Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 5: The Songs of the Ceremony

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“The elders taught us that we always need to be listening because some day you’ll be tapped on the shoulder to say something, to take over or lead something, and you need to be prepared,” said Tulalip tribal member, Glen Gobin. “Back in 1968, before the revival, they wanted the youth, which at the time included myself and my siblings, to start to learn some of the songs that we still use as part of the Salmon Ceremony today – the welcome song, the happy song. We were taught those songs at early age and I always felt honored to be a part of that.”

With less than a month to go, the tribal community of Tulalip continues to prepare for their annual Salmon Ceremony gathering, which will be held this year on Saturday June 11, beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. Over the past four weeks, dancers, drummers and speakers have been getting reacquainted with their traditional songs by participating in weekly practice sessions, starting at 5:00 p.m., every Thursday.

The practices have been hosted at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, however, the final practice on June 9th will be held at the longhouse. During the approximate two-hour practice session, the tribe takes time to walkthrough the entire Salmon Ceremony from top to bottom, so the people can really get an understanding about what the songs and dances mean to the tribe, and why they are offered each year. 

“I love being at the center of the longhouse when we’re all in there together and we all sing [The Prayer Song] for the first time,” Glen expressed. “The power of song with all our voices is very moving, you can feel it inside you. I try to get the kids to feel that – the power of our voices. It gives you strength and encouragement and it also makes you feel that you belong, that you fit in.”

Revived back in the mid-70’s, the Salmon Ceremony has become a staple tradition at the start of each fishing season for the people of Tulalip. During the ceremony, the tribe welcomes and honors the first king salmon to arrive at local waters. The ceremony also serves as a way to provide the fishermen of the tribe with a blessing before they hit the Salish Sea to harvest salmon for their people. 

Prior to the assimilation era, the Salmon Ceremony was practiced by the Snohomish people since time immemorial. The ceremony was brought back in an historic effort by Harriette Shelton Dover and a handful of elders who were able to recall the songs and dances that were performed at the event. Those songs and dances were then passed on to the next generation. And ever since, the tribe has passed down the teachings year by year to the future of Tulalip.

Many Salmon Ceremony participants will be the first to tell that the practices leading up to the actual ceremony are equally important as the special day of honoring itself. Tribal leaders are welcoming the entire community out to the remaining practices, four in-total before the big day. 

In 2020, for the first time since the revival, the Salmon Ceremony and all the practices were canceled due to the pandemic. In 2021, the tribe brought the ceremony back, but in an effort to limit the spread of COVID, there were no practices leading to the event. These important practices, where traditions are handed down to the next generations, were canceled for two straight years in a row, and the participants felt as if a significant piece to the ceremony was left out. Now with the return of the practices, the people feel a stronger connection to the songs, dances and stories that will be shared at the ceremony.

Said Glen, “It’s about giving respect to those that come from nature. But it also teaches about giving respect throughout life and honoring those gifts that we get and respecting our way of life in a good way. Part of that is making sure how we sing the songs, how we conduct ourselves, it teaches how to carry yourself in life. All of the songs have meaning, everything is connected. The songs encourage the people to carry themselves in a good way.”

In anticipation of the Salmon Ceremony, Tulalip News has been featuring a weekly mini-series focused on the all the important work that goes into the annual event. Over the past four weeks, we took a deeper look into the ceremony, highlighting its history and stories. This week, we sat down with Glen, the official Salmon Ceremony Leader, a title handed down from the late Stan ‘Scho-Hallem’ Jones and Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin, to go over the eleven songs, blessing and chants that are offered at the ceremony each and every year.

The Welcome Song

Glen: “The Welcome Song is well-known and it is Harriette Shelton Dover’s song. For a long time, when we sang her song, Harriette was the only one in front of everyone, with the strongest drummers and singers following behind her. Now we have four elders leading us, typically two times around the longhouse, to start the ceremony.”

Sduhubš War Song

“This is where all our young warriors line up with their spears. A while ago, I was back at D.C. at the National Archives building. In some of the writings there is a record of this song, the sduhubš war song. And it tells what the meaning is: I am Sduhubš, I am a fierce warrior. I have nothing but friends, for I have already killed all our enemies.”

Eagle/Owl Song (Tribute to Kai Kai)

“You know, Stan always called it the Eagle/Owl song, but nowhere in the song do we sing about the eagle. But anyway, it’s a Jones family song and he gave it to the ceremony. Scho-Hallem gathered Kai Kai, because they grew strength from each other and prayed for each other. Kai Kai was my father, him and Scho-Hallem were very close friends. They were very strong leaders for our tribe. They worked together as a team for our tribe to help us move forward to where we are today.”

Blessing Song

“The blessing of the fishermen! This was a song that was gifted to Stan and my dad by a lady named Bev Tom. It is about remembering your ancestors and remembering where you come from. It’s a blessing of the fishermen to wish them good luck and a safe season.”

Listen to our Prayers

“I love being at the center of the longhouse when we’re all in there together and we all sing this for the first time. The power of song with all our voices is very moving, you can feel it inside you.”

hikw siyab yubəč

“This song is one of the primary Salmon Ceremony songs. These are all prayer songs. We sing this all the way down to the beach, once yubəč is here. We sing this to greet our visitor. Once the canoe has landed, and he’s unloaded, he now leads the way. From this point for the rest of the ceremony, he’s at the front, nobody goes in front of him. We sing this all the way to the longhouse and then again when we take him back to the water. We recognize him, give thanks. He is the scout, he comes to see how well we are doing and if we treat him correctly, he’ll tell his people that the Tulalip’s are good people.”

Happy Song

“This is a crowd favorite where the Shawl Dance is performed. Back in 1968, before the revival, they wanted the youth, which at the time included myself and my siblings, to start to learn some of the songs that we still use as part of the Salmon Ceremony today – the welcome song, the happy song. 

We were taught those songs at early age and I always felt honored to be a part of that. All of the songs have meaning, everything is connected. The songs encourage the people to carry themselves in a good way. And that goes back to the sduhubš people, we were always considered high class. But not high class like I’m better than you. Others viewed our people as siyab, high class people, because the way we carried our people.”

Table Blessing Song

“The table blessing song is thousands of years old, it’s been around that long and that’s how it was shared with us. It’s a very powerful song. It’s not often that you have a prayer song that has that fast of a beat, that you sing it that loud. Maybe it’s a joyous prayer. We all take a small piece of fish and eat the guest at the same time. Then we all take a drink of a half-glass of water together at the same time.”

Canoe Song (Kenny Moses Jr.’s Song) & New Beginnings Cleansing Song (Glen’s Song)

“Through the years we added some songs at the end. It used to end to stop at hikw siyab yubəč, but then the canoes still had to paddle out. That’s when Kenny’s song came. We started singing Kenny’s song for the canoe returning to the shore once more. 

