Tribes and NOAA honor historic site following decommission of Mukilteo Research Station

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Merely feet away from Mukilteo’s new ferry terminal is an abandoned building. With boarded up windows, no trespassing signs, broken glass along the grounds, fire-stained equipment, and a chain-link fence around the facility’s entire property, it’s hard to imagine what once took place in the building. However, the front door of the facility, at the time, stood wide open. And just inside the door was a large sign, that once pristinely stood in front of the property, that reads Northwest Fisheries Science Center Mukilteo Research Station, with a large logo of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The Mukilteo Research Station did research in marine science, aquaculture, eco toxicology, acidification, and such,” explained Deirdre Reynolds Jones, NOAA’s Chief Administrative Officer. “I’ve seen some of their work before they closed the station. They had fish tanks and studied crabs and different species of salmon, how they’re adapting to the environment as it changes – changes in water temperature and changes in chemicals in the water, and how what their eating is affecting their behavior.”

As Deirdre mentioned, the Mukilteo Research Station is now closed after nearly fifty years of operation. During that time, NOAA studied the Salish Sea and all its inhabitants, and their work has helped preserve and protect the local waterways. Because of the environmental and marine science work that they do, NOAA has built great partnerships with the treaty tribes of Northwest over the years.

“We’ve been working with NOAA for quite a while. They’re there to protect the environment and so are we,” expressed Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “They’re out there testing the waters to make sure they are safe for our salmon. We commissioned them to do a count on how many pinniped seals are out there, and we need that information to move forward because they are an invasive species to the salmon. We’ve been working with NOAA for years with our Natural Resources department to make sure the waters are protected.”

Added Deirdre, “We have common goals, and as Chairwoman Gobin summarized, we need to ensure the salmon continue because they are so much a part of the culture here. The culturally significant part of being here is so integral to the mission that we perform.”

 Following a brief rainfall, after close to two weeks of 90-degree summer days, the clouds passed and the sun shone brightly on the abandoned building on the morning of August 1st. Immediately next to the building, there were chairs and a canopy for shade arranged for a small gathering as the officials from NOAA and local tribal leaders, including Swinomish, Suquamish, and Tulalip, met for a unique ceremony. 

“Normally we celebrate a grand opening for a new facility, but today we are acknowledging a change that’s going to happen on this property,” Deirdre said. “They’re going to demolish this facility, so it will be open space for a while. My understanding is that every time there’s a change in property, that’s of cultural significance to the tribal community. We pause to acknowledge we’re going to do something, and to ensure that the land and the ancestors are aware that we’re about to make a change.”

Although the facility has been shut down for over two years, NOAA wanted to invite the signatories of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott to the site before the building is torn down and turned over to the Port of Everett. Before colonization, current day Mukilteo was a place for Coast Salish tribes to gather, and many tribal ancestors lived along the beach community. 

“This land is so important to us,” Teri expressed. “It’s where our ancestors had longhouses. We also signed the Point Elliott Treaty here.”

She continued, “All of our tribes used these waterways like our freeways to go from one place to another, and we have many relatives at all these different tribes. Our people met here together, and all agreed to sign the treaty. By ceding that land, from the water to the mountains, they guaranteed us our treaty rights for the future generations. I’m so glad that our ancestors thought about that when they did that, because they were trying to protect our tribes.”

At 10 a.m. on the dot, tribal members, from all three tribes in attendance, grouped together and sang Harriette Shelton-Dover’s Welcome Song. Each tribe then shared some words, prayers and offered a song in traditional Lushootseed while standing where their ancestors once stood and made a difficult but necessary decision. All the meanwhile, Washington State Ferries and Naval ships passed by in the background, voyaging sacred waters that were once only navigated by cedar canoes. Familiar with the Northwest Native culture, NOAA gifted blankets to each of the speakers throughout the morning, commemorating their partnerships with the tribes. 

The news about the decommission of the research facility was released in 2020. Originally, NOAA planned a full remodel of the building to coincide with the recent facelift the Mukilteo waterfront has undergone. However, due to inflation caused by the aftereffects of the pandemic, NOAA could not afford the cost of construction that would be needed to build the new facility. 

Dierdre explained that the property was once owned by the U.S. Navy. In the 1970’s the Navy transferred the property to NOAA, but the fine print indicated that if NOAA ever shut down the Mukilteo project, the property would then go to the Port of Everett. 

After the demolition of the research station, the Port of Everett is looking to build something that will both compliment the new ferry terminal as well as solve Mukilteo’s traffic and parking issues. According to the Lynnwood Times, the most recent buzz is that a trolly station may be taking the place of the old NOAA facility. 

NOAA plans to continue their research of the Salish Sea and their partnerships with the local tribes and will be fulfilling their work from the Manchester Research Station. 

Dierdre, who traveled across the country from Washington D.C. for the ceremony said she was “completely moved by the songs that were shared and the stories that were told about the ancestors, the great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers who lived on the shoreline.”

Chairwoman Gobin shared, “Being out here and singing those songs, with our friends to the north and south, it was an honor. It felt like our ancestors were here. I know they’re watching us. When we start singing the songs, speaking the language, they gather and they’re here looking over what we’re doing. It was a blessing today. I’m really glad that Swinomish and Suquamish came here to be with us because this is where they came to sign their treaties too.”

Live. Laugh. Lushootseed.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Lushootseed, ancestral language of the modern day Tulalip Tribes, was the supreme language of the land seven generations ago. From the Salish Sea to the Cascade Mountains, from the Nisqually River to Vancouver Island, tribes of the plentiful Pacific Northwest shared a common tongue. Then arrived colonization. Followed by assimilation.

The shared language of the Coast Salish people nearly vanished after decades of brutal treatment inflicted upon generation after generation by the U.S. government and its various forms of enforcement police after the Treaty of Point Elliot was signed. ‘Kill the Indian, save the man’ was the name of the game, and the colonizers played it well.

Various laws and federally enforced policies, such as the Indian Removal Act (1830), Religious Crimes Code (1883) and General Allotment Act (1887), intentionally sought to to strip Native people of their culture and connection to place. It can be argued the most successful part of the assimilation process was boarding schools because the innocent children forced to attend couldn’t defend themselves. Their hair was cut to military standards, their traditional clothes replaced with church designed uniforms, and in horrific fashion they were helpless as they watched classmates beaten for speaking Lushootseed.

In the Declaration of Independence, we are referred to as merciless Indian savages. The use of merciless couldn’t have been more accurate as it foreshadowed a determination and sheer force of will to survive. Yes, colonization happened. Yes, assimilation was effective. However, it can’t be overlooked or understated that our ancestors survived. They were in fact merciless. If they weren’t then we wouldn’t exist today; part of a thriving tribal ecosystem consisting of 574 federally recognized tribes. 

Within that thriving tribal ecosystem exists the Tulalip Tribes’ Lushootseed department tasked with increasing awareness of Lushootseed within the community and beyond, as well as restoring the language to everyday use. This is a colossal undertaking, but one intending to make the ancestors proud. Proud that generational healing is taking place on the same grounds where missionaries and government officials inflicted so much harm. Proud that the same Lushootseed language they were punished, beaten and even jailed for having the audacity to speak while attending boarding school is spoken today by our own culture bearing educators and their spirited students. 

At the 25th annual Lushootseed language camp, which took place from July 11 to July 22 at the Kenny Moses Building, over 120 Tulalip youth became an integral part of Lushootseed revival. Led by our own committed crew of language warriors and their support staff, the children participated in eight different daily activities: technology, weaving, art, play, songs, traditional teachings, games, and play. In doing so, Tulalip’s next generation embraced their culture while learning vital traditional teachings, stories, and, most importantly, the language of their ancestors.

The photos accompanying this article illustrate Tulalip pride and a strength of culture as only our beautiful children can elegantly emit while participating in the annual Lushootseed camp. However, it’s in the words and background stories of their fully self-aware educators where we can grasp what it takes to create such a Lushootseed-rich environment. Educators like Tulalip’s own Sarah Miller, Nik-ko-te “Nikki” Oldham, and their tech guru Dave Sienko have dedicated their livelihoods towards a dream of Lushootseed being spoke at work, in schools, and in the homes of every Tulalip family. 

