Future leaders break ground for TELA expansion

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Laughter and excited voices of young children filled the air on an overcast Spring morning outside of the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy (TELA). The kids stood before a large dirt pile and with plastic shovels in hand. The future of Tulalip held the honor of officially breaking ground for a much-needed expansion on the Academy’s birth-to-three side of the campus. With joyous vigor, the kids took turns driving their shovels into the dirt. Some of the youngins simply uplifted the dirt from one area to the next, making sure to pat down any areas with clumps, while others flung dirt high into the air in celebration, hilariously causing uprooted earth to shower down on their teachers and classmates.

“We wanted this to be about the kids,” exclaimed Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy Director, Sheryl Fryberg. “We had them come out and do it because this is going to be for them, for the little people. It was so beautiful having them take part. It was so exciting for them to be out here and digging in the dirt.”

For the past seven years, since first opening, TELA has been an excellent program for the kids of the Tulalip community. More than just a daycare or your average pre-school, the reservation-based early learning academy implements the Tulalip culture into the young minds of the Tribe’s future leaders.

Sheryl stated, “Research says that when we bring the culture and language to our children, they do better in the school years, college years, career years and in life. That’s the foundation that we want to build here for as many of our children as we can. We have a lot of families out here who need great childcare and the work that we do here is more of a school, that’s why we call it an academy. We’re laying a really strong foundation for kids to be successful in elementary, middle school, high school – we want to wrap them in our culture and language here in their early years.” 

Throughout the first years of the students’ lives, the kiddos are fully-immersed in the Coast Salish culture at the academy where they learn Tulalip songs, stories, traditions and the Lushootseed language. Prior to COVID-19, the academy regularly held ‘culture day’ once a month, where the students would take part in an assembly and activity, learning of the Tulalip lifeways as well as other cultures from around the globe. 

“All our classrooms are incorporating the Tulalip culture, and other cultures, in the classrooms,” said TELA Birth-to-Three Grants Manager, Mekyla Fryberg. “We have the Lushootseed department that works with us, and they provide that language in the classrooms every single day. Our teachers are using the language with the kids, we have a curriculum that we built together with the language department, and that has been something that we have strived for and I believe we are making way. Today, we were able to see the kids bring their drums out from their classrooms and share songs in our groundbreaking ceremony. And that is something that we have aimed for, to provide our kids with the opportunity to embrace their culture.”

With the expansion, TELA will be adding an additional three classrooms for the birth-to-three program, which ultimately means more students will receive those cultural teachings once the new wing is completed. The new classrooms will be larger in size and thus will provide space for more kids in each class.

The expansion is something the academy has been working towards for years said Mekyla. Every year, once the program has reached full capacity, there has been a waitlist of approximately thirty kids who want to begin their academic career with TELA. Most of those families unfortunately had to turn to alternate childcare, and therefore have missed out on the cultural-based teachings. With the new classrooms, the hope is for the waitlist to be eliminated and that all the children of the Tulalip community will get the chance to attend the academy. 

“Prior to COVID, we always had a waiting list for like thirty children who wanted to come to the birth-to-three wing,” said Sheryl. “It seems like it keeps growing every year, so we took advantage of some grant dollars that we had available, and the Tribe kicked in some funding also to help us build this addition so we can hopefully meet the needs of our community.”

Added Mekyla, “I started here when we first opened in 2015 and I have witnessed first-hand the need for those additional enrollment slots in the birth-to-three program. There has been a waitlist of between fifteen to thirty kids every school year. As soon as we reach full enrollment, there’s a waitlist. To know that we are going to be able to open-up three new classrooms, that’s rewarding for me to know that we saw the need and acted on that need, and that we are going to be able to complete this project and serve our community the best that we can.”

After participating in the groundbreaking ceremony, TELA students will be involved with the expansion project until it’s completion. The new wing is slated to open in the Fall of 2023, but the kids will be able to visibly track its progression throughout the project, as the windows along the birth-to-three corridor will remain uncovered so the kids can see the construction process take place. 

“It was thrilling to witness the kids participate in moving dirt and complete that groundbreaking ceremony,” expressed Mekyla. “It’s been a long time coming to complete this project. It’s exciting because this will improve our services that we offer to families and increase our enrollment.”

New Washington State bills help protect tribal citizens, and honor tribal sovereignty

Governor Jay Inslee visits Tulalip for the bill signing. He also reminisced about his time at Tulalip and his invaluable relationship with tribal governments.

First statewide alert system is created to tackle the missing Indigenous people crisis

By Shaelyn Hood; photos by Kalvin Valdillez

A noteworthy step forward for Native Americans was taken on Wednesday, March 30th as Governor Jay Inslee traveled to the Tulalip Resort Casino to sign several tribal-related bills into law. These newly placed bills establish an overall better relationship between US government offices and sovereign nations.

One such bill is House Bill 1571, which ensures better protections and services for Indigenous persons who are missing, murdered, or survivors of human trafficking. 

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, spoke of the importance of this bill saying, “Seattle is the top city in the United States with a number of missing and murdered Indigenous, not just women, but people. And Washington along with Montana are the top two states that have missing and murdered Indigenous people. The most important thing is bringing them home, whether they’ve been trafficked, or they’ve been stolen, or they’ve been murdered, we need to bring them home to our people. The tribes are committed to the people, future generations, coming together to draft and pass good policies for the benefit of all Indian country.”

Also becoming a law is House Bill 1725. This will establish the first state-wide emergency alert for missing or endangered Indigenous people. This will be used on a variable message sign and text of the highway advisory radio message to assist in the recovery of a missing Indigenous person, similar to the Amber and Silver alerts currently used.

The event began with a meet-and-greet with Governor Inslee and various Washington tribal leaders, members of the Washington State Legislature, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and community members. Tulalip tribal members opened with a ceremonial song and drum. 

Governor Inslee spoke about his invaluable relationship with tribal governments. More specifically, he spoke about his upbringing and his time spent at Spee-Bi-Dah. He also spoke highly of a specific Tulalip elder he had met, Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch, who he personally invited to attend the day’s event and even honored as Washingtonian of the Day.         

 Inslee recognized Penoke’s work in helping to establish the first Boys and Girls Club to tribal lands and the example that set for other tribal governments.  “He was significantly responsible for my value system, particularly when it comes to salmon. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, he would allow me to help to pull in the nets down by Spee-Bi-Dah. It was so exciting to see this life form that was concentrated in these nets. And from that, I came away with a commitment to do all I can do to keep those salmon roads in the state of Washington and it’s made a difference,” he said.  

Following the signing of the bills, Tulalip leaders and community members gathered once again to sing and drum for Governor Inslee. Prayers were said for the Indigenous people that are still missing, and a blanketing ceremony took place. Leaders involved in the making of these bills were wrapped in blankets and community members were called to act as a witness to this day, to share with future generations of the works and the bills put into place.

