In the ancestral language of this land, Lushootseed, the phrase sgʷi gʷi ?altxʷ means House of Welcome. More than just a name, the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center at Evergreen State College in Olympia being officially dubbed sgʷi gʷi ?altxʷ gives credence to a reciprocal relationship that is both open hearted and open minded.
Created in 1995 as a public service center, the Longhouse’s mission is to promote Indigenous arts and cultures through education, cultural preservation, creative expression, and economic development.
In the beginning, the cultural center’s focus was on six local Puget Sound tribes and their ever-evolving artists. Today, the Longhouse collaborates with highly talented Indigenous artists throughout the Pacific Northwest region, across the nation, and distant lands spanning the globe. Through residency programs with master artists, culture bearers are inspired to develop their abilities while expanding their imaginative capacities in pursuit of creating entirely new boundaries for what defines ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ designs.
“Art allows us to sing without a song, to give our true spirit into something we create out of something nature has given us,” explained Master artist Bruce Subiyay Miller (Skokomish). “Our people create with the natural elements of wood, plant fibers or native plants. Through these acts of creation, our culture continues to live today. That is important at a time when many of us have lost our languages, our customs, and many of the things we look upon as comprising a complete culture.
“We still have our artwork!” he added. “Through that, all the ancestors that lived on this Earth from the beginning of time in our tribal lineages, still exist as long as we have the art. That is what art means to me.”
To celebrate the House of Welcome’s 25 years of groundbreaking work we examine an art exhibition that truly captures the essence of what it means to facilitate cross cultural exchange. Building Upon the Past, Visioning Into the Future showcases cultural concepts and next level skillfulness from over 70 Indigenous artists with whom the Longhouse has built relationship, from the early days, right up to the present. Many of the featured artists have received a grant, taught a workshop, exhibited work, been an artist-in-residence, or otherwise participated in Longhouse programming.
Curated by Longhouse staff members Erin Genia (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) and Linly Logan (Seneca), this one-of-a-kind exhibition features beautiful artistry from tribal members that call this land home. Local tribal representation include Squaxin Island, Skokomish, Puyallup and many other Coast Salish tribes. Tribes from across the nation are also represented, from Alaska to the Great Plains, and across the Pacific Rim, including Native Hawaiians and Maori artists from New Zealand.
“This exhibition reflects the [twenty-five years] of building relationships with artists locally, regionally, nationally and internationally,” stated exhibition co-curator Erin Genia. “Each of the artists you see here in the show has in some way worked with the Longhouse through one of our programs. Native artists are using so many different methods for expressing themselves and we really wanted to display as many of those methods as possible. The result is we have close to ninety beautiful pieces of art, treasures really, that make up this exhibition.”
The subjects and techniques exhibited by the Longhouse artists draw from a diverse range of stylistic traditions, which arise from cultural teachings, ancestral lineages, and each artist’s unique experience as Indigenous peoples. Works on display include paintings, drums, carvings, beadwork, photography, baskets, and jewelry.
Glass vessels created using basket designs demonstrate the way traditional design can beautifully translate into new media. Other sculptural forms created in clay, bronze and wood, alongside two-dimensional prints, paintings and drawing spotlight the mastery of mediums that Longhouse artists are fluent in.
“As a curator of this exhibition it’s such an awe-inspiring experience to hear from the artists themselves as to the perspective and inspiration behind their artwork,” added fellow co-curator Linly Logan. “We have artists who are very traditional and roots oriented; artists who use the natural resources around them to showcase their creativeness.
“As Native and Indigenous people we’ve always used the resources around us,” he continued. “In a contemporary lifestyle in nature, we’ve continued to use the resources around us which now include materials other than natural materials. We’ve come full circle in our intent to build upon the past and vision into the future creatively and intellectually as Indigenous people.”
The House of Welcome graciously allowed Tulalip News staff a private tour of the exhibition so that we could share a glimpse of the amazingly creative and exceptional Native art with our local community. These artists are luminaries of their cultures, lighting the pathway back into the far reaches of history, and leading the way into the future with their creative vision.
May 25, 2020 the world was shocked, outraged and heartbroken. The murder of George Floyd was captured on camera and circulated the internet for all to see. A black man unjustly and untimely taken from his loved ones at the hands of four law officials, exposing many to a reality that is unfortunately all too familiar within black communities across the country.
The call for justice was immediate. In the middle of a pandemic the Nation’s obvious divide split even deeper and a lot of people’s ethics and morals were voluntarily put on display, for better or for worse. Whether it was marching at Black Lives Matter rallies or spewing emotions over keyboards, the world began to see exactly where people, companies and businesses stood on heavy topics such as police brutality and systemic racism.
Since accepting the position of Chief of Police for the Tulalip Police Department (TPD) back in 2018, Chris Sutter has designed a community-driven police force, prioritizing the safety of the tribal community at large. At a time when local police departments are under the watchful lens of their towns and cities, Chief Sutter’s main objective of creating a strong bond between officer and citizen has never faltered and his motives never changed.
“I feel it’s very important, especially in our tribal community, to build relationships and get to know the community members,” expressed Chief Sutter. “A big part of that is building trust and working with the community to help solve problems. I try to model that behavior by taking up opportunities to go to local Tulalip community events. I also work closely with the Tulalip Citizen-Police Advisory Board, which is comprised of Tulalip citizens who are elected to provide important oversight and recommendations to the Chief of Police.
