Ballin’ with a Braid

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

November is Native American Heritage Month. A time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures and traditions, and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and presently, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to overcome these challenges.

Most people should know Native peoples aren’t a monolith. That is to say each of the 574 federally recognized tribes is unique, each with their own set of traditional teachings stemming from treaty rights, connection to regional lands and resources, and level of economic freedom to express tribal sovereignty. 

Encompassing each tribe is a beautiful diaspora of tribal citizens who live their lives expressing their own sense of personal identity according to a unique set of cultural values, whether that be traditional or contemporary or some combination of both. For young Tulalip phenom Charlie Contraro, the answer may be both or, better yet, simply something as unique as she is. 

For starters, Charlie isn’t just a girl who plays basketball. She’s a hooper. Meaning she has the offensive range to shoot a deep 3-ball just as easily as she could beat her defender off the dribble and score a lay-up. And defensively she’s even better. Willing to dive on the deck for a loose ball, defend her opponent’s best or biggest player, and really, like for real, really looks forward to someone attempting a shot within her vicinity so she can swat that thing outta there like Dikembe Mutombo. 

“I’d rather have a game saving block than a game winning shot,” said the defensive minded Charlie as she detailed her October basketball tournament in New York. “Because when my team is up or we’re already winning, then I can really get after it [defensively] and get lots of blocks. Yeah, I like blocks instead of shots for sure. I got lots of blocks in New York. So many that my mom started calling me Charlie Mutumbo.”

Measuring in at 4-foot-11-inches, Charlie is typically one of the tallest girls on the court when she’s playing within her own age group. That level of verticality, plus her swift movement, allows her to soar through the air in pursuit of her coveted blocked shots. However, the recently turned 10-year-old often plays multiple years up against competition older and more physically mature. It’s a welcomed challenge that gives Charlie plenty of opportunity to play her favorite position – point guard. 

“Charlie’s been a baller since the womb,” said her mom Annie Jo Parish proudly. She’s well known as Miss A.J. from her years of teaching at Tulalip Montessori. “I played ball until I was at least six months pregnant with her. Then as a toddler she would watch from the sidelines as I coached her older sisters at the boys and girls club. She was at all their practices and at a certain point she started participating in their drills and conditioning exercises.  So, really, Charlie has always been immersed in basketball culture, but she had to be patient and wait her time to play because, generally, competitive teams for girls don’t start until 4th grade.”

Now, after years of watching and learning from her sisters, the Jackson Elementary 4th grader has been unleashed to play to her heart’s desire on select level travelling teams. She’s also a regular on the Native tournament circuit, playing with older competition and against the boys. 

No matter the competitive setting, whether it be on concrete or hardwood, Charlie is impossible to miss on the basketball court because of a Native asset she’s been growing her entire life, her hair. 

Charlie’s near body length, beautiful black hair is a form of cultural expression naturally woven all the way back to her earliest ancestors. There are many teachings and practices that vary from tribe to tribe and generation to generation, but one that is near constant since time immemorial among all the tribes is the importance of hair to cultural identity. A Native American’s hair is considered sacred and significant to who they are as an individual, family, and community.

In many tribes, it is believed that a person’s long hair represents a strong cultural identity. For young people especially, a strong cultural identity promotes self-esteem, self-respect, a sense of belonging, and a healthy sense of pride. For Charlie, the constant chatter about her hair from teammates and competition is something she uses to elevate both her game and her culture. In fact, a few of the gyms she’s showcased her budding basketball talents at thus far, she’s been referenced as the baller with the braid.

“Some of the things I hear all the time on the court is ‘Wow, your hair is really long!’, ‘Can I have some of your hair?’, ‘Your braid is so big. I wish I had hair like that’ or even ‘You’re like Rapunzel except your hair is black’,” reflected Charlie with a huge smile. “It’s cool to get compliments about my hair from my teammates and people I’m playing against, too. My mom tells me all the time that my braid is my signature.”

How we as Native Americans relate to our hair is a constant reminder of our connection to our culture and a distinct worldview grounded in the sacredness of relationships. Braiding a child’s hair is the beginning of establishing an intimate and nurturing relationship. For Charlie, it’s her father Mike Contraro who braids her hair before basketball games and practices.

“It makes me so proud to watch her playing the game she loves, running up and down the court with her braid trailing behind her,” said Mike during an intermission between Charlie’s tournament games. “It’s funny, too, because if you watch her, Charlie has a habit of rubbing the end of her braid in between free throws or during timeouts. Almost like it’s a lucky charm.”

Sure enough, during Charlie’s next game she was spotted at the free throw line holding the end of her braid before she swished one in. Maybe its muscle memory from a lifelong relationship with her hair and her parents braiding it before sports, or maybe it’s a continuation of her family’s grounding practices they do during travel. 

“When we travel, my older daughters and I practice grounding or what’s sometimes called Earthing,” explained momma bear A.J. “This is something Charlie does, too. We’ll go barefoot in a safe space and take time to ground, reflect and reconnect with the Earth. The intention is to allow the Earth’s positive charges to enter through our feet and reconnect our bodies to our natural world.” 

The inspiring 10-year-old hooper and her family have recently returned from a Nike Phenom camp in the sunshine state. Charlie’s mom shared that shortly after landing in California they went on a hike near the Golden Gate Bridge, where they were able to take in the iconic view while grounding themselves.

Her stellar play in California resulted scoring high in all her player evaluations and an exclusive invitation to Phenom National Camp in 2023. Her parents’ dedication to their youngest child, from the countless miles driven to her practices along the I-5 corridor and east side near Issaquah to the hours in the gym rebounding tirelessly as their daughter shoots jump shots, continues to bolster Charlie’s love for the game. She looks forward to filling out her skill set and working on her step back 3-pointers like she sees her favorite Seattle Storm players, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, routinely hit on the game’s biggest stage.

“Charlie is a scorer, a defender and an extra point guard. And she can play big. She can pretty much do everything on the court,” said 5th grade Nike coach Chris Nolen. Charlie plays a year up to play on Nike’s Tree of Hope team. “She’s been a huge addition for us. She’s a starter and gets a lot of minutes. 