But then the girls wanted another song that they could dance to, because they didn’t want to leave, so I shared my song at the end. It’s a song of cleansing and new beginnings. It’s about, as you walk through life, you gather up all these things and you hang on to them. At different times you need to start to release them, because either some of those things start to bother you or you no longer need them so you release those things and only keeps what gives you strength and keeps you going. So you’re starting over again, that new beginning and you’re cleansing by releasing what doesn’t serve you.

When that song came to me, it was weird because I never thought I would receive a song. We were doing some spiritual work, canoes were put away for a year, we brought them back out and brushed them off and put them in the water. We were coming back by the longhouse and I was coming up the hill and the song started coming to me like a ton of bricks. I got home and sang it for about two hours. I drove around all week, singing it all the time. It wouldn’t leave. So finally I called Kenny Moses Jr. He came up to my dad’s house and I sang it there. He asked me about what I was thinking of and feeling at the time. It’s kind of a cleansing song about new beginnings.”

It’s for the kids! 24th Annual B&GC Auction raises over $560,000

Chairwoman Gobin and Josh Fryberg pose with an autographed Bon Jovi guitar that went for a pretty penny during the live auction. 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During the evening of Saturday, May 14, the Tulalip Resort Casino’s orca ballroom was home to the 24th Annual Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Auction. The signature fundraising event of the season was all about giving gracious donors and committed community members an opportunity to paint a brighter future for Tulalip kids.

Kenzie Thompson-Sheldon entices someone to bid $5,000 for a Tyler Lockett jersey.

“As a former club kid, I personally know the positive impacts of having a Boys & Girls Club in my community,” shared auction chairwoman Belinda Hegnes. She also serves her tribe as executive vice president of Quil Ceda Creek Casino. “The club was a safe place to meet friends, hang out after school and during the summer. As a child, there was always something fun to do. One of my earliest memories was learning to shoot a basketball by then club director, Terry Freeman.

“We wanted this year’s auction theme to send a positive message to our youth that even when times are tough to keep moving forward and focus on the future,” she continued. “This past year the pandemic continued to impact our communities and our youth. We all at some point experienced a little fear, uncertainty, social restrictions and isolation from loved ones. Tonight, we finally get to come together to paint a bright future and make a positive impact for the children!”

‘The Club’, as it’s affectionately been dubbed by the hundreds of children who attend daily, is a safe place where kids can just be kids. While there, children are routinely exposed to healthy food choices, learn many useful skills, create an abundance of happy memories, and make relationships that last a lifetime.

A cohort of Tulalip tribal members welcomed auction attendees with a prayer and traditional song. 

The Club is the first of its kind to be built on tribal land in Washington. Established over twenty-five years ago, 2022 marks nearly three decades worth of commitment to the community. Through before and after school programs, our local club aims to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem, developing core values, and teaching critical skills during opportune periods of growth.

“What an amazing evening to be together with all of you for our signature event that supports the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “The funds raised from this one event truly makes a huge impact on the lives of so many of our kids. We have so many leaders who grew up as club kids and now are professionals working in management positions at both our casinos, Quil Ceda Village, and in many departments of our tribal government. That’s a significant impact the boys and girls clubs has had on our people, and that’s the impact we are all here to support.”

Club Director Shawn Sanchey sharing details of an all new golf academy available to our kids.  

Serving as a model for those working to improve the lives of young people in the surrounding communities, the Club is the primary beneficiary of the annual fundraising auction. With each auction building off the success of the previous years, the Club has not only been able to sustain services, but to complete much needed campus expansions that add additional learning and activity space. 

Funds raised from the annual actions are dedicated for capital improvement, not operating costs. Previous auction funds have paid for a state-of-the-art music studio, a multi-media room with twenty-plus computers, several transportation vehicles, roof repairs, upgraded kitchen equipment, and even a 4,000-square-foot technology-filled extension to better accommodate an ever-growing teenaged membership. This teen center was invaluable over the past two years. In such a tumultuous time, local teenagers were able to depend on access to this tech-driven space to meet their computer access and internet needs to complete schoolwork.

Mother/daughter trio Natosha, KT and Lizzie, wearing 
matching ribbon skirts, were excited to bid on a number of silent auction items.

“It’s so funny looking back because I didn’t realize how much the Club meant to me as a kid, but really it was everything,” shared Club Director, Shawn Sanchey. The 26-year-old Tulalip tribal member has come full circle after he himself grew up a Club kid and now manages the same facility so many kids depend on every day. “It’s amazing being able to witness these kids learn and grow in the same way staff once did for me. It really is unique how dedicated our staff are to the youth in our community.

“Thanks to our generous supporters we are able to alleviate costs associated with team and individual sports, which anyone who knows anything about Tulalip can tell you, we have a ton of aspiring athletes,” he added. “Some highlights from the past year are having 150 kids play tackle football, 70 kids playing select level basketball, and we started an exciting golf academy that already has 25 kids actively participating. Our dedication to give our kids access to high level sports goes hand-in-hand with our mission to let our kids know we care about them and we care about their future.”

In total, there were over 600 generous individuals in attendance at this year’s 24th annual auction. Many of the attendees have never been inside Tulalip’s reservation-homed boys and girls club. However, the uplifting faces of Club kids were ever-present on actual table centerpieces and projected onto screens bordering the ballroom. There were also a number of Club teenagers who volunteered at the auction and helped generate support by sharing their stories.

One such teenager was 17-year-old Kenzie Thompson-Sheldon who, during the live auction segment, strutted on the main stage with an autographed Tyler Lockett jersey. When auctioneer Mark Schenfeld asked her how much she thinks the Seahawks wide receiver jersey should go for, Kenzie said nonchalantly “Five-thousand dollars.” And $5,000 it went for.

Malory Simpson shows off a beautiful skirt she won. 

With such an amazing turnout to support the kids came some delightful fundraising numbers. A record $104,200 was raised exclusively for Kids Kafé, which is an essential part of the Club’s services. Kids Kafé addresses the very basic fact that often the meals provided to club members are the most nutritious part of their daily diet. This year, our club transformed into a virtual school site and during this time provided breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack. Over the course of the last year, Kids Kafé served an astounding average of 1,280 meals a day.

When the 24th annual action finally came to an end, a whopping $563,646 was raised between the silent and live auctions, including the enormous amount of support for Kids Kafé. There are so many generous contributors who played a critical role in making the 2022 auction one for the history books.

“The auction is really about building relationships with the community and continuing to build upon the strong foundation of support we have with the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County, the school board, and the Tulalip Resort Casino,” explained Terry Freeman, Assistant Director of Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County. “For twenty plus years now, our goal has remained the same – to create more and more partnerships off the reservation to achieve our goals on reservation. Thanks to our tribal leadership team, we continue to meet and exceed this goal.”