Sarah Miller

“I became interested in Lushootseed when I was about 15-years-old, when I took a Lushootseed class taught by Toby Langen and Tony Hatch at Pilchuck High School. I had a great time learning and it’s one of my fondest memories of high school. I enjoyed speaking the language and wanted to do more with it, but at the time didn’t know what more I could do. So there was a many-year gap in my language learning. 

Nearly ten years ago, I decided to switch jobs from the newspaper to the language department. I took college level Lushootseed and started teaching preschool kids. It was fun teaching the kids. Eventually I worked my way up to teaching the college level Lushootseed classes, and in doing that, I began to understand the language even more. It is a passion for me. I take every opportunity I can to use the language and to teach it to others.

At this year’s 25th annual Lushootseed camp, my station is Language. Our theme is seasons, so my partner Michelle Schmaus and I teach the kids about the various seasons using Lushootseed. After that, we have the kids decorate the season tree with leaves, snowflakes or flowers, depending on the season. I hope the kids take away from this experience how our ancestors used to live from season to season. I want them to understand that we used to live off the land and the land had everything we needed to survive from season to season.

What I look forward to most about camp is the kids developing a passion and interest in their ancestral tongue. I hope they walk away understanding more about what it means to be Indigenous. I look forward to them taking what they’ve learned home to their families and sharing it. This is how we keep our culture alive. 

Camp time is a wonderful but stressful time because we only get one week with the kids. It’s kind of a rush to teach the kids as much as we can and hope that some of it sticks. I hope the experience is nourishing to their spirits and they will be eager to learn more.

In the future, I’d love to incorporate families into the camp element so the parents can learn their language alongside their children. I think it would strengthen relationships and bonds and further our mission to keep the language alive.”

Nik-ko-te “Nikki” Oldham

“My background with language is a sort of unique because I grew up hearing both Lushootseed and Absentee Shawnee words and phrases spoken by my great grandma, grandparents, aunts, uncles and mom.

  • What time is it? – ʔaləxʷ k̓ʷid
  • Be quiet – x̌ʷubiləxʷ
  • Sit down – gʷədil
  • No – x̌ʷiʔ
  • Drink – sqʷuʔqʷaʔ
  • Knock it off – gʷəƛ̕əlad
  • Dog – sqʷəbayʔ
  • Cat – pišpiš
  • Frog – waq̓waq̓
  • Eagle – yəx̌ʷəlaʔ
  • Deer – sqigʷəc
  • Crap – sp̓əc

These were common words to me at a young age. I have always loved the language, but I became very inspired learning that my great grandma Marya was one of the last fluent speakers.

At this year’s camp, I am managing the weaving station with Jasmyne Diaz. We are teaching the kids to make wool headbands. I hope they learn to never give up, that it’s ok to mess up and start over because that’s the basis for all learning, and the more you practice, the better you get. I also want them to learn our tradition of giving away an item that you made for the first time.

I look forward to seeing everything that the kids create. It’s difficult to describe hearing them speak the language and understand new words, especially for first timers. It makes my heart so happy to see the kids do the closing ceremony play and hear them speak the language. Being a Lushootseed teacher isn’t always easy, but hearing the kids speak the language of those who came before them makes it all worth it.”

Dave Sienko

“I’m just a cog in the team, trying to increase the learning and use of dxʷləšucid. I started in the department 17 years ago when the need was creating resources beyond the archive recordings made by Thom Hess and Leon Metcalf.  We started making CDs and then video recordings of elders. Then we focused on creating our Tulalip Lushootseed website was the next thing we created. Trying to increase the number of language resources available to the community is a key need the department focuses on. 

The biggest challenges over the years has really been the rapidly changing technologies. It’s always a challenge to stay current.

At language camp, I always run the technology station. When I first started, we used older computers, then Nintendo DSi’s, and now we use Samsung tablets. The kids can use a variety of language apps, including the Lushootseed Alphabet app, Lushootseed Phrases, and Word Quizzes, as well as Our Table, a family orientated Language App. Teachers from different stations tell me what they are doing and I try to develop material that focuses on these key items.

Preserving and encouraging the use of the language is one of the most important things about the work we do, and it’s one of the reasons I took the job at Tulalip. I really enjoy working with the younger kids because of their high level of enthusiasm. There are always several camp participants that we witness their growth in the language surge over the week.

For the teachers and camp staff, this is also an opportunity to create or nurture bonds the kids that can last a lifetime.  Watching the youth develop that spark of excitement in speaking dxʷləšucid clearly brings so much joy to not just me, but our teachers and the families as well. When young tribal members grasp the language early, they can develop a happiness and strength from their cultural self-confidence that is truly awe-inspiring. I’m humbled to be a part of this.”

The Lushootseed department has so many resources available for our people who desire to learn their ancestral language beyond the annual youth camp. Their website tulaliplushootseed.com offers videos, common words and phrases, and all sorts of traditional stories told in Lushootseed with accompanying text to follow along. If you’re a more hands-on learner, then Lushootseed staff would remind you that they offer classes through NWIC and community outreach programs. 

Lastly, tribal members are always welcome to stop by the Lushootseed department and ask for hard copies of work books, CDs and various learning materials intended for beginners. It’s never too late to join in on the language warriors’ mission and make your ancestors proud by speaking the same words, in the same syllables they once did.

Rez Dog: A love story

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

What started off as just any other day, on July 20, another stray dog was being posted on the Tulalip tribal members Facebook group. I’ve learned that I’ve grown accustom to seeing the frequently posted ‘found’ pets on the reservation. Whether it be someone’s family dog getting out of their possession, a cat traveling just a little too far, or the unfortunate situations of pets being dumped on the reservation by neglectful owners. 

The gentle giant we now call Lola, had first been posted about around 5:00 p.m., and it wasn’t until 11:00 p.m. at night, as I’m crawling into bed, that I see she had been posted about again. The time stamp between the two posts illustrated that she had been on the streets of Tulalip for at least 6 hours. With a high temperature of 82 degrees that day, it makes you wonder how long she was out wandering for, and how much longer she would made it out there on her own. 

Sweet Lola weighs almost 120 pounds, and is assumed to be a Mastiff of sorts. According to many Mastiff expert sites, Mastiffs also have a very low tolerance for hot and humid weather, and are prone to suffer from heat strokes and overheating. Even in situations of a causal stroll outside, their short snouts make it difficult for them to breathe. So in cases of increased temperatures, Mastiffs have twice the likeliness to overheat and die than a dog like a Labrador that have longer snouts.

After spending about 30-45 minutes searching for her, we found her. She unfortunately had no collar, or any leads as to who she might belong to.  She looked exhausted, and was panting heavily. She was not interested in any food, only the water that we had brought for her. She easily climbed into the kennel, already entrusting that we were there to help and were her new safe place.

The next few days consisted of us acclimating her into our home and with our other two dogs. We quickly went out to buy her a bed of her own, and a collar. We scanned her at two different shelter locations looking for a microchip, took her to the vet for a wellness check, and have posted abundantly on lost pet sites/groups/pages, and registered her as a ‘found’ pet at the Snohomish County animal shelter. In the midst of all the chaos, she quickly adjusted into our home and her personality began to unfold more and more every day. After all our efforts, no owners have come forward, making us ponder the question, was she dumped?

Unfortunately, the pandemic brought a multitude of problems for people in the world, but is also created an opportunity for all their pets. With everyone being forced to stay home, pets were receiving the most attention from their owners that they’ve ever had, and some families even took this as time to build their fur families. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), with more than 23 million American households, nearly 1 in 5 nationwide adopted a pet during the pandemic. 

But since many government restrictions have since lifted, and people have started to go back to in-person work, pet owners are facing the harsh realities of the expenses, time, and effort that it takes to take care of a pet while working a full-time job. Now having to worry about paying for dog walkers and pet sitters to watch their pets while they’re at work, or on vacation. And with many dog boarding and daycares being waitlisted months out, many people are being forced to find other options like a friend or loved one that will take the time and effort to watch their pet. 