“Any time you have a player playing with older competition that means they have a huge competitive spirit. I can always count on Charlie to compete on both ends of the floor,” her coach continued. “Tree of Hope is an AAU type program and under the Nike banner. We are part of the national recognition level which is really competitive. We want to prepare our players for the next level, and we want to win. Charlie definitely helps us win.”

Winning comes in many forms. There’s the score of the game and the game of life. For Charlie, when asked what some of her favorite basketball memories are, she responded with the most whimsical tales from shooting in the wrong basket once to seeing huge flocks of pigeons while in New York. 

However, ask her about being challenged in basketball by boys at her school and her tone changes dramatically. “Oh, they always want to challenge. Most of the time I’m the only girl they’ll pick to play with them, even though others will watch from the side. One time this boy who is a bully tried guarding me and I dribbled between my legs, crossed over and then between the legs again into a jab step…he went for the fake and fell to the ground. Then I made the basket. Everyone watching started cheering and saying things like ‘OHHH!’ That was a pretty cool.

“Some boys say girls can’t play basketball, but they’re wrong,” she added defiantly. “Just look at woman’s college basketball or the WNBA. Those are professional girls getting paid big bucks to play basketball. Hopefully, that’ll be me one day.”

Charlie dreams of playing for one of the biggest college programs after graduating high school in 2031 before moving onto the WNBA. Which WNBA team? The Seattle Storm of course. Her mom is also planting seeds through all the travel basketball that she could continue her ball is life dream in far off lands like Europe or even China where they have huge followings for professional women’s basketball.

Until that dream comes true, Charlie and her signature braid will continue to work on perfecting fundamentals, beating the boys whenever possible, and being a beacon of inspiration to her Native American peers.

Make Tulalip your shopping destination this holiday

Ronnie McClellan.

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

David Fryberg.

The holiday and gift-giving season officially kicked off with the annual Native Bazaar, held November 11-13. The Tulalip community showed up in droves as various tribal vendors sold their handmade crafts, baked goods, and art pieces. 

This year’s event was tied for the largest Bazaar Tulalip has had thus far, with over 50 vendors committed. The event also needed a new place to settle into as the vendor list expanded and their collections grew. Ultimately, event coordinator Tammy Taylor, moved the bazaar from the gym to the Gathering Hall.

Tammy Taylor.

“This year was so successful. We had so many great vendors, and many of them sold out. Many of our membership, customers, and non-Natives were also in awe of how beautiful the Gathering Hall is. There really is no other building like this close to us, it is our sacred spiritual home, and it feels so good to have shared the bazaar there,” Tammy said. 

A highlight of Native bazaars is that you find highly sought-after cultural pieces like drums, rattles, dreamcatchers, beaded jewelry, ribbon skirts, cedar hats, etc. Items like these are sacred to our culture and community that you can’t find in a typical retail environment. Even though the event is open to all, it creates a safe place for Native artists to sell their handmade crafts and keep them within our community. 

Margaret Henry Hayes.

Specialty goods like salves, lemongrass soaps, and local berry baked goods represent our community’s desire to maintain our traditional ways while adapting to a modern world. Some vendors carried out this thinking style by turning dreamcatchers into crib mobiles, adding small cedar roses to store-bought home décor, transforming cedar dolls into Christmas tree toppers, or simply using acrylic and contemporary materials for their craft making.

Ultimately, curating these crafts, goods, and art stems from our traditional ways. As seen at many of the bazaar booths, these traditional art forms are usually multi-generational. They illustrate the ways of our people, passing down a skill and cultural practice from one generation to the next. Some of these pieces become less about the works themselves and more about the family teachings, cultural preservation, time spent together, and bonds built with our people. Elders and master artists hold a special place in our community because of their experience and expertise; learning from them, purchasing their work, and sharing this time with them helps build room for our culture in the future.  

Natosha Gobin.

Tribal member and master weaver Lance Taylor has over 30 years of weaving experience. His work can be found all over the community at weaving workshops, but more importantly, within his home. Lance has shared this art form with his family to preserve weaving and as a part of his legacy. 

“Weaving has been a part of my family for some time; my great-grandmother was a weaver and made baskets out of fern and cedar roots. I’m glad my family could pick it back up and pass it down to our grandchildren. That’s what it’s all about, passing it down to the next generation. There’s a sense of pride looking at our community wear our work,” Lance said. 

The Kane family.

Tribal member Ronnie McClellan was seen selling handcrafted star quilts at the bazaar but gave full credit to his aunt and her friends. Like many other tribal artists, they consider their work a family business. Ronnie’s aunt and friends spend their days making quilts, and Ronnie will sell them for them at bazaars and community events. 

“My family used to buy her quilts as gifts for people. But I wanted to help more. It’s such beautiful work, and there’s a lot of medicine in them. You can feel all the prayer, love, and passion that my aunt and her friends have for their work through the blankets. In our culture, it’s an honor to be blanketed and receive this medicine. It’s humbling, and I feel honored to represent her lifelong work. I love seeing people’s smiling faces when they buy a quilt, and I know they will cherish it.”

If you missed November’s Native Bazaar, don’t fret, you can support these Native artists and more at the next Native Bazaar, December 9-11, at the Gathering Hall. The event will also expand for more tribal vendors to join, so if you have any questions, please call Tammy Taylor at 425-501-4141. 

Native Veterans honored with National Monument

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“Even though it rained on our parade, it was awesome,” exclaimed Tulalip Veteran, Dan Bradley (Marine Corps ’72-’74). “As we were walking through the parade all the spectators were clapping, giving us the thumbs up, and saying thank you for your service. It felt good.”

For the first time in the United States’ history, Native American service men and women have a monument to call their own, which honors and pays tribute to thousands of veterans from tribes all across the nation. Located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., the circular monument stands in front of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and was designed by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma).

According to the Smithsonian website the memorial is, “an elevated stainless-steel circle balanced on an intricately carved stone drum, the design of the National Native American Veterans Memorial is simple and powerful, timeless and inclusive. The design incorporates water for ceremonies, benches for gathering and reflection, and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing. The memorial creates an interactive yet intimate space for gathering, remembrance, reflection, and healing. It welcomes and honors Native American veterans and their families and educates the public about their extraordinary contributions.”

Construction on the memorial began prior to the pandemic and due to social gathering limitations, the Smithsonian was unable hold a celebration when the memorial was complete. Once limitations lifted, plans for a dedication were quickly set in place and invitations were sent to tribal veterans across the country. 

The dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial took place this year on Veterans Day. Hundreds of brave and proud Indigenous veterans traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in a historic moment, not only for Native America, but for the entire country as well. 

The memorial was commemorated with a procession through the streets of D.C. and many veterans wore their traditional regalia and sang and danced to their ceremonial songs. Sage filled the air while the vets proudly carried their tribes’ respective flags, the U.S. flag, the POW flag, and a few eagle staffs were sighted too. 

After nearly a mile march, through wet streets and humid and rainy conditions, the veterans arrived at a stage that held this nation’s capital building in the background. A timelapse video of the erection of the monument played from start to finish, and various tribal leaders spoke about what the memorial means to those tribal members who bravely defended America’s freedom. 

Veterans from the Vietnam War, the Korean War, Desert Storm, and the Global War on Terrorism were in attendance, including 28 Tulalip veterans. The highlight for many of these brave warriors was meeting Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay, who marched alongside his fellow Native veterans during the procession. And among all the family members and supporters cheering on the veterans during the procession were Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids (Ho Chunk) and Actor and Film Producer Wes Studi (Cherokee), who many people were excited to meet and take selfies with. 

The Tulalip veterans, along with many other veterans from around the nation, enjoyed an extended stay in D.C. following the Veterans Day ceremony. The vets had the weekend to explore the busy and scenic District of Columbia; some spent their time visiting sites like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the Arlington Cemetery to pay their respects to their fallen brothers and sisters in arms, while others visited the Capital, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and several of the historic museums, such as the four-story National Museum of the American Indian.


“The most important thing I hope our veterans take away from this are the memories,” said Tulalip Veterans Coordinator, William McLean III (U.S. Marine Corps 03-07).  “It’s not often the entire nation comes together to honor tribal veterans; this is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m hoping they take good memories and that they enjoyed themselves.”


Tulalip Vets visit Washington D.C.

Twenty-eight veterans traveled on a direct flight from Sea-Tac to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to witness and participate in the dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial at the National Museum of the American Indian. After a moving ceremony which took place on Veterans Day, a handful of Tulalip Veterans took the time to reflect upon their visit to D.C. for the historic dedication. 

Cara McCoy Tohannie, US Army 

We flew from Tulalip and got here a couple days early so we could explore. My dad was actually stationed here, so we lived here for a while. We went to the Arlington Cemetery for a walking tour, we had the procession, and we went on a night tour of all the monuments. It was great to see all the Native American veterans from around the United States in the procession. I felt really proud to be here because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, to be able to represent Tulalip. My dad, my grandpa, and my uncle were also in the military but couldn’t be here. 

It’s great that they have a monument specifically for Native American veterans. I think having it on Veterans Day is significant because it’s important to honor veterans, and of course November is Native American Heritage Month, so just to have everything come together, it felt pretty amazing.

Dan Bradley, US Marine Corps.  

We came from Orange County near Disneyland. I really enjoyed it and it’s about time, because look at all these years that have gone by, and they finally have done something for the Native American Veterans to recognize them. We haven’t been recognized like this before, so I thought it was awesome that this happened. A lot of people came from different tribes. It took a while because of the pandemic, but here we are. 

Cyrus Hatch III, US Marine Corps.

I’ve been looking forward to this for months! I want to thank the Tulalip Tribes, the Board, the Vet department. I was stationed here for years, twice, and it’s great to be back. It’s a walk down memory lane to see everything again. I haven’t been here since ’89. Good thing it was rainy because I was getting misty eyed. I’m really happy we have a memorial and something to reflect on us to be proud. 

Hank Williams Sr., National Guard & US Army

It was wonderful. It’s probably something that happens once in a lifetime. We get to see and meet friends, people from different states and tribes – all friendly people, and get to know each other – where were from, what we did, what service we were in.It was exciting to shake hands with everybody. 

That parade we had, we got see a whole bunch of people, I haven’t seen so many Indians in my life. I carried the flag which was an honor for me. I’m 92 years old and I can still get around and I was proud to do it and help show off my tribe and people. Not all the veterans came, some couldn’t make it. A lot of our veterans are old age now, we are from Korea and Vietnam.

David Fryberg Jr., US Marine

It was a great experience. I never had such feelings and receive such blessings from seeing some of these Cherokee and Comanche warriors from other tribes that really went out and did what they did. We are asked to do a lot of things that other people wouldn’t do. 

I had a great time here in D.C., I was even able to sneak off and do an Okinawa reunion with my best friends in Philadelphia. The comradery you build in the service, its beyond brother and sister, it’s something I can’t even describe. Thanks Tulalip tribes for sending us here, for the procession and to commemorate the Native American war memorial. It’s here. It exists. It’s been a long time coming. It’s an honor to join the service and do what I did, and know that someone is grateful and appreciative of it. 

Richard Dean Ledford, US Air force

I’m so thankful to be a member of the Tulalip Tribes and I’m proud of that. This is my second visit here. There are so many things to see. The National Museum of the American Indian, you get to go on each floor and read about all the different stories of what took place over the years. We’re all proud members who were trained to be warriors. This is important because I know we lost a lot of tribal veterans over the years, I’m happy we got to be here together and that we get to pass this on to the members of Tulalip.

To see the people supporting you, clapping, it was great. I was wondering if I was going to make it with my walker, but I did all the way around. It was great to see all the different tribes and veterans.  

Raymond Fryberg, US Marine Corps 

        It was a really unique opportunity because I know for a fact, per capita wise, Native Americans volunteer more than any other ethnic group in the United States, and I was proud to be part of that. At Tulalip, one of the veterans in WWI Elson James, they wrote back to his mother that it was possible he was the first Native American causality.

In WWII and the Korean War, we had some really highly decorated veterans. One of my uncles had his leg shot off, he was a medic. And one of my dad’s first cousins was a paratrooper who was shot and wounded in an air drop. And of course, the late Teat-mus (Raymond Moses) was very decorated in the Korean war, he had a silver star, bronze medal, and a lot of purple hearts. Because he was Indian, he knew a lot about terrains and being out in the environment, he was very effective, they looked to him a lot to help them out.

