Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 3: The Salmon Man

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

“The reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years – It tells us something, that’s been told a long time: to conserve and keep things and honor all things because they’re alive. The trees are alive. Everything we eat was alive at some time. And we should give thanks and respect these things as living spirits and show them respect appropriately. And if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything as we know it today.”

The statement above, and subsequent story below, were spoken by the late Bernie ‘Kai Kai’ Gobin nearly thirty years ago, back in 1993. An influential leader of his time, Kai Kai provided this re-telling of the traditional Tulalip story, Salmon Man, for the Marysville School District. The story has been passed on throughout the years since time immemorial, and Kai Kai credited Harriette Shelton Dover for passing it on to the generations following the boarding school era. 

The Salmon Man story is important to the tribe’s way of life and is the reason why Tulalip and nearby tribes gather once a year to participate in the Salmon Ceremony at the start of the fishing season. During the Salmon Ceremony, the people pay tribute to the salmon for providing sustenance for the tribal community, while also taking time to traditionally bless the tribal fisherman before they journey out to the Salish waters to harvest salmon for their families. 

Due to the cruel assimilation period, the traditional ceremony was outlawed for several decades. That is until 1976 when a handful of Tulalip elders, led by Harriette Shelton Dover, revived the ceremony by recalling what traditionally took place at the special honoring, thereby teaching the upcoming generations the songs, dances and the story of the Salmon Man, also known as the Salmon People story. 

Dancers, drummers and singers are currently preparing for Salmon Ceremony which will take place this year on Saturday June 11th, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Leading up to the ceremony, the participants are meeting every week to collectively walk through the Salmon Ceremony start to finish, so the people can build a strong connection to the dances and songs as well as a cultural understanding of the stories about the Salmon People and of the Salmon Ceremony’s revitalization. 

Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin, has participated in the ceremony since it’s revival and extends a warm invite to the entire community, stating that everybody is welcome to come and participate in the weekly Salmon Ceremony practices, which begins at 5:00 p.m. every Thursday at the Tulalip Gathering Hall. The last practice on June 9th, however, will be held at the Tulalip longhouse.

In commemoration of the upcoming Salmon Ceremony, Tulalip News is featuring a weekly mini-series focused on the important cultural and spiritual work that goes into the ceremony year after year. Last week, we explored the significance of passing the tradition onto the next generations and asked a number of participants two questions, when were they introduced to the ceremony and why it was important to them individually. Although we received a variety of great answers, numerous people listed two aspects as reasons to the latter question – practicing the traditions and passing those traditions to the youth. 

The revival has already been carried across five decades, and one look into a practice session would show that the Tulalips are doing an incredible job of keeping their traditions alive by passing their teachings to the next generation. In fact, Kamiakin Craig, the grandson of Kai Kai, who shares his Indian name, attends every practice and participates at each Salmon Ceremony every year. 

An integral part of the Salmon Ceremony is learning about the Salmon Man story, which is the basis of the ceremony itself and explains a great deal about Tulalip traditions and the importance of preserving their way of life. We’ll let Kai Kai take it from here, as his re-telling of the story is truly fantastic, and if you are like us, hearing and revisiting teachings from elders and elders who’ve passed on, is quite an amazing, eye-opening and enjoyable experience. 

Kai Kai:

This is one version of the Salmon Man. You might have heard about the Tulalip Salmon Festival. The Salmon Festival was something that was practiced for hundreds of years by the Snohomish people, the sduhubš people. They are also called ‘the salmon people’.  And the story’s extremely important because it links to the present day.

And the story goes that there is a tribe of Salmon People that live under the sea. And each year, they send out scouts to visit their homeland. And the way that the Snohomish people recognize that it’s time for the salmon scouts to be returning to their area is when, in the spring, a butterfly comes out. And the first person to see that butterfly will run, as fast as they can, to tell our chiefs or headmen, or now they are called the chairman. One of the other ways they recognize that the salmon scouts are returning is when the wild spirea tree blooms. The people call it the ironwood tree, and that’s what they use for fish sticks and a lot of other important things, like halibut hooks. It’s a very hard wood. So, when they see either one of these, a tribal member will tell the chairman, and he immediately sends out word to the people and calls them together in the longhouse for a huge feast and celebration to give honor to the visitors that are coming.

