By Micheal Rios, photos courtesy of Alan Karchmer for NMAI
A permanent memorial dedicated to generations of Native American military veterans was unveiled on Veteran’s Day, November 11, in the heart of Washington D.C. It’s been over twenty-five years in the making, as Congress authorized construction of such a dedication in front of the National Museum of the American Indian back in 1994.
To celebrate the momentous occasion in the age of COVID-based restrictions and social distancing, a planned dedication ceremony and veterans procession was replaced with a virtual program. Opening the video presentation was none other than Tulalip’s own Board of Director and Army veteran, Mel Sheldon.
“I’d like to start by thanking our elders and veterans. All the brave men and women who have served before us created the foundation for our next generation,” said Mel during the initial moments of the twenty-two minute program. “They created a legacy that extends to the younger leaders of our country, as well as those who are now currently serving in the armed forces.
“My father was a Marine and he served in World War II. His example led me to carrying on that proud tradition when, at just 19-years-old, I served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot,” he continued. “Here at Tulalip, we have a number of women who have served in the military and in our traditional way we raise our hands to them for their courage and service. There have been 29 million people serving in the U.S. military from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan, and a good portion of them are proud Native Americans. [We] have served at a very high rate in the military and we’re very proud of that warrior tradition.”
Native men and women have always been defenders of their lives, traditional homelands, and cultural lifeways. The call to serve in the United States military has been strong for our people since the nation’s founding, long before being officially recognized as U.S. citizens in 1924.
In fact, the Department of Defense recognizes that today’s military successes depend heavily on the contribution of America’s first people. Thirty-one thousand proud Native American men and women are on active duty today, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. In total there are 140,000+ Native veterans living, breathing, and passing on teachings about honor and duty to a cause much larger than oneself.
The best stat of all is as a demographic, Native Americans serve in the armed forces at five times the national average and enlist in the military at the highest per-capita rate of any other group. A longstanding warrior tradition of so many, past and present, is now forever memorialized with a federal monument in the U.S. capital.
Designed by multimedia artist and Marine Corps veteran, Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho), the one-of-kind fixture features an elevated stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. It also incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gathering, and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders and others can attach prayer ties for healing.
“That big vertical circle that stands in the middle, I call it the hole in the sky where the Creator lives. When you pray, that prayer goes through there and the Creator receives it and blesses you,” explained Harvey in an interview with Indian Country Today. “No matter how you feel about how our country has treated Native people, it’s important to honor all our Native warriors. They fought to protect the land we live on. That’s what warriors do.”
While the warrior mentality to protect the sacred has a long and prideful history, at the same time Native communities have never taken a loss of life lightly. Paying homage to fallen warriors as heroes with reverent memorials filled with ceremonies and prayers is a traditional teaching that unites tribal members of all 574 federally recognized tribes. Dubbed the Warriors’ Circle of Honor, this memorial intends to unite any and all visitors though a connection of service and sacrifice by Native veterans, past and present.
“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American veterans,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI director. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”
Kettle corn has been described as the perfect snack. Its unique combination of sweet and salty, with just the right amount of crunch, is a highly sought after mouthgasm at fairs and outdoor festivals by people of all ages. For one Tulalip family, kettle corn represents something much more significant than an occasional treat, it represents a voice for the voiceless.
“Our youngest son Jared has autism. He was put on the spectrum when he was a toddler,” explained former Board of Director, Jared Parks. “As a family of eight, it’s been an adjustment for us all. We’ve learned so much about autism and how it’s a spectrum, which means that it effects people differently. For our son, he has nonverbal autism. He may not be able to speak, but he can still express himself.”
That expression is clearly evident when 7-year-old Jared II is around kettle corn. His parents say “he lights up and has a grin from ear to ear”. Young Jared’s love for flavorful popped kernels was the inspiration behind his parents’ decision to create a small business venture named after their son, called Jared’s Corner. Their mission? To help raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder.
Autism impacts people regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or political allegiances. It is estimated that 25 million people are affected worldwide. There is no cure for autism, and currently boys are approximately 4.5 times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than girls. Often not discussed is the high rate of autistic individuals who are nonverbal, which is true in roughly one-third of all cases.
“I had to throw out the parenting book with all I knew and needed to learn new ways to communicate and show affection,” shared momma bear, Kristie Parks. “It’s been challenging. I tell my kids all the time ‘I love you’ and they say it back to me, but my son can’t. He’s never called me ‘mom’, or been able to tell me if his tummy hurts or if someone hurt him. What my son has become is my family’s biggest teacher. He’s taught us to slow down our lives, be extremely patient, and accept all of life’s blessings.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 1 in 54 children have been identified with autism. That’s nearly twice the rate from 1 in 125 found in 2004. The dramatic increase and recent spotlight shining on the developmental disorder has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve people on the autism spectrum and their families.
“Our son is different from our other five kids in so many ways, but we really do view it as a blessing,” added Jared. “He’s taught us to be better parents. We’re more patient and compassionate because of our son. Now, we want to spread awareness about autism and it just so happens kettle corn is a good metaphor for the spectrum.
“Basically, we can take a batch of this kettle corn, lay it out, and see that no two kernels are the same,” he continued. “They are all different, just like those on the spectrum. That’s the meaning behind our slogan, ‘not one kernel is the same’.”
By founding Jared’s Corner this past summer, parents Jared and Kristie intend to speak on behalf of their son to customers who stop by their stand to purchase a bag of freshly popped kettle corn. While completing their transactions, customers are informed of Jared’s Corner’s namesake and the meaning behind the logo.
The puzzle piece is a highly recognized symbol for autism spectrum disorder. It symbolizes all the different ways individual kids fit together. It symbolizes the complicated ways this disorder may manifest itself in children. It also symbolizes how there is no one therapy that works for everyone, and sometimes it’s a whole puzzle of therapies that when pieced together just right actually make a difference.
The Parks family is dedicated to helping find solutions and bring further awareness across the spectrum to the needs of individuals with autism and their families. They will be doing their part by donating a percentage of annual income to pro-autism foundations.
“Being baby Jared’s mother, his voice, his protector, it was and still is an unbelievable roller coaster ride,” said Kristie. “We want to share our experience because the autism rate continues to go up and there is so little information available to parents and families who struggle in silence. Our goal with Jared’s Corner is to help promote understanding that just like ‘not one kernel is the same’, every child is different and every autism story is different.”
Jared’s Corner is conveniently located on the Tulalip Reservation along Quil Ceda Boulevard, in the vacant lot between Cabela’s and Home Depot. They are open for business Thursday – Saturday from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Other locations and times to come, such as outside Tulalip Market and Remedy. Keep a look out for the red pinched tent or follow Jared Parks on Facebook for details.
Regular kettle and caramel kettle are always available in medium ($5 bag) and large ($10 bag). A third flavor is offered as well, which ranges from cinnamon toast, chocolate, vanilla, orange and grape. Because this is the Pacific Northwest, aka Seahawks Territory, every ‘blue Friday’ a mixed batch of green apple and blue raspberry is available.
Jared’s Corner can also provide kettle corn for private parties and events. For more information or to place an order to support a wonderful cause, please call (425) 737-2168.
As the original caretakers of this region, the Tulalip people share a deep connection with Mother Earth. Generation after generation, the youth are taught about the natural world; the knowledge of plants and their medicinal components, as well as their use for sustenance and ceremonial purposes, including but not limited to regalia and blessings. The traditions are usually passed on through families. Today, classes are offered by a number of departments and traditional ceremonies are often open to the public, helping pass down that knowledge on a larger scale and ensuring the sduhubš way of life is preserved and lives well into the future of Tulalip lineage.