I took a picture with one of the code talkers. They influenced the war; that gave us an advantage in WWII. And a lot of the others who were here, a lot of people from Vietnam and the Korean War. I’m proud to be a part of that because I appreciate my freedoms in this country – freedom of speech and the right to vote. They laid it all on the line for it. 

Morena Lopez, US Air Force 

I’m coming from San Antonio, Texas. It’s really awesome because I didn’t grow up on the reservation, so I don’t really know anybody here. Being able to meet everybody and connect and find out how we’re related has been awesome. To be here on Veterans’ Day at the Nation’s Capital was phenomenal. I didn’t know about the museum, so that was really cool too and I saw that our tribe was recognized in there and I felt like a fan girl.

When Bill asked if anyone wanted to hold (the flag) I stepped up immediately. That was such an honor.  I wanted to hold our flag because I’m not that involved with the reservation, the tribe and our ways, that felt like a way to connect. In some ways it felt like a big powwow, I really enjoyed that comradery and listening to the singers, the drumbeats and the burning of the sage. And to have people on the side cheering us on, I thought was really neat as well.

This has been the greatest thing that happened to me since I retired. Thank you for the Tulalip Veterans group to invite me and keep me involved, I’m so grateful and blessed.

Rocky Renecker, US Army 

It was surreal. I got to view veterans from all over, and they’re all Indigenous so it meant a lot to my spirit and heart to see. We’re still here. To see them all in their regalia and their uniforms and all the different colors, it was really surreal to be able to march with not only my fellow Tulalip veterans but my fellow Indigenous veterans from all over the country and be a part of this. It’s going to mean a lot to me for the rest of my life.

It’s nice to be here to represent Tulalip, our community, and the rest of the veterans at home. It’s an honor to be able to stand for them and march and be present for the ceremony. The memorial, I like the simplicity of it, it’s right to the point. Everything about us is full circle, so it hits home. 

William McLean III, US Marine Corps. 

The tribe donated a few years ago when the project was first getting started. When we found out about it, I thought it would be good to send as many Tulalip veterans as possible to represent the tribe. The memorial has been up for a few years, but they had to shut down the in-person dedication ceremony. And when they decided to host one, I got everything situated and got as much funding as possible.

Getting 20-40 people situated on a cross country trip is a task, but once we got passed all the speed bumps and ironed out all the wrinkles and got everybody here, I think it went well. I really hope everyone enjoyed themselves. My only goal was to represent for Tulalip and in doing so have Tulalip veterans enjoy themselves. 

The gathering was unique, it was powerful. There are not very many opportunities for so many tribal people to come together from all over the nation. It’s really good to see that people care and are willing to take time, effort, funding. And just in general, that feeling of having people’s admiration and respect for doing something a lot of people wouldn’t do is good to see.

Raising Hands celebrates $7.2 million in Tulalip Cares charitable giving 

Ken Kettler, Tulalip Resort Casino president, is blanketed by Marilyn Sheldon and 
Mytyl Hernandez

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

During the evening of Saturday, October 29th, the Tulalip Tribes recognized and gave thanks to more than 375 Washington-based nonprofits and community groups who contributed to a sustainable and healthy community for all. 

The typically annual Raising Hands celebration went on a temporary hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic before making its much anticipated 2022 return. Held in the Tulalip Resort Casino’s Orca Ballroom, the always stylish space hosted hundreds of representatives of these high-impacting organizations that came together to create an atmosphere of appreciation.

“In the Tulalip tradition, we raise our hands to show appreciation to the numerous organizations whose good works help to make our communities strong,” opened event emcee and board of director, Mel Sheldon. “This evening is an opportunity for Tulalip Tribes to honor and show respect to all the hard work each organization has contributed to the progress of all our communities.

“We are here to honor all 378 unique charities that Tulalip Cares has supported over the last year,” he continued. “During Covid, as we all hunkered down in our homes, many of you were out on the front lines working to help those in dire straits. Your work does not go unnoticed. Tulalip takes great pride in pulling together with all our community organizations, charities and members to support and provide guidance through this healing process.”

The exciting return of Raising Hands was bolstered by the significant community achievement stimulated by an astounding $7.2 million in tribal support to more than 375 nonprofits and community groups. Since 1992, the Tulalip Tribes charitable giving program has donated over $116 million in support to the community and, indirectly, to their own membership by supporting regional efforts to improve education, health and human services, cultural preservation, public services, and the environment.

But the Raising Hands event isn’t all about dollars and cents. It’s also a highly coordinated celebration where our community’s change makers are given a chance to share their plans for the future and learn how other like-minded charities are striving to make a difference. This is an invaluable benefit for organizations who can sometimes struggle to get their message broadcast to larger audiences. 

During the 2022 rendition of Raising Hands, six standout nonprofits received special recognition for their exceptional creativity and effectiveness. Raven Rock Ranch, Museum of Glass, Sherwood Community Services, NOAH Center, Salmon Defense, and Innovative Services Northwest were each highlighted for their innovative work serving local communities. 

“The NOAH Center is the northwest organization for animal help. We are a no kill, nonprofit animal shelter. The dogs and cats that come to us, we work really hard to find homes for them. They came here because they were facing euthanasia at other animal shelters, so we really try hard to give them a second chance to find that home and have an opportunity for a family.
We transfer in and adopt out about 4,000 to 4,500 animals every year. We just love to see those animals go from a scenario where they may have faced a completely difference outcome to end up living their best life with their new family. It’s so amazing to hear the squeals of excitement from kids who are getting a kitten or puppy. These animals bring so much joy to the lives of their adopters.”
– Stacie Ventura, NOAH Center executive director

“When you see people coming together to have these amazing, positive conversations, that is when we know we are helping make a difference,” asserted Marilyn Sheldon, manager of Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund. “We try to show respect and honor these charities that give so much of themselves for this community. We want them to feel like the red carpet got laid out just for them.

“Each year, as soon as the event is over, we ask ourselves how we can help make the next one even better,” she continued. “Giving people the opportunity to work together is priceless. We are so fortunate to be able to work with these amazing organizations throughout Washington State that do so much good in our communities.”

