“There are a lot of overdoses during bonus and Christmas time,” said ODMAP (Overdose Detection Mapping & Application Program) Outreach Specialist, Tashena Hill. “People are feeling sad because they can’t be with their families or they are reminded of family members who passed on. ODs really spike during this time of year, so it is very important for us to get this information out.”
As overdose rates continue to climb nationwide, the Tulalip Tribal Court is taking action in an attempt to address the opioid epidemic on the reservation. Multiple studies from the likes of the CDC and the Washington Post report that Indian Country has been hit the hardest, claiming that from 2006-2014 Natives were 50% more likely to die from an opioid overdose than any other race in the country. Those reputable sources also released a disclaimer stating those statistics are more than likely under reported due to a number of factors. Most misreporting stems from hospitals and coroners indicating the incorrect race on the death certificates of overdose victims.
The numbers reported on a national level are still staggering. After approximately 70,000 overdose related deaths occurred in 2017, the United States saw that number decrease to 67,000 in 2018. Unfortunately, in 2019, the CDC reports that the drug overdose rate rose by 4.6% in the course of a year to nearly 71,000 deaths nationwide. Early projections indicate that those numbers may have spiked yet again in 2020, citing the novel coronavirus as a key contributor to several overdoses throughout the year.
In 2017, roughly 30% of deaths in Washington State were attributed to overdose with a large percentage occurring in Snohomish county, particularly the Marysville, Everett and Tulalip region. It would be extremely challenging, however, if you wanted to gather and analyze data regarding the number of overdoses and overdose related deaths at Tulalip alone, as reportings tend to vary based on jurisdictions and which emergency response team answers the call of distress.
Tulalip Tribal Court Director Alicia Horne explained, “Right now, Tulalip has no central data to utilize to determine OD. This new program is going to create the database to track those statistics, that’s one of the objectives of this program. And prevention. If an emergency response team is responding to a 9-1-1 call and they issue Narcan, having that information will help this program go out to do intervention services and provide detoxing treatments, getting them set-up on a Suboxone or Methadone program. This will help us collect data to see what the overdose rate is in the Tulalip community and how we can provide prevention and intervention services.”
ODMAP, or the Overdose Detection Mapping & Application Program, is a service utilized by communities across the nation. Counties that have elected to use the company’s database have been able to significantly reduce the number of overdoses in their region.
“ODMAP is a system that emergency response personnel like the fire department, EMTs, and the police department can enter real-time data regarding an overdose,” said ODMAP Project Coordinator, Kali Joseph. “That includes a general location of the overdose, whether Naloxone was administered, how much Naloxone was administered, and whether the overdose was fatal or not. And then we have our outreach workers deploy the resources to those people who are susceptible to overdose or are suffering with substance abuse disorder.”
Having access to those reports is a major step in addressing the opioid and heroin epidemic on the reservation. Now TPD and other emergency response teams can pinpoint specific neighborhoods and areas that are affected most by drug overdose and can thereby, in theory, disrupt any activity when the numbers are on the rise.
“Using the ODMAP app we can see a spike happen in real-time,” expressed ODMAP Social Worker, Cara McCoy. “When we have all these spikes and overdoses, we can warn the community that maybe there’s a bad drug and to be careful. The app is really easy to use so the officer or whoever has the app will be able to capture it immediately so we have more accurate numbers.”
In addition to tracking and monitoring overdoses on the reservation, the ODMAP team is focused on promoting a healthy Tulalip community and will provide outreach work, cultural activities, and endless resources for those ready and willing to leave their addiction in the past.
“We’re working on getting a list of all the things that could be barriers in between someone obtaining their sobriety,” stated Kali. “That could be food, a driving abstract, Washington State ID, duffle bag, clothes, signing up for insurance, cell phones, or providing them with a ride. Sometimes the fees for a driving abstract or an ID, to be able to get into a detox center or treatment, can be a very big barrier for people trying to get clean and sober so we just want be able to help them break down those barriers.”
Added Tashena, “The biggest obstacle for any of our clients is having a place to go after coming home from treatment or jail. The Tribe doesn’t offer anything for short-term, so we’re working on trying to find a place for them to go in the interim. We need somewhere for them to go so they can be successful on their journey.”
The very first project for the ODMAP team is taking place on December 16, a virtual training session that will inform those who attend how to appropriately and effectively administer Naloxone or Narcan nasal spray, which can potentially save someone’s life in the event of an overdose. According to their research, 690 overdoses in Washington State were reversed with Naloxone in 2016.
“It first started with Cara setting up a meeting with the Swinomish Wellness Center, they have reduced their overdose rate by 50%,” Kali noted. “We asked them what type of things they’re doing to reduce their rate so greatly and they said that a big factor was distributing Narcan to the community members. We thought we should have a Narcan distribution for our community right before the holidays. It was actually Tashena’s idea to do it before the holidays, especially because we all get this big chunk of money. We are here for prevention and we think that sharing information and knowledge is a really good prevention method, as well as distributing the Narcan.”
In total, the ODMAP team will distribute 50 Narcan kits to the community by December 18. Those who wish to receive a kit will be required to sign-up and attend a GoToMeeting session on Wednesday December 16. The trainings will be split into two sessions, one at 10:00 a.m. and the other at 2:00 p.m., and will be limited to 25 participants per session. After attending the training, the ODMAP team will hand-deliver the Narcan kits to your doorstep, along with other resources, including information about the program as well as some fun holiday gifts. You must be at least 13 years old to attend the training and receive a Narcan kit.
“Our team is driven to reduce the overdose rates here at Tulalip,” expressed Tashena. “This is important to me as a Tribal member who has suffered from this opioid affliction, being able to give back to my people and show them there is hope. If I can overcome such a horrendous obstacle then anyone can. There is help here for people that want it or need it. There are people who care and are more than willing to help our community members if they want it. The upcoming Narcan training is so important because if we can save anyone, even one person, that is a win. Every last person matters. That is our way, huyadad, to care for every one of our members. At least that’s what my grandfather Stan Jones Sr. taught me – to care for everyone.”
For further information and to register for the upcoming Narcan presentation and distribution, please contact Tashena Hill at (360)-913-7897 or email@example.com, Melissa Gover at (360)-631-2668 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Cara McCoy at (360)-631-7443 or email@example.com.
The tragic loss of police officer Charlie Cortez, who died in the line of duty on November 17 after his patrol boat capsized, has been felt near and far. A 29-year-old hero and father of two young children, his family and friends offer prayers and well wishes to the recovery teams who depart Tulalip Marina shortly after sunrise every day in search of the fallen Tulalip tribal member.
“To date, we’ve used some of the best technology in the world to aid in our search and recovery mission,” explained Chris Sutter, Tulalip Police Chief. “Advanced underwater sonar imaging of the ocean floor, underwater drones, air resources including fixed wing aircrafts, helicopters, and unmanned drones, and, our most important resource of all, thousands of hours of manpower by dedicated first responders, fishermen, and civilian volunteers.
“We’ve done our best to cover all relevant search areas , from north of Tulalip, Port Susan area to Camano Island, top end of Whidbey Island, both sides of Hat Island, up the Snohomish River system, and all the way down past Mukilteo looking for our lost officer,” he continued. “We have not turned away any resources, as we’ve had many vessels and specialized search teams on the water searching far and wide.”
One such resource is the King County Search Dogs. A part of the King County Search and Rescue Association, the highly specialized canine unit assists law enforcement agencies with missing person searches and human recovery in the wilderness and urban settings. A team of ten (four dogs, four handlers and two support) joined Tulalip’s recovery efforts for Officer Cortez on December 5.
