Learning the fundamentals of S.T.E.M.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

According to the U.S. Department of Education, if we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, then building our students’ skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential. We must also make sure that no matter where children live, they have access to quality learning environments. A child’s zip code should not determine their STEM fluency. 

For those unfamiliar with the acronym STEM, its stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. On the Tulalip Reservation this concept can be thought of as career pathways to critical departments within our government, such as Natural Resources, Tulalip Data Services (TDS), construction and infrastructure building, and financial literacy necessary for various fields of Finance. 

In today’s fast-paced, constantly changing, techno-driven climate, it’s imperative our Tulalip youth be prepared with fundamentals of STEM teaching, such as problem-solving, making sense of important information, and being able to gather and examine evidence to make sound decisions. These were the skills being learned in truly stunning ways at this year’s 5th annual STEM week, made possible by some brilliant minds journeying all the way from Colorado and our local homework support program.  

“Our youth today are digital girls and boys in a world that is digitally based,” said Shana Simpson, lead student support specialist. “It is important for our kids to make these connections between science, technology and mathematics in order to draw out the relation to engineering. For this to be possible, they must first gain the knowledge to understand those connections and how they are applied to everyday life.”

Shana and her fellow coworkers were able to witness first-hand the amazing journey several Tulalip youngsters were able to have in the STEM realm. Nearly twenty kids, ranging in grade level from kindergarten to 6th grade, learned the fundamentals of STEM in the kind of fashion previous generations only experienced while watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. 

“It is highly enjoyable to watch our kids get nerdy as they are captivated by STEM activities,” added Shana. “After participating in STEM week, the kids continue to make their own observations and connections once they leave here. They are more likely to repeat what they have learned and pass their knowledge along. Hopefully, some continue to hold on to their interest and develop it into a true passion as they get older. Their participation in STEM week gives them an advantage at school and, we like to think, more opportunities in the future.”

Not only does STEM provide a new way of thinking and learning to students, the earning potential of a STEM versus a non-STEM career is staggering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average wage for all STEM occupations is $87,570. This is nearly double the average wage for non-STEM occupations averaging just $45,700. 

The four-day STEM week hosted from August 1-4 was anticipated for some time by Matthew and Kathy Collier, who taught the course to Tulalip’s youth for four straight years before the pandemic forced a two-year hiatus. The 2022 rendition a host of fund, hands-on activities that the kids embraced and thrived in.

“The robotic gripper teaching is all about studying different designs and analyzing how to make them more efficient. It also is an engineering model used in used in prosthetic limbs and shows how they can extend the use of programming and engineering to help humans. It’s used in Robotics and manufacturing,” explained Matthew Collier, STEM education training specialist. “The experiment with the brain scanner allowed children to tangibly see the force of their brain waves, invisible yet tangible forces we all have in our brains. 

“We taught them about Theta and Beta brain wave,” he continued. “Through the activity, they could see that Theta waves grow stronger with rest and Beta waves grow stronger through intentional focus. This science is used in education, medical science, behavior research and more. Additionally, the push car derby with LEGOs taught them to explore the forces of push and pull, as well as the effects of friction between objects. It provides great examples of cause and effect.”

From brain waves and robotics to a LEGO derby and computer coding, some of Tulalip’s youngest minds were able to successfully grasp STEM fundamentals and apply them in a variety of activities that have real world applications. The best part about their experience was the instructors’ enthusiasm and passion for STEM education was infectious. To the point the young participants were genuinely learning while having fun.

“The importance of providing children with STEM opportunities when they are young is the way in which it empowers them to better navigate their 21st century world around them,” said Kathy Collier, STEM education program development. “They can become participants rather than spectators in regards to the technologies that will influence every sphere of society. Through STEM camps like this one, as children take part in these activities, they begin to connect the dots in their understanding and discover that they may carry ideas for the next invention…or perhaps realize they hold the answer to a problem the world needs solved.”

A family reborn through naming ceremony and canoe unveiling

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Stacey Sam

On July 30, a Tulalip family held a canoe unveiling and naming ceremony for four of their family members, Stacer, Sampson, Saleena and Scotty. The highly anticipated event followed years of the family members attempting to reconnect with their culture and people, and the desire to earn their Indian names.