People are also realizing the difference in costs of food from an adolescent pet to an adult pet. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, people get caught in the excitement of having a new pet, but lose sight of the many years of commitment and love that a pet requires, and because of this are left with pets they can no longer take care of. But as something to keep in mind about pets, wildlife photographer, writer, and wildlife preservationist Roger Caras said, “They might only be here a part of our lives, but to them you are their whole life”.

In any case, where there is a lost/found pet or someone is looking to forfeit their pet, the Tulalip Police Department is able to help. In these situations, Tribal members can call the Tulalip Police Department dispatch team and Animal Control will come pick up the dog and take it to the Everett Animal Shelter. The department also has a contract with the Everett Animal Shelter, so tribal members have direct access. If a tribal member can see that the dog is safe to go near, they can pick the dogs up themselves and take them to the Everett Animal Shelter and the shelter will bill the tribe and cover all the cost of turning in the pet. 

When asking Sgt. Chris Gobin from the Tulalip Police Department how often lost/found pets get reported he said, “At least half a dozen calls a week.” He continued to talk about how much of a safety issue this is, “There’s always a possible threat of dogs being vicious and biting someone who is out running, or kids who are playing. They can sometimes attack other people or other pets. But it’s also a safety issue for the dog. A lot of times dogs will run into the streets not seeing cars and get hit by them, or they risk themselves get attacked by another dog that’s running loose.”

Though there are no laws pertaining to pets consistently running loose, the tribe does have its own animal code surrounding issues like animal neglect.  Chris said, “Some cases it’s just about us helping educate someone on how much dogs should be getting fed, how much shelter they need, or how often they need to exercise. But if a tribal member has found a missing dog or a dog they feel like they can’t take care of, they can contact the police department and we can help surrender the dog to the animal shelter at no cost to them.”

When thinking about how often these situations happen out on the reservation, it makes you wonder, how can we prevent lost and found pets and any possible neglect? Some helpful resolutions include getting pets neutered/spayed, microchipped, and providing fencing for the pet. Spay and neuters are helpful because they stop the rapid reproduction of litters that are produced and people are not able to take care of. Microchips are helpful is the case of lost/found pets because its acts like an ID tag inside of a pet where the owner can be more easily found and contacted. And fencing created a physical barrier to lessen the likeliness that a pet can get outside of your property. 

Recently, in the efforts to help with these solutions, the Tribal Police Department has partnered with a non-profit called Pasado’s Safe Haven. Together, the Police Department and Pasado’s provide events for tribal members to bring their pets, receive free spay/neuters, and vaccines and microchipping for just a $10 copay. With four events already successfully held, the department plans to continue with more. 

What seems like easy solutions for such a reoccurring problem, may still be hard for some, but the Tulalip Police Department is here to help mitigate the needs of these animals. For anyone needing help with an animal, or dealing with a lost and found pet, please call the Tulalip Police Department dispatch at (360) 716 – 4608. 

And though after searching high and low for Lola’s owners and having no such luck, we are still continuing to keep her safe in our home, where she lives an active, loving, and fulfilled life.

Tulalip hosts ballot parties to help amplify Native voices

Next party happening August 1

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

If you happened to visit the Tulalip Administration Building on July 18, you may have heard the unmistakable sound of laughter, that only Indigenous aunties and cousins can seem to produce, erupting from the first-floor conference room. For some much-needed relief from the everyday grind, about thirty Tulalip tribal members and employees trickled into room 162 during their respective breaks throughout the day to see a few familiar faces, have a few laughs, and to cast their ballots for the 2022 political races. 

“I love Tulalip’s ballot parties,” exclaimed Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip tribal member and former Native American Political Director for the Democratic Party. “As soon as people get their ballots, they start asking where’s the ballot party and when is it? Tulalip constantly doing ballot parties is empowering our citizens and saying that your voice actually does matter, and that individual vote does count, as well as removing all the barriers to make it as easy as possible.”

During election season, Tulalip regularly holds ballot parties for not only their membership, but also their citizenship and employees. By taking something like voting, that may otherwise seem like a chore to some, the Tribe turns it into a social gathering where people can drop in, have a snack, and share a few ‘ayyyees’ with their relatives and community. 

Although it is a party, and good times are had all around, some very important work is also happening during the ballot parties. With laptops, tablets and printers at the ready, the crew working the event, which includes the Tribe’s Events Coordinator Malory Simpson and the Tribe’s Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs Ryan Miller, takes the time to assist individuals with voting registration and online voting. And if somebody requests additional information regarding the voting process or has general inquiries about the election, they are always willing to share their expertise. This thereby creates and increases well-informed votership at Tulalip. 

The hope is that in turn, those voters will tell their people about the next ballot party and the votership and Native voice will continue to amplify each election season. And that is important if we want to impact change and bring attention to some of the topics and issues that are taking place on tribal lands in both the Northwest region and throughout the nation. 

“Every election they say it’s the most important time to vote. But right now, when you see white nationalists running for office, it’s so important that we use our voice by voting,” said Theresa. 

In 2018, a NCAI voting movement called Native Vote came to Indian Country and toured reservations throughout the states. Their mission was to increase the Native votership overall by providing voting access to the Native American population, so that tribal members nationwide could easily place their votes. Many states do not allow voting by mail or online and require you to visit the nearest polling station during elections. And more often than not, those polling stations are located miles away from the reservation. Another issue that effects the Native votership are bogus laws stating that tribal-IDs are not an acceptable form of identification, or that you must have a permanent address and cannot list a P.O. Box in order to register to vote. Never mind the fact that most reservations utilize the post office box system as their primary option to send and receive mail, and that USPS or even companies like Amazon do not deliver to the residence of those tribal members because their home may not even have a physical address. 

The Native Vote movement, and recurring local ballot parties such as Tulalip’s, helps many Indigenous citizens by assisting them through the registration process during each of their gatherings. According to the most recent study that the Native Vote included in their 2018 brochure, 34% of the Native population who were eligible to vote at the time, were not registered. Of course, that number may have changed throughout the past four years but the problem of voter suppression in Native America still remains a problem. 

With the knowledge that the Native vote has one of the lowest turnouts in mind, the ballot party team offers to check to see if the people who attend the party are currently registered to vote. If an individual is not registered, the crew makes sure to walk them through that process. Many people arrive with their ballots already filled out and sealed, and after the event, the crew turns the ballots in for those voters. If somebody is registered to vote and they do not have their ballot on-hand or did not receive their ballot at all, the ballot party crew offers them a laptop or a tablet so they can log on and place their vote through the wonders of technology.  

Ryan stated, “We want to get people registered to vote, we’re not here to tell people how to vote. They can vote however they want. But a big part of our push is that the Tribe wants not just it’s members, but it’s employees and all the people in our community to exercise their right to vote. We’re lucky that we live in a state where you can register to vote in multiple different ways – you can register in person at most government buildings, you can register by mail, you can also register online as long as you have a driver’s license. 

“There was a law passed a couple years ago, that said that you’re supposed to be able to register to vote online with a tribal-ID. But there’s been some problems with implementation. So, we’re in the process with the Secretary of State, whose position is up for election right now, to make that a reality so that our tribal members who don’t have driver’s licenses can still register to vote online without having to go do it in person or do it by mail, which takes more time and that usually means that people are less likely to do it. All we’re trying to do is just make voting as accessible as possible and give people as much information as we can so they can make educated decisions for themselves.”

As we covered a few paragraphs ago, Native American voter suppression is an obstacle that we are trying to get through, and since that 2018 study it would appear that we are beginning to show up when it matters most. Over the past couple years, we have seen several Indigenous leaders rise to positions where they can affect change on a congressional level and our voice can be heard on issues that are important to our people such as defending tribal sovereignty, protecting Mother Earth, and ensuring that all the MMIWP victims and survivors receive justice. US Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland recently vowed to uncover all the unmarked graves of the children from the boarding school era, and she also created a Missing and Murdered Unit within the BIA to help find and bring home all of our missing relatives. Ryan shared that the Native vote actually played a big role in the last presidential election.

