‘True visionary’ John McCoy honored with State Senate resolution

Brian Cladoosby, left, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, speaks witth Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, right, as Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, center, a member of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, looks on, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Inslee later signed a bill that seeks to improve oral health on Indian reservations in Washington state.The measure is the first bill the governor has signed this legislative session and it allows tribes to use federal funding for dental therapists. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Sen. John McCoy, D-38

Highly regarded Tulalip citizen and now retired State Senator John McCoy was honored by Washington’s Senate on Friday, April 9. McCoy retired a year ago, shortly after winning re-election, because of health challenges. His sudden departure during such a turbulent time didn’t allow for his colleagues to give him a proper send-off. That unsettled acknowledgement was remedied during April 9’s legislative session when State Senators, both democrat and republican, passed SR 8623 – Recognizing Senator John McCoy. 

“It is my great honor to bring this resolution before the [Senate] today to honor my friend, mentor, and colleague Senator John McCoy,” said Senator June Robinson (D-Everett), who succeeded McCoy in the House and now the Senate. “The words of the resolution talk about many of the wonderful qualities that Senator McCoy brought to the legislator and everything that he does. 

“He is the ultimate long-game player,” she continued. “In true Native American philosophy he always reminded me to think about the future and to think about the long game. You can make this decision now, but you can change later. Sage advice from a true visionary. Someone for whom this body and the state of Washington and the people of Washington are much better off because of his service.”

After 17 years of service in the Washington State Legislature, McCoy announced his retirement after submitting a resignation letter to Governor Jay Inslee last April. The longtime Democratic lawmaker leaves behind a legacy of steady leadership and commitment to serving his community. He brought a career in military service and years as a computer technician to his work at the Legislature, culminating in a lawmaker who effectively advanced economic development and equality of opportunity for his district.

“John has been a good friend for many years. If you live in the Snohomish County area, then you’ve seen John at democratic events and all the community events. He is a rock within the community,” described Senator Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens). “Everyone talks about how he is a rock within the tribal community, which is true, but he’s also a rock in the greater community of Snohomish County as well. He has been such a leader on issues regarding tribes, water and the environment. John is also a huge advocate for our veterans. On that note, as a fun fact, John has had that high and tight since the ‘60s.”

During his five terms in the Washington State House of Representatives, McCoy fought for students, for the environment, for a healthy economy and for tribal communities. He sponsored policy that expanded support for students struggling with behavioral and emotional health needs, protected water rights and access, and integrated comprehensive tribal history and culture education into teacher preparation programs.

“Rising in strong support of this resolution honoring Senator McCoy,” said Senator Ann Rivers (R- La Center). “My politician DNA is very different than John’s, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of respect there. While we may not fully agree on all things or have different approaches on where we want to be, there are some things we agreed on wholeheartedly, like his tireless efforts on behalf of children and making sure their cultural needs are met so they can adequately learn in schools. It was a real honor to be on the same side of policy with him.”

McCoy’s most notable political achievement may be Senate Bill 5433, which he authored and was subsequently signed into law in May 2015. Senate Bill 5433 made it mandatory for schools to educate students about the history and governance of northwest coastal tribes. Washington has since worked diligently with sovereign tribal nations to develop a first-of-its-kind curriculum, Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty, which is taught in schools throughout the state.

“John is a quiet giant both on local and national affairs,” explained Senator Steve Conway (D-Tacoma). “Acknowledging the role he played in bringing tribal issues to this legislature and creating a committee focused on Native Americans in this state. A leader in the Native American community, he’s made an imprint on Washington State history and American history by bringing focus to Native American issues in our state and country.”

The 77-year-old retiree’s focus now shifts to spending time with his wife Jeannie, their three daughters, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren His considerable contribution and service to public office is characterized by tireless advocacy for Native American communities, expanded access to high-quality education, and environmental sustainability. 

Before McCoy became one of the longest serving Native American legislators in state history, he led efforts to bring better telecommunication infrastructure to the Tulalip Tribes. He was also instrumental in developing the economic powerhouse that is Quil Ceda Village. Quite the legacy. 

______________________________________________________________________

SENATE RESOLUTION 8623 

By Senators Robinson, Billig, Brown, Braun, Carlyle, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Fortunato, Frockt, Gildon, Hawkins, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Holy, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, Mullet, Nguyen, Nobles, Padden, Pedersen, Randall, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Sheldon, Short, Stanford, Wagoner, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson, C., and Wilson, L. 

  • WHEREAS, John McCoy was first elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2003 and was elected to the State Senate 2in 2013;and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy was a dedicated public servant, faithfully 4and tirelessly representing the people of the 38th legislative 5district for 17 years before retiring in 2020; and 
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy began his honorable service with a 20-year career in the Air Force, gaining experience that would inform his deep dedication to serving the good of the people; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy was a leader in the community through his work to diversify the economy of the Tulalip Tribes by establishing and managing Quil Ceda Village; and, was a leader in the Senate as Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, never wavering in his inclusive and supportive approach to leadership; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy worked on a wide breadth of issues, including advocating for disenfranchised communities, lifting the voices of sovereign tribes, and expanding access to quality education and health care, as well as internet access for every Washingtonian; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy was an unrelenting force for those with the least financial resources and political power in the state, giving a voice to those who did not have one in our political process; and
  • WHEREAS John McCoy championed the passage of the Native American Voting Rights Act that expanded voting rights access in tribal communities; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy passed legislation that ensured Native American history, culture, and government would be taught in all school districts; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy worked persistently for 12 years to pass legislation that would allow dental therapists to provide care on reservations; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy was a strong advocate for the environment, pushing for tougher rules on oil transportation and water quality, as well as expanding production of alternative energy; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy faced challenges that seemed insurmountable with tenacity and perseverance, offering the advice of “It’s okay to make a mistake as long as you learn from it… and are sure not to make the same mistake again!”; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy will be missed for his steady leadership, strong moral compass, and his ability to find the perfect bolo tie for every occasion; and
  • WHEREAS, John McCoy is a loving husband to his wife Jeannie, a father to three daughters, and a grandfather of 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren
  • NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Washington State Senate recognize Senator John McCoy and the contributions he made to the state and the people during his 17 years of service in the legislature.

I, Brad Hendrickson, Secretary of the Senate, do hereby certify that this is a true and correct copy of Senate Resolution 8623, adopted by the Senate April 9, 2021

BRAD HENDRICKSON

Secretary of the Senate 

The Dom Joseph Podcast: A Voice for Tulalip

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Dom Joseph

The gift of gab is a skill, a highly coveted technique that has been perfected over time by the Indigenous Nations of America, who have historically shared the knowledge of their people, by means of oral tradition, to each passing generation. Years upon years, tribes have utilized the art of storytelling to convey important life lessons such as minding your elders, taking care of Mother Earth, and hunting, fishing and foraging for nuts, berries and medicinal plants. Not to mention intertribal ceremonies like namegivings, powwows, potlatches, canoe journey, as well as many other lifetime achievements and celebrations. Stories are an integral piece to the Coast Salish culture, which each new generation continues to builds upon, keeping the traditions and lifeways of the people strong and alive for years to come. 

During a modern era where information and technology seem more disposable than ever, Native communities are finding new methods to highlight their way of life and are exploring new ideas to document their stories, that otherwise would have been handed down vocally to a select few. The presence and access to a tool such as the internet, allows the word of the tribe to reach the masses. Anyone inquiring about the culture of a specific tribe are essentially just a few clicks away from learning about that Nation’s true history – of the treaties, the relocation, boarding schools, traditional diets, and in some cases even the ancestral languages and songs are accessible to those who are looking. And what makes it even more exciting is that information is often put out directly from the source today, and isn’t heavily relied upon one-sided history textbooks and ill-informed school districts as it once was. 

Tulalip tribal member Dominick (Dom) Joseph’s passion for this traditional skill has led him to the forefront of a new movement that is taking the internet, and therefore the world, by storm. The media format of podcasting has been gaining momentum since the late aughts and has blossomed over the past decade. More and more people are catering to their niche fanbases by creating their very-own platforms to discuss topics that are nearest and dearest to their hearts, whether that stems from a love of music, movies, current world events, self-help, or even exhilarating true crime stories. 