Naming ceremonies and receiving an Indian name plays an important role in Native American culture. Certain elements and traditions of each ceremony are sacred and specific to it’s given tribe. Nonetheless, each name that is given carries on a piece of our ancestors, and the language that we speak. Rather than their English name, Native Americans can proudly use their new name and be a representation of our people and our perseverance. 

Traditionally speaking, Native Americans used to not receive a name at birth, and would instead earn a name that was passed down from their family lineage. The name is typically chosen based on their personality, skills, or similar characteristics and traits that a loved one also once had. These names are taken and used with pride as each person with a given name represents the strengths of the past and the promises of the future.

Stacey Sam is the father to Stacer, Sampson, Saleena, and Scotty. He once lived on the Tulalip Reservation and then went on to spend most of his life at Muckleshoot. Unfortunately, with some familial problems that Stacey faced growing up, he didn’t quite have the connection with his culture as much as he would’ve liked. But, after building a family, and having kids of his own, he was able to watch them grow and see them strive for a culturally-led life. 

Scotty was the first of the kids that made an initiative to connect with his culture and asked his brother Stacer to join him. They went out of their way to learn cultural teachings, become more engaged within the community, and create a newfound respect for their people and ancestors. They started by attending Coastal Jams up and down the coast, and eventually became apart of the Canoe Team in Muckleshoot. By doing so, Stacer also found a new love for singing and began performing at jams and ceremonies. 

After watching his children and their newly found cultural journey, Stacey was inspired to continue on the path that his children had embarked. He realized they had gone too long without culture in their lives, and wanted a reset for his family. He wanted to establish a new legacy for his family that would last for generations to come. He quickly connected with some tribal elders and Tulalip family, and decided that a family canoe unveiling and naming ceremony would be the perfect next step.

“This is all new to me, but I want to bring that cultural presence back into my family line. My kids have already started and I want to see it through. They helped me pick up the drum, and it’s a blessing to get to know our ways. This journey has opened my eyes with the way we all come together and take care of one another,” Stacey said.

Stacey reached out to George Swanaset Sr. of Nooksak, who is an avid canoe carver, to help build his family canoe. Stacey wanted to be sure the canoe could fit everyone in his family, and that the canoe would hold “S?adacut” on the side, a tribute to his late father William Edward ‘Sonny’ Sam. Being Tulalip himself, it was important to Stacey that the canoe would paddle off into Tulalip Bay.

Shortly after, Stacey reached out to various Tulalip tribal members and asked for their help to ensure the naming ceremony would play out perfectly. Don ‘Penoke’ Hatch who has been a longtime family friend of theirs helped orchestrate and organize the ceremony to ensure it’s traditional ties, “Stacey’s dad was a tremendous friend of mine, and I was glad to be involved” he said. Penoke talked about the importance of having the ceremony, “I’m really proud of what the Sam family is doing. It’s an honor to carry an Indian name. You earn your name, and it’s how you present yourself to your people.”

Marlin Fryberg also helped by researching the Sam family’s lineage to find appropriate names to use and pass on to all four of the children. It was decided that Stacer would carry on his grandfather’s Indian name “S?adacut”, Sampson would carry on “Tsoh-see-oose”, Saleena would hold “Tsee-si-lit-sah”, and Scotty would be named “Tix-tad”. All of the names came from their ancestors and family before them.

Quickly, more and more Tulalip family and community members became involved and helped with painting the canoe, cooking food for everyone in attendance, and establishing themselves as witnesses to the ceremony. What started off as just one family’s journey quickly became a community journey that supported and helped aid the teachings of our people.

On the day of, Tulalip members Thomas Williams and Natosha Gobin stepped up to the plate to help with ceremonial blessings and prayers, and the unveiling of the names. Most of the ceremony was presented first in Lushootseed and then parts in English to instill its traditional roots.

The ceremony couldn’t have gone more perfectly. “I had never been to a naming ceremony before, and I didn’t know what to expect. But once it all took place, I felt very calm and at peace. I feel honored to carry my grandpa’s name. And being so close with my siblings growing up, it meant a lot to do this together,” Stacer said. 