The event showcased the unheard voices of our people, and the decades of battle between US governments and sovereign nations. Showing that with diligent effort and fortitude from strong tribal leadership and representatives, Native Americans can prevail against generations of silence and oppression. 

Ryan Miller, Director of Treaty Rights and Government Affairs spoke about what it means for the relationship between US Governments and sovereign nations, “The reality is, we live in an interconnected world, and neither us or the state of Washington is going anywhere. The best way to move forward is to partner and work together to deal with the things that affect our communities. We can find our mutual interests, align those values, and pass good laws that make sense for our state and for our communities.”  

House Bill excerpts:

  • House Bill 1571– This bill is intended for better protections and services for Indigenous persons who are missing, murdered, or survivors of human trafficking. These efforts include immediate police and county coroner referral to the affected tribes and tribal organization when identifying the body of a missing Indigenous person. This allows the opportunity for any relatives and/or community members to see their loved one, and perform any spiritual practices or ceremony without disturbance or being interfered by outside sources. All is permissible as long as it does not directly disrupt the ongoing investigation. 
  • House Bill 1725– Concerning the creation of an endangered missing person advisory designation for missing Indigenous persons. With this, the legislature identified how disproportionate rates of violence occurred for Indigenous people. Because of this, they intend to provide law enforcement with additional tools to disseminate timely, accurate information to engage the public more effectively in assisting with locating missing Indigenous people, and to compensate for the unique challenges that Indigenous communities face accessing media coverage and the ability to share information. 
  • House Bill 1717- This further allows tribal participation regarding the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA). The GMA helps analyze Washington’s growth by identifying and protecting critical areas and natural resource lands, designating urban growth areas, preparing comprehensive plans and implementing them through capital. This amendment is on a voluntary basis, in which a federally recognized tribe can decide to or against participating. No subsection or provision or tribe’s decision to become a participating tribe for planning purposes, shall affect, alter, or limit in any way a tribe’s authority, jurisdiction, or any treaty or other rights it may have by virtue of its status as a sovereign Indian tribe.
  • House Bill 1753– Concerning tribal consultation regarding the use of certain funding authorized by the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). This new section establishes that agencies will allocate funding or administer grant programs appropriated from the climate investment account, the climate commitment account, and the natural climate solutions account must offer early, meaningful, and individual consultation with any affected federally recognized tribe on all funding decisions and funding programs that may impact tribal resources, including tribal cultural resources, archaeological sites, sacred sites, fisheries, or other rights and interests in tribal lands and lands within which a tribe or tribes possess rights reserved or protected by federal treaty, statute, or executive order. 
  • Senate Bill 5694– Recognizing Indian tribes as among the governmental entities with which the department of corrections may enter into agreements on matters to include the housing of inmates convicted in tribal court. The amendments made aimed to recognize tribe’s sovereign nations, equitable with any another state, state agency, county or federal jurisdiction in decisions regarding the department of corrections.
  • Senate Bill 5866– Concerning Medicaid long-term services and supports eligibility determinations completed by federally recognized Indian tribes. Issues around Medicaid long-term services must now allow the department to contract with a federally recognized Indian tribe to determine eligibility, including assessments and reassessments, authorize and reauthorize services, and perform case management functions within its regional authority.

Honoring our Sovereignty Warriors 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

“I don’t believe in magic. I believe in the sun and the stars, the water, the tides, the floods, the owls, the hawks flying, the river running, the wind talking. They’re measurements. They tell us how healthy things are. How healthy we are. Because we and they are the same. That’s what I believe in.”

Those immortal words were said by Nisqually tribal member and internationally recognized civil right leader Billy Frank Jr. in his biography Messages from Frank’s Landing. His message was visible on t-shirts proudly worn by Quil Ceda Tulalip staff members during the month of March as the school dedicated four weeks to teaching their students about sovereignty, treaty rights, and three legendary figures known as sovereignty warriors: the aforementioned Billy and local Tulalip icons Stan Jones Sr. and Bernie Gobin. 

Although all three warriors have passed away, in 2014, 2019 and 2009 respectively, they continue to live on in the stories told and memories shared by their loved ones. Homegrown educators Kamiakin Craig and Toneena Gobin have both recently joined the QCT staff as cultural specialists. Kamiakin, the grandson of Bernie Gobin, and Toneena, the granddaughter of Stan Jones, wrote books about their grandfathers that were used as curriculum and read aloud by QCT students and teachers alike while learning about Tulalip sovereignty.

“It’s been such a surreal experience working at Quil Ceda because when I went here there wasn’t a lot of culture, but now the students are really taught to embrace and celebrate culture,” said 22-year-old Toneena. “A few months back I was sitting in a meeting and heard our staff talk about celebrating Billy Frank Jr. month. I told them that’s awesome, but asked why we don’t have anything for the leaders who lived here, our Tulalip leaders that many of the kids benefited from. That sparked a larger conversation and I’m thankful for our QCT leaders, especially assistant principal Chelsea Craig, for not just understanding but implementing this must-needed change. 

“My grandpa was a huge part of my life. He taught me so many things, like what it means to be culturally involved, the importance of sticking to your word, and to always remember that no matter how we progress as tribal members we have a responsibility to give back to our community,” she added while wiping away happy tears. “Working at the elementary where many of the kids know me as auntie Neena, I feel it’s my responsibility to pass on the teachings given to me about canoe journey and salmon ceremony. I want all our kids to be proud to be Tulalip and never know what its like to have to hide their culture.” 

While Toneena and Kamiakin shared their self-authored children books about two beloved Tulalip icons to the eager to learn K-5 students, the QCT family also enjoyed their annual journey into the many teachings of Billy Frank Jr. 

Billy spent much of his life advocating for human rights for all, particularly the Coast Salish people of western Washington. He was on the front line in the controversy protecting treaty-guaranteed Native American fishing rights in the 1960s and ‘70s. His perseverance landed him in jail more than 40 times, a fact QCT students love to blurt out when asked about a cool Billy story, but he also helped guarantee fishing rights when the Boldt Decision was handed down in 1974.

In commemorating all the valuable lessons learned and cultural teachings practiced during March, an honoring assembly was held on Friday, March 25 at the Quil Ceda Tulalip gymnasium. In a beautiful tribute to the Nisqually activist, dozens of elementary students participated in carrying a hallway-spanning collaborate art piece representing healthy, vibrant salmon swimming upstream. Then twelve students took to the center of the assembly and in unison chanted:

  • B believe, be bold, be brave
  • I  inspirational
  • L leadership
  • L legacy
  • Y yearn for change

“Leaders like my father Bernie, Stan Jones and Billy Frank taught us from a young age to know who you are and where you come from as tribal people and to ground yourself in traditional teachings before going anywhere else,” explained Board of Director, Glen Gobin to the respectfully quiet gym full of sitting QCT students looking up at him. “Understand who you are. Understand your ancestors. Understand their values and their struggles so that together we can understand their hopes and dreams they had for us today.