Dom has a strong love for his people, his culture and rez comedy which he effortlessly showcases on-air. His unique journey with storytelling and podcasting perfectly displays his adoration and pride for his tribe, his family and his cultural lifeways. When he speaks, he uses his good-natured humor to open up about issues that he is working through, as a young Native college student experiencing life off the reservation for the very first time. The aptly self-titled project, officially known as the Dom Joseph Podcast, provides a space where other Natives can relate, gain perspective, and join-in on a good old-fashion laugh-your-ass-off session with a natural emcee who shares his unfiltered thoughts, jokes and stories on a weekly-basis. His podcast continues to gain momentum as each day passes, and more youth, elders and everyone in between are tuning-in to find out what the Dom Joseph Podcast, often referred to as the DJP, is all about. 

Tulalip News: Why don’t we just dive right in? Let’s talk about your background and who your family is.

I’m Dom Joseph; I’m Tulalip. I have one little brother, Lukas Williams. My mom is Chena Joseph and my grandpa is Kenneth Joseph.

What led you to podcasting?

My background really came from editing. I went to Marysville-Getchell and I went to Tulalip Heritage. I started editing at a young age, making funny videos. I started getting into podcasting about three-and-a-half years ago. It all kind of started when me and my grandpa would meet every week and we would talk about football. He’d call and say, “alright grandson, who do you think is going to win?” and we’d sit on the phone for about 20 minutes every week. I thought why don’t I turn this into a podcast, so I can be prepared to talk my grandpa every week. And so, I started my first podcast, which was called ‘Weekly Take’, about three years ago, and that was all sports related. I ran that for about a year and I started really falling in love with the whole process of podcasting. I liked having something to be creative about every week.

It wasn’t until one of my family members was like, “I love your podcast, but I don’t really listen to sports.” I thought, Oh yeah, I guess some people don’t really listen to sports. So, I decided to start another one.

Who are some of your inspirations in the podcasting world today?

Joe Rogan. Theo Vaughn. A lot of the comedians in L.A. who have their own podcast, I think are hilarious. I’ve gotten to actually do some work for Joe Rogan and Theo Vaughn in an internship in L.A. I’ve been doing that remotely because of COVID. 

When you were first starting out, did you have an idea of what the Dom Joseph Podcast would be, or a direction in which you wanted to take it?

You know it’s funny, I sat there for about two days thinking about a name. I was like, ‘man, I can’t think of a good name or a logo.’ Eventually I just said, why don’t I make it my name, something easy and then the logo will be my favorite color, which is red, and we’ll just go from there. And ever since then, it’s just been the Dom Joseph Podcast.

You have a pretty awesome backdrop in your videos, is that a Pendleton blanket?

Okay, so the first episode, I didn’t even have video. And then the next episode, it was just my face. And then finally I was like, why don’t I put a Pendleton behind me? But I had the fisherman Pendleton, and that’s the Puyallup designed one. But I’m not Puyallup, I’m Tulalip. I get how that could be a little confusing, so then I had a Tulalip flag up for one episode. When I came back home, my mom was like, “hey, that’s mine.” So, I didn’t get to take that one back home to Pullman, where I go to school and I record at. Eventually I was like, why don’t I just get a blanket that I know everyone has? The latest one behind me, I think I got at a powwow, it’s like the ones sold at Billy’s Blankets in Tulalip.

And so, I went with that blanket because more people have that one, and I thought it was kind of cute. If a little kid wanted to make their version of the Dom Joseph Podcast, I know they have that blanket at home and they could just put that behind them and make something fun. And I also just thought it was funny, it looks like I’m getting a photo taken for a tribal ID.

Were there certain stories that you initially wanted to talk about?

Growing up I’d hear crazy stories about my cousins all the time. Through word of mouth or at basketball tournaments and canoe journeys, just laughs and crazy experiences my cousins lived through. I thought, why don’t I do something like that for my little cousins to have? Maybe if – say I’m out doing something away from home or I pass away, they at least have that piece of me, of my memories to listen to. I think that’s really important, especially as Native people, to have a story we can to listen to and relate to. 

So, what you’re doing is, in a sense, traditional. It’s storytelling! That’s how we shared and passed on knowledge through the generations. And now you’re doing that for the future generations through podcasting.

Yeah! You know, the storytelling aspect didn’t really hit me until the middle of the podcasts. I was like, ‘Man, this is actually storytelling.’ I’m out here telling jokes and discussing what I’m going through. And that’s how people learn right? Through the experiences of other people. 

Not a lot of us go to school. I mean, the statistic of Native Americans who go to school isn’t really that big compared to much other [ethnicities]. If I could story-tell and just kind of make it sound fun, or make the college lifestyle sound great, that’s important messaging for me, for us. That’s a big part of it, especially for other tribal members. The whole podcast is me – I’m Tulalip and grew up on the rez, so it’s going to sound Native. A lot of people think that I’m pigeonholing myself down to just be the Native guy. Dude, that’s who I am. That’s not a problem for me. Storytelling is a big aspect of my podcast and it’s something that I’m proud to do. 

What are some topics that you’ve discussed so far, that you really enjoyed talking about? And what do you wish to talk more about in the future? 

Basically, the topics just kind of come up. It’s about what people are going through. For instance, I just had Jared Parks on and he shared about his kettle corn experience, about my little cousin and autism awareness. My favorite thing is to share everyone’s experiences. 

Other topics I’d like to talk about are whatever makes people laugh. I haven’t really touched upon the culture or tradition as much as I would like to, so eventually, I’d like to delve more into that. One of the next guests I want to have on is my grandpa. But with elders, I want to make sure it’s a comfortable conversation. I don’t want it to sound forced, I want us both to be comfortable. I really want to have him on just to talk and hear about what it was like at Tulalip back then. Like the stories I used to hear when he’d tell me, ‘grandson, that Admin building wasn’t even there before’ or ‘Boom City used to be on the water.’ Some in-depth stories like that would be really cool to touch upon.

You are essentially bridging the gap between generations, that’s super important in today’s fast-paced society. What are some other reasons you believe hosting a weekly podcast is important?

I think it’s important just for myself, it keeps me busy. I keep myself busy in other ways too, through sports or Xbox or hanging out with friends. But having a creative outlet is really good too. A lot of people have different creative outlets such as making drums or going to sing, I feel like this is a really good outlet for me because I was used to it – I was used to being on my computer and editing around all the time. So, if I was doing it for all these other people and providing value for them, why couldn’t I do it for myself? 

For kids just starting out, who want to explore podcasting and use it as a creative outlet, can you talk about some of the equipment that is needed to get started?

I’m actually in the process of making a total course on how to do it, and I’m not going to charge for it, I’m just going to post it. But what kids should do first is just record themselves on their phone. That’s where you can really start, that’s what I started with. But if you want to get into it more, you’ll need a mic, you’ll need a computer, and something that connects your mic to the computer. You can record it on software such as Audacity, or GarageBand if you have a MacBook. There’s a lot of recording software you can use but really all you need is a mic, a computer and the internet. 

And this is where I get a lot of questions. I upload it to Soundcloud and when you go to Soundcloud and you upgrade to Soundcloud Pro, you can get an RSS feed. And when you get that RSS feed, that’s how you can feed it to other platforms such as Apple Podcast or Spotify. But having an RSS feed is pretty key if you want to post it to other platforms. 

Yeah, I actually heard the DJP on Spotify before I saw any footage.

Spotify is probably my favorite platform that it gets posted to. That and YouTube, because YouTube is video. But yeah, Spotify is definitely my favorite platform because I could see a lot of the analytics easier.

You mentioned your episode with former Tulalip BOD Jared Parks, have you had other Tribal members featured on the pod?

Yeah, I’ve had Darion Joseph on. I’ve had Breland Joseph on. I’ve had my brother on. I’ve had my girlfriend, she’s from Tuscarora. I’ve had my buddies from Yakima on. So yeah, I’ve actually had quite a few Native Americans on the podcast. And I kind of want to keep that key. I’ve also had almost every race of people on there, and I think that’s what makes it open. I want anyone on who wants to come and share. 

One of my guests, I met at a sweat. It was my girlfriend’s uncle’s brother, and he was telling me he is comedian. And I was like, let’s record this conversation and it just started from there. You know, we meet people every week and we don’t know whether that person is going to be in our life for that moment, another week or another year. I think if I’m able to capture that conversation for other people to hear, and get insight or experience from, I think that’s really important.

You have a rising listenership forming locally at Tulalip. People on Instagram and Facebook share your podcasts to their stories and timelines regularly. Where do you see the DJP taking you and how do you plan to continue to grow your audience?

My five-year goal is to stay consistent and see where it takes me from there. I see a lot of these successful podcasters right now, in Native America and also the L.A. comedy scene. I keep referring to them because that’s where I’ve been working, just seeing how they’re getting sponsors, or how they book really cool guests. That’s the most important thing, I want to have a platform where I can communicate with cool people, some of my biggest inspirations. And maybe eventually get on their podcast and have conversation. I want to be a voice for Tulalip, that’s a big key for me.