The search dog unit were briefed by Chief Sutter and Commander Robert Myers at the local marina before being transported to the primary search area by Fish and Wildlife boat operator supervisor Bernie Edge and Tulalip citizen Sam Davis.
The extraordinary dog-handler teams are trained for effective and efficient searches thanks to the four-legged companions’ possession of up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in people. The part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than the average human.
Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude – it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. “Let’s suppose they’re just 10,000 times better,” says James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, who came up with that jaw-dropping estimate during a rigorously designed, oft-cited study. “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away.”*
Three super powered snouts actively worked the waters of Possession Sound, between Port of Everett, Priest Point and Hat Island, while a fourth roamed on land in search of any possible leads. Dog handler Joan Hitchner, an 18-year vet with search and rescue, trailed 7-year-old R2 as he traversed nearly six miles of sand dunes, boulders, a horde of driftwood, and wetland sniffing for viable scent trails on Jetty Island.
On water, the search dogs literally stood on bow and stern of two separate boats while being taxied back and forth along the coastal waters for hour after hour. With noses held high, they processed the Possession Sound environment for any trace of Officer Cortez.
“Recovery efforts from water, especially the ocean, is inherently challenging because water is in a constantly changing state,” said dog handler Josh Gerstman, a 23-year vet with search and rescue, while beside his 8-year-old chocolate Labrador, Natick. “Fluctuating water temperatures, ocean depths, wind currents, turbidity and tidal impacts are all variables that cannot be understated. Our dogs’ sense of smell is incredible and they adhered to their training admirably under these conditions.”
After their day on the water and along the coast, the search and recovery teams reconvened at the Tulalip Marina to debrief. Information received from the search dogs will be further analyzed with all other search effort information logged to date.
“Each day for the past three weeks, we’ve had different teams from a variety of local, regional and state agencies participate in our search and recovery mission,” reflected Chief Sutter. “Having the canine search team out today really gives us hope as we continue to bring in as many resources as we can to help locate and recover Officer Cortez. We are grateful to receive support from our neighboring King County Sherriff’s Office and every other community partner who has dedicated time and resources to support us.”
In the three weeks since Tulalip lost its first ever officer in the line of duty, the Tulalip Police Department, in partnership with Fish and Wildlife staff and countless fishermen, remain committed to bringing Officer Cortez home. Their exhaustive efforts show the depth of this community’s love for each other and of the brotherhood of law enforcement. The search continues.
Tulalip tribal member RaeQuan Battle has been getting buckets since the moment he was able to shoot a basketball. From his early days spent endlessly shooting in the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club gymnasium to his more formative years at Marysville Pilchuck High School, where he led the Tomahawks to back-to-back State tournaments, RaeQuan’s talents on the hardwood have always been astonishing.
Last year, during his freshman season at the prestigious University of Washington, RaeQuan showed his shooting touch was made for the collegiate level. Averaging a shade over 11 minutes per game, he scored double-digit points five times, connected on twenty-two 3-pointers, and saw action in twenty games for the Huskies.
Now in his second year, the Tulalip phenom is determined to take his game to an even higher level. A sentiment echoed by his head coach during the offseason.
“The thing that makes him great is, he’s got what great players have, which is ultimate confidence,” Huskies head coach Mike Hopkins told The News Tribune. “I believe that he thinks if he took a half-court shot, it’s going in…I wish I had that as a player.
“At the end of the day, he had some incredible moments as a freshman,” Hopkins continued. “His ability to shoot the ball and he’s got a quick release. The one thing that people don’t know about RaeQuan, [he] can fly. Like he can really jump. His future is on a different level. His potential is just limitless.”
Limitless potential. That’s very high praise from any coach, especially one running a D-1 collegiate program. To his credit, the 19-year-old RaeQuan fully understands that in order to reach his full potential he has to continue training his body for the strength and conditioning necessary to compete on both sides of the court, while continuing to look for ways to improve his all-around game.
“I’m focused on improving my ball handling and my defense. Once I’ve added those to my game, to go with my shooting and athletic abilities, I could do whatever I want on the basketball court,” said the sophomore sharpshooter. “Hitting the gym for a variety of workouts to help me get stronger is a priority, too. I know putting in the work will make me better.”
All his dedication to improving his game in the offseason was on full display in the Huskies season opener versus the #2 ranked team in the country, Baylor, on November 29. Coming off the bench, the 6’5 shooting guard led his team in scoring and minutes played. Never one to shy away from an open 3-pointer, he went 2-8 from downtown while also displaying his court vision for three assists.
Outside of his athletic prowess on the court, RaeQuan has accepted the mantle as cultural ambassador for his Native culture. Something many his age typically shy away from.
“I do consider myself an ambassador for the Tulalip Reservation,” he explained. Even on the Seattle campus with thousands of students, he stands out for his towering frame and eagerly describes his proud Tulalip culture to anyone curious enough to ask. “Whenever my name gets said, I want people to think of Tulalip, and for everyone back home to know I’m proud of where we come from.”
Quite literally wearing his culture on his sleeves, RaeQuan has a number of tattoos honoring his tribe. ‘Respect the past, Create the future’, accented by eagle feathers, is on the inside of his left arm. However, it’s the large Lushootseed print on both forearms that stand out most. One arm reads ‘dxʷlilap’ (Lushootseed spelling of Tulalip) and the other ‘səswix̌ab’ (Lushootseed spelling of his mom, Jacquie Battle’s Indian name).
“I wear number 21 for my mom,” said the Marysville Pilchuck alum. “She wore it in high school. My mom worked her butt off to provide for me and my siblings. She’s always done whatever is necessary for us, and I want to repay her by being the best man that I can be.”
With his playing time expected to increase this season and his offensive role sure to expand as well, the future remains bright for Tulalip’s latest sports icon. With the ultimate hoops dream to play in the NBA, RaeQuan remains dedicated to all the youth who adore him as their hero.
“It means a lot knowing [Tulalip youth] look up to me because I’m proud to be a role model to them and show them what’s possible,” he shared. “I still love visiting the Boys & Girls Club and the Teen Center on the reservation because it brings back a lot of memories, and it shows all the kids that I haven’t forgot about them. After all, they are my number one fans.”
By Micheal Rios, photos courtesy of Alan Karchmer for NMAI
A permanent memorial dedicated to generations of Native American military veterans was unveiled on Veteran’s Day, November 11, in the heart of Washington D.C. It’s been over twenty-five years in the making, as Congress authorized construction of such a dedication in front of the National Museum of the American Indian back in 1994.
To celebrate the momentous occasion in the age of COVID-based restrictions and social distancing, a planned dedication ceremony and veterans procession was replaced with a virtual program. Opening the video presentation was none other than Tulalip’s own Board of Director and Army veteran, Mel Sheldon.
“I’d like to start by thanking our elders and veterans. All the brave men and women who have served before us created the foundation for our next generation,” said Mel during the initial moments of the twenty-two minute program. “They created a legacy that extends to the younger leaders of our country, as well as those who are now currently serving in the armed forces.
“My father was a Marine and he served in World War II. His example led me to carrying on that proud tradition when, at just 19-years-old, I served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot,” he continued. “Here at Tulalip, we have a number of women who have served in the military and in our traditional way we raise our hands to them for their courage and service. There have been 29 million people serving in the U.S. military from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan, and a good portion of them are proud Native Americans. [We] have served at a very high rate in the military and we’re very proud of that warrior tradition.”
Native men and women have always been defenders of their lives, traditional homelands, and cultural lifeways. The call to serve in the United States military has been strong for our people since the nation’s founding, long before being officially recognized as U.S. citizens in 1924.