The salmon scout will arrive out in the middle of Tulalip Bay there. And the people send out a canoe to meet him. And they put the salmon scout inside the canoe, where a cradle is filled with fern leaves and other soft leaves for a bed for him to come in on and keep him fresh. And he’ll come in by canoe to the cliff right below our longhouse, and there, the whole tribe will be there on the water to greet him. And they’ll walk him in with songs of honor and just greet him in a special way. Then, he’ll be carried on that cradle up into the longhouse, where he’ll be taken around the fires three times and special songs will be sung in his honor. And they will show him the proper respect he needs as the high chief visitor from the Salmon people. And they will go through some different ceremonies there. Then, they will go up into what is now the tribal center and prepare the feast. Before the feast, everyone will share in a tiny piece of the salmon and drink a glass of water with it, a little water.

That’s what is done. And then, everyone sits down and feasts and enjoys the salmon and visits with friends and neighbors.

At the end of feast, they get up. Maybe a speech will be made, and, hopefully, it won’t be too long. Then, a song is sung, and they bring the remains that are left of the salmon back into the longhouse and thank him for coming and again honor him for the chief that he is and take him back down to the canoe, follow him back down there. And they take him back out and lay his remains back where they picked him up, out in the middle of Tulalip Bay. And, if they have treated that chief properly and showed him the proper respect, and treated him like the king he is, he’ll go back to the Salmon People that live under the sea and he’ll tell them that, “Hey, they greatly honored me. They treated me like I should have been treated. They gave me all the recognition I needed.” And he’ll recommend that the Salmon People return back in abundance.

And the reason to tell this story is because it concerns the environment. And to show that the Snohomish people practiced this for hundreds of years. They gave thanks for many things. One of the things was to honor this great chief from the Salmon People and try to protect his environment and have a place for him to come home to. It’s hard to imagine nowadays this visitor going back and telling them, “Hey, things are all right.” Because he has to tell them, “I’ve been up there, and I entered around Admiralty Head, and I started getting a headache.” And he says, “As I traveled further in I become confused and had a hard time finding Tulalip Bay this time.” And he says, “Worse than that. When I went up the Stillaguamish River my home was gone. Where I was born and raised, it’s not there.” 

The salmon are about gone. The forest is all but gone, and other resources are gone because of greed and mistreatment. We don’t know if we’ll ever be able to restore any of these things. So, this is an important story – the Salmon People story.

Following the Salmon Ceremony Part 2: Carrying the revival to future generations

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

“My father was one of the main people to work with the elders to bring the Salmon Ceremony back. A lot of these songs were almost lost,” said Tulalip Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “It was Harriette Shelton Dover and all these iconic elders that wanted to make sure this was carried on. That was so important. My mom was the one who brought the cakes, and we would visit and write everything down to keep it for future generations. And that’s what’s most important, that these young ones are learning now.”

Close to one hundred tribal members met at the Tulalip Gathering Hall on the evening of April 21st for the first Salmon Ceremony practice of the year. Revived nearly 50 years ago, the annual event pays homage not only to the salmon for providing nourishment for the tribal community, but also to all the local fisherman who are preparing for a season out on the Salish Sea. 

This year, Salmon Ceremony will be held on Saturday June 11th beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Tulalip Longhouse. At the height of the pandemic, the Salmon Ceremony was canceled for the very first time since it’s revival in 2020 to limit the spread of the infectious disease. And although the people were excited to see the cultural event return in 2021, many lifetime Salmon Ceremony participants still felt as though something was missing. 

Every year, with the exception of the past two, tribal members engage in a cultural immersion experience, weeks ahead of Salmon Ceremony, when the community begins preparations for the event. During Salmon Ceremony practice, tribal members get an opportunity to get reacquainted with the songs, dances and stories of the annual event, so when the day comes to pay respect to the first catch of the season, everything is executed precisely in honor of the salmon. 

Each week, a walkthrough of Salmon Ceremony takes place at the practice sessions, allowing the chance for the people to learn the significance behind every song and dance that is performed and offered at the ceremony. This is also the perfect time for newcomers to learn about the proceedings that take place inside the longhouse and alongside the bay when the first king salmon of the year returns to local waters. 

Although the turnout for the first practice was great, Teri stated that there is still plenty of room at the large Gathering Hall for more people to attend the practices, and invited the community to come out and take part in preparations of the ceremony. Salmon Ceremony practices are held every Thursday at 5:00 p.m., where a meal and good company is promised to each participant. All of the practice sessions will take place at the Gathering Hall except for the last practice on June 9th, which will be held at the longhouse. 