Do you have a certain ritual or anything that you must do before you record the podcast?

Kind of. Every week is different. I wish I had a quirky thing or ritual I did beforehand like eat a lemon or something. But sometimes just getting in front of the mic is the ritual, just to get into that mode as soon as the camera’s on.

What days are the episodes typically released?

I like to release them on Sundays or Mondays. That’s usually the time people don’t really have class. I like to have them recorded by Wednesday or Thursday, and that’s usually the solo episodes. People enjoy the solo episodes because it’s just me, but a lot of people like to also hear from guests. I like to think I’m kind of interesting, but sometimes if you’re listening to me for four episodes in a row, I get how it could be refreshing to hear from others. Like, who’s Dom talking to this week? 

For our readers who have yet to check out the DJP, do have any episode recommendations to start with?

Oh, my goodness. That is a very good question. Yes, actually. If I were to recommend any, my little brother’s episode is a really good one, which is titled Lukas Williams 2, Dom Joseph Podcast episode 51. We made this big bracket of animals and we put them against each other, like a March Madness bracket. And the bracket wasn’t necessarily the interesting thing, it was more of the chemistry me and my brother have. And I’ve had some episodes where I have people on and I don’t really mix well with them and that’s okay too. 

Another good one was Powwow Judge, episode 65. They get better as they go. And then I believe Powwow Menus is also a good one, which is Episode 77. And then Movie Pondering, which is 76. They’re all pretty good but those ones come to mind.

Right on. I have a feeling a lot of our followers are going to go through and binge a few episodes now.

If people start from the middle, that’s okay. It’s not like a series. I made it so you don’t have to listen to every one sequentially, in order. 

Do you see the Native market for podcasting growing in time as well? Do you see other tribal members expressing themselves through the art of podcasts in the near future?

Oh yes, of course. I actually think I heard this in high school, but we were the first people ever to get our pictures taken. The first camera was used by some guy who went to a reservation and took pictures of Native Americans. I think this podcasting platform, for all Natives, is a really big thing that’s going on. I think it’s only going to get bigger. I think eventually, it’s going to get to a point where some individual is going to create a platform that is strictly for Native podcasting. Personally, I think we’re the greatest type of people to do it and I think we deserve to get our voices out there. I believe a lot of Native Americans, especially Tulalips, could story-tell for days and they can make you laugh through it, they can make you cry through it. I definitely do see a lot of Native Americans in podcasting. 

It is definitely exciting and filled with possibilities. What fuels your passion for this new form of media?

Mainly, I’m happy with where it is right now with just for my family to hear. As long as I never lose that fun part of it, I’m going to keep doing it. And I think anyone who likes to story-tell should definitely get into podcasting, because it’s a really fun thing to do and everybody has something they could share.

Right now, I don’t have the degrees, the reputations, the following that I would like to be at, but that comes through consistency and contributing my time. That’s what’s going to get me to the end goal, which is to have our people here.

There’s a lot of focus going into mental health today. And of course, as Natives, we deal with generational trauma and work on trying to break those cycles. Do you think that podcasting could help us work through some of that, by talking things out and gaining perspective from others?

When I first started DJP, it kind of started from a place of – I needed to talk to someone. And to be honest it was a hard breakup, that’s what it was. I didn’t know who to talk to. So, I started reaching out. It was a little bit more comfortable for me to talk into a mic than to go meet a total stranger from somewhere I wasn’t from, because I wasn’t home at the time. If I were to recommend anything, I would recommend doing a podcast because it does definitely help with that. But seeing a professional also helped me.

I think podcasting does help with mental health though. It’s something that I can go and talk to for forty-five minutes. Some people talk to their journals and they write for thirty minutes. Me, I kind of go in and vent. And sometimes there are recordings that I don’t even post because it’s really impactful. Or maybe it’s too deep to post, or I say someone’s name and they don’t want me to post it.

Mental health is something I really support. I think in the past ten years, it’s definitely gotten a lot more awareness. And I think with podcasting, it could help bring even more awareness to that, especially for Native kids. Native youth in general, is who I do this for. If someone younger than me from the rez listens, and they are able to get away from that bad thought, that bad experience, by hearing me say something or just telling a funny story they’re able to laugh and just get away from that bad cloud or that bad test grade, that’s what it’s all for. 

Alright, last question. Is the podcast suitable for all ages?

Um – sometimes I swear on there. I know that is a big thing, so that’s why I’m hesitant to say it’s totally kid-friendly. Because sometimes I do bring up some 18+ stuff, which is to say I swear like a fisherman on there, and I’m working on that. So, I would say definitely more PG-13. 

The Dom Joseph Podcast is available to stream on Apple Podcast, Spotify and YouTube. Next time you need a good laugh, have a long commute, or simply need something to listen to while you run errands, workout or clean the house, be sure to check out an episode of the DJP! 

Tribal Council swears-in new leadership after historic voter turnout

Mel Sheldon (left) and Pat Contraro (right) being sworn-in as Board of Directors.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Back in March 2020, pandemic precautions prevented Tulalip from holding its annual General Council. The Board of Directors election was held though, albeit two months later in May, amongst reservation-wide stay home orders and a lot of self-quarantining. The unique set of circumstances gave many progressive minded citizens plenty to think about in terms of the Tribe’s future direction and immediate needs of the people. As a result, the convenience of being able to cast an absentee ballot from the safety of home led to an unprecedented rate of voter engagement and ballots cast for the 2020 Board of Directors election.

Well, history repeated itself in the best kind of way last month as the 2021 Board of Directors election resulted in another historic voter turnout by Tulalip’s membership. A whopping 1,413 total ballots were counted during the Tribe’s March 20 election day.

Elder Pat Contraro sent shock waves through the reservation when she was declared top vote getter with 447. The stunning result was largely due to the hefty increase she received in just one year’s time; last election she received only 176 votes. It’s a true testament to her straight forward, no nonsense approach that she’s ran on for years now. Her candidate platform never wavered from ‘Transparency, Accountability, and Integrity!’  

“I am honored that you have entrusted me to represent you – our membership,” Pat announced via Facebook. “For the past several years many have allowed me into your homes. You have shared your needs, ideas, concerns, and aspirations for our Tribe. Our future holds challenges, but we can overcome them if we rise above the politics and go back to our teachings – which includes caring for our elders, our youth and one another. 

“I look forward to working for and with you to restore jobs, increase housing, and make changes so our children may be assured of a positive future,” she added. “I am eternally grateful to my tribal family, friends, and supporters who have remained and/or joined me in my journey during the past five years. I will serve you to the best of my ability and continue to listen and respond to your needs and concerns.”

This year’s second open Board seat ended up being a battle of incumbents, with Mel Sheldon, Jr. (385) outpointing Marlin Fryberg, Jr. (375) by only 10 votes. The super slim margin once again proved that when it comes to Tulalip elections, every vote truly does matter.

“To the 1,400+ members who voted in this election, thank you, your voice speaks volumes,” reflected Mel after the election results were made official. “It shows how much our people care about their community. This was my closest election ever, outside of the year I got voted off, so it’s a real learning opportunity for me. I will make it a priority to reach out and listen to those who feel their views aren’t represented at the Board level, and look forward to building the momentum we created last year into even more economic opportunities for our people. 

“As a Tribe, we are in a golden era of opportunity,” he continued. “The continued success of our casinos and other business endeavors has created so much opportunity for our people. If they choose to capitalize on it, then they have opportunity for the highest quality of education, career opportunities in construction trades, and job opportunities in a wide range of tribal programs that will help us take our economic development to the next level.”

The latest rendition of Tulalip’s Tribal Council was sworn-in on the morning of Friday, April 2 by Chairwoman Teri Gobin. Extensive well wishes and messages of appreciation were given by one Board member after another to exiting councilmember Marlin Fryberg for his two-decades of service to his people. Then Pat and Mel raised their right hands and took their oaths to preserve, serve, and protect the constitution and bylaws of the Tulalip Tribe.

“As a team, I know we can get some really good work done,” said Chairwoman Gobin as she looked towards her fellow Board members. “We have over 5,000 tribal members now. It’s our entrusted responsibility to look out for their best interest, to create and develop necessary services that keep in mind our future generations, and to work together as a team for the benefit of all of our people. It’s a challenge, but with a shared vision we can accomplish amazing things.”