In fact, the Department of Defense recognizes that today’s military successes depend heavily on the contribution of America’s first people. Thirty-one thousand proud Native American men and women are on active duty today, serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. In total there are 140,000+ Native veterans living, breathing, and passing on teachings about honor and duty to a cause much larger than oneself.
The best stat of all is as a demographic, Native Americans serve in the armed forces at five times the national average and enlist in the military at the highest per-capita rate of any other group. A longstanding warrior tradition of so many, past and present, is now forever memorialized with a federal monument in the U.S. capital.
Designed by multimedia artist and Marine Corps veteran, Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho), the one-of-kind fixture features an elevated stainless steel circle resting on a carved stone drum. It also incorporates water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gathering, and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders and others can attach prayer ties for healing.
“That big vertical circle that stands in the middle, I call it the hole in the sky where the Creator lives. When you pray, that prayer goes through there and the Creator receives it and blesses you,” explained Harvey in an interview with Indian Country Today. “No matter how you feel about how our country has treated Native people, it’s important to honor all our Native warriors. They fought to protect the land we live on. That’s what warriors do.”
While the warrior mentality to protect the sacred has a long and prideful history, at the same time Native communities have never taken a loss of life lightly. Paying homage to fallen warriors as heroes with reverent memorials filled with ceremonies and prayers is a traditional teaching that unites tribal members of all 574 federally recognized tribes. Dubbed the Warriors’ Circle of Honor, this memorial intends to unite any and all visitors though a connection of service and sacrifice by Native veterans, past and present.
“The National Native American Veterans Memorial will serve as a reminder to the nation and the world of the service and sacrifice of Native American veterans,” said Kevin Gover (Pawnee), NMAI director. “Native Americans have always answered the call to serve, and this memorial is a fitting tribute to their patriotism and deep commitment to this country.”
Kettle corn has been described as the perfect snack. Its unique combination of sweet and salty, with just the right amount of crunch, is a highly sought after mouthgasm at fairs and outdoor festivals by people of all ages. For one Tulalip family, kettle corn represents something much more significant than an occasional treat, it represents a voice for the voiceless.
“Our youngest son Jared has autism. He was put on the spectrum when he was a toddler,” explained former Board of Director, Jared Parks. “As a family of eight, it’s been an adjustment for us all. We’ve learned so much about autism and how it’s a spectrum, which means that it effects people differently. For our son, he has nonverbal autism. He may not be able to speak, but he can still express himself.”
That expression is clearly evident when 7-year-old Jared II is around kettle corn. His parents say “he lights up and has a grin from ear to ear”. Young Jared’s love for flavorful popped kernels was the inspiration behind his parents’ decision to create a small business venture named after their son, called Jared’s Corner. Their mission? To help raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder.
Autism impacts people regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or political allegiances. It is estimated that 25 million people are affected worldwide. There is no cure for autism, and currently boys are approximately 4.5 times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than girls. Often not discussed is the high rate of autistic individuals who are nonverbal, which is true in roughly one-third of all cases.
“I had to throw out the parenting book with all I knew and needed to learn new ways to communicate and show affection,” shared momma bear, Kristie Parks. “It’s been challenging. I tell my kids all the time ‘I love you’ and they say it back to me, but my son can’t. He’s never called me ‘mom’, or been able to tell me if his tummy hurts or if someone hurt him. What my son has become is my family’s biggest teacher. He’s taught us to slow down our lives, be extremely patient, and accept all of life’s blessings.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 1 in 54 children have been identified with autism. That’s nearly twice the rate from 1 in 125 found in 2004. The dramatic increase and recent spotlight shining on the developmental disorder has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve people on the autism spectrum and their families.
“Our son is different from our other five kids in so many ways, but we really do view it as a blessing,” added Jared. “He’s taught us to be better parents. We’re more patient and compassionate because of our son. Now, we want to spread awareness about autism and it just so happens kettle corn is a good metaphor for the spectrum.
“Basically, we can take a batch of this kettle corn, lay it out, and see that no two kernels are the same,” he continued. “They are all different, just like those on the spectrum. That’s the meaning behind our slogan, ‘not one kernel is the same’.”
By founding Jared’s Corner this past summer, parents Jared and Kristie intend to speak on behalf of their son to customers who stop by their stand to purchase a bag of freshly popped kettle corn. While completing their transactions, customers are informed of Jared’s Corner’s namesake and the meaning behind the logo.
The puzzle piece is a highly recognized symbol for autism spectrum disorder. It symbolizes all the different ways individual kids fit together. It symbolizes the complicated ways this disorder may manifest itself in children. It also symbolizes how there is no one therapy that works for everyone, and sometimes it’s a whole puzzle of therapies that when pieced together just right actually make a difference.
The Parks family is dedicated to helping find solutions and bring further awareness across the spectrum to the needs of individuals with autism and their families. They will be doing their part by donating a percentage of annual income to pro-autism foundations.
“Being baby Jared’s mother, his voice, his protector, it was and still is an unbelievable roller coaster ride,” said Kristie. “We want to share our experience because the autism rate continues to go up and there is so little information available to parents and families who struggle in silence. Our goal with Jared’s Corner is to help promote understanding that just like ‘not one kernel is the same’, every child is different and every autism story is different.”
Jared’s Corner is conveniently located on the Tulalip Reservation along Quil Ceda Boulevard, in the vacant lot between Cabela’s and Home Depot. They are open for business Thursday – Saturday from 10:00am – 5:00pm. Other locations and times to come, such as outside Tulalip Market and Remedy. Keep a look out for the red pinched tent or follow Jared Parks on Facebook for details.
Regular kettle and caramel kettle are always available in medium ($5 bag) and large ($10 bag). A third flavor is offered as well, which ranges from cinnamon toast, chocolate, vanilla, orange and grape. Because this is the Pacific Northwest, aka Seahawks Territory, every ‘blue Friday’ a mixed batch of green apple and blue raspberry is available.
Jared’s Corner can also provide kettle corn for private parties and events. For more information or to place an order to support a wonderful cause, please call (425) 737-2168.
As the original caretakers of this region, the Tulalip people share a deep connection with Mother Earth. Generation after generation, the youth are taught about the natural world; the knowledge of plants and their medicinal components, as well as their use for sustenance and ceremonial purposes, including but not limited to regalia and blessings. The traditions are usually passed on through families. Today, classes are offered by a number of departments and traditional ceremonies are often open to the public, helping pass down that knowledge on a larger scale and ensuring the sduhubš way of life is preserved and lives well into the future of Tulalip lineage.
One such program that develops cultural lessons and projects, and thereby provides the Tulalip people with a deeper understanding of the local Native plants and their many uses, is the Rediscovery Program. Originally started by Tribal members Hank Gobin and Inez Bill, Rediscovery was recently, in traditional fashion, handed off to the next generation as Virginia Jones and Taylor Henry take the knowledge learned, working alongside Inez, and prepare to put a new spin on tradition.
The program has been invested in the annual Tribal Canoe Journey and makes traditional medicinal supplies with the community, not only for the Tulalip Canoe families, but also to gift to the hosting tribes along the way. Throughout the year, the program will hold classes at the Hibulb Cultural Center where tribal members can create handmade products such as lip balm, sunscreen, salves, headache and sinus oil, tea, and also sage and cedar bundles for Journey. With the cancelation of Canoe Journey this year, the Rediscovery had an abundance of product that would expire if not used within the year.