Local legend Terry Freeman is embraced by James Madison after gifting
him a paddle and many kind words. 

In an emotional moment shared by all that know him, Terry was honored by artist James Madison with a hand-carved, WSU inspired paddle. Terry has dedicated more than 50 years of his life working on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club, where he’s impacted the lives of countless Tulalip tribal members. His limitless energy and enthusiasm for making the lives of today’s youth better is downright contagious, which is why he’s been the perfect behind-the-scenes organizer of twenty-four straight auctions. 

“I’ve known Terry since I was just 8-years-old and he ran the Everett Boys and Girls Club. He’s always been a stand-up guy and looked out for us Tulalips, making sure we had what we needed to thrive,” said James. “Now, as an adult, I’m fortunate to call Terry a friend. He deserves all the accolades and more for what he’s done for us. It meant so much to make sure he got his due respect and admiration in front of all these people he brings to our land every year to benefit our kids.” 

Thanks to everyone who contributed and gave generously, the 24th annual action was a major success. The generosity and heartfelt support received each year from sponsors and volunteers is overwhelming. As in years past, all funds raised will ensure the local Club continues to provide and improve upon quality programs in a fun, safe and positive environment for our kids.

Red dresses raise awareness for MMIWP epidemic 

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos by Sarah Jean Hart and Monie Ordonia

Red dresses and shirts hauntingly waved in the wind on MMIWP Awareness Day throughout the reservation of Tulalip. Hanging up on road signs, fences, and even on the Tulalip reader board, the red garments were placed in highly visible areas for local traffic and pedestrians to see, bringing attention to the nationwide epidemic.

“I felt like it was work that had to be done,” said organizer and Tulalip tribal member, Sarah Jean Hart. “I started last year and knew it was something I wanted to do every year. I feel like today, May 5th, is more than just the education piece and the prevention piece, but more so an opportunity to uplift our families and let them know that we’re here for them and that we love them, and to honor the ones who have not come home.”

Inspired by a 2010 art exhibit, called the REDress project, red dresses have become a nationally known symbol for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement. The empty articles of clothing provide a powerful image. The dresses are often displayed in an upright position, giving off the illusion that they are in current use, but the people wearing them appear to be missing. 

Since their first art exhibit, the REDress project helped raise awareness about the devastating epidemic over the past decade, while also providing a new and creative way for the Indigenous population to bring attention to the MMIWP movement in their respective tribal communities throughout Canada and the U.S. 

Sarah first brought the project to Tulalip in 2021, and after multiple people approached her and inquired about the dresses, she decided to make this an annual tradition in commemoration of MMIWP Awareness Day. With the help of fellow tribal member, Monie Ordonia, Sarah spent over six hours the day beforehand hanging the dresses and shirts along Marine Drive and in Tulalip neighborhoods. 

The red dresses and shirts were accompanied with hand-painted signs that read messages such as: No More Stolen Sisters & Brothers, Rise Up and Protect Our Brothers and Sisters, Remember Them and Say Their Names. A few pieces of clothing also displayed messages – in white paint were the names of those individuals who fell victim to this MMIWP epidemic and called Tulalip home – including Kyle Van Jones, Jr. Lacy, Bridgette Simpson, Jessica Jones and May Ellen Davis. 

Sarah shared, “A few years ago, it started to really hit home – how many of our own women, not only our women but our brothers too, started going missing. There was no justice for my cousin and so I just knew that we needed to do something. For me to light a candle wherever I put a dress, that’s me letting them know that this is your way home and we’re here waiting for you and we love you.”

In a Facebook post following MMIWP Awareness Day, Sarah also shared, “Our hearts are always in prayer for our MMIW & MMIP. Our loved ones taken too soon. We remember, honor and love you always.”

Following the Salmon Ceremony part 4: MMIWP Candlelight Vigil

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Another week closer to this year’s Salmon Ceremony, the Tulalip community met once again on Thursday May 5, to practice their traditional songs and dances before the first yubəč, or king salmon, arrives at local waters. The festivities for the honored guest will be held on June 11 this year, beginning at 10:30 a.m., at the Tulalip Longhouse. 

The Tulalip Gathering Hall’s acoustics highlighted the fact that the drumbeats were louder and the vocals were stronger this week, as the number of participates continues to grow with each practice. In addition to more drummers and singers, there are notably more shawls and vests on the floor while dancers utilize the entire space of the hall, dancing along to the Tribe’s ancestral songs. Nearly everybody at the third practice session wore red this week, and a couple of people showcased a painted red handprint across their face. 

During the weekly gatherings, the people practice an entire walkthrough of the Salmon Ceremony, taking time to explain each song, dance, chant, and blessing. After the revival in 1976, the tribe makes sure to teach the upcoming generation about how Harriette Shelton Dover and a number of Tulalip elders brought the ceremony back following the boarding school era. Almost completely wiped away from existence due to forced assimilation, the Salmon Ceremony is now celebrated at the start of every fishing season.

The ceremony honors the salmon for providing nourishment to the tribal community, while also blessing the local fisherman before they begin harvesting salmon for their families and community this year. 

“We honor the gift of our visitor, yubəč, Big Chief King Salmon,” said Tulalip tribal member, Glen Gobin. “We’re harvesting from nature again, it’s how we honor and respect that, to ensure that he’s always going to be there. Him and his people will always be there, returning to take care of our people as they always have.”

As a reminder, Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall, beginning at 5:00 p.m. The last practice, on June 9th, will be held at the Tulalip Longhouse. Several tribal leaders, including Chairwoman Teri Gobin, wish to extend a warm welcome to the entire community of Tulalip to the practice sessions to learn about the Salmon Ceremony and all that the traditional event entails, so it can be passed on to the generations of tomorrow.

Said Teri, “We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.”

Before the last song was performed, Glen explained that this week’s practice was scheduled to end a little bit sooner than usual, while also inviting those in attendance to stay behind for a special candlelight vigil, in remembrance of all the missing Indigenous women and people. The majority of Salmon Ceremony participants did not leave after this week’s practice, but instead spread out from the drum circle in the middle of the floor to seats, also arranged in a circle, placed along the outer edges of the Gathering Hall. 

What followed next was a moving tribute held in honor of national MMIWP Awareness Day. Powerful words and heartbreaking stories were shared during the special candlelight vigil and the ceremony provided a safe space for the families of survivors, those individuals missing and those who have passed on, to open up about the national epidemic. 

Multiple survivors of domestic violence took the opportunity to warn the young people about the dangers of an abusive relationship, noting that toxic relationships can escalate quickly to unsafe situations. Many of these survivors expressed the difficulty of leaving a dangerous relationship. They also stated that they felt that if they didn’t leave when they did, they might not be here today.