Trailblazer Deb Haaland represents Native America as Secretary of the Interior

Vice President Kamala Harris, right, speaks during a ceremonial swearing in for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in the VP’s ceremonial office on the White House campus. (Getty Images)

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The last few years have been a whirlwind of history making transformation for Laguna Pueblo tribal member Deb Haaland. In late 2018, she burst onto the national scene by becoming the first ever Native American woman elected to Congress. While representing her home state of New Mexico, Congresswoman Haaland won over the hearts of tribal members everywhere with her unapologetically bold speeches and genuinely Indigenous perspective on U.S. politics. 

Even if we didn’t live in New Mexico, she become our de-facto Congresswoman because she represented us, the millions of people from hundreds of tribes that together create Native America.

Following the battle for America’s soul, aka the 2020 presidential election, President Biden announced Representative Haaland’s name as his top candidate for Secretary of the Interior. In doing so, the Biden Administration acknowledged the history of past mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities.

After all, the Department of the Interior is the primary federal agency charged with carrying out the United States’ trust responsibility to Native people, maintaining the government-to-government relationship with the federally recognized Tribes, and promoting and supporting tribal self-determination. Interior provides services to over 2.4 million Native citizens that include education, social services, economic development, law enforcement, housing improvement, disaster relief, road maintenance, and natural resource management. 

Haaland, an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, made national headlines in 2019 when she became the first Native American woman elected to Congress.

Seems only appropriate that after so many generations worth of termination based policy and mismanagement of tribal appointed funds, that an actual Native American political leader finally be given an opportunity to manage the Interior. Only then can true healing begin and trust start to build between the 574 federally recognized tribes and the U.S. government agency tasked with supporting their overall health and development.

“I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land,” said Deb Haaland in her nomination acceptance speech. “This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.”

Representation and diversity matter to the 35th generation New Mexican, whose connection to her Laguna Pueblo people is unquestioned. Her unique life experiences as an Indigenous person shape the 60-year-old’s political decisions to benefit her Native brothers and sisters in a manner previously unimagined. She explained to The Guardian, “We don’t need people who all have the same perspective, we need people from various parts of the country, who’ve been raised in different ways, who bring that history and culture with them, and employ what we’ve learnt from their parents and grandparents, and bring all of that to bear in the decisions that we make. 

“Environmental injustice and economic injustice have taken a hold of so many communities, and they’ve had enough. They want us to pay attention and help them to succeed. As far as Indian Country is concerned, I want to make sure tribal leaders – and all marginalized communities – have a seat at the table.”

After a two-day confirmation hearing in early March, basically a high-profiled, public interview by congressional leaders of both political parties, the U.S. Senate met on March 15 to vote on Haaland’s history making appointment. The vote was 51 for and 40 against, more than enough to confirm her as President Biden’s Interior secretary. It was another remarkable vote on the side of Haaland who has broken down yet another barrier and opened the door to new possibilities by becoming the first ever Native American Cabinet secretary. 

The build up to her Thursday, March 18 swearing-in ceremony was full of fervor across Indian Country. And to her credit, the tribal trailblazer embraced the momentous occasion in true indigenous style by proudly wearing a traditional ribbon skirt, white leather moccasins, and an assortment of turquoise Native bling for the nation to see.

Agnes Woodward, a Plains Cree dressmaker from Kawacatoose First Nation, proudly displays the ribbon skirt she designed for Haaland’s swearing-in ceremony. (courtesy A.Woodward)

Standing in front of Vice President Kamala Harris with her right hand raised, Deb Haaland was sworn as the 54th Secretary of the Interior. The long rainbow ribbon skirt adorned with a corn stalk, butterflies and stars was impossible to miss. The ribbon skirt is a symbol of resilience, sacredness and survival is not bound to one specific tribe, but heavily influenced by Plains tribes. 

The story behind the dress is one of empowerment and survival of a community and also its designer. The garment was made as a “celebration-style skirt” in recognition of Haaland’s historic nomination, explained its creator Agnes Woodward, who is Plains Cree from Kawacatoose First Nation in Canada. The 38-year-old seamstress devoted weeks to creating the distinct piece of clothing from her home in North Dakota. While the rainbow colors are meant to represent all people and the pair of dark blue butterflies serve to offer an uplifting message, the cornstalk is a symbol of Haaland’s enrolled membership of the Pueblo of Laguna.

“Growing up, sometimes it felt like no matter how much we as a people fought for our right to be heard, for our right to be at tables making decisions on our behalf, it felt like we were often not heard,” said Woodward, the Plains Cree dressmaker, to CBC Radio. “So for Deb Haaland to be in one of the highest positions in this country in front of the world, standing in a ribbon skirt that represents our people is definitely a moment that obviously means we’ve been seen and that we are visible. Because she represents all of us.”

From Deb Haaland to Congresswoman Haaland to now Secretary Haaland with Cabinet-level decision making power, her journey has taken her from a New Mexico based reservation to the highest echelons of decision making in Washington D.C. She will lead the Department of Interior in a continued effort to respect tribal self-determination, ensure meaningful consultation with tribes on matters affecting their interests, and work in partnership with tribal governments to support the development of Native communities.

For the first time in history, the Interior will be led with Indigenous values and integrity. Following her swearing-in ceremony, Secretary Haaland said, “Today I stand on my ancestor’s shoulders ready to serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary. I am honored and ready to work. I look forward to tackling some of the nation’s most pressing issues so that future generations can enjoy our public lands and waters for years to come.”

Marsh Life mural resides at Edmonds Historical Museum

By Kim Kalliber; Photos courtesy of Ty Juvenil

Edmonds Historical Museum is working to support local Indigenous people and culture. The latest Native art instillation to call Edmonds home is ‘Marsh Life’, a mural carved by Tulalip tribal member, Ty Juvenil. 

Using thick planks of cedar, Ty describes the piece as, “A carved depiction of what summer life may have looked like pre-contact, with various marsh animals, crane, frog, and humpy salmon, also some fishermen with some catch in their nets. At the top is the hills behind Edmonds with some spirits of the hills showing. On the sides of the main panel are two guardian posts, both finger-painted as it was done long ago. One female salmon and one male salmon. Finally watching over the marsh in glass is a frog design. Frogs are known across many native communities as powerful creatures, in the physical realm, as well as the spiritual.” 

Ty explained that the salmon are blue because his kids helped with the painting. “They kept saying they need to be blue so I listened to them and it worked out amazing.” 

The mural rests at the front of the museum in the Reflection Plaza. According to the Museum, ‘honoring the land and the Coast Salish tribes who came before, ‘Marsh Life’ is an artistic depiction and window into what life may have been like for Coast Salish communities living in the area. The piece demonstrates how the biodiversity and natural resources of the marsh were an important part of Coast Salish traditions and way of life.’

“The whole project should have taken less than a year, but due to Covid we had to wait,” Said Ty of the project’s journey. “This was a wonderful journey, and I’m happy we got it blessed before it left Tulalip; I gave it a tour through Tulalip in the bed of the truck.

He added, “I’m hoping one day I can do something like this at home for Tulalip. Just keep paddling I suppose!”

Also, keep an eye out for upcoming Youtube videos from Ty, on how to carve a paddle and other items.  

The Edmonds Historical Museum is located in downtown Edmonds at 118 5th Ave N., Edmonds WA  98020. You can also visit historicedmonds.org. 

Collin Hood shares how snowboarding helped him reconnect with cultural lifeways and recover from tragedy

The Fresh Powder Feels

By Kalvin Valdillez; Photos courtesy of Collin Hood 

As the original caretakers and citizenry of this local territory, the sduhubš people have an everlasting connection to the land, stretching from the Salish Sea to the mountainous regions. Thriving from the fish, deer, elk and berries, the tribe lived off the mountain’s plentiful resources year-round since time immemorial. Some tribal members would say that simply being high up in the mountains today, in their ancestral homeland, provides peace to their soul, a sense of spiritual solace that can be likened to what many experience when reflecting and pondering life near the ocean – a rejuvenated perspective on life itself. In fact, the Tulalip Tribes organized the annual summertime Tulalip Youth Mountain Camp, a week-long outing to the Skykomish mountains, just so their young membership can experience that connection to the land, the resources and their ancestors. 

Approximately eight years ago, the tribe debuted a similar idea where their youth could engage in outdoor fun while exploring areas their great-great-great relatives once roamed. This idea, however, occurred in the wintertime and was a tad bit more extreme. By participating in the First Nations Snowboarding Team of Tulalip at a young age, Collin Hood, a local 25-year-old tribal fisherman, discovered not only a passion and a newfound community, but also a connection to his cultural and spiritual lifeways. And perhaps most importantly, a form of medicine and healing that only being on a board and shredding through fresh powder can provide. 