The Sam family could feel their ancestors smiling down on them as they took this new step together. They are extremely grateful to everyone who helped them take on this journey and rebuild their cultural ways. Being gifted their Indian names was a fresh start for their family, and created a new sense of pride that they planned to hold onto for the rest of their lives.

Pride BBQ happening Saturday, August 13

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“We want to make sure the youth have a place, a space, and a voice if they are part of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Problem Gambling Counselor, Robin Johnson. “This is a super important event to bring community awareness to the two-spirit population at Tulalip and the surrounding area. It’s important to make sure that they feel comfortable in our community. This is the big kick-off event, it ought to be great and lots of fun.”

Years in the making, the highly anticipated Pride Everyday BBQ at Tulalip is scheduled to take place on August 13, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Don Hatch Community Center. Since the successful, and Tulalip Youth Council organized, Pride Walk in 2018, members of the LGBTQ+ community at Tulalip were inspired to create a yearly Pride celebration on the reservation.

Aiming to embrace, uplift, support, honor and help individuals create new friendships within the local two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, and ally community, the Pride BBQ promises nothing but great times, good summertime grub, and fun for all. 

Phoenix Two Spirit (Cree) is a well-known member of the Tulalip community, as well as the self-proclaimed ‘instigator’ of this project. Phoenix presented the idea for the get-together as well as helped organize the event. Phoenix shared, “This event is great for community awareness. It’s part of the decolonization process, recognizing that two-spirit people have been in the Indigenous community since time immemorial. And it’s time to recognize that, indeed, there is a place for two-spirit people in the tribal community, that they hold a special place. This is not new. This is reclaiming our past.”

Originally planned for 2020, the Pride BBQ was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the tribal government re-opened, following the first initial wave of the novel coronavirus, the Pride BBQ was rescheduled to take place last summer. That is, until a large spike in the number of COVID cases at Tulalip rose once more prior to the event, causing another postponement. Now, nearly a year later, the Pride BBQ is happening for the very first time.

Said Phoenix, “I’ve been in the Tulalip area for a few years and thought that this a very-needed event. I’ve been part of the pride celebrations in Seattle and Snohomish County, and I have been noticing announcements locally for Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Lummi, who are having pride celebrations. There has been much interest by the Tulalip LGBTQ+ TS community to have an event, but COVID put a damper on creating one. So, now is the time to bring us together and celebrate our community.”

The Tulalip Pride BBQ will feature music by DJ Monie Ordonia, as well as several icebreaker games and activities, which helps create opportunities for people to meet and build connections while celebrating their true selves together. 

The event is sponsored by the Tulalip Problem Gambling Program, Tulalip Family Wellness Court, and the Tulalip Community Health’s Youth Wellness program. With the promise of high 70-degree weather on Saturday, the Pride BBQ is sure to be a day to remember for all involved, so be sure to mark your calendar and come show your pride and support!

“I want everybody to know that everyone is welcome to come,” expressed Phoenix. “Whether you define yourself in the LGBTQ+ community, the two-spirit community, if you are friends, family, allies, or tribal members, I want everyone to feel welcome to come.”

Traditions from an Elder: Kirk Jones shares his salmon teachings with local nonprofit

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Tulalip elder Kirk Jones sat patiently next to his homemade, ten-foot smoke stack. The savory aroma of King salmon being slow cooked at 225 degrees Fahrenheit gradually filled the air. In his chair, he reminisced about his earliest days as a splash boy working alongside handmade seine nets in the 1960s, while his then-elders fished to provide for their people.

“Growing up, most of the elders either fished or logged to make a living. Either way, they were handling and collecting wood to keep the fires going all year long,” remembered Kirk. “We’d usually eat the fish as fresh as can be, right there on the beach as the fisherman beach seined. Whatever fish was leftover they’d smoke and hang on Cedar sticks. 

“Back then, when I was learning to smoke, all we had was salt…process the fish, salt the fish and then let them dry. It was hard chewing for sure,” he chuckled. “But they were preserved to be ate throughout the year regardless of weather. We didn’t have freezers or stoves or nothing fancy like today. Just our teachings passed on from one generation to the next intended to make use of what we had available to us and keep our people fed.” 