As practices continue, Tulalip News will feature a weekly mini-series, leading up to Salmon Ceremony, focused on the traditions and hard work that goes into the cultural event each year. This week, we asked a handful of participants what the Salmon Ceremony means to them personally and received a number of great responses from youth to elders. 

Said Tulalip tribal member, Andrew Gobin, “It’s about taking time out to recognize the old teachings and carrying them forward. That’s what the practices are about. We talk about the old teachings here and how you conduct yourself in ceremonial spaces, what’s expected of you. The practices are just as important as the day.”

Salmon Ceremony participants

Left to right: 
Kamiakin Craig: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was a baby. Probably around 18-19 years.
Why is it important to you?  It was very important to my grandfather who passed away, Kai Kai. I share his Indian name and I really try to hold up what he was trying to do here with Salmon Ceremony. He loved this and I can remember having fun with him here too, so it’s important to me. 

Andrew Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? 32 years.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for a lot of reasons – just the basic teachings about respecting the salmon, remembering to take care of the salmon and respect those things in nature that sustain our culture and lives. I take Salmon Ceremony very seriously when it comes to the blessing and the spiritual side of it. It’s something that was instilled in me my whole life. I feel like it’s my responsibility to carry and pass down as it’s been given to me.

Arielle Valencia : How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? About a year and a half.
Why is it important to you? I find it important because this was taken away from us and it’s good that we’re reclaiming it and getting back together. Especially since COVID, it kind of struck natives a little harder from our traditional teachings. I feel like this is a good chance to get it all back.
Left to right: 
Lizzie Mae Williams: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was a baby.
Why is it important to you? It’s fun and part of my culture, and I get to hang out with family.

Bill ‘Squall-See-Wish’ Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I’ve been participating since about 1982.
Why is it important to you? Because I am a fisherman and honoring the first salmon that comes back to the bay is very important for cultural reasons. Being a fisherman, I’m the one who wants to catch
that first fish.

C.J. Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was two.
Why is it important to you? Our fish are our people, that’s who we come from. We’re the salmon people of the killer whale clan. Without the killer whales, we wouldn’t be alive, and the salmon helped us survive
for generations. 
Left to right: 
Jackson Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was like one or two.
Why is it important to you? I get to sing songs and it’s really fun. 

Foster Jones: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since I was seven.
Why is it important to you? Because I can learn new things about our culture.

Teri Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Since day one. I was here at the first one when we restarted it back with my father. I was actually here before that when we were sitting around the tables with the elders learning the songs and bringing
it all back.
 Why is it important to you? We’ve come a long way and we’ve been practicing for a lot of years. What is most important now is that we are making sure the young ones are learning the songs, the dances and about those elders who brought it back again.

Kali Joseph: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Actually not very many years, for like four or five years now.
 Why is it important to you? First of all, it’s so cool being able to gather after all these years of being in isolation and through COVID. It’s important because, like one of the speakers said tonight, salmon is a big part of our way of life. It’s a great way to continue to pass down the teachings and share the meaning of Salmon Ceremony to the youth so it can be around for the next seven generations.
Left to right: 
David Bohme: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? I haven’t been in years. This is the first time that I’ve come in a long time.
Why is it important to you? The culture. I’ve been kind of disconnected for a while and the kids are getting older and I want to teach them about the culture, our identity. I brought my daughters down here because I want to get them into it. And I want to get back it into myself, and just keep participating.

Marie Myers: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? It’s been three or four years now.
Why is it important to you? I started participating and getting more involved in my culture since I lost my mom because it helps me feel connected to her. It makes me feel good participating – singing and dancing. I think it’s amazing when the little kids come to the practices, it’s fun to teach them to sing and dance.

Troyleen Johnson: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Since I was 13.
Why is it important to you?  It’s important for me to teach her (Neveah) and my other nieces and nephews about our culture.

Neveah (left): How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? This is my first year!
 Why is it important to you? I haven’t been to Salmon Ceremony yet, but I am excited to learn!
Left to right: 
Image Enick: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Salmon Ceremony was introduced to me when I was a little boy at Quil Ceda Elementary. Me and my friend were introduced to it when we were pretty young. Ever since then, I’ve always tried to peep my head in every now and then, and try to attend the Salmon Ceremony when I can. And if I’m not able to, I try to be at the practices.
Why is it important to you? To understand and learn the songs that have been brought back by the elders, the main songs of the ceremony. It’s also important because I’ve always thought of it as a good way for the young ones to learn the songs and what it is to see and show respect, and to actually see the young ones go out there and dance.