Tulalip News: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Why don’t we begin with your background, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Collin Hood, I’m a Tulalip tribal member. My dad is Alonzo Hood and his mom is Rachel Moses. My family has always been super connected with the mountains. We have property in Darrington and back when all the boarding schools were going on, my great-great-grandma Mariah Moses took the family up there to the mountains. I’ve always felt like it’s so easy to get up to the mountains in the springtime and in the summertime, but when winter hit, I never felt like I was able to get up there as often as I’d like to, to really get the chance to be with the trees, the water, the fresh air. 

When did you first get into snowboarding?

I started snowboarding when I was young. I got introduced to it when I was doing the Tulalip snowboarding team that they had back in the day. The tribe had a team basically for us youth to connect with each other and the mountains, and just improve ourselves. But one of my buddies passed away while snowboarding and I hadn’t been up there since. It took a while for me to get back on the mountains. Last year, I got back into it; it felt so good. Snowboarding has so many challenges that you have to overcome and I feel like you’re able to bring those teachings from snowboarding back into your everyday life. 

Any examples come to mind where lessons learned on the slopes can be applied to real-life situations?

Falling down and getting back up – that’s one of the biggest ones honestly. Falling down when snowboarding, when you see everyone around you succeeding and doing so good, you want to be like them you want to be able to do all these cool tricks and get a sponsorship, but you keep falling. You just feel like, ‘ugh, I’m never going to get good and I want to give up.’ But you keep going no matter what because you have that love and drive for it. I feel like you can bring that into your daily life. When you feel like life is kicking you and you keep falling down, you got to keep your head up. Especially after this past year of 2020.

When did you know that snowboarding was the sport you wanted to practice and dedicate your time to?

I knew I wanted to stick to this and keep practicing when I first felt that sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel like I had to be the best right away, just knowing that I was making progress was all that really mattered.

How has your skill-level advanced over the years since you first strapped-up to a board?

No one has talked to me about a sponsorship just yet, it’s something that I want to keep progressing toward. I’ve been practicing my 360’s, getting my back ones down, and I’ve also been trying to do back flips this year. The tricks are cool. I love doing tricks, but hitting the steep lines, the ones where you’re looking straight down and it’s like ‘alright, there’s no room for mistakes here’, that’s something that I’ve been really pushing myself towards lately. Those deep uncomfortable moments. 

There’s a quote that I like that talks about living outside your comfort zone. I’ve been trying to do that a lot lately because I feel like life’s going to be a lot better for me if I keep doing that. My skill-level has progressed a lot over this past year. I definitely wasn’t comfortable enough to hit some of the steep lines. I have another family member, Greg Moses, he’s an awesome snowboarder he used to do the snowboarding team with me back in the day as well. He’s been really helping me, pushing me to excel outside of my comfort zone. 

As a Tribal member, what does it feel like to be up in the mountains, admiring that scenery in the natural world that your ancestors and people took care of and thrived off of since the beginning of time?

It’s a feeling that is super hard to explain. You’re worry-free, you’re in your own zone. You feel like you’re floating on air, you’re literally flying through the trees. I have a ritual every single time I go up there. I like to pray and spread a little tobacco out before I hit the slopes. It’s important to me because I want to give thanks for everything that is given to me and for everything that is around me, with the fresh air from the trees and the snow that keeps falling, which will melt and return to the ocean to help the salmon return. 

When I come back from snowboarding, my whole spirit is refreshed. When I’m up there, I feel like all my worries and fears disappear. I feel a lot closer to my relatives and friends who I’ve lost as well. 

Are there any areas of your life where snowboarding has helped you through difficult times?

Charlie Cortez was one of my friends who passed away. It was really hard on me this year. The mountains were one of his favorite places to be as well. This whole winter time, I kept thinking how can I feel closer to him? Being on the water has been so hard for me. The mountains have been my getaway and my way to feel closer to him and everyone I’ve lost this past year. The fresh powder feels, man, it feels like nothing else. 

Is there a certain vibe you have to set while you’re up there? Any specific music you need to listen to, any gear that you need to wear? 

Yeah, I do like listening to music while I’m up there. Mostly reggae and rock, keeping the vibes flowing, stuff that makes you feel alive. 

I would say don’t go cheap on gear. You want high quality gear to keep you warm and your vision clear. Your whole experience will be that much better.

Do you have a favorite spot you like to go to?

[Mt.] Baker is definitely my home run. I usually don’t like to tell people that only because Baker is super low-key. It’s definitely so much fun, even if you’re not the best snowboarder, just to be up there having a good time, enjoying the vibes and energy the mountains brings. 

Where do you see snowboarding taking you in your future?

I see it taking me around the world. I plan on making more videos and traveling to different mountains, hitting steeper slopes and doing cooler tricks. I see it taking me pretty far and I love that because it’s during the off-season of fishing. I get to go fishing and once fishing’s done, it’s snowboarding season baby! I feel like I’m living the dream, hunting, fishing and snowboarding; enjoying all the seasons.

Any advice on how to get started and involved in snowboarding for young tribal members?

If you’re interested in the sport, try it out. Ask your parents to help you get involved, reach out to anybody in the community who can help you learn. There’s a lot of people. There’s an entire snowboarding community within the tribe who are willing to help teach people, teach kids. I know it might be a little scary at first, but if you stick with it, you’re going to have fun and it’s something that you’re going to love for the rest of your life.

Where can people check out your work and find out more about snowboarding? 

I have a YouTube channel, just under Collin Hood. I only have two videos right now. I’m just getting started and involved in making videos, so I’m super excited about it and can’t wait to make more videos. 

Community unites to honor our ancestors, pledges to get drugs off our rez

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Nearly 200 hopeful community members united on March 13, the last Saturday of winter, to raise awareness about an insidious enemy that continues to rage through so many Native American reservations: drugs.

“Getting drugs off our rez is such an important issue for our people because its affected every one of our lives,” explained Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Every one of us has had someone in our family that’s suffered from addiction or passed away too soon because of drugs. We’ve had more than fifty deaths in the past year and the highest percentage of the deaths was from overdose, specifically due to fentanyl.”

While coronavirus continues to top headlines nationally, the drug epidemic has only gotten worse. Forced into isolation from family and friends due to COVID cautions, some have turned to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with the stress, anxiety and uncertainty of today’s times. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 83,000 people lost their lives to drug-related overdoses in the 12-month period ending in July 2020. Making matters even more worrisome closer to home, the Drug Enforcement Agency ‘s Seattle division said earlier this month there was a 92% increase in fentanyl seizures last year and that trend is only going up. 

What is Tulalip to do? Chairwoman Gobin offered an optimistic outlook when she expressed, “It is so difficult to combat this drug epidemic, but we can do it together as a community. We’re looking at new ways to help with our medical assisted treatment facility, that should be ready by this fall, and additional clean living housing for our people. It does take that extra effort when you see someone falling to give them a hand up. Yet, we know our people are not disposable. We have to keep our hands out for them, welcoming them back to a brighter future.”

Uniting the community together under a common cause and bringing people together under the banner of a brighter future is what the Honor Our Ancestors, Get Drugs Off Our Rez rally intended. Based on the overwhelmingly positive vibes that were created and outpouring of support for loved ones battling addiction, it’s safe to say that goal was accomplished. 

On the Saturday afternoon, the clouds broke and the incessant rain stayed away allowing for three hours of radiant sunshine to beam down on the hundreds of participants proudly wearing their affectionately messaged t-shirts. After meeting at the Youth Center, 65+ vehicles formed a caravan that traversed through Tulalip’s residential neighborhoods. 

The parade of cars was led by Tulalip police and fire departments, utilities staff and Sacred Riders MC. Tulalip citizens of all ages were seen running from their homes to greet the caravan with a loving smile and friendly wave. 

Following the caravan’s excursion through the neighborhoods, participants reconvened outside the Gathering Hall to share heartfelt message and uplift spirits with a coastal jam. Tulalip’s honor guard presented the colors prior to Thomas Williams blessing the occasion with a Lushootseed prayer.

With positivity and an emphasis on honoring the ancestors, the Get Drugs Off Our Rez rally offered everyone in the Tulalip community must-needed support and a connection to culture through traditional songs, prayer, and not taken for granted notion of togetherness. 