While determining what to do with the handmade goods, the program was met with yet another challenge – how to provide their services to the tribal membership during a worldwide pandemic.
Explained Virginia, “We had to find a way to provide a cultural connection for our people. And when we were thinking about classes, it didn’t feel like that was reasonable around COVID. We were considering how many different family members and households we could reach if we put together this drive-thru kit idea, and we’ve been able to reach a lot more families than if we were just providing classes.”
Once-a-month, you can catch the Rediscovery team offering medicine, in the form of both laughter and DIY craft kits, at the far end of the Hibulb Cultural Center parking lot. Since the kits are offered to Tulalip tribal members only, Virginia and Taylor advertised the first two events solely on the Tulalip tribal member Facebook page. Those advertisements alone brought hundreds of people by the carload to see what the program has to offer their families. Each tribal member chooses one kit of their liking and receive one bottle of sinus and headache oil.
“Some of that smudge from Journey are in these kits because we figured that maybe the Tulalip families could use those things even though they were put together with the intention of being for Journey,” Virginia continued. “The sinus and headache oil was another one of the items that people got together to make. With a lot of these plant medicines, it’s better that they get used than waiting until next Journey, so we decided we would provide them to the community.”
On the morning of October 22, Rediscovery set up shop and were busy throughout the day while cars trickled in and out of the Hibulb parking lot. People had three options to choose from; shawl kits complete with thread and needle, rawhide rattle kits or a smudge blend and loose-leaf tea kit. Tribal member Theresa Sheldon expressed that COVID cannot stop the culture when she dropped by to pick up several kits for herself and her nieces to construct while they spend a little family time together.
“I love this, because we are all at home and this really helps,” said Theresa. “I have nieces who we’ve been doing art projects with, so it’s perfect being able to teach them how to do this stuff, because they’re going to carry this on after us. And it doesn’t stop, the teachings and the time to learn, that doesn’t stop as time goes on.”
Overall, 251 DIY kits were handed out during October’s drive-thru event, as well as 261 medicinal plant kits with items such as four thieves room spray, smudge blends, tea and sinus and headache oil. The next drive-thru kit-giveaway will take place on November 4th, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Rediscovery is currently planning drive-thru events through March 2021, but Virginia warns that could change depending on any new developments of the COVID-19 virus.
“I would say that they’re all very happy when they come through to pick up their kits,” assessed Virginia. “It’s hard for them to choose because they want a little bit of everything. I’ve seen a couple people respond to us, showing their completed crafts. We hope to offer different kits at each drive-thru for each month. The November drive-thru will probably be necklace kits – it’ll be a carved paddle or a carved canoe head with string and sandpaper, but they’ll have to do their own beads this time.
“We miss being able to offer the classes and the culture night events in-person. We miss being able to spend time, sharing-in all of those cultural activities, like gathering together and making items. But, we are definitely glad to see the families who come through and take some of these kits home because then at least we know that they can spend that time with their family making those things.”
As the Tulalip Police Department continues to grow, they welcome aboard four new lateral officers to the tribal police force, bringing the total amount of TPD officers to nearly forty strong. Although some of the lateral officers have been a part of the crew from as early as May of this year, they were officially sworn-in to their positions on October 7, joining in celebration with the latest cohorts of cadets-turned-officers who just returned from three-months of intensive training at the U.S. Indian Police Academy in New Mexico.
After vowing to protect the land and people of Tulalip and uphold the law, rights and constitution set forth by the Tribe, the lateral officers; Michel Carrington, Justin Lee, Austin Correa, and Theodore Ojeda, took a moment with Tulalip News to formally introduce themselves. They inform the community about their past experiences in law enforcement as well as their new journey, which takes place on the sduhubš’ territory, known in modern times as the Tulalip Reservation.
Michel Carrington (Transferred from Sauk-Suiattle Fish and Wildlife)
Tulalip News: Welcome to Tulalip! How does it feel now that you are a sworn-in member of the Tulalip Police Department?
It’s awesome. Growing up, I’m from the Sauk-Suiattle, I always shopped here and was always amazed at what the Tulalip Tribes has done for their reservation and governance. I didn’t have too many role models growing, but all the police officers of my community would stop and say hi and I looked up to them. They are who inspired me to become a police officer, I remember saying ‘I want to be just like them.’ The reason why I wanted to come to Tulalip is because there’s lots of opportunity and you can see that the Tribe is going to keep growing.
Why do you believe it’s important to keep that role model aspect of the job going for kids and people who want to become police officers?
The positive influence and impact it could have on the youth. For me growing up, it was the little things, when they would come around and ask how’s your day’s going. When they’d give me a sticker here and there, things like that, because not a lot of kids have that positive role model when they’re growing up, especially in Indian Country.
How long was the process since you made the decision to go for it?
It was quite a while. I first wanted to be a fish and wildlife officer. Obviously, as a tribal member, hunting and fishing inspired me to become a fish and wildlife officer. Our fish and wildlife at Sauk-Suiattle was at the natural resources department. I applied as a technician and it got transferred back to the police department. And that’s when I got my opportunity, because there wasn’t a lot of officers, they were wanting tribal members to apply, so I took my chance and that’s where I started.
Can you speak about the importance of serving a tribal community as a Native police officer?
People, especially kids, like to see their color, their same person, and will feel more open to talk to you. It’s the same with adults too. They may respect you more or feel more open to talk to you because they’re talking about deep personal stuff that not many can relate to or understand.
I bet having that understanding of tribal lifeways is definitely helpful out there. Now that you’re a part of the squad, what are your future goals?
I plan on staying right here. There isn’t a lot of call volume at home (Sauk-Suiattle), it’s low crime. There’s about 400 tribal members there, so it’s real small. My goal was to come to a bigger department and bigger reservation and learn what they have to offer. My plan is to stay as long as I can. And my advice to anybody interested in following this career is train, learn the codes in your community, and get to know the local police officers because knowing people is a real big thing too. If you know somebody they’ll help you and guide you to where you need to be.
Justin Lee (Transferred from Edmonds Police Department)
How does it feel joining the Tulalip force?
It feels great! This is my third agency. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this department. I’ve known Sgt. Bardsley for like 20 years, Chief Sutter – amazing guy, and of course Paul Arroyos, I’ve taken his undercover classes before. The more I get to know about this place – it’s a great department.
What brought you to Tulalip?
To have this caliber of communication, training and caring. Police work is one thing, but being here you get to understand the culture and the community in interactions on any given day and that speaks volumes, because that translates to a better community and more support and better unity as a group.
In this day and age, communication has broken down and because of bad communication, there’s misunderstanding and because of misunderstanding there is distrust and because of distrust there’s the social issues we face. If we can change all that from the beginning, and work together, I think we’re advancing as a group, community, and society. Everybody wins, except if you’re a criminal, obviously.
What inspired you to become an officer of the law?
To protect and serve. I’m a minority. My family has been victims of crimes, I’m a second-generation immigrant, so I’ve seen that. I’ve been burglarized before and I also faced the racial tension – I’ve seen that – and I experienced it as a police officer, both externally and internally. Having said that, I’ve always wanted to help people. That’s the whole reason I became a police officer, to help Korean Americans initially. There’re not many fluent Korean speaking officers in the state of Washington and I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve utilized my language skills in many ways, in many agencies throughout the years.
That was my catalyst, or beginning. Then when I got the experience, I fell in love with what we do. It’s a mentality, a culture. When you bleed, you bleed blue. When you have that support, you build comradeship. I had five co-workers who are LL currently serving in other agencies who came to support me during the swearing-in celebration.
What are your overall thoughts of the department so far?