“One of the areas that we build trust is through accountability. I’ve implemented a system that says all complaints will be received, reviewed and investigated. And every complaint is logged and tracked. Shortly after I arrived here, we implemented a citizen feedback form on our website. Citizens can complete the form, they can call on the phone or come in person, we’ll accept all feedback. These are internal systems that we’ve put in place to hold ourselves accountable to the community, and to also help the officers in our department improve and establish trust and credibility.”
Following the George Floyd killing, millions nationwide took to the streets calling for the arrest and prosecution of the officer who committed the murder by strangulation, as well as the officers who stood by and watched as a man who pleaded ‘I can’t breathe’, had his last breath stolen. Although most events were organized to be peaceful marches, many were taken over by radicals with intentions of raising tension. And some, under the guise of ‘protecting their towns’, openly toted assault weapons and waved the confederate flag.
During the early days of protests, riots ensued in many cities and businesses were targeted and looted, by whom was hard to say although both political parties seemingly agreed to blame the damages on extremist groups whose views more aligned with the opposite party, depending on who you asked.
After a chaotic week in Seattle, the alleged radical groups began organizing lootings via Twitter and high on the list was the Seattle Premium Outlets which is located in the city of Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip Reservation.
Alongside the Sacred Riders and Tulalip land protectors, Chief Sutter and crew defended the sduhubš home base by quickly shutting down the entire city, which included large corporations that were still in operation during COVID-19 like Walmart, Cabela’s, and Home Depot, as well as a handful of small businesses. All roads and overpasses leading into the city were also swiftly closed and TPD officers were stationed at blockades throughout the reservation to prevent any destruction or theft from the outlet mall. For nearly five entire days, the TPD stood side-by-side with their community, protecting the land and its people with minimal arrests and damages occurring.
Days following the looting threats, TPD participated in a rally against racism organized by the Marysville YMCA. Chief Sutter and multiple police officers marched along with Tulalip tribal members and the local populace through the Marysville streets, from Jennings Park to the Ebey Slough Waterfront.
“The Marysville YMCA [director] asked us to participate with the Tulalip Tribes in a peaceful rally and march in support of anti-racism, and in support of Black Lives Matter. I was honored to speak at the beginning of the rally and march with the Black Student Union, community members and Tulalip tribal members. I want the community to know I stand united against racism. I stand united against police misconduct and abuse.
“When the George Floyd murder occurred in police custody – death at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, I was, as the rest of the world, shocked, saddened and disgusted by watching a human being’s life taken on video at the hands of police. I find that reprehensible and inexcusable and totally unacceptable in any context. There’s no excuse for that type of behavior. I fully support both the firing and the criminal prosecution of those officers. My goal is to never have that happen here at Tulalip.”
Many people who come from a community where police misconduct is practiced regularly, often reference a glaring disconnect between their police department and the people they are hired to protect and serve. Whereas at Tulalip, Tribal PD attend a myriad of events throughout the year, whether it be sporting, cultural, or scholastic, the officers take the time to build personal relationships with the people of Tulalip.
In addition to taking a stance against racism, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and protecting Tulalip territory, TPD has helped out immensely since Tribal government shutdown during the outbreak of COVID-19. Over the past few months, the department has assisted at a number of Tribal member grocery and food distributions, as well as lending a hand to the Tulalip Senior Center to assemble and deliver care packages to local elders, which included masks and gloves.
Another aspect to Chief Sutter’s stronger together plan was the development of the Professional Standards Unit in which he intentionally placed a qualified Tribal member, Angela Davis, whose duties are to thoroughly vet potential recruits, investigate and manage both citizen and internal complaints, as well as help update and revise TPD’s policies and procedures.
“I think it’s really good that we have a Chief who is willing to stand alongside the people and allow them the space to express their freedom and be heard in a peaceful way,” Angela reflected. “Especially for us as Indigenous people, and everything that happened to us, it just makes sense that we would support another minority group that things are happening to that shouldn’t. I think it helped bring the African American and Native American communities closer together. I think the Chief is going in the right direction, there’s some changes taking place to be more organized and more accountable. We’re getting bigger and a culture change is much needed.”
Angela and the Chief both explained that in the wake of the George Floyd murder, they are currently revising the TPD’s use of force policy, specifically prohibiting neck choke holds like the tactic used to execute George Floyd. Additionally, Chief Sutter is amping up trainings on de-escalation, stating he doesn’t want his officers to get involved physically unless its reasonably objective as well as necessary for the safety of the individual, the officers and the public.
“I brought in an expert, a master instructor in the use-of-force, to consult with me on that policy revision,” said Chief Sutter. “I am also looking nationwide at the best practices on de-escalation and use-of-force. I want every reasonable opportunity to de-escalate a critical situation to minimize the amount of force an officer has to use to bring that situation under control.
“We will integrate communication and de-escalation tactics into every call we go to. I want our officers to be communicators, problem solvers and peacekeepers,” he continued. “I subscribe to the guardian philosophy, the guardian versus warrior mentality. Our officers are not at war with our community. We are here to protect our community and to safeguard them, it’s a mental mind shift. And when force is necessary, ensuring that we’re using only the appropriate level of force. Something that I’ve implemented is a critical incident review process form. Every time force is used in this police department, it will be reviewed through the chain of command.”