Weston Gobin: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
Eleven years, since I was two – really since I was born, but I’ve participated as soon as I was able to.
Why is it important to you? Because it’s giving me all the teachings I need and it’s coming from my aunties and uncles. My family is all around me and I am learning all of my teachings.

Josh Fryberg: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?
The first time I came to Salmon Ceremony I was probably about nine years old, but the time when I start bringing my family was 2018.
Why is it important to you? The reason it’s important to me is because it’s a part of our culture and we want to preserve it for our future generations while honoring our past generations who kept it alive for each and every one of us. 
Left to right: 
Shoshanna Haskett: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? Four years, I used to go when I was little and we’re now getting back into it.
Why is it important to you? It is important for me to be able to teach my kids our culture, our history and I love watching the warriors go out and do their dance.

Shane McLean: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony?  Ten years!
Why is it important to you? To pay respects to the salmon that continue to feed us and give us life. To show them respect and honor them the best way we can. 

Ronald Cleveland: How long have you participated in Salmon Ceremony? A couple years now.
Why is it important to you? It’s important for me to pay respect to our elders and the salmon, and I like drumming.

Mother’s Milk: The importance of breastfeeding

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; images courtesy Indigenous Milk Medicine Week

As Tulalip’s membership continues to increase, growing from approximately 3,600 in 2003 to 5,100 in 2022, so too does the number of newborn babies being enrolled into the Tribe every year. This baby boom, estimated at 120 per year, led to the Tribe investing in a whole host of Community Health related programs and services geared towards creating positive health outcomes for our youngest generation.

One such program is Maternal Child Health, wherein we find health educator Erika Queen of Alaska’s Inupiaq tribe. She has been working with moms and babies for nearly seventeen years. A focus of hers is helping our Tulalip mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding. 

With Tulalip’s baby boom in full swing, it’s a critical time to understand just how important mom’s life-giving milk truly is. This may seem obvious to some readers, but recent statistics show the practice of following the CDC’s recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding until baby is six months is in huge decline. In fact, by this standard, just 25% of infants at 6-months-old are receiving the litany of benefits that come from mother’s milk.

Making the issue even more disheartening is the notion Native mothers and babies have one of the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rates at six months of any race or ethnicity in the nation. For our Native communities, breastfeeding is a public health issue. Because of the enduring health benefits breastfeeding provides, community leaders and medical professionals are making a concerted effort to reconnect Native women to the cultural tradition of breastfeeding. This is where Erika’s vital role as a health educator and advocate for both mom and baby comes in.

“The most important reasons for nursing your baby is that you want to. If you don’t want to do it, that is 100% your choice, I only advocate that people make that choice after considering the pros and cons of all your options. I’ve cried along too many parents who were informed that they “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t” breastfeed, only to find out that the reason given was due to that person/provider’s lack of understanding or lack of knowledge,” shared Erika.  

  “There is a myriad of reasons that show continuing to grow your baby from your body after birth is important, and that list keeps growing: lower rates of disease for baby, reduced risks of cancers, asthma, type 1 diabetes, ear and tummy infections, SIDS, and NEC (in preterm babies). Lower rates of disease for the birthing parent, too. Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of high blood pressure, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

  Women who practice breastfeeding and meet their feeding goals also have a protective factor against postpartum mental health problems. This means that telling someone to stop a successful breastfeeding relationship for their mental health is actually counterproductive. It also doesn’t completely prevent mental health issues postpartum – it just means it lessens them and removing breastfeeding may actually make those problems worse. 

  Mother’s milk is exactly what is needed by almost all babies. Its more than food alone, it aids our immune system in many ways – from the white cells and immune factors fed to baby (such as after baby’s saliva tells their nursing parent’s areola that baby was exposed to a germ at daycare) to feeding very specific gut bacteria that eat only oligosaccharides from human milk (not found elsewhere) – according to UCLA, 70% of the immune system is in the gut. 

  Breastfeeding/nursing can be an outstanding parenting tool.  The act of breastfeeding releases hormones in parent and child that help to calm and connect – the love hormone, oxytocin – which can bring a tantrum to an end, heal more booboos than all the Band-Aids in the world, and build a bond and a relationship that is both strong and durable.

  Science can tell us even more reasons that feeding babies the milk from their parent (or another human) is the ideal, but science doesn’t begin to understand how breastfeeding can connect us back to our ancestors, renew our cultures, and deeply feel human in the face of trauma, and more than anything, it doesn’t explain how it feels to look at your chubby baby smiling up at you with milk running down their chin rolls and think, “I made all of that.”