He said, “There’s a lot of really recent evidence that shows that the Native vote is super important, including the presidential election in 2020. The swing states that went for Biden and made sure that Trump wasn’t going to be reelected, were really won by the Native communities and the Black communities in those states. Like Arizona for example, there was a huge Native population there. And if you look at the numbers, they voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. Georgia – same thing, the Black and Native population there, and in Michigan, Minnesota, tons and tons of Native people over there, and they made a huge difference. Those are the kinds of examples that show us how much power we actually have.”

Here at home, if the Native vote shows out at Tulalip like it has within other Indigenous territories, we have a chance to send in another one of our heavy hitters to the political equivalent of the big leagues. If you live within the 38th District, which encompasses the Tulalip reservation as well as parts of Everett and Marysville, you may recognize a name on this year’s ballot. Tulalip tribal member, treaty defender and environmental icon, Daryl Williams, is running for Washington State representative. Daryl has decades of experience under his belt, working in the Tulalip Natural Resource’s Treaty Rights Office for over forty years. In that position, he was instrumental in making sure that bill proposals did not violate treaty rights before they hit the senate floor. Daryl’s vast amount of knowledge and hands-on experience makes him the perfect candidate to follow the blueprint which John McCoy left behind upon his recent retirement. 

“On a local level, the tribal members who live in the 38th (district) have an opportunity this year to vote for a Tulalip tribal member to represent them in the state legislature,” explained Ryan. “That is something that we had for many years in John McCoy, first as our representative and then as our State Senator. I think we took for granted having someone there who can speak about tribal values and represent us in that way. We now have an opportunity to have that again. John retired a few years ago, and we haven’t really had that in the state legislature since.”

He continued, “Representation matters. Not just for getting the policies done that help protect tribal sovereignty and tribal treaty rights, and all the social services that the tribes provide, but also for our youth to look and see that this is something that they can do in the future. When I was a kid, we never saw a Native person elected to anything. It never even crossed my mind that that was a possibility. And then, of course, John gets elected, and I think that was the first time, for a lot of Native kids, that they saw somebody who looked like them and who was elected to something. I think there’s so many reasons why that representation is important, and we have to take those opportunities where we can.”

The Tulalip Tribes will be hosting one more ballot party on August 1st, the day before the primary election, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you are planning to vote online, be sure to bring your driver’s license to the party. And as always, there will be some fun door prizes and a raffle for those who simply drop by and say hi. So be sure to visit Malory and Ryan in Admin Room 162 and get your vote on.

After delivering her ballot, Theresa shared, “It was great to be able to vote for Daryl Williams today. It’s beautiful to be able to be a part of that and to support him. And hopefully seeing a candidate who’s representing Tulalip and running for state legislature, inspires everyone to turnout, fill out their ballots, turn in their votes, and get out there and support him.”

Reclaiming a narrative: 39 Tulalips honored for higher education success

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Every time a Native American graduates from a university, community college or vocational school, they become the living embodiment of what it means to reclaim a narrative. For so long Native students were shut out of academic environments where they could tell their own stories and advocate for their teachings, traditions and thriving cultures. 

When it comes to Native Americans and education, the dominant narrative is we can’t succeed in a westernized education system. United States census data supports this notion by showing that while more than 65% of American high school students go to college, just 19% of Native students continue their education after high school. In an age where education is an important cornerstone for self-sufficiency and quality of life, only 13% of tribal citizens age 25 and older hold a college degree. 

That narrative is being reclaimed and rewritten by present day Indigenous scholars who are actively working to decolonize education pathways, not just for themselves but for future generations as well. On the evening of July 12, thirty-nine such proud Tulalip scholars were celebrated for their commitment to higher education and, in the process, breaking the erroneous, often-cited stereotype that Natives don’t succeed on the collegiate level. 

“You’ve all put in so much hard work and countless hours of studying to earn your degrees. We are so proud of you for choosing to better yourself, your family and your future through education,” said Chairwoman Teri Gobin during the Higher Ed graduation banquet. “As a Tribe, we know we need to be better at utilizing your brilliant minds and supports our college graduates. As we continue to grow our business operations and evolve as a tribal government, we want you to feel welcomed to build a career with us.”

It was a powerful moment as the words washed over the graduates as they sat with their support system of family and friends in the Tulalip Resort’s orca ballroom. Hopefully many of the graduates will consider finding their place within Tulalip’s vast enterprise that continues to grow larger every year. 

For some of the graduates, they are already working diligently to carve out a meaningful role on their traditional homelands. Two such examples are homegrown products Joseph Boon and Angela Davis. Both managed to balance a busy home life with multiple kid and a fulltime job with their tribe (Joseph with Youth Services and Angela with Tulalip Police), with a steady diet of college course work. For their immense efforts, Joseph received an associate’s degree from Northwest Indian College, while Angela earned a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. 

Another shining example is 22-year-old Ruth Pablo. She has overcome so many obstacles and barriers, while remaining steadfast in her commitment to better self and community. In fact, her passion for instilling positive change amongst today’s youth can be traced back to 2015 when she was elected secretary of Tulalip’s very first Youth Council. Now, she’s a graduate of Northwest Indian College and intends to find her role in empowering the next generation of young leaders.

“I’d like to have a long and fulfilling career working with tribal youth,” said Ruth. “It’s so important to elevate their voices because they have so much to say, but unfortunately they aren’t given much of a platform. They tribe has done a lot for our youth, but still lack in some areas. One such area is providing a space for our kids to be comfortable speaking their truth about the most difficult aspects of being a tribal member in our community. I’d love to be given an opportunity to use my education to help create that space and give our kids the opportunity to speak in a way they truly deserve.”

While the vast majority of the higher ed graduates wore stunning cedar caps, made by Carmen Burke and gifted to them by the Tribe, Ruth pivoted in another direction. She made her own cap for this special occasion. Adorned with evergreen fern, an assortment of roses, and a prominent butterfly in its center, Ruth explained that her cap was meant to express one of her favorite quotes: “Bloom where you are planted.”

The higher education class of 2022 included 6 Associate’s degrees, 11 Bachelor’s degrees, 5 Master’s degrees and one very impressive PhD courtesy of newly minted doctor of philosophy, Dana Krsnada. Seven vocational diplomas and 9 high school diplomas rounded out the 39 Tulalip honorees. 

“There is such a sense of pride and accomplishment with this group because many of our graduates are the first in their family to graduate college,” explained Jeanne Steffener, higher education specialist. “We love to see so many choosing to continue their education in pursuit of a master’s degree or PhD. Their continued success motivates us as a department to do more outreach because we’re seeing more and more excel at the next level. Our graduates’ accomplishments are so superb and worth celebrating.” 

The importance of recapturing the story about Natives and education requires telling it anew with bold new characters and captivating subplots. Unquestionably, it will take a new generation of Native storytellers who have the ancestral knowledge and progressive savviness to unapologetically express our shared cultural values in all new ways. They must become trailblazers for those who came before them and those yet to come. 

Armed with a master’s of science degree in art therapy, Tulalip citizen Antonia Ramos is such a trailblazer. For her incredible courage to leave the friendly confines of Salish territory and tend to her undergraduate studies in Utah at Brigham Young University before moving on to Florida State, Antonia was chosen as a student speaker.

“My educational journey took me from Washington to Utah then to Florida. It’s difficult to express what it’s like being an Indigenous scholar in such a non-Indigenous environment. But at the end of the day, I love my education, I love the field I went into, and I love that now I’m home putting my education to good use,” beamed Antonia, who works as mental wellness therapist for her Tulalip community. 

“Art is so strong, so powerful. It’s so much more than even the word medicine can describe,” she added. “For Indigenous people art is so innate. We are drawn to art when we are celebrating, praying, gathering and healing. And it only made sense for me to heal generational trauma, to heal the mind and spirit in the same ways we’ve always done. In my striving to make therapy Indigenous and welcoming to our people, it only made sense to bring art into that.”