To round out the mission of unity between the Tribe and the police, Chief Sutter’s latest task is getting more Tulalip representation on the squad. He will be making a focused effort to bring more Tribal members onto the force during the next round of recruitment.
With a few adjustments and revisions, the police department is heading in the right direction, working to ensure the tribal society that they can depend on local law officials through both the good and difficult times as we venture into a future of uncertainty and unknown. Even when a good chunk of American municipalities are currently at odds with their local police, and many of those departments will likely be defunded (funds redirected to other qualified professionals), TPD and Tulalip stand in unity.
To show the police department that the Tribe returns the love and support, approximately twenty tribal members recently surprised Chief Sutter and squad with a ceremonial blessing, providing the medicine of song and sage.
“My highest goal is that everyone in this community is treated respectfully,” the Chief said. “I was personally touched to see Tulalip members come one evening and offer their prayers and blessings, singing on behalf of our police department. In addition, one tribal member made personalized hand sanitizers for every member of the department, we enjoy very strong support from our Tribal members. I believe there’s a lot of work to do though, and we have plenty of opportunities for improvement in how we build relationships and how we provide exceptional service. I just want our community know how grateful I am to have this honor to serve the Tulalip people.”
By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos by Natosha Gobin
“Doing this work has always meant a lot to me,” expressed Tulalip Lushootseed Language Warrior, Maria Martin. “I got to learn when I was at Montessori at a young age. Growing up, I committed myself to learning everything I could with the language; summer camp, anytime they had an event I could attend, I’d always check out the website. I took it on myself to be a part of it. And being able to share that now, it’s awesome because I have direct relatives that put in work to save the language. And it’s an honor to inherit that.”
The traditional language of the sduhubš is strong in modern day Tulalip and COVID-19 can’t do a thing about it. When Tribal government shut down daily operations to help flatten the curve and decrease the spread of the novel coronavirus, many people were glued to their smart phones, searching for updates about the disease, learning how to adequately protect themselves, and adapt to a more slow-paced, Zoom-led world.
During the very first week of the Tribal government closure, when the number of deaths by COVID-19 were spiking, good news was hard to come by. An evening scroll through the timeline was often accompanied by despair and a general fear for the health of you and yours. And then one day a slew of videos began to pop up and take over people’s newsfeeds.
“With everybody being forced to stay home, we still wanted to connect with our community so we had to get creative,” said Natosha Gobin, Language Instructor. “I knew that a lot of people were on social media, so we decided to throw some language out there. At such a time of unknown, here’s something positive, let’s take the opportunity to learn a couple words or hear a story together, connect with your kids, connect as a family. Most of the videos were geared to be just a couple minutes long. If a parent is scrolling through Facebook and their child is right next to them, then it’s as easy as ‘boom, let’s listen to this or let’s look at this real quick’. We really viewed it as a not only a way for us to stay connected with the community, but to reinforce that relationship with a parent and child learning together.”
Over the course of the school year, the Lushootseed language warriors develop a strong connection with their students as they are in the classrooms weekly, some teachers daily. When schools began to close, naturally the instructors began to miss their students, as well as preparing lesson plans and growing the minds of future Tulalip. When Lushootseed Program Manager, Michele Balagot, instructed her team to produce online language videos, they wasted no time. Videos of language warriors singing traditional Tulalip songs, sharing popular Salish stories and providing lessons in counting, colors, animals and shapes flooded the social media timelines of Tulalip families and citizens.
“That was new to us, we started with one person doing a video and then we built off of that,” explained Michele. “A week later we decided we needed to do some interaction, so the kids could practice and identify a shape or a color in the language. And then we started doing traditional stories, so the kids could still hear Lushootseed while they’re at home and be able to speak it, be interactive with it.”
A majority of the Lushootseed speakers work with younger children, thanks to a partnership with the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA). The idea is that kids are more susceptible to pick up the language during the early childhood development stages. Out of a shared interest of providing Tulalip children with a strong cultural foundation and understanding, TELA developed the language immersion curriculum in which Lushootseed Warriors frequent the classrooms of the Early Head start and Montessori and pass on the language through fun activities, songs, and interactive stories.
“They [videos] were originally for TELA, but we posted the videos on Facebook and soon found out that the TELA kids weren’t the only ones watching,” Michele said. “We knew that kids of all ages were watching it because we kept getting all kinds of replies saying, ‘thank you my child sat down and watched it and was speaking the language along with the video.”
Maria, who mainly works with Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, has made a handful of videos for her students during the pandemic that inspired not only the parents who are at home learning with the kids, but also many of the QCT teachers.
“We went over greetings, feelings and their letter pronunciations, I tried sticking to the basics that the kids would know,” she stated. “I’m not sure how many of my students were able to watch it but I did see that it was being posted to the [QCT] Facebook page. I’ve been able to catch some of the parents in passing, and even some of the staff members, who have watched the videos and they really appreciate them and greet me in Lushootseed, so having that feedback is heartwarming for sure.”
Getting creative during the coronavirus outbreak, Natosha put a little extra pizzazz into her videos by incorporating other Indigenous lifeways into her lessons. For example, when participating in cultural activities as a family, such as harvesting berries, cedar or seafood, Natosha reached for her phone, hit record and watched the magic unfold.