Walking their talk. Voices from the rally:

Family enrichment manager Josh Fryberg: “What’s been said throughout the day is its going to take each and every one of us to fight for our people, fight for the current generation, and fight for our future generations. At the same time we want to honor our ancestors. They fought so hard and sacrificed so much for all that we have today. It’s our responsibility to fulfill the vision our ancestors had by doing our best to live our lives in a good way.”

Youth council chairmam Kaiser Moses: “It means so much and warms my heart to see you all here today showing how much you care about our community. Drugs are unnatural to our way of life. Drugs were absent from our people’s history until only recently and they’ve become so taxing on our spirits since their unwelcomed arrival.

We need to look out for our youth and we need to look out for our future generations. It’s not just certain people that must take up this responsibility, its every single one of us. Reach out to people who you wouldn’t talk to and open up to them. By opening up to others, you create opportunities for them to open up to you. That’s how we deepen our bond to one another as a Tribe.”

Drummer, singer, and PowWow dancer extraordinaire 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.”

Lushootseed teacher Natosha Gobin: “While driving in the caravan I was crying tears of joy for us being here together. I’ve missed us being together as a community so much. I also cried tears of loss while thinking of my brother because I knew I was driving for him and with him. I think of my niece who is lost in the struggle. Reaching out to her every day, begging her to choose life. I pray that at some point our loves ones who are struggling realize how much they are loved, realize that we have not lost hope, and realize they are not alone. We drove around today honking our horns, waving our flags, and saying ‘I love you’, creating so much positive energy all for them.”

Tulalip elder Donald ‘Penoke’ Hatch: “We lost another young tribal member. She was only 22 years old. We need to take care of our young people a little bit more. That’s why we paraded around; to show we’re here to uplift those who are down and pray for protection for who need it. It’s so important we continue to help each other a little bit more than we did yesterday, and help a little bit more tomorrow than we did today. That’s the path to fighting this drug epidemic that takes the lives of so many of our young people; togetherness.”

Family Wellness Court now in session

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The impact of the opioid and heroin epidemic is felt especially hard within Indigenous communities. When researching this disheartening topic, you may get caught up in the alarming statistics as it pertains to overdose and death by overdose in Native America. One might overlook the efforts and the resiliency of tribes across the nation who are refusing to give up on their loved ones, whose lives are in the clutches of addiction. Children are largely affected by the drug crisis and many are subject to face the system, often placed in the care of a family or community member when the parent has fallen to their addiction. Of course, most parents want to regain custody of their children, but where do they begin?

There’s a cynical-leaning expression that is often voiced when speaking of recovery, along the lines of ‘you can’t help those who aren’t willing to accept help,’ which is arguably true, but what of those who are actively seeking help but don’t know where to turn? Those who want to get clean and reclaim guardianship of their kids but need guidance and support? Those who have went through treatment and mandated drug court and have yet to find a solution?

The Tulalip Tribal Justice Department believes they’ve developed a system that will not only help their tribal members start their journey in recovery, but also reunite them with their children. They also strongly believe that, if followed properly, their system can help their participants regain custody sooner than the standard state drug court, and will be more effective in the long-term, helping their clients maintain sobriety by equipping the individual with the necessary tools and support to fight their addictions. Of course, the timeline will vary as each person who opts to participate in the voluntary program will receive a personalized plan to follow. 

On the afternoon of March 10, a group of approximately fifteen gathered in the courtroom at the Tulalip Justice Center for the first of many court hearings. The assembly, who wore masks and followed social distance protocols, consisted of a handful of courthouse officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. This team is dedicated to reuniting Tulalip families by helping the parents attain and maintain sobriety, tackling the epidemic that has driven a wedge between numerous families head-on.

Known officially as Family Wellness Court, the new system was originally inspired by the amount of success stories that came out of the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court. Those participants showed a great response to the program which features a plan-to-recovery that is tailored to each client’s individual needs. Additionally, the Healing to Wellness Court requires weekly meetings, cultural give-back hours, and a strong desire to get clean. Another aspect that has proved helpful for the Healing to Wellness Court participants is the new sense of community that is gained from engaging with their fellow participants in the program. Each participant is involved throughout the entire duration of the weekly hearings and shows their support to others in the program in both the good and trying times. Drawing from the Healing to Wellness Court model, the Tulalip Justice Department hopes to mirror those success results while also reuniting tribal parents with their children by helping them overcome their battle with addiction. 

Said Tulalip Tribal Court Director, Alicia Horne, “The Family Wellness Court is very similar to the Healing to Wellness Court. It’s an alternative program to help parents with addiction and it’s an evidence-based program to help parents with addiction sustain sobriety. This is something that is different from your traditional beda?chelh case management. The Family Wellness program has wrap-around, intensive family case management to help the family as a whole, so the parents can maintain stable sobriety.”

The very first Family Wellness Court hearing featured a ceremonial blessing by Tulalip tribal member Whaa-Ka-Dup Monger, who also offered encouraging words of support to each participating parent. Tulalip’s Chief Judge, Michelle Demmert presided over the hearing, which included a total of five individual cases, three of which were held over Zoom as those participants were registered and receiving care at local treatment facilities.

“Today was the very first day of Family Wellness Court which is something that I fully embrace because I feel that restoration and healing are components of justice. Too often our justice models are based on the Anglo system which believes in punishment more than it does healing,” explained Judge Demmert. “I’m Tlingit and I come from a lot of healers and traditional folks and this just means a lot to me because we are a community-based people, we support each other, we have families. Those relationships are important to nurture, so we need to do things differently as a Native court.”

  Each client begins by sharing how long they have been sober. And whether that’s days, weeks or months, the courtroom erupts with applause, showing genuine encouragement and support for the parent and what they’ve accomplished. Then together, as one team, they review the participant’s week, ensuring they are on par with their plan while also discussing their trials and tribulations they encountered since their last hearing. If the parent is in compliance and on-track, the team will discuss the next phase of the personalized plan and the participant will get to pick an incentive of their choosing out of a basket that includes Native-designed houseware, tasty snacks and a variety of trinkets and gift cards. If the parent is non-compliant with the Family Wellness Court, the team will re-evaluate that parent’s plan, provide intervention services and resources and discuss areas to improve. 

“We want people to understand it’s different than the standard dependency proceeding that parents involved with beda?chelh go through,”  stated Family Wellness Court Coordinator, Melissa Johnson. “With more frequent review hearings, they get a chance to show their progress in real-time. They tend to get their kids back faster in this type of program because of the intensive case management and the added support. We assist parents with medical care if they need it, as well as referrals to housing, helping with job placement, job training, so they can live a healthy and sober life and maintain it on their own. 

“We want to give them the skills, the foundation to maintain that healthy lifestyle once they’re finished with our program. Family Wellness Court is important because it’s strengthening families, it will help families get healthy and allow us to display our support as a Tribal Court and a community. We have a really good team. I think the team approach is going to be so important for us going forward.”

After a productive and successful first hearing, the Family Wellness Court has high hopes that their new system will bring healing, reunification, and a new beginning for parents in recovery. Judge Demmert reassured each new client that relapse is a part of one’s journey to sobriety and it is important to learn and grow if a relapse occurs while on the road to recovery. The important thing to remember is to pick yourself back up after a relapse and continue striving for a healthy, clean and sober life. 

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

Judge Demmert also shared a special message to the recovering parents in Family Wellness Court stating, “We’re proud of the choices you’re making and we’re here to support you. These are not easy choices and we recognize that. We’re here for you and here to serve you.”

To qualify for the Family Wellness Court, you must be the parent of a Tulalip tribal member who currently has an open child dependency case with the Tribal Court system. Please contact your attorney, beda?chelh social worker or call (360) 716-4764 if you believe the Family Wellness Court can benefit you and your family.

Looking back at one year of COVID in Tulalip

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Recounting the early days of COVID-19 bursting onto the global scene feels like a blur. A mangled mess of breaking news relying heavily on public health officials deploying then-foreign concepts like novel coronavirus, asymptomatic, presumptive positive, contact tracing, self-isolation, and lest we forget, telling the public to stop hoarding toilet paper.

For many people in Tulalip, and all over the world for that matter, life will never return to the way things were pre-COVID. From devastating losses to new norms, like mask mandates and social distancing, to the Tribe’s reopening process and vaccine distribution, we take a look back at twelve months of adapting to the new normal.

March 2, 2020

The Snohomish County Health District states the risk of contracting Coronavirus is very low. The Board of Directors and the core team meet for a strategic planning session about the Coronavirus. They begin to implement a plan to ensure the safety of our community.

