shylah Zackuse. “We were told it was going to be a team building experience. But I had no clue there was going to be former Seahawks players here.”

Three years ago, former Seahawks tight end and Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, Cooper Helfet, started a non-profit organization, the Nature Project, dedicated to getting kids outdoors for recreational fun, along with time away from their phone screens. Since then, Cooper has recruited former teammates, as well as a few current NFL players, to participate in the Nature Project. For the visit to Tulalip, Cooper brought along fellow former Seahawks, Jermaine Kearse and Tyrone Swoopes.

“I grew up in northern California and I had a lot of opportunities to get out into nature, whether that was hiking, camping, surfing or backpacking, it was a big priority in my family to do so,” said Cooper after thanking the people for the traditional songs. “Some of my favorite memories as a kid were doing those things. And as I got older, especially when I started playing with the Hawks and with different teams in my career, I realized a lot of my teammates didn’t get those opportunities. I started getting them outdoors more and they had an amazing experience developing their own relationship with the natural world. 

“And I thought, how do we create these types of opportunities for kids? Especially in a time where video games, TV, the internet are exciting, but taking over our world. So I started this project, bringing out athletes to the kids of local communities to get them outdoors and impress upon them the importance of spending time outside.”

After taking time to snap a photo with the crowd, the football stars hung out with the youth, passing a soccer ball around. Approximately thirty kids introduced themselves to the group and stated one outdoor activity they enjoyed such as skateboarding, hiking, softball and basketball. Next, Cooper passed around sharpies and cedar medallions, asking the kids to write down one goal they hoped to accomplish in their lifetime. 

“The real mission of the project is to motivate kids to spend more time outside and do so in a way where they can create positive physical memories with friends,” Cooper explained. “And to use that as a tool they can use throughout their life to be reflective and think about their goals and how to overcome adversity. We know that often times it could be hard for youth to relate, listen and let things soak in. One of the assets we have as athletes is we have an ability to connect with kids and know we’re going to have their ears and attention because we gained that beautiful gift of being their role models, so we try to pass that on to them through the Nature Project work.”

Once everybody’s goals were marked down, the kids had fun participating in an exercise designed to use the power of communication, teamwork, and creativity to find a way to obtain their goals. After putting in plenty of effort and refusing to give up, the kids got a little help from Cooper, Jermaine and Tyrone. However, in order to receive help from the football pros, the youth had to vocalize exactly what they needed from the athletes first.

The youth were shown that it is possible to achieve their aspirations by using teamwork and communication skills. The group then had an open conversation about attaining individual goals through determination, perseverance and utilizing personal resources. 

“Perseverance for me is not giving up and overcoming every obstacle,” expressed Jermaine, who is also a Super Bowl XVIII Champ. “Adversity is going to show up in our lives whether it’s in sports, school, life or relationships. For me, in the 2015 NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers I had four targets, four passes thrown to me, and they were intercepted each time. It was a tough moment but I didn’t feel sorry for myself, I didn’t quit, go in the locker room, or sit on the bench with my head down. I knew there were going to be more opportunities and if I was going to be ready for the next opportunity I had to stay mentally in the game. My next opportunity so happened to be the game winning touchdown. That’s perseverance, not giving up on yourself and continuing to push forward.

“Sometimes we feel prideful, we have our egos and want to do things on our own. Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard to go through life doing everything by yourself. If you have a group of friends or family that are really close to you, if you’re going through hard times in class or struggling, it’s okay to ask for help. Don’t feel ashamed because even the strongest people in the world need help.”

Every year the Tulalip Natural Resources department partners with the YMCA of Snohomish County to bring local youth the outdoor summer camps, Mountain Camp and Fish Camp. Upon hearing about the camps, the Nature Project was interested in hosting an outdoor event with the Tulalip community. 