“It’s natural for me to take my kids out with me and pass that knowledge onto them,” said Natosha. “We’ve harvested berries and harvested cedar, we also went out and harvested fireweed. A big part of what I’m teaching about is harvesting and making medicines. Involving my own kids was an important part for me because kids respond well to other kids learning. My daughter, Lizzy, she’s the one that I put on the spot the most. That’s because she’s the closest in age to those kids at TELA. She’s six years old, so it’s easy for me to say, ‘hey Lizzy, let’s record this, or let’s go for a walk and I’m going to ask you these questions.”
One visit to the Tulalip Lushootseed Facebook page and you’ll see a charismatic Tulalip youth effortlessly leading and narrating videos in the official language of her ancestors. Lizzy, her siblings, as well as the children of language warrior Michelle Myles, have unofficially become the new faces of the verb-based language and many tune-in weekly to catch their adventures with Lushootseed.
“She’s really taken on the role of teaching without fully understanding it. I’ve taken Lizzy out fishing and she did an entire fishing video. That video was probably the one that got the most attention, over 2,000 views. The viewers got to hear everything through her voice and it was repetitive so that you can easily learn from it. We want to take her out to dig clams and have her retell her great, great, great grandma Lizzy’s clam digging story, that’s one of the most popular stories that Lizzy Krise told. Lizzy Mae is actually named after Lizzy Krise. Grandma Lizzy is the one that we base a lot of our language after, we utilize everything that she passed on to us. She’s one of the people that we model a lot after, along with Martha Lamont. Lizzy will retell her grandma’s story through her own experience of clam digging for the first time. So, really just connecting it to what kids will respond to, what the kids will find interesting.”
In addition to the lessons for tribal youth and the students at TELA and QCT, the Language Warriors also teach a college-credit course for those looking to enhance their Lushootseed skills.
“We normally have community college classes this time of year, but with COVID we can’t do those,” expressed Michele. “So Natosha Gobin, Michelle Myles and I started an online Intro to Lushootseed class through Zoom. We had sixty-four participants and it was a seven-week course. We had Tribal members, other Natives, students from previous years, teachers, a good mix of everybody.”
We are currently living in an era where the Lushootseed language revitalization revolution is in full effect. And just like in previous eras, such as forced assimilation, the Tulalips are taking it upon themselves to ensure the language and the culture prevails long past the present threat of the global COVID pandemic.
“We hope that our community can look at these videos that we create and the online learning opportunity as a means for them to learn at their own pace during these difficult times,” said Natosha. “I think that’s probably the biggest thing, we want to reach our community by whatever means necessary. We’ll provide the tools, we just really want to encourage our community to utilize them.”
“At first, I thought nobody’s going to watch this, because people are at home and COVID is happening,” admits Michele. “But then everybody started sending in messages asking if we can do certain lessons or stories because a lot of parents are doing the homeschool thing. We have people telling us that when they go out, their child is naming the colors and shapes they see, and they are singing our songs. It’s important for the kids to learn their language. If you don’t keep hearing it and keep speaking it, then you forget it. By having these videos available, it keeps it fresh in the kid’s mind.”
For more information, please visit the Tulalip Lushootseed Facebook page or contact (360) 716-4499.
“Can I get one bag of apples, two bags of cherries, and if you still have them, some apricots too?” inquired a local man of the Maryville-Tulalip area.
Simply nodding yes, Hugo Sanchez-Garcia began to scoop plump, ripe cherries into paper bags while making friendly conversation with the customer as he fulfilled his request.
“Will $60 work?” the man asked.
“Yes, absolutely. Thank you,” Hugo graciously replied as he handed him his order.
Only two short orders behind this gentleman, a lady ordered nearly double his order, three bags of apples, four bags of cherries and two punnets of apricots.
“I have a big family,” the woman said while offering a smile that was ever-so-slightly visible underneath her mask. “This will all be gone by tomorrow.”
This time, however, when the currency-produce exchange occurred, the lady stated she only had $12.
“That’s perfect,” Hugo said sincerely and kindly. “Thank you.”
Nobody was prepared for the curveball that the year 2020 had in store for us. The presence of COVID-19 has caused many people to reevaluate their lives in terms of health concerns and also their line of work, as businesses are beginning to lay off employees nationally, and in some cases permanently close altogether.
Hugo found himself in a predicament that many Americans are currently facing; continue searching for employment in his most recent line of work, or start anew. Hugo chose to pivot.
“After COVID hit, it was kind of hard for me to find a job doing what I was doing before,” Hugo explained. “And my dad has been kind of nagging me for a while to bring fresh produce here because there’s a lot of fruit in Chelan, which is where we grew up. So I thought, let’s give this a shot and see how it goes.”
Filling up his pickup truck with freshly picked fruit from orchards at Chelan, Hugo becomes his alter-ego, better known as the Apple Guy, when making weekly deliveries all through Western Washington. Originally, the Apple Guy was taking online orders and making home deliveries. That is until he got in contact with Tulalip tribal member, Natosha Gobin, who helped him establish a base at the parking lot of the Tulalip Market.
