Community update on Stanford medical cannabis research

Les Parks , Tulalip Tribes Board of Director.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

In 2014 Washington became one of the first states to legalize the use of recreational marijuana after nearly eighty years of prohibition nationwide. Since then, the state has reaped the benefits of cannabis, collecting hundreds of millions of dollars annually from taxes and licensing fees. 

Just last year, Tulalip opened the doors at Remedy, a recreational shop that is one of few ran and owned entirely by a tribal nation. The Tribe’s current compact with the state, in regards to Remedy, allows them to put the money collected from excise tax back into the Tribe, while paying the state exactly 0% in taxes. 

But as the shop’s name suggests, the Tribe’s focus on the use of marijuana extends far past merely gaining profit from the plant. At Remedy’s grand opening in August of 2018, Tulalip Board of Director (BOD) Les Parks informed the crowd that this was only the beginning of a long relationship between the Tribe and cannabis, announcing a new research project along with a partnership with Stanford University. Perhaps it was due to the long process of opening Remedy or his vision appeared too distant, but the crowd had an overall mixed reaction of skepticism and hope when Les boldly claimed the Tribe would find a cure, or remedy if you will, to end the opioid epidemic with the medical benefits of marijuana. 

Back in March, the Tribe held the first Tulalip/Stanford medical cannabis research project meeting, sharing information found during the first round of research with the community and explaining how this study can benefit the Tribe. Initially the Tribe invested $2 million into the two-year research project. During the first meeting Tulalip BOD members assured the people that whatever found during the study is the sole intellectual property of the Tribe, and that they also retain the right to opt out of the contract with Stanford within the two years. Because the research results were positive, the Tribe continued with the project. The Tribe and Stanford Scientists met once more on the evening of October 10 to give tribal members a new update on the research project.  

“First and foremost we need to save lives,” said Les. “We know what the opioid addiction is like on this reservation, we’ve seen way too many deaths. Two years ago, we had a declaration by the BOD, a state of emergency on the opioid epidemic and we’ve been aggressively tackling that. Since we’ve done that, our death rate has gone down. But any death due to an opioid addiction is one too many. We are 18 months into our Stanford research project. The board authorized a $2 million budget for Stanford to study the cannabis oil and how it might be able to successfully treat opioid addiction.”

Thousands of deaths are reported nationally from opioid involved overdoses each year. According to the Washington State Department of Health, three thousand deaths by overdose happen here in Washington annually, with a large portion of those occurring in the Marysville, Tulalip and Everett area. 

“I’m sure we all know someone who is no longer with us due to this addiction,” Les continued. “The people who are addicted don’t want to be addicted, they don’t want to keep living this way, they want help. We are working with the whole plant oil, which includes over two hundred cannabinoids; the most present cannabinoids are CBD and THC. And what we’ve been finding is truly groundbreaking.”

Up until now, there has been very little, research done specifically on the healing properties marijuana can provide for recovering addicts. But the idea doesn’t seem that farfetched if you take into the account all of the diseases and health issues that the plant aids with in today’s society. Many studies have shown that cannabis can help patients with chronic pain and complications due to cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, PTSD, anxiety and ADHD, among many others. 

Tulalip’s goal is to prove that cannabinoids can in fact help those living with an addiction. And what makes it more interesting is they appear to be the only entity in the United States in full pursuit of this idea. 

“We are two years and a half into this research,” Les said. “No other university in the country has done this. That puts us two-and-a-half years ahead of everyone else, at least. It’s hard for me to stand here without wanting to share this information with the world, to share our findings. But in order for us to be eligible for a patent, we are limited in what we can share today.”

Dr. Annelise Barron, Stanford Professor and Bioengineer, spoke about her latest research. For months she has been conducting experiments at the university for Tulalip’s cause, claiming this is one of the more exciting projects she’s worked on. Drawing evidence from a series of studies, Dr. Barron and her team believe they are close to providing the Tribe with a cannabinoid extract that can be patented, allowing Tulalip to enter the next phase of seeking FDA approval. 