One such program that develops cultural lessons and projects, and thereby provides the Tulalip people with a deeper understanding of the local Native plants and their many uses, is the Rediscovery Program. Originally started by Tribal members Hank Gobin and Inez Bill, Rediscovery was recently, in traditional fashion, handed off to the next generation as Virginia Jones and Taylor Henry take the knowledge learned, working alongside Inez, and prepare to put a new spin on tradition.
The program has been invested in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey and makes traditional medicinal supplies with the community, not only for the Tulalip Canoe families, but also to gift to the hosting tribes along the way. Throughout the year, the program will hold classes at the Hibulb Cultural Center where tribal members can create handmade products such as lip balm, sunscreen, salves, headache and sinus oil, tea, and also sage and cedar bundles for Journey. With the cancelation of Canoe Journey this year, the Rediscovery had an abundance of product that would expire if not used within the year.
While determining what to do with the handmade goods, the program was met with yet another challenge – how to provide their services to the tribal membership during a worldwide pandemic.
Explained Virginia, “We had to find a way to provide a cultural connection for our people. And when we were thinking about classes, it didn’t feel like that was reasonable around COVID. We were considering how many different family members and households we could reach if we put together this drive-thru kit idea, and we’ve been able to reach a lot more families than if we were just providing classes.”
Once-a-month, you can catch the Rediscovery team offering medicine, in the form of both laughter and DIY craft kits, at the far end of the Hibulb Cultural Center parking lot. Since the kits are offered to Tulalip tribal members only, Virginia and Taylor advertised the first two events solely on the Tulalip tribal member Facebook page. Those advertisements alone brought hundreds of people by the carload to see what the program has to offer their families. Each tribal member chooses one kit of their liking and receive one bottle of sinus and headache oil.
“Some of that smudge from Journey are in these kits because we figured that maybe the Tulalip families could use those things even though they were put together with the intention of being for Journey,” Virginia continued. “The sinus and headache oil was another one of the items that people got together to make. With a lot of these plant medicines, it’s better that they get used than waiting until next Journey, so we decided we would provide them to the community.”
On the morning of October 22, Rediscovery set up shop and were busy throughout the day while cars trickled in and out of the Hibulb parking lot. People had three options to choose from; shawl kits complete with thread and needle, rawhide rattle kits or a smudge blend and loose-leaf tea kit. Tribal member Theresa Sheldon expressed that COVID cannot stop the culture when she dropped by to pick up several kits for herself and her nieces to construct while they spend a little family time together.
“I love this, because we are all at home and this really helps,” said Theresa. “I have nieces who we’ve been doing art projects with, so it’s perfect being able to teach them how to do this stuff, because they’re going to carry this on after us. And it doesn’t stop, the teachings and the time to learn, that doesn’t stop as time goes on.”
Overall, 251 DIY kits were handed out during October’s drive-thru event, as well as 261 medicinal plant kits with items such as four thieves room spray, smudge blends, tea and sinus and headache oil. The next drive-thru kit-giveaway will take place on November 4th, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Rediscovery is currently planning drive-thru events through March 2021, but Virginia warns that could change depending on any new developments of the COVID-19 virus.
“I would say that they’re all very happy when they come through to pick up their kits,” assessed Virginia. “It’s hard for them to choose because they want a little bit of everything. I’ve seen a couple people respond to us, showing their completed crafts. We hope to offer different kits at each drive-thru for each month. The November drive-thru will probably be necklace kits – it’ll be a carved paddle or a carved canoe head with string and sandpaper, but they’ll have to do their own beads this time.
“We miss being able to offer the classes and the culture night events in-person. We miss being able to spend time, sharing-in all of those cultural activities, like gathering together and making items. But, we are definitely glad to see the families who come through and take some of these kits home because then at least we know that they can spend that time with their family making those things.”
As the Tulalip Police Department continues to grow, they welcome aboard four new lateral officers to the tribal police force, bringing the total amount of TPD officers to nearly forty strong. Although some of the lateral officers have been a part of the crew from as early as May of this year, they were officially sworn-in to their positions on October 7, joining in celebration with the latest cohorts of cadets-turned-officers who just returned from three-months of intensive training at the U.S. Indian Police Academy in New Mexico.
After vowing to protect the land and people of Tulalip and uphold the law, rights and constitution set forth by the Tribe, the lateral officers; Michel Carrington, Justin Lee, Austin Correa, and Theodore Ojeda, took a moment with Tulalip News to formally introduce themselves. They inform the community about their past experiences in law enforcement as well as their new journey, which takes place on the sduhubš’ territory, known in modern times as the Tulalip Reservation.
Michel Carrington (Transferred from Sauk-Suiattle Fish and Wildlife)
Tulalip News: Welcome to Tulalip! How does it feel now that you are a sworn-in member of the Tulalip Police Department?
It’s awesome. Growing up, I’m from the Sauk-Suiattle, I always shopped here and was always amazed at what the Tulalip Tribes has done for their reservation and governance. I didn’t have too many role models growing, but all the police officers of my community would stop and say hi and I looked up to them. They are who inspired me to become a police officer, I remember saying ‘I want to be just like them.’ The reason why I wanted to come to Tulalip is because there’s lots of opportunity and you can see that the Tribe is going to keep growing.
Why do you believe it’s important to keep that role model aspect of the job going for kids and people who want to become police officers?
The positive influence and impact it could have on the youth. For me growing up, it was the little things, when they would come around and ask how’s your day’s going. When they’d give me a sticker here and there, things like that, because not a lot of kids have that positive role model when they’re growing up, especially in Indian Country.
How long was the process since you made the decision to go for it?
It was quite a while. I first wanted to be a fish and wildlife officer. Obviously, as a tribal member, hunting and fishing inspired me to become a fish and wildlife officer. Our fish and wildlife at Sauk-Suiattle was at the natural resources department. I applied as a technician and it got transferred back to the police department. And that’s when I got my opportunity, because there wasn’t a lot of officers, they were wanting tribal members to apply, so I took my chance and that’s where I started.
Can you speak about the importance of serving a tribal community as a Native police officer?
People, especially kids, like to see their color, their same person, and will feel more open to talk to you. It’s the same with adults too. They may respect you more or feel more open to talk to you because they’re talking about deep personal stuff that not many can relate to or understand.
I bet having that understanding of tribal lifeways is definitely helpful out there. Now that you’re a part of the squad, what are your future goals?
I plan on staying right here. There isn’t a lot of call volume at home (Sauk-Suiattle), it’s low crime. There’s about 400 tribal members there, so it’s real small. My goal was to come to a bigger department and bigger reservation and learn what they have to offer. My plan is to stay as long as I can. And my advice to anybody interested in following this career is train, learn the codes in your community, and get to know the local police officers because knowing people is a real big thing too. If you know somebody they’ll help you and guide you to where you need to be.
Justin Lee (Transferred from Edmonds Police Department)
How does it feel joining the Tulalip force?
It feels great! This is my third agency. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this department. I’ve known Sgt. Bardsley for like 20 years, Chief Sutter – amazing guy, and of course Paul Arroyos, I’ve taken his undercover classes before. The more I get to know about this place – it’s a great department.
What brought you to Tulalip?
To have this caliber of communication, training and caring. Police work is one thing, but being here you get to understand the culture and the community in interactions on any given day and that speaks volumes, because that translates to a better community and more support and better unity as a group.
In this day and age, communication has broken down and because of bad communication, there’s misunderstanding and because of misunderstanding there is distrust and because of distrust there’s the social issues we face. If we can change all that from the beginning, and work together, I think we’re advancing as a group, community, and society. Everybody wins, except if you’re a criminal, obviously.
What inspired you to become an officer of the law?