March 3, 2020

Tulalip leadership received notification of two community residents transported to local hospitals with similar symptoms to COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, public notice is sent out. The notice states coronavirus is generally considered a mild illness in most healthy individuals. It also states the elderly, those with underlying health conditions and those will compromised immune systems may be severely affected by the virus.

March 13, 2020

The U.S. President declares a national state of emergency. A triage tent is set up at the entrance of the Tulalip health clinic where patients are asked a series of questions, offered hand sanitizer and, depending on their symptoms, offered a mask. The community is urged to disinfect high touch surfaces, wash hands often, and refrain from touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

March 16, 2020

The decision is made to close Tulalip Resort Casino, Quil Ceda Creek Casino and Bingo gaming operations through March 31. Tulalip’s emergency management team is actively working with Snohomish County and Washington State response teams. Effective immediately both Tribal Government and Quil Ceda Village reduce working personnel to essential staff only.

A community-led food distribution gives away 5,000 pounds of food to tribal members in just one hour.

March 23, 2020

Tulalip leadership received notification of two more confirmed positive cases of Covid-19 within the Reservation. One showed symptoms, while the other was asymptotic or showing no symptoms. This highlighted the need to stay home and stop visiting, hugging, or interacting with anyone other than those in your household. 

Community Health begins working with Tulalip Bay Fire on contact tracing. All Tulalip facilities, including outdoor areas like neighborhood parks, skate park and ball fields, are closed.

March 25, 2020

Emergency Order: Stay Home and Stay Healthy is proclaimed by Tulalip Board of Directors until further notice. Community is informed of six confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Reservation, including it being a cause of death for one tribal elder.

Marysville School District staff distributed over 1,000 Chromebooks to their elementary-aged families.

March 28, 2020

Tulalip authorizes code to order and enforce quarantines to protect the safety of the community. A resolution enacted within the code appoints Tulalip’s Dr. John Okemah as the authorized medical officers whereby he can issue detention, isolation, or quarantine of a person involuntarily for up to 14 days. Violation of an order can result in a civil infraction with a fine up to $1,000 or $500 per day in case of continuing infraction. 

Tribe is currently operating on a skeleton staff. Most Tulalip entities closed on March 17. Mandatory furloughs set to begin on April 13.

April 3, 2020

Tulalip Health System begins offering telemedicine or video appointments via Zoom with medical providers, mental health therapists, and chemical dependency therapists. Tulalip co-funded an additional ambulance for Tulalip Bay Fire as part of COVID-19 response. This new until is responsible for transporting both Tulalip and non-Tulalip who are presumptive positive with virus for medical care.

Tulalip tribal member Georgina Medina starts her own mask making business. Her unique, Native-inspired masks are a huge hit and she sells them to customers from Alaska to California.

April 24, 2020

Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic contracts with a local lab to conduct COVID-19 tests, which means test results are delivered in 24 hours or less.

Quil Ceda Elementary staff eagerly assemble for a positivity-filled parade through the Tulalip Reservation. The caravan featured 70+ cars decorated with loving messages to their students like ‘We miss you!’, ‘You are amazing’ or ‘Stay safe!’.

May 15, 2020

The Tribal Government furlough has been extended through June 30. When employees return to their offices, they will have their temperature checked as a precaution. They will also be asked to wear face masks, implement social distancing, and work staggered schedules. 

May 26, 2020

In spite of Governor Inslee’s state-wide shutdown orders for all non-essential business, Tulalip exercises its tribal sovereignty and proclaims gaming operations essential. Tulalip Resort Casino and Quil Ceda Creek Casino both reopen at near 50% capacity. Hundreds of sanitizing stations and Plexiglas dividers now in place. Before anyone enters, visitors must have their temperatures taken and be wearing a mask. 

June 1, 2020

Tulalip Reservation was the target of vandalism and looting. Approximately 40 people converged on Tulalip in an attempt to vandalize and loot businesses within Quil Ceda Village. Several suspects were arrested for criminal trespass, while others fled the property.

Over 1,000 community members from the Tulalip/Marysville area come together to peacefully march against racism. Near the march’s core was a cohort of Tulalips offering support through rhythmic drum beats and melodic song. Heartfelt messages written in Lushootseed were seen proudly displayed by both tribal and nontribal alike. 

June 26, 2020

Tulalip is now in phase three of our reopening plan. After 42 days with no positives, Tulalip has two new cases test positive and three other suspected cases pending test results. City of Marysville and Snohomish County both seeing an uptick in positive tests.

Health Clinic now has two types of COVID-19 tests on hand, the nasal swab test for those with symptoms (results in 24 hours) and a blood-based antibody test for those without symptoms (results in 15 minutes).

Thousands of customers from all over the Pacific Northwest journey to Boom City seeking the perfect purchase consisting of child friendly sparklers and, of course, the thrilling sights and sounds of more advanced fireworks.

July 30, 2020

Tulalip Health Clinic had its first staff member test positive for COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, the Clinic went through an after-hours deep clean using cutting edge technology and processes. The most common symptoms of COVID include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fever. 

October 8, 2020

We continue to have community upticks in COVID. Our total number of positives for the month is 15. The current trends shows teens and young adults make up the majority of positives. Drive-through testing is being done on-site at the Health Clinic.

The Tulalip distance learning sites (Youth Center and B&GC) 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.

October 16, 2020

Tulalip has the highest number of active cases to date. The majority of our positives are in their teens and 20s. This is particularly dangerous because many younger patients are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, yet they are very much contagious. 

November 13, 2020

Although Tulalip’s numbers have remained steady, surrounding communities are skyrocketing. Local hospitals are seeing unprecedented numbers of COVID patients. With the holidays approaching, we are worried about the future. Governor Inslee has implied further restriction may be coming if we can’t reverse the trend.

November 17, 2020

Tulalip Board of Directors proclaims updated public health restrictions. The following measures are ordered: all tribal gaming operations will operate at reduced capacity and now be smoke-free, all restaurants and retail stores limited to 25% capacity, and funerals limited to outdoor, graveside services only. 

November 23, 2020

Tulalip’s COVID cases are surging. Currently have 40 active cases, with about a third of them related to a cluster outbreak. It is bad news because it highlights the growing COVID fatigue in our community before some of the biggest travel and gathering days nationally.

December 4, 2020

Tulalip has 52 active COVID cases. That means one out of every 100 Tulalip citizens is currently ill with COVID. We know there are more positives than our numbers show. According to the CDC, symptoms can appear anytime between 1 and 14 days after contact. A negative test does not mean you do not have the disease. In particular, rapid tests are known to give false negatives.

December 23, 2020

Tulalip Health Clinic is full of hope and excitement as the first doses of the much heralded Moderna Vaccine are administered to Tulalip’s most vulnerable. The immediate recipients are Tulalip’s elders, most high-risk citizens, first responders, and frontline healthcare workers.

January 5, 2021

COVID-19 is surging on the Reservation. Following the winter closure and holiday break, Tulalip has 16 confirmed active cases, 51 suspected via contact tracing who are home isolating, and 5 confirmed deaths related to the virus. 

New 126,000 square foot Quil Ceda Creek Casino opens to much excitement. The $125 million casino and parking garage is packed to maximum allowed capacity under COVID-19 cautionary guidelines. 

January 29, 2021

Coronavirus surge continues as statistics show Tulalip has 35 active cases, 75 in home isolation, 3 hospitalized and 6 deceased. On the plus side, 3,842 total vaccination have been administered since Moderna Vaccine arrived just weeks ago.

Entire Marysville School District is offered an opportunity to travel into the heart of the reservation to visit the makeshift vaccination distribution center that is the Tulalip Youth Complex. Hundreds of teachers and support staff accept the Tribe’s vaccination offer. 

February 23, 2021

For the first time in 8 months, Tulalip has zero active cases. A huge accomplishment following nearly two months of surging confirmed cases, even more presumptive positives self-isolating, and 7 elders lost. A whopping 7,820 vaccinations have been distributed at the Health Clinic and 27% of eligible Tulalip tribal members have been vaccinated. 

A community-led cleanup crew removes over 2,000 pounds of litter from Tulalip streets. An estimated forty volunteers sacrifice time from their weekend to beautify two mile stretch of Turk Drive. 

March 9, 2021

Tulalip has only 2 active cases. It’s reported that 311 Tulalip citizens have recovered from their battle with COVID, while the loss of life remains at 7 elders. A stunning 10,074 total vaccinations have been administered and 34% of eligible tribal members have been vaccinated. 