“We are so confident based on the results,” said Dr. Barron. “We validated it and revalidated it numerous times. The next piece of the project is to create a patented Tulalip-owned medicine that will treat heroin and opioid addiction. We’ve already identified a certain part of the cannabis extract that is the therapeutic fraction. We’re going to define precisely the composition of matter that will be patented. There’s at least forty-three people dying every day and if we know the treatment, it should be made available.”

Once the Tribe has conducted the necessary amount of research, they will apply for a patent and begin human trials. This caused some worry and concern amongst attendees, but Les reassured the group that the human study will be volunteer based. If those trials are successful, the Tribe will attempt to get the product FDA approved and then make it accessible to addicts nationwide. Les then went on to explain another avenue the Tribe intends to explore, assuming everything is successful up until that point. 

“We brought on our consultant group, the Red Horse Financial Group. We are a lot further along with a business plan that will be done around the end of the year. There’s a lot of potential revenue the Tribe can earn, provided we get this product FDA approved. At the end of the day, we’re going to save lives. And by doing so, we can monetize that. Just imagine if we’re able to cure opioid addiction, or successfully treat it, what the rest of the world would want to see.”

Since the meeting was open-forum, the attendees asked many questions about the possible business venture. Tulalip Board of Director and Business Committee Chairman, Glen Gobin, addressed a few of those questions.

“It has great potential but there’s no certainty. Even studies that showed great promise, 90% of those never reached human consumption, human benefit. And there’s a lot of human benefit for us down this road, but it comes with a lot of costs. As a tribal government, it gets a little tricky when we get into venture capital. That doesn’t mean the research should stop. We need to keep flushing some of this out and get further down the road, but it comes at great expense. The test results so far, as much as I struggle with it from a business perspective of a Tribe, the research shows there’s potential here. There’s something here that’s working.” 

Valarie Red-Horse Mohl, CEO of the Red-Horse Financial Group, gave the people a brief, but detailed, look at the work-in-progress business model they created for the Tribe, giving yearly projections for aggressive, moderate and conservative total addressable markets (TAM).  

“The potential for a business to be successful is if you’re filling a gap in the marketplace,” she informed. “It’s a $78.5 billion problem in terms of how much opioid misuse costs the U.S. There’s a 90% relapse rate and when patients relapse, that’s when they’re at the highest risk of an overdose death. Right now, the total number of opioid addicts is estimated at 11 million in America. The number of chronic pain sufferers is 25 to 40 million, and why that is important is because that’s whose getting addicted for the most part, they’re needing something for that chronic pain. We’re not combining the business into the research; the research stands separate. But you have to think about planning for that business as the research is happening, so that you can address some of those concerns about how to phase it and mitigate some of your risks.”

In addition to addressing questions and concerns, Valarie informed tribal members that the Tribe does not necessarily have to take on all of the financial expenses by itself, that there are grants and research dollars available since the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary declared the opioid crisis a national epidemic in 2017. She also disclosed that although they are two separate businesses, if the product is a success it would also be branded as ‘Remedy’.

If all goes according to plan, Tulalip will physically possess a cure for opioid addiction in the next five years, helping bring an end to an epidemic that has claimed too many lives of our Native peoples. The next phase comes with a $1.2 million price tag, but the Board of Directors feel the evidence from the research may be worth the risk. 

Global Village adds permanent Tribal Tales exhibit

Artist and storyteller Ty Juvinel (center) with Devin Leatherman and Amy Hale at the opening of Tribal Tales exhibit.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

The Seattle Children’s Museum is a destination place for people from all around the world. Located at the heart of Seattle Center, the always active and engaging museum sees close to 200,000 visitors every year. With a mission to bring to life the joy of discovery for children and their families through creative, hands-on exploration of the world around them, the museum’s heralded Global Village recently debuted an all-new permanent exhibit titled Tribal Tales.