Today, the 65-year-old smoked salmon savant credits Glen Parks, Les Parks, Rocky Parks and Bernie Parks for becoming his secondary family after he got clean and sober in 1986. Under their guidance and skill with their family smoker, Kirk learned to take his ancestral teachings and add a touch of his own flare. Small technical changes like the use of a particularly gauged chicken wire and addition of brown sugar in the seasoning, Kirk has perfected his technique for creating golden-colored ‘Indian candy’. 

Kirk’s Smoked Salmon is a prime example of Tulalip’s entrepreneurial spirit. Known for its high quality and sweet salmon offerings, Kirk created a business that is flexible enough to be sold on the side of the road along Marine View Drive or from a makeshift blue stand often seen between Cabela’s and Home Depot in the spring/summer time. Its also become a family operation as his children, nieces and nephews are frequently doing the sales, so Kirk can focus on making his primary source of income: smoked deliciousness.

“My passion for the salmon is still the same as when I was a little kid filling the role of splash boy to maneuverer fish into the elders’ nets,” said Kirk. “You know what, maybe my passion is even stronger now. Being older, I have a greater sense of appreciation for what those who came before me managed to accomplish and pass on. It’s my responsibility now to make sure their teachings aren’t forgotten.”

With that sentiment in mind, Kirk lent his lifelong expertise with a fillet knife and 25-pound freshly caught King salmon to a cultural workshop coordinated by local nonprofit, Indigenous Beginnings. For an afternoon in late July, the Tulalip culture bearer did his best to impart practical skills and guidance on the double digit, all-Native group who were eager to learn the ins and outs of fish filleting. 

Over the course of two-hours, the group received up close and personal instruction on proper technique to clean a salmon, including the conventional fillet and butterfly fillet methods, how to remove the jaw for making fish head soup, and some general advice from their elder on best practices to smoke, can or cook their fish at home. 

Along their way, the group of learners shared many laughs as they attempted to mimic Kirk’s proficiency with a fillet name. Most failed miserably, but it was in that failure where Kirk was able to step in and offer gentle words of encouragement; often reminding them that we all gotta start somewhere. Luckily, there was more than enough whole salmon provided that those choosing to rework their fillet skills could give it another go. Some even shrieked with excitement when opening their fish and finding eggs to be used for homemade sushi, stew or as a simple caviar side dish. 

For their commitment to learning cultural traditions, the group was rewarded with jumbo sized bags of salmon fillets and all the ‘Indian candy’ they could eat. With tummies full, Kirk thanked everyone for participating and helping him grow as an instructor. 

“I love fishing. A goal of mine has always been to learn to smoke salmon,” shared Tulalip citizen Sara Andres after the workshop. “Getting an opportunity to learn from Kirk was super exciting and I’m so happy to have participated. With the fish heads I’ll be making my grandma Katie’s fish head soup that I remember fondly as a kid. I also bought a small smoker so that I can brine the salmon filleted here and smoke my fish for the first time.”

“We are so thankful to Kirk for sharing his home and teachings with us to learn the basics of filleting and smoking salmon together,” added Stephanie Cultee, Indigenous Beginnings founder and chairwoman. “Originally, this workshop was only going to be focused on smoking salmon, but then we received such a huge number of requests by people who admitted to not even knowing how to clean and fillet a fish. By being vulnerable and admitting to not knowing this tradition, we were able to fulfill a big need. Ultimately, this workshop got such good turnout and positive responses already that we plan on hosting another workshop with Kirk at the end of summer.”

For those who missed out on this amazing opportunity to receive hands-on learning from a Tulalip elder and are interested in participating in a similar workshop in September, please email Indigenousbeginnings@hotmail.com or text 425-418-2346 for more information. You can also follow Indigenous Beginnings on Facebook or Instagram to stay up to date with a variety of teaching workshops intended for first-time learners and those desiring a safe place to ask questions about our shared culture.

Tulalip’s National Night Out 2022

By Shaelyn Smead, Tulalip News

On August 2, the Tulalip Police Department gathered with Tulalip families and various Tulalip government departments for National Night Out (NNO) to connect with one another and bridge any gaps. The two-hour event was filled with community members conversing and laughing with one another, gaining information about available resources, and kids exploring the official Fire and Police department vehicles.

Though this is not a new event, across the nation, many police departments gather within their communities to enhance the relationships between neighbors and law enforcement. This effort is to ensure that some people’s and children’s first interactions with law enforcement is a positive one. What first started in 1984 has quickly trickled to over 16 thousand communities in the US, and takes place every year during the first Tuesday of August.