“The Nature Project learned about us through the YMCA,” said Ryan Miller, Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Liaison. “Their whole goal is to get kids out into nature and have that experience that Cooper had when he was a kid, that he feels turned him into the person he is today. They felt he was a really good fit to do something with Tulalip and our youth. It’s an opportunity for the kids to learn about the importance of team work, perseverance, leadership and gives them skills that will help them throughout their lives.”

Tulalip youth Seth Montero fell in love with the great outdoors while at the Mountain and Fish Camps. His passion for nature was so strong that when he grew past the camp age limit, he took a course with the YMCA to take on a leadership role at the summertime camps. Seth thanked the former Seahawks for their work promoting outdoor activities.

“Nature is important because it’s all around us and every day we’re losing more and more of it. It’s always good to get outside whenever you have the chance. Go explore new places, appreciate all the views Mother Earth has to offer, because it might not always be there.”

To wrap up the evening, kids were given large water bottles courtesy of REI and all three Nature Project members took a moment to converse with each kiddo as they autographed their names across their bottles. 

“It was so awesome,” said Tulalip Youth, Lincoln Pablo. “Jermaine Kearse has always been my inspiration for playing football. His catches are amazing. I always wanted to do what he did and get to the league. For my goal today, I wrote down play on our very own Seattle Seahawks.”

Before taking off in the seaplane, Jermaine and Tyrone were gifted handcrafted masks by Tulalip artist Ty Juvinel, and all three former Seahawks received paddles from the Tulalip Youth. 

“You live on a beautiful reservation,” Cooper said. “If you’re looking for ways to get involved in outdoor fun, it’s as simple as walking along the beach or adventuring a little east and getting up in the woods. It doesn’t take much. It’s grabbing a neighbor and going for a walk, it doesn’t need be a planned thing. When I think about my childhood, none of my memories were inside paying video games. They were memories I can feel, hear, see and smell and were with friends. 99% of the time they were outdoors. You just got to take the initiative and go do it. Your ancestors were the original stewards of all this land we get to call home, and I just want to express that there’s an insane amount of gratitude that I have for that.”

A good day to be Indigenous

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For the sixth consecutive year, the greater-Seattle area and its thousands of Native citizens celebrated Indigenous People’s Day. Replacing the former misbegotten holiday dedicated to a slave trader and lost navigator, the commemorative day to honor the past, present and future of Indigenous knowledge and cultures takes place annually on the second Monday in October.

“People ask, ‘Why Indigenous Peoples Day and why not American Indian Day or Native American Day?’ It’s only appropriate that we honor the legacy of work that’s been done,” explained Matt Remle. His efforts, along with many other Native advocates, were instrumental in getting a proclamation voted on by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by then-mayor Ed Murray in 2013. “It’s not only honoring legacy, but when we say ‘Indigenous peoples,’ it’s referring to more than just the tribes of colonized United States. We’re talking about all Indigenous peoples who’ve been impacted by settler colonialism around the world.”

Since its inception into the Puget Sound, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement has spread to over 120 cities and been embraced by 9 state governments. Even 8 universities and a couple school districts have indoctrinated the holiday to celebrate global Indigenous cultures. 

On Monday, October 14, Native people and allies from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at Westlake Park, on ancestral Duwamish land, for a march and rally to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle. The dedicated early morning group proudly wore cultural garb and traditional regalia while traversing from Westlake Park to Seattle City Hall, where a rally of celebratory song and dance was held. 

“It’s been a beautiful day to see so many Indigenous people come together and be filled with so much joy,” shared 20-year-old Ayanna Fuentes, a member of Indigenous Sisters Resistance. “Our younger generation is growing up not knowing what Columbus Day is, and that’s an amazing thing.”