“He has different stops up and down I-5,” Natosha said. “He sets up shop and sells bags of apples on a sliding scale – $5, $10, free. If you show up and you say you don’t have the means to buy apples, but you would love a bag, he’ll give you a bag of apples. He’s also done some pretty big donations to our community. He’s donated apples to me knowing that I know a lot of people in Tulalip, so we put those apples on the doorsteps of some of the elders and the seniors.”
With Natosha’s assistance and rave reviews all over Facebook, word about the Apple Guy’s produce delivery service has the town buzzing.
“My wife, she’s always on Facebook so she tells me when he’s around and what he’s got,” said Tribal member Kurtis Enick. “He posts every week, which is a great for my family. When I go home with this, I know that they’re going to be so happy with me, because my daughter is just now starting to get her teeth and she loves eating apples. My wife likes the apricots and the cherries, and my son is a vegetarian and only eats fresh produce.
“It feels really good knowing everything is local, everything is coming from Chelan or somewhere in Washington,” Kurtis continued. “It feels really good to taste that fresh-off-the tree fruit, that good stuff. And it’s a whole lot better than going to the store and looking through all the fruit that they say is fresh but it’s not really that fresh, nowhere near as fresh as this.”
Although it is important for Hugo to profit off of these deliveries to cover costs as well as living expenses, money is not his main objective. In fact, currency is sort of a miniscule aspect to this project compared to the reason he decided to ‘give it a shot’.
“I do operate on a sliding scale,” he said. “There are two guiding principles that I set when I first started out. One of them being that access to food is a human right. The second one is that we’re all occupants on Tribal lands, so it’s important that we move as guests, it’s our responsibility.
“I think it’s also important to recognize that fresh food isn’t as easily accessible on certain reservations. I think a lot of people, and especially a lot of communities of color, don’t have access to a lot of fresh fruits. So, what is the point of bringing it all the way out here if folks couldn’t afford it? I think ultimately every individual knows what they can and can’t afford. So, I trust their judgment to pay what they can.”
Hugo is currently selling a variety of apples including Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, and Granny Smith. His selection of cherries right now are Rainier, Bing, Sweetheart and Lapin. Hugo also has apricots and will have peaches in the near future.
Be sure to follow The Apple Guy on Facebook for his complete list of produce for sale as well as his weekly scheduled stops.
Since time immemorial, Native peoples have lived in an interdependent relationship with the green forests and blue waterways of the Pacific Northwest. Treating the natural environment as a shared resource revolving around the needs of community make it impossible not to have a deep respect for cultural traditions and Mother Nature’s many gifts.
These teachings have survived genocide, colonialism, forced assimilation and untold traumatic experiences. Even now, amongst a global pandemic, many tribal members look to their cultural foundations for hope and strength. Armed with ancestral knowledge, they know regardless of the adversary, tradition will always persevere.
“I love being in the forest because it’s my second home,” said Tulalip tribal member and virtuoso weaver, Jamie Sheldon. “As Tulalip, nature is our number one priority. Being in the forest gives me calmness and all the sights and sounds bring a peace of mind like no other.”
After 20 years of perfecting her basket weaving craft, Jamie still speaks about learning the intricate basket making process from her mom and aunties like it was only yesterday. Similar to a beloved holiday, she and her family look forward to Tulalip’s yearly Cedar harvest coordinated by the tribe’s Forestry Division and Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“Tulalip Forestry has initiated and continued to nurture an ongoing relationship with Washington’s DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, and private industrial timberland owners for over ten years now,” explained Ross Fenton, Tulalip Forestry. “We collaborate with State, Federal, and private landowners in order to ensure treaty rights as they pertain to gathering.
“Different ownership and property boundaries are also of great importance; we don’t want people accidentally pulling on adjacent properties that could affect successful working partnerships,” he continued. “These particulars are where meticulous communication and collaboration with outside agencies take place, often months in advance before the annual Cedar events are announced to Tulalip membership.”
Although the circumstances may be different in summer 2020, the expectations are the same – those whose lifeblood is woven with Cedar must have their time in the forest to harvest.
After extensive time and resources invested into finding the ideal setting, Ross and his colleagues notified the tribe of this year’s harvesting details weeks ago. The location was a woodland oasis located in Startup, between Kellogg Lake and Wallace Falls.
A 45-minute drive southeast of the Tulalip Reservation, a caravan of tribal members eagerly made the most of their harvest opportunity on the weekend of June 27th. Amongst the spirits of the trees, the culture-bearers found refuge from fearmongering news cycles and the pervasive clutches of social media.
“It’s beautiful getting out of the house, getting out into the woods, and listening to the forest. Hearing the rain fall, the gentle breeze rustle the tree leaves, and the birds chirping just calms my spirit and makes me be able to continue on,” described Sara Andres. She plans to use her harvested materials for future naming ceremonies and as donations to Hibulb Cultural Center’s weaving Wednesdays.
The relationship Coast Salish peoples have with Cedar cannot be understated. Their ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, the powerful cedar provided generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. Those teachings have not been lost.
Master weavers, elders, and youth alike all echo the very same Cedar harvesting technique employed by their ancestors. With a small axe and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from designated trees. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth tan inner layer. After harvest, the Cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for a year before being made into baskets, hats, or ceremonial regalia accessories like capes, skirts, and headbands.
“To witness tribal members performing an ongoing cultural activity that has taken place over millennia is like stepping back in time,” reflected dedicated Natural Resources employee, Ross Fenton. “There is much singing, drumming, teaching, and praying all throughout the woods. This is immensely important, and I feel blessed to be a part of it.”