The Chief of Police Chris Sutter was in attendance and said, “My favorite part about National Night Out is connecting with the community and neighbors. People are meeting one another, and allowing our service providers the opportunity to know the people whom we serve. The police department loves that we get to help support this event, and we get to thank all the other tribal departments.”

A lot of the departments that participated included Behavioral Health, Child Support Program, Family Wellness, Tulalip Office of Civil Legal Aid, Children’s Advocacy, Beda Chelh, Family Haven, Higher Education, TERO, Gambling Treatment Services, and various others. Each department provided free swag for the attendees, toys and treats for the kids, and a plethora of information, cards, and pamphlets to help educate tribal members about the numerous services available to them. Many of the attendees were exposed to programs that they either haven’t heard of before, or have been wanting to get into contact with.

Chris also spoke about the importance of maintaining the relationships with the other departments because of how interdependent they all are, “We like being able to put a face to a name when we’re emailing people or talking to them over the phone. There’s not one department that our police department doesn’t interact with. We are all interconnected and we impact the quality of life and the livability of our entire community,” he said.

He continued by talking about how vital it is for tribal members and the police department to have that bond as well, “In just about every culture when you sit down, break bread, and eat together, it’s a sign of coming not only together, but also creating a mutual respect and understanding. I think it’s really important for us to see each other as human beings and let the community know that police office are humans too. We have strengths and weaknesses and at the end of the day, we’re here to serve our people.”

Kids all gathered to meet one of the Tulalip Police Department’s newest member Buster, a German Shorthaired Pointer police dog that recently graduated from K9 school. Buster jumped around and loved meeting all the kids, as they asked his handler a mountain of K9 questions. Everyone’s seemingly favorite question was, ‘do you get to take him home?’, in which Buster’s handler said ‘yes’ with a smile on his face. 

With red, white and blue lights spinning, the Fire vehicle’s horn blaring, a child pointed at an officer and yelled, “I want to be like you!” It was another success event for the police department, the community and everyone in between. People left National Night Out with full stomachs, fuller hearts, and anticipation for next year’s event.

Tribes and NOAA honor historic site following decommission of Mukilteo Research Station

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Merely feet away from Mukilteo’s new ferry terminal is an abandoned building. With boarded up windows, no trespassing signs, broken glass along the grounds, fire-stained equipment, and a chain-link fence around the facility’s entire property, it’s hard to imagine what once took place in the building. However, the front door of the facility, at the time, stood wide open. And just inside the door was a large sign, that once pristinely stood in front of the property, that reads Northwest Fisheries Science Center Mukilteo Research Station, with a large logo of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The Mukilteo Research Station did research in marine science, aquaculture, eco toxicology, acidification, and such,” explained Deirdre Reynolds Jones, NOAA’s Chief Administrative Officer. “I’ve seen some of their work before they closed the station. They had fish tanks and studied crabs and different species of salmon, how they’re adapting to the environment as it changes – changes in water temperature and changes in chemicals in the water, and how what their eating is affecting their behavior.”

As Deirdre mentioned, the Mukilteo Research Station is now closed after nearly fifty years of operation. During that time, NOAA studied the Salish Sea and all its inhabitants, and their work has helped preserve and protect the local waterways. Because of the environmental and marine science work that they do, NOAA has built great partnerships with the treaty tribes of Northwest over the years.

“We’ve been working with NOAA for quite a while. They’re there to protect the environment and so are we,” expressed Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “They’re out there testing the waters to make sure they are safe for our salmon. We commissioned them to do a count on how many pinniped seals are out there, and we need that information to move forward because they are an invasive species to the salmon. We’ve been working with NOAA for years with our Natural Resources department to make sure the waters are protected.”

Added Deirdre, “We have common goals, and as Chairwoman Gobin summarized, we need to ensure the salmon continue because they are so much a part of the culture here. The culturally significant part of being here is so integral to the mission that we perform.”

 Following a brief rainfall, after close to two weeks of 90-degree summer days, the clouds passed and the sun shone brightly on the abandoned building on the morning of August 1st. Immediately next to the building, there were chairs and a canopy for shade arranged for a small gathering as the officials from NOAA and local tribal leaders, including Swinomish, Suquamish, and Tulalip, met for a unique ceremony. 