In the evening, the festivities continued at Daybreak Star Cultural Center with an honoring celebration for Native nations in the Puget Sound Region and their fellow Indigenous allies. Sponsored by Tulalip Tribes community impact funds, the Daybreak Star gathering included hundreds of urban Natives, dancers from a variety of Indigenous communities, and non-Natives who wanted to share in the memorable event.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) honor song kicked off the evening while Sili Savusa and Feanette Black Bear were blanketed for their longstanding commitments to Indigenous progress. A high-energy hoop dance performed by Ryan Yellowjohn was next, followed by a variety of cultural performances representing Mexico, Chile and the Pacific Islands. For the finale, an overflowing DayBreak Star crowd was treated to several songs offered up by the Tulalip Youth Council.

“I thank the ancestors for giving me this opportunity to be here today with you all and hold the sage,” said Feanette. “There are over 500 Indigenous tribes across this country and we are all here because our ancestors said prayers hundreds of years ago for their future generations. It is up to us to stand up and take care of Mother Earth and our relatives all across Turtle Island.”

A variety of states, cities, counties, community groups, schools, and other institutions observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 14. They all did so with activities that raised awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. 

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day, at its core, aims to celebrate and honor the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the United States and acknowledges the legacy of colonialism, which has devastated Indigenous communities historically and continues to negatively impact them today,” stated Native educator and activist, Matt Remle. “More importantly, however, Indigenous Peoples’ Day moves beyond the narrative of oppression and honors the histories, cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.”

Changing the way we see Native America

Matika Wilbur at Northwest Indian College. Photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News. Photos by Matika Wilbur and Micheal Rios.

In 2012, Tulalip tribal member and visual storyteller Matika Wilbur sold everything she owned in her Seattle apartment and invested the proceeds into a vision: to unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues, the beauty of Native culture, and the magnitude of tradition. Her vision’s name? Project 562.

Reflecting her commitment to visit, engage, and photograph all 562 federally recognized Native American tribes (in 2012), Project 562 reveals a name that serves to both inspire and educate. 

“While teaching at [Tulalip] Heritage High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative,” she recalled. “It’s an incomplete story that perpetuates an American historical amnesia. It’s a story that’s romantic, dire and insatiable…it’s the story of extinction.”

Matika points out the extinction theme often associated with Native America is easily perceived by doing a quick Google Images search. If you search for ‘African American’, ‘Hispanic American’ or ‘Asian American’, then you’ll find images of present day citizens who represent each culture. You’ll see proud, smiling faces and depictions of happy families. 

But if you search for ‘Native American’ the results are very different. You’ll see mostly black and white photos of centuries old Natives who are “leathered and feathered”.  Making matters worse, you’ll also find more images of white people wearing headdresses than of modern day Native families. 

“All of these images and misconceptions contribute to the collective consciousness of the American people, but more importantly it affects us in the ways that we imagine ourselves, in the ways we dream of possibility,” explained Matika. 

Darkfeather, Eckos and Bibiana Ancheta, Tulalip. Pictured at the edge of Tulalip Bay, they are wearing traditional regalia that was prepared for their annual Canoe Journey. Every year, upward of 100 U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations and New Zealand canoe families will make the journey by pulling their canoes to a rotating host destination tribe. Canoe families pull for weeks, and upon landing, there will be several days and nights of ‘protocol’: a celebration of shared traditional knowledge, ancestral songs, and sacred dances.

And so began her 7-year journey to photograph and collect stories of contemporary Native citizens from tribes all across the United States. As her photographic portfolio continued to expand, so too did her realm of possibilities.

Project 562 has driven her to travel hundreds of thousands of miles, many in her RV dubbed ‘the Big Girl’, but also by horseback, train, plane, boat and on foot across all 48 continental states, Hawaii, deep into the Canadian tundra and into Alaska. The number of federally recognized tribes has risen to 573, according to the Department of the Interior, since the inception of her vision back in 2012, but that fact is just superficial.

Presently, the now 35-year-old Matika has come to realize that Indigenous identity far surpasses federal acknowledgement. There are state-recognized tribes, urban and rural Native communities, and other spaces for Indigenous identity that don’t fall under the U.S. government’s recognition. Astonishingly, she estimates she has photographs that represent about 900 different tribal communities. 