This is a great place; do we have room to improve? Absolutely. Are we on par with other agencies? Not really, but that’s not everything. I think we have a great foundation, we’re a young department, less than 20 years old. I think we have great leadership, I think those leaders understand the vision of the tribe and of the people. Having said that, is there room to improve, hearing that other departments receive better benefits, absolutely. Hopefully this will bring forth improvements too. We could have officers stay here, instead of providing them some of the best trainings and then when watching them leave because other departments have better benefits. Right now, there are a scarcity of good officers. We lose them left and right; they leave within a year or two here. I’m hoping that will change as we improve, whether it be benefits, pay, better overall package. I know we have the foundation, now it’s time to build something solid so people can say that the Tulalip agency is where I want to work. Not because they are great officers but because of everything else that’s offered here.
Austin Correa (Transferred from Tacoma Police Department)
What brought you to the Tulalip reservation?
Originally, I was born and raised in California. San Jose specifically. I moved to Tacoma, Washington about ten years ago and ever since then I lived in that vicinity. I began my law enforcement with Tacoma Police Department in 2018. I wanted a new change, the things down there weren’t that great to me. I decided to venture out around the whole state, Tulalip was fortunately one of the departments I applied to and they were the first department to offer me a position as a lateral officer, so I’m gracious to them and they were gracious to me, and I signed the final offer right there and then.
When did you start and what are your thoughts about the community?
I like the community, so far. I’ve been here since June and everyone has treated me with respect in the department as well as the community itself.
Right now, I’m in the position as a transport officer, so I do more social stuff like transporting those who have been arrested and bring them to court. I get to know them on a personal basis, it’s kind of interesting where I’m at. I like it in this position, I plan on going back to patrol within a year or so. But where I’m at right now is where I’m comfortable both business-wise and personal-wise because I have a wife and a one-year-old son at home, so the schedule itself is amazing and is beneficial to my family.
What made you want to become a police officer?
Funny thing is I actually wanted to be a firefighter growing up. What influenced me was my grandfather and my uncle, they were prior law enforcement on the big island of Hawaii. I didn’t see much of the career then because they both retired before I was born, but just the stories they told, the stuff they did on a day-to-day basis was something that pushed me to venture out to a career like this. My brother is also a police officer with the Tacoma Police Department and has been with them since 2015. With him recently becoming an officer and telling me the ways he was helping his community, that was something I wanted to do, to help change the life of someone in any way possible. That’s what led me down the path of law enforcement.
You mentioned you were Hawaiian, why do you believe it’s important for minorities to serve on the force, especially in a tribal community?
I feel like it provides a safe net for the community. We want the best for everybody because we know, Hawaiian, tribal, it’s a tight knit family; we care for one another, we help one another. That’s another reason that drew me to this department, the family aspect. I grew up with that all my life, being Hawaiian, family is key. We use the word ohana, that’s a key aspect of why I wanted to come here. Seeing a minority being an officer could help influence positivity to our younger generations to this career and actually reach out to us and feel safe and know we’ll do the job and help them in any way possible.
Since the incidents earlier this year, law enforcement has not been a great career to pursue, it’s like people judge us based off the career. I want everyone to see that, yeah this is a career we chose, but we’re all human inside and we want to do good, we know we can do good by you. I encourage more training, but in order for that training to happen we need money to be put in the departments. I feel like the defund the police that’s going around, those monies should be put towards us getting more training, not taken away because I want everyone to feel safe to call law enforcement.
Theodore Ojeda (Transferred from Harris County Sherriff’s Department, Houston, Texas)
Let’s begin with your background, how did you make your journey to Tulalip?
I was a deputy sheriff in Houston, Texas. My children live here in Washington State. At the time when the four officers were shot in Lakewood, Washington (2009), I was trying to become a police officer. I tested, but no one was hiring. I talked to my uncle Jesse, who’s in Houston, and he knew the sheriff. He said that they were actively hiring. I applied, they flew me down, and I signed on with them, thinking I was going just do the to the minimum two-year commitment and lateral back up here.
Well, something happened in my family dynamics that caused me to stay down there for eight years. I was flying back and forth every three to four months to see my children and spend time with them. One day, my daughter was cheerleading at the new football field in the Mission Beach area. There was an officer there and he said they were hiring. When I got back to Houston, I applied. I came up here on my own dime and I tested, went through the interview process and everything. I also applied to a few other agencies. I made a promise to myself that whatever agency saw my potential and made me an offer, that I would sign. Of all the other agencies that I tested for, because I was number one for Lacey, number two for Olympia, and Vancouver had me on their list too, Tulalip was the first to offer me a spot. I came here and I had the pleasure of meeting Angela and Chief, they sat me in the office and they interviewed me. Right afterwards, they made me an offer. It’s funny, no sooner than I signed that offer, the other agencies reached out to me too, and I told them I appreciated it and that it meant a lot that they finally saw what I was worth, but I told him that I already signed with Tulalip, and so here I am.
What do you think of the community and the reservation so far?
I’ve been here since May and I love that the people have a lot of respect for each other, and the elders. I come from an agency that’s 5,000 officers strong and we have a little bit of community policing out there and that’s something that I’m trying to promote out here as well, getting involved with the community. Right now, I’m almost done with my shadow phase, my training. I know the Chief is excited for me to go out there and try to develop something. I was told that maybe I could head-up a bicycle patrol. When I was in Harris County Sheriff’s Office, myself and a few other officers were involved with the homeless outreach team. We dealt a lot with the homeless and went to some nonprofit organizations and they were able to donate toothbrushes and toothpaste and that progressed to getting some attorneys and medical for those that needed help. I don’t know if Tulalip has anything here yet because I’m going through the training but once I’m done, I would like to see if there’s anything that we could possibly do to help the with the homeless out here.
What experience do you bring to Tulalip?
I bring a lot to Tulalip. There’s a lot of things that they don’t have here that I’ve experienced. I’m a rescue diver, bicycle patrolman – part of this special response group when we hired to riot control and stuff like that, and the Honor Guard as well. We did the special funerals for our fallen officers, and for family members. I’m happy I’m here. I think the Chief sees something in me, and I’m grateful for that.
When did you know that you wanted to become a police officer?
I went into the Marine Corps in January of 1989. I did 14 years in the Marine Corps, and I met my wife, now my ex-wife, in Hawaii. I was stationed in Hawaii. When I came here, I fell in love with Washington State and told myself this is where I was going to make my home. But then when our family fell apart – I was from Texas, so I was planning this start over down there. But my kids are growing up and I wanted to be there for them. So, I applied up here. But what really got me into it, like I said, was the fallen four in Lakewood. That’s actually what made me want to try to make a difference.
What are some of the things you wish to accomplish in your new position on the force?
Try to develop some type of game plan where we can get some of the tribal members that are homeless or are addicted to opioids, some type of help. Try to reintroduce them into life and make them part of the community again. That way, when we see them on the street, they’re no longer looked at like an outcast. I think a lot of these people, from my experiences, just need somebody to talk to. If I could try to help at least one person, it’s worth it to me to take that step.
Eventually, I would like to be a field training officer as well. I admire Chief Sutter, he’s a good mentor. I asked him if there was a mentor program here, and I think that’s something that we need. The way we do policing today is a lot different from what they used to do a long time ago. Today is more about talking to the citizens and finding out what we can do as officers to make the community better.
For a tribal community, do you find that the people are more willing to open up and talk to you as a minority-in-blue?
I always had that desire to help people, that gift to talk to people. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what religion you are, what gender you are – if you’re gay or lesbian, or transgender. If somebody is in need of my help, I’m there. I see people for people. I believe in honor, respect, loyalty.