To protect and serve. I’m a minority. My family has been victims of crimes, I’m a second-generation immigrant, so I’ve seen that. I’ve been burglarized before and I also faced the racial tension – I’ve seen that – and I experienced it as a police officer, both externally and internally. Having said that, I’ve always wanted to help people. That’s the whole reason I became a police officer, to help Korean Americans initially. There’re not many fluent Korean speaking officers in the state of Washington and I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve utilized my language skills in many ways, in many agencies throughout the years.
That was my catalyst, or beginning. Then when I got the experience, I fell in love with what we do. It’s a mentality, a culture. When you bleed, you bleed blue. When you have that support, you build comradeship. I had five co-workers who are LL currently serving in other agencies who came to support me during the swearing-in celebration.
What are your overall thoughts of the department so far?
This is a great place; do we have room to improve? Absolutely. Are we on par with other agencies? Not really, but that’s not everything. I think we have a great foundation, we’re a young department, less than 20 years old. I think we have great leadership, I think those leaders understand the vision of the tribe and of the people. Having said that, is there room to improve, hearing that other departments receive better benefits, absolutely. Hopefully this will bring forth improvements too. We could have officers stay here, instead of providing them some of the best trainings and then when watching them leave because other departments have better benefits. Right now, there are a scarcity of good officers. We lose them left and right; they leave within a year or two here. I’m hoping that will change as we improve, whether it be benefits, pay, better overall package. I know we have the foundation, now it’s time to build something solid so people can say that the Tulalip agency is where I want to work. Not because they are great officers but because of everything else that’s offered here.
Austin Correa (Transferred from Tacoma Police Department)
What brought you to the Tulalip reservation?
Originally, I was born and raised in California. San Jose specifically. I moved to Tacoma, Washington about ten years ago and ever since then I lived in that vicinity. I began my law enforcement with Tacoma Police Department in 2018. I wanted a new change, the things down there weren’t that great to me. I decided to venture out around the whole state, Tulalip was fortunately one of the departments I applied to and they were the first department to offer me a position as a lateral officer, so I’m gracious to them and they were gracious to me, and I signed the final offer right there and then.
When did you start and what are your thoughts about the community?
I like the community, so far. I’ve been here since June and everyone has treated me with respect in the department as well as the community itself.
Right now, I’m in the position as a transport officer, so I do more social stuff like transporting those who have been arrested and bring them to court. I get to know them on a personal basis, it’s kind of interesting where I’m at. I like it in this position, I plan on going back to patrol within a year or so. But where I’m at right now is where I’m comfortable both business-wise and personal-wise because I have a wife and a one-year-old son at home, so the schedule itself is amazing and is beneficial to my family.
What made you want to become a police officer?
Funny thing is I actually wanted to be a firefighter growing up. What influenced me was my grandfather and my uncle, they were prior law enforcement on the big island of Hawaii. I didn’t see much of the career then because they both retired before I was born, but just the stories they told, the stuff they did on a day-to-day basis was something that pushed me to venture out to a career like this. My brother is also a police officer with the Tacoma Police Department and has been with them since 2015. With him recently becoming an officer and telling me the ways he was helping his community, that was something I wanted to do, to help change the life of someone in any way possible. That’s what led me down the path of law enforcement.
You mentioned you were Hawaiian, why do you believe it’s important for minorities to serve on the force, especially in a tribal community?
I feel like it provides a safe net for the community. We want the best for everybody because we know, Hawaiian, tribal, it’s a tight knit family; we care for one another, we help one another. That’s another reason that drew me to this department, the family aspect. I grew up with that all my life, being Hawaiian, family is key. We use the word ohana, that’s a key aspect of why I wanted to come here. Seeing a minority being an officer could help influence positivity to our younger generations to this career and actually reach out to us and feel safe and know we’ll do the job and help them in any way possible.
Since the incidents earlier this year, law enforcement has not been a great career to pursue, it’s like people judge us based off the career. I want everyone to see that, yeah this is a career we chose, but we’re all human inside and we want to do good, we know we can do good by you. I encourage more training, but in order for that training to happen we need money to be put in the departments. I feel like the defund the police that’s going around, those monies should be put towards us getting more training, not taken away because I want everyone to feel safe to call law enforcement.
Theodore Ojeda (Transferred from Harris County Sherriff’s Department, Houston, Texas)
Let’s begin with your background, how did you make your journey to Tulalip?
I was a deputy sheriff in Houston, Texas. My children live here in Washington State. At the time when the four officers were shot in Lakewood, Washington (2009), I was trying to become a police officer. I tested, but no one was hiring. I talked to my uncle Jesse, who’s in Houston, and he knew the sheriff. He said that they were actively hiring. I applied, they flew me down, and I signed on with them, thinking I was going just do the to the minimum two-year commitment and lateral back up here.
Well, something happened in my family dynamics that caused me to stay down there for eight years. I was flying back and forth every three to four months to see my children and spend time with them. One day, my daughter was cheerleading at the new football field in the Mission Beach area. There was an officer there and he said they were hiring. When I got back to Houston, I applied. I came up here on my own dime and I tested, went through the interview process and everything. I also applied to a few other agencies. I made a promise to myself that whatever agency saw my potential and made me an offer, that I would sign. Of all the other agencies that I tested for, because I was number one for Lacey, number two for Olympia, and Vancouver had me on their list too, Tulalip was the first to offer me a spot. I came here and I had the pleasure of meeting Angela and Chief, they sat me in the office and they interviewed me. Right afterwards, they made me an offer. It’s funny, no sooner than I signed that offer, the other agencies reached out to me too, and I told them I appreciated it and that it meant a lot that they finally saw what I was worth, but I told him that I already signed with Tulalip, and so here I am.
What do you think of the community and the reservation so far?
I’ve been here since May and I love that the people have a lot of respect for each other, and the elders. I come from an agency that’s 5,000 officers strong and we have a little bit of community policing out there and that’s something that I’m trying to promote out here as well, getting involved with the community. Right now, I’m almost done with my shadow phase, my training. I know the Chief is excited for me to go out there and try to develop something. I was told that maybe I could head-up a bicycle patrol. When I was in Harris County Sheriff’s Office, myself and a few other officers were involved with the homeless outreach team. We dealt a lot with the homeless and went to some nonprofit organizations and they were able to donate toothbrushes and toothpaste and that progressed to getting some attorneys and medical for those that needed help. I don’t know if Tulalip has anything here yet because I’m going through the training but once I’m done, I would like to see if there’s anything that we could possibly do to help the with the homeless out here.
What experience do you bring to Tulalip?
I bring a lot to Tulalip. There’s a lot of things that they don’t have here that I’ve experienced. I’m a rescue diver, bicycle patrolman – part of this special response group when we hired to riot control and stuff like that, and the Honor Guard as well. We did the special funerals for our fallen officers, and for family members. I’m happy I’m here. I think the Chief sees something in me, and I’m grateful for that.
When did you know that you wanted to become a police officer?
I went into the Marine Corps in January of 1989. I did 14 years in the Marine Corps, and I met my wife, now my ex-wife, in Hawaii. I was stationed in Hawaii. When I came here, I fell in love with Washington State and told myself this is where I was going to make my home. But then when our family fell apart – I was from Texas, so I was planning this start over down there. But my kids are growing up and I wanted to be there for them. So, I applied up here. But what really got me into it, like I said, was the fallen four in Lakewood. That’s actually what made me want to try to make a difference.
What are some of the things you wish to accomplish in your new position on the force?
Try to develop some type of game plan where we can get some of the tribal members that are homeless or are addicted to opioids, some type of help. Try to reintroduce them into life and make them part of the community again. That way, when we see them on the street, they’re no longer looked at like an outcast. I think a lot of these people, from my experiences, just need somebody to talk to. If I could try to help at least one person, it’s worth it to me to take that step.