Created by and inspired from the beautifully diverse and thriving Native cultures encompassing the Puget Sound area, Tribal Tales was development over the past two years in direct collaboration with Native artists from Pacific Northwest tribes. 

“We thought it would be great if we developed a space that helps us create a real relationship with local tribal communities and members,” explained Amy Hale, director of education for Seattle Children’s Museum. “The artists we collaborated with drew from their own individual experiences in order to create culturally relevant representations of their culture.”

Native storytellers who collaborated on the project include John Edward Smith (Skokomish), Roger Fernandez (Lower Elwha S’Kallam), and Tulalip’s own Ty Juvinel. 

“Because of Ty’s trust and active willingness to participate in building up this idea from the very beginning, his efforts had a direct influence on other artists and their willingness to commit,” added Amy. “When I look at this final project, I see not only Ty and his amazing individual pieces, but his influence that led to more artists of other tribal communities working with us and really making Tribal Tales an immersive exhibit.”

Prior to becoming the home of Tribal Tales, the space housed a puppet theatre. The original seed money that created the puppet theatre came via Tulalip Cares, the charitable contributions division of the tribe. It’s only too fitting then that the puppet theatre space was transformed into an interactive, educational exhibit showcasing the richness of Native values and oral tradition, while being co-curated by Tulalip tribal member Ty Juvinel. 

“This exhibit really honors the Indigenous peoples of this land and gives the acknowledgment that our people were here before first contact,” shared the Tulalip storyteller. “Tribal Tales is all about acknowledging the past people that were here while honoring the many Coast Salish tribes thriving today.

“I contributed an original story created for my kids How Puppy Got His Ears, a Salish Sea map detailing all the tribes in Western Washington, a couple house posts, and hand puppets that go along with my story that visiting children can play with,” continued Ty. “The fact the museum got money a long time ago from the tribe and now I’m refreshing the concept for my generation is just awesome.”

Tribal Tales explores the universal art of storytelling through a collective showcase of Native art and culture, curated by the actual artists themselves. “As opposed to white bodies dictating and reflecting back to ourselves what other cultures look like, we gave the artists all the agency to share with us their stories,” added Amy.

The direction and attention to detail is what really makes Tribal Tales stand apart from the many other Global Village exhibits. And for the countless children who visit the museum every day, they’ve already shown a fondness to the exhibit’s bright colors and hands-on puppetry that makes the Native stories easily understood.

“The Children’s Museum shares all kinds of fantastic things, like science, knowledge and culture,” said Roger Fernandes, sharer of the prolific Ant and Bear story. “I thought it would be a good way to get our stories out there. Each of the stories were illustrated by the Native artists, so the children could not just hear the story but see some visuals that would help them remember it. Ultimately, this project was well thought out and as a result now more kids will have the chance to hear our traditional stories.”

With over 18,000 sq. feet of play space designed for kids ages birth to 8-years-old to enjoy with families, the Seattle Children’s Museum is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 10:00am – 5:00pm. First time visitors are sure to be blown away by the hands-on exhibits and open-ended exploration, especially those who experience the richness of Tribal Tales. 

A good day to be Indigenous

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

For the sixth consecutive year, the greater-Seattle area and its thousands of Native citizens celebrated Indigenous People’s Day. Replacing the former misbegotten holiday dedicated to a slave trader and lost navigator, the commemorative day to honor the past, present and future of Indigenous knowledge and cultures takes place annually on the second Monday in October.

“People ask, ‘Why Indigenous Peoples Day and why not American Indian Day or Native American Day?’ It’s only appropriate that we honor the legacy of work that’s been done,” explained Matt Remle. His efforts, along with many other Native advocates, were instrumental in getting a proclamation voted on by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by then-mayor Ed Murray in 2013. “It’s not only honoring legacy, but when we say ‘Indigenous peoples,’ it’s referring to more than just the tribes of colonized United States. We’re talking about all Indigenous peoples who’ve been impacted by settler colonialism around the world.”