Those who replenished their sprits in the luscious green forest and grounded themselves among the 120-160 foot tall, towering Cedar trees were sure to offer many thanks for the gifts they provided.
“It’s eco-therapy. Being connected to the Earth is so good for our mental and spiritual health,” shared 24-year-old Kali Joseph. She harvested while bonding with her siblings Jay Anderson and Tisha McLean. “As Native people, it’s necessary for us to accept the gifts of the land and say thank you to the trees. Harvesting is an activity that is both culturally responsive and healing, especially during these challenging times.”
The weekend-long reprieve from contemporary life proves cultural teachings and tradition still triumph over all.
“Boom City is much more than a business or money making venture. It’s part of my culture, my history, and really represents what it means to be Tulalip,” declared Rocky Harrison while peering out from his stand as potential customers walk into Snohomish County’s firework epicenter. “Most advocate for hunting, fishing, or gathering Cedar and berries as what it means to be Tulalip, but to me Boom City is just as strong and just as much a part of our culture.”
For nearly 40 years now, the Tulalip Tribes have turned a vacant lot on their reservation into an excitement-filled marketplace for those looking to satisfy the celebration demands of Independence Day.
Thousands of customers from all over the Pacific Northwest journey to Boom City every year seeking the perfect purchase consisting of child friendly sparklers and snap poppers and, of course, the thrilling sights and sounds of more advanced explosives, such as artillery shells and 500 gram, multi-shot cakes.
Largely illegal in the State of Washington, the sale of fireworks is permitted on Tulalip lands as a direct result of tribal sovereignty. Embracing that sovereignty is some 80 or so stand owners, each a Tulalip entrepreneur looking to cash-in on 4th of July festivities. Together they form a powerful voice in the community that personifies self-determination and tradition.
“Seeing old friends from school, church, and every job I’ve ever had is the best part to me,” shared Terry Parker, Jr. He’s been selling at Boom City for 39 years now. “We all have our repeat customers and through those relationships we’ve seen kids become adults and eventually parents themselves bringing their kids out here. I’ve witnessed three generations of families grow up via their annual trips to buy fireworks. That’s three generations worth of laughter and priceless stories.”
For Dan Pablo, Jr. and wife Kelsea, they’ve factored prominently in the firework marketplace for years, too. So much so they created custom branded products to go with their towering stand, JR Cadillac, that always captivates the attention of first time patrons.
“We got lucky with a distributor we’ve known for a long time, and he made us some custom rapid-fire cakes with our name on them,” explained Dan. “It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of hours and long days go into being successful, but it’s worth it in order to pay off bills and afford things for our family that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
The financial incentives for those willing to embrace the Boom City life are tried and true. In recent years there’s been a trend by Negative Nancy’s to try and diminish the hard work and sacrifice made by those willing to put their marketability and people skills to the annual test.
From nearby cities instituting zero-tolerance policies on fireworks, to recent dry spells causing worry about fire hazards, to even COVID-19 creating concern for some, yet Boom City persists and prevails. Like culture and tribal sovereignty, it remains stronger than anything attempting to tear it down.
“For me and multiple stand owners, this was the best opening weekend of Boom City we’ve ever had…and we almost didn’t have it,” reflected Rocky. For the past 13 years he’s co-managed a stand with his brother, Josh Fryberg.
Tensions ran high as Tulalip leadership and the Boom City committee negotiated this year’s regulations. There were strong indications it would be cancelled altogether before finally getting the green light just two weeks ago.
“All this revenue and income was nearly taken away from us and the many families who depend on Boom City to supply the atmosphere for their 4th of July celebrations,” added Rocky. “The community we have here every single year brings people together in a way few things can. I’m just thankful to be a part of it and look forward to teaching my kids how to continue on this tradition in the future.”
Well renowned Tulalip tribal member and now retired U.S. Senator, John McCoy, was named ‘2020 Public Official of the Year’ by Evergreen State College during the college’s virtual commencement on June 12th.
“The motto of our Master of Public Administration program is ‘be the change’,” explained Evergreen’s MPA Director Dr. Michael Craw. “Senator McCoy has personally shaped the education of many of Washington’s leaders as an adjunct faculty member in our program and as the sponsor of numerous internship opportunities for students. In his courses, Senator McCoy has provided the wisdom of experience that can only come from a skilled practitioner of governance and public administration. Senator McCoy truly has been, and continues to be, the change we hope to see in Washington and the world.”
After 17 years of service in the Washington State Legislature, McCoy announced his retirement after submitting a resignation letter to Governor Jay Inslee in 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.
His work 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 the state’s history, he led efforts to bring better telecommunication infrastructure to the Tulalip Tribes. He also helped bring to fruition the economic powerhouse that is Quil Ceda Village.
In addition to being named public official of the year, Evergreen’s faculty also voted unanimously to bestow an honorary Master of Public Administration degree upon the Tulalip elder.
“Senator McCoy has provided extraordinary educational leadership for us at Evergreen,” said college president Dr. George Bridges. “He and his tribal nation helped establish the Tribal Governance concentration in our Master of Public Administration program, which Alan Parker (Chippewa Cree) and Linda Moon Stumpff (Apache) co-founded. We look forward to celebrating the graduation of our 10th MPA Tribal Governance cohort this year.”