I think the most important reason to nurse your baby is that you can and you want to,” added the local health educator. “I nursed my baby because I knew it was the best possible nutrition, I knew it was more than just food, and I knew that it is how my ancestors fed their babies for eons.”

If you are a new or expectant mother, or a mom multiple times over with a baby and simply want to ask questions about breastfeeding in a safe place with a health educator dedicated to a successful outcome, then please contact Erika Queen directly. She is here to assist you and eagerly awaits your questions. Her contact info is as follows: Erika Queen, Maternal Child Health Educator. Cell number 360-913-2382 (text OK), E-mail Equeen@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Hiring tribal candidates is essential for tribal government employment

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

Tulalip Tribes currently has 39 job openings within tribal government, ranging anywhere from work in the health clinic, to law enforcement, education, in-office positions, etc. Some of these positions even offer as much as a $2,500 signing bonus, and yet filling the positions has been somewhat difficult. The Human Resources department and Employment department are working tirelessly to find the perfect candidates and provide the Tulalip community with qualified personnel to take these jobs over.

Unfortunately, during the pandemic, much like many businesses, organizations, and tribal governments, Tulalip Tribes took an economic hit and had to make some difficult financial decisions. While they fought to keep their employees for as long as they could, eventually budget cuts had to be made. Inevitably, Tulalip lost a good portion of its staff, keeping their remaining staff based on seniority, and essential workers. 

Since then, Tulalip has still been trying to maintain their current staff, while still formulating a plan towards rebuilding their employment numbers. 

Executive Director of Human Resources, Amanda Hegnes, spoke about a hiring issue across the nation, and how medical/behavioral health positions have become the most challenging to fill. Tulalip has felt this as well with a Mental Wellness Therapist job opening they’ve had available since 2020.

Though some of the available positions are part of a niche job market, Amanda says that there are some ways to promote yourself as a candidate for these positions. These include earning the highest level of education pertaining to your job market, and expanding your job-related experience. 

The hiring process for a typical position starts with listing advertisements, a screening, testing, interviewing, job offer and paperwork (UA & background checks), and finally onboarding. 

It is no question that tribal members are preferred candidates when applying for positions within tribal government. Amanda talked about Tribal Code – Chapter 9.25 Tulalip Employment, that allows our membership and those who may support a Tulalip household to have first opportunity at an available position. It is because of this code that allows for tribal preference. They screen applicants in the order of Tulalip tribal members, spouse, parent or child of an enrolled Tulalip tribal member, current legal guardian (with court documentation of guardianship), or a domestic partner of a Tulalip tribal member, federally recognized Natives, federally recognized Native spouses, and current employees.

The current hiring process is set up to allow tribal members a better opportunity to obtain government-ran jobs. When publishing an open position, Employment Manager Nicole Zackuse said “the TTT Employment team will post the positions every Monday on their website and tribal Facebook pages. We also share harder-to-fill and niche positions on LinkedIn.”

Based on the latest tribal government employment records, of the 952 employees, Tulalip tribal members make up 450 (47%) of the current staff. 89 employees are either a spouse, parent or child of an enrolled Tulalip tribal member, current legal guardian (with court documentation of guardianship), or a domestic partner of a Tulalip tribal member. 83 employees are Natives enrolled from other tribes and 4 employees are spouses of Natives who are enrolled in other tribes. Lastly, there are 326 non-Native employees.

For more difficult and niche positions, Amanda discussed that if a tribal member does not meet certain job requirements, in an attempt to help them, they will advise the applicant to update their resume with any related job experience and education. This outreach allows tribal members a secondary opportunity to advance themselves in the interview process and further themselves as a candidate.

A misguided mentality that some people like to fall back on is the idea of favoritism in the hiring process. This concept is something that the department does not take lightly, as this would be a major ethical breach. As Nicole said, “the Employment team does not allow for favoritism or nepotism in the hiring process. All those who participate sign an agreement for fairness. If suspicion of bias occurs – the department will evaluate and possibly replace the suspected committee member(s).” Making this idea of favoritism virtually impossible.

For centuries, non-Natives have been regulating and dictating Native Americans on how to live their lives. With this oppression comes years of silence, lack of control, and forced colonization ideologies. The advantage of being a sovereign nation, is that we have the ability to apply tribal preferences for job openings. With tribal members taking on leadership roles, department positions, and overseeing day-to-day operations, we have the ability to use our voices for the better of our people.