Since its inception into the Puget Sound, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day movement has spread to over 120 cities and been embraced by 9 state governments. Even 8 universities and a couple school districts have indoctrinated the holiday to celebrate global Indigenous cultures. 

On Monday, October 14, Native people and allies from around the Pacific Northwest gathered at Westlake Park, on ancestral Duwamish land, for a march and rally to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Seattle. The dedicated early morning group proudly wore cultural garb and traditional regalia while traversing from Westlake Park to Seattle City Hall, where a rally of celebratory song and dance was held. 

“It’s been a beautiful day to see so many Indigenous people come together and be filled with so much joy,” shared 20-year-old Ayanna Fuentes, a member of Indigenous Sisters Resistance. “Our younger generation is growing up not knowing what Columbus Day is, and that’s an amazing thing.”

In the evening, the festivities continued at Daybreak Star Cultural Center with an honoring celebration for Native nations in the Puget Sound Region and their fellow Indigenous allies. Sponsored by Tulalip Tribes community impact funds, the Daybreak Star gathering included hundreds of urban Natives, dancers from a variety of Indigenous communities, and non-Natives who wanted to share in the memorable event.

The American Indian Movement (AIM) honor song kicked off the evening while Sili Savusa and Feanette Black Bear were blanketed for their longstanding commitments to Indigenous progress. A high-energy hoop dance performed by Ryan Yellowjohn was next, followed by a variety of cultural performances representing Mexico, Chile and the Pacific Islands. For the finale, an overflowing DayBreak Star crowd was treated to several songs offered up by the Tulalip Youth Council.

“I thank the ancestors for giving me this opportunity to be here today with you all and hold the sage,” said Feanette. “There are over 500 Indigenous tribes across this country and we are all here because our ancestors said prayers hundreds of years ago for their future generations. It is up to us to stand up and take care of Mother Earth and our relatives all across Turtle Island.”

A variety of states, cities, counties, community groups, schools, and other institutions observed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 14. They all did so with activities that raised awareness of the rich history, culture, and traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. 

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day, at its core, aims to celebrate and honor the past, present, and futures of Native peoples throughout the United States and acknowledges the legacy of colonialism, which has devastated Indigenous communities historically and continues to negatively impact them today,” stated Native educator and activist, Matt Remle. “More importantly, however, Indigenous Peoples’ Day moves beyond the narrative of oppression and honors the histories, cultures, contributions, and resilience of contemporary Native peoples.”

Changing the way we see Native America

Matika Wilbur at Northwest Indian College. Photo by Micheal Rios, Tulalip News.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News. Photos by Matika Wilbur and Micheal Rios.

In 2012, Tulalip tribal member and visual storyteller Matika Wilbur sold everything she owned in her Seattle apartment and invested the proceeds into a vision: to unveil the true essence of contemporary Native issues, the beauty of Native culture, and the magnitude of tradition. Her vision’s name? Project 562.

Reflecting her commitment to visit, engage, and photograph all 562 federally recognized Native American tribes (in 2012), Project 562 reveals a name that serves to both inspire and educate. 

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

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

But if you search for ‘Native American’ the results are very different. You’ll see mostly black and white photos of centuries old Natives who are “leathered and feathered”.  Making matters worse, you’ll also find more images of white people wearing headdresses than of modern day Native families. 

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

Darkfeather, Eckos and Bibiana Ancheta, Tulalip. Pictured at the edge of Tulalip Bay, they are wearing traditional regalia that was prepared for their annual Canoe Journey. Every year, upward of 100 U.S. tribes, Canadian First Nations and New Zealand canoe families will make the journey by pulling their canoes to a rotating host destination tribe. Canoe families pull for weeks, and upon landing, there will be several days and nights of ‘protocol’: a celebration of shared traditional knowledge, ancestral songs, and sacred dances.