Jon Red Corn, Osage Nation and Waxak’olin district Osage, leads boys to the Zonzolin arbor where traditional values and teachings of the Osage people are celebrated.

In a respectful way, Matika has been welcomed into hundreds of tribal communities, and she has found that people support the project because they would like to see things change. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, decolonization of the mind, and revitalization of culture accompany the photographs in captions, videos, and audio recordings.*

“For the past six-years I’ve been sojourning in my big girl. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, an amazing experience!” beamed the Tulalip photographer who routinely has her brilliant images displayed in museum galleries and college campuses across the nation. 

 Miss Melba Appawara from the Northern Ute Tribe, born in 1932, and Grandma to many beautiful bear dancers.

“I started in Washington and worked my way south through Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico,” she detailed. “I went to all the pueblos, so many places in Navajo Nation, then down to the south and into the bayou. I continued on to the Everglades and then all the way up the East coast into Haudenosaunee country where I learned about the Great Law. I then zig-zagged across through the country until finally making it up to Alaska. Now, I am back home.” 

She’s returned with an unprecedented repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portray present-day Native America. Project 562 will ultimately culminate as an awe-inspiring hardcover, series of exhibitions and online resources filled with a dynamic variety of proud Native Americans telling their stories their way. But until that long-awaited day comes, Matika gave adoring fans and devote followers of her project a glimpse into her 7-year journey during the first weekend of October. From October 3 – 5, she held a four-part project preview at Northwest Indian College, Ferndale Library, Nooksack Community Building and the Deming Library. 

The Project 562 creator spoke passionately at each venue while sharing stories about overcoming historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and silenced Native American voices in mass media. She shared about meeting one of her real life heroes John Trudell, being at Standing Rock during the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and offered powerful stories detailing Native citizens from around the nation rising up from racism and injustice to create a better world for themselves and future generations. 

Swinomish Village. “One of my favorite shots from canoe journey this year. It’s always an epic feeling to watch dozens of canoes paddle up to our shores. I feel grateful that I am among the generation that gets to know this cultural revolution. That we are the descendants of people who refused to let canoe culture go to sleep. We are the generation that gets to see this awaken. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Matika

“If I’m here to bring a message at all, it’s the message that Indian Country is alive and well,” said Matika during her NWIC presentation. “It’s the message of hope and resiliency. It’s the story of Indigenous intelligence. 

“There are still Ghost Dances, Sun Dances and long houses filled with songs and traditional medicines. Our story is worth knowing, telling, and inspiring one another with. Because doing modern things while gathering and encouraging the collective consciousness to uplift Indigenous intelligence is the only pathway forward. That is the dream.”

*Source: matikawilbur.com


Community unites to declare: ‘Get drugs off our Rez!’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Over 300 hopeful community members united on a Friday evening to bring awareness to Tulalip’s drug epidemic. With a positive outlook and emphasis on prevention, the Get Drugs Off Our Rez walk offered traditional songs, prayer, and stories of encouragement. 

In what is sure to be one of the last warmer days of the year, the rain and clouds stayed away on September 27, giving a picturesque backdrop to the gathering as family and friends assembled at Heritage High School’s gymnasium. After many formed a large circle and shared four songs to honor the four directions, the assembly marched their powerful drum beats and strong voices down 27th Ave. NE, or what is colloquially called ‘the Quil.’

“Today’s purpose was to raise awareness for all of our youth, our elders, and all of our community members. To recognize that there really is unity out here and our people are ready to come together and stay together to build a stronger future,” explained prevention walk coordinator Josh Fryberg. “Personally, I’ve lost family members to the drug epidemic and have other family who are addicted. 