“Normally we celebrate a grand opening for a new facility, but today we are acknowledging a change that’s going to happen on this property,” Deirdre said. “They’re going to demolish this facility, so it will be open space for a while. My understanding is that every time there’s a change in property, that’s of cultural significance to the tribal community. We pause to acknowledge we’re going to do something, and to ensure that the land and the ancestors are aware that we’re about to make a change.”

Although the facility has been shut down for over two years, NOAA wanted to invite the signatories of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott to the site before the building is torn down and turned over to the Port of Everett. Before colonization, current day Mukilteo was a place for Coast Salish tribes to gather, and many tribal ancestors lived along the beach community. 

“This land is so important to us,” Teri expressed. “It’s where our ancestors had longhouses. We also signed the Point Elliott Treaty here.”

She continued, “All of our tribes used these waterways like our freeways to go from one place to another, and we have many relatives at all these different tribes. Our people met here together, and all agreed to sign the treaty. By ceding that land, from the water to the mountains, they guaranteed us our treaty rights for the future generations. I’m so glad that our ancestors thought about that when they did that, because they were trying to protect our tribes.”

At 10 a.m. on the dot, tribal members, from all three tribes in attendance, grouped together and sang Harriette Shelton-Dover’s Welcome Song. Each tribe then shared some words, prayers and offered a song in traditional Lushootseed while standing where their ancestors once stood and made a difficult but necessary decision. All the meanwhile, Washington State Ferries and Naval ships passed by in the background, voyaging sacred waters that were once only navigated by cedar canoes. Familiar with the Northwest Native culture, NOAA gifted blankets to each of the speakers throughout the morning, commemorating their partnerships with the tribes. 

The news about the decommission of the research facility was released in 2020. Originally, NOAA planned a full remodel of the building to coincide with the recent facelift the Mukilteo waterfront has undergone. However, due to inflation caused by the aftereffects of the pandemic, NOAA could not afford the cost of construction that would be needed to build the new facility. 

Dierdre explained that the property was once owned by the U.S. Navy. In the 1970’s the Navy transferred the property to NOAA, but the fine print indicated that if NOAA ever shut down the Mukilteo project, the property would then go to the Port of Everett. 

After the demolition of the research station, the Port of Everett is looking to build something that will both compliment the new ferry terminal as well as solve Mukilteo’s traffic and parking issues. According to the Lynnwood Times, the most recent buzz is that a trolly station may be taking the place of the old NOAA facility. 

NOAA plans to continue their research of the Salish Sea and their partnerships with the local tribes and will be fulfilling their work from the Manchester Research Station. 

Dierdre, who traveled across the country from Washington D.C. for the ceremony said she was “completely moved by the songs that were shared and the stories that were told about the ancestors, the great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers who lived on the shoreline.”

Chairwoman Gobin shared, “Being out here and singing those songs, with our friends to the north and south, it was an honor. It felt like our ancestors were here. I know they’re watching us. When we start singing the songs, speaking the language, they gather and they’re here looking over what we’re doing. It was a blessing today. I’m really glad that Swinomish and Suquamish came here to be with us because this is where they came to sign their treaties too.”

The Chairwoman’s Drum

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“On my drum is my father Scho-Hallem, Stan Jones,” said Tulalip Chairwoman Teri Gobin. “Les Parks’ family does this, and they lasered his picture on. I have two drums with his picture on there. I love it! I’m very proud of what my dad has done for the Tribe for so many years. He fought for treaty rights for so long – it was his whole life. 

He even has his owl headdress. He was buried with that owl headdress. Kelly Moses made it, and Kelly made me a woman’s version of this, so I have one to match his. My house is filled with my dad. That’s one thing I can say – I have no regrets because I spent so much time with him. I was his traveling partner. We enjoyed a lot of time together. 

When he was getting ready to pass, it was quieting down and people were going to sleep. Me and my mom were with him, and I was talking to him. I told him it was okay and we’re going to take care of mom, and his heart stopped. It was a peaceful moment. And in my vision, I could see his mother coming down and grabbing him. I couldn’t talk about it because it usually brings tears to my eyes, but I have no regrets. He knows how much I love him and he’s here with us. I’m glad that I can be here to represent him.”