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 cultural education into teacher preparation programs.
Most notably, he authored Senate Bill 5433 which was signed into law in May 2015 by Governor Inslee, making it mandatory for schools to educate students about the history and governance of northwest coastal tribes. The State has since worked diligently with Native Nations to develop a first-of-its-kind curriculum, Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State.
“When I first came home and started to work on building the Tribe’s resources, one of those resources was getting our tribal members educated,” reflected McCoy from the comforts of retirement. “Getting them educated was very important so that we could build on our resources and help our people grow.”
Additional plans are underway at Evergreen State College to create a scholarship in the Senator’s name to support future Tribal Governance students.
Over 1,000 community members from the Tulalip/Marysville area came together on Thursday, June 11 to peacefully march against racism. Organized by the Black Student Unions of Marysville School District, the crowd of demonstrators met at Jennings Park where they listened to several inspiring black youth offer a heavy dose of reality.
“We’re here to honor all our fallen sisters and brothers: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,” said 17-year-old Jenasis Lee, president of the Marysville Getchell’s BSU and one of the co-organizers of the youth-led event. “Racism is taught. Our long-term goal should be to educate all of our friends, family, community members on what being black truly is.
“How many more of our people have to die in order for the world to see how much damage has already been done?” she asked. Her powerful words reaching the many minds now eagerly open and receptive to take in the depth of her message.
Among the student speakers was Tulalip’s own RaeQuan Battle. The former Marysville Pilchuck basketball phenom spoke candidly about his time on the basketball court, where he routinely heard opposing fans call him the N-word. Learning to excel through that kind of adversity ultimately helped him achieve his dream of playing hoops for the University of Washington.
“Being a Native American and an African American, it was heartbreaking to watch that eight-minute video [of George Floyd being murdered by the police],” shared 19-year-old RaeQuan. “My heart really dropped and I just couldn’t imagine being in that position.
“My little brother Tayari saw that video. He comes up to me and asks what’s happening. It sucked to explain to my 10-year-old brother that he could be in that position.”
Acknowledging concepts like systemic racism and police brutality, both of which are impossible to ignore in today’s society, is one thing, but to take action in a common cause to denounce these insidious mechanisms used to oppress people of color in our country is something else entirely. As the student speeches continued to ring out through the loud speakers, so too did their message in the hearts and minds of concerned citizens of all colors uniting under a common goal: to eliminate racism in all its forms.
The day’s event received a blessing of radiating sunshine that brought an extra layer of warmth to the 1,000+ people crowd. A torrential downpour had many turning out with raincoats and umbrellas ready, but minutes before the march started the rain came to an abrupt stop. Under a clear spring sky, the march began from Jennings Park to Ebey Waterfront Park. Non-stop chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say his name. George Floyd!” brought out many onlookers from their residential homes to take in the scene.
Near the march’s core was a cohort of Tulalip tribal members offering their support through rhythmic drum beats and melodic song. Heartfelt messages written in Lushootseed were seen proudly displayed by both tribal and nontribal alike.
The peaceful march against racism concluded at Ebey Waterfront Park with an impassioned speech by Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin.
“We stand with George Floyd’s family and the families of every person who has been a victim of racial inequity and violence,” she stated. “As people of color we understand the oppression and the historical trauma it causes. We have felt this pain. We have endured this hatred. None of our children should have to live like this.
“If we stand together as a community, we can change our future. We can build a world where we can see the value of a person, not the color of their skin. We can all become social justice warriors by challenging ourselves to change the way we treat each other.”
Change the way we treat each other. It really is that simple, and yet remains so challenging for us as a society to do so. However, the hope remains. Every person who showed up and marched against racism with the Tulalip/Marysville community, each handmade sign made, each powerful word shared, all of it and more are positive proof that hope remains.
Like the Idle No More movement in Canada, and the No DAPL movement in Standing Rock, the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by women. In response to the 2012 murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi issued a call to action for the Black community. They wanted to address the anti-Black racism that manifested throughout Zimmerman’s trial, one that seemed more interested in placing Trayvon on trial for his own murder, and that permeates throughout society.
In their own words, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
Black Lives Matter gained international attention following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, where they helped raise the issue of police violence and brutality and its impacts on the Black community both historically and currently.
Also, like the Idle No More movement, the Black Lives Matter message spread globally via savvy use of social media and on-line networking as localized protests and demonstrations under the banner Black Lives Matter began appearing in cities and towns across the nation.
As a Lakota, as an Indigenous person, I fully support the organizing efforts and messaging of Black Lives Matter.
With the wave of attention on the issue of police violence, Native communities were able to draw attention to high rates in which Native peoples are also killed by the police. On a per capita basis, Native peoples are the most likely to be killed by the police.
More broadly, the message that “Black Lives Matter” is one in which resonates within Native communities, in that we understand the pain, anger and frustration that comes with feeling our lives are somehow less than others, especially when coming to being victims of both state sanctioned and white supremacist violence.
In the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, where over 300 unarmed mostly women, children and elders were murdered, the U.S. government awarded 20 soldiers the Medal of Honor the highest award that can be given to military personal. For decades, Lakota activists have worked to have those Medals of Honor rescinded, but to no avail. To not rescind the Medals of Honor affirms the 500 year colonial narrative that not only is the only good Indian a dead Indian, but that our lives simply do not matter.