Tribal member, Shawnee Sheldon shared, “Everybody who was in domestic violence, brought awareness tonight. Even though I didn’t speak, I’m a victim of domestic violence. At the age of 17, I was abused by my boyfriend. He isolated me and I was beaten pretty bad. I feared for my life. And at the time, I called my best friend and told her to come and get me and bring me home because I was all the way down in Muckleshoot. She came and got me and I’m forever grateful for her. If she didn’t come for me, I don’t think I would be alive. It sometimes still triggers me. I don’t speak publicly about it, but I can talk individually with people about it, because I know there are people who are put it in the darkness. So just bringing that awareness is huge.”

A number of speakers also urged the youth to be aware of their surroundings at all times, and to reach out for help when it’s needed. Several speakers reiterated to the future generation to be safe and communicative with their families about where they are going, who they are with, and how they are doing because the rate at which Indigenous people go missing continues to climb throughout the nation. 

Tribal member and QCT teacher, Margie Santibanez shared, “I came out for the MMIW vigil because I have friends who started out in domestic violence relationships and two of them almost lost their lives to it. Some of my students were murdered, as I worked at the school which is now known as Heritage. My heart has always been heavy. This is my way of being a voice for them, helping the families heal if I can by doing the prayers and teaching the kids what it is to be respectable to each other. That’s my goal, that’s why I came.” 

As the candles were lit, the people held an extended moment of silence for the survivors and those we lost due to the epidemic. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and prayers and songs were offered as the community gathered with heavy hearts on National MMIWP Awareness Day and took an important step towards healing. 

Showcasing the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District sauntered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday May 5 and Friday May 6 for the 2022 Art Fest. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Fest patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative works that centered around a communal Tulalip experience.

“Our annual Art Fest is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a creative way. We increased the event this year, going from one day to two days, to provide a more family friendly environment that was both safe and welcoming,” explained event coordinator, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. The end result surpassed all our expectations because we got over 900 total submissions. That’s more than double what we’ve averaged the last couple years.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Fest gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place blue ribbon and all the bragging rights that come with it.

Such was the case with Northwest Academy 1st grader Ellie Fryberg. She radiated pure joy while leading her family and multiple peers to her 1st place winning drawing of a rose. Delicately drawn in colored pencils and shaded with red and green, Ellie took one picture after another with her adoring fans in front of her framed art piece. She shared roses are her favorite flowers because rose is her middle name. “It took me a day to draw it at school. My teacher helped me a little bit. I draw roses all the time on the weekends,” shared the very happy 7-year-old.

Ellie and her fellow student culture bearers were able to win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, plus honorable mention, in a variety of artistic mediums. Categories included culture, drawing, painting, writing, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, and pure heart. The top four from each grade and category received a ceremonial ribbon recognizing their talents and a monetary prize.

“It was amazing to see just how talented our Native students are. The new ideas and concepts they come up with every year continue to surprise us judges,” shared Native Advocate Doug Salinas while admiring the middle school painting section. “I think every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

This year’s Native Art Fest received over 900 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Eleventh grader Samara Davis and sixthgrader Cora Jimicum were two such powerhouses that claimed top honors in multiple categories.

“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while pointing out all her art pieces that earned ribbons. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.” 

Meanwhile, Art Fest veteran Samara has wowed event attendees for years with her established creative talents. She routinely collects a handful of blue ribbons for entering one-of-a-kind art in as many categories as she can. She admitted to challenging herself more this year by trying mediums she hadn’t in the past, like sculpting and delving into mixed media. For her efforts she was once again rewarded with a number of 1st place ribbons and a stack of prize money. Her little sister, Abigail, has been biding her time, watching and learning from her big sister, to develop her own creative style. 

“Growing up and watching my sister and brother both create all kinds of art for this festival, it has made me a better artist because I do try to compete with them, sometimes,” shared 14-year-old Abigail who was most proud of her mixed media ceramic nail set she won 2nd place for. “For me, art is all about expressing yourself and having a creative outlet to process whatever you are going through emotionally. I recommend all students, not just the Native American ones, take art classes because you never know which medium or category you may be super talented at and develop a real passion for.”

Interwoven through the thought-provoking pieces were not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. There was a definite spotlight on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, and a poem by a young boy that pulled at the heart strings as he detailed his experience of growing up without a dad.

The message being sent loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and culture related protests. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their inner turmoil and personal experiences into unique art products.

“When our kids create artwork for this event they are able to mix in elements of their personality, culture, family values, and what matters to them as individuals. It’s really incredible to see how even when there are twenty entries of the same type, each is different and unique in its own way because they reflect the artist who created it,” said Courtney Jefferson, Positive Youth Development manager.

“Witnessing our kids get inspired from cultural pillars like Billy Frank Jr. is nice to see because that means they are learning about these foundational figures in school and retaining the information,” she added. “This proves how powerful it is to educate our people about our shared culture. Especially for the elementary aged children it’s so important they learn about the legacy of those who came before us and made it possible for us to thrive today.”

Overall, this year’s two-day Art Fest showcased the wide-range of artistic skills among our Native American students, while once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art brought created by the next generation. 

Raising awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous People

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“First of all, thank you all for being here and taking part in this movement to raise awareness. Together we will make our voices heard. Today, as we honor missing and murdered Indigenous people, I want to mention the importance of building up our young people and being sure they have a voice. Some of us adults are still looking for ours.

“We have been historically underrepresented. Our people have been oppressed for far too long. We have to work to address the white, colonized, patriarchal systems that this country is founded on. We have to make sure that we count at the local, state and federal levels. We cannot tolerate being underrepresented any longer. We have to show up to spaces and represent for those who do not have a voice. Times are changing and evolving. We are strong, resilient and have a foundation that we have to hold onto and carry with us. The foundation of being Native; Indigenous to this land.

“Rematriation is a fairly new word. So new it’s not even in the dictionary, yet, but it is the opposite of patriarchy. Rematriation means to return the sacred to the mother; it’s a means to restore balance to the world. We will continue to reclaim and restore our natural and traditional ways of knowing and being in order to help strengthen our roots for future generations. We need to be sure that our children can walk firmly in their identity, be proud of their culture, and know where they come from. We need to be sure they know the importance of protecting one another. That’s what it means to be a tribe.

“We need to be sure that women, children and all Indigenous people have a safe space to own who they are. I believe we can do it, but its going to take every single one of us working together. Only together can we protect our communities and ensure we have no more stolen sisters and brothers.”

Those eloquent, heartfelt words were shared by Tulalip’s own Jessica Bustad as she welcomed some two-hundred community members as they assembled in the bleachers and courtside seating of the Youth Center’s main gymnasium on Tuesday, May 3. Friends and relatives from both near and far respectfully dawned an assortment of red clothing, red regalia, and red handmade signs in a united effort to recognize the national crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).

