Protecting Mauna Kea: Local rally raises awareness for sacred Hawaiian mountain

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Miles away in Hawaii, thousands of Native Hawaiians created a barricade blocking the only road leading to the top of Mauna Kea. The elders, or kūpuna, are bravely positioned at the frontlines, peacefully preventing the construction of an 18-story, thirty-meter telescope (TMT). The stand is now in its third week and Hawaiian activists, and many supporters, continue to hold their ground, protecting the highest peak in Hawaii, the sacred mountain Mauna Kea.

“We are protectors, not protesters,” exclaimed Native Hawaiian and Director of Equity for the Mukilteo School District, Gerry Ebalaroza-Tunnell. “Protesting has such a negative connotation, we want to set the space and let people know that we are coming to this place based off kapu aloha, because we just want to bring awareness to what’s going on.”

Over one hundred Tulalip community members and local Hawaiian families met at the Marysville Haggen parking lot on the morning of August 3. Several Saturday shoppers made their way to the backend of the lot to see what was going on, just in time to witness a cultural exchange as the Tulalips and Hawaiians offered songs and words, each in their respective languages. The crowd received a handout with lyrics of Hawaiian songs as well as ‘ōlena, also known as turmeric, both in powder and plant form. The Hawaiian community then performed a ceremony for protection complete with hula dancing and pahu drumming. 

“The reason we do protocol together beforehand is because when the dominant culture sees a bunch of brown people together, they see us as protestors, as trouble,” explained Gerry. “So, we came together this morning for protocol to pray and sing and call upon our ancestors from all directions to protect us while we’re out bringing awareness. It was amazing to see the elders coming together and acknowledging each other, the land we’re on and why we are here.”

The fight to defend Mauna Kea has recently gained national news coverage as Hollywood actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Momoa, as well as reggae musician Damian Marley, visited the kiaʻi (protectors) of Mauna Kei. Although the news may be new to some, the Native Hawaiians have been actively opposing this particular project for nearly a decade. The kia’i celebrated a victory in 2015 when the Hawaiian Supreme Court repealed the permit for the construction of the TMT. Last October, however, the Supreme Court of Hawaii delivered a new ruling which allowed Hawaii’s Board of Land and Natural Resources to issue another permit to the TMT group. 

Hawaiian Governor David Ige announced this past July 10, that construction of the telescope would commence on July 15. The kia’i immediately sprung to action and assembled on Mauna Kea. After halting the construction for three straight days, the Governor issued an emergency proclamation which granted law enforcement more authority to begin making arrests. Heartbreaking footage shows the first arrests of the kūpuna, the Hawaiian knowledge keepers who volunteered to be at the frontlines, take place. 

Elders who needed the assistance of wheelchairs or walkers had to be escorted to the squad cars by their own family members and those kūpuna who refused to leave were cuffed and carried out by multiple officers. The tears of the elders pulled at the heartstrings of those watching and hundreds of supporters begin to arrive daily to protect the sacred mountain.

If you measure the one-million-year-old dormant volcano from its underwater base, the sacred Hawaiian mountain is over 33,000 feet in total, making it the tallest mountain in the entire world. Because of its high elevation, the mountain has attracted a number of astronomy research groups. In fact, several observatories have already been established on the mountain since Hawaii became a state in 1959. 

According to numerous reports, the land where Mauna Kea is located, was originally stolen from the people and then later obtained by the United States government. Through the Statehood Act, the state of Hawaii received the rights to the land which has since been managed by its current lease holder, the University of Hawaii. The university pays the state of Hawaii one dollar a year and in turn subleases the land to each observatory for a dollar. The TMT in particular is a $1.4 billion project designed and developed by the TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO).

“Being an Indigenous scholar in western academia and seeing them trying to build the TMT in the name of science, I don’t see the science they’re talking about,” Gerry expressed. “The science I look at, and I think many people here do as well, is the connection that we have to the land. What we’re doing today is gathering together, because there’s strength in numbers, to bring awareness to the desecration of our sacred lands. The more awareness we raise, we’re hoping it will put more pressure on those who are wanting to desecrate our lands and get a seat at the table to be a part of the decision and the discussion, because for too long they’ve tried to silence our voices.”

With dual-sided flags waving high, one side an upsidedown Hawaiian state flag and the other the Kanaka Maoli flag, the large crowd made their way from the Haggen parking lot to the I-5 overpass between exits 199 (southbound) and 200 (northbound). As the local protectors marched, they held up signs reading, We Are Mauna Kea, Defend the Sacred and Tulalip Stands with Mauna Kea.

The fight sounds all too familiar to the Indigenous peoples of America who share many experiences of the U.S. government exploiting Mother Earth for profit and colonization. But perhaps the reason the Mauna Kea movement resonates and has an amazing amount of support from Native Americans is because the mountain top is sacred to its local populous. That should be reason enough for construction to stop indefinitely but unfortunately the Hawaiians are now being asked to define what sacred means to them exactly. 