“Children come to us because they’ve experienced some kind of trauma in their lives. We don’t talk about past traumas. Instead, we ask them to rewrite neuro pathways by having experiences with horses that give them a healthy relationship that can transfer to human relationships. Horses are good at that because they are a prey animal, so they have very distinct needs. You must be a good leader because they are trusting you with their lives. 
In order to lead a horse around, you must be confident in where you are going. Horses really depend on their handlers stepping up and taking care of them, and our kids can really feel that connection. When kids come here they are responsible for taking care of their horse. Offering something to another living being is an important piece of feeling valuable and worthy.”
– Sandy Matts, executive director of Raven Rock Ranch

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 allows tribes to conduct certain types of gaming if they enter into a gaming compact with the state. Tulalip’s tribal-state gaming compact, like most, includes a provision to donate a percentage of gaming earnings to organizations impacted by gaming, as well as other charitable organizations. From this provision the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund was created.

The Charitable Fund, also known as Tulalip Cares, provides the opportunity for a sustainable and healthy community for all. The Tulalip Tribes strives to work together with the community to give benefits back to others to help build stronger connections to local neighborhoods. That’s why, in Tulalip, it is tradition to ‘raise our hands’ to applaud and give thanks to the numerous organizations in our region that strive to create a better world through positive action. 

“The museum of glass is a museum dedicated to glass and glass making. Our mission is to ignite creativity, fuel discovery and enrich lives. We’re doing that with youth. We’re doing that with emerging artists that come into the hot shop to work with our experienced team. We’re doing that with the great masters around the world that come in and want to experiment and start a new body of work. 
It’s a place where you can see first-hand art being made. You see the struggles. You see how an idea comes to life. Shaping the future of glass is our vision and I feel like we do it every day. And maybe even more important than that, I think we are helping to shape community and the future of the people who come here and experience the beauty of glass art.”
– Debbie Lenk, Museum of Glass executive director 

Nonprofits and community groups are encouraged to apply for quarterly awards through the Tulalip Cares program. For more information, visit the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Funds website at 

“As tribal people, we have a spiritual connection, cultural connection, and subsistence connection with salmon. They are such a vital part to the ecosystem. Unfortunately, every year our salmon are getting less and less. I don’t want to know or experience what happens when we have no salmon.
When the tribal governments are fighting for their treaty rights they are fighting for clean water, they are fighting for salmon, they are fighting for clean air, they are fighting for a healthy environment. Treaty rights don’t just protect our tribal people, they protect all our people. We want people to not fear the tribes and their treaty rights, but embrace them for the gems that they are because they protect and enhance our health and our quality of life.”
– Peggen Frank, executive director of Salmon Defense

As seasons change, Club doors remain open

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The season has quickly changed here in the Pacific Northwest. Only a matter of days ago, on October 17 to be exact, we had the warmest October day in 45 years when the temperature soared to 89 degrees. Now though, a quick glance at the local weather forecast and we see only daily highs in the mid-50s and overnight lows in the 40s. Plus, a near constant barrage of much anticipated rainfall every single day.

With the wet and cold season upon us, many community families are quickly having to adjust and figure out ways to keep their kids healthy and active while remaining warm and dry indoors. Well, the leadership of our Tulalip Boys & Girls Club want to remind parents and guardians of school aged youth that ‘the Club’ is an ideal option. 

The Club is open for new and returning members, and staff eagerly await that high-spirited energy to fill their complex once again.

“We can’t wait to have all our kids back again experiencing the large variety of fun and safe programs we offer. Whether that be activities like coloring or building with LEGOs for the real young kids who are learning their shapes and colors, playing bumper pool, or standard pool for the teenagers. These are simple, yet effective, activities that develop hand-eye coordination. Then there’s basketball and volleyball in the gymnasium that promote physical education and teamwork,” said office manager Diane Prouty. 

During her 23 years of dedicated Boys & Girls Club service she’s proudly earned the title ‘Grandma Diane’ by the multiple generations of Tulalip youngsters who have called the Club a home away from home.

“Something we’ve always been proud to say is we keep our kids well fed with hot, nutritious meals,” she continued. “Since we’ve been back to our normal routine of cooking and serving a breakfast for the kids before school and late lunch after school, plus a snack or two, the kids have really been swamping back in. We have our own on-site nutritionist and cook, her name is Ariana, and she does an amazing job of whipping up tasty meals that our kids devour. 

“We’re also proud to be part of the T.R.A.I.L. to diabetes prevention program, which guides our meal and snack making. This is why it was a big deal for us to go close to sugar-free by doing away with soda and high fructose juices. Instead we make fruit-infused water that the kids get a real woot out of. They drink barrels and barrels of water every day.”

Keeping children fed with freshly prepared meals and nutritious snacks is something that’s always separated the Tulalip’s Club from thousands of other Boys & Girls Clubs in the country. Those meals are especially important when it comes to the ever-growing minds and bodies of our youth who need all the vitamins, minerals, and proteins they can get.

Then there’s the 4000-square-foot, multimedia filled expansion that was added to the Club right before Covid hit. This tech hub is intended for the Club’s teenage membership and offers all the digital goodies this current era of teen yearns for. There’s Xbox One gaming stations complete with 4k televisions, a dedicated high-speed internet server, and a sound system that rivals most music studios. Cyber Café functions as a self-serve snack bar. There’s even a makeshift graffiti wall available for those artsy types who can create masterpieces with just chalk and their imagination.

There are conventional games as well for those who prefer their games of skill without computer assistance, like a pool, foosball and chess. A dedicated homework area consists of several computer stations equipped with all the necessary programs to meet the modern coursework demands, while also aiming to shrink the Reservation’s homework gap. 

In the spirit of providing programs that promote growth through education, Club director Shawn Sanchey recently debuted ‘power hour’. The Tulalip tribal member and graduate of Heritage high school routinely shares his story of being a Club kid, including how having caring adults in the community to help guide him had a significant impact. Power hour is one example of how the 27-year-old Club director strives to pay that guidance forward.

“Power hour focuses on our kids’ education and is intended to help develop positive mental health as it relates to learning,” explained Shawn. “Instilling a work ethic and positive view on education is huge in our youth. How it works is when our kids get to the Club, they have to earn their screen time or gym time or any other recreation by completing their power hour first. 

“It’s one hour, just 60-minutes, where they focus on their education. It could be completing math packets or other homework, reading a book, or could even be for the older kids to read to the younger kids or play UNO with them to help teach shapes and colors. It’s a small step that can have a big impact. We’re always talking about creating future leaders, that requires taking accountability over learning and instilling our values at a young age.