“My dad grew up being a fisherman. He loved fishing above all things, except his family and his tribe,” continued Glen. “Fishing was life and he did it as long as he could. Even when he lost the use of his legs, we still found a way to get him onto the top of his boat where he sat all day. Then when it was time all his grandkids would help him off the boat and into his wheelchair cart. That was how he spent his final days, doing what he loved. Nothing was going to hold him back from getting out there on the water.

“I leave you all with that thought – let nothing hold you back from following your passions. Remember your teachings. Remember what you learned about these sovereignty warriors and how they stood up for what they believed in. And most importantly, remember how your ancestors made right decisions for righteous reasons for both themselves and their people as well. I thank you all for honoring these three individuals who are very important in our lives. They showed us how to what’s right by protecting our resources and standing up for the environment.”

Concluding the QCT honoring assembly were a number of Tulalip songs and dances that students enthusiastically participated in, while the portraits of Stan Jones and Billy Frank looked on. Undoubtedly, their spirits rejoiced as a whole new generation of sovereignty warriors sang, danced, and drummed to their cultural heart’s desire. 

Beyond Surviving to Thriving

Tulalip Problem Gambling program and Tulalip Healing Lodge residents unveil new mural

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“This was an amazing experience because recovery is a journey, and it doesn’t always have to be about going to treatment,” said Tulalip Problem Gambling Counselor Robin Johnson. “This was a work in progress and people really put their hearts into this project.”

Last spring, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program hosted an art therapy class for the residents of the Tulalip Healing Lodge in hopes of bringing a fun and creative form of healing to those in recovery. The Problem Gambling program enlisted Tulalip artist Monie Ordonia to lead the class. Feeding off her good vibes and energy, the participants took a strong liking to her teachings and fully engaged in the art therapy class. During that session, Monie asked the Healing Lodge residents to create from the soul rather than the mind, and that work would eventually become the main fixtures on a living and traveling 7-foot four-panel mural.

“I’m so happy we picked the right person to do the project with everybody. Everyone that knows Monie, knows that her heart is 100% pure and that her spirit is 100% in everything she does. She loves her community, she loves people. I’m really happy this came together the way it did,” shared Problem Gambling Counselor, Sarah Sense Wilson. “It went from us sharing Problem Gambling information with the residents and right into conceptualizing what they were going to create, with the theme that this is about healing, surviving and thriving.”

First established in 2015, the Healing Lodge has helped both Tulalip tribal members and those enrolled with other tribal nations attain and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle. By providing a safe space to reside, away from bad habits and negative influence, the Healing Lodge also offers their residents group therapy and activities, giving their participants the opportunity to build community with others who are striving for the same goal. And, likewise, the Problem Gambling program has become an important resource to the Tulalip community, helping those battling a gambling addiction find their way out of the dangerous cycle byway of an intensive plan to recovery.

The first group of Healing Lodge residents showed such a great amount of interest in the class, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program decided to take it to the next level and asked Monie to lead the residents in the mural project. Monie took the original artwork created by the residents, from the first art therapy class, and transferred them to one side of the four-panel mural. That side of the mural consists of a shark-whale in traditional formline, a star-eyed mask, a portrait of one of the residents, and a Salish woman wearing a cedar-woven hat. The opposite side of the mural features a Tulalip Canoe family coming ashore, with their paddles up, as an eagle soars high above them on the Salish Sea.

Said Monie, “I was really honored to be asked to be a part of the Healing Lodge. I truly believe that we all have the capacity to go beyond our hurt. For this project, the question I asked the residents is, are you surviving? And we know, from our ancestors, we already survived. So, when you think about what’s the next stage after surviving – it’s thriving.”

She continued, “When we came up with the concept, I asked what does thriving look like now that you discovered that you can be a part of the medicine that brings you beyond your addictions?  A lot of the members who were here began drawing what that medicine meant to them. I followed through and one of the hugest medicines we have for the Tribe is pulling canoe. Being someone who didn’t grow up on the reservation, to be able to become part of the Tulalip Canoe Family, I knew from experience how magical and mystical it is to pull canoe. To be on the water with fellow tribal members means to be a team, to help each other pull through the water. As we are singing our songs, those are the prayers – and our ancestors are on the water reflecting those prayers and songs back to us. That’s why we made this side so significant. That medicine, if you ever been on the water, you can feel that energy.”

Throughout the past year, Monie traveled north to the Healing Lodge to work on the project with the residents. And although the artwork itself is a form of medicine, the time and energy put into the work was just as much of a healing experience and strong medicine to those working on their recovery journey. During the painting sessions, the artists conversed with one another, got to know each other better, shared laughter and even some dance moves while Monie played music from her DJ sets over a portable speaker. 

Multiple studies show that art therapy assists greatly in addiction recovery, boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and stress levels, while also allowing the artist the space to go inward and address and resolve any personal conflicts they may be facing. The amount of time that each resident spends at the Healing Lodge varies as each person’s journey to recovery is unique. That means that since the project originally started, several residents have come and gone throughout the months. Therefore, many recovering addicts had a hand in creating the mural and experienced all the benefits art therapy has to offer first-hand. 

One resident, Justine Moses, was involved in the project from start to finish. She shared, “I worked on three areas on the mural: the lady, the whale and the canoe. It makes me feel pretty good, confident and content, about my culture. I’m just happy to be here and glad to be a part of the project. It was healing for me, just putting my mind to it and sitting down and working on it. Monie is a good woman, and it feels pretty good to see it complete. The revealing was my favorite part, showing everybody the beautiful art piece that we all made together as a team.”

The unveiling of the mural was a special and intimate gathering on the eve of March 18, as Monie, the current Healing Lodge residents, the Problem Gambling program and the Healing Lodge staff members came together to bless the mural and view the completed project for the very first time. Many were moved to tears, in awe of the medicine that went into the project and the beauty that resulted from the healing art sessions. 

“The month of March is National Problem Gambling Awareness month and so we felt it was really fitting that all of this came together just in time. For a month that is about healing, growth, change, self-discovery and moving forward,” Sarah expressed. “This unveiling ceremony has been a long time coming, we spent nearly a year on this project.”

 Now that the project is complete, the Problem Gambling program and the Healing Lodge plan on displaying the mural throughout the reservation so others can see the positive and inspiring work that served as medicine to many while on their road to recovery. The first stop for the traveling mural will be at Problem Gambling’s Reclaiming Our Connections dinner event, happening at the Tulalip Resort Casino on the evening of March 26th, in honor of National Problem Gambling Awareness month. 