Native graduate stories are as complex and diverse as the students themselves. It’s often a longer, tougher road for Tulalip adults pursuing their education, which is all the more reason to celebrate their accomplishments. Such is the case with 54-year-old Tracie Stevens who managed to balance her mother role, path of sobriety and discovering her career pathway in management consulting with her ambition to become as educated as possible. Her fellow tribal members listened intently as she detailed her long and arduous journey to receiving an Executive Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington.

“What an extraordinary experience to share this space with all my fellow graduates as we are celebrated for our collective and individual academic achievements,” shared Tracie as one of the two keynote, student speakers. “Our people’s history is filled with the U.S. government’s perverse interpretation of the education provision in our treaties. Concepts like boarding schools, the doctrine of discovery and manifest destiny were used to justify the governments by all means necessary approach to eradicate or assimilate our ancestors. 

“Yet, here we are today in defiance of the U.S. government’s effort to diminish us, to assimilate us, and to eradicate us,” she continued. “Not only have we survived, but more importantly, we are thriving. In our own communities, we are supported by education while actively preserving our culture, our traditions and our ways of life.”

After honoring the latest cohort of college graduates, Tulalip Higher Education staff are eager to help new and returning students find their path to academic success. They can assist with FAFSA applications and finding scholarship opportunities, as well as simply reviewing the Tribe’s current policies regarding paying for college and other educational programs. For those Tulalip citizens feeling empowered to help reclaim our education narrative, please contact Higher Education at (360) 716-4888 or email highered@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

2022 UNITY Conference: “You are not future leaders; you are our leaders of today” 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A fire was ignited in the heart of downtown Minneapolis on the morning of July 8. Over one hundred Indigenous youth, hailing from tribal nations throughout the country, approached that fire adding their choice of sage, cedar, or tobacco, and guided its smoke over their bodies head-to-toe while saying a prayer. 

“We ask every one of you young people to stand in prayer. Vocalize a prayer. Join us in prayer,” said the UNITY Fire Keeper, Sleepy Eye LaFromboise (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota). “We’re going to send out a spiritual energy here in Minneapolis. We’re going to unite today. Each and every one of you relatives, we’re going to ask you to pray for our water, to pray for our fire, for the air we breathe, for Mother Earth, to pray for our medicines – the plants, the animal kingdom. We come from a long line of people who knew the fire, the water, the earth. No matter who you are, where you come from, it’s in us. We’re asking you all to unite in prayer as we sing this song and start the fire. We’re going to keep this fire burning. We’re going to bring healing to our nations, to our communities, to the world.” 

A group of Ojibwe women carefully brought out a basin of water and gathered near the fire. They carefully placed the basin on a drum bag and offered a song in their traditional Anishinaabemowin language.

“The song we’re going to sing is for the water ceremony,” explained Little Spruce (Cecilia Stevens). “There are so many different ways to honor and celebrate our water. As we’re singing that song, we’re petitioning to that water spirit and we’re praying for it. This water song comes from Doreen Day and her grandson. They would sing ‘water I love you, I thank you and I respect you.’ It’s honoring the directions but it’s also honoring the different realms we live on, the earth, the sky, the universe and what’s beyond there.”

The honoring of the elements ceremony officially kicked-off a five-day conference designed to uplift, inspire, and provide young Indigenous leaders with all the tools, support, and encouragement to be strong and impactful leaders of their respective tribes. The United National Indian Tribal Youth Conference, more popularly known as UNITY, is held every summer in different cities throughout the country and is open to tribal youth councils and Native youth who are between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four. 

Amongst the crowd witnessing the water ceremony and the lighting of the UNITY fire, was Tulalip Youth Council’s Vice-President, Faith Valencia. After a day of travel and waking up early in a different time zone, Faith was glad that she attended the ceremony.

Faith stated, “That ceremony made me feel better. It was really cool hearing other Natives speak their languages. I witnessed a lot of young Native people listening and being respectful to the elders who had a lot to share and say.”

UNITY was originally established in the late 70’s and has played a big role in shaping young Indigenous leaders ever since. Traditionally, the UNITY Fire remains lit throughout the entire duration of the five-day conference and acts as a safe space where conference attendees can visit and offer prayers. However, due to Minneapolis laws and fire regulations, the UNITY Fire was to be extinguished following the opening ceremony. 

Said Sleepy Eye, “We’re going to be using the water throughout the conference. We’re going to have the rooms near the convention center where we’re going to keep this bucket of water. We’re going to have teachings, songs, dances, and stories around the water. We’re going to carry a flame from this fire. We’re going to light a candle and we’re going to keep that candle burning throughout this entire conference. At the last day of the conference, we’re going to come back here and going to start the fire again. This is a whole new way that we have to do this, but our people are resilient. Our people always find a way to make things happen. We never turn our back to the water. We never turn our back to the fire.”

Although there was close to two hundred in attendance of the water and fire ceremony, that was nothing compared to how many were registered for the event. In total, there was close to 2,000 young Indigenous leaders who signed up for UNITY. At the first major gathering of the conference, the youth were asked to wear their traditional regalia and take part in a Grand Entry. Youth Council members entered the main auditorium of the Minneapolis Convention Center draped in shawls, jingle dresses, headdresses, cedar hats, and beaded jewelry. Some youth councils proudly carried their tribe’s flag as they circled the auditorium.

Following the grand entry, the youth took their seats and were welcomed by Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe). The U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, recorded a special video massage which was received with thunderous applause and whistles from the youth. The first day of UNITY closed with the star-studded Indigenous Actors in Film Panel which featured Kiowa Gordon (Hualapai) of the Dark Wind TV Series, Stormee Lee Kipp (Shoshone-Bannock and Blackfeet) of the upcoming Predator movie Prey, and Mato Wayuhi (Oglala Lakota) composer of the TV series Reservation Dogs.  

Chance Rush (Hidatsa), a longtime motivational speaker in Indian Country, was one of the main emcees of the conference and dropped many jewels for the youth throughout the week. “I know a lot of you hear that you are future leaders. You are not future leaders; you are our leaders of today. You’re our leaders right now. There are people who are having a great time. There are individuals here who are striving to put themselves on another level. There are individuals here who are trying to figure out their purpose. There are some individuals here who are struggling, and this is their hope. They came to Minneapolis to sit amongst 1700+ relatives.”

The next morning, the youth arrived at the auditorium wearing their ribbon skirts and shirts. Before the morning’s general session began, the youth were invited on-stage to walk the runway in true model fashion. Many young leaders relished the spotlight and took the opportunity to strike a pose for our camera. 

Arawyn Dillon of the Yakama Nation expressed, “That was really beautiful. It was amazing to see everyone’s ribbon skirts and shirts and all the different styles. This is new for me and it’s beautiful that we’re all gathered here in this space and we’re not the minority for once. Seeing everybody here makes my heart happy. These are my people, and this is truly an amazing experience.”

The keynote speaker on the second day of UNITY was none other than Chef Pyet DeSpain (Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian Nation), who was the first winner of the national TV Series, Next Level Chef. She shared her journey of becoming a chef with the youth as well as some great advice on finding your path in life. 

Said Chef Pyet, “Remember that it’s okay to be your true authentic self. It’s okay to show the world you’re brown and proud. It’s okay to take a risk, even if it might look scary, you never know where it leads you. Most importantly, it’s so crucial that you don’t forget your roots and you don’t forget your whys at the end of the day. Every day from this point forward, when you wake up, I want to challenge you to ask yourself ‘who do I want to be?’ Not just in the future, but who do I want to be today. Do you want to be the best daughter, the best brother or sister, do you want to be the best version of yourself? Really think about it because that’s what’s called setting an intention. When you start showing up as your best self every single day, and you’re brown and proud, things will start falling in to place for you.” 

Every year, UNITY hosts a three-on-three basketball tournament during the conference. This year’s tournament was held at a local high school gym. The tournament’s sign-up sheet filled up quickly and over thirty teams competed for the title of UNITY champs. 