During the height of lynchings throughout the South, a time period in which thousands of Black men were murdered, hordes of White people would picnic around the body of a hanged Black man. The concern over the rampant injustice of murder being committed did not matter to the crowds as the life of a Black person did not matter to them.
Since 1492 for Native peoples and since 1619 for peoples of African descent, history is rich with horrific and barbaric acts of sheer brutality at the hands of the European colonizer, settlers, and later US citizens. From mass rapes, torture, lynchings, murder, and enslavement to the restricting of movement, employment and racial classifications, Native peoples and peoples of African descent have endured a constant state of being looked and acted upon as being less than.
The fact that over the course of the past decade thousands of Native women across Turtle Island have gone missing or murdered, and that more Black people are incarcerated today than were enslaved at the height of slavery, and that these issues receive little to no attention let along national outcry, not only suggests, but affirms that neither Native peoples or Black people’s lives matter in the eyes of the colonial settler society.
Reservations and the inner-city have long being the nations dumping grounds and areas designated for the citing of hazardous and toxic waste facilities. In doing so, generations of Native and Black peoples are being born into and living lives crippled by negative health outcomes such as higher rates of repertory illnesses, cancers, and lowered life expectancy. Again, our lives and our children’s lives are affirmed as not mattering when local, state and federal agencies allow for corporations to pollute our communities despite knowing the negative health outcomes in doing so.
Unemployment in the Black community ranges between 11%-19%, in some inner-cities unemployment for Black youth runs as high as 40%. On reservations unemployment runs between 40% to a staggering 90%. Native peoples living in cities fair little better.
Much attention and policies were enacted to address the impacts of the recent global recession. The attention and policies though rarely, if ever, addressed the crippling unemployment and poverty impacting Native peoples and the Black community. Does unemployment and poverty only “matter” when it impacts peoples of European descent?
Years ago, while presenting at a workshop on undoing racism, a fellow panelist and I were discussing the ways in which internalized racism manifests itself in our communities when she remarked to me that, “Blacks commit homicide, Natives commit suicide.” A blunt and stark, yet true observation that the legacy of genocide, land theft, programs of assimilation, slavery, segregation, and lynchings combined with the current issues of environmental racism, police violence, mass incarceration, and efforts of dehumanization has embedded the belief not only to the boarder settler society, but deeply within ourselves, that our lives do not matter.
Settler society reacts swiftly and often violently whenever our respective communities rise up and confront issues from police violence and violations of treaty rights, to demanding that we are not costumes or mascots to addressing the impacts of environmental racism. We are shouted down with statements like “all lives matter”, or “you should be honored”, or “we are all human”.
For our communities, we must understand and accept that the goals of the colonial settler state today, are the same goals of the colonial settler state of yesterday, which is to remove Indigenous populations to access their lands and resources, bring in low wage to slave labor to work those lands accessing the resources in order to benefit the colonial settler elite. This narrative is a global narrative.
Our struggle is not one to have equal rights with the colonial elite, but rather to (re)live as children of earth who understand that we are connected and related to all of creation with defined roles and responsibilities to that of all creation. Original instruction. We live, so that all may live.
To those of African descent, yes your lives matter, as do your homes, communities, children and children to come. It is upon us to stand together as peoples with a shared history of oppression in this colonial settler state called “America” so that our relatives know, see, feel, and understand that they are loved, that they are beautiful, and that they matter.
Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire and the co-founder of Mazaska Talks.
Last night the Tulalip Reservation was the target of vandalism and looting under the pretense of a protest. Based on the tone of the social media posts that encouraged this incident, it seemed likely that violence, rather than a peaceful demonstration was the goal. With that in mind, Tulalip citizens, community members, and law enforcement mobilized to meet the potential threat and closed down the parameters of Quil Ceda Village, along with the Tulalip Resort Casino and the Quil Ceda Creek Casino.
In addition to the Tulalip Tribal Police, our local law enforcement partners, including Snohomish County Sherriff’s and their SWAT team, Washington State Patrol, Everett Police Department, Stanwood Police Department, and Marysville Police Department assisted in ensuring Tulalip stayed safe.
“Our community came together, and as we always do, shared wisdom, unity, and teachings. We stood in defense of our lands, along with our local law enforcement.
“We stand with George Floyd’s family and the families of every person who has been a victim of racial inequity and violence,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Our people have lived through oppression; we know this pain. My heart breaks for anyone who has lost a loved one due to racial violence. His death did not need to happen, someone should have stopped it, and they should be held accountable. We raise our voice and drums in solidarity with you.”
We understand that protest is sometimes necessary to create change. But we will not stand for those who come to pillage and perpetrate even more violence on our people.” The people who came to Tulalip last night were not here to change the system. This was an attempt to loot and only targets the innocent.” I do not understand why anyone would want to target Tulalip, a sovereign nation that has suffered generations of historical trauma.
After 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. Tulalip and our partners will continue to secure the boundaries of the Reservation. Property damage, rioting, and looting will not be tolerated; those who are responsible will be apprehended and booked into jail.
“This has got to stop. We can’t go on this way, destroying even more lives,” said Gobin. “There are so many good people taking the brunt of this,” she continued. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ I believe those words, and that is what I witnessed last night.