Live. Laugh. Lushootseed.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Lushootseed, ancestral language of the modern day Tulalip Tribes, was the supreme language of the land seven generations ago. From the Salish Sea to the Cascade Mountains, from the Nisqually River to Vancouver Island, tribes of the plentiful Pacific Northwest shared a common tongue. Then arrived colonization. Followed by assimilation.

The shared language of the Coast Salish people nearly vanished after decades of brutal treatment inflicted upon generation after generation by the U.S. government and its various forms of enforcement police after the Treaty of Point Elliot was signed. ‘Kill the Indian, save the man’ was the name of the game, and the colonizers played it well.

Various laws and federally enforced policies, such as the Indian Removal Act (1830), Religious Crimes Code (1883) and General Allotment Act (1887), intentionally sought to to strip Native people of their culture and connection to place. It can be argued the most successful part of the assimilation process was boarding schools because the innocent children forced to attend couldn’t defend themselves. Their hair was cut to military standards, their traditional clothes replaced with church designed uniforms, and in horrific fashion they were helpless as they watched classmates beaten for speaking Lushootseed.

In the Declaration of Independence, we are referred to as merciless Indian savages. The use of merciless couldn’t have been more accurate as it foreshadowed a determination and sheer force of will to survive. Yes, colonization happened. Yes, assimilation was effective. However, it can’t be overlooked or understated that our ancestors survived. They were in fact merciless. If they weren’t then we wouldn’t exist today; part of a thriving tribal ecosystem consisting of 574 federally recognized tribes. 

Within that thriving tribal ecosystem exists the Tulalip Tribes’ Lushootseed department tasked with increasing awareness of Lushootseed within the community and beyond, as well as restoring the language to everyday use. This is a colossal undertaking, but one intending to make the ancestors proud. Proud that generational healing is taking place on the same grounds where missionaries and government officials inflicted so much harm. Proud that the same Lushootseed language they were punished, beaten and even jailed for having the audacity to speak while attending boarding school is spoken today by our own culture bearing educators and their spirited students. 

At the 25th annual Lushootseed language camp, which took place from July 11 to July 22 at the Kenny Moses Building, over 120 Tulalip youth became an integral part of Lushootseed revival. Led by our own committed crew of language warriors and their support staff, the children participated in eight different daily activities: technology, weaving, art, play, songs, traditional teachings, games, and play. In doing so, Tulalip’s next generation embraced their culture while learning vital traditional teachings, stories, and, most importantly, the language of their ancestors.

The photos accompanying this article illustrate Tulalip pride and a strength of culture as only our beautiful children can elegantly emit while participating in the annual Lushootseed camp. However, it’s in the words and background stories of their fully self-aware educators where we can grasp what it takes to create such a Lushootseed-rich environment. Educators like Tulalip’s own Sarah Miller, Nik-ko-te “Nikki” Oldham, and their tech guru Dave Sienko have dedicated their livelihoods towards a dream of Lushootseed being spoke at work, in schools, and in the homes of every Tulalip family. 

Sarah Miller

“I became interested in Lushootseed when I was about 15-years-old, when I took a Lushootseed class taught by Toby Langen and Tony Hatch at Pilchuck High School. I had a great time learning and it’s one of my fondest memories of high school. I enjoyed speaking the language and wanted to do more with it, but at the time didn’t know what more I could do. So there was a many-year gap in my language learning. 

Nearly ten years ago, I decided to switch jobs from the newspaper to the language department. I took college level Lushootseed and started teaching preschool kids. It was fun teaching the kids. Eventually I worked my way up to teaching the college level Lushootseed classes, and in doing that, I began to understand the language even more. It is a passion for me. I take every opportunity I can to use the language and to teach it to others.

At this year’s 25th annual Lushootseed camp, my station is Language. Our theme is seasons, so my partner Michelle Schmaus and I teach the kids about the various seasons using Lushootseed. After that, we have the kids decorate the season tree with leaves, snowflakes or flowers, depending on the season. I hope the kids take away from this experience how our ancestors used to live from season to season. I want them to understand that we used to live off the land and the land had everything we needed to survive from season to season.