It was all smiles, even after an early round knockout, for young Korban Bennett. “We played against the bear team, and they did pretty good,” he shared. “We end up losing to them, but it was still a lot of fun. Traveling from California to Minnesota to be among my people, and playing basketball with them on top of that, is just so awesome!” 

The second day of UNITY was jampacked with fun and it did not end with the three-on-three basketball tournament. After a dinner intermission, the large group of young Native leaders reconvened at the main auditorium once more for the UNITY talent show. Over twenty young adults showed-off their creative side on stage and delivered an entertaining evening for their peers. The crowd cheered loud for the talented acts and even danced and sang along to a couple of numbers. There were many singers, who sang everything from traditional songs to modern country, pop, R&B and hip-hop. There was also a guitarist who shredded, a comedian who told some great dad jokes, poets who shared their powerful messages, a speed painter who brought awareness to the MMIWP movement through her art, a boxer who showed off her jabs and uppercuts, and a traditional dancer who moved about the stage in full regalia.

The showstopper of the evening was a young singer from the Spokane Tribe of Indians named Isaac Tonasket. Isaac, who lives a completely sober lifestyle, sang the popular country hit Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton. He captivated the spectators with his vocals, and immediately people left their seats to rush the stage and share a slow dance while Isaac brought down the house. 

“I told my auntie that by the end of this conference everyone was going to know my name,” Isaac exclaimed. “That was such a cool experience because I’ve only sang in front of a decent crowd twice. That talent show, though, as soon as that beat dropped, everyone went crazy. Then I started singing, and they all went crazy again and everyone started dancing. That makes me feel good, like I’m doing my job, I’m making these people happy and that’s what I love doing.”

He continued, “It feels so good coming out here and seeing all the kids willing to learn and make a change for their ways and all our people. I really want to promote staying sober. Most kids, especially out on the rez, start drinking and smoking at a super-duper young age. When I tell people that I never drank and don’t do drugs, people are always so impressed. That’s one big thing that I really want to promote because drugs and alcohol has such an impact on our Native communities.”

UNITY held their first day of workshops on the third day of the conference. The youth received the opportunity to engage and learn in classes such as Plants: Our Sacred Medicine, Poetry Changes the World, Runaway Toolkit and Must-Knows, Bringing Language and Culture into Our Youth Council, Food as Medicine, Native American Storytelling through Performance, Talking Circle: Centering 2-Spirit & LGBTQ+ Identity and Experiences, Drum Beats and many others.

After the first-round of workshop sessions, the National UNITY Council Business Meeting was held. All the youth council reps from each region met to give reports about the work their youth council has done in their respective homelands over the past year, as well as vote on the new UNITY Executive Committee Members. Jonathon J. Arakawa (Elwha) was re-elected as the UNITY NW Region Rep. The third day of UNITY ended with a Gala night. The young adults were dressed to the nines for an evening of entertainment, a delicious multi-course meal, and dancing. 

More workshops were scheduled for day four of UNITY, but before the kids dispersed to the conference rooms, a Native Activism Then and Now panel was held on the main stage. Seated next to each other were three iconic and powerful Indigenous matriarchs – Winona LaDuke (Ojibwe), Madonna ThunderHawk (Oohenumpa Band of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), and Judith LeBlanc (Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma) who all shared their stories and a bit of their wisdom with the youth. After an insightful and riveting conversation, the Tulalip Youth Council gathered at the side of the stage to offer the Honor Song to the ladies before they exited the stage.

That moment was the first time that many tribal youth witnessed the traditions of a Coast Salish tribe, which set the stage and built some excitement for later that evening during UNITY Culture Night. 

Fashioned once more in their traditional attire, about thirty tribal youth councils showcased their songs, dances, stories, histories, and games during culture night. The cultural exchange provided the opportunity for young Natives from other nations to experience the teachings and traditions that are upheld on different reservations. Many dances that were shared during culture night were social dances and everybody in the crowd was invited to join in. Tulalip was among those who participated in culture night. offering two songs. NW Region Rep, Jonathan joined Tulalip during their time slot. The crowd was fully engaged and whooped-it-up when the Tulalip youth dancers hit the floor. 

On the fifth day of the conference, James Anderson (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe) held the honor as the last keynote speaker of UNITY ‘22. He reminded the young leaders to always bring high energy to everything they do each and every day. Juanita “Moonstar” Toledo (Pueblo of Jemez) closed the conference with a powerful and lyrical performance and had the youth out of their seats and waving their hands in the air. The UNITY Fire was lit once again, and people bid their farewells after saying their prayers and offering their cedar, sage, or tobacco to the fire. Filled with optimism and inspired to create change on their reservations, the Indigenous youth parted ways with promises of meeting next summer at the 2023 UNITY Conference in Washington D.C.  

“It felt heartwarming seeing everyone gathering in a place where we all felt comfortable with each other, knowing that we all struggle with the same things,” said Tulalip Youth Council member, Arielle Valencia. “We all went through genocide. I felt comfortable being around people who understand me. Just knowing that everyone here will be there for you, it felt good. It was awesome.”

In the next couple issues of the syəcəb, Tulalip News will continue providing stories from the UNITY Conference including a conference recap with the Tulalip Youth Council. Also, Tulalip’s very own social media influencer, Faith Iukes, attended UNITY this year and worked behind the scenes to create social media content for both her channels and UNITY’s official pages. Stay tuned as we catch up with Faith and talk about her experience at UNITY.

Teachings of the Cedar tree

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since time immemorial, Coast Salish people have maintained an interdependent relationship with the luscious, green forests and powerful, 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 Creator’s many gifts. 

The Tulalip Tribes teach their citizens at a young age how the Creator gave them Cedar to sustain their lifeways. Out of respect for that everlasting connection, prayer is offered to honor the tree’s spirit before harvesting its sacred bark, branches and roots for traditional medicines, clothing, and various crafts. 

“Pray, pull, peel …it’s so peaceful being out [in our traditional homelands]. Being disconnected from the busyness of daily life is refreshing and the silence is healing,” reflected Natosha Gobin after her time spent walking in the shadows of her ancestors in the dense Pacific Northwest woodlands, harvesting cedar. “It’s amazing to watch the experienced ones of the group pull strips and separate them with ease. This is just one of the many ways to stay connected with not only each other but our ancestors. This is how we keep their teachings alive.”

Cedar is an evergreen tree that grows with towering abundance in our local forests. It is viewed as a strong medicine as it nurtures and protects many properties associated with our modern-day ceremonies, such as Salmon Ceremony, Treaty Days and coastal jams. 

For countless generations, Cedar was the perfect resource; providing the means to create tools, baskets, carvings, canoes and, yes, even baby diapers to our ancestors. That’s without mentioning its robust use for medicinal and spiritual purposes, as used to in purifying essential oils, tasty teas, and healing balms. 

The teachings of the Cedar tree have survived genocide, colonialism and forced assimilation. Even now, as our communities are still healing from traumas inflicted by a global pandemic, many tribal members look to their cultural foundations for hope and strength. Armed with ancestral knowledge, we know regardless of the adversary, our traditions will persevere.

“I love being in the forest because it’s my second home,” said Cedar weaver virtuoso Jamie Sheldon. “As Tulalip, nature is our number one priority. Being in the forest calms the spirit, with all the sights and sounds of the forest bringing 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 annual Cedar harvest coordinated by the Tribe’s Forestry Division and Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources. 

Although the circumstances of the past few summers may be unusual, the expectations remain the same – those whose lifeblood is woven with golden strips of Cedar must have their Treaty-protected time in the forest to harvest.

Mid-June to mid-July is ideal harvesting season because that’s when Cedar sap is running with a consistency of water, making the bark pulls easy for Elders and kiddos alike. Tribal members of all ages know the wondering feeling associated with a beautiful 70-foot Cedar pull. 

Master weavers, elders, and youth alike echo the same Cedar harvesting techniques employed by their ancestors. With an axe or saw and carving knife, they skillfully remove strips of bark from the tree. They then shave off a small section of the rough bark, revealing a smooth, golden inner layer that is then further separated into strips or shredded for finely used weaving material. 