Eventually, I would like to be a field training officer as well. I admire Chief Sutter, he’s a good mentor. I asked him if there was a mentor program here, and I think that’s something that we need. The way we do policing today is a lot different from what they used to do a long time ago. Today is more about talking to the citizens and finding out what we can do as officers to make the community better.
For a tribal community, do you find that the people are more willing to open up and talk to you as a minority-in-blue?
I always had that desire to help people, that gift to talk to people. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, what gender you are – if you’re gay or lesbian, or transgender. If somebody is in need of my help, I’m there. I see people for people. I believe in honor, respect, loyalty.
Any message or words you would like to share with the Tulalip community?
I tell the Chief all the time that I thank him for seeing my potential. And I’m just a small little seed right now. I hope that as time goes on, as I get to know more about the traditions of the people here and what’s really expected from the community, I can partake and try to help. Like I said, even helping one person makes things satisfying for me.
The new TPD officers are excited to get acquainted with the Tulalip community. They have also expressed a strong desire to learn more about the traditions, culture and history of the people, so when you see them, be sure to say hello. And if you are interested in pursuing a career with the Tulalip Police Department, please reach out to Angela Davis, TPD Professional Standards Manager, to begin your new career journey. For further details, visit www.TulalipTribalPolice.org or call the non-emergency line at (360) 716-4608.
After returning from three months of intensive training at the U.S. Indian Police Academy in Artesia, New Mexico, four cadets were officially sworn-in as Tulalip police officers on the afternoon of October 7, taking the oath to support and defend the Tulalip Tribes constitution.
The new TPD officers were surrounded by their friends, family and fellow officers while they were welcomed by tribal singers and Tulalip tribal leadership who spoke of commitment, bravery and compassion while congratulating them on their new journey.
The celebration, of course, was taken with the appropriate safety measures, ensuring everybody in attendance was practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. Angela Davis, TPD Professional Standards Manager and tribal member, organized the event and stated that normally the night would end with a feast, but with the recent uptick in coronavirus cases at Tulalip, the police department opted to forgo the meal. However, Angela explained that enjoying cake together is a longstanding nationwide tradition after newly appointed officers take the oath, so she ordered cake and had to-go boxes ready so the officers could bring their cake home and take part in the tradition safely.
Four lateral officers who transferred from different police departments were also sworn-in on the 7th. Officer Jason Lee, who has taken the oath for a number of Washington State police departments, said the ceremony was, “amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it before. When I was previously sworn-in at other departments, it was always a quick process where we took the oath and signed the paper. But here, we actually had a ceremony in both the judicial way and the Tulalip way, council members spoke and they are very passionate about the city, the reservation and law enforcement. I thought that was pretty moving.”
Angela Davis stated, “My prior military service allowed me to be a part of ceremonies like this. We wanted to make sure that we had the ceremony that we’re used to having at these academies that are off-the-reservation, but also incorporate our culture. We made sure that we had a prayer song or protection song. I thought it was important to have the ceremony available for our new recruits, and our new officers, and even welcoming our new lateral officers, to bring everyone together.”
Now officially members of the Tulalip police force, officers Cheyanne Bear, Jordan Jira, Jonathan Blumm and Brandon Bennett, recently sat down with Tulalip News, in-between defensive tactic training (DT), to reflect on the past several months while on the path to becoming a tribal law official during the COVID-19 era.
Cheyanne Bear (Assiniboine Sioux/Tulalip Mother)
Tulalip News: How does it feel, now that you’ve completed training at the academy and have taken the oath to protect and serve?
It doesn’t seem real yet. I started here January 6th. We were supposed to leave for the academy around April or May and because of COVID, it kept getting canceled and postponed. Finally we got to go in July and we spent three months there. The best feeling that I’ve had so far is seeing how proud my family is, especially my daughter. She’s Tulalip and I just want to give back because the Tribe has been amazing to us. And like everyone else, I want to make a difference and make it safer. Myself, the other officers, we all have good hearts and I want to show being a female Native American, that I can help make that little bit of a difference.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
I was going to school for criminal justice and I had a couple instructors whose stories were amazing, and I knew immediately I wanted to do something like that. Personally, I had some bad experiences with police growing up, they weren’t the best. You see what’s going on in the world, on the news, I don’t want it to stay like that. I want my daughter to see that police officers aren’t bad. How many female police officers are there? Like 4%. And being a Native American, a minority, there’s like, none. At the academy, I was the last female that graduated in our squad. Over 90-something-percent were males. I want to show my daughter and other young women that you can do anything you put your mind to.
What did you learn at the police academy?
We learned Indian laws. We are a sovereign nation, so we learned Tulalip policies, federal polices and Washington state polices. We did stress-test scenarios where they hired actors to come in and they were screaming in our face; there were big guys, small girls, and people you didn’t expect, like in real life. We did mock night calls and pulled people over. There’s a lot of steps to approaching a vehicle, before you get out of the vehicle there are like 12 steps you need to take. We had the gun range; shotguns, A-Ks, handguns – and this was all in the New Mexico heat. We had about 45 physical exams and you had to pass them or you would get sent home.
Why do you believe it is important to have Native American representation on the tribal police force?
I understand where the people are coming from, being Native American as well, I understand the culture. Being out here, there’s a lot of people that are related, so you just have to have an open-mind for that. I feel like that alone could help teach other officers who aren’t Native American tremendously. Like at academy, the cadets who weren’t Native American, we had to get them to understand that there are going to be family members showing up on scene, at the police station. Compared to the outside world, it’s different here.
We are literally a family working out here. Imagine working in Marysville or Everett, when they first get to work they are 20 calls behind. It’s not like that out here, you get to stop, take a moment and talk to people. One time we were handing out food to the elders, that was an amazing experience you’re not going to get that anywhere else.
Now that you are officially sworn-in and a TPD Officer, what’s next?
I don’t plan on ever leaving Tulalip. I don’t plan on working anywhere else. I’ve grown so much being out here, getting to know people. My daughter knows more Lushootseed than I do, so I want to have her to continue to come here and grow as well.
Honestly, I want to be a detective. That would be my dream.
Any words of advice for those interested in joining the Tulalip police force?
If you have the heart, you can do it. You can push yourself to do it and you have all the support of the Tulalip community.
Jordan Jira (Tulalip)
You are officially a Tulalip police officer; how does it feel?
It’s definitely a good feeling. I feel like being a police officer is more of a calling, it’s a career. Tulalip is where I wanted to work because it’s where I grew up, it’s where my friends and family are. I want to raise my family on the reservation. It’s definitely an honorable position to have and I look forward to making the community safer and doing anything I can to put my part in.
What inspired you to follow this career path?
My grandpa was Stan Jones, Scho-Hallem; he made a big impact. If I could do a partial bit of what he did, that would be an amazing accomplishment. He always wanted what’s best for Tulalip and I feel like I have similar beliefs.
Also, my dad (Sgt. Jeff Jira) has been here at the department for 20 years. Every night he’d be going out in his uniform and I just thought that was the coolest thing. Growing up with a father who is in law enforcement makes you respect officers more, what they go through. Another thing is I’ve always wanted was to help make Tulalip safer. Tulalip is the community I love.
What was your experience like at the Indian Police Academy?
It was definitely a good experience. We had it a little bit harder, we were kind of the trial run. It’s a 13-week program. Usually on the weekends you get liberty, meaning you get to go out, go on hikes, get try all the food in New Mexico. It was pretty hard for us because we didn’t get to leave at all, we were stuck on base because of COVID. Five days a week you’re working hard and that goes by quick, and then there’s those two days where you’re just sitting in your room wanting to be at home.