Any message or words you would like to share with the Tulalip community?
I tell the Chief all the time that I thank him for seeing my potential. And I’m just a small little seed right now. I hope that as time goes on, as I get to know more about the traditions of the people here and what’s really expected from the community, I can partake and try to help. Like I said, even helping one person makes things satisfying for me.
The new TPD officers are excited to get acquainted with the Tulalip community. They have also expressed a strong desire to learn more about the traditions, culture and history of the people, so when you see them, be sure to say hello. And if you are interested in pursuing a career with the Tulalip Police Department, please reach out to Angela Davis, TPD Professional Standards Manager, to begin your new career journey. For further details, visit www.TulalipTribalPolice.org or call the non-emergency line at (360) 716-4608.
After returning from three months of intensive training at the U.S. Indian Police Academy in Artesia, New Mexico, four cadets were officially sworn-in as Tulalip police officers on the afternoon of October 7, taking the oath to support and defend the Tulalip Tribes constitution.
The new TPD officers were surrounded by their friends, family and fellow officers while they were welcomed by tribal singers and Tulalip tribal leadership who spoke of commitment, bravery and compassion while congratulating them on their new journey.
The celebration, of course, was taken with the appropriate safety measures, ensuring everybody in attendance was practicing social distancing and wearing a mask. Angela Davis, TPD Professional Standards Manager and tribal member, organized the event and stated that normally the night would end with a feast, but with the recent uptick in coronavirus cases at Tulalip, the police department opted to forgo the meal. However, Angela explained that enjoying cake together is a longstanding nationwide tradition after newly appointed officers take the oath, so she ordered cake and had to-go boxes ready so the officers could bring their cake home and take part in the tradition safely.
Four lateral officers who transferred from different police departments were also sworn-in on the 7th. Officer Jason Lee, who has taken the oath for a number of Washington State police departments, said the ceremony was, “amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it before. When I was previously sworn-in at other departments, it was always a quick process where we took the oath and signed the paper. But here, we actually had a ceremony in both the judicial way and the Tulalip way, council members spoke and they are very passionate about the city, the reservation and law enforcement. I thought that was pretty moving.”
Angela Davis stated, “My prior military service allowed me to be a part of ceremonies like this. We wanted to make sure that we had the ceremony that we’re used to having at these academies that are off-the-reservation, but also incorporate our culture. We made sure that we had a prayer song or protection song. I thought it was important to have the ceremony available for our new recruits, and our new officers, and even welcoming our new lateral officers, to bring everyone together.”
Now officially members of the Tulalip police force, officers Cheyanne Bear, Jordan Jira, Jonathan Blumm and Brandon Bennett, recently sat down with Tulalip News, in-between defensive tactic training (DT), to reflect on the past several months while on the path to becoming a tribal law official during the COVID-19 era.
Cheyanne Bear (Assiniboine Sioux/Tulalip Mother)
Tulalip News: How does it feel, now that you’ve completed training at the academy and have taken the oath to protect and serve?
It doesn’t seem real yet. I started here January 6th. We were supposed to leave for the academy around April or May and because of COVID, it kept getting canceled and postponed. Finally we got to go in July and we spent three months there. The best feeling that I’ve had so far is seeing how proud my family is, especially my daughter. She’s Tulalip and I just want to give back because the Tribe has been amazing to us. And like everyone else, I want to make a difference and make it safer. Myself, the other officers, we all have good hearts and I want to show being a female Native American, that I can help make that little bit of a difference.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
I was going to school for criminal justice and I had a couple instructors whose stories were amazing, and I knew immediately I wanted to do something like that. Personally, I had some bad experiences with police growing up, they weren’t the best. You see what’s going on in the world, on the news, I don’t want it to stay like that. I want my daughter to see that police officers aren’t bad. How many female police officers are there? Like 4%. And being a Native American, a minority, there’s like, none. At the academy, I was the last female that graduated in our squad. Over 90-something-percent were males. I want to show my daughter and other young women that you can do anything you put your mind to.
What did you learn at the police academy?
We learned Indian laws. We are a sovereign nation, so we learned Tulalip policies, federal polices and Washington state polices. We did stress-test scenarios where they hired actors to come in and they were screaming in our face; there were big guys, small girls, and people you didn’t expect, like in real life. We did mock night calls and pulled people over. There’s a lot of steps to approaching a vehicle, before you get out of the vehicle there are like 12 steps you need to take. We had the gun range; shotguns, A-Ks, handguns – and this was all in the New Mexico heat. We had about 45 physical exams and you had to pass them or you would get sent home.
Why do you believe it is important to have Native American representation on the tribal police force?
I understand where the people are coming from, being Native American as well, I understand the culture. Being out here, there’s a lot of people that are related, so you just have to have an open-mind for that. I feel like that alone could help teach other officers who aren’t Native American tremendously. Like at academy, the cadets who weren’t Native American, we had to get them to understand that there are going to be family members showing up on scene, at the police station. Compared to the outside world, it’s different here.
We are literally a family working out here. Imagine working in Marysville or Everett, when they first get to work they are 20 calls behind. It’s not like that out here, you get to stop, take a moment and talk to people. One time we were handing out food to the elders, that was an amazing experience you’re not going to get that anywhere else.
Now that you are officially sworn-in and a TPD Officer, what’s next?
I don’t plan on ever leaving Tulalip. I don’t plan on working anywhere else. I’ve grown so much being out here, getting to know people. My daughter knows more Lushootseed than I do, so I want to have her to continue to come here and grow as well.
Honestly, I want to be a detective. That would be my dream.
Any words of advice for those interested in joining the Tulalip police force?
If you have the heart, you can do it. You can push yourself to do it and you have all the support of the Tulalip community.
Jordan Jira (Tulalip)
You are officially a Tulalip police officer; how does it feel?
It’s definitely a good feeling. I feel like being a police officer is more of a calling, it’s a career. Tulalip is where I wanted to work because it’s where I grew up, it’s where my friends and family are. I want to raise my family on the reservation. It’s definitely an honorable position to have and I look forward to making the community safer and doing anything I can to put my part in.
What inspired you to follow this career path?
My grandpa was Stan Jones, Scho-Hallem; he made a big impact. If I could do a partial bit of what he did, that would be an amazing accomplishment. He always wanted what’s best for Tulalip and I feel like I have similar beliefs.
Also, my dad (Sgt. Jeff Jira) has been here at the department for 20 years. Every night he’d be going out in his uniform and I just thought that was the coolest thing. Growing up with a father who is in law enforcement makes you respect officers more, what they go through. Another thing is I’ve always wanted was to help make Tulalip safer. Tulalip is the community I love.
What was your experience like at the Indian Police Academy?
It was definitely a good experience. We had it a little bit harder, we were kind of the trial run. It’s a 13-week program. Usually on the weekends you get liberty, meaning you get to go out, go on hikes, get try all the food in New Mexico. It was pretty hard for us because we didn’t get to leave at all, we were stuck on base because of COVID. Five days a week you’re working hard and that goes by quick, and then there’s those two days where you’re just sitting in your room wanting to be at home.
Why is it important to have tribal members serve on the Tulalip police force?
I feel like being a tribal member, especially growing up on the reservation, knowing people is an advantage. It’s not a strange face coming up to you with a badge, it’s someone you know, someone you’ve seen on the reservation. It feels good being a tribal member and working for the police department. Our sovereignty is such a big thing and it’s a big thing to have our own police department.
What’s next for you and do you have any words of advice to share for aspiring police officers?