“It’s been awesome for me, personally, to witness kids go from being resistant to reading and doing school work to being excited to complete their power hour,” he added. “It’s also had a big social influence on our kids. We know that they watch and learn behavior from each other, so the more they see their peers getting excited to read to others or even form groups to review multiplication tables, it goes a long way in making a motivation difference.”

  Since the new school year started, the average attendance at Tulalip’s Boys and Girls Club has increased to about 125 kids per day. With the increased capacity of the Teen Center expansion and recently added staff, the Club is able to serve 300 kids a day.

Over the next month or so, special events and activities are being planned so the kids can celebrate Halloween, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving in a culturally appropriate way. Also, with basketball season right around the corner, there are plenty of opportunities to get eligible kids signed up so they can take to the court to get buckets.

Current Club hours are 6:00am – 7:00pm, Monday – Friday. Plus, every other Saturday for teen night. For all questions and inquiries about membership eligibility or day to day operations, please contact 360-716-3400 or email director Shawn Sanchey directly at

Indigenous film screened to raise awareness about domestic violence

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The lights in room 162 of the Tulalip Administration Building were switched off on the evening of September 20. All eyes were watching a large projection screen at the front of the conference room as a movie was cast from the Panasonic overhead projector. There were over twenty ladies seated throughout the room. And although only visible by silhouette, they could not hold back some of the emotions brought on by the film, and were seen wiping tears from their eyes, shaking their heads in astonishment, and audibly gasping in shock as six Indigenous women shared their story in an 84-minute documentary titled, Sisters Rising. 

The 2020 film is a moving, heartbreaking, and empowering watch that details the abuse and domestic violence (DV) that Native women face in today’s society. The film exposed the frustrating roadblock that those individuals experienced when they attempted to report the crimes committed against them and their loved ones.

A Supreme Court ruling in the late ‘70’s ruled that tribal courts do not have the jurisdiction to try and prosecute non-tribal members who commit crimes against their membership. For decades, non-Natives targeted Native women, children and men on reservations throughout the country and got away with child abuse, sexual abuse, DV and much more, resulting from that ruling. 

The women featured in Sisters Rising retold their stories and showed how survived those horrific experiences of abuse and DV. More importantly, it showcased their resilience as each of the six women went on to help their communities, whether through prevention and awareness work or taking the initiative to change legislation in their respective homelands. All of the women are making a big impact in their tribal communities. 

The film’s synopsis leads with some eye-opening statistics: “Sisters Rising is a powerful feature documentary about six Native American women reclaiming personal & tribal sovereignty. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than all other American women. 1 in 3 Native women report having been raped during her lifetime and 86% of the offenses are committed by non-Native men. These perpetrators exploit gaps in tribal jurisdictional authority and target Native women as ‘safe victims’. Their stories shine an unflinching light on righting injustice on both an individual and systemic level.”

Following the film screening, Tulalip Prosecutor Brian Kilgore was on-hand for a quick Q&A and to talk about how the film relates to the Tulalip Court and community. He shared, “The Supreme Court took away the jurisdiction of tribes to prosecute non-Indians. In 2013 we got back the ability to prosecute domestic violence crimes with Indian victims, with a couple of exceptions. One of those exceptions was there had to be a tie to this reservation. If you had people that were just passing through, we didn’t have jurisdiction. In October of this year, it was expanded again. Now we have jurisdiction over everybody.”

He continued, “This year I have gotten a felony DV referral every week, on average. It’s a lot. The other overlay here is that it’s not just jurisdiction over people. Tribes until very recently didn’t have any jurisdiction, we could only charge the not serious stuff. And what often happened is that the serious stuff got charged as not serious stuff. So, there might have been felony conduct but they still got a misdemeanor. Felony is anything greater than a year, misdemeanor is up to a year. The Tulalip Tribes had felony jurisdiction since 2012. We had two felony cases in 2015, and we had 70 this last year. It’s increasing; it’s not a good thing, right? But my sense is that there isn’t more crime, we’re just catching more of it, and we’re able to prosecute more of it. I think it is a good thing. I think the numbers we’re seeing are more realistic, and it doesn’t really represent more violence.”

The film screening was hosted by the Tulalip Legacy of Healing (LOH) and the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in observance of National DV Awareness Month. Throughout October, the two programs have held a number of events to help bring attention to the DV that occurs within Native America and more specifically, here at Tulalip. In addition to the Sisters Rising screening, they have also hosted a Resolving Trauma workshop with the Director/Consultant of the Midwest Trauma Services Network, Frank Grijalva MSCC, MSPH, as well as a self-defense class led by the Tulalip Police Department. 

“One of the core focuses with DV Awareness Month is the importance of breaking the silence,” expressed Sydney Gilbert, CAC/LOH Coordinator and Forensic Interviewer. “If people are not talking about and it’s not coming to light, it lives in the shadow. The more we can talk about it, the more we can bring it to attention, the more we can normalize the conversation around it. We know that there’s higher rates of intimate partner violence in communities that have experienced trauma. Another focus we have for this month is addressing that trauma, and not only bringing attention to intimate partner violence, but bringing attention on how we can heal from that as a community.”

After the documentary’s credits finished rolling, Tulalip tribal member Lena Hammons, who sat attentively in the front row, expressed, “I loved that they were in front of tribal council proposing new codes to protect their women. I think that we need more people doing that, and if not go to General Council because it is a serious issue. I didn’t know there was 70 cases already this year and I’m out in the community a lot so that was kind of scary for me. I love the strong women who were standing up, helping each other and helping themselves. I’m a DV survivor myself, and had to fight for myself and my kids. It was nice to see they weren’t presenting themselves as victims, they were presenting themselves as survivors and supporters. Women need to know that they’re not alone and we need to support each other. Whether you know someone or not, if you know something is happening you need to report it. 

“And for men and our women who are violators, it’s important for them to know that it won’t be tolerated. It’s not our way. It’s not traditional. It’s not cultural. It’s colonized behavior. It’s important for everybody to know that. You don’t have to tolerate DV. If you’re a perpetrator of DV, there’s help for you. Go get the help. Because we love everybody, and we don’t give up on anybody.”