“This is the Healing Lodge’s message to future generations on how residents who come here have thrived through their voice and art,” said Monie. “To be a part of this, whatever part you have contributed, know that this is your medicine that your grandchildren will see in the future – beyond surviving to thriving.”

For more information about the Tulalip Problem Gambling program, please contact (360) 716-4304. And to learn more about the Tulalip Healing Lodge, please visit https://www.tulaliphealthsystem.com/BehavioralHealth/HealingLodge

NARCAN distributions ‘about saving lives’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Since its formation in late 2020, the dedicated staff of Tulalip’s Overdose Detection Mapping & Application Program (ODMAP) has been hard at work tracking and monitoring overdoses on the reservation. They are focused on promoting a healthy community and providing outreach work through accessible resources for those hit hardest by the opioid crisis.

Through their overdose mapping technology, it’s evident that the Mission Highlands and Silver Village housing projects are the leading overdose hotspots on the reservation. With this invaluable information in mind, the ODMAP team held potential lifesaving NARCAN distributions in both neighborhoods. NARCAN is a fast-acting drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. It can prevent death if administered quickly.

“NARCAN saves lives,” said Tashena Hill, ODMAP outreach specialist. “Until we can connect a person suffering from opioid use to treatment, we will wok with individuals, loved ones and concerned members of the community to make sure they are prepared to respond if an overdose does occur. We urge anyone who needs access to NARCAN to attend one of our distributions or, better yet, reach out to us directly so we can review the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to easily administer NARCAN. The mission of our department, including these free to the public distributions, is all about saving lives.”

How to save lives is a prevailing mission behind so many local, state and federal health departments as the nation comes to grips with yet another pandemic. This one is opioid-based and being super charged by a steady surge in fentanyl-laced street drugs.

According to provisional CDC data released March 16, an estimated 105,752 Americans died from overdoses in the 12-month span ending October 2021 – the highest number of overdose deaths recorded in the United States in a single 12-month period. Bringing the scope more local, Snohomish County logged 232 deaths from overdoses in 2020, which is also the most in recorded history. And if focused solely on the Tulalip membership, the scope reveals there have been at least 16 overdose deaths since the start of 2020.

It is with these sobering statistics in mind that programs like Tulalip’s ODMAP are prioritizing making lifesaving resources assessible and bringing them directly to where they are needed most. By going directly into the neighborhoods at most risk of producing more overdoses, the ODMAP team and their NARCAN distributions are impossible to miss, with their drive-thru like setup and rallying signs to nab the attention of passers-by. 

Their Mission Highlands distribution was held on Valentine’s Day, when twenty-five NARCAN kits were given away. Silver Village’s distribution took place on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, and was even more successful as thirty-plus NARCAN kits were given out. 

“We’re bringing the resources to the people,” said ODMAP project coordinator, Kali Joseph. Armed with her upbeat attitude and ‘NARCAN SAVES LIVES’ sign, she corralled several vehicles as they entered the Silver Village main entrance where they were then greeted by Tashena or Jackson Nahpi. Together they reviewed everything in the Tulalip Pharmacy Narcan Kit and answered any questions that were asked. 

“For the simple fact that NARCAN can save lives, it’s worth having in every Tulalip household. It just furthers the conversation and makes it not a taboo subject. I carry one on myself in any situation, just to have it accessible in case I’m a bystander and it’s needed…because you never know,” shared Kali.

“It’s so important that as a community we destigmatize substance use disorder (SUD) because often times its mistaken as a moral failing or personal choice,” she added. “As Native people, we are overrepresented in SUD and overdoses and things like depression and suicide. A lot of the SUD may stem from impact of intergenerational and historical trauma. There’s a lot of social factors at play as well.”

Normalizing NARCAN and viewing it like an inhaler or EpiPen that can be used as an antidote to revive people from the brink of death is an effortless way of practicing effective harm prevention. NARCAN is a nasal spray. It looks like a common antihistamine and is administered by squirting directly into the nose. It is not dangerous to the person administering it, and it will not hurt anyone who doesn’t have opioids in their system. Plus, anyone administering NARCAN is protected by the Good Samaritan law.

The degree of disclosure at both of ODMAP’s neighborhood NARCAN distributions was perspective altering. Several citizens shared with members of the ODMAP team their experiences, both personal and as witnesses, with opioid overdose and how NARCAN saved the day. One young lady shared she keeps NARCAN at the ready because her mother is a heroin user and fears she’ll find her overdosing one day. Another young man disclosed his partner overdosed in the past and if it weren’t for NARCAN, she probably wouldn’t have made it.

While future distributions are in the works, ODMAP is also considering going door to door in order to reach their goal of having a NARCAN kit in each Tulalip household. In the meantime, if you’re a Tulalip community member and would like to receive a free NARCAN kit please call or text 360-722-2255 or visit www.tulaliptribalcourt-nsn.gov/ProgramsAndServices/ODMAP

Indigenous Beginnings brings the culture to the people

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Across the land, and within each tribe, many Native Americans are fortunate and blessed to grow up surrounded by the culture. Learning the ways of our ancestors who came before us, tribal members are often gifted knowledge at numerous intervals throughout our lives, whether that be our traditional languages, the importance of ceremony, or how to live and thrive of the land, several teachings are passed through the generations. Countless tribal members develop a strong cultural identity at a young age, and that foundation helps keep our way of life alive and is in-turn taught to the future leaders – a beautiful cycle. Which is amazing considering that our traditions were once outlawed with the intention of being completely erased and stripped away during the era of forced assimilation.

However, there is a percentage of Natives who aren’t raised within the culture, especially in today’s modern society. Maybe they grow-up away from their homelands, and only visit their reservations every so often. Or perhaps, with the everyday hustle, their families can’t attend local cultural happenings as often as they would like. And of course, there are those who simply haven’t gravitated to their traditional lifeways just yet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they do not want to get involved at some point in their lifetime. 

For those individuals who are ready to learn their ancestral teachings, where do they begin? How do they attain that foundation, that base of knowledge to the point where they can practice their traditions with confidence in both a group and personal setting, without feeling awkward, embarrassed or looked-down upon? These are common concerns for urban Natives and others who grew up outside of the culture, especially at large gatherings when you are expected to just jump-in. 

The answer comes in the form of a newly established, non-profit organization called Indigenous Beginnings. Founded by Nooksack tribal member and Tulalip community member, Stephanie Cultee, Indigenous Beginnings hosts a variety of cultural workshops and helps tribal members connect to their traditional lifeways.

“Indigenous Beginnings started after COVID happened,” explained Stephanie. “All the programs were kind of shut down, and I thought that it was possible to host a workshop in a safe environment while still practicing our ways. The organization is geared toward passing down the knowledge, so it stays alive and preserving it. There was a whole generation that couldn’t practice or learn their ways from their grandparents because of the boarding school era. And there are a lot of programs that happen at each tribe, but they are all kind of geared towards the youth, and I always felt left out. What about us who aren’t youth? It would always feel weird to attend those events and programs.”