And here we are, back to present day. One whole year went by in a flash of State-ordered shutdowns, mask mandates, and sanitizing frenzy. Along the way, the Tulalip community rallied around self-determination, embraced tribal sovereignty, and found a new sense of shared strength and resiliency. Business is back to normal, well the new normal anyway.

Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin, while reviewing everything that’s occurred over the past twelve months, reflected “To say this past year has been challenging is an understatement to say the least. It was a very scary time, especially in the beginning of COVID, for everyone. As a leadership team, we tried our best to make the best decisions for our people with information that was constantly changing. Our priority was always the safety of our people and ensuring our culture would survive.

“It was amazing to hear stories of our community members helping each other and offering critical support for those who needed it most,” she continued. “From buying and delivering groceries to those who were homebound, making masks and hand sanitizer for those in need, and meeting the needs of our elders, the strength and commitment showed by our people was tremendous. We didn’t know what the future would bring, and still we got through one of the most difficult times in our history together, as a community.

“Looking forward, I’m very optimistic,” Teri added. “We’ll continue to get through this time and when it’s over our future will be even brighter. The last year has given us fresh perspectives on the needs of our membership and presented us with big opportunities for new economic development. More than anything, we’ve realized how much gathering means to our culture and once we’re able to have our gatherings again, safely, I think Tulalip will be reenergized and establish an every stronger connection to our traditions.”

Culture in A Minor: Composed by Rachelle Armstead

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Rachelle Armstead

“I’m not exactly sure why it’s my passion,” pondered Tulalip tribal member Rachelle Armstead. “I just know that I have been in love with music since I was very young. I used to love going to powwows, listening to the music and hearing the drums. I just kind of feel like music is in my blood, I really don’t know how else to explain it.”

As is the case in many cultures around the globe, music has played a key role within the Indigenous communities of America. Dating back to pre-colonial times, our ancestors held music in high regard. Songs were viewed as a form of medicine utilized in traditional ceremonies to spread stories, as well as life lessons, healing prayers, love and joy during celebratory times, and of course, the knowledge and lifeways of our people. 

“I grew up near Tulalip,” she recalled. “We lived in Marysville for a while, I think we lived on the rez for a small amount of time, and then we moved up to Camano. In school, I participated in the choirs. Music is my passion and it’s something that I kind of always knew I loved and something that I gradually gravitated to.”

The steady drumbeats that reverberate from our elk and deer hide hand drums have helped the Coast Salish tribes keep time across the generations. The words sang in the tongue of our ancestors kept tradition alive and upheld the beliefs and values of each Washington State treaty tribe during the United States Government’s attempt at assimilation. And through our music, our people were able to heal wounds that were passed down through the recent decades following the destructive and hateful era of the Indian boarding schools. Whether at canoe journey, a community gathering, family potlatch or tribal ceremony, we sing loud, with prideful booming voices that resonate back to the ears of our elder’s elders as well as to our future generations. To us, music is resilience. Music is our medicine. 

“I feel like music is a way to connect with people,” Rachelle expressed. “It’s about human interaction and community. Even if you’re the only one playing, like a solo performance, you’re still exchanging with the audience in a good way.”

Modern day storytellers who are passionate about music are finding an abundance of inspiration, influence and direction in traditional songs. Musicians such as A Tribe Called Red are sampling and remixing songs that were originally composed by our ancestors and turning them into a contemporary bop, which rez kids throughout the nation bob their heads to. Throughout the years, a number of Indigenous rappers have carved a name for themselves in the music scene such as Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, Supaman, Litefoot, and several local favorites which include Tulalip’s own Deama (previously known as Nathan Kix) and Komplex Kai. 

Said Rachelle, “I’d say my biggest influence is the traditional music. My music isn’t very traditional, but I feel like in its heart, it has some of those same elements, just in my own language musically. I also really like the acoustic, folk-ey, indie type music. I think because my grandpa liked it a lot; it kind of grew on me. Hip hop too. My mom listened to a lot of hip hop.” 

Rachelle’s passion for music may just be in her blood as she suggested, embedded into her DNA from generations prior. Although she cannot pinpoint the exact moment she realized it, her love for the rhythm and harmony of music is everlasting and cannot be measured, it has been growing over time into a perfect crescendo. Rachelle is mapping out the music, hoping the future generations who share her passion can sight read her notes and learn from her cues while putting their own spin on things during their solo journey between the treble and bass clef, which is fitting as she is currently putting all her efforts into learning the ways of the composer. 

“When I grew older, my grandpa got me a guitar,” she stated. “I picked up the guitar and the violin, and a little bit of piano. But I feel like my passion is really writing the music and not so much practicing the instruments. Violin is probably my favorite instrument, it has a really wonderful, versatile tone – there’s so much you could do with it. The violin became my main instrument up through my sophomore year of college, before I really started to transfer more into composition.”

She continued, “I started at Presbyterian College actually, majoring in violin. But I got kind of tired of violin and moved on to composition and transferred to a different school, the University of South Carolina because I wanted to work with some of the teachers at the University. And then life got kind of hectic, so I had to drop out for a while. Later on, I found Full Sail University. I wanted to finish my degree and there weren’t a lot of online composition options, but Full Sail had the audio production degree and it seemed like a great idea. And it was, it was very useful. I learned a lot about making music on the computer. And as a part of program, they give you a full home studio setup so I’ve been able to make music from the comfort of my office. Now I’m back at University of South Carolina working on my master’s in composition.”

With her schooling nearly complete, Rachelle is intentionally taking on projects where she can lend her expertise to help strengthen the relationship between the culture and modern-day music. And with more and more Indigenous youth showing an interest in the artform, she hopes sharing her story will inspire young creative Natives to follow their dreams as well as receive a well-rounded education on the fundamentals of music, to equip themselves will all the necessary tools and skills of music creation, so they have solid foundation that sets them up for success in whatever they wish to accomplish through their music. 

One of Rachelle’s first projects is a song partnership with the Tulalip Lushootseed Language Department. She explains, “When I was young, I loved language camp. Every summer we would sing and make our little paddle [clappers], that was always fun. I really love our language. I think it’s so joyful and beautiful. I want to promote it in any way that I can. The more people speak it, the more they enjoy it. Because COVID has been so discouraging for a lot of people, and since we can’t all get together and sing together, I thought people would enjoy this. Even though we aren’t physically singing together, this was a way to hear all of our voices together, in our own language.”

The idea behind the project was to create an opportunity for community members to collaborate on an original choir song, sang entirely in lushootseed. Rachelle reached out to Tulalip Lushootseed Warrior, Sarah Miller, who wrote the lyrics for the song and Rachelle arranged and composed all of the music. Rachelle then created a website, where the lyrics and music were posted, and asked Tulalip tribal members to record themselves singing one section of the song. When complete, the song would’ve featured a variety of Tribal voices on the track. However, due to pandemic, many people couldn’t fit time to record into their busy schedules by Rachelle’s deadline of March 1. Wanting to see the idea through, Rachelle intends to sing the original choral piece in its entirety and also hopes that it finds its way to the Tulalip Lushootseed website, featured alongside many traditional songs that are posted for educational purposes. 

Rachelle expressed that tying-in the cultural aspect into her music is important to her craft. She believes that music is a good way for Native America to spread awareness and bring attention to matters that are affecting us a community, including the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women campaign. 

 “Music is a great medium for sharing stories, sharing our lives and bringing awareness to important issues or problems that are happening in our lives. When I first saw the MMIW movement on social media, I felt really inspired by it. It reminded me of an older story that I read once called Dancing Outside. There’s a movie that is pretty interesting and the book is a short story – it’s really heart wrenching. So, I wrote a song about it. I feel like it was a way for me to express grief about the situation, and hopefully other people could feel that too, and understand. I think other people who also feel these emotions can express it through music in a safe way, lots of issues can be expressed and addressed through music. And we can also comfort each other through music and kind of let the world know what’s going on in our community.”

Rachelle encourages anybody with a love for music to continue to pursue their passion and hopes to collaborate with the Tribe in the near future to begin a music program for tribal youth. To stay updated on Rachelle’s musical career path, be sure to visit her professional website, https://www.rachellearmsteadmusic.com, and don’t forget to check out her tunes on her Soundcloud artist page at https://soundcloud.com/rachelle-armstead. 

“If you like something, go for it,” she said. “Really practice and find your personal style. Music, for Native communities specifically, I think it’s just that element of human interaction – our music brings people closer together, it’s something that makes us feel proud. When we sing it’s like, this is our music, this is what we do. This is how we express our joy and our love and our sorrow.”