“My goal is to get them stronger and get them to where they need to be in order to beat their addictions,” continued Josh. “It comes full circle because by helping those that need our support the most, it shows our youth we still practice our traditional teachings and care for one another.”

Local law enforcement, firefighters, and various Tulalip-based programs came together with the outpouring of community support to form one unified demonstration. Tulalip tribal members of all ages participated and showed their support for a shared mission by wearing a black t-shirt that stated with all capital letters: GET DRUGS OFF OUR REZ. As they marched down the Quil many local commuters cheered from their cars, while others stood outside their residence to take in the awe-inspiring scene. 

Walking their talk. Voices from the march:

Jobey Williams: “Our ancestors fought for us. They fought for us to have what we have today, and to see so many gather here today to get our people clean means a lot. It shows we’re still willing to fight for one another and get our people together on the right path so we can walk as one. This is just the start, only the beginning, but we are going to get our people back. We are going to help the ones suffering and get them back in the sacred circle.”

Gerald Williams Jr., with his son Gerald Williams III, celebrated graduation from Wellness Court: “Two years ago I was really bad into my addiction. I weighed something like 110 pounds and using so much drugs that they nearly killed me,” shared Gerald. “Next thing you know my son was born and reality set in that I needed to get clean for him. My father was an alcoholic and his addiction killed him when I was young. I didn’t want my son growing up with that same story so I set out to get clean. It was a struggle and wasn’t easy at all. I had to go through treatment two times to get it right, but eventually it stuck and now I can show my son a better way to live. I’m really grateful for Wellness Court and everyone who helped me get here today.”

16-year-old Kaiser Moses, youth council representative: “When it comes to the drug epidemic, I’ve seen a whole lot and heard much more about what it has done to us. Drugs are keeping us to the sins and vices of the Earth. We need to separate ourselves from that because our ancestors wanted us to be pure and to keep our teachings alive. Our teachings aren’t heroin needles or alcohol. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, vaping…all of that is like a snake. You never want to pick up the snake because it will bite you and coil around you, preventing you from being on the good path and walking the sacred road.”

Tulalip Bay Firefighters Peter VanLunsen and Dane Zirwas: “It really empowers us and gives us great pride to serve the community. We often have to respond to not favorable situations, but being here today with the community is a tremendous opportunity.”

Benjamin Deen walked alongside his mother as they both celebrated being clean and sober:  “This is so big for our community. This walk is for the future of our children and young ones. I’m carrying my N.A. chips because they remind me that this process is one day at a time. So far I’ve earned my 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 6-month, 9-month, 1-year and 18-month chips.”

Donald ‘Penoke’ Hatch, Tulalip elder: “When we say drug epidemic we are referring to the heroin, opioid-based pain pills, and cocaine that is sold to our people. It’s poison. The whole community has to help out to solve this problem. If you see things in the neighborhoods, next door, or in your own house, then you have to be willing to talk about it and call the police. I worked hard with one of my children and still lost him, so I know how difficult it can be. Drugs and being addicts isn’t the traditional lifestyle of us as Native Americans. And in order to rid our reservation of those things we have to be willing to speak up and tell on those up to no good. If we’re not willing to do that, then we will continue to have drugs on our reservation. It takes the whole community being on the same page to end this epidemic.”

The Club opens state-of-the-art tech center for teens

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Boys and Girls Club has served as a model for those working to improve the lives of young people in the surrounding communities since 1997. ‘The Club’, as it’s affectionately been dubbed by the hundreds of children who attend daily, is a safe place where children can just be kids. While there, children are routinely exposed to healthy food choices, create an abundance of happy memories, and make relationships that last a lifetime.

Thousands of young minds have been significantly impacted via the Club’s encouragement and support over the past twenty-two years. On September 18, that support system received a major upgrade when the doors were opened to a 4000-square-foot expansion known as the Multimedia Teen Center.