Why is it important to have tribal members serve on the Tulalip police force?
I feel like being a tribal member, especially growing up on the reservation, knowing people is an advantage. It’s not a strange face coming up to you with a badge, it’s someone you know, someone you’ve seen on the reservation. It feels good being a tribal member and working for the police department. Our sovereignty is such a big thing and it’s a big thing to have our own police department.
What’s next for you and do you have any words of advice to share for aspiring police officers?
One thing I always wanted to be when I was younger is a K-9 officer. You have to start out on patrol for the first couple years, but I always thought it would be really interesting to be a K-9 officer. And not going to lie, it’s a hard job. Especially nowadays, you have to have love for the job, love for the people and the community. If you feel like it’s a career and not just a job, go for it.
Jonathon Blumm (Enrolled Alaskan Native)
You were sworn-in on Wednesday, congrats! How does it feel to reach this milestone?
It feels very good, I am pretty proud of myself and all of the other officers. It’s a lot of work, the three months in Artresia were rough, but awesome. I started here in February in pre-academy. At the beginning we were going over laws and lots of DT, shooting, getting ready for the academy. Going to Artesia was an eye-opener but also, looking back, you make a lot of good memories and good friends.
Why did you want to become a police officer?
I always wanted to be a cop, I just never thought I would actually do it. Before this, I was a fleet mechanic for the Tulalip Resort for 12 years. I’ve always seen the position posted online, and one day my fiancé and I decided to just apply and go for it.
I’m Fish and Wildlife – still a police officer but basically patrol the woods and water. I commercial fished on the state side for 5 years, I built two boats and fished under a permit so I was already familiar with boating and commercial fishing. That’s the real reason I went for Fish and Wildlife because I get to be on the water.
Why do you believe it is important to have Native American officers on the tribal police force?
If you’re in uniform they can come up to you, and feel more comfortable doing so because they know you. I know a lot of people out here from working here for so long, and they know you, so you get that support from them.
What’s next in your career path with the Tulalip Police Department and do you have any words of encouragement for those who wish to become a member of the tribal force?
My goal is just to stay here and work my way up if I can and just grow. And even if you don’t think you can, try.
Brandon Bennett (Tulalip community member/parent)
You were recently sworn-in as a member of the TPD police force, let’s talk about your journey up until this point.
I applied back in 2019, did a written interview with the chief and commanders and then did a polygraph, psych evaluation and medical exam. I got hired-on and started working as a cadet. We did a lot of pre-academy work until July 5th, when we left for the academy in New Mexico. We got back a week ago today and it feels so good to be back with the family, my kids and my wife. My wife is other native, my son is other native and my daughter is Tulalip. It felt amazing to be sworn-in, it was a long process. The academy was not easy. I’m talking 10, 12, 16-hour days, so getting sworn-in is a huge accomplishment.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
To show the community that I care. I want to help protect and grow the community and try to keep all the drugs off the reservation.
Why is it important to have members of the community on the tribal police force?
It’s important that kids don’t see police officers as bad people, so they don’t get afraid or think we’re there just to arrest somebody. Sometimes, that is our job, but most of the time we’re there to help the community out with whatever is needed at the time.
What’s next in your career as an official TPD officer?
Field training. Once I pass that, hopefully I get my own vehicle. I’m excited to get out there and start patrolling, I want to connect with more people, talk to more citizens, play basketball with the kids if they’re playing. Just to show that we are all the same, just because I wear a badge doesn’t mean I’m anything more.
The new Tulalip Police Officers will be out and about the rez while training with their senior officers, be sure to give them a warm welcome! And for more information about becoming a Tulalip Police Officer, please contact the department at (360) 716-4608 or visit their new website at www.TulalipTribalPolice.org
Chris Sutter, Tulalip Chief of Police, expressed, “It’s a real positive step in the right direction for the Tulalip Tribal Police to bring on and hire new officers to help grow the department. We’re all about community and service to our community, being guardians and protectors. We’re making significant investments in time and training to help our officers be successful in their new role here in Tulalip. I’m really pleased to see this happening.”
“How did I let this happen?” cried a mourning Indigenous mother.
“Did you know?” she asks, turning her attention away from a photograph to a young Native man standing in her doorway.
“I had no idea, I didn’t think it mattered,” he responded, fighting back tears of his own.
“He’s my son, he matters.”
This emotional dialogue may seem familiar to you if you grew up in Native America. However, it is directly quoted from an upcoming project titled In Spirit, a short film based on a story by Tulalip tribal member, Nathan Williams, also referred to as his moniker, DEAMA. For years, Nate has been expressing himself creatively, giving people a glimpse into his world, whether through music, street art, fashion or most recently, film.
“If I were to put it in my words, short and sweet, the film is about a troubled kid named Jared,” Nate explains. “He’s about 17 or 18 years old and he’s trying to come to grips with his own emotions, with the passing of his long-time best friend turned addict. I tried to make it like a saturated version of my story, as much of my reality as possible without making it the same exact scenario. I tried to paint a typical scenario for everybody else’s situation when confronting those emotions. So, I would say it’s based on a true story, but the film was not the actual timeline.”
There is a meme, or a statement rather, that occasionally will make an appearance on the social media platforms, stating “our generation has been to more of their friend’s funerals than to their weddings,” and unfortunately that is a reality that many Indigenous youth live with in modern society. At tribal gatherings that aim to bring attention to today’s drug epidemic, Tulalip Board Member Mel Sheldon often opens the events by asking attendees to raise their hand if they have ever lost anybody due to a drug overdose. Each time nearly everybody’s hand goes up.
According to current research conducted by the Washington Post, over the course of 8 years, 2006-2014, Native Americans were approximately 50% more likely to die from an opioid overdose than any other race. Furthermore, a new study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the suicide rate amongst Native teens is continuing to rise and is up 139% for Native women and 71% for Native men since 1999.
If you are a non-Native reading those statistics, you may find yourself shocked to learn of this news. This is felt on an even greater level for tribal communities because those ‘statistics’ are often our siblings, cousins, uncles, aunties, parents or friends. And while those articles may provide a lot of eye-opening info, more times than not, they fail to encapsulate the hardship Indigenous Nations are feeling – what they go through with each young tribal member that is buried far too soon.
In Spirit places you directly into that storm of emotions that we are left to deal with after our loved ones make the transition to the afterlife; the hurt, the anger, the guilt, all of those raw emotions are on display and they are portrayed so evocatively you almost feel like you’re reliving moments of your personal life. Nate explained that when casting the roles for the film, he called upon the people in his life that best fit the personalities of his characters, and that all of the cast members were first time actors.
“We tried to go across everything that could possibly happen emotionally in these scenarios,” said Nate. “I’m super impressed with how everyone killed their roles. For the most part, we kind of just gave people a template of what to say. We told them to say it naturally, how they would speak if we were having a normal conversation; the way you say it, your cadence, your emotion that comes out. I think that helped a lot of people with their performance because they didn’t feel like they had to remember their bars. Every shot was under ten takes.”
The 8-minute film was originally intended to be just a scene in a full-length feature that Nate was writing at the time he met the film’s director, Jonathan ‘Jon’ Salmon. The two creatives crossed-paths when Jon hired filmmaker Luis Perez, a close friend of Nate’s, for a 3-part series dubbed Residents. That project was shot in three neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest; South Seattle, Tacoma and Tulalip. From that project, Nate and Jon built a collaborative relationship and the first project they worked on together, a music video for Seattle artist Ben Zaidi, won Best Music Video at the Tacoma Film Festival.