As a tribe we value uplifting our Native brothers and sisters. We encourage our people to get an education and training in order give back to the community and work for the various departments in the tribe. This sets a precedence so that members can uphold the standards and cultural preservation of Tulalip Tribes, and establish a strong Native presence for generations to come.

If you are looking to start a new career path within tribal government, please refer to Tulalip Tribes’ employment website, employment.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

A vote for the levies, is a vote for our kids

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

On February 23, the Marysville School District (MSD) introduced two levies to the community. These typically take place when a school district is needing more funds and property taxes are instilled as a way to subjugate them. The introduced levies from MSD are the Education, Programs & Operations levy, and the Technology & Capital Projects levy.

Though the relationship between Tulalip Tribal members and MSD has wavered for many years, the levies are a way to join forces and make a better environment for students. 

Executive Director of Education, Jessica Bustad spoke about the troublesome relationship, “for years, people within our community have not been satisfied with the District. There’s a lot of pain and trauma around experiences that have happened in public schools. There is a lot of healing that needs to be done, and we have to work through that and make sure that the school district is held accountable. But at the same time, we also have to be supporting our students, and the levies can help do that.”

The Education, Programs & Operations levy is designated to help support smaller class sizes, making it easier for children to get one-on-one attention. It also helps establish programs for students with disabilities. It provides student transportation with more bus stops and shorter bus rides. In addition, it supports the Early Learning Center for pre-k kids, and many of the arts, music, athletics, and various extra-curricular activities.

The Technology & Capital Projects levy is designated to help integrate better technology for students, provide system administrators to oversee the school systems, aid curriculum software and licensing, and provide 24/7 WIFI access across all buildings. 

With the district serving more than 1,200 Native American/Alaskan Native students, with the local Native population primarily consisting of Tulalip tribal citizens, the Tulalip Education Division is a driving force of support.

“This directly impacts our kids and tribal support is crucial. If we can get a high voter turnout from the Tulalip community, then we can impact and sway the vote, just by us exercising our right. We have to do what’s right on behalf of our students and the community,” Jessica said. 

At a community meeting held in the Administration Building, Interim Superintendent Chris Pearson also addressed the unsteady relationship and how MSD is trying to bridge a new path with staff. He discussed the evolution of four new board members, including Superintendent Zachary Robbins and Executive Director of Finance David Cram. Chris went on to say, “there’s been significant change in our upper level positions, and we want to rewrite our story and improve the work that we do.”

One common misperception of levies is how they affect the overall revenue that the schools receive, and why they are a necessity when public schools already receive state and federal funding. According to last year’s revenue chart produced by the District, the federal revenue only makes up for about 14% of the schools funding, state revenue makes up about 68%, Local Non-Tax makes up 1%, misc. other makes up 3%, and still 14% of the school’s revenue comes from must needed property taxes. 

Currently, there is still a healthy number of projects that need to be taken care of to maintain the different schools’ infrastructures. Knowing this, the District is trying to improvise and find ways to get funding elsewhere. Eventually, within the next five years, Chris said they do see themselves having to apply for a bond and completely rebuilding the older schools. Understanding this, they are willing to put some projects to the side in order to keep property taxes lower.

Unfortunately, as Chris also pointed out, enrollment in MSD has declined in recent years. This hurts the schools because they receive a certain amount of money per enrolled child, and as a result of this, some of the state funding has declined as well. This limits the District on how they allocate funds for the schools’ maintenance, building infrastructures, and overall budgeting. Making this a pivotal moment for the schools when establishing funds for the fall. 

Anyone who is registered to vote in the state of Washington and lives within Snohomish county is able to vote yes to pass the levies. Ballots were mailed out on April 7th, and all ballots must be administered into one of the drop box locations by April 26th. The closest drop box to tribal members is located in the Tulalip Youth Center parking lot.

If you or anyone else would like more information about the levies and how beneficial they could be to our tribal students, please reach out to the Tulalip Education Division at 360-716-4909. And don’t forget to vote!

Dreamcatchers: A sacred weapon and spiritual shield

By Shaelyn Hood, Tulalip News

“Dreamcatchers hold power in who we are, the art we have, and the spiritual-ness in Native American culture” proclaimed Braxton Wagner, Hibulb Cultural Center (HCC) assistant.

What was traditionally a sacred item to Native Americans has been commercialized and turned into common displays at décor shops, hanging on key chains, printed on t-shirts or even generic tattoos. Making some people question, do people truly understand the value of dreamcatchers or their origins?