If you or anybody you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, please do not hesitate to call the LOH at (360) 716-4100 for assistance. And if you are in a crisis or an emergency situation, the LOH provided a list of three additional hotline numbers that you can utilize during your time of need: 

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Strong Hearts Native Helpline: 1-844-762-8483
  • Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County 425-25-ABUSE (22873).

Centennial Accord addresses Native concerns

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On October 24-25, Tulalip Tribes hosted the 33rd annual Centennial Accord at the Tulalip Resort Casino and the Tulalip Gathering Hall. Washington Tribal leaders, State legislators, Governor Jay Inslee, and numerous government agencies were in attendance to discuss policies and issues regarding tribal sovereignty, humanitarian efforts, and other tribal concerns.

The Centennial Accord was developed in 1989 by the federally recognized Indian tribes of Washington State and the State of Washington to build trust and confidence among the parties in the government-to-government relationship. Meetings like the Accord help strengthen the foundation for the future of tribes in Washington and how our people operate. Having a Native voice to discuss, change, and implement state policies significantly affects how Washington handles Native issues in the future. 

Chairwoman Teri Gobin began the meeting by saying, “Thank everyone for all your efforts and being here today. My dad Stan Jones was a part of history and participated when the first Centennial Accord was passed. I remember praying that we would reach a point where our people would be treated as equals, our rights would be respected, and our sovereignty would be protected. Years of hard work have gone into this, and we are at a pivotal point in history where so many issues require us to take action now. Our ancestors are here with us and watching over us as we make these changes.”

Throughout the day, the parties discussed specific issues involving education, health, the Climate Commitment Act, the HEAL Act, environmental justice, Social Services, and Natural Resources. The first day of the Accord is used to finalize details and answer concerns before presenting these agendas to the state Governor on the second day.

This year’s Centennial Accord was the first gathering that Higher Education acquired its own roundtable discussion. One of the many topics discussed was the lack of Native employee and counselor representation within colleges, funding towards Native students, and hardships that first-generation Native college students face. And though many of the public colleges are willing and able to work with tribes, establishing the foundation of these efforts is what many tribal leaders are trying to develop. 

Representative Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, was in attendance for the Accord and spoke about the actions that she is taking for Higher Education, “I’m proposing a Bill this year that provides free tuition, housing, and a stipend for food. This will apply to Native Americans of all federally recognized tribes across the nation attending (public) universities and colleges in Washington. If you are a Native from a federally recognized tribe from Montana and enroll in a university or college in Washington, then you can receive funding.” 

During the Social Services meeting conversation focused on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the possibility of it being overturned by the Supreme Court on November 9. Ross Hunter, Secretary of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and Honorable Loni Greninger, Vice-Chair of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, assured that they are working to prepare an argument for November 9 to preserve ICWA, and have been diligently working with other states in the US to do the same.

When speaking about the health struggles that Native people face, a State of Emergency was discussed, as Native Americans accounted for 63% of the suicide attempts in Washington in  2020. It was also noted that in 2001 the Native American mortality rate increased by 58%. To help mitigate this issue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) set up a 24/7 emergency hotline dedicated to mental health crises called the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. When a Native is suffering a mental health crisis, they can dial 988, explain that they are Native, and be transferred to a Native mental health and substance use disorder professional in their territory and seek specific cultural and spiritual guidance. It is a new program that SAMHSA hopes to have operational soon. 

The opioid crisis was also heavily discussed at the Accord. Lummi Chairman William Jones Sr was transparent about their declaration of emergency, their struggles, and concerns about fentanyl, saying, “We keep talking about how it’s a crisis, and how devastating it is for our people, but why isn’t the government attacking this issue like they did Covid? I’m sure everyone in this room can say they have been affected by fentanyl. We’re becoming almost numb to hearing about overdoses, but we must figure out a solution and need real help from the state.” 

Many other tribes shared their problems with fentanyl and how the lack of law enforcement and healthcare on reservations only continues to play into the crisis. The Chair of the American Indian Health Commission, Steve Kutz, responded by saying there is a need for a summit dedicated towards fentanyl, to which Governor Inslee agreed.

Another concern for many tribes is the Salmon crisis. Some tribes explained a severe decline in the salmon population in their area and an urge for government involvement and funding towards rehabilitation.

  Senior Policy Advisor for Natural Resources for Washington, Ruth Musgrave, responded, “Although the Lorraine Loomis Act was not successful, this process is still ongoing, the two provisos were put into place. One was finding all the voluntary and regulatory programs agencies have for riparian restoration and protection. The other was to interview many of you [tribal leaders] and stakeholders about what would work for riparian restoration.”

  She continued to speak on the 3.2 billion dollars that have been used towards salmon recovery, the Lower Snake River Dam initiative, erecting fish passage barriers, seeking tribal consultation, and the various ways departments continue to work together to try and institute change. 

A historical moment occurred at the Accord as the Tulalip Tribes and the Department of Corrections held an additional signing ceremony for Senate Bill 5694, which Governor Inslee initially signed in March. The Bill recognizes tribes’ sovereign nations, equitable with any other state, state agency, county, or federal jurisdiction in decisions regarding the Department of Corrections. It also authorizes the Washington State Department of Corrections to negotiate agreements with Washington tribes to allow tribal court inmates to serve their felony sentences in an appropriate facility with access to Native rehabilitative services.

Throughout American history, our ancestors have struggled to protect our culture and way of life. With so many adversaries, the Accord continues to hold a place where tribal leaders get direct face time with Washington legislation, the state Governor, and government department leads. And though discussions can sometimes get heated, Governor Inslee stated, “Native Americans have a voice, and it is powerful.” 

The state and tribes continue to work together, hold meaningful dialogue, and fight for our peoples’ voices and generations to come. 

Truth, Justice, Healing

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In anticipation of their second annual community gathering to recognize Residential Boarding School Awareness Day, the Tulalip Education Division once again planned to hand out orange t-shirts on September 30th

Last year, the Education Division reached out to Tulalip artist, Marysa Sylvester for the very first t-shirt design, which featured a hummingbird and a flower in traditional formline. Keeping true to their theme of supporting and promoting Tulalip artists, the Education Division commissioned this year’s design from Ty Juvinel. 