And so began her 7-year journey to photograph and collect stories of contemporary Native citizens from tribes all across the United States. As her photographic portfolio continued to expand, so too did her realm of possibilities.

Project 562 has driven her to travel hundreds of thousands of miles, many in her RV dubbed ‘the Big Girl’, but also by horseback, train, plane, boat and on foot across all 48 continental states, Hawaii, deep into the Canadian tundra and into Alaska. The number of federally recognized tribes has risen to 573, according to the Department of the Interior, since the inception of her vision back in 2012, but that fact is just superficial.

Presently, the now 35-year-old Matika has come to realize that Indigenous identity far surpasses federal acknowledgement. There are state-recognized tribes, urban and rural Native communities, and other spaces for Indigenous identity that don’t fall under the U.S. government’s recognition. Astonishingly, she estimates she has photographs that represent about 900 different tribal communities. 

Jon Red Corn, Osage Nation and Waxak’olin district Osage, leads boys to the Zonzolin arbor where traditional values and teachings of the Osage people are celebrated.

In a respectful way, Matika has been welcomed into hundreds of tribal communities, and she has found that people support the project because they would like to see things change. Conversations about tribal sovereignty, self-determination, wellness, recovery from historical trauma, decolonization of the mind, and revitalization of culture accompany the photographs in captions, videos, and audio recordings.*

“For the past six-years I’ve been sojourning in my big girl. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, an amazing experience!” beamed the Tulalip photographer who routinely has her brilliant images displayed in museum galleries and college campuses across the nation. 

 Miss Melba Appawara from the Northern Ute Tribe, born in 1932, and Grandma to many beautiful bear dancers.

“I started in Washington and worked my way south through Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico,” she detailed. “I went to all the pueblos, so many places in Navajo Nation, then down to the south and into the bayou. I continued on to the Everglades and then all the way up the East coast into Haudenosaunee country where I learned about the Great Law. I then zig-zagged across through the country until finally making it up to Alaska. Now, I am back home.” 

She’s returned with an unprecedented repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portray present-day Native America. Project 562 will ultimately culminate as an awe-inspiring hardcover, series of exhibitions and online resources filled with a dynamic variety of proud Native Americans telling their stories their way. But until that long-awaited day comes, Matika gave adoring fans and devote followers of her project a glimpse into her 7-year journey during the first weekend of October. From October 3 – 5, she held a four-part project preview at Northwest Indian College, Ferndale Library, Nooksack Community Building and the Deming Library. 

The Project 562 creator spoke passionately at each venue while sharing stories about overcoming historical inaccuracies, stereotypical representations, and silenced Native American voices in mass media. She shared about meeting one of her real life heroes John Trudell, being at Standing Rock during the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, and offered powerful stories detailing Native citizens from around the nation rising up from racism and injustice to create a better world for themselves and future generations. 

Swinomish Village. “One of my favorite shots from canoe journey this year. It’s always an epic feeling to watch dozens of canoes paddle up to our shores. I feel grateful that I am among the generation that gets to know this cultural revolution. That we are the descendants of people who refused to let canoe culture go to sleep. We are the generation that gets to see this awaken. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Matika

“If I’m here to bring a message at all, it’s the message that Indian Country is alive and well,” said Matika during her NWIC presentation. “It’s the message of hope and resiliency. It’s the story of Indigenous intelligence. 

“There are still Ghost Dances, Sun Dances and long houses filled with songs and traditional medicines. Our story is worth knowing, telling, and inspiring one another with. Because doing modern things while gathering and encouraging the collective consciousness to uplift Indigenous intelligence is the only pathway forward. That is the dream.”

*Source: matikawilbur.com


Feeding the Spirit: Our Native foods with Inez Bill

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“I remember my aunt, she stood up once to speak at a gathering. She was talking about our Indian food, or lack thereof, and asked ‘what am I supposed to feed my inner-Indian, spaghetti?” recalled Tulalip Elder and Rediscovery Program Coordinator, Inez Bill, while letting out a small chuckle. “That always stuck with me. And also, when Chief Seattle said, ‘when the tide is out, our table is set.’”