Some Native Americans say that dreamcatchers have been appropriated and offensively exploited by people outside of our community. The best thing we can do to help against this perception is to continue educating ourselves and others outside of our community.

One of the many benefits taken away from participating in Hibulb’s monthly classes is being able to do just that. People within the Tulalip community and general public have the opportunity to learn, and understand our culture, while also utilizing their own crafting skills to generate a piece of Native American art. Such was the case on Wednesday April 6th, when HCC held a kids’ craft for dreamcatcher making.

A Marysville mother and daughter duo who attended said, “The classes are fun. We happened to be taking a tour the first time we came and saw there was a class going on and jumped in! Braxton told us about this dreamcatcher class, and we thought it’d be fun to learn about them, understand the history, and create one. We even brought [my daughter’s] aunt and grandmother this time.”

It is theorized that the dreamcatchers origin is traced back to the Ojibwe tribe. They believed that dreamcatchers were a gift from Asibaikaashi, better known as the Spider Woman. She was a caretaker who looked after the spiritual healing of the people in her tribe, and created dreamcatchers to help protect newborns and encourage good dreams. Dreamcatchers were often made by grandmothers or mothers to hang above cradle boards.

Traditionally, dreamcatchers are handmade of willow and shaped into a small round or tear-shaped frame. Natural fibers go into making the string that forms the “web” inside of it. On the string, people can put beads, seashells, pebbles, and other small, natural items. Attached at the bottom of the dream catcher are more strings or leather holding beads, and feathers. 

The small items in the web represent spiders that capture any bad dreams and protect the newborn against any negative energy and spirits. Then the good dreams travel down the attached leather and feathers, descending down onto the baby. Once daylight hit, the bad dreams would dissolve and disappear.

This cultural practice developed quickly across many Native American tribes and became more widely accepted. Over time, the meaning of dreamcatchers deviated from tribe to tribe. For some, it represents hope during a trying time. For others, it represents unity through culture, like the Medicine Wheel. Sometimes even, it represents how the different forces of the world may speak to you.

Braxton spoke of the value of non-Natives attending the HCC interactive classes. “The people that come here are wanting to learn. They want to understand our past and our struggles, and I appreciate the effort they make by coming here,” she said.

These learning opportunities can help mitigate cultural misunderstandings that people may have, while also providing a framework for better cultural appreciation in the next generation.

As American writer and social activist Robert Alan once said, “Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.” The possibility for different communities to come together and be educated by Native Americans who are willing to share their ways of life can create better understanding for all.

Tulalip Family Wellness Court celebrates first program graduate

By Kalvin Valdillez

“I’m inspired by my own success,” were the words shared by proud mother of young Tulalip tribal members. “I just hit thirteen months of clean time on April 2nd!” Over a year ago, this parent, whose name will be kept anonymous due to legal reasons, thought an accomplishment of this proportion impossible. 

To completely escape the grasp of her addiction, after fighting hard for so many years to kick her habit. To be reunited with, and granted full-custody of, her child who was placed in the care of beda?chelh – that may have in fact been next to impossible over a year ago, or at least felt very close to it.

This determined mother, however, did not give up. While attempting to navigate the childcare system on her own, she suffered a relapse. Around this time, she also discovered she was with child. Now, she not only had to fight for her own wellness and for her kiddo in the system, but she also had to fight for her unborn child to remain in her custody after the birthing process. 

When all the odds seemed stacked against her, a new program debuted in the Tulalip community, and she was one of the first to sign-up and take-part in the now award-winning tribal-based program.

“I remember looking over their pamphlet and thinking I didn’t need the help,” she admitted. “But, at the same time I knew I couldn’t go through the court system by myself either. I remember reading that pamphlet over and over, and Amy [Lettig] (TOCLA Parent Advocate Attorney) telling me about this new program and that I qualified for it. I didn’t know what else to do. My goal was always to get my child back, and so I turned to her and said help me get there.”

Based on the success of the Tulalip Healing to Wellness Court, minus the criminal and time-serving element, the Family Wellness Court was established in March 2020. The first-of-its-kind court system is 100% volunteer-based and is aimed to support, encourage and assist tribal parents, or parents of tribal members, attain a sober and healthy lifestyle to ultimately reunite them with their children who have an open beda?chelh case. 