“From there, we started talking,” Jon stated. “A lot of people don’t know what happens on tribal lands, and they’re not too familiar with the genocide of Indigenous people and how the genocidal trauma can continue to affect and spread through the lineage of the people. We opened up and talked about our experience with death, how fast I thought I was losing people from the young age of 15 all the way up until today. And he talked about how it happens on the reservation and how it happens at Tulalip. We need to talk about that because that’s something that’s always put in the headlines, the opioid epidemic tearing apart suburban white neighborhoods, but you never hear that same focus and energy put in the tribal lands that need resources more than suburban families who have the means to deal with it, in a sense.”
After a ten-month writing session, the two created a script that they felt could honestly address the issue of generational trauma and how it affects the Native youth specifically. Once the roles were cast and locations were successfully scouted, filming began at the beginning of 2020 before COVID struck. And thanks to what Nate credits as Jon’s deep connections, multiple crews – filming, editing, makeup, colorists, were in place and the entire filming process took place over the course of only 48 hours. Post-production was relatively quick as well, taking approximately 5-6 months to wrap the film up.
Nate expressed, “I got to give it up to Jon for being such a good director, because he’s down to get real personal with you. There were times he would pull me to the side and remind me what I was there for. Coming from the situation we are in, you grow accustomed to suppressing your emotions to a degree. You don’t want to relive those emotions, because you don’t genuinely want to hurt yourself again, but you got to put yourself in that ballpark for the film and that is what Jon is good at getting you to.”
And while Nate praised Jon for his work ethic and his execution of bringing his vision to the screen, Jon was quick to reciprocate, claiming that it was a collaborative process the entire way through, stating, “The film was organically developed. It wasn’t me saying, let me tell a story that I didn’t know anything about or relate to any of their experiences. It was me and Nate walking through everything together because he’s also the main actor in the film and the producer as well.”
Jon is non-Native but has close ties to families within the Puyallup tribe, which allowed him to have a better understanding of the reservation lifestyle than many filmmakers throughout the region. Coupled with his conversations with Nate, he took on the project with intentions of not only raising awareness to the drug epidemic and dealing with the loss of a loved one at a young age, but also to find a way to support a program or organization that helps Natives work on their mental health as it relates to generational trauma.
“We understand that there is trauma,” he said. “We were trying to do something informative and insightful, we do believe we achieved that, but the film was also highlighting a very traumatic event and it kind of encouraged the cycle of trauma that I try to break in all of my work. We can’t open up a wound and not want to help people deal with it. We want to partner with an organization; whether it’s from the Tulalip Tribes, or any tribe in the State of Washington that offers services for the mental health and mental improvement for young adults between the ages of 13-30, to help them cope with experiences like this.”
The duo plan on officially releasing In Spirit on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 12th. The film is a must-watch; a modern day observation of how generational trauma is impacting the future of Native communities nationwide, as well as an important piece of work that helps open up a much-needed conversation about issues that are often overlooked or deemed too uncomfortable to talk about growing up on the rez.
“I feel like us, as Native Americans, are way too accustomed and jaded to these situations, and for the most part people aren’t seeking the therapy needed for certain things,” Nate expressed. “I don’t know if it’s because they don’t feel supported or if they just don’t have the resources. But as fortunate as the Tribe can be, I still feel like mental health is one of those things that’s not taken as serious as it should. We wanted this film to be the mirror; this is us – we are like this. As a community, we need to take it upon ourselves to help the people around us. That’s what I’m on.”
Washington State is home to over one million public school students. According to the Seattle Times, 94.4% of these students have begun the 2020-2021 school year not in the classroom nor with any in-person interactions with their devoted teachers. Instead, nearly all of Washington’s public school districts have gone all-in with a virtual teaching concept designed to minimize spread of coronavirus – Distance Learning.
Defined as any form of remote education where the student is not physically present for the lesson, distance learning is the default safety net for education in the age of COVID. Thanks largely to the power of the internet, educators are able to teach their carefully crafted lesson plans via a computer screen and video cam to their young learners. This type of learning comes with one major flaw; it’s completely dependent on the students having the access and know-how to operate today’s tech gadgetry and ever-updating software and apps.
Welcome to 2020, where the kingdom of social distancing reigns supreme and access to ample bandwidth is the difference between a student achieving and being irritably stuck on a frozen Zoom screen.
Fortunately for Tulalip’s K-12 students, they belong to a Tribe who had the foresight to transform the reservation’s largest two youth activity centers into dedicated distance learning sites. In the weeks leading up to the new school year, the Tulalip Teen Center and Boys & Girls Club received critical network upgrades to ensure a high-demand of bandwidth could be sustained, turned typical activity and gaming rooms into spaces that encourage learning, and instituted COVID guidelines such as temperature checks, mask enforcement, and social distancing.
“The health, education and overall success of our students is our top priority. The Tulalip Education Division and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club are working hard to provide support in the safest environment possible,” stated Jessica Bustad, executive director of education. “Together we can ensure that our students begin thriving during these uncertain times. We wrapped up our second full week of Distance Learning and are improving services provided to our students. We are very proud of our young people who are showing up and doing the best they can.”
Change can come into our lives as a result of crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. Being unprepared and resistant to change leads to fear, hostility and a sense of hopelessness. Embracing change and managing all its challenges in a constructive way is key to not only surviving, but thriving in an ever-changing world.
Adapting to change is what the devoted staff of both distance learning sites and the many young minds who attend on a daily basis exemplify. Primarily accommodating Kindergarten – 5th grade students who require much more attention and emotional reassuring, the usual Boys & Girls Club activities specialists are now de facto educators.
“We are no longer a traditional boys and girls club. We’ve become a school-like learning center,” said Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Club. “We have 98 kids registered and average about 70 kids per day. We separate them by grade level, so 1st graders are together, 2nd graders are together and so on.
“As a staff, we feel so needed. We’re all learning to navigate this unprecedented time together,” she continued. “We have five different elementary schools represented among our K-5 kids. We do our best to keep up with each student’s daily responsibilities, but there are so few of us and so many of them. It can be overwhelming at times because we know some kids require more one-on-one time, but we have to use our time effectively to do the most good. At the end of the day, we are making a huge impact by creating a safe place for our community’s kids to learn.”
Adapting to the new tech-centric normal is easier for teens who willingly spend much of their free time with their eyes glued to screens anyway, whether it be a computer, TV, cell phone, tablet or video game. A big obstacle for them is less familiarity with Chromebooks and virtual learning programs and more access to a consistent internet connection. Within the rezzy landscape of Tulalip, stable internet and adequate bandwidth can be difficult to come by under the best of conditions.
Network upgrades and additional Wi-Fi hot spots at the Teen Center make it a quality alternative for homebound teenagers looking to focus on their school work. Plus, there is support offered by both peers and staff, many of whom are recent graduates of the same Marysville School District curriculum.
“It’s been pretty cool because there are people here to guide us with our school work when we’re confused and have questions,” shared 9th grader Image Enick. “For those with working parents, there is no one at home to assist with assignments, but here at the Teen Center there are plenty of people we are comfortable with asking questions. I haven’t had any difficulty with my online classes or getting kicked off because of bad internet either.”
“We are so proud of the kids here,” added tribal advocate Courtney Jefferson. “We’ve been averaging 40 to 60 a day. They have been taking the initiative to prioritize their education and haven’t needed to be redirected to engage in their online classes. They’ve been getting themselves into their learning spaces, taking ownership of their rooms here in the building, and being productive with their time.”
The Tulalip distance learning sites continue to adapt and find creative ways to provide additional support to our students. Both locations are a safe space for students to access the internet, connect to WI-FI, or use a desktop. They each provide daily meals as well. Most importantly, the sites allow students to build a routine, with consistent support and resources that effectively promote scholastic achievement.