For nearly fifteen years, Inez has led the Rediscovery program, reincorporating a number of cultural aspects that were once considered common, back into the practices of the modern-day Tulalip tribal community. Through colonization, assimilation efforts and the decades of generational trauma that followed, many of these teachings were lost, or kept closely and taught within individual families. 

A relatively recent revitalization resurgence saw the art, language and true history of the Northwest tribes come to light and today those cultural traits are often recognized and celebrated throughout the area. And while our lifeways such as fishing, hunting and gathering are rights that may be known to the general public, the spiritual connection to that work is an experience that is unique to the Coast Salish people. 

The Rediscovery program has put an emphasis on helping Tribal members, youth to elders, experience that connection by hosting hands-on workshops at local events, teaming up with several departments to spread their teachings. If you’re lucky, you may have made lip balm or salves out of local Indigenous plants with Inez and her team, while learning about the medicinal purposes each plant contains. Or perhaps you attended Mountain Camp as a youth and learned the many uses of cedar, carving walking sticks and weaving baskets. The program also oversees the Tulalip family canoes Big Sister, Little Sister and Big Brother, awakening them every spring, preparing them for Canoe Journey and putting them back to rest after the summertime event ends. 

“Our people have learned and passed things on generation after generation through oral teachings,” explained Inez. “Our teachings are not made up, I’ve heard what I heard many different times. If you go to Upper Skagit, Swinomish, Lummi, Tulalip, you hear the same thing and that’s how you know it’s a teaching.”

Inez is always willing to pass on her knowledge of traditional Salish foods. Long before western civilization arrived to the region, the land was abundant with resources, with tall cedar trees encompassing the land, huckleberries high up in the mountains, elk that walked amongst the forests and salmon that populated the Salish Sea in large numbers. The tribes of the Northwest cared for those resources, ensuring that their people would be provided with sustenance for generations to come.  

“Native foods were how our people remained healthy for years,” she said. “As a young girl, I grew up going to the winter ceremonies at our smokehouse and celebrated the spiritual life. During those ceremonies, I worked in the kitchen with some of the older lady cooks. There are a lot of things I learned from them, as well as from my parents and grandparents. It was there where I learned how to gather and prepare some of our traditional foods.

“When we serve you our Native foods, we are giving you our very best. There are teachings and values that go with everything we do. From the hunter preparing for a hunt and the gatherer gathering, knowing it’s going toward a ceremony or whatever work that’s going to take place, that’s their gift to that occasion, to share in the gathering. There were times during my life where my family would host gatherings for namings, funerals, memorials and ceremonies. It was always important to have our Indian food there. I came to know and recognize the food, and you see those same foods today, our BBQ salmon, deer steak, deer stew, clams, canned fruit, clam chowder, oysters and crab. All of that not only provides nutrition for us, but it feeds our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors.”

Any given year there are several celebrations hosted within an Indigenous community and the meal is an integral piece to the ceremony. The food’s flavor, serving size and overall presentation speaks volumes about the hosting tribe. During smokehouse ceremonies, Inez explained that she and the other cooks would set a table full of traditional foods, specifically for the spirits of the Tulalip ancestors, early in the day before any guests arrived. 

“We usually had the first table around three o’clock in the afternoon for our ancestors from the other side who came to witness the festivities going on. When we put the food out there, they’re the first to eat. Then when our visitors come, we serve them next, before we eat. We always prepare and serve our best and that shows that we are rich in our resources and shows that we are sharing with our people and visitors.”

Prayers and songs are offered before and after a hunt, thanking the land, Creator and the animal itself for the nourishment. And not an ounce of meat, hide or bone goes to waste; people fashion garb, jewelry and drums from the animal’s remains. And, although it varies from tribe to tribe, the Salish people hold annual Salmon Ceremonies, thanking the fish for its sacrifice at the start of each fishing season.