TMT developers wish to build the telescope on the northern plateau of Mauna Kea, an area described by the kai’i as untouched, pristine land in which many villagers and residents of surrounding islands visit solely for the purpose of spiritual work, where they perform rituals for healing and have conversations with the higher power. The plateau also overlooks the river that provides the water for the majority of the island. The protectors have concerns that the giant telescope would negatively affect their water supply and local marine habitat. Most importantly, the mountain is a living spirit that has been a major part of Hawaiian history since the beginning of time. 

“I’m originally from Hawaii, my family is from Hawaii,” stated Mauna Kea Rally Organizer and Tulalip community member, Absyde Kaiulani Dacoscos. “Since I can’t be there physically, I was trying to figure out how I can show my support and I started going to nearby rallies in Seattle. Something called to me, I knew in my heart I needed to do something here to show support. With the help of my cousin Gerry, Natosha (Gobin) and Sara (Hart), we put this together. This is not just about the Mauna, it began as that, but it’s so much more. It’s about all Indigenous people and how our lands are being stripped away from us. It’s not right, it’s sacred, it’s ours. We need to keep what’s left for our future generations. I work for the Tribe, I’m a teacher’s assistant at TELA, and I love the culture. I just wanted to bring all of our Indigenous brothers and sisters together because we understand each other’s fight.” 

For over four hours, the two Indigenous communities banned together to raise awareness, receiving plenty of support from both local commuters and I-5 traffic. Throughout the afternoon the protectors received empathic honks, cries of support and some passengers even threw up the shaka sign out their windows to show solidarity. Among the many protectors was the Tulalip Youth Council who dedicated their entire Saturday to the movement.

“The Youth Council all felt it was important to be here,” said Council Member Marisa Joseph. “I like seeing everyone united for one cause. Having the youth here shows a strong message and shows that we can come together as one. It shows our love and how strong we are together.”

On the other side of the freeway, in the vacant lot across from the Bank of America, a canopy was set up for the protectors to get a little shade from the hot sun as well as to replenish with ice cold water and enjoy Hawaiian delectables, such as musubi, catered by Bobby’s Hawaiian Style Restaurant. A group of Tulalip drummers also brought awareness to drivers hopping onto the freeway or crossing the overpass, by holding up signs and singing traditional Tulalip songs. Tulalip tribal member and Mauna Kea Rally Organizer, Sara Hart, proudly sang while draped in her Coast Salish garb. Sara recently returned to the Pacific Northwest after traveling to Mauna Kea to stand with the people of Hawaii.

“For me, this is a huge movement,” stated Sara. “Indigenous people uniting together is beautiful. We need to stand together and fight for our sacred lands and waters; together we’re stronger. When I went over there it was the most unity I’ve ever felt, the most love I ever felt. Being there every day for protocol, singing with them and feeling that love and unity was amazing and to see that happen here today was very moving and beautiful. I think it’s important to learn their protocol and also bring ours to the table, so we’re accepting of one another and we’re opening up the floor in a good way. 

“I would like the protectors of Mauna Kea to know that we here in Tulalip and our surrounding communities are continuously sending love and prayers every day for them to protect the mountain and to protect themselves. That is their church, that is their holy place and that telescope doesn’t belong there.”

Due to the amount of growing support, the Hawaii Island City Council recently passed a sixty-day construction moratorium. In response, Governor Ige canceled the emergency proclamation but granted a two-year extension for the start of the TMT construction. Though the fight is far from finished, the kia’i have successfully prolonged the construction of the telescope for the time being. A small victory that speaks volumes.

“It tells me that people see us, that we’re not invisible,” Gerry tearfully expressed. “For far too long we’ve been made invisible; our voices have been shut down. We’re seen as others, we’re seen as people who cause trouble, that we should just shut up and let people do what they want with our lands. What’s happening over at Mauna Kea has been going on for quite a while now. About three weeks ago, when our kūpuna were being arrested, we saw what was really happening on the islands and we knew we had a call we needed to make to our fellow Indigenous people. I honestly didn’t know how many people would show up today, I was not expecting this many. Seeing Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, people of the land, come together to rise up and stand in solidarity — my heat’s full. It makes me feel happy, joyful, and most of all, hopeful.”

If you would like to support the kai’i of Mauna Kea with monetary funds, warm clothing, medical supplies and more, a number of organizations can be found at

An inside look at the Canoe Journey protocol

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

After spending several weeks on the water, resting at each tribal village along the way, over one hundred canoes landed at the Lummi Nation on the morning of July 24. The yearly summertime Canoe Journey is a popular occurrence in the Northwest as Coast Salish tribes and First Nation Bands travel the sacred waters in honor and celebration of Indigenous culture. Each year both tribal and non-tribal Washingtonians marvel at the beauty of the traditional cedar canoes as they navigate the Salish Sea. Thousands of photos are shared by news teams across social media as the canoes land at local tribes, but what’s not often shared are the events the take place for an entire week after the canoes reach their final destination during a series of potlatches known as protocol.

Lummi’s Wex’liem Building filled up quickly and was often at overcapacity during this year’s five-day protocol. Nearly seventy tribes shared their medicine throughout the week, offering their traditional songs and dances with the people.

 Before Lummi’s opening ceremony, canoe families filled their bellies with salmon and frybread. A face painting station was set up behind a large thunderbird curtain where people could get the iconic handprint painted across their face, bringing awareness to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic. At approximately 8:00 p.m., Lummi singers gathered at the front of the community building and began drumming, officially kicking off the 2019 Paddle to Lummi protocol. 

“It’s an honor to host you as our guests. Our family and relatives coming to visit and share some healing,” expressed Lummi Nation Vice Chairman, Travis Brockie. “We planned this in under a year and we came up with four themes. The first one being MMIW and the prayers that we have for the ones that we lost over the years, the ones who are still missing and the family’s that are searching for that healing. The second theme is the opioid crisis that we’re facing, fighting the pharmaceutical companies to keep these drugs off our reservations. The addiction that it’s brought is tearing our people apart. Third one is child welfare. For our children in the foster care system, our children that are being shipped across the state, every tribe is affected by that. We’re working on bringing our kids home, the system is failing our people. We have an uphill battle to fight. The last theme we thought of is salmon and our habitat. Without salmon, who are we as Indigenous people? That’s our bloodline and that’s who we are. Without salmon I don’t know where we’d be. It devastates us when our people can’t harvest to put food on their table, to pay their bills, it impacts us.”

A number of canoe families then joined Lummi by performing six songs during the shawl presentation, paying tribute to the many communities within Native America including the elders, youth, women, men, two-spirited and the MMIW. During each song, a shawl was displayed on the floor, representing and honoring each community while Protocol MC Terrance Adams shared the meaning behind each shawl. 

“The button shawl signifies our elders,” he explained. “The ones who paved the way for us, who taught us, who continue to teach us. For all of our elders that left us something to carry on, to teach our little ones. The woven shawl honors our men. Each and every day I continue to pray that we have good strong men who will raise our young men and teach them the right way. It’s important that we have positive male role models in our community. The next one is a silk fringe shall for our women, the givers of life, the true protectors. The ones who continue to give us that love and nourishment we need. 

“We have the two-spirited shawl. Growing up in this life, especially on the reservation, we need to embrace each and every person who comes into these sacred homes. We are taught to welcome with open arms. The two-spirited community has a huge voice in our community. It is very powerful for someone to come forward and claim their true identity and feel good about who they are. The cedar shawl represents our kids. Those who are abused, missing, assaulted. Those young ones who are survivors, not victims. Our kids will continue to survive. It’s important for us to pave the way for our future, you’re making your ancestors and our people proud. The last shawl is for the MMIW. There’s many rez’s where we have things set against us where we can’t prosecute, we can’t protect our own women on Indian land. We have families that are still searching for their loved ones. Our women dance for those women who can’t dance today, who can’t dance tomorrow. We continue to take their legacy on, share their story and teach our young ladies.”

Following the shawl presentation, the Lummi singers and dancers honored the many women who have gone missing throughout Indian Country by conducting a powerful and moving song which included the tear-jerking lyrics; “every day and every night I pray, pray for you/I love and miss you, sister come home”.

Once the crowd finished drying their eyes, Bella Bella was the first tribe up to offer songs, dances, stories and gifts to both the people and the hosting tribe. One after another, for five days straight, tribes and bands took to the floor showcasing their regalia, headdresses and traditions with their fellow Canoe Journey families. The Tulalip canoe family demonstrated a number of their songs on the fourth day of protocol. Taking an active role in this year’s journey, the Tulalip Youth Council were in attendance, proudly singing, drumming and dancing while representing their Tribe. 

“We raise our hands and give thanks to Lummi and its leaders,” expressed Tulalip tribal member Natosha Gobin. “Thank you for inviting us to join in this amazing celebration. We are the Tulalip canoe family. This year we only had a couple short stops, but we traveled together on Big Brother and Big Sister. We have a lot of youth with us, a lot of first time canoe pullers. We’re very grateful and humble to arrive safely to your waters.”

With thousands witnessing protocol in person and hundreds more enjoying at home via livestream, the weeklong event brought together several generations in the name of love for the culture. The Paddle to Lummi was a great experience for youth and elders alike and a perfect opportunity for pullers to take part in the traditional lifeways of the Coast Salish people. Young Quinault tribal member and first time canoe puller, Kamimi Papp, shared her experience about being out on the water as well as participating in protocol. 

“When I first started dancing during protocol, I felt as if I was praying to a higher power,” Kamimi stated. “I felt like I was one with the drums, a spirit being guided through a story. It was truly addicting and mesmerizing. My first Journey was indescribable. There are no words to explain the way you feel while paddling the ancestral highways. The closest words I can come up with are freeing and therapeutic. While on a canoe you feel a bond with the people on it, even if you don’t know them. You feel like you’re the heartbeat of the canoe, when your paddle touches the water you are the blood which pushes the canoe forward. It was amazing to meet new people who made an impression of a lifetime in that short amount of time. I will never forget the people I met through Journeys.”

The 2020 Canoe Journey will be hosted at Nanaimo, B.C. For more information, please visit the Tribal Canoe Journeys Facebook page. 

Summertime cultural fun at Fish Camp

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

At the heart of the Salish Sea lies an island that shares a special connection to the Snohomish people. For centuries, Tulalip’s ancestors journeyed to the San Juan Islands every summer, setting up camp on what is known today as Lopez Island. Aside from exploring Lopez and it’s many surrounding islands, the Snohomish would fish and gather clams, crab, mussels, salmon and shrimp for their families in preparation for winter.

Fifteen local youth embarked on a camping excursion they may never forget during the week of July 15-20. Upon arriving to Lopez Island, by way of Washington State ferry, the youth experienced summer as their ancestors once had. By disconnecting from the modern world, the campers created new friendships with other young tribal members as well as a bond with the sacred waters. The kids set up camp at the south end of the island on a Tulalip owned private beach overlooking Watmough Bay. During their visit they learned about marine life, the history of their people and the many resources the island and waters have to offer.

“The kids don’t always have that opportunity to get out into nature,” explains Tulalip Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator, Kelly Finley. “We want to provide a safe and fun way for them to get out there and see different parts of what is essentially tribal land. It’s important they take part in camps like these to experience the outdoors and the traditions of their people.” 

Now in its second year, Fish Camp is open to local youth and is hosted by the Tribe’s Natural Resources department. The idea was originally inspired by Tulalip’s annual Mountain Camp, where young adults of the community spend a week at the Skykomish watershed learning about the natural world and how their people have hunted, gathered and performed spiritual work in the mountains since time immemorial. Fish Camp teaches the pre-teens another aspect of Northwest tribal lifeways, and both camps provide a perfect opportunity for the youth to not only learn about, but to also exercise their treaty rights. 

“I think it’s important our youth experience Fish Camp on Lopez Island because that’s where our ancestors went,” expressed Michael Lotan, Tulalip tribal member and Fish Camp counselor. “They would dry clams out there and they would gather food for the upcoming winter season. We visited two sacred sites. One had really big middens, or shells and charcoal that proved our ancestors were once there. We also went to Watmough Bay and learned about all of the archeology sites that were there. We went to a couple beaches and looked for some agates and we jumped off the Tulalip dock, which was awesome. We were running and jumping as far as we could.”

The kids were kept busy throughout the entire week, getting a first-hand look at Coast Salish traditions. A number of new activities were added this year including a chance to pull the Tribe’s traditional cedar dugout canoe, Big Brother. Skippered by Tulalip Fish and Wildlife Director Jason Gobin, the young adults paddled through the Salish waters, further strengthening the connection between the future generations and those ancestors who pulled in the same waterways many generations ago.

“It made my heart lift up seeing all you guys out there,” said Jason. “It reminded me of when we were all kids, running around all wild, it was a good time. This camp is great, the kids love it and it’s something we could always continue to build on.”

Another highlight of Fish Camp is the traditional clambake. Prepared by Tulalip tribal member Tony Hatch, the campers were treated to a delicious meal of salmon and shellfish, which they caught locally with seine nets and prepared near the campsite. Tribal member Cary Williams also made the journey to Lopez to teach the youth how to carve fish sticks, which were traditionally used to cook salmon fireside. 

“We learned how to carve, we pulled canoe and we had a good time up there,” stated young Tribal member, Kane Hots. “We toured a few archeological sites. The rest of the time we were able to hang out with each other and go swimming. My favorite part was swimming because it’s summertime, and carving too. It was great to learn about our ancestors, about their teachings and how they were raised.”

At the end of a culture and fun-filled week, the youth packed up camp and journeyed back to Tulalip where a celebration with their families took place. The kids enjoyed lunch after reuniting with their relatives and also received a number of gifts from Natural Resources including a certification of achievement, Fish Camp t-shirts and a blanket.

“It was a really good experience,” said Fish Camper and Navajo/Sioux tribal member, Mahina Curley. “The best part I think was the fact we were on a real cedar canoe. In my culture, we don’t have big bodies of water so that was really new to me. The fish on the stick seemed a little weird to me at first because we usually just fry it and eat it. I never had it on a stick before, but it was delicious. The clams and shrimp were really tasty and I liked learning about all the sacred places as well. It was a lot of fun, learning about another tribe was really cool. I definitely recommend it.”

After another successful year at Fish Camp, Natural Resources is currently gearing up to host the 5th annual Youth Mountain Camp on August 5-10. For more information, please contact the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Department at (360) 716-4617.

Tulalip welcomes Canoe Journey pullers enroute to Lummi

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The weather in Tulalip was gorgeous on the afternoon of July 21. The clear-skies and warm eighty-degree weather provided an amazing view to many families, from near and far, who were setting up canopies and umbrellas for shade on the bluff overlooking Tulalip Bay. After informally reserving their spots, the people found ways to occupy their time, patiently waiting for the tide to come in; some by swimming, some by visiting with friends and family and some by checking out Indigenous art, clothing and jewelry by a number of vendors stationed outside of the Don Hatch Youth Center. An eagle, perched high in a tree overlooking the bay, scanned far past the inlet as if anticipating the arrival of the canoes. 

2019 marks thirty years since the Paddle to Seattle, in which a number of Coast Salish tribes pulled into the shores of Elliot Bay, officially kicking off Washington State’s Centennial celebration in 1989. Organized by Quinault tribal member, Emmett Oliver, the pull sparked a cultural revolution, reconnecting tribes to the traditional lifeways of our ancestors and inspiring the yearly summertime Canoe Journey. 

For three decades, tribal families have navigated the sacred Salish waters, traveling to each nation before reaching the hosting tribe’s village. The final destination changes annually, as each tribe takes turns hosting the event. This year’s paddle concludes in Lummi on July 24, and a weeklong protocol will take place, where each tribe and First Nation band will offer their traditional family songs and dances, in celebration of the Journey.

The tribes are represented by their canoe families and many times there are numerous canoe families within a tribe. The canoe pullers travel for hours at a time underneath the hot sun and spend an evening with each tribal nation over dinner and mini-protocols before launching their canoes back into the Salish Sea in the morning. 

After several weeks out on the water, the canoe families left the Suquamish Nation early Sunday morning and as soon the tide came in at Tulalip Bay, the canoes arrived by the dozen. One by one, the canoe families were graciously welcomed in the traditional Lushootseed language by the Tulalip Youth Council as well as Tulalip tribal member and Lushootseed Language Instructor, Natosha Gobin. Quinault, Ahousaht, Muckleshoot, Squaxin, Elwha, Makah and Tse Tshat, were among the many nations who offered a blessing song and words in their traditional languages, officially asking for permission to come ashore.

Tulalip welcomed nearly seventy canoes to their shores this year, approximately forty more visitors than last year’s Paddle to Puyallup. Among those canoes was the Autumn Rose, hailing from Maui, Hawaii. In a moving exchange, the Hawaiian canoe family offered a song and spoke about their current fight to protect their sacred, ancestral lands from the construction of a giant telescope atop the dormant volcano, Mauna Kea. As she welcomed them ashore, Natosha assured the Hawaiian canoe family that the Coast Salish tribes stand in solidarity with their movement. Many tribal members, including Suquamish songstress Calina Lawrence, held up signs reading Protect Mauna Kea, and a roar of applause and drumming erupted from the spectators and fellow pullers to show support to the cause.

Once ashore, the canoe families and onlookers were treated to a meal inside the Greg Williams Court as well as a two-hour protocol jam at the Tulalip longhouse. After a well-deserved rest, the pullers woke bright and early, thanking Tulalip for their hospitality before continuing the journey to Lummi, making brief visits in Swinomish and Samish. 

“I pulled all day today,” proudly expressed young Quinault and Ahousaht puller, Noah Charlie. “My arm is sore but I had fun pulling. It was really cool seeing all the chupats (canoes) out there on the water. I like hearing everybody’s songs and meeting new friends. It’s good medicine and plus I like seeing my family, all my grandmas, and watching kids have fun.”

For more information, photos and updates, please visit the Tribal Canoe Journeys Facebook page.

Spee-bi-Dah, ‘A reminder of who we are’

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Once a year, in the middle of summer, the Tulalip membership flocks in droves to an always enjoyable and spirit nourishing community event, Spee-Bi-Dah. 

As the temperature continued to rise on Saturday, July 20, so too did the sense of community and shared purpose alongside a mile stretch of the Salish Sea. A significant location traditionally known as a prime fishing area and gracious host to the annual community beach seine. Throughout the day tribal members of all ages excitedly utilized seine nets to capture salmon, shrimp, crab and clams for a true seafood feast.

“Spee-Bi-Dah is a lifetime of memories,” reflected longtime fisherman, Board of Director Glen Gobin. “This is how we used to fish all the time. It’s just amazing to see all the people that come out to partake and enjoy the day. Spee-Bi-Dah is a great community event. Like it was for our past generations, today is a shared community experience.”

Hundreds and hundreds of tribal members enjoyed the many sights, sounds, and delicious tastes that have made the annual beach seine a highly anticipated and coveted event. The freshest seafood-filled meals were enjoyed, while friends and families reminisced about old times. 

“It’s a great get together that happens every year,” said Cy Fryberg, Sr. His family shared in the prized role of preparing and smoking the salmon. “Our family used to come down here long before I was born and camp on these banks right here. It’s good reminiscing. My favorite thing about Spee-Bi-Dah is seeing all the kids having fun in the mud. It’s pure joy.” 

“It’s a blast!” added Cy’s grandson, Bradley Fryberg, while seasoning the freshly smoked fish. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise. Some of my earliest memories are of being down here on this beach and learning to walk in the sand. My grandfather has taught us all from a young age that we need to continue our teachings because it’s up to the younger generations to continue to embrace our culture.”

While team Fryberg saw to the many stages of the salmon bake, Tony Hatch and his crew manned the traditional clambake. Onlookers watched as thousands of clams were tossed over a radiating beach pit before being covered, allowing the clams and supplemental jumbo shrimp and crab to cook thoroughly. 

“From the beginning of our Spee-Bi-Dah gatherings, we’ve been trying to do it as traditional as possible by serving up traditional foods the best that we can,” said Tony. “The clam pit has been a huge success every year. We’ve been fortunate to add shrimp, Dungeness crab, and oysters over the last few years. It’s a real exciting process that we need to pass on to our kids. The next generation has stepped up, they are learning, and doing a really good job with it.”

Among the many beach gatherers were tribal members from neighboring reservations who came to Tulalip to witness the canoe landing happening the next day. Invited by their Tulalip family members, they added to the sense of community and took in a one-of-a-kind experience.

“This is our first time being here, so it’s all a new experience, but very awesome,” remarked Patty Kelly (Lummi) as she watched the many sets of beach seining. 

“I’m so glad to be here,” added Sadie Kelly (Colville). “Seeing everything that is going on and all the different roles people have is so interesting. And the food is delicious!”

As an event, Spee-Bi-Dah continues to serve multiple purposes. It unites multiple generations while honoring the richness of Tulalip culture, allows tribal members to experience a traditional way of life no longer attainable on a daily basis, and serves as a reminder to not forget where we come from.

“It’s a chance for us to come together, harvest fish, and enjoy nourishing our bodies with traditional foods. Witnessing the youth who come into the water and help pull net is just amazing. Our kids get so excited when they see the crabs and the salmon swimming around in the net. Not everyone gets the chance to come out and fish. Everybody doesn’t get the chance to hold a big salmon like they do, so to see them get so curious and excited for what’s in the water is beautiful.”

Making the most of an opportunity to share in a traditional lifeway while witnessing the youngest generation step up and embrace their culture is what Spee-Bi-Dah is all about.

Special Olympian Bruce Williams brings home gold

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Since 1968, the Special Olympics have been a global movement used to unleash the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports. They empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.

In Washington State, year-round sports training and athletic competition are provided in a variety of Olympic-type sports for more than 18,000 children and adults who refuse to believe a disability is a limitation. These inspiring individuals are given continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of friendship with their fellow athletes.

Thirty-seven-year-old Bruce Williams is a proud Tulalip tribal member who has competed in numerous sporting events at the Special Olympics for over a decade. Previously showcasing his skills at soccer, basketball and volleyball in years past, Bruce is now focused on track and field. He’s had a long-time passion with running, so it was only a matter of time before he transitioned to track.

Bruce’s collection of previously won medals.

On Sunday, April 28 the Cascade Area Regionals were hosted at Mariner High School in Everett. After months of preparation and sporting his brand new pair of Nike Free running shoes, Bruce was ready to race. His first competition was the 100-meter sprint. In a highly contested dash, Bruce took 2nd place, finishing less than a tenth of a second behind the 1st place runner. For his effort he was awarded a silver medal.

A short while later, Bruce again took to the starting line, this time for the 200-meter sprint. This time he wouldn’t be denied the gold. From the start he jumped out in front of the pack and maintained his momentum all the through the finish line. A huge smile on his face after finishing 1st, Bruce was beaming when he received a gold medal.

The Special Olympian proudly wore his two medals every day the following week. He made time to sit down with Tulalip News staff and share his thoughts about winning gold and silver in his two athletic events. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation:

Q: How does it feel to be a gold-winning Olympian?

A: “Feels great! Very proud of winning. Want to show everybody my medals.”

Q: What was your training routine like? 

A: “Train on the treadmill, do laps at the Marysville YMCA, and lots of track stretches. Very important to stretch.”

Q: Any special foods you like to have on race day?

A: “Strawberry yogurt is my favorite and lots of water.”

Q: You raced in a pair of Nike Free shoes. What do you like about them?

A: “They make me run fast!”

Q: Were you nervous going into your races?

A: “A little. Lots of people racing, but I’m the fastest one around.”

Q: You’ll be competing at the Spring State Games next month. What are your expectations?

A: “Win more gold, the big one this time.”

Bruce will be prepping over the next several weeks to compete against the best Special Olympians in the state. The 2019 Spring State Games will be held May 31 – June 2 at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. Bruce asks that anyone who isn’t busy those days to come out and cheer him on to victory. 

Warm Beach to launch trauma-informed, equine therapy for Tulalip youth

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Warm Beach is well-known as the home of The Lights of Christmas, a popular holiday festival featuring dazzling light displays. Not as commonly known, however, is the fact Warm Beach has one of Snohomish County’s largest horse herds offering year-long equestrian programs. The dedicated staff of Warm Beach’s equestrian program are currently developing a trauma-informed therapy course designed specifically for Tulalip foster children. The first-of-its-kind course is anticipated to debut in September.

The inspiration for a tribal specific version of equine therapy came about after Rebecca Black (Quinault), who’s been raising two Tulalip children for four years now, participated in a parent/child camp with horses at Warm Beach. While there she couldn’t help but wonder how much more impactful the camp could be if it were designed for tribal youth and geared towards healing historical traumas.

“I grew up around horses and, being in an abusive foster care system as a young teen myself, there were literally times where the horses saved my life,” shared Rebecca, now a licensed foster care provider. “I wanted my two boys and other tribal youth to experience the healing that horses make possible. It’s so important that we intercede at a younger age because the health outcomes in our communities, especially for our kids in foster care, can really change.”

Rebecca met with Warm Beach executive staff and engaged in a series of productive meetings regarding a camp that not only establishes a working relationship with Tulalip, but also would break down barriers of opportunity for tribal youth. Months’ worth of meetings and cultural education led to an application to the Tulalip Charitable Table and a subsequent grant award to develop a prototype version of equine therapy for Tulalip foster children. 

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman, Teri Gobin

On the morning of April 25, representatives from Warm Beach Horsemanship met with Chairwoman Teri Gobin, Board of Director Mel Sheldon, and Charitable Contributions Director Marilyn Sheldon to thank them all in culturally appropriate way for the grant funds making the innovative therapy course possible. A brief introduction of what’s to come and how the children will benefit was also detailed.

“Our intent is to use the grant to run a three day trauma-informed, therapeutic program that will cater to serving eight Tulalip children currently in foster care,” explained Lisa Tremain, Horsemanship Director at Warm Beach Camp. “Through the use of horses we’ll be doing activities both mounted and on the ground that help walk the children through various stages of their healing journey. Building relationships, trust and confidence are critical pieces to the healing process that equine therapy offers.” 

“In a therapeutic and safe environment, horses provide unique nonverbal feedback that can facilitate social, physical and cognitive skill development in people of all ages,” added Ginger Reitz, Therapeutic Horsemanship Coordinator.

Tulalip Tribes Board of Director, Mel Sheldon

Two therapeutic horses, Mirage and Cameo, wore ‘Lightening Horse’ blankets courtesy of Eighth Generation. After making their introductions with everyone in attendance, the horses’ blankets were used to wrap Board members Teri and Mel. 

“Our hands go up to you all for your good work,” stated Chairwoman Gobin. “We understand how important work like this is to help people, especially our children, heal from their own personal traumas. It’s often not easy to speak about, but it’s essential if we’re to move forward in a good way.”

Tulalip Police Respond to Stabbing at McDonalds

On April 25th, at approximately 8:30 p.m. the Tulalip Police Department (TPD) responded to a call about an assault with a weapon at the McDonalds, 6322 33rd Avenue NE, in Tulalip. Upon arrival, officers made contact with the victim and administered first aid for stab wounds on the top of his scalp. The individual was later transported to an area hospital. TPD coordinated with Snohomish County and Marysville for dog teams to search for the assailants. The area was contained, statements were taken from witnesses, and the crime scene processed for evidence. TPD Detectives were deployed and conducted the investigation.

After a K-9 track, two suspects were captured and identified. Both suspects, one a Tulalip citizen and one a non-Tulalip, were then booked into Snohomish County Jail for aggravated assault and robbery. We learned that the victim and the suspects knew each other and this appears to be a drug related incident that turned into assault/robbery. There is no outstanding threat to the community. TPD is in contact with the FBI to evaluate if this case will be prosecuted federally or in Tribal Court.

The Tulalip Police Department takes seriously the calls and concerns we receive from the community. We are committed to addressing crime when it happens and working to reduce crime in the future. I commend our officers and detectives for their quick response and dedication to the safety of our community. This is an active investigation, anyone with information about the incident is asked to call our tip line at 360-716-5990.


Native Art Festival highlights range of imagination from emerging Tulalip artists

Taylee Warbus, 1st place – Painting. Sophomore at Lake Stevens High School. “I wanted to put something together that represented a lot of things I really care about and love. I love looking at the stars, which is represented with the night sky. I just love succulents and learning about them, so I added a lot of plants. The clock read 5:17 that represents my birthday. It’s definitely a patchwork painting with lots of colors that shows a variety of my passions.”

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Jacynta Miles, 1st place – Culture. Freshman at Heritage High School. “My paddle represents the layers of life. At the top is the sun, then Earth represented by a beach and the ocean, followed by a mermaid, and then finally the salmon. The colors are bright at the top and get darker the further down you go just like in nature.”

Hundreds of artistically inclined students strolled through the makeshift art gala that was the Don Hatch Youth Center on Thursday, April 18th, for the annual Native American Student Art Festival. Accompanied by their families, friends and teachers, the student-artists ranging from 1st to 12th grade wowed festival attendees and judges with their imaginative creations.

“The Art Festival is an opportunity for each student to express themselves in a positive way. It is the largest community event we have where we get to showcase our Native students,” explained Jessica Bustad, Positive Youth Development Manager. “It’s the pride each of the students have in their artwork, their parents and community members coming together to support our children that make this event so great.”

For more than two decades now, Marysville School District has partnered with the Tulalip Tribes to dedicate an evening to the art scene created by emerging Tulalip artists and other Native students within the district. The Festival gives these young people an opportunity to show off their creative talents to the community, while getting a chance to take home a coveted 1st place ribbon.

Artists 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 not only received a ceremonial ribbon as recognition for their talents, but a monetary prize as well.

Peyton Gobin, 2nd place – Sculpture. Third
grader. “My inspiration was Chihuly’s art, like his glass blowing. First, I had to cut all around these plastic water bottles to make the swirly parts. Then I painted every single one a different color because if they were all the same color it wouldn’t be artistic.”

“Everyone that attends is a winner by the end of the event because they’ve helped to create unity and teamwork,” said Josh Fryberg, Youth Services Manager. “The Festival turned out amazing. From all of the families sharing a meal together to seeing the looks on each person’s face when they win a raffle to seeing all the art being showcased for all to see.”

This year’s Native Art Festival received a whopping 700+ submissions, with the most popular category being painting. There were many young artists who showed off their diverse talents by submitting artwork in as many categories as they could. Taylee Warbus and Samara Davis were two such overachievers who claimed top honors in multiple categories.

Irista Reeves, 1st place – Sculpture. Ninth grader at Heritage High School. “My sculpture depicts sadness, which is the black layers, and its peeling away to show an underlying happiness, which in my case is my family. When your sad it’s important to remember who are the ones that love you and are truly there for you.”

“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,” marveled Native Advocate Doug Salinas. “Every kid has the capability to be an artist because their imagination has no limits.”

Native culture and art are often thought of us intrinsically tied together or, in the case of Savannah Black Tomahawk and Lilly Jefferson, they are sewn together. According to their mothers, neither Savannah nor Lilly had ever sewn before prior to creating traditional ribbon skirts to enter in the Festival. By putting a modern twist on a traditional concept, Savannah’s Disney princess skirt and Lilly’s metallic blue with shimmery pink ribbons both received high praise and earned an additional ribbon – 2nd place and 1st place, respectively. 

“As coordinating staff, we look at every single piece of artwork and recognize how much work each student puts in. Some art pieces show real vulnerability in the students, they are showing themselves and expressing their thoughts, feelings and dreams,” added Jessica. “It is also very gratifying when students are already coming to us with their creative ideas for next year’s Art Festival.”

If you missed out on this year’s Student Art Festival, each and every piece of authentic Native American art that received a winning ribbon will be on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center from now – May 5th.

Officer Powers receives grand send-off

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On April 19, Officer Phillip Powers walked into the Marysville Mountain View Arts and Technology High School for his last day on duty as a School Resource Officer and his last day as a Tulalip Police Officer, until he returns to the country in 2020. As a member of the United States Army, Powers was called up to serve a yearlong deployment overseas to protect our Nation’s freedom. 

Officer Powers found a home within the Tulalip community upon graduating from the Police Academy and becoming a member in blue for the Tulalip Police Department. Shortly after, he was named the School Resource Officer for all of the schools in the Tulalip area including the Betty J. Taylor Early Learning Academy, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary, Heritage High School and Marysville Arts and Tech, where he built strong connections with the community members, instructors and students. 

As he said his final goodbyes at each school, he was met with cheers and applause at Marysville Arts and Tech, where the students organized a surprise farewell party for the officer. A look of shock, followed by a large smile spread across his face as he made his way through the school’s cafeteria to the center stage, while the young adults honored the local hero with a well-deserved standing ovation. 

The law official was presented with a goodbye card, which all of the students signed, before a number of youth, school faculty, family, friends and fellow officers shared memories as well as expressed words of gratitude for the impact he’s had within the community. During the emotional morning assembly, nearly each speaker wiped away tears before embracing Officer Powers with a hug. The teens recalled games of gatorball and conversations about movies and pop culture. And some kids simply thanked him for acknowledging them on some of their toughest days. 

“Powers, my man I love you dude,” stated an Arts and Tech student. “I just want to thank you. I know cops get a lot of crap nowadays, but I think you changed the way that’s perceived, especially in this community. You’re fun, you know the culture, you listen to hip hop, which is lit. I think you changed the way a lot of young people think and feel about law enforcement, because we got to know you on a more personal level. I want to thank you for dedicating your life to protecting and serving our country, whether it be locally or globally. Thank you for protecting our freedom.” 

The sendoff ended with students lining up on both sides of the hallway while Officer Powers walked through, giving each student a high-five.

“I feel very appreciative,” said Officer Powers. “I try to make a positive, lasting impact on the kids as much as I can just by being genuine and bringing a caring aspect. Sometimes you don’t see the effect you have on people, some of the kids won’t ever show it. To hear some of them talk about their interactions with me in a heartfelt manner, that’s different than what I normally see on a daily basis, and it was so special.”