The Tulalip Education staff are also available to provide support and resources to students who are not currently attending the facilities. Feel free to contact any of the programs if you have additional questions:
Herbal medicine is one of the oldest teachings we have. Human beings have supported holistic health and wellness with the use of plants and herbs that naturally work synergistically with our minds, bodies, and spirits since the dawn of time. What could be a more amazing way to support your optimal well-being than by using nature’s gifts?
“This is what is so wonderful about herbal nutrition and using plants in a culturally appropriate and traditional way to support our wellness,” marveled Veronica “Roni” Leahy, Diabetes Care and Prevention Program coordinator at the Tulalip Health Clinic. Her dedicated team hosted several plant-based craft making tables at Garden Treasurers organic farm on Wednesday, September 16. “This is such a precious opportunity to talk about plants and how important they are for the overall health of our bodies. This work truly is making an impact on preventing diabetes and other chronic diseases.”
Our bodies were designed to exist with nature, which is why it should come as no surprise that herbal medicine continues to be an effective way to support wellness. For countless generations, we’ve incorporated herbs into our food culture and used them foundationally to create medicines to remedy the most common ailments. Whether you realize it or not, plants have a deep-rooted effect on the way we feel, both physically and spiritually. We quite literally feel better and get an energy boost by simply allowing ourselves to be immersed by plant power. It’s the way nature intended.
For Tulalip families and health clinic patients who ventured to Garden Treasures and took advantage of September 16’s u-pick garden day, they were treated with an opportunity to learn about plant-based crafting. Think of it as chicken soup for the soul, but instead of chicken soup its locally grown lavender, lemongrass and berry blends.
Amy King brought her two daughters, Kimberly and Grace, to the hands-on event to learn more about healthier food options and was pleasantly surprised to see the craft tables. After making their rounds through the farm and picking a wide-range of fresh produce, they took a seat and got to work making bundles of dry lavender.
“It was a little difficult because I’ve never made one before, but it was fun learning. I want to hang mine by my bed or put it next to my pillow,” said 12-year-old Grace.
Lavender is a flowering plant in the mint family that’s easily identified by its sweet floral scent and stunning shade of purple. It’s commonly used for medicinal and therapeutic benefits, namely to improve sleep and reduce blood pressure. Lavender is also a great natural remedy for everyday stresses that can take a toll on your mental health. There’s plenty of research that suggests the purple herb has positive effects on mood, stress, anxiety and depression.
As an aspiring chef, 15-year-old Kimberly felt her mood become more and more joyous as she finished her lavender bundle and began looking forward to some creative cooking with all her garden harvesting.
“The cooking process is more fun when you can handpick your own ingredients,” she said. “Getting fruits, vegetables, and herbs straight from the garden means you’re cooking with the freshest ingredients and making healthier meals. Walking through the gardens and seeing all the different options, it’s easy to think creatively and get a lot of ideas. I plan on experimenting with what I picked today and making a chicken stir-fry.”
With the summer season officially over and Pacific Northwest temperatures already in the mid-60s, we’re back to a near permanent weather forecast of dreary with a chance of rain showers. The quick turn in weather has brought about legitimate concern from medical experts that seasonal depression will pack some extra oomph this fall. A simple mood enhancer to help combat the effects of less sunlight and colder temperatures is a daily hot cup of lemongrass tea.
Naturally growing in these parts and conveniently found at the health clinic’s Wellness Garden, lemongrass can alleviate depression and anxiety when enjoyed as an herbal tea. Its pleasant, citrusy taste is a like a reminder of bright and cheerful days. This perennial plant is packed full of antioxidants, good for digestion, regulates high blood pressure, and can boost your immune system.
“It’s important, especially as we approach cold and flu season, to stay hydrated and strengthen your immune system to stay healthy. Tea is an effective strategy and it’s easy to make,” explained indigenous chef Britt Reed, creator of Food Sovereignty is Tribal Sovereignty, as she wove lemongrass into palm-sized wreaths. The mini green wreaths can be easily placed into a hot cup or teapot, steeped for 10-15 minutes, and then enjoyed.
“What I enjoy the most about these opportunities is sharing the plant stories and watching the people’s interest grow as they learn more about the many health benefits of local plants,” reflected Roni after another successful event sharing traditional knowledge and assisting community craft makers.
One such participant was Lummi elder Anita Rutherford. She shared that she’s attended every Garden Treasures u-pick day hosted by the Diabetes Care and Prevention Program thus far and looks forward to attending the final two on September 30 and October 17 as well.
“I’ve been a member of the diabetes program ran by Roni since the beginning, some 5 or 6 years now, and I’m happy to say my diabetes is under control because of this program’s guidance,” shared Anita. “They’ve taught me how to properly monitor my blood sugar level and how to view food as my best form of medicine.”
The quest for optimal health and wellness begins with discovering a vibrant lifestyle based on nature’s gifts. Whether it be eating more fruits and vegetables in every day meals or crafting traditional medicines with locally grown flowers and herbs, the power of plants is undisputed.
“As Native people, we are born into politics. Our ancestors fought and died, not only for our survival, but also to determine how our people would live generations into the future. As tribal members, you have rights defined by the treaties that your chiefs negotiated with the federal government,” stated Larry Cordier (Lakota), tribal organizer for Washington State Democrats.
“In recent years, Washington tribes have had a resurgence of culture and tradition. The return of the canoe journey, language, and food sovereignty are examples of the priorities the tribal councils have placed in determining the future of their Nations,” he continued. “That work must continue. We are working hard to elect candidates and partners who support tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”
Larry’s words rang out at the Don Hatch Youth Center on Friday, September 18, during a Democrat-sponsored, ‘Get Out the Native Vote’ community event. The mission was to make it as convenient as possible for non-registered, eligible Tulalip voters to get registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Such was the case with Tulalip tribal member Jaydin Thompson Sheldon who turned 18-years-old this past summer. Becoming a full-fledged U.S. adult citizen right before a presidential election was not lost on the Marysville-Getchell graduate, as she expressed a sense of perspective few her age rarely do.
“It was important to me to get registered today so I can have a say in elections. Not just for president, but local and state elections, too,” reflected an optimistic Jaydin moments after registering to vote and collecting a stylish Native Vote 2020 t-shirt. “It’s become a trending topic with my friends on social media, so I’m hopeful a lot of people my age will vote. Because I’m new to politics there is a lot of research I need to do to determine which candidates reflect my values.”
While voters like Jaydin aren’t willing to commit to either major party or their high profiled candidates, there is a growing consensus from Tulalip leadership that a Biden/Harris ticket is the only way to go in order to protect treaty rights and strengthen tribal sovereignty.
Married couple Lavinia and George Contraro expressed something similar to the ‘blue no matter who’ mantra because they feel the current president doesn’t deserve a second term.
“It’s been a while since I’ve voted,” shared George. Event staff assisted him filling out the necessary forms so that he can come out of voter hibernation and cast a ballot come Election Day. “It’s important I vote now because we need Trump gone.”
“It’s only common sense. Everyone has to vote for Biden if we’re going to get Trump out of office,” added his wife, Lavinia. She was able to check her voter registration and get it updated with her current address.
Concluding the afternoon event, staff noted they successfully assisted 14 tribal members get registered to vote.
“This is a huge success. If we got only one person registered it would have been a success, and to get fourteen is just that much more significant,” said Board of Director Misty Napeahi. “Hopefully, everyone we got registered today will talk to other people they know who aren’t registered and let them know how easy the process is.
“This election may be the most important election of our lifetime!” she continued. “Historically, we’ve been told our vote doesn’t matter because that’s how Republicans win elections, though voter suppression. When we the people get out and vote, Democrats win. That’s why it is so important that this election every Native vote be counted.”