After harvest, the Cedar strips are typically laid out to dry for six-months to a year before being utilized for skillfully crafted baskets, hats and other ceremonial regalia, like capes, skirts and headbands. 

“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 as it rustles the tree leaves, and the birds chirping just calms my spirit and gives me energy to continue on,” described Sara Andres. She uses her harvested materials for naming ceremonies and donations to Hibulb Cultural Center’s weaving Wednesdays. 

A contingent of local Natives from surrounding Tribes were given the opportunity to learn the essentials of Cedar harvesting this year thanks to the nonprofit Indigenous Beginnings and their support from Tulalip artists Mike and Rae Anne Gobin. 

Many Native youth also participated in this season’s harvest, gathering Cedar strips for Elders and learning invaluable techniques for separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For some it was their very first trip to gather Cedar, while for others it was another step in the continual journey to reconnect with spirits of past generations.

“So thankful for Natural Resources and the Rediscovery Program who constantly advocate and work hard so we can have access to gathering locations,” said Theresa Sheldon while using a carving knife to meticulously strip her Cedar. “Their work is appreciated and much needed as more and more traditional areas are being gated off and made harder to access. 

“Taking our children out to learn how our people harvested Cedar is a gift,” she continued. “We are able to share with our young ones that our people have always cared for the grandmother Cedar trees and in return they care for us by providing clothing and protection from the elements. Appreciating each other, sharing our energy together, and respecting our ancestors by teaching our children how to value nature is who we are as a people.”

Those same traditional teachings are practiced today and continue to thrive being passed down to from one generation to the next. Teachings of the powerful Cedar tree remain obtainable to the Coast Salish peoples as they continue to journey into their ancestral woodlands and gather red and yellow cedar. 

Our annual cedar harvests are made possible by collaborative efforts between multiple parties and agencies, both internally within Tulalip Natural Resources and externally with Washington State’s DNR. To ensure continued opportunities for the Tulalip citizenry and our local partners, arrangements are typically made a year in advance to properly plan and secure harvesting sites.

Coast Salish tribes’ cyclical relationship with Cedar cannot be understated. Our ancestors relied on the magnificent tree as an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast. From birth to death, Cedar trees provide generously for the needs of the people – materially, ceremonially and medicinally. These teachings have not been lost. They are thriving. 

Traditional Foods for the People: Tulalip Tribes distributes King Salmon to it’s membership

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“The salmon is an important part of our upbringing, we’re people who relate to the water,” expressed Tulalip elder, William Williams. “This distribution is helpful to me, my family, to everybody. A good way for all of us to get in touch with each other, by getting a hold of, and sharing, this salmon.”

Nearly one month ago, Tulalip tribal members engaged in a ceremony to honor the yubəč, the king salmon. This important traditional event is held at the start of every fishing season to thank the salmon for providing sustenance to the people and to bless the tribal fishermen. Salmon are a key element to the Salishan diet and have been for generations, stretching back to the start of time. It’s no wonder the Tulalip people hold the delectable and nutritious species in such high regard. 

“It’s what we lived-off of,” said tribal member, Melissa Gobin. “It’s coming back to our original diet and helping our tribal fishermen at the same time.”

In an effort to provide traditional foods for the people and connect the community to the tribe’s way of life, Tulalip purchased hundreds of pounds of king salmon for its membership. And to make a wonderful gesture even greater, the Tribe bought the salmon directly from the tribal fishermen. 

Tribal members over the age of 18 were eligible to obtain one whole salmon each. Distribution days were held on June 30th, and July 5th and 7th from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Elders were offered preference and were also encouraged to go to the front of the line to receive their salmon. 

“This is something the Tribe has been wanting to do for a while,” explained Tulalip’s Natural and Cultural Resources Executive Director, Jason Gobin. “We were able to get some funds this year. We’ve done smaller distributions in the past, of hatchery surplus fish and whatnot, but this is the first big distribution. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue this on a yearly basis for the membership.”

The salmon were distributed to Tulalip tribal members at the parking lot of the local marina. A steady line of cars trickled-in throughout the cloudy, yet warm, summer afternoon of July 5th. The people happily exchanged good-humored banter with the crew handing out the fish and conversed about the recent holiday. The salmon were in large crates of ice, and one-by-one they were scooped out and placed in strong plastic bags for the people to transport to their homes with the least mess possible.

Numerous families traveled to the marina together and picked up their fish in bulk, and many people got out of their vehicles to check out all the salmon in the crates.

“I came out to get fish to share with my mom, that way she can eat some healthy fish. I think it’s really awesome and cool that the Tribe is giving back,” exclaimed Joseph Hatch as he waited patiently in a line of cars, tribal-ID ready in-hand. 

While getting his personal cooler out of the back of his pick-up, Tribal member Alan Cortez shared, “I used to work at the hatchery and bring salmon home all the time. Now that I’m retired, it’s a blessing to get this. It’s an important part of our diet, it’s just like me going out hunting.”

The salmon distribution is a great way to feed the community at large and in-turn is creating an opportunity for families to pass down traditional teachings, in regards to preparing the salmon for consumption. 

“My husband seasons and broils it, we just love salmon!,” said Sonia Sohappy. “I believe it’s more healthy for you than the stuff we usually eat, and I’m trying to get my family to eat more healthy, so it helps us out. Win-win.”

After picking-up her salmon, Katie L. Jones stated that she knew exactly what she was going to do with her share of the distribution. “I am going to teach my boys, and other people who want to learn, how to can. I learned through Gayle Jones. We’re going to can salmon and give to people who need it, and keep some for ourselves. This helps feed our Indian and gives us traditional foods that we can enjoy at home.”

Jason explained that the fish distro is a good opportunity for non-fishing families to indulge in an integral piece of their traditional diet, as salmon may be a little more challenging to acquire for those who don’t have the ability, means, or necessary teachings to go out on the water. 

“I’m fortunate enough to go out and catch my own. But this distribution, this salmon we’ve been able to get, is important to the community because it brings traditional foods to the table,” he said. “Especially for the elders who don’t have family members who are fishing. It’s important to be able to share with the community and share with the families. The salmon is not just for that one person, they’re taking that home and they’re going to share with their entire family. This really brings the community together – sharing in that salmon as they eat it, smoke it, use it, and do whatever they’re going to do with it.”

As Jason stated, this is the first major salmon distribution and it is something that the Tribe hopes to continue going forward. 

When asked how he felt after receiving his salmon, Tulalip elder Marvin Jones simply put, “It feels real good anytime that you get a fish, because this is such an important part of our culture.” 

Make Your Independence Day a Blast! Visit Boom City

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“It is that time of year again,” exclaimed a young teen, wearing a huge grin as he greeted his group of friends at the gravel lot behind the Tulalip Resort Casino. As he finished exchanging high-fives and daps with his peers, a loud boom rocked the entire area. “Whoo! That’s what I’m talking about. You guys ready?” One of his friends chuckled and replied, “we were just waiting on you!” And with that, the group of four young adults hurried down a row of stands, looking to find the best deal on their first purchase of the holiday season.

The Northwest pyrotechnic capital known as Boom City officially opened on June 22nd this year, to the excitement of many firework enthusiasts, die-hard American patriots, and business-minded tribal members alike. 

If you grew up locally, then Boom City is practically synonymous with summertime fun. Each summer, for nearly the past fifty years, Boom City has been the go-to place for people to purchase their favorite fireworks in the Snohomish County region. And of course, thanks to tribal sovereignty, Boom City vendors offer many fireworks that are not available to the public at stands located off reservation. 

By permitting their membership the right to buy and sell federally legal fireworks at Boom City, Tulalip has provided an opportunity for tribal entrepreneurs to earn another source of income for their families. And not to mention, gain some experience in commerce and business ownership. 

Close to one-hundred stands are currently open for business at Boom City this year. The stand owners have innumerable types of fireworks available for purchase including cakes, firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, Roman candles, fountains, smoke bombs, pop-its and many more, sure to make your Independence Day a blast. 