“We’re one of the first in the nation to do this as a tribe because we want our people to be healthy, happy and successful,” said Melissa Johnson, Family Wellness Court Coordinator. “We want people to understand it’s different than the standard dependency proceedings that parents involved with beda?chelh go through. With more frequent review hearings in the drug court model, they get a chance to show their progress in real-time. They tend to get their kids back faster in this type of program because of the intensive case management and the added support.”

Melissa continued, “They have to have an open dependency with beda?chelh. And if they want to work on getting their kids back, they can benefit from our team approach. I think there is an advantage to the team approach – recognizing the successes, strengths and any issues that may arise in real time, rather than waiting. Because with the current dependency proceedings, months can go by between hearings. I think with Family Wellness Court, the courtroom becomes a therapeutic environment. You see that relationship with the judge and the team, it’s not adversarial at all. It’s so much different from when you go to court, and everything seems scary. It’s an alternative to the current dependency proceedings.”

The team approach plays a major role in the Family Wellness Court and in each participant’s recovery journey. The team consists of multiple professionals including Tribal courthouse officials, attorneys, beda?chelh representatives, counselors and recovery specialists. The idea is that with everybody meeting on a regular basis and on the same page, the client will stay in-compliance and will make positive progress in maintaining their sobriety, if they know exactly what their team expects from them.

It has been one year since the Family Wellness Court held their first hearing and multiple parents are now electing to participate in the intensive, personalized program. And furthermore, many are seeing positive results and are well on their way to reunification with their children.  

“Once I found the Family Wellness Court, I felt like they actually cared,” expressed the anonymous mother. “I know that the biggest part was getting to treatment and with the help of Family Wellness Court, I was able to do that. The assignments kept me busy and focused on my recovery. It was an amazing journey with tribal court. I felt like they cared about me and the kids, and more importantly what was best for the kids. They were encouraging me the whole time. They enjoyed seeing my progress and I felt like I was doing a really good job. It really worked for me. If you do the work, and you follow through with everything, you will be successful.”

On the afternoon of March 30, the Tulalip Family Wellness Court celebrated their very first graduate of the program. The very same mother whose identity will not be released, held the honor of the first person to successfully complete their individualized and intensive plan to recovery and reunification. Through the program she regained custody of her child, she had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and she is living a completely clean life. The mother obtained housing for herself and her babies, she gained employment and is currently attending college and learning the trade of her choosing. She is also active in her children’s traditions and now has a strong understanding of tribal lifeways, as she completed several ‘give back’ hours and participated in cultural events as a requirement to the Family Wellness Court. 

Her team and those presiding over her case were moved to tears during the graduation ceremony as they gathered in the tribal courtroom and met with the mother over Zoom. Due to both the specifics of her case and the worldwide pandemic, she was able to participate in the program remotely while at a treatment center. The courthouse sent her a cake, a number of gifts and an official certificate of completion, which she opened and enjoyed during the ceremony. Her mother, father and oldest child tuned-in to take part in the celebration. And through wavering voices and teary eyes, they shared their awe when reflecting how far she’s come in just a year. Members of her team also took a moment to express their joy in seeing her complete the program.  

Chori Folkman, the Children’s Attorney for TOCLA shared, “Seeing her success today reminds me that the Family Wellness Court process at Tulalip can reunify families – even when it seems hopeless at times. Or a parent, who might have a history with a significant addiction, they can overcome it and get their children back. Even if it’s been a long time since they had that child in their care. Even when it’s really late in the case and it feels like it might be too late. She was able to commit to becoming clean and sober and she was able to get placement of her child and close her case. It shows me that these supports really do work to bring families back together.”

Tribal member Josh Fryberg and two of his daughters offered medicine through traditional song to the mother, as well as some heartfelt and encouraging words. The judge, filled with excitement, showered the mother with applause, praise and compliments, and also a few inside jokes while she recalled all the memories they made together along the way. 

The first Family Wellness Court graduate stated, “The Family Wellness Court made me feel like even if I really failed, or if had a hiccup along the way, they were going to help me get back up and encourage me to keep moving forward. And ever since I came to that realization, I just made sure that I did everything I was supposed to do for the Family Wellness Court, so that I could graduate the program, keep my kids and get my child back.”

Continuing she shared a few words to other parents who are currently battling with an addiction, “The Family Wellness Court will help you get the help that you need. Even though you might not see that you need help right now. They will work with you to make sure you get that help, so that you can be better parents and so you can get your kids back and be good parents to them.”

If you or a loved one is ready for a new approach to sobriety and reunification, and willing to take on the intensive but evidence-based model to regain custody of your child, please contact Melissa at (360) 716-4764 for more details.