“Nobody in my family was a runner,” said Tulalip tribal member, Tyler Fryberg. “But once I was able to run my first three miles without stopping, that got me excited and I kept on running ever since.”
Tyler’s passion for running began during a big change in his life, when making the transition from middle school to high school. Knowing he wanted to participate in school sports, he signed up for cross country and track & field during his freshman year at Lake Stevens High School. He continued competing in both sports his sophomore year before transferring to Monroe High School where he completed his school career.
“When I left Lake Stevens and moved to Monroe, where I graduated, it was all new,” he said. “I started there my 11th grade year and I did both cross country and track. I didn’t make varsity for cross country my first year there, but I did for track & field. After my 11th grade year, I end up lettering in both sports during my senior year. That was my goal I had all along, even with knowing I had a disability and that it was going to be a lot harder than the normal person.”
After lettering in cross country as well as track & field, and also receiving his diploma, Tyler set new goals to crush and kept lacing up his running sneakers every single day to begin training for the Special Olympics. Due to his hard work, Tyler medaled nearly every year he competed at the Special Olympics and even carried the Special Olympics Torch of Hope for 18 miles in 2012.
Now age 28, Tyler has run for over half of his life, with the exception of a one-year hiatus due to an injury, “that really got me thinking about my body, taking care of it better so I can run longer,” he expressed.
With countless miles under his belt and several accolades to show for his love of running, Tyler is constantly looking for new challenges, new opportunities to push his limits and exceed his own personal goals. When he learned about a former teacher, Jim Strickland, partnering with Tulalip-based non-profit, Leah’s Dream Foundation, to help raise money and promote awareness for children with disabilities, it was the perfect match.
“I was already involved with Leah’s Dream,” he stated. “So, when they decided to make the Miracle Mile Challenge, I said right away that I definitely wanted to be a part of it. When I signed-up, there was a lot of different miles you can choose from. For me, I like to make big goals so I picked 1,000 miles. That journey started January 1st and was supposed to end on December 31st, but I actually finished my 999th mile a couple weeks ago.”
Finishing months in advance, Tyler ran between 3.5–5 miles for six days every week of the year, making sure to take a rest day to recover and prepare for the upcoming week. On top of the Miracle Mile challenge, Tyler has competed in Special Olympic events such as virtual races, that are held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tyler also created a Facebook page to keep his fans and supporters updated during the challenge and his upcoming running endeavors.
“Somedays I feel motivated, and there are times I don’t feel like running at all,” Tyler admitted. “But this challenge is for Leah’s Dream and knowing that, it gave me motivation to run every day and it was actually something I looked forward to and was excited to do.”
Leah’s Dream Foundation was established in 2015 with one major objective in mind, inclusion. The foundation was started by Deanna Sheldon and family when her daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with autism. The profits that the foundation raises go towards parties, gifts and activity packages for children and young adults living with autism and special needs, to help build a sense of community amongst the youth and their families. Some of their most popular events include the Leah’s Dream Foundation Annual Golf Tournament and the summertime Special Needs Field Day, complete with bouncy castles and a BBQ.
“Before the pandemic, we used to host community events where families all across our community would come together,” Deanna explained. “It was always a free event; we had food, arts and crafts, activities, and events. Last year around this time, Mr. Strickland said he wanted to raise money by running 1,000 miles in one year, and wanted to offer people the chance to do it with him. He’s a runner and is so inspirational.”
Added Amy Sheldon, Leah’s Dream Board Member and Deanna’s sister, “Mr. Strickland was actually Kelsey’s teacher. Kelsey’s my daughter, she’s 24 years old and has autism. He is the one teacher that she had a lot of comfort in, she only had two that she really liked in high school and he was one of those. He would think outside of the box to help her. He’s an inspiration and goes above and beyond for our community.”
Jim Strickland is an instructor at Marysville Getchell High School and has worked throughout the Marysville School District, assisting young adults with developmental disabilities transition to a life outside of high school.
“I’ve worked with people with disabilities my entire career,” Jim said. “I teach the transition program at Marysville Getchell High School, helping people with disabilities transition from school to active roles in their community. I always had a passion for creating a community that was truly inclusive so that everybody has a place, is valued and is able to share their skills and abilities, whatever they might be. That’s my dream come true, and this played right into it. Leah’s Dream is really about that.”
He continued, “We were looking at a way to raise awareness for Leah’s Dream Foundation and to also raise funds. A lot of my students have been the beneficiaries of the projects that [Leah’s Dream Foundation] has done here in the community. Since Tyler and I both like running, we decided to do a running challenge and I set my sights high for 1,000 miles. Of course, Tyler’s an animal and he’s got other races he’s involved with, so his running went really fast. I had to pick up the pace. Turns out we were able to finish 999 miles sooner than we expected, so we wanted to have a celebratory last-mile-run together and hopefully put the word out and get some more contributions for Leah’s Dream.”
On the afternoon of September 19, upwards of forty people gathered at the Tulalip Sports Complex, located outside of the Tulalip Youth Center. The two participants readied themselves in a running position and the crowd began to count them down. At 1:00 p.m. on the dot, Tyler and Jim took off and began their final mile side-by-side.
A young man practicing drills on the football field with his family learned about what was happening and immediately began jumping up and down, cheering on the runners, especially Tyler. The young man was so excited, he left his family during the middle of his training session and took a lap around the complex, hooting and hollering for the cause the entire way. Other friends of Tyler and Jim also joined in on the celebration, participating in the midday exercise by walking or running a few yards behind the 1,000 mile-dashers, including Leah herself who took her scooter for a spin along the track.
A big motivator for Tyler is when people recognize him while he is out running on Totem Beach Road. In fact, Tyler is known by many for his passion of running and has earned himself the nickname of the ‘Tulalip Marathon Man’ for the many years he dedicated to his sport. And of course, like almost every athlete will tell you, it’s all about the gear and looking stylish while you do your thing. After many years of trial and error, Tyler has found the perfect running shoe to withstand all the miles he tracks.
“These are them, the new ones,” he exclaimed while showcasing his kicks. “Everyone’s got to see the shoes. I like to wear Brooks because it’s the only shoe I found to help me be successful as a runner. They are the most comfortable – and I’ve tried all the brands.”
In addition to his fly feet apparel, Tyler unveiled his own personal brand during the Miracle Mile event. While making his strides towards his final mile, Tyler proudly displayed his new merch for all to see; a t-shirt, water bottle and a mask with his alias, ‘Tulalip Marathon Man’, in large text next to a silhouetted-logo of himself running.
“Running is important to me because it’s something I enjoy doing,” Tyler expressed. “I think it motivates people to start exercising in general. When people see me on the side of the road, it brings me motivation and excitement and it’s actually really cool when it happens in your own community. It makes me feel good and it’s really important to me. My advice to new runners is find something that motivates you to run and don’t push yourself too hard, you have to take it easy at first when you are learning how to run. Take it one mile and one day at a time, and remember that anything is possible.”
With 1,000 miles in the books and smoke-free weather, Tyler is ready to get back on his grind and is already conjuring up his next personal goal. The partnership with Leah’s Dream helped raise over $1,200.00 and the non-profit is still accepting pledges for the runners, although the event finished earlier than anticipated. The foundation will now focus their efforts on creating a magical Christmas for their children and community, assembling gift-care packages that will be hand-delivered to their homes by none other than Santa Clause.
“We want our families to know that we’re here, we care and we just generally want us all to be together again,” Deanna said. “We’re all within a community, we are all one and united, it doesn’t matter what disability or non-disability you have. Creating an inclusive environment is one of the biggest things we want, love and strive for.”
For more information about Leah’s Dream Foundation and the Tulalip Marathon Man, be sure to follow their journey on their respective Facebook pages.