One thing I always wanted to be when I was younger is a K-9 officer. You have to start out on patrol for the first couple years, but I always thought it would be really interesting to be a K-9 officer. And not going to lie, it’s a hard job. Especially nowadays, you have to have love for the job, love for the people and the community. If you feel like it’s a career and not just a job, go for it.
Jonathon Blumm (Enrolled Alaskan Native)
You were sworn-in on Wednesday, congrats! How does it feel to reach this milestone?
It feels very good, I am pretty proud of myself and all of the other officers. It’s a lot of work, the three months in Artresia were rough, but awesome. I started here in February in pre-academy. At the beginning we were going over laws and lots of DT, shooting, getting ready for the academy. Going to Artesia was an eye-opener but also, looking back, you make a lot of good memories and good friends.
Why did you want to become a police officer?
I always wanted to be a cop, I just never thought I would actually do it. Before this, I was a fleet mechanic for the Tulalip Resort for 12 years. I’ve always seen the position posted online, and one day my fiancé and I decided to just apply and go for it.
I’m Fish and Wildlife – still a police officer but basically patrol the woods and water. I commercial fished on the state side for 5 years, I built two boats and fished under a permit so I was already familiar with boating and commercial fishing. That’s the real reason I went for Fish and Wildlife because I get to be on the water.
Why do you believe it is important to have Native American officers on the tribal police force?
If you’re in uniform they can come up to you, and feel more comfortable doing so because they know you. I know a lot of people out here from working here for so long, and they know you, so you get that support from them.
What’s next in your career path with the Tulalip Police Department and do you have any words of encouragement for those who wish to become a member of the tribal force?
My goal is just to stay here and work my way up if I can and just grow. And even if you don’t think you can, try.
Brandon Bennett (Tulalip community member/parent)
You were recently sworn-in as a member of the TPD police force, let’s talk about your journey up until this point.
I applied back in 2019, did a written interview with the chief and commanders and then did a polygraph, psych evaluation and medical exam. I got hired-on and started working as a cadet. We did a lot of pre-academy work until July 5th, when we left for the academy in New Mexico. We got back a week ago today and it feels so good to be back with the family, my kids and my wife. My wife is other native, my son is other native and my daughter is Tulalip. It felt amazing to be sworn-in, it was a long process. The academy was not easy. I’m talking 10, 12, 16-hour days, so getting sworn-in is a huge accomplishment.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
To show the community that I care. I want to help protect and grow the community and try to keep all the drugs off the reservation.
Why is it important to have members of the community on the tribal police force?
It’s important that kids don’t see police officers as bad people, so they don’t get afraid or think we’re there just to arrest somebody. Sometimes, that is our job, but most of the time we’re there to help the community out with whatever is needed at the time.
What’s next in your career as an official TPD officer?
Field training. Once I pass that, hopefully I get my own vehicle. I’m excited to get out there and start patrolling, I want to connect with more people, talk to more citizens, play basketball with the kids if they’re playing. Just to show that we are all the same, just because I wear a badge doesn’t mean I’m anything more.
The new Tulalip Police Officers will be out and about the rez while training with their senior officers, be sure to give them a warm welcome! And for more information about becoming a Tulalip Police Officer, please contact the department at (360) 716-4608 or visit their new website at www.TulalipTribalPolice.org
Chris Sutter, Tulalip Chief of Police, expressed, “It’s a real positive step in the right direction for the Tulalip Tribal Police to bring on and hire new officers to help grow the department. We’re all about community and service to our community, being guardians and protectors. We’re making significant investments in time and training to help our officers be successful in their new role here in Tulalip. I’m really pleased to see this happening.”
“How did I let this happen?” cried a mourning Indigenous mother.
“Did you know?” she asks, turning her attention away from a photograph to a young Native man standing in her doorway.
“I had no idea, I didn’t think it mattered,” he responded, fighting back tears of his own.
“He’s my son, he matters.”
This emotional dialogue may seem familiar to you if you grew up in Native America. However, it is directly quoted from an upcoming project titled In Spirit, a short film based on a story by Tulalip tribal member, Nathan Williams, also referred to as his moniker, DEAMA. For years, Nate has been expressing himself creatively, giving people a glimpse into his world, whether through music, street art, fashion or most recently, film.
“If I were to put it in my words, short and sweet, the film is about a troubled kid named Jared,” Nate explains. “He’s about 17 or 18 years old and he’s trying to come to grips with his own emotions, with the passing of his long-time best friend turned addict. I tried to make it like a saturated version of my story, as much of my reality as possible without making it the same exact scenario. I tried to paint a typical scenario for everybody else’s situation when confronting those emotions. So, I would say it’s based on a true story, but the film was not the actual timeline.”
There is a meme, or a statement rather, that occasionally will make an appearance on the social media platforms, stating “our generation has been to more of their friend’s funerals than to their weddings,” and unfortunately that is a reality that many Indigenous youth live with in modern society. At tribal gatherings that aim to bring attention to today’s drug epidemic, Tulalip Board Member Mel Sheldon often opens the events by asking attendees to raise their hand if they have ever lost anybody due to a drug overdose. Each time nearly everybody’s hand goes up.
According to current research conducted by the Washington Post, over the course of 8 years, 2006-2014, Native Americans were approximately 50% more likely to die from an opioid overdose than any other race. Furthermore, a new study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the suicide rate amongst Native teens is continuing to rise and is up 139% for Native women and 71% for Native men since 1999.
If you are a non-Native reading those statistics, you may find yourself shocked to learn of this news. This is felt on an even greater level for tribal communities because those ‘statistics’ are often our siblings, cousins, uncles, aunties, parents or friends. And while those articles may provide a lot of eye-opening info, more times than not, they fail to encapsulate the hardship Indigenous Nations are feeling – what they go through with each young tribal member that is buried far too soon.
In Spirit places you directly into that storm of emotions that we are left to deal with after our loved ones make the transition to the afterlife; the hurt, the anger, the guilt, all of those raw emotions are on display and they are portrayed so evocatively you almost feel like you’re reliving moments of your personal life. Nate explained that when casting the roles for the film, he called upon the people in his life that best fit the personalities of his characters, and that all of the cast members were first time actors.
“We tried to go across everything that could possibly happen emotionally in these scenarios,” said Nate. “I’m super impressed with how everyone killed their roles. For the most part, we kind of just gave people a template of what to say. We told them to say it naturally, how they would speak if we were having a normal conversation; the way you say it, your cadence, your emotion that comes out. I think that helped a lot of people with their performance because they didn’t feel like they had to remember their bars. Every shot was under ten takes.”
The 8-minute film was originally intended to be just a scene in a full-length feature that Nate was writing at the time he met the film’s director, Jonathan ‘Jon’ Salmon. The two creatives crossed-paths when Jon hired filmmaker Luis Perez, a close friend of Nate’s, for a 3-part series dubbed Residents. That project was shot in three neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest; South Seattle, Tacoma and Tulalip. From that project, Nate and Jon built a collaborative relationship and the first project they worked on together, a music video for Seattle artist Ben Zaidi, won Best Music Video at the Tacoma Film Festival.
“From there, we started talking,” Jon stated. “A lot of people don’t know what happens on tribal lands, and they’re not too familiar with the genocide of Indigenous people and how the genocidal trauma can continue to affect and spread through the lineage of the people. We opened up and talked about our experience with death, how fast I thought I was losing people from the young age of 15 all the way up until today. And he talked about how it happens on the reservation and how it happens at Tulalip. We need to talk about that because that’s something that’s always put in the headlines, the opioid epidemic tearing apart suburban white neighborhoods, but you never hear that same focus and energy put in the tribal lands that need resources more than suburban families who have the means to deal with it, in a sense.”