This year, we asked a handful of stand owners about the theme behind their vibrant and creatively designed stands.

“My theme is ‘Light It Up’, which means a few things,” explained Jennifer Ashman, who is also the manager of Tulalip Remedy. “I love lighting fireworks and I sell cannabis. I had Dalton Shay do my art, he’s a tribal member and he also did the art at the [Remedy] store and that’s how I knew his work. I love it. I had all these cool ideas and he brought them to life.”

Eli Ruiz, who helps run a jungle-themed stand with his wife Danielle, said, “Our stand was painted by an artist named Lou. He did it back in 2018. He painted it twice. The first time we liked it, but it was called Wildthing. I wanted to change it because I felt that it was not just about the stand, I wanted it to also be about our products which are Wildthings. Our zebra-print is our signature, and we are the very first ones with the zebra-striped countertop.”

One stand owner, William Moses, proudly showed-off the back of his stand. Painted at the center is a Native man, donning traditional regalia. The most prominent article he is wearing is a headdress made of feathers. “It really is a good name,” he expressed. “War Bonnet Fireworks. It is famous, I think it’s cool and it is a part of our tradition. One of my buddies painted it, I probably had it for about seven or eight years now. It looks real good!”

Near the center of Boom City, is a red stand with a cupid theme and a downward slanted roof. When asked about her stand, Sylvanna Brinson shared, “I’m the only backward stand with a metal roof. My younger brother had some crazy wild idea that it would be better for me because I’m short. I still have to use a ladder on the inside, but I can maneuver my own shelves and I know where everything goes.” 

Sylvanna also has five words painted on the front of her stand: Crazy, Unsafe, Psychotic, Insane and Dangerous. Each word represents a member of her family. “When I was younger, my mom Theresa had a firework stand that was called Unsafe and Insane. One day, when we were painting this stand, I realized I didn’t have a name. I said, well I’m crazy, everyone calls me crazy. My brother was there, and he said he was psychotic. And dangerous is Sophia because she is young. Crazy, unsafe, psychotic, insane and dangerous – I always say those [words] describe the fireworks, not people. But really, that’s how we came up with our name.”

Many of the stand owners at Boom City have a unique and entertaining story behind the artwork, name, and theme of their stands. And hearing those stories and seeing all the hard work that goes into decorating the stands, is almost as much fun as sticking a punk to a wick and running a safe distance before your fireworks burst into the sky – almost (wink emoji)!

Boom City also offers a designated area so you, your family and friends can enjoy those fireworks safely and legally. Several food vendors are stationed at Boom City as well, serving up treats such as kettle corn, Hawaiian shaved ice, frybread and tacos! 

Boom City is open daily, 8:00 a.m. – Midnight, until July 4th.

Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court recognized as National Mentor Court

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In recognition of outstanding service to the treatment community, the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court Tulalip, WA is hereby recognized as a member of the 2022-2024 National Mentor Court Network by NADCP’s Drug Court Institute and The Bureau of Justice Assistance

On the afternoon of June 27, the courtroom at the Tulalip Justice department was filled with multiple people, some hailing from as far away as Arizona. On the hottest day of the year so far, many were in splendid spirits and thankful to be in the comfort of the almighty A/C. About six of those individuals were especially in a good mood, as they are currently on a journey to becoming the best version of themselves, fighting hard to stay on the road to recovery. And thanks to the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, they are seeing successful results. 

One by one they approached the stand and the first question the judge asked was, ‘how many clean days do you have?’ Ranging anywhere from 36 days to 265 days clean, each person received a resounding and well-deserved round of applause by the entire courtroom when they revealed the amount of days they have remained sober. 

The clients then reflected on the past week with Judge Peter Boome. The judge let the clients know if they were in-compliance, and together they discussed all of the weekly tasks the clients have completed, or were meant to complete, such as community service hours, check-in’s with their advisors and team, court-mandated essays, and UA’s.

 A few of these individuals, who are just beginning their recovery journey, were experiencing the Healing to Wellness Court’s proceedings for the first time, and this appearance served as either an observation day or an opt-in day. Others have long been participants of the wellness court and were celebrating upwards of hundreds of days clean, that were acquired with the assistance of the Tribe’s wellness court. If the client was 100% in-compliance, they were rewarded with an incentive of their choosing.

Observing the wellness court in-action, was Susan Alameda, the Project Director of the National Drug Court Institute. Once the proceedings were finished, Susan presented an engraved plaque to the tribal court, recognizing the Healing to Wellness Court as an official member of the National Mentor Court Network. 

This is the second two-year term in a row that the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court received this esteemed title. The title allows other courthouses throughout the country, that are looking to improve or begin their own wellness courts in their respective communities, the opportunity to visit and learn from Tulalip’s model. 

Said Susan, “At the National Drug Court Institute, we say that these programs are about saving lives. I believe that is absolutely true. There’s an approach to these programs, especially Tulalip’s Healing to Wellness Court, it’s very rooted in community, very rooted in science and research. When you think about families who are able to stay together, or to be reunited, people who turn their lives around from substance abuse and have a second chance, to me, that’s life saving. When they get all that fog out of their system, and they can see themselves and all the things they want to achieve, they become a new person. That is such a beautiful thing to see.”

She continued, “This particular wellness program now has the prestige title of being a mentor court, which is one of very few mentor courts throughout the country. We take great honor in recognizing this court for all of its achievements. The staff played a big role to begin and continue carrying out this program, and [the judges] have been very dedicated, as well as all those who have come before. To be called a mentor court, you really have to adhere to some high standards. And through that, you have the opportunity to play a role in helping shape other courts that are interested in doing something like what’s been going on here.”

The Tulalip Tribes and the Tulalip Justice department first introduced the Healing to Wellness Court at the start of 2017 as an alternative path to the road to recovery for it’s tribal membership. As the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to escalate, skyrocketing in Native America since the pandemic, the tribal Wellness Court program looks to continue to be a source for the people as a means to get clean and escape the battle of addiction. 

The tribe tailored the wellness court to meet the needs of their people, and implemented community and cultural work, or ‘give-back hours’, as a requirement to complete the program. And thereby helped re-instill traditional values in many of their clients as well as helping them get re-acclimated back into the community. 

In addition to having a strong team of professionals by their side, consisting of judges, attorneys, tribal courthouse officials, TPD officers, drug counselors, and recovery specialists, the client is also reunified with their families, friends, and community along the way. And with a strong support system and a return to traditional Tulalip lifeways, the client has a great chance of completing the 18-24 monthlong program and maintaining their sobriety once they graduate from the Healing to Wellness Court. 

Susan presented the plaque to Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, who stated, “I would like to thank you on behalf of the Tulalip Tribes. It’s a true honor for our court system. I also want to thank Judge Bass, who was there since the beginning to help bring this forward. And all of the other judges, lawyers, staff, supportive staff, and everyone who has been involved. It’s an honor to receive this prestigious honor for our court system.”

In attendance for the special recognition, and taking note of the court’s proceedings, were representatives of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe who are in the planning phase of opening their own reservation-based wellness court. The Muckleshoot Wellness Court coordinator, Henry Carranza, is anticipating a ribbon-cutting ceremony as early as September, but noted that a lot of work is still required before they’re able to hold their first hearing. 

“A lot of the things happening here at the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, we’re going to borrow and implement,” Henry said. “We’re looking to get as much information that we can get and use it for our court. The whole transformation of helping others and watching them turn their lives around will be so worth it. Here at Tulalip, everybody has the same goal of helping the individual turn their life around, everybody works together to help that one person, I think that’s the key.”

The mentor court title will remain in effect through 2024, where if eligible, the courthouse can once again apply to be a member of the National Mentor Court Network and can continue to lead by example for wellness courts nationwide. 

While wiping tears from her eyes, Teri expressed, “I think about everybody’s lives that it’s changed – seeing the difference in what has happened with our people. It makes a difference having everybody surrounding you, supporting you. It’s like the medicine wheel. We’re making sure they are whole all the way around, but also keeping them accountable for that first year. I want to thank you for this honor on behalf of our court and the staff who made this possible.”