“Our organization is proud to be a partner with Tulalip and those roots go back a long way,” explained Bill Tsoukalas, executive director of Snohomish County Boys and Girls Clubs. “From day one, our shared vision has been to keep our kids safe and healthy because we want them to graduate high school and go onto college so they can come back as future leaders. 

“We have stayed committed to that vision and this Teen Center takes it to another level,” he continued. “Tulalip continues to lead with this Multimedia Teen Center because it is the best. It’s not only the best in our organization or in Indian Country, but it’s the best in all of Boys and Girls Club country.”

A state-of-the-art tech center designed to accommodate an ever-growing teenager membership, it houses six Xbox One gaming stations complete with 4k TVs, a dedicated high-speed internet server, and a sound system that rivals most music studios. Cyber Café functions as a self-serve healthy snack bar, a SMARTfit multi-station trainer is wall mounted for the perfect training solution for large groups and team building, and a makeshift graffiti wall is available for those artsy types who can create masterpieces with just chalk and their imagination.

There are conventional games as well, like a pool table, large chess setup, foosball table, and tic-tac-toe for those who prefer their games of skill without computer assistance. A dedicated homework area consists of several computer stations equipped with all the necessary programs to meet the coursework demands of today’s teens, while also aiming to shrink the reservation’s homework gap. 

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly one-third of households with children ages 6 to 17 and whose annual income falls below $30,000 a year do not have a high-speed internet connection at home. At its most extreme, the homework gap can mean that teens have trouble even finishing their homework. For that division of teens who say they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to a computer or internet connection, the Club’s homework station’s significance cannot be understated. 

“This is for our kids,” said board of director Marlin Fryberg. “We have a Teen Center with our Youth Services department and our kids, no matter if they are at that building or this one, the priority is to keep them together and safe so they can have fun. With these computers now available they’ll be able to learn, too.”

At the time of this article, there are a whopping 535 Tulalip citizens between the age of 13 and 19 that need all the support they can get in order to compete in an ever tech-centered world. The Club’s Multimedia Teen Center was designed with every detail keeping them in mind.  Five-years of planning and attention to digital trends has paid off big time.

Josh Miranda attended the reservation’s Boys and Girls Club since moving to Tulalip in 2013. He spent nearly all his teenage years being a Club kid and now works as a club assistant. He says of the new teen addition, “The designers really hit it spot on because there is something for everybody with all the different types of gaming. I definitely plan on hanging out here after I clock out.”

The Club is the first of its kind to be built on tribal land in Washington. After twenty-two years of commitment to the community it continues to get better and serve the needs of Tulalips’ youth. Through before and after school programs, it aims to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem, developing values, and teaching skills during critical periods of growth.

“With my staff we take care of and look out for every single one of the 400 or so kids who come through our doors every day,” beamed Club director Mark Hatch. “We try our best to meet their needs top to bottom. Whether its sports, art, music or now a multimedia center for teens we are always trying to hone the highly intelligent minds of our kids.”

Lushootseed returns to Marysville Pilchuck High School

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After nearly a two decade hiatus, the Lushootseed language has finally returned to the classroom as an official program taught at Marysville Pilchuck High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The tireless dedication of longtime Indigenous education employees and Native student supporters Matt Remle and Ricky Belmont, who made it their mission long ago to bring the Coast Salish language to the high school, has brought a swift sense of excitement to the MP campus.

“For years my co-worker Ricky Belmont and I worked to find ways to bring Native language learning opportunities to Marysville Pilchuck. Last year, the stars finally aligned when we reached out to our administration about developing a Lushootseed class on campus and they agreed,” explained Matt Remle, lead Indigenous education liaison. “When it came time to register for classes this year, Ricky and I reached out to our current students and incoming freshman and told them they better sign up after all that hustling.

“Because demand was high we now have the amazing Natosha Gobin teaching two classes on campus,” he continued. “Students are already being [heavily] influenced. Yesterday, I was speaking to a senior about her post high school plans and she said she wanted to be a Lushootseed teacher!”