She continued, “With Indigenous Beginnings, all of our workshops are for all ages. For those older generations who want to learn, they could come and don’t have to feel weird about it. I am from Nooksack and moved down here when I was fifteen. 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, and a way that I can learn as well.”

Officially established in the late summer of 2021, the non-profit has already hosted numerous workshops over the past several months. Over ten in fact, and each project is different, so the participants are always learning something new or receiving a fun and interactive refresher. So far, Indigenous Beginnings has hosted harvesting classes, and gathered devil’s club, fireweed and mountain huckleberries, as well as a number of carving classes where participants crafted canoe paddles, fish sticks and cedar earrings. Other classes included a two-part beading seminar, a drum making workshop, and a salmon canning lesson. 

For their most recent gathering, a stinging nettle harvesting workshop, the organization enlisted Tulalip tribal member Thomas Williams to lead the class. On the frosty morning of March 6, approximately a dozen participants met at a clearing in a nearby forest, a local area known as Arcadia. 

After teaching the group Lushootseed words for several local Indigenous plants, Thomas shared, “I arrived early in the morning as the birds were still waking and I prayed for the work we are doing today. Before you start harvesting, I ask that you get yourself in a healthy state of mind and let the plant know that you’re a good person and that you come in a good way. That’s part of why I feel that it doesn’t sting me as much, because I have a relationship with this plant and I’m learning how to protect it. 

This is our land, and it’s our responsibility to protect it. If we’re coming here and utilizing the medicine, it’s our responsibility to also use our ability to speak and stick up for these resources. We need your help protecting this area so that future generations can continue to come here and utilize that medicine.”

Thomas then demonstrated harvesting techniques while informing the participants what and where to look for when harvesting the stinging nettle plant, indicating that they grow in families and can be seen along the tree lines. Equipped with gloves, buckets and a pair of scissors, the group spent two hours scouring Arcadia for stinging nettles and discussed amongst themselves how they would utilize the plant after the day’s bounty was collected. During this time, the group also shared stories, laughter, prayers and songs, providing each other with the medicine of good company while they worked.

“When you harvest nettles, you talk to them and let them know who you are, who your family is, and that you’re there with good intentions,” said young Tulalip tribal member, Kaiser Moses. “You let them know that you care about the plants, and you care about the environments that the plants exist within. This is important to me because it makes good tea, it’s good in stews and it has good practical benefits, but it also connects me to the environment that I exist in. The forests I drive-by every day, I walk in them and have a connection to them. That plays a big part in my life, because I need the grounding that it provides.” 

Many participants echoed Kaiser’s sentiment about feeling connected, not only to the culture, but also to the natural world while taking part in the Indigenous Beginnings workshop. Tulalip tribal member Kali Joseph noted that this work is important for our people going forward and continuing to learn and pass on the knowledge of our ancestors. 

Said Kali, “It was so cool, and it was super healing. I felt very connected to the land today. It was an honor to be a part of this. It makes me so thankful for Stephanie’s organization because it brings the culture to the people. This was my first-time harvesting stinging nettle. I’m really looking forward to using the medicine further and maybe making a pesto and dehydrating some for a tea. I know that sometimes it’s hard to get connected to your culture when life is so busy, with work and school and other things. So, just to take some time, where everything is set-up for you, where she facilitates it for you, and your instructor teaches you how to harvest and how to use what you harvest further. I think it’s awesome to be a part of.”

She added, “It’s important, the work that we do to sustain and revitalize our culture, because as Native people, we have lots of healing to do and I think that we could utilize this type of work to collectively heal. Indigenous Beginnings is thinking about what’s in the best interest for the next seven generations. Everything we do today has a ripple effect down the next seven generations. And since this my first-time learning, and my little sisters first time learning, we’ll be able to pass those teachings on to many generations down the line.”

There are many fun and exciting events and classes planned for Indigenous Beginnings that the people can look forward to over the next couple of months as the weather warms up. In addition to more harvesting workshops, rose hips and morel mushrooms are due up next, the non-profit is in the process of coordinating a cedar-pulling workshop, as well as a cedar weaving lesson. 

It is Stephanie’s goal to host workshops on different reservations, in addition to both of her homes at Tulalip and Nooksack, and get other local tribes involved in the organization. She also has aspirations of starting a hiking club, where participants can journey, by foot, through their ancestral homelands. Indigenous Beginnings also commissioned a cedar strip canoe from Canadian Native carver Neil Russell, which should be completed before the end of spring. They will teach participants how to pull the canoe out on the open waters.

Stephanie shared, “I want this to be a model, the framework, so other tribal members can form their own branches of Indigenous Beginnings, like Muckleshoot Indigenous Beginnings workshops. Or maybe Alaska, because there’s a lot of Alaskan Natives here in Washington and they could start their own. This is also a great way for our teachers to get funding, to compensate them because they are teaching our traditional ways. It’s mind blowing that there are still people who hold that knowledge, those teachings, and we just want to help pass that knowledge on.”

Indigenous Beginnings is currently looking to add a board member to their team who can advocate for the organization, build connections, assist in fund raising opportunities and attend all of their meetings. If you are interested, or if you would like to find out more about the non-profit, please visit their Facebook page for more information.

Walking Through My Story

By Kalvin Valdillez Tulalip News 

Did you know that as a people, Native Americans are at the highest risk of developing a gambling habit? A 2019 study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that 2.3% of the entire Indigenous population are currently battling a gambling addiction, one of the highest percentages in the nation. And after a few years of dealing with the global pandemic, that percentage is unfortunately expected to increase.

Since it’s establishment, the Tulalip Problem Gambling program has been a reliable source to those attempting to kick their gambling habit for good, helping recovering addicts along their healing journey. Over the years, the program has served not only the tribal community, but non-Native gambling addicts who live in the local vicinity as well.

 Many Problem Gambling participants have experienced a great deal of progress as they worked through the program, alongside individuals who are on a similar path. People they can relate to and who they feel comfortable talking to and sharing their darkest moments with, without the fear of them passing judgement.

The Problem Gambling Program provides a plan to recovery tailored to each individual’s needs while incorporating tribal culture, and a number of fun events and activities throughout each year. The Tulalip Family Services program has been such a great success, other tribes are now following their model to start their own problem gambling programs on their reservations. 

The month of March is an important time of year for the program as they take part in a countrywide initiative known as Problem Gambling Awareness month. The campaign originally began nearly twenty years ago in response to the amount of sports gambling surrounding the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament.

 In an effort to spread the word about their services and the dangers of habitual betting, Problem Gambling hosts several events during the awareness month, as well as provides numerous resources and support to those fighting the gambling disease.

To help raise awareness, the Problem Gambling Program teamed up with Tulalip News to bring you a weekly series of articles throughout March. Over the course of the next four weeks, participants who have found success with the Problem Gambling program will share their stories about how the program assisted them in their recovery journey. And in some cases, how the program ultimately saved their lives. 

The following story was recounted by local recovering addict, Jessica D. Trigger warning – this transcription touches on difficult subjects including suicide.

Jessica D:

“My story is — I’m trying to think about where to start. I hit rock bottom to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore. I actually tried numerous times to kill myself when driving in my vehicle. At the last second, I would always turn because I was afraid that hitting a cement wall or barrier wouldn’t kill me, but put me in more pain. Gambling was one way to escape my pain and loneliness, among other stuff, because it would give me the endorphins to help deal with that pain. 

I tried [Gamblers Anonymous] for a few years and I just wasn’t ready. It was September of 2018 that I was like, ‘okay I’m going to try to go to a GA meeting one more time’. I knew I needed GA but I also knew that I needed something more. I heard other ladies talking in that meeting, and I just put it out there and told them I need something more. I needed counseling, I needed something else that is more in-depth than what GA could provide. That’s when someone mentioned the Tulalip Problem Gambling program and I reached out and looked into it because I was at my last end. 

One thing that attracted me to the program was that it is free. And being an addict, I didn’t have any money. I was behind on rent, my car payment and behind on everything. So, I took a chance. I had nothing else to lose. At the time, my train of thought was that I needed to find something or else I’d have to follow through with my demise.

I went in and filled the intake form and told myself that I’d give this a real shot. I was hopeful because they told me I was not alone and that this program could help me get into the deeper things that I was looking for. I started going to one-on-one sessions and started the group — it totally changed my life. I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for the Problem Gambling program. It was what I needed. They helped me get to the root of my addiction and figure out when I crossed that invisible line and understand why I couldn’t stop.

One thing about me is I have a scientific and logical mind, and I like to know the reasoning behind things. And having that schooling and information that they provide – learning that our brain chemicals change and learning the mechanics behind it all that was very important in my recovery. I also had all these preconceived notions about addictions. And I found out that it is exactly the same as alcoholism or drug addiction, it changes the brain chemicals the exact same way, it’s just a different form of addiction. That really opened my eyes to other addictions and how they are all connected.

The people, especially Robin [Johnson] she was my counselor, I’m so grateful for them. She met me where I was at, because I can be stubborn. She worked with me on how I needed to do things. Everything I learned in the program and learned about myself, was life changing.

I entered the program in October 2018, and I actually didn’t stop gambling until March 9, 2019. I kept having a relapse. On March 9, I finally had enough and decided to give it a good try. And that’s where the program really helped, Robin advised me to try just for a short period of time, take it more in chunks. It’s been very enlightening and I’m so thankful. Back then, I never would’ve thought I’d make this far. 

Once I hit a year, I could see how much my life changed and could feel that it made a difference. In GA meetings, every now and then we’ll do what’s called brag time and now I’m excited and celebrate my amount of time. It’s interesting how the mind changes over time when you are sober and you get the time under your belt. It feels good.

The techniques are great too. I learned some amazing tools to help work through any thoughts about gambling or urges. I learned tools that I still use to this day and have been able to share with other people. 

One of the tools is called ‘Walking through my story: Playing my tape’. With an addiction, our little addict in us – whatever you want to call it, a monster, everyone has a different name for it. It only remembers the happy things and the good feelings we get from our addictions. But we have to remind ourselves about the horrible bad feelings that we go through when we succumb to the addiction. So when playing my tape, I have to remind myself what would happen if I went to the casino. I would ultimately lose, that happens 99% of the time. I would get the gut wrenching feeling in my stomach, the horrible feeling that I can’t stop. I would have to continue to go back to the ATM to try to win back my losses.

It also helps thinking about what I’ve accomplished since then, like being able to pay-off my bills. I have almost everything paid-off now. I have a roof over my head, I’m up to date on my rent and my medical bills. I can actually pay for stuff and I can go out with my friends. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to eat and don’t have to scramble or look for money through the cushions of my couch.

In the beginning, it was helpful to set an alarm. I’d set an alarm for ten, twenty or thirty minutes, however much time I think I need, and distract myself and do something else for that amount of time. When my alarm goes off, I re-evaluate and see if I still have a strong urge to gamble. If I do, I reset my alarm again, and just for that time frame I don’t gamble or give in to my addiction. Instead of taking it one day at a time, I take one moment at time. 

And of course there’s phone lists, reaching out to people and talking to others who I met through the program. We created amazing bonds. One of my best friends now is from that group. I shared things with them that I will never share with anyone again, not even with my family. In that group I had to share it. 

Now when I’m at a GA meeting and I am talking to somebody after hearing their story, I’ll usually tell them that it’s awesome they are there and let them know that if they are ever wanting or needing extra help, I know of this great program. It’s a more intensive program that will help you get to the root of the addiction and help you work through recovery. 

Right now, it’s more of a word of mouth type of program and I feel like more people need to know about it. Especially with gambling addiction, because it is acceptable to go out gambling and people don’t realize it can become an addiction and you can cross a line with it. 

It’s important to make other people realize that there is hope out there and there is help. I know that I would not be here without the Problem Gambling Program today. I tell everyone that it saved my life.” 

The Tulalip Problem Gambling Program will be hosting events throughout Problem Gambling Awareness Month, leading up to an in-person dinner event taking place at Tulalip Resort Casino on March 26th at 6:00 p.m.

If you or someone you love is dealing with a gambling addiction, or if you would like to find out more information about Problem Gambling Awareness month, please contact (360) 716-4304.  

Hibulb Cultural Center is making headlines in Snohomish County

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

On January 28, the Everett Herald Readers’ Choice Awards announced that for the first time, the Hibulb Cultural Center had won 2021’s Best Museum in Snohomish County. Winning this award allows the opportunity to spread more awareness to others about Hibulb’s presence, and confirm all the hard work that the staff make to revive, restore, protect, interpret, collect and enhance the history, traditional cultural values and spiritual beliefs of the Tulalip Tribes. 

The process for winning an award like this isn’t easy. To even get your hat thrown in the ring, someone outside of the organization must nominate you. Then, the Everett Herald releases the voting panel, votes are made, and the winner with the most votes takes home the title. Currently there are 18 other competing museums in Snohomish County.

Museums have the ability to create solidarity on a social and political level. The various Smithsonian museums within the United States see roughly 3.3 million people combined every year. These museums cover numerous cultural backgrounds, highlighting major political figures, historical art pieces, and an insight to humankind. They are wildly popular and hold the power to attract, educate, and influence the people that visit them.

What many seem to forget is that local museums are just as invaluable. They offer an insight into the history of a specific location, and help us to pay tribute to the communal cultures, customs, and legacies to that area. As the New Jersey Maritime Museum stated, “Museums focused on heritage and culture bring people together, creating a network of support for different minorities and groups. It is support networks like these that prevent cultures from disappearing and languages from dying.” 

Of the 18 museums that are located in Snohomish County, the Hibulb Cultural Center is the only museum that focuses on Native American history and culture. One of Hibulb’s most popular attractions is the tracking of Native American lineage. This gives current tribal members the ability to enter their Tribal enrollment number and track their descendance. And anybody can see the earliest recorded history of connections to the tribes that have created Tulalip Tribes. Something so significant and meaningful to visualize after many years of genocide and lost history.

Hibulb Group Tours Specialist, Courtnie Reyes said, “A lot of people around here don’t know the entire history of Tulalip people or a lot of the history of Native Americans in general. I think we bring a lot of that to the table, and allow people to get educated on our history and on the land they were on as well.”

During the time in which the voting was taking place for Everett Herald’s Best Museum, the world was put on pause. The Covid-19 pandemic made it hard for businesses to stay open, and interactions became limited. The Hibulb did it’s best to remain connected to people, and the staff worked diligently to maintain an online presence. 

Museum Manager Mytyl Hernandez said, “We tried to keep people engaged in our center through our social media campaigns. We would recycle some of our old posts and share videos for people to continue to see our content. We have a really great relationship with our social media following, and we tried to navigate it as much as we could.” 

The center also utilized this time to produce videos on their TV program, Hibulb Conversations, which features heated conversations and hot topics that can be shown online and in exhibits.

Because Hibulb followed tribal government guidelines, they safely reopened in August 2020, though visitation numbers were extremely low. During their busiest months of the year, March to June, they normally see around 7,000 guests. However from 2020-2021, they fell well below that average.

Though visitor counts remain lower than usual, Hernandez believes that more people will come and experience the center, “people really look at museums as a place of solitude, and a welcoming and safe environment. So as soon as we were able to do so, we were happy to provide that to our community and our guests.”

With the abundance of effort put on by tribal staff, the Hibulb Cultural Center raises awareness about tribal culture, educates people outside of our tribe, and maintains the cultural wellness of our people. If you would like to visit or know more information about the center, go to: www.hibulbculturalcenter.org

Indigenizing the Airwaves

By Kalvin Valdillez, photos courtesy of  Dom Joseph and  Faith Iukes

For over 50 years, the Daybreak Star Cultural Center at Discovery Park has been a space for local Native Americans to connect and celebrate their culture. Whether gathering to attend their annual powwow or Indigenous People’s Day celebration, or perhaps visiting art exhibits or attending one of their many cultural events throughout the year, Natives of all ages, and from multiple tribes across the nation, have shared laughs, stories, tears, traditions, artwork and meals with one another at Daybreak Star. The cultural center has earned a special place in the hearts of many.

The Daybreak Star Cultural Center is headquarters to the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1970, when a collective of over 100 urban Seattle Natives reclaimed Indigenous land near the Magnolia neighborhood, which would then become Discovery Park. Over the years, the non-profit has provided an array of services and resources to Natives living in the Seattle area, including outdoor pre-school education.

Due to the pandemic, people haven’t had the opportunity to gather at the cultural center as frequently as they once had prior to COVID, especially for cultural events. However, that did not stop the organization from doing what they do best, and have been doing for over a half-a-century, and that’s connect Indigenous people with each other to celebrate our culture and share our way of life.

Last summer, the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation announced a new project aimed to reach as many reservations and Indigenous homelands as possible, bringing that signature Daybreak Star experience to your home. Via the internet, the newly established Daybreak Star Radio Network brings music, stories, news and on-air interviews, podcasts and conversations to Indigenous people throughout the world.

The online radio station is perfect to listen to while on your daily commute, at work, exercising, studying, or simply doing chores about the house. It features all genres of music including R&B, hip-hop, country, EDM, rock and funk, as well as traditional music such as flute, drums, coastal and powwow. Daybreak Star Radio not only welcomes, but encourages Indigenous artists to submit their art to the station to be featured on-air, helping creative Natives gain more exposure and expand their fan base.

The Daybreak Star Radio Network enlisted Lummi tribal member, DJ Big Rez to host a daily hip-hop and EDM session, as well as DJ Abe Cortez who hosts a Latin rock, freestyle, R&B and dance two-hour slot every Sunday evening. And Seattle-based creative, Luminous Pariah, plays ‘classic Chicago house music with new sounds from Europe and the Americas’.

Dominick Joseph

Tulalip’s own Dominick Joseph, of The Dom Joseph Podcast fame, was named the Daybreak Star Radio Network’s Audio Producer and has been featured on KIRO 7 News and Q13 Fox News to talk about his work with the online radio network. Dom has a strong passion of amplifying the Indigenous voice, and helping Native artists and creatives share their stories and experiences through their choice of medium.

“Daybreak Star Radio Station is more than just storytelling and music,” he shared. “It is a non-profit organization that provides a platform and opportunity for Native American artists to showcase their art to the world. Having this space allows Native Americans across the country to be portrayed the way we would like to be represented in media, instead of the mold made for us by society. We here at Daybreak Star Radio are Indigenizing the airwaves one piece at a time.”

Faith Iukes.

Dom is not the only Tulalip tribal member involved in the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s latest project. Social media influencer, Faith Iukes, recently signed-on as the youngest on-air personality and will begin hosting her own show on the radio network in the near future. Faith’s show will be geared toward the Indigenous youth of the world and she will play music from some of her favorite Native musicians.

Faith expressed, “I believe that not only are we still here, we are thriving. In film, news, fashion, radio, in all forms of media really. We are a part of this world today, not some relic of a past culture. We are growing, evolving and surviving. We aren’t going to disappear.”

The radio station is active 24-hours a day, seven days a week. You can tune-in by visiting www.daybreakstarradio.com. Daybreak Star Radio also recently launched an app that is available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, making listening on-the-go a fun and easy experience. For more information, including how to submit your own music, please visit the radio network’s website at www.daybreakstarradio.com.

Ryan’s REZ-ipes: From best-kept-secret to a countrywide fan favorite

By Kalvin Valdillez; photos courtesy of Ryan Gobin 

Six years ago, a Tulalip man took a leap of faith and gave up his ten-year career as a police officer for his love and passion of food. Briefly opening a concession stand outside of the local CrossFit gym, Ryan Gobin began serving up tasty dishes to the tribal community, and the response he received from that endeavor led him to the investment of a small food truck. After hitching a smoker to the food truck, he held a competition online asking his friends and family for ideas on what to call his new restaurant-on-wheels. With a name and a very interested and hungry patronage, Ryan’s REZ-ipes officially opened up shop in 2016.

Serving up the likes of frybread, truffle fries, pulled pork sandwiches and tacos, burgers, shrimp bowls and a variety of weekly specials and experimental dishes, Ryan’s REZ-ipes has gone from a locally known best-kept-secret to a countrywide fan favorite with thousands of followers on social media. Many self-proclaimed foodies and food industry professionals alike often tag their friends on Ryan’s photos with a comment along the lines of ‘we gotta try this’. Ryan’s REZ-ipes is now available through delivery services such as DoorDash and he even began selling some of his signature spices and mixes for you to try at-home. 

Ryan’s journey is the perfect blueprint for up-and-coming tribal entrepreneurs to follow. From a concession stand to a shiny beaut of a food truck, he has grown his brand incredibly over the past several years, incorporating a Native American logo and adding catering to the business. It’s gotten to the point that whenever you see his blue food truck, your stomach might growl and your mouth will more-than-likely water just thinking of his Indigenous and multi-cultural inspired cuisines. 

When he was first getting his start, Tulalip News sat down with the tribal chef and businessman to talk about the inspiration behind his new venture, to which he responded, “I first got into cooking in my teen years. I have lots of family members that are amazing cooks and have been taught many recipes from all of them. I watched when people cooked in my younger years and began trying my own recipes. I could name everyone I learned from, but that would be a long list.”

With six successful years under his belt, Ryan recently took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk with Tulalip News once more about his passion for cooking and growing his business, as well as to discuss all the success he’s had since first beginning his culinary experience. 

Since we last spoke, Ryan’s REZ-ipes has continuously leveled up every year. Can you talk about your journey since then? What has been a few of the major highlights of the business over the years?

I’d have to agree with leveling up! The business has definitely taken off at a rapid pace since the upgrade of a new food truck. The amount of events and weddings have quadrupled in the past two years and are continuing to increase. I already have 18 weddings booked for 2022, and I am still getting more requests weekly. 

You mentioned the new truck, can you touch upon some of the truck’s features and equipment? How has that benefited your dream of serving tasty dishes to the community? 

Having a new food truck has helped immensely – having all brand-new equipment and an on-board smoker. Instead of having to plug multiple warmers in a power source, and having to use a loud generator mounted on the back, I now have professional plumbed propane heating warmers, a fryer and a flat top griddle. 

It’s the Cadillac of food trucks. I even incorporated a stereo system that sounds like an outdoor nightclub and LED lighting to create a colorful ambiance. Since having this truck and showing others the potential of what can be done, I now have had over a dozen other food truck owners coming to me for advice, from multiple states across the U.S. 

You have a lot of new items on the menu and many of them have cultural ties. What are some of those dishes and what is the inspiration behind some of those popular plates?

I have multiple new items and some of my oldies too. Over the years I’ve utilized my skills with trial and error – making everything better and better, and finding where to gather those ingredients to achieve the best quality. 

I’ve been all over the board in bettering different items, such as my marinades, creating more sauces, my seasoning rub for my smoked pork and coming up with desert toppings for frybread. Years ago, I was selling frybread and always ended up running into issues where it just wasn’t perfect every time, it was either too heavy or just didn’t look right. I was given my Grandma Nonie’s recipe years ago and I just couldn’t get it right, so I gave up. This past year I tried again, but told myself I wouldn’t stop trying until I got it exactly how I want it – fluffy and perfect. I achieved my goal and now sell my own Ryan’s REZ-ipes fluffy frybread mix in professionally sealed pouches.

I love to travel and experience new kinds of foods everywhere, which is how I came up with a few of my dishes like my Korean-style kalbi steak, my Hawaiian-style chicken tacos and even my shrimp dishes. Whenever I try something and just crave it, I figure out how to make it myself, then I put my own twist on it. Different cultures have their own kind of traditional flavors, and they all inspire me to create explosive flavors that make your tastebuds dance. It’s pretty obvious that I’m greatly inspired by the Hawaiian Islands just by seeing a lot of the dishes I choose, such as one of my recent specials the loco moco with fried rice, which is a Hawaiian traditional dish. You will also see Hawaiian shaved ice on my menu, which actually originated in Japan. 

After cheffing it up over the years, you are obviously still very passionate about cooking and providing meals to the people. What motivates you and fuels your drive now that you are living your dream?

My passion continues to grow the more I see smiles on everyone’s faces after they eat my food. It enhances my drive to continue to figure out new dishes and to give everyone new foods to try. I now have over 8,000 followers on social media, so my foods are seen across the U.S. and also in other countries. That drives me to want to build an even larger business, which will happen in due time. 

Catering is now a big aspect of Ryan’s REZ-ipes that I don’t believe you were doing yet at the time of the last article. Could you talk about your catering options and the process? What are some of the events you’ve catered this far and what makes catering enjoyable for you?

Catering is huge in the food industry. I have now catered over 150 events and still growing daily. We cater anywhere from 100 people to 1000. I have catered multiple birthdays, corporate events, baby showers, celebrations of life, weddings and we even catered last years Tulalip employee day at the amphitheater. I love it because food makes everyone happy. I also cater weekly for a company that is building an all-electric airplane, over 100 employees each week. I have a large catering menu to choose from and that can be located at ryansREZipes.com.

Can you talk about some of the new and exciting updates happening at Ryan’s REZ-ipes? 

My newest update is that I’m adding garlic rosemary truffle fries and frybread to my menu, and I will be finding new unique ways of utilizing them, such as adding dessert toppings, or pairing with a hickory smoked hot dog and a number of toppings. One update that I’m happy to announce is I will be looking to add a food trailer to the fleet. I will be separating the shaved ice from the food truck. This will allow me to have more room to focus on shaved ice and Lotus drinks with amazing toppings, and maybe even cotton candy will be added to the mix! We will also do dessert frybread there, so it will basically be more of a dessert trailer.

Ryan’s REZ-ipes serves as an inspiration to many tribal members and proof that you can follow your life’s passion, not only to aspiring chefs, but to all tribal entrepreneurs as well. Any words of advice for those just starting out, or those who are looking to start their own business?

The best advice I can give to those that would like to start their own business is never give up – ever. You will have doubts and there will be a lot of roadblocks. You just need to always remember that nothing is ever instant. It can take years to create the profits you aim for, not days, weeks or months. Trial and error is key. If you make a mistake, learn from it and keep pushing forward in a good way. Lastly, make small goals and work daily to achieve them. No matter how small the achievement is, it’s still an achievement. 

What are your typical hours and where can people find you? Any upcoming events or anything new on the horizon you’d like to share?

In the upcoming months and years, our locations, days we’re open and times of operation will change, being it’s a food truck that serves food and does private catering as well. But typically, right now, we’re located at the Tulalip Market which is a great location. We are there Thursday – Saturday and every other Sunday. Those days and locations will even rally change though. So, you can stay up to date by following the Ryan’s REZ-ipes Facebook page.