“How you prepare yourself to conduct that work is just as important as the hunt, as the harvest, if not more. That’s where the berry picking songs come from, to make the work easier and not so difficult. And whatever you’re harvesting, you never let it waste. You take care of it, you honor it, respect it and give thanks, because it will continue to provide for you into the future.”

The Rediscovery program hosts traditional foods workshops and during these classes, Inez and crew provide the history of the Coast Salish foods while also showing their participants how the meals were prepared in ancestral time with bentwood boxes and cooking stones. They also prepare an assortment of food samples including teas, seafood, deer and elk meat, and usually a berry dessert concoction as well. Each dish is created combining traditional plants, herbs, berries, nuts and meat with the recipes that are popular in modern times.

“We are always experimenting,” Inez proudly stated while showcasing a large mason jar filled with a berry mixture. “I always wanted to make a pie filling, this was the first year we took time to make this. I think our pallets have changed a lot. Sometimes it’s hard to get people to try something unless its palatable. Our people didn’t have the modern convenience of table salt or pepper. So today, a lot of people will look at those foods and say they are unseasoned. 

“If you look at other cultures, such as the Koreans and Germans they have sauerkraut and kimchi, foods that have been fermented. We had fermented foods too, and we haven’t done a lot of experimenting with those just yet, but we know they served a purpose. Like the sourness of Indian ice cream, a soap berry that’s whipped up to the consistency of whip cream. If you ate it today without using some sort of sweetener, it could be considered too sour by some. We like to add apple juice, it makes it more palatable, but I don’t think our ancestors added that to their recipe.”

Inez explained that she began blending traditional and modern recipes when her late husband, Hank Gobin, was diagnosed with diabetes.

“He wasn’t supposed to eat bread. I kept thinking of ways to get him bread. And I found a way to make flour out of hazelnut. It doesn’t have any salt or sugar and we grinded the nuts down to the consistency of flour. He was so happy to get that bread, and since then we kept on experimenting, trying to figure out how to make today’s recipes healthier for our people by substituting some of the ingredients with our Native foods. Or we’ll take a Native recipe and figure out how to cook it in an oven or on a stovetop.” 

Today, many people around the globe are attempting to switch back to the traditional diets of their culture. For Native people specifically, that includes giving up many of those dishes that we formulated from government commodities, like frybread and hangover soup. The lack of access to healthy foods combined with the diminishing salmon and wildlife populations have caused serious, and often deadly, health issues throughout Native America. But since many tribes began educating their people about some of the dangers of modern processed foods and incorporating pieces of their traditional meal plans into their diets, diabetes and hypertension are on the decline for the first time in decades for Indigenous people as a whole. 

Several tribal and Indigenous chefs have documented their journey in reclaiming food sovereignty. And more often than not, the individual claims to feel better and healthier. However, that is just a start. There are many foods that we have grown accustomed to over the years that can initially be hard to cut out. And until we do so, we may very well continue to have health concerns due to the way foods are manufactured and mass produced. 

Now that we are in the middle of the hunting and gathering season, Inez urges the younger people to go out and experience the traditions of the Snohomish people, practice their treaty rights and help provide for their people. 

“I marvel at the wisdom of our ancestors to include the right to hunt, fish and gather in the treaty because those are the lifeways of our people,” she stated. “It’s more important to share and do that work for the elders in your family or community in-need. It says a lot of a person who does that type of work. It shows that you must be good people, you listened and learned the teachings of our ancestors. When families do that, they are remembered and those good thoughts and feelings will bring a blessing upon them for sharing with the people. As far as an Indigenous community, that’s exactly what we want to happen. We should continue to rely on our Native foods; the fish, deer and berries. We can’t completely go back to the way it was for our ancestors, but if we went back to a-ways, then we would be a lot healthier.”