A Tulalip tribal member, Natosha has spent the last 19-years learning, teaching, and helping to revitalize the traditional language of her ancestors. She has come full circle after graduating as an MP high school student 20 years ago to now reentering the MP halls as a certified teacher and Lushootseed instructor.

“Toby Langen and Tony Hatch taught Lushootseed classes at MP in the early 2000’s, which were the classes that I sat in on along with Eliza Davis when we first started in the language department,” recalled Natosha. “It is exciting to be back on the campus as the lead teacher. I hope that I can keep the students engaged and speaking, giving them tools to use the language daily both in and out of the classroom.

“The work that Michelle Myles has done the past two years at Heritage has sparked the interest for high school youth to start learning and speaking our language,” she continued. “We have high hopes that the youth taking these classes will be able to see themselves as the next group of teachers to keep the work moving forward.”

The Lushootseed course was offered to all interested students from all grade levels and quickly filled up. It comes as no surprise that the majority of her students are Tulalip tribal members who jumped at the opportunity to learn  their traditional language and history from an actual Tulalip culture bearer.

“It’s already one of my favorite classes,” shared 10th grader Shylah Zackuse (Tulalip). “After finding out Lushootseed would be offered, I planned my daily schedule perfectly in order to take it. Being taught by a tribal member, there’s a real connection because Natosha is family.” 

Currently offered during 2nd and 3rd period only, 34 out of the 52 enrolled students are either Tulalip tribal members or have lived in the Tulalip community their whole lives. The remainder of the students are a mixture of other Native and non-Native students who are eager to learn about the traditional lifeways of their neighboring Tulalip people. 

“I don’t know a lot about my Native culture, so taking Lushootseed is a new opportunity to learn about my background,” explained 9th grader Jesse Lamoureaux (Tsimshian from Metlakatla, Alaska). “This class teaches me about my past. What we are learning is thanks to our ancestors from way back who documented their teachings on audio tapes. My favorite phrase so far has to be ηαʔɬ δαδατυ (Lushootseed for ‘good morning’) because we can say it every day.”

The Lushootseed coursework will focus on relevant conversation lessons that can be used throughout the day. These include talking about daily routines, weather, describing feelings and states of mind, as well as many more topics to keep students engaged.

The course will also feature a great many references to Tulalip ancestors and elders who laid the foundation for where the Tribes are today, such as Harriet Shelton Dover, Martha Lamont and Lizzie Krise to name but a few. And best of all the MP students won’t be reading about these iconic individuals from colonial textbooks either, instead they will be hearing their powerful words spoken from a combination of archived video and audio resources.

“Some of my greatest inspirations are the speakers who had the foresight to document and record our language, enabling us to speak and teach it today,” said Natosha. “We want to ensure our community is aware of the ancestors who played key roles in preserving the language. Through passing on their stories, some of our youth are able to recognize their connection to the speakers and deepen their desire to participate.”

With both Lushootseed classes at full capacity and a waiting list with students hoping to transfer in if the opportunity arises, Marysville Pilchuck is already looking to build on the early successes of having more culturally relevant classes available for their diverse student population.

“It’s so wonderful to be able to offer Lushootseed to our students,” explained Principal Christine Bromley. “We have Native students, non-Native students and students with disabilities all taking Lushootseed. From all perspectives of this, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships.  

“Partnering with the Tulalip Tribes to bring Lushootseed here to the high school is a critical piece to build upon the relationship between the school district and the Tribes,” she added. “I can’t wait to see us grow Lushootseed into a level 2 and 3 program to get more and more students involved.”

Future plans also include offering a Native art class, such as an introduction to carving taught by a tribal member. The class space is currently available and only requires a willing artist to teach it. Until then, Natosha and her collection of Indigenous wisdom intend to teach and inspire the culturally oriented young minds of Marysville Pilchuck High School.