After a ten-month writing session, the two created a script that they felt could honestly address the issue of generational trauma and how it affects the Native youth specifically. Once the roles were cast and locations were successfully scouted, filming began at the beginning of 2020 before COVID struck. And thanks to what Nate credits as Jon’s deep connections, multiple crews – filming, editing, makeup, colorists, were in place and the entire filming process took place over the course of only 48 hours. Post-production was relatively quick as well, taking approximately 5-6 months to wrap the film up.
Nate expressed, “I got to give it up to Jon for being such a good director, because he’s down to get real personal with you. There were times he would pull me to the side and remind me what I was there for. Coming from the situation we are in, you grow accustomed to suppressing your emotions to a degree. You don’t want to relive those emotions, because you don’t genuinely want to hurt yourself again, but you got to put yourself in that ballpark for the film and that is what Jon is good at getting you to.”
And while Nate praised Jon for his work ethic and his execution of bringing his vision to the screen, Jon was quick to reciprocate, claiming that it was a collaborative process the entire way through, stating, “The film was organically developed. It wasn’t me saying, let me tell a story that I didn’t know anything about or relate to any of their experiences. It was me and Nate walking through everything together because he’s also the main actor in the film and the producer as well.”
Jon is non-Native but has close ties to families within the Puyallup tribe, which allowed him to have a better understanding of the reservation lifestyle than many filmmakers throughout the region. Coupled with his conversations with Nate, he took on the project with intentions of not only raising awareness to the drug epidemic and dealing with the loss of a loved one at a young age, but also to find a way to support a program or organization that helps Natives work on their mental health as it relates to generational trauma.
“We understand that there is trauma,” he said. “We were trying to do something informative and insightful, we do believe we achieved that, but the film was also highlighting a very traumatic event and it kind of encouraged the cycle of trauma that I try to break in all of my work. We can’t open up a wound and not want to help people deal with it. We want to partner with an organization; whether it’s from the Tulalip Tribes, or any tribe in the State of Washington that offers services for the mental health and mental improvement for young adults between the ages of 13-30, to help them cope with experiences like this.”
The duo plan on officially releasing In Spirit on Indigenous Peoples Day, October 12th. The film is a must-watch; a modern day observation of how generational trauma is impacting the future of Native communities nationwide, as well as an important piece of work that helps open up a much-needed conversation about issues that are often overlooked or deemed too uncomfortable to talk about growing up on the rez.
“I feel like us, as Native Americans, are way too accustomed and jaded to these situations, and for the most part people aren’t seeking the therapy needed for certain things,” Nate expressed. “I don’t know if it’s because they don’t feel supported or if they just don’t have the resources. But as fortunate as the Tribe can be, I still feel like mental health is one of those things that’s not taken as serious as it should. We wanted this film to be the mirror; this is us – we are like this. As a community, we need to take it upon ourselves to help the people around us. That’s what I’m on.”
Washington State is home to over one million public school students. According to the Seattle Times, 94.4% of these students have begun the 2020-2021 school year not in the classroom nor with any in-person interactions with their devoted teachers. Instead, nearly all of Washington’s public school districts have gone all-in with a virtual teaching concept designed to minimize spread of coronavirus – Distance Learning.
Defined as any form of remote education where the student is not physically present for the lesson, distance learning is the default safety net for education in the age of COVID. Thanks largely to the power of the internet, educators are able to teach their carefully crafted lesson plans via a computer screen and video cam to their young learners. This type of learning comes with one major flaw; it’s completely dependent on the students having the access and know-how to operate today’s tech gadgetry and ever-updating software and apps.
Welcome to 2020, where the kingdom of social distancing reigns supreme and access to ample bandwidth is the difference between a student achieving and being irritably stuck on a frozen Zoom screen.
Fortunately for Tulalip’s K-12 students, they belong to a Tribe who had the foresight to transform the reservation’s largest two youth activity centers into dedicated distance learning sites. In the weeks leading up to the new school year, the Tulalip Teen Center and Boys & Girls Club received critical network upgrades to ensure a high-demand of bandwidth could be sustained, turned typical activity and gaming rooms into spaces that encourage learning, and instituted COVID guidelines such as temperature checks, mask enforcement, and social distancing.
“The health, education and overall success of our students is our top priority. The Tulalip Education Division and the Tulalip Boys & Girls Club are working hard to provide support in the safest environment possible,” stated Jessica Bustad, executive director of education. “Together we can ensure that our students begin thriving during these uncertain times. We wrapped up our second full week of Distance Learning and are improving services provided to our students. We are very proud of our young people who are showing up and doing the best they can.”
Change can come into our lives as a result of crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. Being unprepared and resistant to change leads to fear, hostility and a sense of hopelessness. Embracing change and managing all its challenges in a constructive way is key to not only surviving, but thriving in an ever-changing world.
Adapting to change is what the devoted staff of both distance learning sites and the many young minds who attend on a daily basis exemplify. Primarily accommodating Kindergarten – 5th grade students who require much more attention and emotional reassuring, the usual Boys & Girls Club activities specialists are now de facto educators.
“We are no longer a traditional boys and girls club. We’ve become a school-like learning center,” said Diane Prouty, administrative assistant for the Club. “We have 98 kids registered and average about 70 kids per day. We separate them by grade level, so 1st graders are together, 2nd graders are together and so on.
“As a staff, we feel so needed. We’re all learning to navigate this unprecedented time together,” she continued. “We have five different elementary schools represented among our K-5 kids. We do our best to keep up with each student’s daily responsibilities, but there are so few of us and so many of them. It can be overwhelming at times because we know some kids require more one-on-one time, but we have to use our time effectively to do the most good. At the end of the day, we are making a huge impact by creating a safe place for our community’s kids to learn.”
Adapting to the new tech-centric normal is easier for teens who willingly spend much of their free time with their eyes glued to screens anyway, whether it be a computer, TV, cell phone, tablet or video game. A big obstacle for them is less familiarity with Chromebooks and virtual learning programs and more access to a consistent internet connection. Within the rezzy landscape of Tulalip, stable internet and adequate bandwidth can be difficult to come by under the best of conditions.
Network upgrades and additional Wi-Fi hot spots at the Teen Center make it a quality alternative for homebound teenagers looking to focus on their school work. Plus, there is support offered by both peers and staff, many of whom are recent graduates of the same Marysville School District curriculum.
“It’s been pretty cool because there are people here to guide us with our school work when we’re confused and have questions,” shared 9th grader Image Enick. “For those with working parents, there is no one at home to assist with assignments, but here at the Teen Center there are plenty of people we are comfortable with asking questions. I haven’t had any difficulty with my online classes or getting kicked off because of bad internet either.”
“We are so proud of the kids here,” added tribal advocate Courtney Jefferson. “We’ve been averaging 40 to 60 a day. They have been taking the initiative to prioritize their education and haven’t needed to be redirected to engage in their online classes. They’ve been getting themselves into their learning spaces, taking ownership of their rooms here in the building, and being productive with their time.”
The Tulalip distance learning sites continue to adapt and find creative ways to provide additional support to our students. Both locations are a safe space for students to access the internet, connect to WI-FI, or use a desktop. They each provide daily meals as well. Most importantly, the sites allow students to build a routine, with consistent support and resources that effectively promote scholastic achievement.
The Tulalip Education staff are also available to provide support and resources to students who are not currently attending the facilities. Feel free to contact any of the programs if you have additional questions: