Tulalip gathers to recognize and remember lost loved ones on MMIWP National Day of Awareness

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“When we gather and do this work together, we protect each other,” said Tulalip elder, Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch. “We need to care for each other a little bit more today than we did yesterday. We got to take care of each other, take care of ourselves, take care of our children, and make sure we don’t lose anybody again. I want us all to be more dedicated in how we take care of each other. We are a cultured people and we got to carry it on that way, carry on the love that we have for each other. We don’t want to lose anyone else, because one is one too many.”

The parking lot of the Tulalip Gathering Hall was packed full on the evening of May 5. So much so, that people were parking along Totem Beach Road and the Tulalip Health Clinic to attend an immensely important gathering. As community members walked into the entrance of the hall, they received a black t-shirt that featured a Native designed logo on the front that read ‘Tulalip MMIWP Healing’. The back of the shirts, in large capitalized red font, displayed the message ‘SAY THEIR NAMES’. 

A collaboration between the Tribe, the Tulalip Police Department (TPD), and the Tulalip Education Division, the MMIWP Day of Recognition and Healing event brought together hundreds of Tulalip citizens, as well as a number of Indigenous people from surrounding tribes including Lummi and Lower Elwha. After collecting their t-shirts, each person received a candle and were invited to indulge in a buffet-style dinner while the open remarks and prayers took place. 

Nationally, May 5 is dedicated to raising awareness about the Missing Indigenous Women and People (MMIW/P) epidemic that continues to spread throughout Native America. Every day, more of our relatives are reported missing, and many of those individuals have yet to be found. Additionally, the rate at which Native people are murdered in the US is higher than any other ethnicity.

Addressing the packed room of the Gathering Hall, TPD Program Manager and local MMIWP Liaison, Anita Matta, shared a few statistics, “Indigenous people make up 17% of missing people in Washington state, but we only are 1.6% of the state’s population. At 84.3%, more than 4 out 5 Indigenous women have experienced violence.”

Overwhelmed by that information, Anita could not hold back tears as she informed the people she could not continue reading the statistics. 

Tulalip Events Manager, Malory Simpson, presented the rest of the statistics while standing by Anita’s side. She said, “55.5% of Indigenous women have been physically abused by their intimate partners. 40% of sex trafficking victims are American Indian/Alaskan Native women. 56.1% of Indigenous women experience sexual violence. 48.8% of Indigenous women have been stalked in their lifetime. Murder is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women – ten times higher than all other ethnicities. As compared to Caucasian women, Indigenous women are 1.7 times more likely to experience violence, two times more likely to be raped, and have a three times higher murder rate. Out of the reported cases [for MMIW], 4,089 were 0-17 years old, and 1,398 were over 18 years old. There have been 5,487 incidences, and 658 cases are still open from the end of 2022. Washington state has one of the highest numbers of reported cases, with 57 open cases.” 

Seven Tulalip tribal members were recognized throughout the gathering including the one open case of Mary Johnson-Davis, as well as individuals who were murdered, and whose family has yet to receive justice, such as Kyle Van Jones Tran and Cecil Lacy Jr. Family photos of each of those tribal members were highlighted in a slideshow that was displayed on five large projector screens and played on a loop throughout the evening. 

Tribal members Sarah Hart and Monie Ordonia were honored and recognized for their work during the event. Sarah and Monie dedicated their time to raise awareness for the MMIWP epidemic by placing red dresses and shirts in highly visible areas throughout the reservation. Red dresses are used as the national symbol to raise awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Each dress is hung upright to give the illusion that someone is wearing it, but the woman whom it belongs to is missing. Sarah and Monie painted the names of those Tribal members who fell victim to the epidemic on each article of clothing that they hung up. 

Said Sarah, “It’s been a busy, heavy week hanging up dresses. A few years ago, I knew that I had to do something. I felt there wasn’t enough being done. I had to get the attention of people. I wanted to advocate for our community and for our families. I wanted to educate. Congratulations Tulalip for making the first step in acknowledging our missing women, brothers, sisters, and our girls. Our next step is being proactive – how do we teach our young girls how to protect themselves? We need to put things in motion to protect our women, our girls, and our young boys. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Monie added, “MMIWP is not to just honor our fallen loved ones, but also to be the protectors of them. If one of my cousins, one of my nieces, or one of my nephews are being abused, am I going to be quiet or am I going to be the strength, the voice for them when they have no voice? You have the power and strength to be the change you want to see in this epidemic of losing our loved ones. The more we make people aware, the more they can’t get away with it. It takes one person to make a difference.”

To follow up those powerful messages, Sarah and Monie conjured up another powerful moment by inviting all the ladies in attendance up to the floor. After forming a circle at the center of the Gathering Hall, they sang the Women’s Warrior song and on the last verse, they all put a fist in the air to honor those lives lost and those who are missing. 

If you follow Tulalip News on Facebook, you may have recently noticed that as soon as person is reported missing from Tulalip, a detailed flyer with that person’s picture, age, height, weight and their last known location is immediately posted. That quick response has helped locate several people over the past few months. And the reason for this expediate release of information is thanks to a Tribal Community Response plan, in which Tulalip is the first tribe in the state of Washington to implement into their community. 

TPD Chief of Police, Chris Sutter, explained, “The purpose of that plan is to bring together, in our coordinated way, all the resources to help families through victim services. To get the word out timely through media, to use community resources effectively, and also to coordinate with law enforcement. We’re proud to work with our US Attorney’s Office on this important mission of bringing our loved ones and missing and murdered people home. We also want to recognize the FBI, and our partnership in working closely with investigators, analysts, victim services and advocates, we’re in this all together. We work very closely with the Attorney General’s office in Washington State to coordinate our efforts, we’re on a taskforce with them. We want to emphasize that we’re working really hard to try to bring justice and to bring in our current open case, Mary Davis-Johnson, home to her loved ones. We won’t give up until that job is done, until that mission’s complete. Through the coordinated Tribal Community Response plan, when we do have a missing person, I want you to know that we take it very seriously. We activate our team very quickly and we have been highly successful in getting the word out and locating people very quickly.”

Families of those missing or murdered bravely paid tribute by sharing their loved one’s stories and recounting happy memories spent together. The tears were flowing as the people listened and shared the pain, grief, anger, and heartbreak with the families. 

Gerry Davis, sister of missing Tribal member Mary Davis-Johnson, shared, “We want to send love to the families of Sophia Solomon, Jessica Jones, Cecil Lacy Jr., Kyle Van Jones Tran, and Bridgette Simpson. You are all our family. We know all of your pain. We accept you as our family because we are going through the same thing. Some may be murdered, but there’s a lot of people missing, and our sister is one who is missing. Our hearts go out to all of you. And I wish that everybody out there gets peace. We love you all.”

Through tears and sorrow, Nona Davis also shared, “I’m Mary’s older sister, we thank you all for coming out here and being with us. It will be three years in November since our sister’s been gone. I love seeing all the pictures of Mary, you can see how much she loved her family and loved life. If you have any information at all, please call it in. Our family is hurting really bad.”

After each family and a number of guest speakers shared a few words, the tables placed at the center of the Gathering Hall were removed. The people created a big circle and were asked to light their candles. As they raised their candles in the air and shared silent prayers, the sound of drums reverberated through the hall as the West Shore Canoe Family led the people in a song dedicated to all the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. The song is composed by Antone George (Lummi) and contains the lyrics:

Every night and every day I pray, pray for you, I love and miss you. Sister, come home

The night ended with a coastal jam as the sduhubš people engaged in song and dance and utilized the medicine of their culture to uplift the people and start the healing process after a heavy night of raw emotion.

TPD has a dedicated tip line for any information on Mary Davis-Johnson’s disappearance or whereabouts. That number is (360) 716-5918. The FBI and the Tulalip Tribes have offered a $10,000 and a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Mary’s disappearance. 

Matika celebrates Project 562 book launch where it all began, with Tulalip high schoolers

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

It’s been over a decade since visual storyteller Matika Wilbur uprooted her life entirely and sold all her material possessions to fully invest in her vision: to photograph the vast beauty and diverse spectrum of Native American culture, unveil the true essence of contemporary Native American issues, and showcase the magnitude of tradition that unites Native America.

She named her vision Project 562. A moniker that reflected the number of federally recognized tribes at the start of her journey back in 2012. There are now 574 federally recognized tribes, yet her intention behind choosing the name Project 562 remains intact as she intended to both inspire and educate. 

“While teaching at Tulalip Heritage High School and attempting to create a photography curriculum with a narrative that our children deserve, I found an outdated narrative,” she recalled of her journey’s inception. “It’s an incomplete story that perpetuates an American historical amnesia. It’s a story that’s romantic, dire and insatiable…it’s the story of extinction.”

Matika points out the extinction theme often associated with Native America is easily perceived by doing a quick Google Images search. If you search for ‘African American’, ‘Latino American’ or ‘Asian American’, then you will find images of present-day citizens who represent each culture. You’ll also see proud, smiling faces and depictions of happy families. 

But if you search for ‘Native American’ the results are very different. You’ll see many black and white photos of centuries old Native Americans who are “leathered and feathered”. 

“All of these images and misconceptions contribute to the collective consciousness of the American people, but more importantly it affects us in the ways that we imagine ourselves, in the ways we dream of possibility,” explained the Tulalip citizen turned nationally renowned photographer. 

After dedicating the last 11 years, traveling more than 600,000 miles and visiting more than 400 sovereign tribal nations (spanning from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the Miccosukee in Florida’s Everglades), Matika has returned home. And with her return came the exciting announcement that she received an exclusive book deal with Ten Speed Press.

While on the road to fulfilling her vision, Matika became one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading photographers and has been exhibited extensively in regional, national, and international venues, such as the Hibulb Cultural Center, Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, The Tacoma Art Museum, the Royal British Columbia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Nantes Museum of Fine Arts in France. 

Even more impressively, some of her stunning photos are now included in the Google Images front page when searching ‘Native American’.  She’s literally helped change the powerful Google search algorithm to showcase a more modern, vibrantly fierce Native American spirit. 

Another momentous experience for her and the local community took place on April 26, when the now 39-year-old Matika presented Native American students of Marysville Getchell, Marysville Pilchuck, and Tulalip Heritage high schools with her crowning achievement – Project 562: Changing The Way We See Native America – a whopping 416-page hardcover book showcasing Native American culture through breathtaking photos and stories from hundreds of tribal nations. 

“I set off on this journey to change the way we see Native America. To put together a body of work that represents who we truly are. This journey has taken me across all 50 states, from the Arctic to New Zealand to Puerto Rico to over 1,000 tribal communities in between,” shared the expressive homegrown icon to the Heritage high school students. “All of you are why I did this. Even if I don’t know you personally or you may not know me, it’s so important that you, the children of this community, know how truly loved you are. You are our hopes and our dreams and our future.

“I want you to know that despite what anybody tells you, despite the lies you’ve been told about yourselves, and despite the false narratives written about your ancestors, you deserve all the goodness. You deserve all the medicine. You deserve the opportunity to believe in yourselves. I want you to know that these pages were written for you. Even if you don’t read it immediately or just a little at a time, never forget this book and all its messages within were made for you.

“For me, in this moment, I feel like my dream came true, but I also can’t help but think of all the relatives who didn’t get to see their dreams come true,” she continued. “Hopefully, you too can live to a time where you can see your dreams actualized. If I can leave you all with one final message it’s to dream bigger, imagine bigger…because you deserve it.” 

Within her book, which currently ranks #2 on the Amazon Best Sellers list for Art & Photography, are candid conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, holistic wellness, historical trauma, decolonization, rematriation and many more on the importance of revitalizing culture. This creative, consciousness-shifting work is available for purchase locally at the Hibulb Cultural Center and the Elliot Bay Book Company, or through digital purchase via Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

“This book means so much to me because I didn’t even know of her or her journey until the beginning of this year, but I’ve learned through her stories and presentation how much she’s done for our community and many other tribal communities across the country,” shared 9th grader Lilly Jefferson. “I’m so amazed looking at her photos and can’t believe she fulfilled her dream even though no one believed in her in the beginning. I’m really excited for when I grow up and make new dreams because I won’t forget her and what she said. I will dream big!”

“After all her travels and visiting all those other tribes, she still chose to come back home and give back to her community. That’s pretty cool,” added 16-year-old Image Enick. “Listening to her story gives me more inspiration for a dream of mine. I have an idea to create a YouTube channel and document travels to other tribes who play stick games. The game is played different the further you travel, and I’d like to learn how they play in Rocky Boy, Montana and across the border in Canada. Knowing we have a tribal member here who has visited all the tribes, it makes me feel good to think I can approach her with my idea and get tips on who to talk to and where to go when I decide to start my own journey.”

In the most respectful way, Matika estimates she’s been welcomed into a thousand different tribal communities because they not only supported her project whole-heartedly, but also because they too desired to see things change. From media coverage to Google Images search results to what’s written in history books, Native Americans deserve an accurate portrayal of their thriving, dynamic traditions and remarkable oral histories that have sustained Native America since time immemorial.

Art Festival elevates emerging artists

Audrielle McLean, 10th grade.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Creative inclined Native American students of the Marysville School District wandered through a makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday, April 20 for the 2023 Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and educators, the emerging artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed Art Festival patrons and judges with a variety of imaginative creations that centered around a shared Tulalip culture and modern day mediums of artistic expression.

“Our annual Art Festival is an opportunity for each Native student within the District to express themselves in a unique and creative way,” explained positive youth development lead advocate, Deyamonta Diaz. “All the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this event possible, it’s like an all-hands-on-deck effort, is so worth it for our community to witness the pride and joy every student puts into their art. 

Samara Davis, 12th grade.

“Each year our expectations are surpassed because we receive hundreds and hundreds of submissions,” he added. “For me, I look forward to seeing what new ways our kids find to express their Native culture or even developing their own way to retell a traditional story. There’s always something new and eye-catching that they come up with. That’s pretty cool.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene embraced by so many emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the District. The Art Festival gives fledgling creatives an opportunity to show off their awe-inspiring talents to the community, while also getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbon. Plus, all the bragging rights that come with.

Odessa Taylor, 8th grade. 

Such was the case with 11-year-old Braiden Kane. He radiated pure joy while leading cousins and classmates to his multiple 3rd place winning submissions. Young Braiden collected three white ribbons for his hand-made cedar headband, seat turtle painting and an alligator habitat structure. 

“This was my first time ever creating a cedar headband. My mom took us to culture night and we learned how to make it. Working with cedar felt great and made me feel calm. The sea turtle painting is covered in swirls. The swirl represents my family’s favorite colors,” shared the very happy 5th grader.

5th grader Braiden Kane displays his award-winning Cedar headband and sea turtle painting.

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

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

Jazmyn Foster, 1st grade.

This year’s Art Festival received about 600 submissions, with the most popular category by far being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. In her final year of eligibility, twelfth grader Samara Davis continued her dynastic run of 1st place creations by adding several more blue ribbons to here resume. Seventhgrader Cora Jimicum also continued her run of consecutive years collecting top honors in the painting category.

“I like creating art because it’s fun,” said Cora while posing for a picture with her variations of pink paint drip canvas. “Creative writing is my favorite art category because I can create all kinds of characters and have them go through one adventure after another. They can grow and change and just be happy.” 

New to this year’s art fest gala was the addition of several interactive tables, each led by an established adult artist. Representing possible career paths for the children to aspire to, or simply to have the young ones recognize art doesn’t have to stop when student life does. Tony Hatch, Dinesha Kane, Ty Juvinel, Melissa Gobin and others did their best to engage Festival visitors and drop knowledge about their creative cultural know-how.

Pure heart icon Sean-Paul Mace and his LEGO Star Wars collection.

An additional, newly minted adult had his very own table as well. Pure heart icon Sean-Paul Mace displayed his LEGO Star Wars collection. He dazzled with his depths of dark side knowledge and could even tell you which cinematic scenes his figures could be found in. 

“He’s been working on this particular collection for about a year,” said Sean-Paul’s mother, Veronica Iukes. “Tracking down each model needed to complete his collection has been quite the endeavor. From finding them online to visiting shops we’ve heard about to reaching out to private collectors, it’s been quite the journey. With his autism, we’ve found that building LEGO figures and other types of hands-on, highly focused needed activities has a calming effect. We love buying Sean-Paul LEGO sets because it’s therapeutic, like a form of medicine that settles him.”

Kaeson Robinson and his grandma Jennifer with a hand-made sun catcher.

Interwoven through many of the thought-provoking youth creations were both subtle and not so subtle tie-ins to ongoing equality awareness campaigns, human rights issues and demands for social justice. From artistic renditions on the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s crisis, to declarations of the Native-inspired rally cry Water Is Life, to a heartfelt poem by ballin’ with a braid all-star Charlie Contraro invoking the ancestral power of her body-length braid.

My hair connects me to my Ancestors; Like the roots of tree. My braid is the strong trunk; From where I gather my STRENGTH. I am my hair; And my hair is me. – Charlie 

Whether it was from reading written words or interpreting the depths of color and images on display from our inspiring adolescent artists, a message being conveyed loud and clear is that yes, in fact, the youngest among us are paying attention to current events and understand how their shared culture is viewed nationally. More importantly, they are capable of channeling their traditional teachings and spiritual strength into pure artistry.

Rajalion Robinson, 4th grade. 

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

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

Without a doubt, the 2023 Native American Art Festival showcased a wide-range of artistic skills among our Tulalip students. While once again confirming the limitless imagination of authentic Native art created by the next generation of emerging artists.

Indian Boarding School survivors share heart breaking experiences of forced assimilation

“We were all silenced. We don’t tell-all because we can’t tell all – because we might get a spanking. There was a lot of things I’ve seen, a lot of things I heard, a lot of things I don’t want to remember. We kept our secrets all this time. We don’t talk about it; we should talk about it. It’s okay to heal, we are not healed yet. I’m 99 years old and I’m still healing yet. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”

-Ernestine Lane, Lummi Nation

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In the late 1800’s, the US government made it their mission to erase the cultural identity of the Indigenous population by establishing boarding schools throughout the country. The official slogan for the Civilization Fund Act was ‘kill the Indian, save the man’. Children as young as three were forcibly removed from their families and tribes to attend these horrific assimilation academies. And if the children spoke their ancestral languages or practiced any of their traditions at the boarding schools, they were punished harshly and faced physical, emotional, and mental abuse. These institutes continued with these practices well into the sixth decade of the nineteenth century.

Resilient is a word that this current generation of Native people identify with because they are actively putting in work to revitalize and recover their languages, dances, songs, and traditional way of life. And after decades of attempts, from both religious and governmental institutions, at demonizing our people and practices, we are still here, and we are still standing strong. 

Many of today’s Indigenous activists and cultural bearers are quick to credit the older generations who experienced the atrocities committed by the boarding schools, and who held strong and passed on their traditions to the next generations. For Tulalip, there are several prime examples of resilient tribal members who preserved the culture despite harsh assimilation efforts. One such individual is always held in high honor for the sacrifices she made to ensure that the history and traditions of the sduhubš people are accessible to their future generations for many years to come, and she is none other than Harriette Shelton-Dover. 

On the morning of April 23, the reason why many Coast Salish children bravely endured lashings, beatings, or solitary confinement, and the reason why many children were laid to rest at a young age, was on full display at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. The reason they made those sacrifices could be seen on the button-designed shawls and vests, the cedar-woven hats and headbands. Those sacrifices could be heard on the elk and deer skin hand drums, and in the voices of their descendants who utilized their ancestral language, in both song and prayer. The sacrifices were present in every dance step, in each bite of salmon during the lunch hour, and through the act of smudging with sage bundles every time someone walked through the doors of the Gathering Hall. Those sacrifices were made by young children who kept the cultural fire burning in the darkest of times. 

The price those elders and ancestors paid did not end with corporal punishment at the boarding schools. Over time, due to the threat of those punishments, they learned to hold their emotions in, which resulted in heavy baggage that was also passed down their lineage. And though most boarding schools have been disestablished, the trauma wounds they caused are still very much exposed and present in every Native community throughout North America. 

Until recent years, the history of Indian boarding schools remained widely unknown to the general population. The first step in healing those trauma wounds was simply making people aware of the damage caused and the lives lost during the boarding school era, as well as getting the federal government to acknowledge their role in the attempt of cultural genocide.
In 2021, the first Native American to serve as a US Cabinet Secretary, Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), launched the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to investigate what took place at these schools by reviewing records and speaking to the tribal nations that were affected by Civilization Fund Act. The results of that investigation, released in May 2022, show that between the years of 1819 and 1969, the US operated or supported 408 boarding schools across 37 states, along with at least 53 burial sites for Indigenous children. 

In the following months, Secretary of Interior Haaland and Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Indian Community), the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, organized a yearlong journey across the nation, known as the Road to Healing Tour. The goal behind the tour is ‘to connect communities with trauma-informed support and facilitate collection of a permanent oral history’.

The Road to Healing made its sixth stop of the tour at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. In addition to the 200 or so tribal members in attendance, a group of professionals from Indian Health Services, whose expertise is in trauma-informed care, were at-hand to support the boarding school survivors and their decedents throughout the day. 

Secretary Haaland was escorted to the front of the Gathering Hall by a group of Tulalip singers as they opened the ceremony with the sduhubš welcome song, also known as Harriette Shelton-Dover’s song. After blessing all four corners of the longhouse-style hall, cultural bearer Glen Gobin shared a brief history of boarding schools at Tulalip.

He shared, “There were three phases of the boarding school. Father Chirouse came shortly after the treaty signing, he set up a school at the mouth of Quil Ceda. Then he moved it down towards Priest Point and actually built a school there – that’s why it’s called Priest Point. And as our children passed away, he started a cemetery there also. I was doing research and I saw that my grandma’s sister, age 6, was one of those who died and is buried at that cemetery. 

“And then, I believe it was in the late 1860’s, the Sisters of Providence petitioned the government to start a school. That school was across the bay where Mission Cemetery is today – and that’s why there is a cemetery there. As the children passed away, they were buried around the school grounds. 

“That [school] burned down in the late 1800s and then the government took the program back and said, ‘we’re going to run this ourselves now’. And so, in the early 1900s, the boarding school was developed – that was ran like a military camp. And as we heard many of our elders talk throughout the years, what they knew, or witnessed, or what our grandparents told them – was about the constant marching, the constant inability to speak their language, the constant inability to see their family when they wanted to, because they were taken away and brought to the schools to civilize them.”

Following introductions by both Deb Haaland and Bryan Newland, they opened the floor for the survivors, and their descendants, to share how they were affected by the Indian boarding schools. 

Virginia Bill, daughter of survivor Lottie Sampson (Swinomish/Upper Skagit) stated, “When she got here to Tulalip, she did talk of having to be marched everywhere. She talked about that bell that would ring. I think it was in the 1980s, we were brought here to a ceremony to commemorate that bell. I found my mom sitting alone by herself, and I asked her what she was thinking. She said, ‘Thank God, that silence. No more will that bell tell me where to go, where to be’. I read some documents that said they were going to make Tulalip the Carlisle of the Northwest. I read some of the official papers, where the former priest that was here referred to our families as savages. When you read those articles, it breaks your heart. There are no commemorative plaques, no ribbons, there are no stories telling us about the success of our mothers and fathers – there is no ‘congratulations, you made it’.”

Boarding School survivor and Lummi tribal member, Jewell James, said, “My great-grandfather talked about how they would burn his tongue and torture him, and stick his tongue on frozen pipes outside during the winter every time he used his Lummi language. It was a real traumatic experience. My mother, when she was three, ended up at Cushman (Indian Hospital). And she battled with depression. There was no job or income or food on the reservation, so it was either Cushman or you starve. And she would always talk and cry about how at the age of three, they put her in the basement with the rats and blocked off all the lights. She’d always talk about how she had to hide in the corner and hope the rats didn’t get her.”

The tears were pouring as boarding school survivor Matthew War Bonnet Jr. (Lakota), recounted his boarding school experience. He said, “at nighttime, in the dormitories, the kids would cry because they were lonesome for their parents. Sometimes the priest who shared a little room off to the side, would get disturbed about that. He would come out with his belt, pick up a kid off the bed and whack them for crying. When you’re six years old and you see that, you get scared, you start holding things in.”

After about two hours and several testimonies, Haaland and Newland called for the first break, and a traditional Tulalip lunch was served to the people. During this time, they asked for all the media outlets to excuse themselves for the day. The following sessions provided the opportunity for more survivors to detail their experiences at the boarding schools, while delving deeper into topics that they were not comfortable sharing in front of the cameras. From what we gathered through social media, the event extended into the late Sunday evening. Important work took place, and the healing process began for many, as they opened up for the first time about the terrible things that occurred at the schools in a private and supportive setting. 

Secretary Haaland expressed, “Your voices are important to me, and I thank you for your willingness to share your stories. Federal Indian Boarding School policies have touched every Indigenous person I know. Some are survivors, some are descendants, but we all carry this painful legacy in our hearts. Deeply ingrained in so many of us is the trauma that these policies in these places have inflicted. My ancestors and many of yours endured the horrors of Indian boarding school assimilation policies carried out by the same department that I now lead. This is the first time in history that the United States Cabinet Secretary comes to the table with the shared trauma – that is not lost on me. And I’m determined to use my position for the good of the people.”

She continued, “In Washington state alone, there were 15 boarding schools, leaving intergenerational impacts that persists in the communities represented here today. It is my department’s duty to address the shared trauma that so many of us carry. To do that, we need to tell our stories. Today is part of that journey – I want you all to know that I’m with you on this journey. I will listen, I will agree with you, I will weep, and I will feel your pain. As we mourn what we have lost, please know that we still have so much to gain. The healing that can help our communities will not be done overnight, but I believe very strongly that it will be done. This is one step among many that we’ll take together to strengthen and rebuild the bonds within Native communities that Federal Indian Boarding School policies set out to break. Those steps have the potential to alter the course of our future.”

Weaving together with Cedar Roses

Indigenous Beginnings shares traditional teachings across multiple generations

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

When the Native-led, local nonprofit Indigenous Beginnings launched in July 2021, the mission was simple: to freely give and share traditional teachings through in-person, hands-on cultural workshops taught by inspirational knowledge keepers. 

Created by Tulalip Court executive administrative assistant Stephanie Cultee, herself a Nooksack citizen and a dedicated employee of the Tulalip Tribes enterprise since 2008, Indigenous Beginnings has hosted 44 workshops thus far. Each intricately designed workshop is intended to help spread the cultural teachings of Coast Salish tribes, while sharing the diversity of knowledge from Native culture bearers in both urban and reservation-based settings. 

The culturally appropriate nonprofit continues to be dedicated to teaching tribal and nontribal participants how to sustainably harvest, prepare traditional foods, and how to weave, carve and otherwise transform natural resources into utility-filled items. Hosted events have included making delicious jelly from fireweed, harvesting devil’s club and mountain huckleberry, weaving cedar into baskets and headbands, carving canoe paddles, making traditional round drums, and even how to clean, fillet and smoke salmon. Workshops have primarily been led by Tulalip, Nooksack, Lummi and Quinault citizens. 

“With Indigenous Beginnings, all of our workshops are for all ages,” explained Stephanie. “There was a whole generation that couldn’t practice or learn their ways from their grandparents because of the boarding school era. So for those older generations who want to learn, they can attend our workshops which is just as much designed for them as any adult or youth. This way we can not only keep our elders involved in their culture, but have them set that example for the young ones that it’s okay to ask questions and admit there’s always more to learn.  

“I am from Nooksack and moved down here when I was 15-years-old,” she continued. “I have three daughters who are Tulalip, and I want them to learn their Tulalip heritage and Nooksack’s as well because they are descendants from Nooksack, too. I didn’t know much about my tribe, because I moved away when I was young, and I thought this could be a way that I could teach them the traditional ways of their people, while also learning myself.”

It was in that spirit of cultural understanding and community building that Indigenous Beginnings hosted an awe-inspiring workshop at the Hibulb Cultural Center centered on created cedar roses. Lushootseed teacher Maria Rios instructed the full classroom in the basics of cedar weaving 101, which included at times having her infant son Enzo harnessed belly side.

The diverse group of eager learners spanned multiple generations. They sat intently as Maria detailed how Coast Salish tribes believe the Creator gave their people cedar as a gift. Cedar was the perfect resource, providing tools, clothes, baskets and carvings in addition to having medicinal and spiritual purposes. After being harvested and stored for future use, the highly sought after golden inner bark is separated into strips and intricately shredded for weaving. The processed bark can then be used as a malleable material, similar to wool and other synthetic fibers, and crafted into baskets, clothing, or, as in this particular case, long-lasting roses.

Among the workshop participants was Tulalip mother/daughter duo Carlotta and Cheylah. After receiving a few of the finer weaving pointers from Maria, they quickly found a groove and feverishly created a couple dozen cedar roses. Of course, in the traditional way, Carlotta gave away her first made rose to elder Rebecca Hunter.

“I’ve wanted to relearn how to make cedar roses for a long time now. I was originally taught by the late Tara Taylor over twenty years ago, but unfortunately I lost the teaching by not practicing enough,” shared Carlotta. “My daughter Cheylah is 13-years-old and kind of at the hardheaded phase, so I wasn’t sure if she’d want to come with me or not at first. But then she was so excited to join after I told her Miss Maria was the instructor. I’m so happy we got to participate and learn together. We had a lot of fun.” 

The memorable afternoon was filled with a type of whimsical family bonding that was once common place among tribal villages. With babies, teenagers, adults, and elders all sharing in a unified experience of weaving with yellow cedar. Some for the first time. Others for the first time in a long time. And still others who had only dreamed of one day having the opportunity to create cedar roses in a similar fashion as their ancestors once did.

Such is the case with Seattle resident Shyanne Steele of the Colville Confederated Tribes. She shared having memories of being a little girl and watching her grandma, also a language teacher, weave all kinds of items. When she came across a flyer for the cedar rose workshop on Facebook she jumped at the opportunity at attend. 

“Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get more connected with traditional art forms because it’s so difficult for me given my tribe is far away. Then, just a few nights ago, I actually dreamt about harvesting cedar,” said the 24-year-old University of Washington student. “Being able to attend and interact with so many welcoming tribal members here was amazing. It really grounded me to the teachings we have about cedar. Beyond being a super cool and strong material to work with, it’s been central to Indigenous life in this area for countless generations and really helps us connect with our ancestors.”

By bringing tribal citizens of different generations together in an atmosphere of learning and sharing, the Indigenous Beginnings cedar rose workshop allowed participants an opportunity to connect with Natives of neighboring tribes and form meaningful relationships based on shared interests and experiences. 

Whether it’s to learn new skills or refine existing ones, the active participation in our shared culture is how we help maintain a strong connection between the past, present, and future. Ensuring that important cultural knowledge and traditional knowhow is preserved and passed on to future generations.

Smoke Signals: Local teens use creativity to combat vaping

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of the Tulalip Community Health Department

This past February, the Tulalip Community Health (TCH) department announced a month-long art contest which was open exclusively to Native American students who attend either a middle or high school within the Marysville School District (MSD). Leading up to the contest, Community Health visited each of those Jr. and Sr. high schools and dropped some important knowledge on the tribal students about the dangers of vaping and smoking e-cigarettes. 

After establishing trust with the students, to ensure their anonymity, the department learned some key details about the usage of the electronic nicotine sticks and ‘vape juice’ within the community – the how, where, and why. 

TCH Community Resource Coordinator, Kelly Prayerwarrior, shared, “We created a safe space at the very beginning, and let them know that we are not going to tell people who said what, we just want to get an idea of what’s going on. And they opened up and told us that kids are smoking at school in the bathrooms, on the bus, and that they basically are smoking everywhere.”

Over the past decade, numerous studies and reports were conducted by the likes of the CDC, FDA, the Surgeon General, and the American Lung Association about the relation to teens and vaping. An eye-opening statistic comes from the Truth Initiative about how widespread vaping has become in recent years. You may recognize the organization’s name from anti-vaping ads and commercials that air on both cable and YouTube. Their 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that among teens nationwide, 42% admitted to using an e-cigarette within the thirty-day time period of which the study took place, while 46% of high schoolers confessed to vaping frequently.

When asked about the appeal of vaping to the youth of our community, Kelly shared her insight and stated, “I think it’s because they are able to get ahold of it, they have easy access to it, it doesn’t smell. The kids who I talked to said that they are getting it from their family members who vape, and also their friends at school. I think it’s also the flavors and because it’s something new. And they’re seeing their community members and family members doing it, so they think it’s okay because everyone else is doing it.”

She continued, “It is an addiction. I see people walk around the store smoking their vape and many of them don’t know that they are inhaling lots of chemicals into their bodies, a lot of those same chemicals are used in cigarettes. There’s a term called popcorn lung, that’s caused from when the water of the vape gets into the lungs. It also fogs people’s mind, it raises their blood pressure, and it can cause irritability in the people who are addicted to it. When they don’t have it, they get irritable.”

Upon chatting with the students about the harm vaping can cause an individual’s health and wellbeing, TCH announced the Anti-Vape Art Contest. The teens were asked to create a poster to combat the growing trend of vaping on the reservation and within the MSD. The kids were informed that the winner’s artwork would be the visual for a new campaign against vaping and that their work would be shared all throughout Tulalip and Marysville. Fifteen students took on the challenge and were motivated not only by creating a smoke-free environment locally, but also by a number of prizes including a Nintendo Switch bundle and Apple AirPods. 

After much deliberation, due to the all the amazing artwork submitted, TCH announced the winner of the contest. Tribal member, Heaven Jones, brought home the grand prize thanks to her informative design which depicts all the negative effects that vaping has on the human body. Her impressive anatomy artwork pinpoints exactly where the damage of vaping takes place, and around her subject’s wrist are handcuffs. Heaven cleverly uses the technique of steganography to display the word ‘addiction’ as the links in the handcuffs. 

“I’m proud of how the artwork turned out and I’m glad to know that people will learn from my poster,” expressed Heaven. “Hopefully it will help change how they think about vaping and realize what it could do and how it affects their body. I am very grateful. This contest was important to me because I have people in my family who vape, and I’ve seen them try to stop and seen how hard it is. What they have to go through when they aren’t vaping, and how they act, it makes me want them to be able to stop.”

Heaven shared that she also submitted four original pieces to the upcoming Native American Student Art Festival, that is organized by the Tulalip Education Division and the MSD Indian Education Department. 

Lorina, Heaven’s mother, proudly stated, “She is a very talented artist. She really wanted to take part in this contest because of her family members and others in the community who do vape. She worries about everyone who does it.”
Heaven’s artwork will soon be plastered on the walls and hallways of several tribal department buildings in the near future, as well as at the Tulalip Administration Building, the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club, and various places throughout the MSD. 

Said Kelly, “Everyone made really great art and I want them to get credit for participating in the contest. And I really wanted to highlight our winner because she put a lot of effort into her artwork and that’s the piece we are going to be using. It was heartwarming to see how many young leaders stepped up, because each one of them showed leadership by creating their art and making a statement with their work.”

Remembering March For Our Lives: Natives rally against gun violence

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

A grim reality of ‘returning to normal’ post pandemic shutdowns is the return of gun violence and school shootings consistently leading national news. This is especially distressing given we are only in April, yet there’s already been 147 mass shootings and an even more mind boggling 11,763 deaths attributed to gun violence in 2023*. 

The Tulalip/Marysville community is still healing from the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting that changed the lives of so many forever on October 24, 2014. In the wake of recent media coverage and congressional spotlight being shed on the need for gun reform in this country, following deadly school shootings in a Nashville, Tennessee elementary school on March 27 and on the Michigan State University campus on February 13, we at Tulalip News thought it pertinent to revisit a history making trip to Washington, D.C. by a delegation of tribal members intent on making their voices heard.

The following was originally published in March 2018:

When the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors passed a motion to support the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C., they followed through by sending a delegation of twenty individuals to support the Tribe’s national efforts to stop gun violence, specifically to put an end to mass shootings.

The Tulalip delegation was comprised of those most affected by the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting; the families of victims and survivors, along with a support group of community members. With a heartfelt message that could only come from those who have known great loss and tragedy created by gun violence, this normally private and reserved group visited Capitol Hill and advocated for gun-law reform.

When it comes to potentially saving innocent lives, the silence was broken so that the families could speak their truth, giving voice to those who couldn’t be there in person, but were undoubtedly there in spirit.

Mothers of MPHS shooting victims, Lahneen Fryberg, Lavina Phillips and Denise Hatch-Anderson shared their story and experience with gun violence, then advocated for stronger gun legislation first to representative Suzan DelBene, U.S. Congresswoman representing Washington’s 1st District. Then they shared with the office of Rick Larsen, U.S. Representative for Washington’s 2nd congressional district.

Next up was the office of senior U.S. Senator from Washington, Patty Murray. Then they met with legislative aides to Maria Cantwell, junior U.S. Senator from Washington.

“Gun violence is a topic of national concern. Our entire community was devastated in varying ways, whether you were directly or indirectly effected by the Marysville-Pilchuck shooting, it hurt deeply,” said Deborah Parker, who coordinated the day on Capitol Hill. “The families most affected by gun violence were able to speak out against the violence occurring nationwide.

“For many of the families who lost a loved one, the sentiment was consistent – it felt like it happened yesterday. The pain was real and the hurt pervasive. Our families who have suffered the greatest loss of their lives have a powerful voice and should never be silenced. As difficult and painful as it was for our families to bring forward their devastating memories, they did it. They spoke eloquently and candidly to U.S. government representatives about their experience with gun violence while offering policy solutions.”

Keeping their momentum, the Tulalip delegation made their way to the set of The American Indians’ Truths radio show for WPFW-FM hosted by Jay Winter Nightwolf. Again, the families shared their truth. Speaking on her experience was also Keryn Parks, a seventeen-year-old student who was forced to bear witness to the MPHS shooting.

“I was hesitant to even speak and share my story,” expressed an emotional Keryn. “Nothing happened to me physically and I do feel tons of guilt that nothing did. Maybe one of these moms would have their baby still with them if I sat somewhere else. It was a huge weight off my chest to speak and let everyone know how I feel for them. These mommas need all the loving, healing words they can take. 

“As a group, we were so strong and powerful anywhere we went today, and that was felt by everyone who listened to us. It was a day of reopening wounds none of us wanted or even thought we were going to reopen. It was powerful and real. Above all else it was healing.”

The final destination on their Capital Hill visit was to the Embassy of Tribal Nations. Though it was last stop, it may have been the most impactful as the three moms, Lahneen, Lavina and Denise, shared details of their experience they had never shared before. Tears flowed from everyone in the room who sat in absolute awe of what was being said. 

Amongst those who listened was Jackie Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. She stated afterwards, “My life has been forever changed by these Tulalip families. They have exhibited so much courage and strength to come forward and share their story. I will not forget them in the work I do.” 

“Being there, with the families, was powerful and extremely healing,” said Matt Remle, who accompanied the families and supported them with his spiritual leadership. “Privately, over the years, I have shed many tears over what happened, but this was perhaps the first time that I was able to be with others and openly cry. Mostly what I took away from them is their bravery and courage. I don’t know much, but I do know that we simply need more love and compassion for each other, to support and give of ourselves to help others. That’s not politics, that’s living how we were meant to be.”

Being an effective advocate for legislative change, such as laws that can make a significant impact at reducing gun violence and putting an end to mass shootings, requires building strong relationships with our members of Congress and their staff members. It is important to use every opportunity to reach out and maintain these relationships. The Tulalip delegation did an admirable job honoring their loved ones lost to gun violence, while advocating for gun law reform. 

“This Capitol Hill trip was for those families to voice their concerns and find healing in the process,” added Deborah Parker when the day’s itinerary came to an end. “It was a blessing to witness the transformation of everyone who took this journey. The mothers, and their support network, stood together for their truth while seeking justice. None of us would ever want this type of violence to happen to anyone else. It was clear, gun violence must stop.”

*source Gun Violence Archive, April 12, 2023.

Google embraces brighter future through young bot builders

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Presented by tech giant Google, a first-of-its-kind robotics camp took place over the weekend of April 1st at the Tulalip Youth Center. Nearly 100 eager youth participated in the free, two-day event that kicked off their Spring Break with a unique hands-on opportunity to dive into the robotics realm.

Designed for all students between 5th – 12th grade, regardless of previous robotics experience, the camp coordinators strived to build bridges of imagination between the Rez-bound Native participants and possible future careers in the computer science and engineering fields. Of course, that was simply a side to the main course of the kids designing and building an actual robot. 

“I’m so thrilled to see all these kids show up because it proves to Google just how much our children need this type of STEM engagement,” explained Google test engineer Suzanne DePoe (confederated tribes of Siletz). “Our kids are so bright and aren’t given enough recognition for the knowledge that they have. I tell people all the time that when it comes to our Native American kids all you have to do is capture their imagination. Because once you do, they’ll dazzle you with what they’re capable of creating.

“That’s why it’s so important for us to get our kids outside of their comfort zones,” she added. “Only then can they experience new things, gain new perspectives and see things they’ve never seen before so that they can then dream of bigger and bolder future for both themselves and their Tribes.”

Suzanne is a member of Google’s Aboriginal and Indigenous Network that is dedicated to product inclusion, social responsibility initiatives, and internal efforts related to hiring and retention. She was instrumental in coordinating the robotics camp, along with Tulalip education director Jessica Bustad and youth enrichment supervisor Sarah Murphy. 

An opportunity to build robots and use them in a series of driving and programming skills challenges is what motivated the kids to be ready to go by 9:00 am on a Saturday and Sunday. Everything they engaged in was more than simply robotics, it was learning the basic essentials of computer science, which is all about promoting creativity and innovation.

“I was really excited for this robotics camp because I’ve really developed an interest for building stuff, meeting new people, and bonding with others who have common interests,” said 16-year-old youth council member Faith Valencia. “I had never built anything close to this before nor anything remote-controlled, so this was an all-new experience that challenged me in the best kind of way. It was very difficult at first, especially the programming and coding, but with the help of my team we figured it out. Even if not everyone wants to be an engineer or work in computer sciences, being able to work with and troubleshoot new technologies is a basic life skill worth developing.” 

Computer science allows students to use their imaginations and develop new ideas and solutions. They can then use this knowledge in the future to one day create their own apps, design websites that build upon their tribal infrastructure, or develop new software programs or functional hardware to take their own business to the next level one day.

Teaching computer science to our already tech-savvy youngsters also helps to promote diversity and inclusivity in the ever-growing technology industry. The tech industry has historically been dominated by white men, but by teaching computer science to a diverse group of students like Tulalip’s youth, tech companies like Google partnering with tribal education departments can help break down barriers to access and opportunity.

Promoting diversity in the computer science fields, which was witnessed at length at the two-day camp that resulted in Tulalip boys and girls lighting up with pure excitement and joy through various stages of robot building, is necessary to ensure future technologies are inclusive and accessible to everyone.

There are still many communities and families who lack access to technology and computer science education. By providing students with the opportunity to learn computer science, sovereign tribal nations can help to level the playing field and provide its people with the tools they need to succeed in the digital age. The importance of this sentiment was expressed by mother Dawn DePoe-Ike who journeyed all the way from Yakama in order for her twin sons, Nolan and Nathan, to participate in the bot building extravaganza.

“It’s important for my sons to be exposed to everything the science technology era has to offer, especially hands-on learning activities, so they can know these things exist as an option for their future,” shared Dawn. She is a teacher at Yakama tribal school and prioritizes her children understanding the larger context of thriving in the modern world.

Dawn continued, “When I look out at this camp and see my two boys along with all the other Native children building, programming, and working together, I can’t help but think of everything our ancestors went through. From surviving the Sand Creek Massacre to surviving the Carlisle Indian Industrial School then the Chemawa Boarding School, plus all the things drugs and alcohol brought, it’s just awe-inspiring to see that our young ones aren’t just surviving, instead they are beginning to thrive.”

Celebrating Tulalip Vietnam Veterans

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In 2017, the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, enacted a law that designated March 29th as the official National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Over nine million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam War era which expanded over the course of two decades from the 1950s to the 1970s. 

A reported 58,200 American lives were lost during the Vietnam conflict and the total number of causalities of war, including civilians, tallied well over one million on both sides.

According to the American Legion organization, the significance behind the date refers back to the historic day of March 29, 1973, when three major events took place; the day that the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished, the day that U.S. combat troops departed from Vietnam, and also the day that ‘Operation Homecoming’ was completed and close to 600 POW were released and brought home.

Throughout America’s history, Native Americans have served at a higher rate than any other demographic in the country, five times the national average to be exact. As the original caretakers of the Nation, defending this land may have a more significant meaning to tribal members across the country. It may be the reason why there are 31,000 active Native American men and women serving today, and why there are over 140,000 living veterans who are Indigenous, according to the Department of Defense.

At Tulalip, Tribal Veterans are held in high regard and thousands of sduhubš women and men served in all branches of the military, and a large percentage of those tribal members have seen combat action dating as far back as the first World War. 

Every Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Tulalip pays tribute to all the brave men and women who laid their life on the line defending this nation’s freedom. And as this new holiday gains more recognition throughout the country, Tulalip will be there to commemorate and thank those Tribal Veterans, and those lives lost in combat, during the Vietnam War era. 

Each year, Tulalip Vietnam Veteran and BOD member, Mel Sheldon takes on the Master of Ceremony duties during the Memorial Day services at both the Priest Point and Mission Beach cemeteries. 

During the 2021 Memorial Day services, Mel reflected on his time as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, and stated, “When we went to Vietnam, there are guys I remember who became pilots [with me]. Because of Operation Lam Son 719, twelve of them did not get to come home. During my unit in Charlie Troop, I had two crew chiefs that did not get to come home. Two Cobra Pilots, their aircraft flew into the ground – we still don’t know why. I talked to them that morning, by noon they were gone. It is this day that I remember them in a good way, to remind us how fortunate we are. To remember too, how many Native Americans stepped up to the plate, especially at home here in Tulalip. We are very proud of our veterans who served.” 

To honor those local veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, the Tulalip Veterans Department provided a list of all the tribal members who enlisted in the military during the years of 1955-1975, whether they were deployed to Vietnam or stationed at a home base.

Thank you to all the Tulalip Vietnam War era Veterans for your service and defending your homelands.

Vietnam War Era Veterans

  • James, Andrew
  • Bill, Inez Madeline
  • Brown, Howard Warren
  • Sheldon, Karen Gail
  • Gobin, Michael James
  • Taylor, Calvin Lee
  • Williams, Linda Hunter
  • Brown, Lawrence Francis
  • Gobin, Bradley Joseph
  • Bradley Sr., Daniel Roy
  • Sweeney, Antonio Thomas
  • Alexander Jr., Maurice Clarence
  • Hatch III, Cyrus
  • Muir Jr., Richard James
  • Bradley, Jay Michael
  • Bradley, Ray Timothy
  • Madison, Richard Lee
  • Jones Sr., Steven Kenneth
  • Madison, Guy Michael
  • Gobin Sr., Steve Bernard
  • Lupe, Lorenzo D.
  • Sheldon Jr., Melvin Robert
  • Holding, Gary Gene
  • Jones, Joseph C.
  • Fryberg Sr., Raymond Lee
  • Moses, Daniel Kay
  • Zackuse Sr., Daniel Gene
  • Taylor, Harold Francis Wolfer
  • Davis, Marvin Richard
  • Williams Jr., William Michael
  • Contraro, Arthur Allan
  • Campbell, John Thunderbird
  • Dunn Sr., Michael Allen
  • Warbus, Steven Francis
  • Campbell, Walter Lee
  • McCoy, John Richard
  • Charles Jr., Wesley James
  • Moses, Albert A.
  • Ledford, Richard Dean

Women Warriors

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Tulalip women are strong, assertive, confident, knowledgeable, caring, resilient, proud, hilarious, and inspiring. They played a key role in shaping Tulalip into the thriving community that it is today by keeping the culture alive and growing both the governmental and gaming entities of the Tribe. Their contributions locally and nationally have assisted innumerable families and people throughout the years. And their kind and understanding hearts have helped many individuals overcome adversity and find their purpose in their respective tribal communities. 

There are countless examples of current women leaders at Tulalip. Whether it’s Teri Gobin, Misty Napeahi, Debra Posey, or Pat Contraro on the Tribes Board of Directors, Jessica Bustad at the Education Division, Sheryl Fryberg at the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, Michele Balagot at the Lushootseed Language department, Jade Carela at the Legacy of Healing and Child Advocacy Center, Mytyl Hernandez at the Hibulb Cultural Center, Niki Cleary at Media & Marketing, Candy Hill at Funeral Services, Natasha Fryberg at beda?chelh, Marci Fryberg at TGO, or Tammy Taylor at Bingo, the women of Tulalip are at the helm and are steering the future of Tulalip to a brighter tomorrow. 

And that’s not to mention the countless women leaders who came before them, or the women who work within all the different departments of the Tribe, or the women who are active in the community – all of whom are making a huge impact in a good way for the well-being of Tulalip. What is even more astounding is the fact that with all the leaders listed above, there are even more women who aren’t mentioned that are doing important work for their people and community. And it goes without saying, because it is the Tulalip way, that each of these women are passing down their teachings and knowledge to the younger generations of Tulalip women, so they too can be strong leaders in the years to come. 

When holidays such as Mother’s Day, International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month are celebrated, it’s much more special to Indigenous communities who rely on the wisdom, love, and perspective of their matriarchs with every day that passes. And it is also the reason why the pain is much more severe when these amazing women make their journey to the afterlife or when they are pronounced missing from their homelands and communities. 

The work that Tulalip women are putting in hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, it is inspiring young ladies throughout the reservation. On the morning of March 10, the students of Quil Ceda Elementary (QCT) held a gathering to pay homage to the ‘Women Warriors’ of Tulalip. The powerful and moving ceremony was organized by QCT’s own Ms. Palacio, and she received a helping hand from a number of students dressed in colorful ribbon skirts, who are officially known at QCT as the Salish Sisters. Heartfelt words were spoken, and tears were shed during the morning assembly as the students and faculty of the school thanked all of Tulalip’s Women Warriors for setting a positive example for the future leaders of the Tribe. 

To open the special tribute, a number of Tulalip students offered a few of the Tribe’s traditional songs, including the Women Warrior song. Guests of honor at the celebration included Deborah Parker and the women of the Aunties in Action collective for their outstanding work in uplifting the community of Tulalip, especially for the young Native women who are sure to follow their footsteps in leadership in the not-so-distant future.

Deborah Parker and the Aunties in Action shared important messages with the students.

Deborah Parker, (Indigenous Activist and Chief Executive Officer of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition)

“I thank the creator that I’m here with you, my children, and my community. With every breath that I have, I want to make sure that you know that you are loved. I want you to know that there are teachers surrounding you and parents who want to make sure you have a good education. But most of all that you feel loved, that you know how special you are, and that you know how much we care for each and every one of you. Thank you to our lady warriors who sang the Women Warrior song – that song is so special and important to us. This is the best advice I was given and I’m going to share it with you today, and that is to follow your spirit. Follow what you believe in your heart. And most importantly, treat each other with love and respect.”

Natosha Gobin (Aunties in Action)

“We want you guys to know that all of the work we do in the community, we do it because we want our community to be a better place. We want our families to be healthy, we want our children to be happy and healthy. Everything we do, we do it with each one of you in mind. We’re thinking about your families, thinking about some of the things you might need. And I just want you to know that we love you all.”

Zenitha Jimicum (Aunties in Action)

“Our Aunties in Action organization started because my cousin Tosha sent out a text during the pandemic that there was food to be donated and food to be distributed. Many of the adults remember that we had people who were laid off and were losing their jobs at this time, and parents were struggling on a daily basis. She gathered us together for our community. And that’s what I want to encourage you to do. As children you can still be leaders, you don’t have to wait to be adults. You can gather together and set goals today. I want to encourage you to build your leadership skills when you’re young and get more people to help, so we can continue to serve our people and so our community can stay strong.”

Monie Ordonia (Aunties in Action) 

“We started from a place where we wanted to be of service to our people. We wanted to help our people feel better. When we distributed the food during the pandemic, I made sure I shared a smile and greeted everyone with love and respect. You can make others feel good any time by helping someone else. When we do that, we can help those people who are feeling sad or depressed, and we can create a space for them to know that they’re supported.”

Malory Simpson (Aunties in Action) 

“I wanted to do my part to help bring our community together. A few years ago, we started the organization Together We’re Better because if we work together, we can do so many good things. When Aunties in Action was formed, it was so much fun. Through this work, we get to join together, spend time together. When we’re sad, we can reach out and talk to each other. It’s important to build those bonds with each other. Together, we can help build a better community. And for you kids, we love to see you come and join us in our activities. April 2nd we’re going to be doing an Easter Bunny run on the reservation, we’re going to be walking around the reservation with the Easter Bunny – we might have easter eggs, we might have candy. Today, I saw a little girl in her cedar belt – just beautiful. All you girls singing that song with us is just beautiful. Your culture is always going to be here for you, and we’re always going to be here to support you, and guide you, and teach you.”

Before they presented gifts to the guests of honor and headed back to their classrooms, the QCT students dedicated this special poem to all the Indigenous Women throughout history – past, present, and future :

Women Warriors

They are aunties, mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives. But above all, these women are warriors. We honor our ancestors with leadership in women that have made it crucial to the importance of our roles in our  communities today. All across time, since we can remember, women have always reminded us of the importance of working together and caring for our children, as if they were their own. We care for the whole child today because it takes a village to take care of a child. We celebrate the women warriors who taught us this. Indigenous women who are now leaders of tomorrow. Through resiliency work they have changed the narrative and are impactful leaders.