Leading up to the gathering, the design was kept under wraps and was set to be unveiled the day of the event. Hours prior to the ceremony, Tulalip News got an exclusive sneak peek at the design, which displayed the words truth, justice, healing in the traditional Lushootseed language. The design was leaked on the Tulalip News Facebook page and received a lot of heartfelt reactions and comments, and hopefully prompted many to take part in the annual gathering.

Said Ty, “The design represents a thunderbird and the creator watching over the community, with two warrior drummers watching over the children, and the children have their dance paddles showing they still have their heritage.”

Hundreds of t-shirts were handed out at the start of the ceremony, and together as a community, the people brought some truth, justice, and healing through traditional song and dance while proudly donning Ty’s design. 

Truth and Reconciliation Day pop-up exhibit at Hibulb

By Kalvin Valdillez

In recognition of Residential Boarding School Awareness Day, the Hibulb Cultural Center held a pop-up exhibit on Friday September 30 to help their visitors gain an understanding about the Indian Boarding Schools. The exhibit gave insight to what occurred at the terrible institutes of assimilation from the point of view of the Indigenous children who attended the Tulalip boarding school.

A heart-wrenching and tear-jerking screening of ‘The Faces of the Tulalip Boarding School’ played on a loop throughout the day inside the cultural center’s longhouse. The HCC giftshop also had a handful of orange t-shirts available for purchase in honor of the day of awareness. And a large double-sided panel was stationed at the center of the museum, which depicted black and white photos of the Tulalip boarding school and its students. Through letters sent home and a number of recorded interviews, the Hibulb Cultural Center compiled several testimonies from the Tulalip boarding school students, which painfully details what they experienced at the school. 

Those dreadful recountings are positioned throughout the panel as captions to various photos. Below are some of those statements.

“The first night away from home seemed like a long, long night. At home, my mother would always go to the bedroom with me and lift me up. Sometimes my father would come to the door and tell me that I was a good girl. At school everyone put themselves to bed. The dormitories were always so cold. They had the windows wide open because they didn’t want us to get tuberculosis. Even in the winter they were wide open, and the cold wind blows over the bay.” 

   – Harriette Shelton-Dover, Snohomish

“I remember one of those majors, when there was an infraction of the rules, made the girls who went outside the boundaries line up and march in front of everyone in all three companies and get the back of their legs slapped with a ruler. And those girls couldn’t walk. It put scars on them.”

    – Vi Hilbert, Upper Skagit

“At Tulalip you had to wear uniforms. They had a celluloid collar. I have a short neck and that thing would stick into my neck, so I’d always have to hold my head way up.” 

   – Ronomous ‘Toddy’ Lear, Lummi

“It was always meat and potatoes and ugly gravy. One doctor came along, and he changed things. He seen that a lot of us were getting sores around the neck, and he thought it was the diet.” 

   – Marya Moses, Snohomish

“We had to march from our rooms to the kitchen to eat and back again to get ready for school. And we’d march to the school building. Everywhere we went we’d march, march, march.” 

   – Ham Green, Makah

“I went to Tulalip. I was six years old. Mother didn’t like it very well, but she said it just had to be done. I felt bad when we was going., heck, along come a boat, a big motorboat, and picked us up. Like little cows, we got in and away we went. We didn’t even know where Tulalip was.” 

   – Woody Loughtey, Suquamish

“When the flu first came in 1917-1918m they were making coffins, but they couldn’t make them fast enough, so many people died. So, they wrapped them in tule mats, five or six in one grave.”

    – Alfred Sam, Snohomish

The cultural center’s pop-up exhibit was a great introductory for those who wished to learn more about the boarding school era. Upon sharing the news about the exhibit on social media, many people who live out of the vicinity of Tulalip requested another pop-up so they can plan a visit in the near future. Several of those individuals expressed that they actually had relatives who attended the Tulalip boarding school and inquired how they could receive additional information and/or photos of their loved ones.

The Hibulb Cultural Center is open Tuesday – Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday Noon to 5:00 p.m. For more information, including their exhibits and events, please visit their website or contact (360) 716-2600. 

Every child matters

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Education Division hosted their second annual Residential Boarding School Awareness Day. The evening commemorated the lost lives from residential boarding schools, and acknowledged the pain that the survivors carry with them every day. Some of the survivors shared their stories, family members spoke about the generational trauma that came from this era, and tribal leaders expressed how our community can move forward together.

Board of Directors Secretary, Debra Posey, spoke about how her grandmother was the first woman ever on the Tulalip tribal council in 1936. Long ago, they would pull their money together for gas, travel and to write letters to Washington DC, urging politicians and legislators to help our people. She spoke about how that same spirit and unity still lives in our people today through events like Residential Boarding School Awareness Day. 

The emotional and heartfelt event was full of song and prayer to instigate healing and spiritual restoration. Tribal and community members wore orange to symbolize the day and show unity in efforts to raise awareness about these issues. And the phrase “Every Child Matters” was seen printed on items like earrings, t-shirts, and bags to remind those around us of the horrific acts that our families and ancestors once endured.

Throughout history our people have been silenced, demonized, and violated. Residential Boarding Schools are just another example of this horrific past and the grounds in which this country was built. The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition has identified more than 350 boarding schools that were operated by the US Federal government and the churches, from 1869 to the 1960s. Their philosophy being, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Native American children were forcibly taken from their homes and placed into these boarding schools intended to implement cultural genocide. Native children suffered various amounts of emotional, physical, sexual, mental and spiritual abuse. And in many cases, death. Children were no longer allowed to speak their native language, wear their traditional clothing, sing or dance, and partake in any of their cultural practices.

The US Interior Department has so far recognized 53 boarding school burial sites, both marked and unmarked. While the remains of our ancestors continually are found, the Interior Department acknowledged that these numbers will continue to grow as research continues. Today, 75 of the remaining boarding schools are still open, and 15 of them are still boarding.

This heartbreak is nothing new to our people, it is something that Indigenous people across the continent continue to feel and strive to overcome. Native Americans continue to fight and spread the word on this horrific era, and make the tragedies of our people known. 

When speaking about the intentions behind Residential Boarding School Awareness Day, Youth and Family Enrichment Manager Josh Fryberg said “We come together to raise awareness about boarding schools, and to bring our people healing in the best way that we know how.” 

For our people to be able to gather like we once did, to sing and dance, and honor our ancestors, it speaks to the level of perseverance that our people have and will continue to portray.