What I look forward to most about camp is the kids developing a passion and interest in their ancestral tongue. I hope they walk away understanding more about what it means to be Indigenous. I look forward to them taking what they’ve learned home to their families and sharing it. This is how we keep our culture alive. 

Camp time is a wonderful but stressful time because we only get one week with the kids. It’s kind of a rush to teach the kids as much as we can and hope that some of it sticks. I hope the experience is nourishing to their spirits and they will be eager to learn more.

In the future, I’d love to incorporate families into the camp element so the parents can learn their language alongside their children. I think it would strengthen relationships and bonds and further our mission to keep the language alive.”

Nik-ko-te “Nikki” Oldham

“My background with language is a sort of unique because I grew up hearing both Lushootseed and Absentee Shawnee words and phrases spoken by my great grandma, grandparents, aunts, uncles and mom.

  • What time is it? – ʔaləxʷ k̓ʷid
  • Be quiet – x̌ʷubiləxʷ
  • Sit down – gʷədil
  • No – x̌ʷiʔ
  • Drink – sqʷuʔqʷaʔ
  • Knock it off – gʷəƛ̕əlad
  • Dog – sqʷəbayʔ
  • Cat – pišpiš
  • Frog – waq̓waq̓
  • Eagle – yəx̌ʷəlaʔ
  • Deer – sqigʷəc
  • Crap – sp̓əc

These were common words to me at a young age. I have always loved the language, but I became very inspired learning that my great grandma Marya was one of the last fluent speakers.

At this year’s camp, I am managing the weaving station with Jasmyne Diaz. We are teaching the kids to make wool headbands. I hope they learn to never give up, that it’s ok to mess up and start over because that’s the basis for all learning, and the more you practice, the better you get. I also want them to learn our tradition of giving away an item that you made for the first time.

I look forward to seeing everything that the kids create. It’s difficult to describe hearing them speak the language and understand new words, especially for first timers. It makes my heart so happy to see the kids do the closing ceremony play and hear them speak the language. Being a Lushootseed teacher isn’t always easy, but hearing the kids speak the language of those who came before them makes it all worth it.”

Dave Sienko

“I’m just a cog in the team, trying to increase the learning and use of dxʷləšucid. I started in the department 17 years ago when the need was creating resources beyond the archive recordings made by Thom Hess and Leon Metcalf.  We started making CDs and then video recordings of elders. Then we focused on creating our Tulalip Lushootseed website was the next thing we created. Trying to increase the number of language resources available to the community is a key need the department focuses on. 

The biggest challenges over the years has really been the rapidly changing technologies. It’s always a challenge to stay current.

At language camp, I always run the technology station. When I first started, we used older computers, then Nintendo DSi’s, and now we use Samsung tablets. The kids can use a variety of language apps, including the Lushootseed Alphabet app, Lushootseed Phrases, and Word Quizzes, as well as Our Table, a family orientated Language App. Teachers from different stations tell me what they are doing and I try to develop material that focuses on these key items.

Preserving and encouraging the use of the language is one of the most important things about the work we do, and it’s one of the reasons I took the job at Tulalip. I really enjoy working with the younger kids because of their high level of enthusiasm. There are always several camp participants that we witness their growth in the language surge over the week.

For the teachers and camp staff, this is also an opportunity to create or nurture bonds the kids that can last a lifetime.  Watching the youth develop that spark of excitement in speaking dxʷləšucid clearly brings so much joy to not just me, but our teachers and the families as well. When young tribal members grasp the language early, they can develop a happiness and strength from their cultural self-confidence that is truly awe-inspiring. I’m humbled to be a part of this.”

The Lushootseed department has so many resources available for our people who desire to learn their ancestral language beyond the annual youth camp. Their website tulaliplushootseed.com offers videos, common words and phrases, and all sorts of traditional stories told in Lushootseed with accompanying text to follow along. If you’re a more hands-on learner, then Lushootseed staff would remind you that they offer classes through NWIC and community outreach programs. 

Lastly, tribal members are always welcome to stop by the Lushootseed department and ask for hard copies of work books, CDs and various learning materials intended for beginners. It’s never too late to join in on the language warriors’ mission and make your ancestors proud by speaking the same words, in the same syllables they once did.