 Our women, girls, and young men are being taken from us in an alarming way.  As of 2016, the National Crime Information Center has reported 5,712 cases of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls. Strikingly, the U.S Department of Justice missing persons database has only reported 116 cases.  The majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. The lack of communication combined with jurisdictional issues between state, local, federal, and tribal law enforcement, make it nearly impossible to begin the investigative process.

Sobering Statistics

  • Indigenous women are murdered and go missing at a rate higher than any other ethnic group.
  • Indigenous women are murdered at a rate 10x higher than all other ethnicities.
  • Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death for Indigenous women.
  • More than 4 out of 5 Indigenous women (84.3%) will experience violence in their lifetime.
  • More than half of Indigenous women experience sexual violence (56.1%).
  • More than half of Indigenous women have been physically abused by their intimate partners (55.5%).
  • Nearly half of all Indigenous women have been stalked in their lifetime (48.8%).
  • Indigenous women are 1.7 times more likely than white American women to experience violence. 
  • Indigenous women are 2x more likely to be raped than white American women. 
  • Murder rate of Indigenous women is 3x higher than white American women. 

*source: National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

To understand the complex and ongoing MMIP crisis one must first admit the current systemic response to violence against Native people is immensely inadequate. Then one must realize the rate at which Tribes are losing their life-giving women is devastating to not just the tribal communities, but to the entire nation as a whole. Insufficient resources on the state level and lack of clarity on jurisdictional responsibilities on the federal level combine to severely hinder efforts to locate those who are missing. 

Furthermore, the current legal framework for persecuting crimes committed on Native citizens by non-Natives is exceedingly complicated and creates many barriers for victims and Tribes working to protect their membership. 

Despite a federal trust obligation to protect Native American communities, violence against Indigenous women in the United States continues at epidemic proportions. It greatly exceeds that of any other demographic of women across the country. While many issues need to be addressed to confront this human rights issue, it is clear that limitations placed on tribal government jurisdiction by the federal government are a contributing factor. Often resulting in non-Native perpetrators falling through the cracks in the system time and time again.

“A huge thank you to each and every one of you joining us in the circle here today. We know that we come with our prayers and that’s the strongest medicine we have. The thoughts we have in our mind create reality,” previously shared Deborah Parker, board of director for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. She is nationally renowned for her critical role in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). “When I was a young girl I witnessed violence in our community, and I said a prayer then that when I get older I’d like to be a person to help change the laws to protect our people. 

“If we speak forward with our voice and with our truth and with all of our strength, then we can move mountains. And truly there are others who believe in our words and will stand beside us,” she continued. “These are our lands. We’ve been taught we are caretakers of these lands. That’s a big responsibility for us as Indigenous people. Each and every person in this circle, from youth to elder, can fulfill this responsibility and bring about change that benefits us all. We need our women to be safe. We need our young people to be safe. We need our future generations to be safe. By standing together and working together we will make this prayer a reality.”

By learning from the experiences of surviving family members, the MMIP movement can work to achieve the changes needed to safeguard the lives of Indigenous people and strengthen the authority of Native nations to protect their citizens. Exemplifying this notion are Tulalip tribal members Udora Andrade, Veronica Jimicum and Lynette Jimicum who sat unified at Tuesday night’s MMIP awareness event. They serve as constant reminder of the ongoing search for Mary E. Johnson, a Tulalip woman who went missing on December 1, 2020.

Police Chief Sutter expressed to Mary’s family and those gathered in community, “We are very actively working on Mary’s case. We want to bring her home and give her justice. Its grassroots activism and events like this happening all across the country that put immense pressure on the legislators in Washington, DC. Here in Tulalip we’ve developed a tribal response plan with four components to help curb this crisis locally. It includes a victim’s liaison that strengthens family support and opens better lines of communication, tribal-led community resources spearheaded by concerned Tulalip citizens, use of local and regional media to increase awareness, and developing better protocols to serve our community as best as possible.”   

Following a series of speakers from all levels of Tulalip leadership and enrichment programs, Josh Fryberg and Antone George led a large contingent of singers and drummers in coming together for a spirit enriching coastal jam, which well into the twilight hours.

“Our hands go up to each and every one of you who attended and helped make this moment possible,” said event coordinator Josh Fryberg. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all in need. It will take each and every one of us to continue to be the difference, not just for us but for our future generations. By living in a good way that honors our ancestors we will continue to bring unity, to raise awareness, and strengthen our culture, together.”

Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 3: The Salmon Man

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

“The reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years – It tells us something, that’s been told a long time: to conserve and keep things and honor all things because they’re alive. The trees are alive. Everything we eat was alive at some time. And we should give thanks and respect these things as living spirits and show them respect appropriately. And if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything as we know it today.”

The statement above, and subsequent story below, were spoken by the late Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin nearly thirty years ago, back in 1993. An influential leader of his time, Kai Kai provided this re-telling of the traditional Tulalip story, Salmon Man, for the Marysville School District. The story has been passed on throughout the years since time immemorial, and Kai Kai credited Harriette Shelton Dover for passing it on to the generations following the boarding school era. 

The Salmon Man story is important to the tribe’s way of life and is the reason why Tulalip and nearby tribes gather once a year to participate in the Salmon Ceremony at the start of the fishing season. During the Salmon Ceremony, the people pay tribute to the salmon for providing sustenance for the tribal community, while also taking time to traditionally bless the tribal fisherman before they journey out to the Salish waters to harvest salmon for their families. 

Due to the cruel assimilation period, the traditional ceremony was outlawed for several decades. That is until 1976 when a handful of Tulalip elders, led by Harriette Shelton Dover, revived the ceremony by recalling what traditionally took place at the special honoring, thereby teaching the upcoming generations the songs, dances and the story of the Salmon Man, also known as the Salmon People story. 

Dancers, drummers and singers are currently preparing for Salmon Ceremony which will take place this year on Saturday June 11th, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Leading up to the ceremony, the participants are meeting every week to collectively walk through the Salmon Ceremony start to finish, so the people can build a strong connection to the dances and songs as well as a cultural understanding of the stories about the Salmon People and of the Salmon Ceremony’s revitalization. 

Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, has participated in the ceremony since it’s revival and extends a warm invite to the entire community, stating that everybody is welcome to come and participate in the weekly Salmon Ceremony practices, which begins at 5:00 p.m. every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. The last practice on June 9th, however, will be held at the Tulalip longhouse.

In commemoration of the upcoming Salmon Ceremony, Tulalip News is featuring a weekly mini-series focused on the important cultural and spiritual work that goes into the ceremony year after year. Last week, we explored the significance of passing the tradition onto the next generations and asked a number of participants two questions, when were they introduced to the ceremony and why it was important to them individually. Although we received a variety of great answers, numerous people listed two aspects as reasons to the latter question – practicing the traditions and passing those traditions to the youth. 

The revival has already been carried across five decades, and one look into a practice session would show that the Tulalips are doing an incredible job of keeping their traditions alive by passing their teachings to the next generation. In fact, Kamiakin Craig, the grandson of Kai Kai, who shares his Indian name, attends every practice and participates at each Salmon Ceremony every year. 

An integral part of the Salmon Ceremony is learning about the Salmon Man story, which is the basis of the ceremony itself and explains a great deal about Tulalip traditions and the importance of preserving their way of life. We’ll let Kai Kai take it from here, as his re-telling of the story is truly fantastic, and if you are like us, hearing and revisiting teachings from elders and elders who’ve passed on, is quite an amazing, eye-opening and enjoyable experience. 

Kai Kai:

This is one version of the Salmon Man. You might have heard about the Tulalip Salmon Festival. The Salmon Festival was something that was practiced for hundreds of years by the Snohomish people, the sduhubš people. They are also called ‘the salmon people’.  And the story’s extremely important because it links to the present day.

And the story goes that there is a tribe of Salmon People that live under the sea. And each year, they send out scouts to visit their homeland. And the way that the Snohomish people recognize that it’s time for the salmon scouts to be returning to their area is when, in the spring, a butterfly comes out. And the first person to see that butterfly will run, as fast as they can, to tell our chiefs or headmen, or now they are called the chairman. One of the other ways they recognize that the salmon scouts are returning is when the wild spirea tree blooms. The people call it the ironwood tree, and that’s what they use for fish sticks and a lot of other important things, like halibut hooks. It’s a very hard wood. So, when they see either one of these, a tribal member will tell the chairman, and he immediately sends out word to the people and calls them together in the longhouse for a huge feast and celebration to give honor to the visitors that are coming.

The salmon scout will arrive out in the middle of Tulalip Bay there. And the people send out a canoe to meet him. And they put the salmon scout inside the canoe, where a cradle is filled with fern leaves and other soft leaves for a bed for him to come in on and keep him fresh. And he’ll come in by canoe to the cliff right below our longhouse, and there, the whole tribe will be there on the water to greet him. And they’ll walk him in with songs of honor and just greet him in a special way. Then, he’ll be carried on that cradle up into the longhouse, where he’ll be taken around the fires three times and special songs will be sung in his honor. And they will show him the proper respect he needs as the high chief visitor from the Salmon people. And they will go through some different ceremonies there. Then, they will go up into what is now the tribal center and prepare the feast. Before the feast, everyone will share in a tiny piece of the salmon and drink a glass of water with it, a little water.

That’s what is done. And then, everyone sits down and feasts and enjoys the salmon and visits with friends and neighbors.

At the end of feast, they get up. Maybe a speech will be made, and, hopefully, it won’t be too long. Then, a song is sung, and they bring the remains that are left of the salmon back into the longhouse and thank him for coming and again honor him for the chief that he is and take him back down to the canoe, follow him back down there. And they take him back out and lay his remains back where they picked him up, out in the middle of Tulalip Bay. And, if they have treated that chief properly and showed him the proper respect, and treated him like the king he is, he’ll go back to the Salmon People that live under the sea and he’ll tell them that, “Hey, they greatly honored me. They treated me like I should have been treated. They gave me all the recognition I needed.” And he’ll recommend that the Salmon People return back in abundance.

And the reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years. They gave thanks for many things. One of the things was to honor this great chief from the Salmon People and try to protect his environment and have a place for him to come home to. It’s hard to imagine nowadays this visitor going back and telling them, “Hey, things are all right.” Because he has to tell them, “I’ve been up there, and I entered around Admiralty Head, and I started getting a headache.” And he says, “As I traveled further in I become confused and had a hard time finding Tulalip Bay this time.” And he says, “Worse than that. When I went up the Stillaguamish River my home was gone. Where I was born and raised, it’s not there.” 

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 2: Carrying the revival to future generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“My father was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”

Close to one hundred tribal members met at the Tulalip Gathering Hall on the evening of April 21st for the first Salmon Ceremony practice of the year. Revived nearly 50 years ago, the annual event pays homage not only to the salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community, but also to all the local fisherman who are preparing for a season out on the Salish Sea. 

This year, Salmon Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 11th beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. At the height of the pandemic, the Salmon Ceremony was canceled for the very first time since it’s revival in 2020 to limit the spread of the infectious disease. And although the people were excited to see the cultural event return in 2021, many lifetime Salmon Ceremony participants still felt as though something was missing. 

Every year, with the exception of the past two, tribal members engage in a cultural immersion experience, weeks ahead of Salmon Ceremony, when the community begins preparations for the event. During Salmon Ceremony practice, tribal members get an opportunity to get reacquainted with the songs, dances and stories of the annual event, so when the day comes to pay respect to the first catch of the season, everything is executed precisely in honor of the salmon. 

Each week, a walkthrough of Salmon Ceremony takes place at the practice sessions, allowing the chance for the people to learn the significance behind every song and dance that is performed and offered at the ceremony. This is also the perfect time for newcomers to learn about the proceedings that take place inside the longhouse and alongside the bay when the first king salmon of the year returns to local waters. 

Although the turnout for the first practice was great, Teri stated that there is still plenty of room at the large Gathering Hall for more people to attend the practices, and invited the community to come out and take part in preparations of the ceremony. Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., where a meal and good company is promised to each participant. All of the practice sessions will take place at the Gathering Hall except for the last practice on June 9th, which will be held at the longhouse. 

As practices continue, Tulalip News will feature a weekly mini-series, leading up to Salmon Ceremony, focused on the traditions and hard work that goes into the cultural event each year. This week, we asked a handful of participants what the Salmon Ceremony means to them personally and received a number of great responses from youth to elders. 

Said Tulalip tribal member, Andrew Gobin, “It’s about taking time out to recognize the old teachings and carrying them forward. That’s what the practices are about. We talk about the old teachings here and how you conduct yourself in ceremonial spaces, what’s expected of you. The practices are just as important as the day.”

Salmon Ceremony participants

Left to right: 
Kamiakin Craig: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was a baby. Probably around 18-19 years.
Why is it important to you?  It was very important to my grandfather who passed away, Kai Kai. I share his Indian name and I really try to hold up what he was trying to do here with Salmon Ceremony. He loved this and I can remember having fun with him here too, so it’s important to me. 

Andrew Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? 32 years.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for a lot of reasons – just the basic teachings about respecting the salmon, remembering to take care of the salmon and respect those things in nature that sustain our culture and lives. I take Salmon Ceremony very seriously when it comes to the blessing and the spiritual side of it. It’s something that was instilled in me my whole life. I feel like it’s my responsibility to carry and pass down as it’s been given to me.

Arielle Valencia : How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? About a year and a half.
Why is it important to you? I find it important because this was taken away from us and it’s good that we’re reclaiming it and getting back together. Especially since COVID, it kind of struck natives a little harder from our traditional teachings. I feel like this is a good chance to get it all back.
Left to right: 
Lizzie Mae Williams: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was a baby.
Why is it important to you? It’s fun and part of my culture, and I get to hang out with family.

Bill ‘Squall-See-Wish’ Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I’ve been participating since about 1982.
Why is it important to you? Because I am a fisherman and honoring the first salmon that comes back to the bay is very important for cultural reasons. Being a fisherman, I’m the one who wants to catch
that first fish.

C.J. Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was two.
Why is it important to you? Our fish are our people, that’s who we come from. We’re the salmon people of the killer whale clan. Without the killer whales, we wouldn’t be alive, and the salmon helped us survive
for generations. 
Left to right: 
Jackson Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was like one or two.
Why is it important to you? I get to sing songs and it’s really fun. 

Foster Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was seven.
Why is it important to you? Because I can learn new things about our culture.

Teri Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since day one. I was here at the first one when we restarted it back with my father. I was actually here before that when we were sitting around the tables with the elders learning the songs and bringing
it all back.
 Why is it important to you? We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.

Kali Joseph: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Actually not very many years, for like four or five years now.
 Why is it important to you? First of all, it’s so cool being able to gather after all these years of being in isolation and through COVID. It’s important because, like one of the speakers said tonight, salmon is a big part of our way of life. It’s a great way to continue to pass down the teachings and share the meaning of Salmon Ceremony to the youth so it can be around for the next seven generations.
Left to right: 
David Bohme: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I haven’t been in years. This is the first time that I’ve come in a long time.
Why is it important to you? The culture. I’ve been kind of disconnected for a while and the kids are getting older and I want to teach them about the culture, our identity. I brought my daughters down here because I want to get them into it. And I want to get back it into myself, and just keep participating.

Marie Myers: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? It’s been three or four years now.
Why is it important to you? I started participating and getting more involved in my culture since I lost my mom because it helps me feel connected to her. It makes me feel good participating – singing and dancing. I think it’s amazing when the little kids come to the practices, it’s fun to teach them to sing and dance.

Troyleen Johnson: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was 13.
Why is it important to you?  It’s important for me to teach her (Neveah) and my other nieces and nephews about our culture.

Neveah (left): How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? This is my first year!
 Why is it important to you? I haven’t been to Salmon Ceremony yet, but I am excited to learn!
Left to right: 
Image Enick: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Salmon Ceremony was introduced to me when I was a little boy at Quil Ceda Elementary. Me and my friend were introduced to it when we were pretty young. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to peep my head in every now and then, and try to attend the Salmon Ceremony when I can. And if I’m not able to, I try to be at the practices.
Why is it important to you? To understand and learn the songs that have been brought back by the elders, the main songs of the ceremony. It’s also important because I’ve always thought of it as a good way for the young ones to learn the songs and what it is to see and show respect, and to actually see the young ones go out there and dance.

Weston Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Eleven years, since I was two – really since I was born, but I’ve participated as soon as I was able to.
Why is it important to you? Because it’s giving me all the teachings I need and it’s coming from my aunties and uncles. My family is all around me and I am learning all of my teachings.

Josh Fryberg: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
The first time I came to Salmon Ceremony I was probably about nine years old, but the time when I start bringing my family was 2018.
Why is it important to you? The reason it’s important to me is because it’s a part of our culture and we want to preserve it for our future generations while honoring our past generations who kept it alive for each and every one of us. 
Left to right: 
Shoshanna Haskett: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Four years, I used to go when I was little and we’re now getting back into it.
Why is it important to you? It is important for me to be able to teach my kids our culture, our history and I love watching the warriors go out and do their dance.

Shane McLean: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?  Ten years!
Why is it important to you? To pay respects to the salmon that continue to feed us and give us life. To show them respect and honor them the best way we can. 

Ronald Cleveland: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? A couple years now.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for me to pay respect to our elders and the salmon, and I like drumming.

A vote for the levies, is a vote for our kids

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

On February 23, the Marysville School District (MSD) introduced two levies to the community. These typically take place when a school district is needing more funds and property taxes are instilled as a way to subjugate them. The introduced levies from MSD are the Education, Programs & Operations levy, and the Technology & Capital Projects levy.

Though the relationship between Tulalip Tribal members and MSD has wavered for many years, the levies are a way to join forces and make a better environment for students. 

Executive Director of Education, Jessica Bustad spoke about the troublesome relationship, “for years, people within our community have not been satisfied with the District. There’s a lot of pain and trauma around experiences that have happened in public schools. There is a lot of healing that needs to be done, and we have to work through that and make sure that the school district is held accountable. But at the same time, we also have to be supporting our students, and the levies can help do that.”

The Education, Programs & Operations levy is designated to help support smaller class sizes, making it easier for children to get one-on-one attention. It also helps establish programs for students with disabilities. It provides student transportation with more bus stops and shorter bus rides. In addition, it supports the Early Learning Center for pre-k kids, and many of the arts, music, athletics, and various extra-curricular activities.

The Technology & Capital Projects levy is designated to help integrate better technology for students, provide system administrators to oversee the school systems, aid curriculum software and licensing, and provide 24/7 WIFI access across all buildings. 

With the district serving more than 1,200 Native American/Alaskan Native students, with the local Native population primarily consisting of Tulalip tribal citizens, the Tulalip Education Division is a driving force of support.

“This directly impacts our kids and tribal support is crucial. If we can get a high voter turnout from the Tulalip community, then we can impact and sway the vote, just by us exercising our right. We have to do what’s right on behalf of our students and the community,” Jessica said. 

At a community meeting held in the Administration Building, Interim Superintendent Chris Pearson also addressed the unsteady relationship and how MSD is trying to bridge a new path with staff. He discussed the evolution of four new board members, including Superintendent Zachary Robbins and Executive Director of Finance David Cram. Chris went on to say, “there’s been significant change in our upper level positions, and we want to rewrite our story and improve the work that we do.”

One common misperception of levies is how they affect the overall revenue that the schools receive, and why they are a necessity when public schools already receive state and federal funding. According to last year’s revenue chart produced by the District, the federal revenue only makes up for about 14% of the schools funding, state revenue makes up about 68%, Local Non-Tax makes up 1%, misc. other makes up 3%, and still 14% of the school’s revenue comes from must needed property taxes. 

Currently, there is still a healthy number of projects that need to be taken care of to maintain the different schools’ infrastructures. Knowing this, the District is trying to improvise and find ways to get funding elsewhere. Eventually, within the next five years, Chris said they do see themselves having to apply for a bond and completely rebuilding the older schools. Understanding this, they are willing to put some projects to the side in order to keep property taxes lower.

Unfortunately, as Chris also pointed out, enrollment in MSD has declined in recent years. This hurts the schools because they receive a certain amount of money per enrolled child, and as a result of this, some of the state funding has declined as well. This limits the District on how they allocate funds for the schools’ maintenance, building infrastructures, and overall budgeting. Making this a pivotal moment for the schools when establishing funds for the fall. 

Anyone who is registered to vote in the state of Washington and lives within Snohomish county is able to vote yes to pass the levies. Ballots were mailed out on April 7th, and all ballots must be administered into one of the drop box locations by April 26th. The closest drop box to tribal members is located in the Tulalip Youth Center parking lot.

If you or anyone else would like more information about the levies and how beneficial they could be to our tribal students, please reach out to the Tulalip Education Division at 360-716-4909. And don’t forget to vote!

Tulalip Family Wellness Court celebrates first program graduate

By Kalvin Valdillez

“I’m inspired by my own success,” were the words shared by proud mother of young Tulalip tribal members. “I just hit thirteen months of clean time on April 2nd!” Over a year ago, this parent, whose name will be kept anonymous due to legal reasons, thought an accomplishment of this proportion impossible. 

To completely escape the grasp of her addiction, after fighting hard for so many years to kick her habit. To be reunited with, and granted full-custody of, her child who was placed in the care of beda?chelh – that may have in fact been next to impossible over a year ago, or at least felt very close to it.

This determined mother, however, did not give up. While attempting to navigate the childcare system on her own, she suffered a relapse. Around this time, she also discovered she was with child. Now, she not only had to fight for her own wellness and for her kiddo in the system, but she also had to fight for her unborn child to remain in her custody after the birthing process. 

When all the odds seemed stacked against her, a new program debuted in the Tulalip community, and she was one of the first to sign-up and take-part in the now award-winning tribal-based program.

“I remember looking over their pamphlet and thinking I didn’t need the help,” she admitted. “But, at the same time I knew I couldn’t go through the court system by myself either. I remember reading that pamphlet over and over, and Amy [Lettig] (TOCLA Parent Advocate Attorney) telling me about this new program and that I qualified for it. I didn’t know what else to do. My goal was always to get my child back, and so I turned to her and said help me get there.”

Based on the success of the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, minus the criminal and time-serving element, the Family Wellness Court was established in March 2020. The first-of-its-kind court system is 100% volunteer-based and is aimed to support, encourage and assist tribal parents, or parents of tribal members, attain a sober and healthy lifestyle to ultimately reunite them with their children who have an open beda?chelh case. 

“We’re one of the first in the nation to do this as a tribe because we want our people to be healthy, happy and successful,” said Melissa Johnson, Family Wellness Court Coordinator. “We want people to understand it’s different than the standard dependency proceedings that parents involved with beda?chelh go through. With more frequent review hearings in the drug court model, 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.”

Melissa continued, “They have to have an open dependency with beda?chelh. And if they want to work on getting their kids back, they can benefit from our team approach. I think there is an advantage to the team approach – recognizing the successes, strengths and any issues that may arise in real time, rather than waiting. Because with the current dependency proceedings, months can go by between hearings. I think with Family Wellness Court, the courtroom becomes a therapeutic environment. You see that relationship with the judge and the team, it’s not adversarial at all. It’s so much different from when you go to court, and everything seems scary. It’s an alternative to the current dependency proceedings.”

The team approach plays a major role in the Family Wellness Court and in each participant’s recovery journey. The team consists of multiple professionals including Tribal courthouse officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody meeting on a regular basis and on the same page, the client will stay in-compliance and will make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety, if they know exactly what their team expects from them.

It has been one year since the Family Wellness Court held their first hearing and multiple parents are now electing to participate in the intensive, personalized program. And furthermore, many are seeing positive results and are well on their way to reunification with their children.  

“Once I found the Family Wellness Court, I felt like they actually cared,” expressed the anonymous mother. “I know that the biggest part was getting to treatment and with the help of Family Wellness Court, I was able to do that. The assignments kept me busy and focused on my recovery. It was an amazing journey with tribal court. I felt like they cared about me and the kids, and more importantly what was best for the kids. They were encouraging me the whole time. They enjoyed seeing my progress and I felt like I was doing a really good job. It really worked for me. If you do the work, and you follow through with everything, you will be successful.”

On the afternoon of March 30, the Tulalip Family Wellness Court celebrated their very first graduate of the program. The very same mother whose identity will not be released, held the honor of the first person to successfully complete their individualized and intensive plan to recovery and reunification. Through the program she regained custody of her child, she had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and she is living a completely clean life. The mother obtained housing for herself and her babies, she gained employment and is currently attending college and learning the trade of her choosing. She is also active in her children’s traditions and now has a strong understanding of tribal lifeways, as she completed several ‘give back’ hours and participated in cultural events as a requirement to the Family Wellness Court. 

Her team and those presiding over her case were moved to tears during the graduation ceremony as they gathered in the tribal courtroom and met with the mother over Zoom. Due to both the specifics of her case and the worldwide pandemic, she was able to participate in the program remotely while at a treatment center. The courthouse sent her a cake, a number of gifts and an official certificate of completion, which she opened and enjoyed during the ceremony. Her mother, father and oldest child tuned-in to take part in the celebration. And through wavering voices and teary eyes, they shared their awe when reflecting how far she’s come in just a year. Members of her team also took a moment to express their joy in seeing her complete the program.  

Chori Folkman, the Children’s Attorney for TOCLA shared, “Seeing her success today reminds me that the Family Wellness Court process at Tulalip can reunify families – even when it seems hopeless at times. Or a parent, who might have a history with a significant addiction, they can overcome it and get their children back. Even if it’s been a long time since they had that child in their care. Even when it’s really late in the case and it feels like it might be too late. She was able to commit to becoming clean and sober and she was able to get placement of her child and close her case. It shows me that these supports really do work to bring families back together.”

Tribal member Josh Fryberg and two of his daughters offered medicine through traditional song to the mother, as well as some heartfelt and encouraging words. The judge, filled with excitement, showered the mother with applause, praise and compliments, and also a few inside jokes while she recalled all the memories they made together along the way. 

The first Family Wellness Court graduate stated, “The Family Wellness Court made me feel like even if I really failed, or if had a hiccup along the way, they were going to help me get back up and encourage me to keep moving forward. And ever since I came to that realization, I just made sure that I did everything I was supposed to do for the Family Wellness Court, so that I could graduate the program, keep my kids and get my child back.”

Continuing she shared a few words to other parents who are currently battling with an addiction, “The Family Wellness Court will help you get the help that you need. Even though you might not see that you need help right now. They will work with you to make sure you get that help, so that you can be better parents and so you can get your kids back and be good parents to them.”

If you or a loved one is ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification, and willing to take on the intensive but evidence-based model to regain custody of your child, please contact Melissa at (360) 716-4764 for more details.